Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/01/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 1, Whole Number 1917

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        WEIRD TALES Magazine Available for Download
        Memory Foam (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Commitments and the Unknown (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        It's the End of the Season as We Know It! (iZOMBIE,
                (television reviews by Dale Skran)
        RISING TIDES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        GYPSY, AURORA, Turner Classic Movies, and Samuel Pepys
                (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)
        THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Samuel Pepys (Part 5) (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (THE WORLD OF LUCHA LIBRE, THE CUTTING
                ROOM, and BROWSINGS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: WEIRD TALES Magazine Available for Download

Open Culture has information about where you can find full or
partial issues of WEIRD TALES available to download at


TOPIC: Memory Foam (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I was an early adopter.  I had one of the first memory foam
pillows.  Big mistake.  The darn thing keeps shrinking due to
Moore's Law.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Commitments and the Unknown (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

"We choose to go to the moon.  We choose to go to the moon in this
decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but
because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and
measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge
is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to
postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
John Kennedy said that September 12, 1962 and the Space Race to the
moon was on.  Seven years later we were there.  It seemed
fantastically optimistic at the time.  But it was possible.

"By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and
return them safely to Earth."  That was Barack Obama on April 15,
2010.  It is a little hard to take seriously just like the Kennedy
quote was.  Of course, George W. Bush said "Our ... goal, is to
return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions
beyond."  I do not think it was taken as a serious obligation and
Obama's plan does not seem to be being taken as a serious
commitment either.  Even now there are probably dangers in a flight
that we have never thought of.  We are even now just finding out
what will be the risks during a flight to Mars.

It has been known for only four or five years that extended time in
reduced gravity is bad for eyesight.  Our eyes have evolved in 1G
environments.   It turns out that in low-gravity can change the
blood flow to the eye's photoreceptors, according to Michael F.
Marmor, professor of ophthalmology at the Stanford University.  Low
gravity leads to detachment of the retina, leakage of fluid under
the retina, and it can do damage to the visual cells.

Another recent discovery is that during the space flight cosmic
rays will be bombarding the brains of the passengers.  These
particles can damage the central nervous system and damage the
brains' cognition.  They can cause inflammation in the brains of
the victims.

Mars is roughly 500 times as far away from Earth as the moon is.
That will make the flight far more risky.  We now know about these
two health risks and can possibly find ways to eliminate these
threats.  But there may be worse threats that we never considered.
Had it been too easy to go to Mars after the Moon we could have
Ignorantly blinded the astronauts or worse.

The point of observing these problems is not to say how horrible
these effects are.  Around the world there are vast differences in
living conditions and humans have had tens of thousand of years to
figure out just what to do to adapt.  Given time, we are very good
at adaptation.  But the point is that these two problems have been
recently discovered.  If the means to put people on Mars had come
ten years ago we might have tried to fly people to Mars before we
even knew of these hazards.

In THE MARTIAN Mark Watney faces a bevy of dangers and "sciences
the sh*t out of them."  And he uses just present-day science and
faces predictable threats.  But there is no proof that there is
present enough science to let him clobber all the problems he would
face.  In that sense THE MARTIAN is contrived.  Watney faces no
unpredictable problems.  There are problems that Watney has not
even thought of.  Science is the best possible bag of tricks for
countering these problems, but there are bound to be a lot that we
just do not know about currently.  When we really try to get humans
to Mars the predictable problems will be hard to face--there may be
predictable problems that are insuperable--but the unpredictable
problems may be far more dangerous.

These problems have to be discovered and countered, one at a time.
But there is a lot of unknown out there.  That is a very important
lesson to learn.  That is really a lot of what that old 1950s
science fiction was all about.  In THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT
Quatermass sent his rockets into the unknown and was faced by
something he could not have expected.

I told a research mathematician that I was interested in fooling
around with functional equations.  He responded rather
disdainfully, "Functional equations is a bag of solved problems."
wrong is that space travel is not a bag of solved problems.  And
what is a very real lesson for our age.

I am not worried so much about the problems we can predict now, nor
the ones we will discover before sending people to Mars.  But what
about the problems about sending people to Mars without yet
knowing?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: It's the End of the Season as We Know It! (television
reviews by Dale Skran)

Recently a number of new and relatively new SF TV shows ended their
season, so it is a good time to take stock.

iZOMBIE Season 2 (CW, renewed for 3rd season)

iZOMBIE is a transhumanist hard SF police procedural masquerading a
horror fantasy.  It has all the tropes of traditional zombie
movies--eating of brains, white skin and hair, the shambling dead,
infection via being bitten, killing zombies via head shots or
decapitation, and so on. To this it adds a number of interesting
ideas that make it far more than just another zombie story.

