Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/23/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 17, Whole Number 1881

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Strange Objects (links from Gregory Frederick)
        Don't Believe Everything You Read (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        The State of Horror (lecture report by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        CRIMSON PEAK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        BRIDGE OF SPIES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        BEASTS OF NO NATION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MARTIAN (book and film review by Dale L. Skran)
        The Wilhelm Gostloff (letters of comment by Dale L. Skran
                and John Purcell)
        THE WORLD WITHOUT US (letters of comment by Gregory Benford
                and John Purcell)
          Church Schism, ISS and Worldcon, and THE MARTIAN
                (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (CICERO'S SELECTED POLITICAL SPEECHES        )
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Strange Objects (links from Gregory Frederick)

Gregory Frederick sent us this rather unsettling discovery:




TOPIC: Don't Believe Everything You Read (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I was reading the novel MARATHON MAN by novelist and screenwriter
William Goldman.  It is a fairly good thriller and I have liked the
film for a long time.  I did not expect that after seeing the film
there were any mysteries in the story with which I was not already
familiar.  Well, I was wrong, but it is not a mystery in the plot
of the novel.  The scene takes place between the characters played
by Dustin Hoffman and Fritz Weaver.  Hoffman is new graduate
student in an eccentric but admired history professor's seminar.
The novel says:

"There is a shortage of natural resources worldwide," [Professor
Biesenthal] went on. "There is a shortage of breathable air.  There
is even, alas, a shortage of adequate claret.  But there is no
shortage of historians.  We grind you out like link sausages, and
you are every bit as bright.  Well, I say, enough!  I say, let you
find harmless employment elsewhere.  Use your backs.  Shovel your
way through life.  The universities have processed you for
financial purposes, and so long as you could afford to pay tuition,
they could afford to pay me.  Progress they called it:
manufacturing doctorates was progress.  Well, I say, 'Halt the
ringing cry of progress'--that is a quote--who said it?  Come,
come, who said it?"  The Hoffman character knows the answer, but
does not respond.

The answer (in the Dell paperback on page 40) is Alfred, Lord
Tennyson.  It is claimed it comes from "Locksley Hall Sixty Years
After."  That peaked my curiosity.  I have not read "Locksley Hall"
and "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After" since I was a junior in high
school.  At that time I had a really hard time understanding what I
was reading.  I did know it was a complaint about progress.  It was
similar to the complaint about progress that Cedric Hardwick (as
Theotocopulos) makes in the film THINGS TO COME.  I was curious
what his arguments were.  But here in MARATHON MAN it claimed
Tennyson was making a similar complaint.  I thought it would be a
good time to go back and reread the Tennyson.  I thought the poem
sounded like it might have had a science fictional theme looking
into the future with a tone of chronophobia--fear of what the
future might be.

I went back and read the poems.  There is a little prediction in
them.  Really the poems are about the poet and his relationship with
a woman he calls "Amy" whom the poet loved and lost to another man.
He turned against Amy vindictively.  His anger took in a wide swath
including a small snatch about the misuse of the forward push of
mankind.  Specifically one complaint is pilots will be talking to
each other in the clouds, filling the clouds with words.  Still I
found a lot hidden by poetic rhetoric.  Actually Tennyson does not
talk about the ringing cry of anything.  What he says is "Let us
hush this cry of 'Forward' till ten thousand years have gone."

But the style sounded strangely different from how it struck me in
the film.  Was I remembering it wrongly?  I went to the IMDB to get
the precise film quote.  It is quite different.  This was how
William Goldman rewrote his own words for the screen for the
professor's acid comments:

"Well, you four have the dubious honor of having been picked from
over two hundred applicants for this seminar.  Well, let me just
say this.  There's a shortage of natural resources.  There's a
shortage of breathable air, there's even a shortage of adequate
claret.  But there is no shortage of historians.  We grind you out
like link sausages.  That's called progress.  Manufacturing
doctorates is called progress.  Well, I say, "Let us hush this cry
of progress until ten thousand years have passed."  That's a quote.
Who said that?  Come on, who said that?  Well, somebody must know
the answer."  None of the students answer, but Hoffman writes on
his notebook cover "Tennyson."  The professor says, "Tennyson!
Alfred, Lord Tennyson. My God, but you can't compete on a doctoral
level and not know "Locksley Hall" and "Locksley Hall 60 Years
Later! I hope you all flunk. Dismissed."

