Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/01/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 39, Whole Number 1904

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        Thank You, Evelyn. (comment by Mark R. Leeper)
        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for April (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Identity (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        The Annual Hugo Nominations Screed (comments
                by Dale L. Skran)
                by Dale L. Skran)
        Planets (letters of comment by Steve Lelchuk,
                Keith F. Lynch, and Philip Chee)
        This Week's Reading (Bryn Mawr book sale, ROME'S REVOLUTION
                and THE BORROWED MAN) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Thank You, Evelyn. (comment by Mark R. Leeper)

I want to thank Evelyn for helping me out with this issue of the MT
VOID.  You probably have guessed that usually I do all the
editorial tasks and the heavy think work.  Evelyn is just happier
to be off with a book.  I am happy to announce that for *the first
time in what must be a decade*, Evelyn is pulling her own weight.


Yes, it is the first time in the decade starting April Fools Day
2016 and going to April Fools Day 2026.  [-mrl]


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

April 14: THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS (2011) and story by
        H. P. Lovecraft
        ( or
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
April 28: LOST HORIZON by James Hilton
        Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
May 12: LOST HORIZON (1937) and novel by James Hilton, Middletown
        (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
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

Garden State Spec. Fiction Writers Lectures (subject to change):

April 2: Jon McGoran, topic TBA, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library,
May 7: Hank Quense, topic TBA, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
June 4: Fran Wilde, Worldbuilding in the Air, Old Bridge (NJ)         
        Public Library, 12N
July 9: Michael Swanwick, topic TBA, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 12N
August: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 10: Ellen Datlow, The State of Horror, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

Once again I am looking over the listings for TCM for the new
month.  As I notice things I am making notes and passing my
discoveries to you.  (Again I have no connection to the Turner
organization, but TCM is a major source of my movie watching.)  I
think that the operative word for the month is "binge."  Luckily I
have seen all or almost all of what I am recommending.  I could
never see all the films I am listing.  (Full disclosure: I have
never binge-watched *anything*.)  But here, with times for the East
Coast, are what little treasures I have found and can recommend.

One of the great names to conjure with in the horror film is Val
Lewton.  Lewton made eleven films for RKO from 1942 to 1946, eight
of them horror.  Lewton understood taste and nuance in film and he
deserved to be an A-film director.  Sadly, RKO would give him two
things: a pittance to make films and a lurid title which RKO
thought would sell better.  Lewton's approach was to imply as much
horror as possible while showing very little explicit on the
screen.  He knew that the audience had imagination, and that would
create the horrific images more effectively than anything he could
afford to put on the screen.  And to be sure that the direction
would be effective he never directed the films he produced.
Instead he hired directors who showed more talent than experience.
Robert Wise and Jacques Tourneur directed films in the cycle, but
Mark Robson was his most frequent director.

Lewton's horror series is generally considered to be nine horror
films he produced.  THE GHOST SHIP, one of the nine, is very fringy
genre and would probably not be classified as a horror film had it
not been produced by Lewton in this time period.  On Monday, April
18, TCM will offer a binge of all nine of Val Lewton's horror
films, one after another.

  7:45 AM   BEDLAM (1946)
  9:15 AM   THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
10:45 AM   I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
12:00 PM   THE ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
  1:15 PM   THE GHOST SHIP (1943)
  2:30 PM   THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943)
  3:45 PM   THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
  5:00 PM   THE CAT PEOPLE (1942)

If GHOST SHIP can be considered horror, surely there is more horror
in the non-genre suspense film CAPE FEAR (1962).  In a story with
echoes of HIGH NOON, Gregory Peck is a district attorney who put in
prison a dangerous criminal, horrifically played by Robert Mitchum.
Now Mitchum is out of jail and is bent on a campaign of fear and
violence against Peck and his family.  In 1991, the film was remade
by Martin Scorsese, who exaggerated the effective elements when he
should have left well enough alone.  TCM will be showing another
binge, this one of Gregory Peck films, one on Tuesday, April 5.
CAPE FEAR will play at 8:00 PM.  (That same day at 11:00 AM TCM
will show Peck and Lauren Bacall in DESIGNING WOMAN (1957), a very
funny comedy.)