The main character, Liv (Olivia Moore, well played by Rose Mclver),
has become a zombie after being bitten at a rave party on a boat.
As a medical student, she is able to get a job at a forensic morgue
which allows her easy access to a steady supply of human brains,
without which she becomes one of the shambling, brain-dead zombies
of yore.  She then makes the discovery that when she eats the
brains of a murder victim she takes on some of their memories,
personality traits, and skills.  To compensate for the loss of her
fiance, career, and everything normal, she starts assisting the
police as a "psychic" who has flashes of information about the
murders. This allows for extended examination of the nature of
human identity and the validity of different mental states. Each
episode can be surprisingly different as Liv takes on a new
personality, and attempts to come to terms with what it means to be
a zombie.  In addition, as Liv takes on different personality
traits there is plenty of opportunity for social satire and
demonstrations of her acting chops.

In many ways Liv is a transhumanist vision--she is nearly
invulnerable to things that would kill a normal person.  Being shot
anywhere but the head is a recoverable injury.  She does not get
sick, and needs only a steady supply of brains to survive.  In
"full zombie" mode her eyes turn red and she fights with the
strength and endurance of many men.  The actual fighting skills she
displays are a function of whose brain she has eaten lately.  The
ability to gain various skills by eating brains allows her to
respond to different situations with great flexibility.

All of the above would be quite sufficient for an entertaining SF
police procedural.  I find the idea that she is a zombie pretending
to be a psychic amusing.  A fantastic lie is used to hide a much
more incredible truth.  To all of this, iZOMBIE adds a scientific
story arc as a morgue co-worker attempts to find a cure for
zombism, a crime-lord story as one of the zombies embarks on a
career selling brains to newly made zombies, and corporate over-
reach story as "Max Rager," a manufacturer of energy drinks,
attempts to exploit zombies for profit.

The fate of the world isn't really on the table until the end of
the second season when it starts to look like the Max Rager lab
will turn into Raccoon City.  The focus is small, as zombies slowly
infiltrate Seattle in the shadows, creating a secret zombie society
alongside normal humans.

iZOMBIE is not "great" SF--but it is SF--and it is pretty
entertaining, once you get over any "yuck" factor you might have.
So far, there is nothing in iZOMBIE that is supernatural. Zombism
is approached as a disease that can be understood and cured via
experimentation. Much plot is taken up with rat experiments and
their troubling outcomes. Each show has a scene where the brains
are eaten, and Liv always prepares them a different way.  I've left
a lot of details out of this review, but the second season builds
rapidly on the first, and the third season promises to move into
new territory.

(Spoiler alert) With her partner in the police now in on the secret
of zombism, the "big bad" of the first two seasons definitively
dead, and a new, larger-scale villain on the horizon, season three
ought to be interesting.  So make some brain salad, sprinkle on the
hot sauce, and curl up to the further adventures of iZOMBIE in the

iZOMBIE is not for little kids or those who are upset at the idea
of the heroine eating a brain in each episode.  There is violence
and sex, but in many ways iZOMBIE brings a sunny outlook to crime,
especially depending on whose brain was eaten in a particular

SUPERGIRL Season 1 (CBS, renewed to the CW)

The CW has shown that it has the ability to come out with very good
TV superhero shows like FLASH and ARROW.  Although quite different,
both of these shows has been a success with comic fans and in my
view are among the best superhero shows on TV--ever.  With the
exception of AGENTS OF SHIELD (ABC), most TV superhero shows are
just not that good (FYI--I don't get Netflix).  Although fans were
delighted to see Supergirl on the small screen, there was also
angst that things would not turn out so well. Two of the creative
team from FLASH/ARROW (Berlanti & Kreisberg) were on deck, so hope
existed.  Melissa Benoist plays Kara Zor-El/Supergirl well. Rarely
has someone been as convincing pretending to be two different
people who look exactly alike.  However, the show is stolen by
Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, the founder of the media company
where Supergirl works in her secret identity.  She is amazing good
fun to watch, and really makes the show worthwhile.

