Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/29/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 31, Whole Number 1895

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        Ill-Equipped (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in February (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Light Is the Left Hand of Darkness and Darkness the Right
                Hand of Light (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        2015 Academy Award Nominees in Short Live-Action and
                Animation (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)
        The Pants Zipper Crisis (letter of comment by Barry Litofsky)
        Tabby's Star and THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (letter of comment
                by Gregory Benford)
                THE PAMPHLET DEBATE, 1764-1772; SUBMISSION; LUNA:
                FIRST MOON; and GALAPAGOS REGAINED) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)

February 11: SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (film), SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (book) by
        Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, Middletown (NJ)
        Public Library, 5:30PM
February 25: OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
March 24: HARD LANDING by Algis Budrys, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
April 28: LOST HORIZON by James Hilton, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
May 26: "E for Effort" by T. L. Sherred and "Earthman, Come Home"
        by James Blish (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B),
        Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: Ill-Equipped (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

In the field James Bond always seems to have just been given the
gadgets he needs.  It is very convenient.  How would things be
different if he had accidentally had taken just the gadgets of the
previous film?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in February (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

February on Turner Classic Movies seems to have pretty much a
familiar set of classic films.  There are two films that qualify as
hidden gems that I would like to point out.

Okay, I admit it.  To save time I took the last paragraph word for
word from a previous year's recommendation for February on TCM.  Do
you think it is easy thinking of something new and clever to say
each month?  You try it.  Anyway...

In the late 18th century the British Admiralty made the rules
onboard the Royal Navy's fighting ships.  They controlled life and
death on the warship and answered to nobody.  The British Admiralty
gave navy captains the right to kidnap British and American
civilians and seamen to crew their warships.  If you remember, the
War of 1812 was in part about impressments of American seamen.
Forced obedience and discipline was infinitely more important than
justice for the fighting men.  Discontent and rage grew in the

Things came to a head in 1797 when crews mutinied at the risk of
their lives rather than continue serving in the nightmarish
conditions imposed by the British Admiralty.  The mutiny was like a
labor strike.  Eventually the Admiralty relented and ever-so-
slightly let conditions in their navy improve.

Coincidentally three films were produced in one year, 1962, each
dramas set on a backdrop of the mutinies.  H.M.S. DEFIANT (a.k.a.
DAMN THE DEFIANT!) was an excellent film with Alec Guinness and
Dirk Bogart.  MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY was another, though not as good
as the other two.  (Sorry, those film are *not* playing on TCM this
month, though the 1935 MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is playing Sunday the
17th at8PM).  The remaining film and my recommendation is BILLY
BUDD (which *is* playing).  It is based on the short novel by
Herman Melville. Terrence Stamp plays a young sailor who is well
liked by the crew.One of the officers, Claggart, Master at Arms,
takes a dislike to the boy who makes friends so easily and the
officer starts a dramatic chain of events.  Claggart is Robert
Ryan's best role and is a very formidable screen villain.  His
character has the sort of personality that other people just do not
seem to like.  He has long since decided that if he cannot get the
other men to like him, he can settle for having them fear him.  The
film is produced, directed, and co-written by Peter Ustinov who,
although he chews up the scenery, gets second billing as ship's
captain.  Nonetheless the well-written story comes down to an issue
of military duty vs. justice.  This is a moving and intelligent
film.  [Tuesday, February 9, 3:30 PM]

BILLY BUDD is actually based on a true story, though it did not
occur in the British but the US Navy.  Z is also a film based on a
true story.  In this case it is a political investigation in
Greece.  Costa-Gavras made the film based on the novel of the same
brief name by Vasilis Vasilikos.  French director Costa-Gavras is
known for films with a left-wing slant including STATE OF SIEGE,
MISSING, and HANNA K.  The film and the book it was based on tell a
thinly fictionalized account of the investigation of a liberal
member of the Greek government--called just "the Deputy" who is
attacked when he appears at a political rally.  The organizers of
the rally try to get him to a hospital, but feel the police and
military people who should be helping instead seem to keep getting
in the way until it is too late.  When the deputy dies  The rally
organizers claim the Deputy was intentionally killed, a charge the
government denies.  The police bring in a neutral Magistrate, a
member of the police himself, to investigate the death of the
Deputy and he determines to get to the bottom of the incident in
spite of the politics of the people for whom he works.  Z is a nice
political thriller and features are very effective musical score by
Mikis Theodorakis, a popular Greek composer who built his name on
the score he wrote for Z and for ZORBA THE GREEK.  [Tuesday,
February 16, 2:30 PM]