I do not know how many of you out there are interested in German
films from between WWI and WWII.  It was a very ugly period in
Germany's past, but it also was a glorious bloom of the German film
industry.  It was a time when many of the great experimental art
films being made were horror film.  This was the time of the German
Expressionist films when visual images were distorted for their
emotional effect.  The style created was borrowed wholesale by the
American film industry for films like the old Universal horror
series.  The history of the German film industry is documented in a
famous cinema book, FROM CALIGARI TO HITLER by Sigfried Kracauer.
TCM showed a documentary based on this book last December.  They
are running it again, but they are also running a treasure trove of
films covered in the book.  For three consecutive weeks they will
be showing films from Wednesday night to Thursday morning.

April 14-15
            THE MASSES (2014)
11:30 PM   NOSFERATU (1922)
  1:15 AM   FAUST (1926)
  4:30 AM   THE BLUE ANGEL (1930)

April 21-22
  8:00 PM   DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER (PT. 1), INFERNO (PT. 2) (1922)
  3:00 AM   METROPOLIS (1926)
  5:45 AM   M (1931)

April 28-29
  8:00 PM   PANDORA'S BOX (1928)
10:30 PM   DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (1929)
12:00 AM   WESTFRONT 1918 (1930)
  1:45 AM   THE 3 PENNY OPERA (1931)
  3:45 AM   KAMERADSCHAFT (1931)
  5:30 AM   ANNA CHRISTIE (1931)

What do I consider the best film of the month?  I have to go once
again with SPARTACUS (1960) being shown Saturday, April 16, 12:15
PM.  If there is any question in your mind why I consider this a
great film, see the currently playing TRUMBO.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Identity (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

One of the topics discussed in a couple of the chapters of THE PIG
THAT WANTS TO BE EATEN by Julian Baggini (reviewed in the
04/18/2008 and 02/05/2016 issues of the MT VOID) is identity: what
makes you you and you not anyone else.

For example, assume that you get in a transporter that scans you,
destroying you in the process, then beams the information to the
destination where you are (re-)constructed from atoms there.  Is
the you at the destination the same person as the you at the
origin?  The you at the destination has all the same memories, all
the same feelings, as the you that went into the machine, but is it
the same person?

Hold that thought, and consider another case.

You have a ship.  It is getting old and so gradually you replace a
board here, an oar there, and pretty soon there is no piece of it
that was in the original boat.  Is it the same boat?  If not, when
did it stop being the same boat?  After the first replacement?
After the last?  At the halfway point?  What if you took the pieces
you had removed and built another (admittedly decrepit) boat from
them?  Is that the original boat?

Now apply this to your body--not at the level of organs, but at the
molecular level.  All the molecules in your body will be replaced
every seven years (or so--the exact figure does not matter).  After
seven years, are you still the same person?

What about reincarnation?  If you are told that in a previous life
you were Nefiri, handmaiden to the Queen of Sheba, but you remember
nothing of that life, is it meaningful to think/believe that you
were Nefiri?  But if someone asked you about your life as a three-
day-old infant, you would remember nothing of that either.  Does
that mean that you were not that three-day-old?

So what matters?  Physical continuity?  The transported you fails
that test, but so does the ten-years-from-now you.  Mental
continuity?  Reincarnation does not cut it, but neither does the
path back to the infant you.  (For that matter, amnesia creates
other questions about identity.)

And this does not even consider uploading your consciousness, or
getting a brain transplant.  (Oddly, I think most people would be
in agreement that if you swap two persons' brains, the identity
goes with the brain.)  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Annual Hugo Nominations Screed (comments by Dale
L. Skran)

It is once again time, dear reader, to nominate for the Hugos.  We
can only hope and pray that yet another counter-attack against Vox
Day and the Sad Puppies does not shut down the Hugos again and
effectively deny many fine works an opportunity to win a rocket.
The game is rigged, but if you don't play, you can't win.  Thus, I
press fearlessly onward, fully aware that my feeble efforts will
almost certainly be swept away in the larger battles.