Now I do not care so much about revisions in the dialog, but the
quote is quite different here and nearly equally inaccurate as a
quote from the poems.  Neither the film nor the book seem to get
the quote right.  I guess you just cannot trust Hollywood.  At
least the film is a little closer to the actual quote.

This does not strike me as anything that could be an unintentional
error.  Both times it is William Goldman giving us purported quotes
from the Locksley Hall poems and both times he gets it wrong.  The
lines are just not there.  I wonder if Goldman had even read the

Oh, I should note the phrase "Halt the ringing cry of progress"
really does appear elsewhere, but the artist is not Alfred, Lord
Tennyson by a long shot.  It was Jethro Tull.  It is the first line
of Tull's song "Apocalypse."  Goldman is famous for the quote that
in Hollywood nobody knows anything.  Well, at least he has shown
(twice) that Goldman does not know how Tennyson.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: The State of Horror (lecture report by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Ellen Datlow spoke at the Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library on October
3 on "The State of Horror".  Her talk was hosted by the Garden
State Speculative Fiction Writers Society, so was targeted
primarily towards writers.

Datlow said this was a "Golden Age of short horror fiction."
However, she has problems with supernatural horror novels, because
it is hard for her to sustain disbelief for and entire novel

She talked a little about the process for the year's best horror
volume she has been editing for many years.  She has a reader for
the magazines and anthologies that usually have no horror, and also
those anthologies with no recognizable names.  In terms of both her
reading and writers' submissions, she emphasized that a magazine
that prints horror stories does not necessarily have a title that
indicates horror.  As places to submit (and presumably also to
read, she recommended "Black Static" (the sister magazine of
"Interzone"), "Nightmare", "Light Speed", "The Dark", "F&SF", and  She noted that the latter pays very well: 25 cents a word
for under 5,000 words, 15 cents a word for 5,000 to 10,000 words,
and ten cents a word for anything longer.

Other advice to writers included not to contribute to an anthology
for free, either explicitly (thinking that the exposure would be
good), or to " charity anthologies" (which she said are good in
theory, but bad in practice--there is rarely any money left after
production costs to give to the charity).  Another trap is a
"royalties only" payment on a small press publication--there are
never any royalties.

She also said to avoid anthologies edited or published by people
who want to publish their own work; anthologies should not have
stories by their editors or publishers.  And writers should not do
simultaneous submissions, but they should pull a story from one
market after a reasonable amount of time if there is no response,
and submit it elsewhere.

Datlow was asked about the distinction between dark fantasy and
horror.  She said that to her, horror is nihilistic, and does not
have a happy ending; there must be a sense of loss or at least
neutrality.  Because she is primarily a horror editor, she said
that she tends to forget or not notice anything except horror, but
she said that Richard Kadrey's "Sandman Slim" novels are dark
fantasy.  [I suggested that Ray Bradbury's SOMETHING WICKED THIS
WAY COMES is dark fantasy, while Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" is

There are no particular trends in word counts (although the fact
that people will read longer works on-line means novellas still
have a place in fiction).

Asking about cliches she never wants to see again, Datlow said she
hates the "couple goes to a house and get involved in something
horrible."  It is also a trope, however, so she emphasized her
complaint was when that was *all* there was to a story.  In
particular, she noted that Kim Newman handled it very well in AN
ENGLISH GHOST STORY.  She is also tried of the magical or
superhuman serial killer--having a serial killer is enough on its
own.  Zombies are a trope, not a cliche; ten years ago she hated
them, but there is interesting zombie stuff is being published
today.  The cliche is when it is just a zombie story with people
trying to escape.

She singled out Benjamin Percy's RED MOON as being just a political
novel with werewolves; she loathed it, because the story should
come first.