What is my choice for best film of the month?  Once again I would
pick John Huston's THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING.  You cannot do much
better than that.  TCM appears to agree, since they seem to run it
just about every other month.  [Saturday, February 6, 11:15 AM]


TOPIC: Light Is the Left Hand of Darkness and Darkness the Right
Hand of Light (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

By now, many people will have seen (or heard of) someone who set up
their automatic external lighting in such a way that the light
shone on the sensor, resulting in a constantly flashing light.

I have a new one.  Our new LED lights illuminating the driveway
from above the garage worked fine for a few months, but last night
they started turning on and off--not flashing, because there was a
few minutes delay between cycles, but regularly.

Pause, while you think about it.

Okay, here it is: The LED lights (brighter than our old lights)
shone on the (normally black) driveway.  However, the driveway was
covered with a couple of feet of clean, shiny, white snow.  So the
light was reflected back up, where it hit the sensor, which said,
"Gee, it's light outside; I should turn the lights off."  Then it
was dark, so the sensor said, "Gee, it's dark outside; I should
turn the lights on."  So the light was reflected back up, ...


TOPIC: 2015 Academy Award Nominees in Short Live-Action and
Animation (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

Again this year I have been given the opportunity to see the short
films nominated for Academy Awards.  I do not get to vote on them,
of course, but I do get a chance to review them.  I usually review
only feature-length films, but this year I could see the short
nominees.  In keeping with my previous short film reviews I will
rate each film A for excellent, B for good, C for acceptable or D
for poor.  I cannot say a lot about each film without giving too
much away.  These are after-all short films.  But I will try to
comment on them.


"Ave Maria"
Directors: Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont
Country of origin: France, Germany, and Palestine
Running Time': 15 minutes
Language: Arabic, English, and Hebrew
It is Friday afternoon on the West Bank and a car filled with a
bickering Jewish family has a car accident just outside a convent.
One would think it should be simple to call a taxi for the family,
but the Jews cannot use a telephone on the Sabbath and the nuns in
the convent are under a vow of silence.  Everything they try seems
to break the rules of somebody, the Jewish or Catholic
restrictions.  How can they resolve the problems?  The film is
slight, but it is amusing.  It is refreshing to have a film set on
the West Bank that is not being political.
Rating B

"Day One"
Directors: Henry Hughes
Country of origin: United States
Running Time: 25 minutes
Language: English, Dari
We follow a woman on her first day working with the U.S. military
as an interpreter in Afghanistan.  She is the first woman in this
company, and she and the rest of the company are having some
trouble adapting to each other.  She is sent with troops to
interrogate a man suspected of building bombs for use against the
Americans.  After a shaky start, and one that is unnerving, she
discovers that in addition to people being merciless to one
another, nature can also be harsh against people regardless of
their politics.  For a short film, this first day for the woman in
Afghanistan involves some strong drama.  I will be impressed if our
novice translator comes back for Day Two.
Rating: A

"Everything Will Be Okay" ("Alles Wird Gut")
Directors: Patrick Vollrath
Country of origin: Germany, Austria
Running Time: 30 minutes
Language: German
Patrick Vollrath directs a nice exercise in suspense.  Michael is a
divorced father who has visitation rights with his young daughter
Lea.  He picks her up and seems particularly generous to her this
day.  But soon he seems to be acting strangely.  Lea questions him
and gets no useful answers.  Michael's plans will pit Lea against
her father.  Many American filmmakers would exaggerate the film and
that really is not necessary.  In a nice compact 30 minutes this
film is more than a match for a feature-length suspense film.
Rating: A

