Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/02/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 10, Whole Number 1926

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Frustration (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        American SF/Horror Anthology Series of the 1950s and 1960s
                (Part 1, The 1950s) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        The Beloit Mindset List (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        SUICIDE SQUAD, STAR TREK BEYOND, Hugos and Retro Hugos,                 
                SEVENEVES and Spoilers, and TRUMBO and A MAN FOR ALL
                SEASONS (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)
        This Week's Reading (12 YEARS A SLAVE) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Frustration (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

My exercycle started squeaking as I rode on it.  I looked up in
Google possible fixes to a noisy bicycle.  It taught me a great
lesson.  It is very frustrating to try everything you can to fix a
problem and nothing works.  It is almost as frustrating to try
everything you can think of, have it work, and then have no idea
which attempt worked.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: American SF/Horror Anthology Series of the 1950s and 1960s
(Part 1, The 1950s) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

The 1950s and 1960s, when I was growing up, was a sort of heyday
of the science fiction anthology series.  The people who made the
programming for television were aware that continuing character-
driven programs had some advantages over anthology series.  One
could get interested in a character like Sgt. Joe Friday and he
would not have to be explained to the audience.  The viewing public
knew who Friday was and he did not have to be told who he was in
the next episode of DRAGNET.  However, in the next episode Friday
would still be in Los Angeles and Friday would still be tracking
down a lawbreaker.

It was much easier to get new ideas into a brand new 30-minute
episode.  So in the United States there were a handful of TV
anthology science fiction series.  There were four major genre
programs in these decades.  Two were continuing character series
and two were anthology series.  The major science fiction shows
(1959-1964), THE OUTER LIMITS (1963-1964), and STAR TREK (1966-

I was also too young to appreciate the anthology series TALES OF
TOMORROW and saw them a good many years later.  Below are the
anthology series of my early years.  Where possible I will include
links for the reader to samples of these series.

The Fifties:


Probably the most indelible memory of TALES OF TOMORROW is the
opening title image.  A hand that we do not see is wearing a
builders' glove with a spring attached to the back.  It reaches for
a knife switch.  Pulling it down we see electricity arcing between
two electrodes.  Man, that's science fiction.  But I do wonder what
kind of a future world were they expecting?  TALES OF TOMORROW had
a very tiny budget for special effects.  The crude technology of
the time allowed them to do only live TV plays.  This occasionally
caused problems when they cut away to an ad for a refrigerator or a
watchband.  Seen today some of the ads were as entertaining as the

TALES OF TOMORROW was in a good position to hire at low cost some
then-unknown actors for their plays, many of whom would become a
good deal better known in time to come.  It was not at all uncommon
to see actors like Paul Newman, James Dean, Rod Steiger, Jack
Warden, and Leslie Nielson with thankless small parts in an

Among their stories they presented what are now familiar stories
like Frederic Brown's "Little Black Bag" and Henry Kuttner's "What
You Need" (which showed up on THE TWILIGHT ZONE as a fantasy).
They also adapted a very rushed 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA with
Thomas Mitchell as Nemo.  Their adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN became
legend when Lon Chaney Jr. Showed up very drunk.  In live
television no matter what, the show had to go on.  Chaney thought
he was in a rehearsal and would pick up furniture he was supposed
to smash and then just lay it down gently.  In general the stories
were about nuclear war, space and time travel, generally the same
sort of stories that THE TWILIGHT ZONE would do, but theirs would
be more polished.

TALES OF TOMORROW was planned and written for adults, though it had
a loyal younger following also.


While TALES OF TOMORROW when for flashier sci-fi sorts of stories,
SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE was much more conservatively grounded in
real science extrapolation.
Now this program I remember quite well watching the original
broadcasts.  Any of the fans will remember actor and radio
announcer Truman Bradley.  Each week Bradley would start the
program demonstrating some scientific principle and then we would
see a dramatized program built around that principle.  The science
was considered very important to the program.  Bradley's
demonstration would be about two minutes of a 22-minute program.
The producers wanted to defend science fiction as being very
closely bound to real science.  These stories had a minimum of
fantasy.  The fiction was in service to the scientific principle.
But the subject matter would be about super powers, time travel,
suspended animation, space travel, alien visitations, and flying
saucers.  The stories were not usually by major authors and were
generally fairly simple.  One I remember had a strange man hanging
around some astronomers.  When he went away he left them a
photograph.  It turns out the photograph is a picture of the solar
system as taken from well outside of it.