Another good touch in SUPERGIRL is the inclusion of a lesser known
DC character--J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, played by David
Harewood.  For the most part he is well done, and it is great to
see more classic DC characters on the small screen.  Maxwell Lord
(Peter Facinelli) is a better, more realistic version of Lex
Luthor, and as far as I know is not in the comics.

However, SUPERGIRL is just not at the same level as ARROW and the
FLASH. The romantic sub-plots verge on the silly, and Mehcad Brooks
(a former underwear model) is constantly striking poses as James
Olsen, Superman's pal, and Kara's love interest.  The general
background plot of a Kyptonian prison full of dangerous criminals
creates a lop-sidedly large number of bad-guys who inexplicably
don't just attack en masse.  Some DC heroes like Red Tornado appear
as villains.

Supergirl is just too weak.  She is constantly getting stuck in
things that she ought to easily be able to get out of.  Her powers
work inconsistently.  By comparison ARROW and FLASH are tightly
wound watches written by Joss Whedon at his best (if he were
writing for these shows). They are just on a different, higher
level as super-hero shows. SUPERGIRL seems more like a good
Saturday morning cartoon with Calista Flockhart as the high point.
It was recently announced that SUPERGIRL is being renewed, but will
move to the CW.  This opens up a lot of possibilities, and it can
only be hoped that the super-hero friendly CW will allow for more
challenging plots.

I plan to continue to watch SUPERGIRL out of general fan loyalty
and to see if it improves, but so far I am disappointed with the
results but optimistic about the move to the CW.  SUPERGIRL is
relentlessly upbeat and suitable for all audiences.

LIMITLESS Season 1 (CBS, canceled)

If you have not been watching LIMITLESS, you have been missing the
best hard SF on TV today.  A continuation of the movie of the same
name starring Bradley Cooper, LIMITLESS steps over the edge of
tomorrow with the drug NZT, which greatly enhances human intellect
at the cost of numerous side-effects that lead to insanity and
eventual death.  Our main hero, Brian Finch (played wonderfully by
Jake McDorman) is a talented but shiftless looser until by chance
he ends up taking NZT and becoming embroiled in NZT-enhanced
Senator Eddie Mora's (Bradley Cooper) plan to infiltrate the FBI.
Each week Finch solves a major crime for the FBI while being asked
to perform mysterious tasks by Jarrod Sands (Colin Salmon), his
handler for Mora.

No TV show or movie does as good a job as LIMITLESS in portraying
the operation of superior human intelligence.  Finch becomes a
super-genius in the whimsical manner of Freeman Dyson or Richard
Feynman.  Here are a few quotes from the wikipedia article on

Due to the top secret nature of the work, Los Alamos was
isolated.  In Feynman's own words, "There wasn't anything to
do there."  Bored, he indulged his curiosity by learning to
pick the combination locks on cabinets and desks used to
secure papers.  Feynman played many jokes on colleagues. In
one case he found the combination to a locked filing cabinet
by trying the numbers he thought a physicist would use (it
proved to be 27-18-28 after the base of natural logarithms, e
= 2.71828...), and found that the three filing cabinets where
a colleague kept a set of atomic bomb research notes all had
the same combination.  He left a series of notes in the
cabinets as a prank, which initially spooked his colleague,
Frederic de Hoffmann, into thinking a spy or saboteur had
gained access to atomic bomb secrets.

Feynman took up drawing at one time and enjoyed some success
under the pseudonym "Ofey", culminating in an exhibition of
his work.  He learned to play a metal percussion instrument
(frigideira) in a samba style in Brazil, and participated in a
samba school.

He was an enthusiastic amateur player of bongo drums and often
played them in the pit orchestra in musicals at CalTech.[61]

In addition, he had some degree of synesthesia for equations,
explaining that the letters in certain mathematical functions
appeared in color for him, even though invariably printed in
standard black-and-white.  [-Wikipedia]

Finch's synestehsia--the ability to perceive one form of neural
input via a different sense, i.e. smells as colors--is used to
solve crimes in at least one episode.  Finch is often portrayed as
playing drums to relax and/or think.

Finch may be the smartest man in any room, but he can be surprised,
so having access to all relevant data is critical for the best
results. The effects of NZT on different characters are well
thought out, as are the plot developments that arise out of the
existence of the drug. The weekly plots vary from normal "most-
wanted" type criminals to SF tales of immortal mice and robotic
arms that Asimov would have been proud of.