Directors: Jamie Donoughue
Country of origin: United Kingdom, Kosovo
Running Time: 21 minutes
Language: Albanian, Serbian
In a story told in flashback we meet two boys, Oki and Era, in
Kosovo.  The boys are close friends, who want to try their hands at
being businessmen.  But as the war comes home to their village they
find that just staying alive may be all they can manage.  Their
relationship has a little bit of betrayal and a lot of danger from
the gunmen infesting their village.  The ending of the film is not
all smoothed off like a fiction story, but it does show us the
texture of life during wartime.
Rating: B

Directors: Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Running Time: 12 minutes
Language: English
In a tale with an O Henry irony we meet Greenwood who can write
beautifully, but who has a very bad stammer.  In social media on
the Internet he has the writing voice of a poet, but if he stands
in front of a live person he can barely get his words out.  For
several months he has had a verbal relationship with a woman on
Facebook, but he is certain that when she meets him in the flesh
all his fine words will abandon him and he will be able to get out
only fractions of words.  His one chance with his on-line
correspondent is to meet his friend and hope against hope that he
will find a way to talk to her.
Rating: C


"Bear Story"
Directors: Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
Country of origin: Chile
Running time: 11 minutes
Language: No Dialog
The main character in this film looks he is a tin toy against a
music box interior that forms a setting.  The background music also
seems to have a music box feel.  The story is of a bear who is
kidnapped by a circus and made to perform.  All is shown with a
clockwork background decorated with circus posters.  The film is
Chilean and was made undoubtedly as a political statement against
Pinochet and his political machine. It is a work of genuine
ingenuity and has something to say.
Rating: B

Directors': Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Running time: 6 minutes
Language: No Dialog
Presented wordlessly in pencil drawing art we see first images of a
flower and a bee, then shift to a small battle--two warriors
against two warriors--from around 400 BC.  The battle is violent
and all four die, but a young girl who watched the battle runs to
her mother or grandmother for comfort.  Some may find that even
animated blood is over-used.  Presumably it is saying that fighting
is bad, but fighting today is very different from what it was 24
centuries ago.  It is unclear what the flower has to do with
anything.  The film does not seem to tell a story and probably
really needs one.
Rating: C

"Sanjay's Super Team"
Directors: Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
Country of origin: United States
Running time: 7 minutes
Language: English
 From Disney and Pixar comes a story of the generation gap between
the Indian-born and the Western-born Indian-Americans.  Sanjay's
father is a devout Hindu who performs the Hindu devotions in the
home.  His son Sanjay on the other hand is very much a product of
American culture.  He does not want to go through the ceremonies.
He wants to be left alone to see super-heroes on television and in
his action-hero toys.  Neither has much interest in the other's
fascinations.  Then Sanjay has a vision that makes things clear for
himself and his father and the two are reconciled.  This could be a
better story with a more satisfying conclusion.  The solution
really would probably work for neither Sanjay nor his father.
Rating: B

"We Can't Live Without Cosmos"
Directors: Konstantin Bronzit
Country of origin: Russia
Running time: 16 minutes
Language: No Dialog
In the days of the old Soviet space program two cosmonauts in
training become very close friends, preparing for space together
and getting into mischief whenever they can.  Both yearn for the
stars and are inspired by the same book, "We Can't Live Without The
Cosmos".  A flight comes up and only one can go on it.  The
animation is low-tech, but the story is poignant.  The images are
fairly two-dimensional, but the narrative is touching.
Rating: A

"World of Tomorrow"
Directors: Don Hertzfeldt
Country of origin: United States
Running time: 17 minutes
Language: English
"World Of Tomorrow" is a full science fiction story animated with
line drawings.  A little girl, Emily, meets and is taken on a time
traveling trip by her own granddaughter looks aged enough to
instead be her grandmother.  Most of the art is or appears to be
just line drawings.  Emily visits her own future.  She is told,
though she is much too young to understand, that she will have her
mind and personality downloaded into a clone.  This process will be
repeated indefinitely giving her virtually eternal life.  And that
is just the start of what Emily's grandmother reveals to her.  One
after another Emily hears about the technological wonders of her
future--marvels but of dubious value.
Rating: A