The actors were frequently people who showed up in science fiction
films of the decade.  There were people like Marshall Thompson,
Arthur Franz, Jean Byron, William Schallert, Ed Kemmer, and Morris
Ankrum.  The series was produced by Ivan Tors who also produced SEA
HUNT, FLIPPER, and several other TV shows.  The series ran for 78

(When it had hour episodes it was called THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR)

This program deserves some mention, though it was not science
fiction or horror.    It is quite popular and was a rich source of
crime, drama, comedy, and irony stories.  A very few of the stories
were arguably horror.  In particular the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR had
a Robert Bloch story "The Sign of Satan" which used Christopher Lee
to good advantage.  It also adapted John Wyndhsm's "Consider Her

1958 - 1958 THE VEIL
1959 - 1961 ONE STEP BEYOND

These two series were actually very similar in content if not in
execution.  One major difference was that though twelve episodes of
THE VEIL were filmed, they were never broadcast.  ONE STEP BEYOND
did have good sized audience.  Each series told fanciful tales of
the supernatural claimed to be true.  Boris Karloff hosted THE VEIL
while John Newland was the host of ONE STEP BEYOND.  Each week it
was a different story.  A typical story might have somebody is
murdered leaving a non-removable stain on the wall.  With time the
stain reshapes itself until it becomes a picture of the screaming
victim.  Many of the stories were like that with the supernatural
reaching out and avenging some evil-doing.  The most memorable icon
of ONE STEP BEYOND is the brilliantly creepy musical theme that
Harry Lubin composed for the program:

1959 - 1964 TWILIGHT ZONE

What is there to say about THE TWILIGHT ZONE?  It became the gold
standard of not just genre anthology series but of anthology series
in general.  Rod Serling, the son of a butcher, was already one of
the great writers of television drama before anybody ever heard the
words "twilight zone."  Serling had written great television plays
like "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight."  He knew fantasy
would give him greater freedom in what he could write about.  And
he was gambling that fantasy would attract a much wider viewership
than what social dramas would attract.  Who would want to watch a
play about an ad executive crumbling under the pressure of his job
and being driven to his death?  But if he stops on the way in a
romanticized old-fashioned town called Willoughby people will still
be anxious to see it decades later.  Writing in science fiction and
fantasy Serling could write some solid drama for an avid audience

The average episode does not have much of a theme or even a good
story.  If it just has a little fantasy and a surprise (though
telegraphed) ending it got made.  Nor was it very original.
Serling would borrow plots from films like DEAD OF NIGHT.  The
early seasons had most of the best episodes.  Some of the later
entries are actually painful to watch like "The Bewitchin' Pool."
But enough of the stories were strong enough to keep an avid
audience.  The second to last season the show was expanded to hour-
long episodes.  But few of the stories made much use of the extra
time and too many of the stories had to stall out to pass the time.
The series went back to half-hour episodes the next season.

At its best THE TWILIGHT ZONE was superb.  My choice for the best
episode would be "Mirror Image" starring Vera Miles, written and
directed by Rod Serling.

Next time I will continue with TV series that started in the 1960s.



TOPIC: The Beloit Mindset List (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

On this year's Beloit College Mindset List, my favorite entries

1. There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.

6. Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.

8. Cloning has always been a mundane laboratory procedure.

9. Elian Gonzalez, who would like to visit the U.S. again someday,
has always been back in Cuba.

10. The United States has always been at war.

21. Vaccines have always been erroneously linked to autism.

24. Catholics and Lutherans have always been in agreement on how to
get to heaven.

27. They disagree with their parents as to which was the "first"
Star Wars episode.

30. Bada Bing - Tony and Carmela Soprano and the gang have always
been part of American culture.

38. A Bush and a Clinton have always been campaigning for something

41. Snowboarding has always been an Olympic sport.

46. The once-feared Thalidomide has always been recognized as a
cancer fighting drug.

59. War films have always shown horrific battle scenes inspired by
Saving Private Ryan.

[The full list is at .]



(letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)

In response to various items in recent issues of the MT VOID, Taras
Wolansky writes:

For months I've been making mental notes for LoCs I never write.
The great enemy of fanac is work:  whenever I get on my laptop, the
temptation is to potter around with my work email, instead of doing
something of more lasting value, like responding to the latest MT
VOID.  (But let me just take one minute to look at the Japan 24x7
docs--retro me, Satanas!)

To answer Dale Skran on why SUICIDE SQUAD is accused of sexism:
Harley Quinn is transformed from a trickster figure in the comics
to a sexpot in hot pants who performs a striptease.  (Australian
actress Margot Robbie, who seems to be in every movie these days,
is gorgeous. of course, but whoever-it-is playing her lover, The
Joker, lacks the charisma to make their relationship even remotely
plausible.)  The film left a bad taste in my mouth for other
reasons, however:  e.g., for making a hero out of the hit man
played by Will Smith merely because he doesn't murder women (the
sexist swine) or children.  And because the story has a government 
official (played by the great Viola Davis) blithely murder her own
assistants, just to make the hit man look good by comparison.
(Even the most rabid Hillary-haters don't think she got those
people in Benghazi killed on purpose!)