So why doesn't everyone like this show? One problem may be that it
is a "dramedy." Some may find Finch a bit too whimsical for their
taste.  Certainly the more popular but in many ways similar
BLACKLIST and BLINDSPOT are completely serious.  Personally I find
Finch a welcome counterpoint to the dour, robotic "geniuses" who
often appear in TV and movies.  Others may simply not grasp the
ideas being explored in the different episodes.  Compared to the in
many ways similar INTELLIGENCE last year, which concerned a
cybernetically enhanced human with super-intellect, LIMITLESS is
brilliantly acted and tightly plotted.  Ron Rifkin adds acting
chops as Dennis Finch, Brian's lawyer father.  Jennifer Carpenter
plays FBI Special Agent Rebecca Harris, Finch's partner/handler.
The episode I, REBECCA HARRIS in which she finally takes NZT in an
effort to catch the man who murdered her father is one of the high
points of the show. Just as different very smart people approach
problems differently, NZT impacts each user differently, a theme
the show uses to good effect.

LIMITLESS is fine for tweens and up, although probably impossible
for a little kid to follow without NZT.  There is sex and violence,
as well as drug use.  Finch, of course, uses NZT daily, but turns
to pot when things are going badly for him.  As an SF fan, if you
have the slightest interest in the general area covered by
LIMITLESS, you need to be watching this show! Although LIMITLESS
started with great ratings, it fell off considerably. It was
recently announced that LIMITLESS has been canceled, and will not
return in any form.  Network TV, including CBS, is consistently
demonstrating that it cannot sustain good SF shows, while the CW
and SyFy SF shows keep getting better and better.  It is also
possible that audiences are fundamentally disturbed by shows like
LIMITLESS and INTELLIGENCE since they are all too possible, and so
the viewers seek lighter fair. More so that much of SF, NZT may
represent our real future, and that thought can be terrifying.

BITTEN Season 3 (SyFy, canceled but really just wound up)

In BITTEN's third and final season, our merry band of werewolves
are threatened by the Russian Pack and their unstoppable
psychopathic assassin. Elena finds out who her family was, and
reconnects with her father.  This series has always been
intriguing, but is marred by an excessive amount of torture and an
unrealistic avoidance of firearms that is poorly explained. The
BITTEN finale deserves a lot of credit for bringing the story of
Elena and her pack to a logical conclusion that is both surprising
and satisfying.

Due to soft-core cable sex and rather extended torture sequences,
BITTEN is for adults only.  Having said that, BITTEN was well-acted
and entertaining, as well as better thought out than many
supernatural tales.

THE MAGICIANS Season 1 (SyFy, renewed for Season 2)

Based on the book of the same name by Lev Grossman, THE MAGICIANS
represents a new, higher quality level for SyFy shows.  Imagine
Harry Potter mixed with Narnia but written by Charles Stross in his
adult mode, and you have some idea what you are in for.  THE
MAGICIANS puts forward a hero--Quentin--who eventually realizes
that he probably isn't really the hero of the story.  More than
most tales of magic, THE MAGICIANS explores both the temptation of
using magic to become a god, and the painful limitations and
dangers that might accompany real magic.  Well-acted and well-
written, THE MAGICIANS is worth your time if you find this sort of
thing interesting.  Be warned that this is one of the more sexually
frank shows on cable TV, with sex magic of various kinds intrinsic
to the plot, and the sexual molestation of children (not explicit)
a major motivating factor for some characters.  To try to make this
concrete, imagine that Harry, Hermione, and Ron having a threesome
was one of the normal sexual situations in HARRY POTTER, and you
have some idea of what THE MAGICIANS is like.

Intelligently written, well-acted, and challenging, THE MAGICIANS
is for adults only due to sexual content and adult themes, as well
as some violence.



TOPIC: RISING TIDES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a generally well-made documentary examining the
rising of sea level, the land erosion it causes, and how the
problem is manifesting itself globally.  It reports on the crisis
and contains several interviews with government officials, experts,
and victims commenting on the size of the problem and what is being
done to counter it.  The film first shows the size of the problem
facing us and then reports on engineering solutions that are being
tried to limit erosion.  Jason Auerbach co-directed the film with
Scott Duthie and co-wrote the film with Michele Loschiavo.
Auerbach says that his goal was to start conversation and not to
scare people, but his facts are--and should be--a little scary.
Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

A new documentary looks at the coming fate of the world as the
planet heats up and human engineering is working to limit the
disastrous consequences.