What I Am Nominating For The Hugo For Best Novel

As it turns out, I've read a fair number of the most highly
regarded books this year, and so will be nominating five books. The
thing that I find the hardest to understand is that the Locus
reading list does not include THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR.  It
appears on a lot of fan "best of 2015 lists" and has some
impressive jacket blurbs.  I thought it was a really impressive
first novel.  It is possible that it is not eligible for some
arcane reason, but I can't find anything on this.  Perhaps Scott
Hawkins has annoyed someone at Locus, and this is their revenge.
In any case, THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR is a great first novel, and
very good fantasy by any standard.  I re-read it recently, and I
hardly ever do that anymore.  It is rare to find an SF or fantasy
novel that makes you think as much as THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR
does.  Although dressed up as a thriller/horror/SF/fantasy story,
there is a real attempt here to wrestle with some key philosophical
issues.  Be warned--this is a violent book for adults only.
SEVENEVES is a great hard SF--highly recommended.  LUNA: NEW MOON
is more readable than much of McDonald's output.  My only complaint
is that as with some of his other novels, it is hard to tell
whether to take the story seriously or view it as a parody of
libertarian capitalism written by a socialist.  If it is a parody,
it is at least an entertaining and artfully constructed parody.  My
wife, Jo, liked A BORROWED MAN, which works well as post-
Singularity murder mystery.

1: A BORROWED MAN, Gene Wolfe (Tor)
2: SEVENEVES, Neal Stephenson (Morrow)
3: POSEIDON'S WAKE, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Ace 2016)
4: LUNA: NEW MOON, Ian McDonald (Tor; Gollancz)
5: THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR, Scott Hawkins (Crown)

What I Am Nominating For The Hugo For Dramatic Presentation Long

There were certainly more than five good SF movies in 2015, so the
real issue is winnowing down the list.  Mileage may vary.  I didn't
put INSIDE/OUT on the list since it needs no further awards.  If
you haven't seen it, you should.  I liked ANT MAN quite a bit as a
kind of retro-SF comic book story, but others may find the humor
excessive. THE MARTIAN is great hard SF, with excellent acting and
effects.  In any normal year, it would be a sure bet to win, but
not in 2015 when it is competing with EX MACHINA, a truly
wonderfully done meditation on why creating a true artificial
intelligence may not be a good idea.  I added JUPITER ASCENDING as
classic old-time space opera.  It's not going to win, but it was a
fun effort.  I'm rounding out my list with iZOMBIE SEASON 1.
iZOMBIE is a very good SF/comic book TV show. Although not exactly
hard SF, iZOMBIE is decidedly in the scientific column.  Much of
the plot revolves around the experiments done by the main
characters as they seek to cure zombie-ism. This zombie-ism has the
curious effect that although the zombie must consume brains, when
they do they take on the personality and abilities (to a degree) of
the person whose brain they ate.  This makes every episode wildly
different as the main character lurches from one personality to the

1: ANT MAN, directed by Peyton Reed/Marvel
2: THE MARTIAN, directed by Ridley Scott/20th Century Fox
3: EX MACHINA, directed by Alex Garland/Universal
4: JUPITER ASCENDING, directed by The Wachowskis/Warner Bros
5: iZOMBIE, Season 1, Created by Thomas&Ruggiero-Wright/Warner
    Bros-The CW

What I Am Nominating For The John W. Campbell Award For Best New SF

I don't usually nominate here, but there seem to me two stand-out


[I will note that Andy Weir is not eligible in this category, since
THE MARTIAN was first published in 2012. -ecl]

What I Am Nominating For The Hugo For Best Dramatic Presentation
Short Form

The first and most important rule in approaching the short form
Hugo is to remember that under no circumstances should you ever
nominate or vote for anything related to Dr. Who until the dawn of
the 22nd century--at least.  In my view, Dr. Who has received
enough accolades to last a hundred years, while a lot of great SF
on TV has been ignored.