STAR TREK BEYOND also left a little bit of a bad taste, because the
villain turns out to be that familiar cliche, the Crazed Military
Man.  I can still remember the infinite pains to which Orson Scott
Card was put, in his novelization of James Cameron's ABYSS, to make
psychological sense of that film's Crazed Military Man.  (Card read
excerpts at a Philcon.)

Retro Hugos: My first thought was, it's good that the vote wasn't
affected by political correctness.  My second thought was, what are
those minor stories by Leigh Brackett doing on the ballot?  All the
other nominees are classics that have been reprinted a hundred
times.  Anyway, we dodged the bullet this time.

Hugos: Or maybe not.  N. K. Jemisin has done much better work in
the past:  THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS was good (though I confess
I skipped a few disks in the audiobook); and THE BROKEN KINGDOMS
was simply thrilling, with a great protagonist.  But I just barely
slogged through THE FIFTH SEASON.

One-third of the book's chapters are wizarding school (not done
well); another third have the familiar trope of an adult and a
child (actually another one of Jemisin's uncanny child demigods)
traveling across a post-holocaust world (yawn).  And then there are
the chapters in which the heroine comes to maturity and learns the
Awful Truths about her world.  These held my attention, but it soon
became obvious that Jemisin's world building is particularly

Her world is based on a kind of cracked syllogism:
A.  The world is constantly threatened by deadly earthquakes and
B.  Some people have magic powers to stop the aforementioned
earthquakes and tsunamis.
C.  Therefore, the magic people are driven away or killed--or ham-
handedly abused so they actually cause earthquakes and tsunamis!
This is so obviously stupid that the heroine soon encounters a
community which takes a less idiotic attitude.

It doesn't help that the heroine becomes a mass-murder.  (I'm
trying to avoid spoilers.) It reminded me of the scene in the
movie, RAGTIME, in which Coalhouse Walker kills a half-dozen
policemen with a bomb--but they're very small and very far away,
and the audience never met them. Being a Victim of Oppression
absolves one of blame.
  Speaking of spoilers, it's unfortunate Joe Karpierz's review of
Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES gave away so much of the ending.  It
robs future readers of the delight of figuring out what's going on
for themselves.  Luckily, Joe didn't spoil it for me, as I had
already read the book (which should have won the Hugo).  Similarly,
I consider myself fortunate for having seen the Samurai classic,
HARA KIRI, without knowing in advance where the story is going.
When I later gave the film as a gift, I would always warn the
recipients not to read the plot summary.  Surprise is a fragile but
beautiful thing.

A final issue that's been niggling at me for a while: Mark's movie
recommendations of TRUMBO and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS raise the issue
of Hollywood hagiography.  Literally, in the latter case:  that
film glossed over St. Thomas More's taste for Protestant flambe.
The late Christopher Hitchens gloated that Hilary Mantel's WOLF
HALL has done something to redress the balance.

Similarly, the real Dalton Trumbo was a Stalinist who, during the
alliance of Hitler and Stalin, produced what amounts to pro-Nazi
propaganda.  In THE REMARKABLE ANDREW (1941), the ghost of Andrew
Jackson explains the many good reasons why the U.S. should not help
Great Britain, at that time standing alone against Nazi Germany.
Shortly after that, of course, Hitler attacked Stalin, and Trumbo
went from fake pacifist to real war hawk literally overnight.

I guess we just have to assume any historical film is a tissue of
lies, until proven otherwise.  [-tw]

And later Taras added (from an article in THE ATLANTIC on academic
freedom (

"In fact, a 'trigger warning' might refer to matters as varied as a
warning to a combat veteran that a scene in a war movie might
trigger his medically diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ...
and a professor caving to a demand (actually made by a Rutgers
student) that classmates about to read THE GREAT GATSBY be
forewarned that it contains (spoiler alert) depictions of 'suicide,
domestic abuse and graphic violence.' [...]

"Even if we assume that a warning about suicide in THE GREAT GATSBY
does help a trauma-prone student to get through an English class
more comfortably, it could still be in conflict with a professor's
belief that, pedagogically speaking, most students *cannot
meaningfully experience the novel if major plot points are
prematurely spoiled*."  (Emphasis mine.)

(If college students find THE GREAT GATSBY traumatizing, you kind
of wonder what they'd been reading before.  Nothing?  [-tw]


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

12 YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup (ISBN 978-1-631-68002-1) was
chosen for this month by our book discussion.  A lot of the
discussion focused on whether Northup himself wrote it, or whether
it was written by the editor (sort of "as told to").  The editor's
preface seems to hint at the latter, and if so, that affects what
conclusions one can draw from some of the characterizations of
slaves and African-Americans in general that might otherwise be
attributed to Northup.  Northup does say that he received far more
education than others in his position did (he was the son of a
freed slave), so he might have written it, and then there was
editing after that.

In any case we agreed that it was well worth reading, no matter
what the actual writing process was.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           An author who speaks about his own books is almost as
           bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
                                           --Benjamin Disraeli