Datlow said that science fiction has gone into niche markets
because there are so many distinct types.  The best on-line markets
for writers are "Shimmer", "Abyss", "Apex", "Strange Horizons", and
"Clarkesworld".  For reviews, the main sources are "Locus", all the
print magazines, and "Strange Horizons".  There is also a Twitter
account, @SFEditorsPicks.

I asked about translations into (and out of) English.  Datlow said
this is an exciting area, and is happening, but commissioning
translations is risky because you don't know the story (unless you
happen to read that language).

(I had to leave a little early, but the rest seemed to be more



TOPIC: CRIMSON PEAK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE:  The daughter of a wealthy man finds love with a handsome
baronet and has little idea where this will lead her.  Guillermo
del Toro gives us a creepy ghost story with a color palette doused
in greens, drenched in saturated reds, and set in the world of 19th
century literary fiction.  It is beautiful to watch until it jumps
off the rails and goes over the top.  Numerous experiments in
visual and writing style are obvious throughout the film.  The IMDB
calls the resulting film a Drama/Fantasy/Horror/Mystery/Romance/
Thriller.  That about covers it.  Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

I do not happen to care for Guillermo del Toro's films based on
comic books.  But since his film CRONOS his horror films have never
been less than visually fascinating and generally fairly creepy
tales.  Often we find the supernatural in his films, but it is not
the point of the story.  The viewer comes to the film for the weird
elements, but it is the good story about people that captures the
viewer.  Del Toro is probably the best horror director in North
America, turning out fresh new ideas in every (horror) film.  Del
Toro directs, but he also co-authored the story with Matthew
Robbins, who has worked on scripts going as far back as SUGARLAND
DRAGONSLAYER (1981). Here the writers tell a romance story with
echoes of Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and Emily

Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska) is a sort of early 20th
century proto-feminist who ignores the interest of a longtime male
friend and has a severe distaste for Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom
Hiddleston), a business associate of her father whom she has never
actually met.  When she does finally meet him she finds her
aversion is totally unrequited.  The baronet has been totally
charmed by Edith and Edith soon is charmed by Thomas.  Edith's
father has very low regard for Thomas and attempts to buy him off
to no avail.  Thomas's sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) is equally
unhappy with the match and lets her feelings be known, though she
does come to accept the couple.  Eventually the couple marry, leave
Buffalo, and go with Lucille to live alone together in Allerdale
Hall, the Sharpe family's dank mansion in the lake country of
England.  Edith has been told previously by her mother's ghost--
yes, she has been visited years ago by her mother's ghost--to
beware Crimson Peak.  But her mother had made no mention of
Allerdale Hall.  Edith is shocked to learn that Allerdale Hall
rests on a hill known as Crimson Peak.  What is crimson about the
hill?  It is made mostly of bright red clay.  When the clay mixes
with groundwater the result is what looks like blood coming oozing
from the wounded hill.

There is a lot that is blood red in this film.  Much of it comes
from the veins of the characters.  It is clear that bright red was
some decorator's favorite color in Allerdale.  We see metric tons
of things bright red around Allerdale Hall.  There are twelve-foot
diameter tubs of blood-red mud in the lower levels.  If you do not
watch the garden the earth under it will bleed gallons of blood-mud
from the turned earth.  This would be a charming place for a
picnic.  You just know that some time soon the ground will not be
the only source of blood-red.  Some time before at Allerdale the
second-favorite decorating color must be green.  The place must
look really weird through cellophane 3D glasses.

Besides playing with the color, del Toro does some remarkable
things with sound.  Invisible phantoms seem to fly overhead.  At
one point a dog is heard to bark, but alternating barks come from
the left and the right of the theater.  I cannot promise that these
effects will be heard at every theater, but they were quite
impressive where I saw the film.