The approach I take to dramatic presentation short form nominations
is to survey the Internet to identify whatever episodes seem to be
the most popular. I then add my vote to whatever shows I watch and
like the best. There is so much good SF on TV, that any method is
inevitably unfair.  I haven't seen THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.  It
may be better than anything I am nominating, but what are you going
to do?  No one seemed to like any LIMITLESS episode enough to
nominate it, but LIMITLESS is perhaps the best hard SF show running
on TV today.

I would like to call your attention to "4,722 Hours" from AGENTS OF
SHIELD. If you aren't watching this show, this might be a good
place to start.  In it, one of the agents, a female scientist, is
marooned on an apparently uninhabited planet far from Earth--in
space, time, or dimensions--which exactly is never clear. This
episode chronicles what happens to her on that planet.

1: "Matilda" (AGENTS OF SHIELD)
2: "4,722 Hours" (AGENTS OF SHIELD)
3: "Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat" (iZOMBIE)
4: "Leonard Caul" Episode 19 (THE BLACKLIST)
5: "Fast Enough" (THE FLASH)

It seems like it might be a worthwhile exercise to consider what I
might nominate if you could vote for just a TV show, and not an
episode, as clearly ought to the case for this category.  I'd go


Looking ahead to 2016, THE MAGICIANS on SyFy is really quite good,
and has been renewed for a second season.  Think of HARRY POTTER
merged with NARNIA but written by Charles Stross.  THE MAGICIANS is
definitely for adults only (realistic sex and violence), but very
engaging and realistic.  Learning magic in this universe is hard--
rather like learning mathematics in ours--and quite risky for the
practitioner.  On one hand, the magicians find themselves possessed
of godlike powers, and can easily live lives of ease and decadence.
On the other hand, those powers are merely "godlike" and can't do a
lot of things like cure cancer, so in the end the magicians die
just like the rest of us.  And godlike powers can't always protect
you from other magicians who also have such powers!  [-dls]


L. Skran)

At long last DC's major strike against the ever-growing success of
the Marvel franchise has arrived, and it is loud and gaudy enough
for three films.  By now you are no doubt aware that BATMAN V
SUPERMAN is hitting about 30% on the Tomatometer, but I am going
out on a limb here and saying it is going to be a fan favorite.
The near-record opening weekend box office take--about $425M
worldwide--suggests I am correct. To explain this, and avoid a
simple recapitulation the plot you can find on Wikipedia if you
wish, I am just going to list the good and the bad in the movie.

GOOD: Ben Affleck as Batman: After the fiasco of DAREDEVIL, fans
have been terrified of what a Ben Affleck Batman was going to be
like.  Rest assured, while the results may not come quite up to the
Bale level, Affleck fills out the cape well.  Playing an older
Batman who is more cynical and cruel than his younger self, but
clearly near the peak of his physical abilities in spite of some
gray hair, Affleck brings a resonance of reality to what could be
an over-ripe battle with Superman.  In fact, the first 2/3 or so of
BATMAN V SUPERMAN ranks among the best superhero movies.  The back-
story of Batman's motivation to fight superman and the human
reaction to superman are very well done.

GOOD: Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor:  Eisenberg is perhaps the best
Lex Luthor to grace the screen yet.  At once charming and
psychotic, brilliant and terrifying, Eisenberg makes Luthor more a
real person than the buffoon he appears to be in the previous
Superman movies.

GOOD: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman:  I'm not quite with those who say
Gadot takes over the film but I am certainly looking forward to her
solo movie.  The writers deserve a lot of credit for re-spinning
her back-story to something more plausible than is often portrayed
in the comics.  She is now a daughter of Zeus, a half-human/half-
god, with powers similar to Hercules.  Her very slight Israeli
accent seems plausibly exotic, and she captures well the likely
character of an immortal warrior.

GOOD: Henry Cavill as Superman:  No longer burdened by the plot
oddities of THE MAN OF STEEL, Cavill turns in a good effort, and
rises to the challenge of a more complex interaction with Batman
than is often attempted.