The world's temperatures are increasing, icecaps are melting, and
as a result sea levels are rising.  There are a many aspects to
climate change and the rising of the oceans is one of the changes
whose effects are most devastating.  There are already island
nations built on very low-lying islands.

As the climate has changed there have been disastrous hurricanes
and typhoons showing the strength of the rising oceans.  Hurricane
Katrina did $135 billion of damages and caused 986 deaths.
Hurricane Sandy did $20 billion in property damage and caused 149
deaths.  Typhoon Yolanda, the most powerful storm ever to make
landfall, had 6300 casualties in 2013.  Storms are getting more
powerful as the oceans reach higher levels.  And sea level is not
just rising; its level is accelerating upward.  The most commonly
considered cause of the increase in ocean volume is melting
icecaps, but as seawater warms it expands and becomes less dense.
Thirdly, tectonic movement can squeeze out water.  Seas can rise
but land usually will not so water reaches further and further into
what used to be inland.

It is not just foreign countries that are threatened.  Miami, being
a low-lying coastal city, is in particular peril.  Currently sea
level rises about 1/7th of an inch per year.  That means that in
one year the edge of the water would advance about 120 feet.  Even
an inch or two of sea level rise would much increase the chances of
disastrous floods.  Right now Miami floods at high tide.  Salt
water is seeping inland, killing animal and plant life that require
fresh water and filling the aquifers that are needed for fresh
water supply.

This film is a call to action.  In current United States politics
there is almost no mention of the coming menace of rising water.
Little is being done and certainly not what is needed.  The longer
the problem waits for attention the worse it will be when passed on
to later generations.  We need to plan what we will do when the
oceans inevitably rise.

Auerbach summarizes engineering approaches to limiting damage and
to "nourish" the coastline, the most successful of which seems to
be to create artificial reefs to slow erosion.  Auerbach considers
the question of whether the best approach is to conflict with
nature or to let it just take its course.

Structurally the film does have a problem.  It begins with the
frightening realities of rising sea levels and then somewhat calms
the viewer with engineering solutions (partial ones) to the
problems and reports of approaches that have and have not helped.
What we see are limited solutions to what we know are worldwide
problems, and the solutions clearly do not scale up well.  A
solution that costs just a few million dollars to protect two miles
of coastline is not going to be a feasible solution for island
nations.  And if the viewer is not frightened by the size of the
problem and the difficulties in overcoming them, then the film has
not done its job.  I rate RISING TIDES a low +2 on the -4 to +4
scale or 7/10.  RISING TIDES was released on DVD and VOD on June

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: GYPSY, AURORA, Turner Classic Movies, and Samuel Pepys
(letter of comment by Gregory Benford)

In response to various comments in the 06/24/16 issue of the MT
VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

Dale Skran is right on GYPSY & AURORA: showing ideas not working is
easy, just jimmy the plot.  Robinson's are particularly awkward--
cryo suspension gets invented just to get his characters back to
Earth, never mind that they undermine his thesis.

Try Stephenson's SEVENEVES for the reverse: making things work
despite huge losses.  Much more in the spirit of J. W. Campbell.

I always use your movie notes, esp. on 1950s movies that are sf or

Hey Pepys was honest, that's why we value him. His sexual escapades
are not much compared to 20th C writers.  [-gb]


TOPIC: THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Samuel Pepys (Part 5) comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Pepys's Vows:

Pepys was a great one for making vows of avoiding plays, or wine,
or whatever, during Lent, or until Whitsuntide, or for other
lengths of time.  But he tended to break them, as when he writes,
"Though there was good singing and dancing, yet no fancy in the
play, but something that made it less contenting was my conscience
that I ought not to have gone by my vow, and, besides, my business
commanded me elsewhere.  But, however, as soon as I came home I did
pay my crown to the poor's box, according to my vow, and so no harm
as to that is done, but only business lost and money lost, and my
old habit of pleasure wakened." [October 21, 1662]

And later: "... besides that I must by my oath give half as much
more to the poor [as he spent on a play] ..." [May 4, 1663]

He does seem to take the vows somewhat seriously, specifically
citing the spirit, rather than the letter, of them: "To my office
to set down this day's passage, and, though my oath against going
to plays do not oblige me against this house, because it was not
then in being, yet believing that at the time my meaning was
against all publique houses, I am resolved to deny myself the
liberty of two plays at Court, which are in arreare to me for the
months of March and April, which will more than countervail this
excess, so that this month of May is the first that I must claim a
liberty of going to a Court play according to my oath." [May 8,

Then again, he also looks for loopholes: "I only drinking some
hypocras, which do not break my vowe, it being, to the best of my
present judgement, only a mixed compound drink, and not any wine."
[October 29, 1663]  Hippocras is a drink made from wine, sugar, and
spices, so saying it was not wine is sheer mendacity on his part.
(It sounds like spiced Manischewitz.)