I have one major complaint about the film.  Once people get into
real trouble they seem to be able to survive injuries that would
have reduced Jason Bourne to smeary goo.  It is just my opinion,
but I think that once someone in the film is wounded to a degree
that is mortal, they should have the decency to say "uhhhh!," lie
down, and not move any more under their own power.  We have about
7.3 billion living people in the world and once someone is
sufficiently killed they should move over to the ranks of the dead.
Del Toro does some interesting things with this film, but they do
not all work.  I give CRIMSON PEAK a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: BRIDGE OF SPIES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: BRIDGE OF SPIES is a Cold War thriller based on fact.  Tom
Hanks plays a New York insurance lawyer who defends a Soviet spy
and then negotiates the exchange of the spy for U-2 pilot Gary
Powers.  Steven Spielberg directs a script provided by the Coen
Brothers (and Matt Charman).  This is a truly adult thriller.  Its
thrills come not from the barrel of a gun or master martial artists
jumping from building to building.  Instead it is about a plain
lawyer doing his job and somewhat more than his job.  In the
process he changes history.  Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Now here is a film directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the
Coen Brothers (and Matt Charman), and starring Tom Hanks.  Each of
them is at the top of his field.  That usually is a recipe for a
disaster.  Even if a producer gets the best people it does not mean
they work well together.  Each will have his own instincts.  I
cannot say that harmed this film though there certainly were
moments that were very Spielberg and moments in the dialog that
were noticeably Coen Brothers.

Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is a Soviet spy operating in New York
City in 1957.  When he is captured and arrangements are made to put
him on trial it seems the whole United States is pulling for Abel
to be executed.  After a long list of potential defense lawyers is
considered, insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who had a
small part in the prosecution of the Nurnberg trials is chosen to
defend Abel.  With the country thirsting for Abel's blood, Donovan
manages to avoid a death sentence.  When U-2 spy plane pilot
Francis Gary Powers is shot down over Russia, Donovan must go to
East Berlin to see if he can broker an exchange of prisoners,
Powers for Abel.  Donovan depends on his rare talent for making the
person he is negotiating with want what he wants.

We do feel some Spielberg moments.  The film begins with a lush
image of the streets of New York City as they were in 1957.  They
make a telling comparison to the not-so-lush streets of East Berlin
in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was being built.  Still, the building
of the wall is one more historical event like the Fall of Shanghai,
the Battle for Iwo Jima. the Munich Olympic Massacre, and the D-Day
Landing that Spielberg has re-created in iconic images for his
viewer.  The question of whether the Constitution grants rights to
the country's enemies is as timely as Guantanamo.  There is some of
the feel of SCHINDLER'S LIST in showing soldiers' cruelty to
civilians.  There is what may be one too many sweet bits in the
last few scenes of the film, but Spielberg likes to play on the
emotions.  Donovan has some very strong feelings about justice, the
law, and the United States Constitution, which also springs from

The dialog in the film has touches of subtle prose supplied by Joel
and Ethan Coen that leave the viewer something to think about.
There are arguments such as, is a runaway car hitting five
motorcycles one accident or is it five?

Tom Hanks is a very generous actor, willingly giving up viewer
attention to other actors when they share scenes with him and have
something to show.  That is actually true through much of BRIDGE OF
SPIES.  Rudolf Abel is played by Mark Rylance, best known as
Cromwell of WOLF HALL.  He plays the Russian spy so impassively
that he becomes a riddle to the viewer, so ironically that he
steals every nearly scene he is in.  Amy Ryan of GONE BABY GONE
plays Donovan's wife, who in a thankless role must wheedle her
husband to return home when she thinks he is fishing in Scotland.
Alan Alda also has a small role, but most of the other faces are

In this story based on fact, we get to know this insurance lawyer,
uncertain of his own abilities, as he fights the bureaucracies of
three countries, including his own, to do what the governments of
the countries cannot do for themselves.  Once again in a Spielberg
film the common man--or near-common man--triumphs.  I rate BRIDGE
OF SPIES a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.  This is one of the
best films of the year.