GOOD: Jeremy Irons as Alfred:  Irons' version of Alfred draws more
from the TV series GOTHAM and the Nolan/Bale Batman than earlier
versions.  This Alfred is Wayne's full partner in super-heroing,
equally capable of mordant advice, fixing the Batmobile, or
piloting the Batplane remotely.

GOOD: The Plot: The general theme of the movie is "What do you do
about a man with the powers of a god?"  Although the details of the
plot are drawn from many comic sources, the overall effect is
surprisingly powerful and well done.

GOOD: The party scene: At one point, Batman, Wonder Woman, and
Superman, all in their alter-egos, are attending a party put on by
Lex Luthor, each with various and conflicting goals in mind.  It
was fun seeing them in action without using any super-powers, and
Gal Gadot is an imposing presence who proves more than a match for
Affleck's Bruce Wayne.

GOOD: Authentic sacrifice: One problem with most Superman comics is
that he is just too powerful to ever get his hair mussed.  This
makes the stories less than interesting and his "heroism" that of a
man fighting a puppy.  Director Zack Snyder understands this
problem, and provides a Superman story that involves real issues
and actual sacrifice.

GOOD: The effects: Needless to say, they are fantastic.

BAD: Overstuffing: BATMAN V SUPERMAN is clearly overstuffed. There
are dream sequences that add nothing, and the big fight between
Batman and Superman goes on a lot longer and less plausibly than it
should. The end drags on as well, but never delivers the spoilers
the audience was looking for.  Cutting thirty minutes would greatly
raise improve BATMAN V SUPERMAN.

BAD: Fight plausibility: Batman just seems too strong and displays
way too much ability to survive being thrown through walls.  This
is unfortunate since for the most part the way Batman takes on
Superman makes a lot of sense.  Having said this, the fight between
the "Big Three" and Doomsday is much better.

Overall, BATMAN V SUPERMAN is *must see* for comic fans, and has a
lot to offer to the non-comic fan.  Contrary to the views of some
critics, the plot actually makes quite a bit of sense, the
characters are plausibly motivated, and the movie takes on a touchy
subject, which is also a metaphor for America foreign policy.  Some
critics seem to think all Superman/Batman stories ought to target
an audience of five-year old boys, with a lot of "biff-bang-pow"
and silly puns.  If this is what you are looking for, you are going
to be disappointed in BATMAN V SUPERMAN.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN is based on Frank Miller's Batman, and for the
most part echoes Miller's dark view of the world.  This Batman
harkens back to the original Bob Kane Batman in many ways.  As a
result, BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a "hard" PG-13--too scary and adult
for little kids, but fine for the 12 and up crowd. There is one
scene of Superman initiating sex with a naked Lois Lane in a
bathtub, which although very carefully edited and not very long,
certainly gets the message across.  Batman brands a criminal off-
screen. There are scenes of Batman using guns and hitting criminals
with the Batmobile.  The Batplane has machine guns and they are
used to kill people.  You get the idea!

I'm rating BATMAN V SUPERMAN a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale, but if it
were re-edited it would be a +2 movie.  [-dls]


TOPIC: Planets (letters of comment by Steve Lelchuk, Keith
F. Lynch, and Philip Chee)

In response to Mark's comments on planets in the 03/25/16 issue of
the MT VOID, Steve Lelchuk writes:

"Most planets in the Universe are homeless", from the blog "Starts
With a Bang":


Keith F. Lynch writes:

[Objecting to Pluto's demotion] was silly, as it didn't harm Pluto
in any way.  It's not as if the "demotion" made it more likely that
a garbage dump would be established on Pluto.

Was anyone upset when the muon was demoted from being a meson to
being a mere lepton?

Is anyone upset that that would mean that it's no longer the case
that probes have been sent to every planet in our solar system?

[Mark wrote, "It may have been there all along but it has never
been seen."  -mrl]

If it exists, then it's certainly been there all along.  Or for as
long as any of the other planets.