TOPIC: The Pants Zipper Crisis (letter of comment by Barry

In response to Mark's comments on pants zippers in the 01/15/16
issue of the MT VOID, Barry Litofsky writes:

And here I thought it was me getting older and not being able to
"handle" myself well.  I live in Florida now and always wear
shorts, which means that I don't have to use pants' zippers.  Last
weekend I went north for a family function and had to wear long
pants, both on the airplane flights and at the function.  I
received a rude awakening each time I went to the bathroom.  I
didn't remember having zipper difficulty before.  So I agree with
your comments and believe it to be false economy to make pants'
zippers shorter.  I could say that I will no longer purchase long
pants, but it would not be truthful as it is difficult to go to
snow country in the winter in shorts!  [-bl]

Mark responds:

It seems to me I recently heard a story of a 21-year-old woman in
Wisconsin who got hypothermia and froze to death after wearing
shorts in very cold weather.  I guess there are worse things than
having to make special arrangements in front of a urinal.



TOPIC: Tabby's Star and THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (letter of comment by
Gregory Benford)

In response to Mark's comments on Tabby's star in the 01/22/16
issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

My brother suggested the Allen Array listen to Tabby's star & they
found nothing.  Jim's just sent ASTRO JOURNAL a paper saying that
industrial solar system use of powerful microwave beams could have
been detected--but you have to listen constantly, not just the few
hours the Allen Array did.

And he adds:

Yes, THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD is a fine small film, mostly unknown,
alas...  [-gb]


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

Well, I hunkered down for the blizzard with four books from the

1772 edited by Gordon S. Wood (ISBN 978-1-598533774) is published
by the non-profit publisher Library of America(*).  Their books are
very well-produced (acid-free paper, sewn bindings, silk bookmark,
etc.), but one suspects that their primary market is institutional
(libraries, colleges, etc.), because a cover price seems a bit high
to the average book-buyer.  Obviously, one is paying not only for
the physical book, but for the historical and editorial knowledge
required to assemble this volume.  (This is similar to anthologies
of older stories: they are often individually readily available
elsewhere, but you are paying for the editor to select and collect
them.)  And also, as it turns out, these works are apparently not
available on-line.  (Not even the Constitution Society's Liberty
Library of Constitutional Classics, at has them.)

(*) The Guardians of American Letters Fund was established by the
Library of America to ensure that all volumes remain "permanently
available."  One suspects this is recognizing that they may not
remain "in print" so much as available digitally.

It is depressing to read the beautifully constructed sentences of
these pamphlets and then to consider the present level of political
discourse.  For example, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Present Disputes Between the British Colonies in America and
the Mother-Country" (1769) [author anonymous] begins:

"The disputes at present subsisting between our Colonies in America
and their Mother Country, are as weighty and important in their
nature, as they are alarming and formidable in their effects, and
of so long standing, that every true friend to either cannot help
ardently wishing they were amicably adjusted and fairly determined.
If the following remarks upon this subject, wherein I shall
endeavour to place it in a new, and, I presume a clear point of
view, will any way contribute to this end, it will give me real
pleasure; although to conceive the most distant expectations of
success from any thing that can be said upon it, will perhaps be a
much stronger argument of my benevolence and good wishes, than of
my prudence or sagacity."

Somehow the sound bites of the current candidates do not compare.
(Never mind trying to get an actual position paper longer than a
single page from them.)