Note: I am informed by my wife that the patent number we see on a
razor blade is really for a patent on a device for removing
railroad ties.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: BEASTS OF NO NATION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Agu, a boy of about thirteen in an unnamed African country
at war, is caught between battling armies and forced to take on the
duties and responsibilities of an adult soldier.  He is made to see
nightmare happenings and to kill under orders.  Cary Joji Fukunaga
adapted, filmed, and directed Uzodinma Iweala's novel following the
horrendous life of children made into killers.  He is forced to
become a weapon for people whom he does not understand.  This is a
disturbing film that you will not forget soon as much as you may
want to.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Warning: Mild plot spoilers

Wikipedia estimates that there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide
and perhaps 120,000 of them are in Africa.  Africa is where the
number of child soldiers is growing fastest.  BEASTS OF NO NATION
is what appears to be a realistic look at what life is like for one
boy forced to fight in a civil war.

Agu (played by Abraham Attah) is about thirteen years old and
living in an African country torn by a civil war with several
different factions fighting each other.  His life had been fairly
comfortable--more so after the war closed the schools--until his
small village became a battleground for two warring factions each
of whom see being neutral as one more flavor of being the enemy.
In the chaos his family is split up.  He and his brother are on
their own trying to survive and to rendezvous with their mother.
The brother does not live to get very far and Agu is left to shift
for himself.

Agu is indoctrinated with drugs and strange mystical ceremonies.
To get him to fight when he sees the enemy he is told that "these
are the ones who killed your father."  He is taught how to kill
with a machete and forced by the Commandant (Idris Elba) to
actually do it.  Unable to resist the mind control of his captors,
he consoles himself that at least in killing he is doing the right
thing.  Agu, robbed of his childhood, is forced to do as much and
perhaps more than an adult soldier would have to.

The film is structured, at least superficially, like Steven
Spielberg's EMPIRE OF THE SUN.  The main character starts with a
pleasant lifestyle but goes to having war rip his family apart.
The fall of Agu's village is much like a small-scale version of
Spielberg's Fall of Shanghai.  Each boy is on his own and learns to
live in a world alien to what he is used to.  He makes a different
set of friends and acquires mentors who are less than totally
savory just as in EMPIRE.  However, it was Spielberg's style, as we
might expect, to have his main character triumph over the
situation, but Agu never finds much to feel very positive about.
And that is the more realistic storytelling.  The boy in each film
ages very quickly during wartime.  The best of the writing in
BEASTS OF NO NATION shows up near the end of the film when the
commandant tells his men about the alternatives to the combative
life style he has chosen.

BEASTS OF NO NATION is largely in English or subtitled for the
unnamed language of the unknown African country where the story is
set.  I would rate this film a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE MARTIAN (book and film review by Dale L. Skran)

Ridley Scott's movie THE MARTIAN is lighting up our theaters, to
the accompaniment of great expectations from space advocates and
NASA employees.  The movie is good, the effects are excellent, the
story well-conceived and well-directed, and you really ought to go
see it.  Having said all that, I'm moving into somewhat picky and
subtle spoiler territory, so you may wish to press the button on
your ejection seat.


THE MARTIAN is really a good adaptation of the book with the same
name by Andy Weir.  All of the main plot points are present.  Many
of the good lines from the book are present.  The main characters
from the book are seen on-screen.  However, and perhaps inevitably,
significant events in the book do not appear on the screen.  As a
result, the movie seems more like a Cliff's Notes of the book than
anything else.  Also, a lot of the scientific detail in the book
does not make it to the screen.  In some cases this is mandatory to
tell the story without boring the audience (like waiting twelve
minutes for every message from Earth), but in others it feels like
a different approach to the film might have communicated Mark
Watney's internal mental states better.  For an example of what
might be done, check out the portrayal of the thinking of a super-
humanly smart character in the new TV show LIMITLESS.