[Mark wrote that "the sun would 'shine' ... only 1/40,000th as
strongly as it does where we are.  Out there the sun would probably
just be a rumor.  -mrl]

That's still ten times brighter than the full moon, i.e. is bright
enough to comfortably read by.  And the planet should be more than
bright enough to be seen by Hubble.  And by JWST.  (Granted, JWST
won't be in orbit around Earth, unlike Hubble.  But it will be much
closer to Earth than to any other planet.)

Arecibo might be able to get a radar reflection off it.  It can do
so, not just for Saturn, but for some of its moons.  It could do so
for Uranus and Neptune and their moons also, except that they will
have set by the time the echo returns.  But the round trip time to
Planet X would be about two days, so if it was high in the sky when
the radar impulse was sent, it would be high in the sky again when
the radar impulse returns.

Perhaps a very large phased-array space-based radio telescope could
be placed opposite the sun from Earth (for radio quiet), and used
to make a *complete* inventory of the solar system.

[Mark wrote that Planet X could not be seen directly by telescope.]

Neptune, 30 AU away, is magnitude 8, which means it can be seen
with an average pair of binoculars.  An identical planet seven
times further away (210 AU) would be about 2400 times dimmer.
(Seven to the fourth power, due to the inverse square law being
applied twice, one for light from the sun to the planet, once for
the light from the planet to Earth).  That would make it magnitude
16.5.  (Celestial magnitudes are a logarithmic unit, with a ratio
of 10^0.4 (about 2.5).)  That should be visible to a really good
amateur telescope. For comparison, Hubble can see 31.5.  The
Palomar sky survey in the 1950s could see 22.

So if that planet exists, not only can it be seen, but we've had
photos of it for the greater part of a century!  (Granted, they'd
only show it as a point of light, indistinguishable from millions
of stars.)

There's is no substitute for doing the math.  [-kfl]

And Philip Chee writes:

[Mark wrote that "four of the big icy objects the long axes are in
a small bundle like arrows in a quiver." -mrl]

I thought it was six out of six?

[I was going by the statement "In the last three years, observers
have identified four objects tracing orbits roughly along one
perpendicular line from Neptune."  -mrl]

[Regarding lining things up] You forgot to mention the
perpendicular Centaurs, and Drac.

Apparently the most common type of planet found by Kepler are the
mini-Neptunes.  The fact that our Solar System doesn't have any of
those makes us the odd one out.  Now if Planet X does exist it's
the size/mass of a mini-Neptune.  So we aren't such an outlier
after all.

Who knows what else is out there in the scattered disc?  [-pc]

Keith replies:

Kepler has a very strong selection bias.  The larger a planet is,
and the closer to its sun, the more likely Kepler can see it.
Similarly with all other current methods of detecting exoplanets.
So we have no idea whether our solar system is atypical.

Kepler would be very unlikely to see a planet 200 AU from its star,
unless its star is enormous.  Remember, it can only see planets
that pass directly between the star and us, and the further out
that planet is, the less likely that is.

["Who knows what else is out there in the scattered disc?"]

Indeed.  There could be a hundred Earth-size planets lurking a few
hundred AU away, and maybe some miniature black holes.  Probably no
neutron stars, however, unless we're in a Robert Forward novel.


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

We are into spring book sale season, and the Bryn Mawr book sale
celebrated its 85th year.  Unfortunately, the size of the sale is
starting to drop off, from 100,000 books a couple of years ago,
down to 90,000, and now 80,000.  It does not seem to be just the
newer books in smaller numbers, but the quantities across all
categories and ages.  (I notice that the East Brunswick Friends of
the Library now calls their sale a "Books & Media Sale"--obviously
an attempt to get people who are not interested in books, so there
seems to be a drop-off on both sides of the counter.)

There were several good books at Bryn Mawr that we did not get
because we already had, such as three different books on
Hollywood's view of history (Carnes, Fraser, and Roquemore).  And
we also bought a lot of media: seven Great Courses/Teaching Company
courses and six DVDs.  This now puts us way behind on
watching/listening to Teaching Company courses, but at $2 each for
the audiocassette ones ("Comedy Through the Ages", "The Live Drama
and Vital Truth of William Shakespeare", "The Roots of Human
Behavior", and "God and Mankind"), and $4 for the ones on CD
(Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Robert & Clara Schumann), who could
pass them up?