Ever resourceful, Pepys finds yet another way to bend his vow not
to go to plays (or spend money on plays-it is not clear exactly how
it is expressed), as he writes, "I got him to give my wife and me a
play this afternoon, lending him money to do it, which is a fallacy
that I have found now once, to avoyde my vowe with, but never to be
more practised I swear..."  [August 13, 1664]  At least he does
seem to feel guilty about bending the rules this way.

But he does not always feel guilty.  When Lord Rutherford insists
that Pepys accompany him to a play, Pepys writes, "And here I must
confess breach of a vow in appearance, but I not desiring it, but
against my will, and my oathe being to go neither at my own charge
nor at another's, as I had done by becoming liable to give them
another, as I a to Sir W. Pen and Mr. Creed; but here I neither
know which of them paid for me, nor, if I did, am I obliged ever to
return the like, or did it by desire or with any willingness.  So
that with a safe conscience I do think my oath is not broke and
judge God Almightty will not think it other wise."  [September 28,

And he also writes, "... but, Lord! to see in what readiness I am,
upon the expiring of my vowes this day, to begin to run into all my
pleasures and neglect of business." [May 15, 1665]

Pepys went to so many plays that he could not remember them all.
On January 5, 1667, he writes of going to see "Mustapha", "A most
excellent plays for words and design as ever I did see.  I had seen
it before by forgot it, so it was wholly new to me, which is the
pleasure of my not committing these things to my memory."

Comments on Wigs:

Apparently people wore wigs as a way to conceal dirty hair rather
than because they liked wigs: "I did try two or three borders and
perriwiggs, meaning to wear one; and yet I have no stomach [for
it,] but that the pains of keeping my hair clean is so great." May
9, 1663]

There is a certain hypocrisy in Pepys"s complaint that "this day my
wife begun to wear light-coloured locks, quite white almost, which,
though it makes her look very pretty, yet not being natural, vexes
me, that I will not have her wear them."  [March 13, 1664]  He
seems to ignore that he wears a periwig which surely does not
duplicate his hair perfectly.

One is reminded of how horrific surgery must have been before
anesthetic, but also how people just accepted this, when we read,
"My wife tells me that she hears that my poor aunt James hath had
her breast cut off here in town, her breast having long been out of
order.  This day, after I had suffered my owne hayre to grow long,
in order to wearing it, I find the convenience of periwiggs is so
great, that I have cut off all short again, and will keep to
periwiggs."  This is all in one paragraph, as if having your hair
cut is equivalent to a mastectomy.  Was this indifference to
painful surgery common in the period, or is Pepys particularly
insensitive? [May 5, 1665]

In the midst of the Great Plague, Pepys wonders "what will be the
fashion after the plague is done, as to periwiggs, for nobody will
dare to buy any haire, for fear of infection, that it had been cut
off of the heads of people dead of the plague." [September 3, 1665]
By October 22, 1668, he has decided the danger is past, because he
writes, "W. Batelier's Frenchman, a periwigg maker, comes and
brings me a new one, which I liked and paid him for..."

Comments on Books:

Of a new book, Pepys writes, "It is dedicated to almost all the men
of any great condition in England, so that the Epistles are more
than the book itself, and both it and them not worth a turd," [May
28, 1663]

As noted in the section on the Great Fire, the Fire definitely
drove the price of books up.  But it was not *just* the Fire that
drove the price of books up.  On September 3, 1668, he writes that
Thomas Hobbes's LEVIATHAN "is now mightily called for; and what was
heretofore sold for 8s, I now give 24s. for, at the second hand,
and is sold for 30s., it being a book the Bishops will not let be
printed again."]