Many space advocates have waited with bated breath for THE MARTIAN,
hoping to somehow use it as a springboard to press forward new
plans for going to Mars.  I don't think this is likely to happen
for several reasons.  One is that THE MARTIAN shows NASA in a
realistic but somewhat negative fashion.  A NASA manager is fired
for disobeying an order as he proceeds to set in motion the events
that ultimately bring Watney home.  NASA is either very tight on
money or has not planned very well, leading to a considerable
shortage of rockets.  Another is that THE MARTIAN puts a relentless
focus on the dangers of living on Mars, and in space in general.
Unlike GRAVITY, which may be some kind of wish-fulfillment dream
after a certain point, THE MARTIAN follows "real" events, but those
events are only marginally less scary than the ones in GRAVITY.
Finally, the NASA of THE MARTIAN seems far removed from the real
NASA.  The Mars program consists of five multi-year trips to Mars,
all using the same immense vehicle.  The Hermes is even larger and
more capable than the proposed Nautilus X, and the Nautilus X
greatly exceeds any real NASA plan for going to Mars.  In fact, the
NASA of THE MARTIAN seems to have implemented something more along
the lines of an Aldrin Cycler, a space station that moves routinely
from Earth to Mars and back, over and over again. I find this sort
of Mars plan very sensible, but it would cost quite a bit, and it
is quite unlikely NASA will undertake it.

At least one reviewer has complained that the movie is not
international enough, and that commercial space is ignored.  THE
MARTIAN takes place in some future where Russia and Europe are not
involved in going to Mars, but China has an active space program.
One can criticize this, but it is a perfectly reasonable
extrapolation by Weir, and the movie handles it well.

It is certainly true that companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are
not visible, but this seems like a good decision by Weir.  2001: A
SPACE ODYSSEY is now dated by the use of specific company names
like Pan Am, and the same could occur with any current space
company.  On the other hand, the current "flagships" of NASA beyond
Earth orbit exploration--SLS and Orion--are nowhere to be seen.  I
think this is a good thing as well.  Any usage of existing launch
vehicles will just date the film and look odd later.

The movie does a good job of showing a variety of plausible-looking
rockets that are not stock footage.  I thought the final rocket
launching the Ares IV mission was well envisioned.  It might be a
Delta IVH with extra side boosters.  It might be a Falcon Heavy
with extra side boosters.  It might even be a future SpaceX Mars
Colonial Transport (MCT) or an enhanced ULA Vulcan or the new Blue
Origin "big rocket."  But it looks like some kind of future heavy
lift vehicle, and it is obviously not an SLS.

So maybe the commercial companies are here--just hiding in the
background unmentioned.  In fact, the most plausible way that THE
MARTIAN with its titanic interplanetary Hermes might come about is
if the SLS were canceled and replaced with a large number of Falcon
Heavy and Vulcan launches.  On the other hand maybe the Hermes was
built by SLS launches, and then the crews are launched
commercially.  In any case, the movie handles these aspects very
well by avoiding excessive detail.

There are a few structural changes from the book.  The book starts
with Watney lying wounded and covered in sand, all alone on Mars.
Later there are recapitulations about how this came to happen.  The
movie opens with all the astronauts on Mars, and shows the
sandstorm that forces them off-planet and blows Watney away.  The
captain's "Plan B" if the cargo ship cannot dock with the Hermes as
it plunges toward Earth is excised, perhaps because discussion of
cannibalism would really dampen the mood.  The actual final rescue
scene is somewhat different, more exciting, and more improbable
than in the book.  The movie also adds a nice coda showing the
various astronauts after their return to Earth, including Watney.
The final scene of Watney delivering a lecture on survival in space
to a rather large class of future astronauts is in many ways the
most hopeful thing in THE MARTIAN, with its hint that at long last
the United States government is finally providing the funds needed
to really explore space. Finally, although the F-word is used twice
by Watney, his often salty language in the novel has been cleaned
up for the most part.

I have two nitty complaints about the movie.  Watney is portrayed
as a mechanical genius who can fix or build anything even though he
is a botanist.  This is explained well in the book (Watney is
cross-trained in both botany and mechanical engineering, and as
result has the perfect knowledge base for Martian survival) but the
few sentences it would take to make it more realistic do not appear
in the movie.  My other nitty complaint is that the movie makes it
seem like JPL is where all the important work at NASA goes on, and
where all the smart folks reside.  Of course, it is always possible
that in some future world JPL has greatly expanded relative to
Johnson and Marshall, but we should at least recognize that in the
real world JPL would probably not build the resupply cargo ships.