Apparently audiocassette versions of Teaching Company courses are
not in as much demand as CDs (or DVDs), since they were half the
price, even though in some cases they are twice as long.  Indeed,
the comedy and Shakespeare courses are not even in print anymore,
so one would think them more valuable, not less.

The DVDs included a three-hour miniseries "A Poet's Guide to
Britain", and two "Nature" episodes about birds.  There was also a
book analyzing the television show CSI.

We did get some books.  Mark got a few mathematics books, and I got
my usual assortment of "litcrit": a book on MOBY-DICK, a John
Sutherland book on curiosities of literature, a Steven Pinker book
on linguistics and grammar, and a collection of Edmond Wilson
essays.  A couple of travel books (not travel guides) and a
collection of Bertrand Russell's short stories (who knew he wrote
fiction?) pretty much filled out the lot.

The good news is that the volume of books is not too much (the
Teaching Company courses are bulky, because for some reason they
packed their audiocassette courses in giant clamshell cases), and I
even have exit strategies for a couple of the books.

This is important now.  When I was young(er), it was no problem--
books in the attic, stacks of boxes, etc., did not phase me.  But
now, hauling books up to (or down from) the attic is not so great
(and when it's a ten-pound reference book, even less so).  And I
may never read my archaeology books again until we move because to
get to them, I would have to shift six boxes of books, each
weighing approximately forty pounds.

And if/when we decide to move to a smaller place (because taking
care of a four-bedroom house is work), we will be faced with the
problem of winnowing down what we have.

I love physical books, but they have definite limitations worth
considering.  So I buy a lot fewer books at these book sales, and I
do not necessarily keep all the books I buy.

I will mention a couple of books I did read this week.  ROME'S
Alston (ISBN 978-0-19-973976-9) shows the reader a depressing
number of parallels to today's political situations (the trading of
liberty for security, the establishment of political dynastic
families, the economic disparities, the labeling of opposition as
treason, and so on).  This is not surprising, since the closing
lines indicate that this is probably Alston's purpose:

"Historians and politicians have too often allowed themselves to be
awed by Rome's empire, and by the Augustan age in particular.
Before we praise the Caesars and their civilization, we should
consider what was taken from the Roman people in exchange for those
imperial benefits.  We should remember that dissident voices, such
as those of the Christians, were often silenced.  We might think of
the numerous aristocratic victims of the emperors who found
themselves on the losing side in the vicious politics of the
imperial court.  We should reflect on the vast and increasing
inequalities of imperial society which divided aristocrat from
slave, rich from poor.  In sum, we should consider the value of the
liberty lost in exchange for the supposed peace of an imperial

So clearly Alston has an agenda for his book.  The thing is, I
noticed the same similarities to current politics in Edward
which covers a much later (and longer) period of the Roman Empire.
But all the same parallels seem to be present.  It could be that
these are permanent parts of the human condition, and we are unable
to escape them.

THE BORROWED MAN by Gene Wolfe (ISBN 978-0-765-38114-9) is a rare
bird these days: a standalone science fiction novel under 300 pages
long.  In the future, instead of books, libraries are filled with
"reclones" of authors, of which the narrator is one.  He had been a
hard-boiled mystery writer, and gets involved in a hard-boiled
murder mystery.  It is well-written, with some interesting ideas,
but I am getting tired of the idea that when we have clones, they
will not be considered human, or people, or whatever term you
prefer to encompass intelligent beings with all the same right as
the next person.  Bullfights are illegal in the United States, and
cloning a bull and using *it* in a bullfight is not likely to help
you in court when you are arrested.  Similarly, I find it
impossible to believe that a cloned human would not be considered
to have basic human rights.  One might conceivably argue that he
could not run for President, not being a "natural-born" citizen
(and, yes, pun intended), but the notion that one could buy or sell
him, and murder him with impunity, seems beyond belief.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           I was the kid next door's imaginary friend.
                                           --Emo Philips