Many of us have some of the same problems Pepys has: "The truth is,
I have bought a great many books lately to a great value; but I
think to buy no more till Christmas next, and those that I have
will so fill my two presses [bookcases] that I must be forced to
give away some to make room for them, it being my design to have no
more at any time for my proper library than to fill them." [January
10, 1668]

One method for achieving this is a trifle unusual: "Thence to the
Strand, to my bookseller's, and there staid an hour, and bought the
idle, rogueish book, 'L'escholle des filles;' which I have bought
in plain binding, avoiding the buying of it better bound, because I
resolve, as soon as I have read it, to burn it, that it may not
stand in the list of books, nor among them, to disgrace them if it
should be found."  [February 8, 1668]

Okay, next week we finally get to the Great Plague and the Great
Fire.  [-ecl]


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

THE WORLD OF LUCHA LIBRE by Heather Levi (ISBN 978-0-8223-4232-8)
is a look at Mexican wrestling.  I am not terribly familiar with
the sport, knowing it entirely from the movies of El Santo and Blue
Demon (and most of those in unsubtitled Spanish).  It's not for want
of trying--I had heard there were live matches in San Antonio and
had hoped to see it live when we went there, but no such luck.  I
suppose the fascination with professional wrestling might be
hereditary; my grandmother used to watch it back in the days of
Gorgeous George.  (She would say it gave her heart palpitations,
but that did not stop her from watching it.)

Levi trained as a "lucha libre" wrestler (a "luchadora") while
researching the book, and has a lot of information about the
training and organizational structure of lucha libre in Mexico,
including quite a bit about its connections with politics.
Unfortunately, there is too much like, "Some academics argue that
professional wrestling's message is counterhegemonic and explain it
as a dramatic critique of the pretensions of liberal capitalism"
and not enough of, say, the appeal of "minis" (a specialized group,
wrestlers who are dwarfs or midgets).  She does have an entire
chapter on masks and their meanings, although she does note that a
third to a half of luchadores do not wear masks.

THE CUTTING ROOM edited by Ellen Datlow (ISBN 978-1-6169-6167-1) is
an anthology of horror stories about the movie business.  Many were
good, many were too graphic for my taste, and I liked the final
story ("Illimitable Dominion" by Kim Newman) the best.

BROWSINGS by Michael Dirda (ISBN 978-1-60598-844-3) is a delight to
read.  Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the
Washington Post and other publications, and is an unabashed science
fiction fan.  Consider that besides all the mentions of science
fiction books and authors he makes in general (and not just those
few know to the general public), in the essay "Text Mess" he
describes consulting E. F. Bleiler's GUIDE TO SUPERNATURAL FICTION,
John Clute (whom he calls "our greatest living critic of science
fiction and fantasy"), and L. W. Currey ("the leading American
dealer in first-edition science fiction, fantasy, and horror").

The icing on the cake, of course, is his essay "Readercon" all
about, well, Readercon: what it is, why he attends it every year,
who else attends it, and so on.  Most "serious" critics would never
admit to attending a science fiction convention--Dirda writes a
column positively glorying in it.  He later also talks about
attending Capclave and a Discworld convention, and has a lovely
story about "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction".

He also is willing to give "popular fiction" its due, and describes
two courses he has taught at the University of Maryland, "The
Classic Adventure Novels: 1885-1915" and "The Modern Adventure
Novel: 1917-1973".  The reading lists are:
- KING SOLOMON'S MINES by H. Rider Haggard
- KIDNAPPED by Robert Louis Stevenson
- THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY by G. K. Chesterton
- KIM by Rudyard Kipling
- THE LOST WORLD by Arthur Conan Doyle
- TARZAN OF THE APES by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- A PRINCESS OF MARS by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- CAPTAIN BLOOD by Rafael Sabatini
- THESE OLD SHADES by Georgette Heyer
- RED HARVEST by Dashiell Hammett
- THE REAL COOL KILLERS by Chester Himes
- TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis
- THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman

(Indeed, he writes in a column towards the end how he wishes he
could get an advance to write a book about "The Great Age of
Storytelling": "the amazing flowering of popular fiction in England
and elsewhere from roughly 1860 to 1930."  And in a postscript
written for the book, he reveals that he did indeed find a
publisher and is hoping the book, under that title, will appear in

It's not a book to check out from the library, though, unless you
want to copy down dozens and dozens of book titles that you really
must look for...  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man
           is when he is a baby.
                                           --Natalie Wood