Overall, I'm rating THE MARTIAN a solid +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.
There is no violence and no sex.  There is, however, a large amount
of peril, and a certain amount of salty language.  I'd be happy to
let any kid over five see it--they hear worse language every day on
the playground.  I may be a victim of excessive expectations here,
but INTERSTELLER blew me away. The EDGE OF TOMORROW surprised me.
THE MARTIAN is just a damn fine movie.  [-dls]


TOPIC: The Wilhelm Gostloff (letters of comment by Dale L. Skran
and John Purcell)

In response to Mark's comments on the Wilhelm Gostloff in the
10/16/15 issue of the MT VOID, Dale Skran writes:

It seems to me that you missed the most obvious reason why the
sinking of Wilhelm Gostloff has received little attention--after
WWII there was very little sympathy for the Germans or their
allies.  In the context of the untold millions the Germans killed,
it is hard to get worked up about another 9,000, at least some of
whom were probably fleeing because they knew they would be executed
as war criminals if caught by the Russians.

Of course, this does not mean that the Russians ought to have sunk
the ship, just that it is understandable that the event has
received little attention.  [-dls]

Mark replies:

Perhaps. But remember they were more than half children, German or
not.  I think that would bother a lot of people if they had been
told about the sinking.  People do not like to hear about any
children being killed.  They were just not told about it for
political reasons.

Don't forget that this all happened more than 70 years ago.  There
has been plenty of time to tell people about what happened after
the shock of war had worn off.  [-mrl]

And John Purcell writes:

I believe I once read about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy in one of
my undergraduate classes on Soviet Military History (Russian
Studies was my minor at Iowa State University).  An incredible loss
of life, to be sure.  I am glad some recognition has been given to
the site of its sinking--as a protected war-grave--by the German
government, but I still wonder how much of the history of Operation
Hannibal has been made known to the German people.  Nowadays there
is probably a fair amount of information to be found; still, as
mentioned in the article you shared, as World War II was ending so
badly for Germany, it is not surprising that the knowledge of such
a tragedy would be kept from the German people.  If the citizens
had known about this, that probably would have completely
demoralized the German forces and the nation's people.  A
fascinating article, Mark.  Thank you for sharing it.  [-jp]


TOPIC: THE WORLD WITHOUT US (letters of comment by Gregory Benford
and John Purcell)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE WORLD WITHOUT US in the
10/16/15 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

GOOD REVIEW: i.e., told me much without dwelling on the morose
implications. Stewart's EARTH ABIDES was a more uplifting work,
showing that fiction can capture moods and convey meaning better
than straight nonfiction, methinks.

Small things will abide--famously, toilets. The WIPP waste facility
I worked on evaluating (recounted in DEEP TIME) will maintain
security for 1000s years, but the 10,000 Year Clock will, too--
unless vandalized before the imagined human demise.

In space, plenty of durability.  [-gb]

And John Purcell writes:

The television mini-series LIFE AFTER PEOPLE was well-produced, and
maintained my interest level.  The computer-generated graphics
definitely helped.  Now I may have to track down Weisman's book.
*sigh*  Another one for the To Be Read shelf.  I think I'm going to
need another shelf.  Heck, I may need another wall!  [-jp]


TOPIC: Church Schism, ISS and Worldcon, and THE MARTIAN (letter of
comment by John Purcell)

In response to various comments in the 10/16/15 issue of the MT
VOID, John Purcell writes:

Good morning, Mark and Evelyn.  I hope this Sunday morning finds
you hale and hearty, awake and full of coffee, ready to tackle the
day.  My Sunday will be a busy one, so it's best to start things
off with a loc or three.  Your fine weekly electronic newsletter is
a good place to begin.