I'll note in passing, by the way, that the problems the author of
this pamphlet sees in extending all rights and privileges of a
mother-country to its colonies seem to be those of time and space.
In the Roman Empire, it was impractical to have meaningful
representation in the Roman Senate from (say) Gaul, which was about
800 miles away--a journey of about 28 days.  Now we have
representation from Hawai'i in the Senate in Washington, even
though Hawai'i is almost 5000 miles away, because the journey takes
only 14 or 15 hours (with a stopover, no less!).  (And direct
communication via telephone or computer is effectively
instantaneous, making it possible for a Senator in Hawai'i to be in
some sense closer to the Senate than a Senator in ancient Rome who
was a mile away from the Senate building.)  One must re-examine the
justification of colonies today under the modern conditions of

The author of this pamphlet also says that there must be a supreme
assembly and all other assemblies be subordinate to it.  The notion
that some powers are reserved for assemblies other than the
"supreme" one did not occur to him, yet that is to a great extent
what we have in the United States.  (One can debate whether a given
"central" law encroaches on these reserved powers, but clearly the
concept is present and quite active.)

He also assumes that were the North American colonies set free from
England, they would "fall prey" to France.  In addition to being
just flat-out wrong, he makes a telling comparison: now, he says,
the colonists are treated as children, but under the French they
would be treated as slaves.  Indeed, he frequently compares the
colonists to children, and while the term "Mother-Country"
encourages that language, it is hardly likely to placate the
colonists toward retaining their current relationship with England.

This volume has nineteen pamphlets and is volume one of a two-
volume set; volume two covers 1773 through 1776 and has twenty

SUBMISSION by Michel Houellebecq (translated by Lorin Stein) (ISBN
978-0-374-27157-2) is one of those "mainstream science fiction"
novels that most science fiction readers will never hear about.  It
does not help that it is a foreign novel, written in French and
requiring a translator.  Reading it, I gained a new appreciation
for Ken Liu's translation skills, not just in which words to
choose, but in what to footnote.  A lot of SUBMISSION is lost if
the reader does not have a knowledge of French politics and French
politicians.  For example, Houellebecq makes a passing reference to
the "Thirty Glorious Years."  Liu would have footnoted this, but
Stein leaves it to the reader to go and look it up in Wikipedia,
breaking the train of reading.

Taking place in 2022, the novel tells the story of the meteoric
rise of an Islamic political party in France which gains control by
aligning itself with what I presume are real current political
parties in France.  In practically no time (a month, so far as I
can tell), they have Islamicized the education system, over-hauled
employment and marriage law, and gotten several North African
countries added to the EU.  Okay, it's a satire (though I think THE
NEW YORKER'S Adam Gopnik went too far when he called it "a comic
masterpiece"), but even so, I found that my disbelief could not be
willingly suspended to that extent.

LUNA: FIRST MOON by Ian McDonald (ISBN 978-0-7653-7551-3) came
highly recommended (I would not be surprised to see it on this
year's Hugo ballot, assuming it is a valid Hugo ballot) but it had
a five-page listing of the cast of characters, a three-page glossary
explaining (among other things) the hierarchical and relationship
terms used in the five-page listing of the cast of characters, and
a two-page enumeration of the days of the month on the Hawai'ian
calendar.  I'm old, life is short, and a random sampling of pages
confirmed my idea that this would be difficult to follow, so the
book went back unread.

GALAPAGOS REGAINED by James Morrow (ISBN 978-1-250-05401-2) remains
as the last book.  This is another one I did not finish.  Although
obviously an author has to take some liberties with history, when
one finds what appear to be egregious errors, rather than
intentional changes, one's suspension of disbelief becomes less
willing.  The Great God Contest was a wonderful idea, but calling
Charles Darwin a geologist, and saying that he was the (official)
naturalist on the Beagle is just too jarring.  In addition, the
whole book seems highly melodramatic (possibly intentionally so)
and reminiscent of Charles Dickens.  (I can't say "Dickensian"--
that refers to the conditions Dickens wrote about.  Dickensonian,
maybe?)  And finally, Morrow used to write nice, compact books that
conveyed his ideas economically.  I realize there is a trend
towards longer novels now, but I do not have to like it.   At 496
pages this was just a bit too long.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           I have been commissioned to write an autobiography
           and I would be grateful to any of your readers who
           could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974.
                                  --Jeffrey Bernard