That sure is a lot of -isms you mentioned.  I see there was nothing
about Mondayism, but that's probably because everybody hates
Very cool videos of Astronaut Kjell Lindgren's Sasquan
contributions.  How scientifictional!  Dear old Hugo Gernsbach
would have been proud.  We certainly live in a stfnal world when
something like this can be done. Is it time to promote for a
potential Worldcon in orbit?  I can hear the slogan now: "L-5 in
'75!"  Note that the first two digits are left off to buy the bid
committee time.  Then again, Minneapolis still holds bidding
parties for 1973, so it seems time is not an issue.  Be that as it
may, I think it's danged awesome that NASA let Lindgren participate
in Sasquan this way.  Very cool.

I just recently finished reading THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, and will
probably see the movie next weekend (payday is in two days) and
compare the two.  From what I have been hearing--scientific
accuracy notwithstanding--the movie is very faithful to the novel,
which is a rarity in Hollywood these days.  I am sure it will be

Many thanks, and keep them coming.  [-jp]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I was reading SELECTED POLITICAL SPEECHES by Cicero (ISBN 978-0-14-
044214-4) and have concluded that anyone who thinks political
speeches today are inflammatory has not read Cicero's speeches
against Lucius Sergius Catalina.  From the second oration:

"At length, O Romans, we have dismissed from the city, or driven
out, or, when he was departing of his own accord, we have pursued
with words, Lucius Catiline, mad with audacity, breathing
wickedness, impiously planning mischief to his country, threatening
fire and sword to you and to this city."

And later:

"For what evil or wickedness can be devised or imagined which he
did not conceive? What prisoner, what gladiator, what thief; what
assassin, what parricide, what forger of wills, what cheat, what
debauchee, what spendthrift, what adulterer, what abandoned woman,
what corrupter of youth, what profligate, what scoundrel can be
found in all Italy, who does not avow that he has been on terms of
intimacy with Catiline? What murder has been committed for years
without him? What nefarious act of infamy that has not been done by
him.  But in what other man were there ever so many allurements for
youth as in him, who both indulged in infamous love for others, and
encouraged their infamous affections for himself, promising to some
enjoyment of their lust, to others the death of their parents, and
not only instigating them to iniquity, but even assisting them in

Doesn't it make you happy that you live in a time when the
candidates spew their venom only on illegal immigrants and
television reporters?  (Then again, maybe Cicero attacked his
opponents because he didn't have illegal immigrants and television
reporters to pick on.)

The fourth oration begins with a discussion of the death penalty.
(I will note that the condemned are not guilty of murder, but of
conspiracy to commit treason and mayhem.)  Decimus Silanus,
apparently, feels that the Cataline conspirators "should not for a
single moment be permitted to live and enjoy the air we all
breathe."  Gaius Caesar (a.k.a. Julius Caesar), on the other hand,
feels that death was created by the gods "not as a punishment at
all, but as an inevitable natural happening, or a relief from toil
and trouble."  However, imprisonment was clearly designed as a
punishment for "atrocious" crimes.  Caesar argues that life
imprisonment is a greater punishment than death.  "It was to scare
criminals here on earth that men of ancient times held that
punishments for evil-doers are paralleled by similar penalties
which they will continue to suffer after they are dead; because our
ancestors realized, evidently, that if the terror of those
posthumous sanctions were removed, the threat of death itself would
hold no fears any longer."

Cicero sides with Silanus, observing that they would have to build
prisons and pay people to guard these man and even then it seems
likely they would somehow contrive to escape.  The argument that
the Sempronian Law forbids the death penalty against Roman citizens
when the Assembly has not voted it he dismisses in an all-too-
familiar fashion: he claims that Caesar (and others) "must also
know that a man who is a public enemy cannot possibly be regarded
as a citizen at all."  How often throughout history have people
been stripped of their rights and their lives by the state deciding
that they are public enemies and hence not "real" citizens after
all?  How often does one nation portray its enemies as "sub-
humans", "beasts", or "animals"?  (And it clearly continues even
into science fictional futures, with the ironically named Caesar in
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES being challenged by an ape opponent
that he must not kill Koba with the law "Ape not kill ape" and
responding "Koba not ape" right before killing him.)  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

          People don't believe what you tell them.
          They rarely believe what you show them.
          They often believe what their friends tell them.
          They always believe what they tell themselves.
                                             --Seth Godin