Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/09/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 11, Whole Number 1927

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Secret Agent Polka (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        METROPOLIS Program Book (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        American SF/Horror Anthology Series of the 1950s and 1960s
                (Part 2, The 1960s) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Ten Things I Like/Don't Like about the Prius (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        LOCAL CUSTOM by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (audiobook review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        LONDON ROAD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (MOBY-DICK AS DOUBLOON) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Secret Agent Polka (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I was listening to a film music station on the computer.  They
played the James Bond theme.  I was thinking that the Bond theme
was ultra-cool.  I wondered if anyone had ever played the Bond
theme on that least cool of all instruments, the accordion.  With
Google and YouTube it took about three minutes to find a recording.
Three minutes to go from concept to fulfillment for something like
Bond on accordion.  What an age we live in.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: METROPOLIS Program Book (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

For those interested in science fiction in silent films, the Open
Culture site is covering the on-line publication of the 32-page
theater program for Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS.  To read their article
and see selected pages at

The full program book is at

(At the latter site double-click on a page to make it more
readable.)  [-mrl]


TOPIC: American SF/Horror Anthology Series of the 1950s and 1960s
(Part 2, The 1960s) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Last time I talked about the anthology shows that premiered in the
1950s.  The last one was THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which really set the
standard for all anthology shows that followed it.  Most of that
influence was felt more in the 1960s since it ran for five years.
That makes it a nice bridge to...

The Sixties:

1960 - 1962 THRILLER

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was a popular TV series, and NBC wanted
something like it.  They would call their series THRILLER.
Somebody associated with mystery should be the host to match Alfred
Hitchcock's hosting of his program.  They settled on Boris Karloff,
a not entirely successful choice.  Hitchcock brought a good sense
of humor to his hosting, and Karloff played his introductions
straight.  THRILLER was going to be a crime and suspense series
with maybe an occasional horror story thrown in.  But the public
saw it and was surprised to see that is was just general suspense
stories.  This was not the sort of thing that Karloff's presence
promised.  The first stories broadcast were general suspense
stories more like what the Hitchcock series was doing, and rather
tepid ones at that.  But the producers by then had shifted gears to
horror.  After four episodes the series did mostly stories of
horror and the supernatural.  They depended rather heavily on
Robert Bloch to provide them with much of the writing they got,
though names like Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Cornell
Woolrich, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson provided either
writing the original stories or adapting stories into usable
scripts.  Visuals frequently lent a foreboding tone, helped by the
fact that it was shot in moody monochrome.  Some few of the stories
were really well done like their adaptation of Robert E. Howard's
"Pigeons from Hell."  One I personally found and still find really
effective was "The Hungry Glass" which still has the power to

1961 - 1961 WAY OUT

In 1962 CBS ran the 30-minute THE TWILIGHT ZONE on Friday nights, a
position of prestige for the popular imagination anthology series.
ABC counter-programmed with the our-long 77 SUNSET STRIP, a private
eye show.  CBS decided to fill out its hour with a Jackie Gleason
talk show but when it was not getting the ratings desired they
quickly threw together a series even more imaginative than THE
TWILIGHT ZONE.  What they got was a series that though obviously
made on a tiny budget but was from the beginning to the end weird.
This may well have been the strangest TV series ever on network
television.  Writer Roald Dahl, already known for his morbid
stories made a fitting host.  He introduced each story and gave
each an epilog smoking away on a cigarette that he tightly pinched
in his claw-like fingers.  (I am sure that is was just a
coincidence that the sponsor was L&M cigarettes.)  The series used
the inexpensive studio sets and videotape to their advantage much
like the later "found footage films" did.  The critics were
astonished at seeing something that had not been done on TV before
and liked it, but apparently it just creeped out too much of its
viewership in the hinterlands and the ratings really suffered.  It
was cancelled after about a month. This is definitely one of the
darkest and most sinister TV series ever on network television.

1963 - 1965 THE OUTER LIMITS

THE OUTER LIMITS was the last science fiction anthology series to
have a major impact on the SF fans, possibly up to the present.
Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano produced the weekly hour-long
show. (The latter had previously written the screenplay to Alfred
Hitchcock's PSYCHO.) They followed what was in some ways a set
formula.  In large part THE OUTER LIMITS was to feature a monster
of the week.  Each episode was required to feature a different
creature, which they referred to as "the bear." Stefano insisted
the bear had to show up in the first few minutes of the broadcast
to interest viewers in the story.

The two and their production company used a dozen different special
effects techniques to cheaply create the visual images.  One could
tell the were not big-budget effects, but they were creative.  The
first episode, "The Galaxy Being," featured a humanoid alien
creature that looked like it was made out of electricity.  This was
created by filming a rubber-suited alien and then making a
photographic negative image of it.  The most popular aliens were
stop-motion animated ants with human-like heads.

One might expect that the self-imposed strictures would doom the
quality of the stories, and conceivably it did, but the series had
several memorable episodes in its short one and a half season run.

THE OUTER LIMITS started endless arguments as to was it or was it
not better than THE TWILIGHT ZONE?  Speaking for myself, horror and
fantasy were strong interests of mine, but science fiction was a
because the latter had such simplistic stories.  The science
fiction of THE OUTER LIMITS for me trumped the fantasy stories of

But THE TWILIGHT ZONE was for most of its run a 30-minute program
as opposed to the hour episodes that were on THE OUTER LIMITS.
Unlike THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS could do an hour-long
story without it feeling padded.  THE TWILIGHT ZONE occasionally
did decent science fiction stories like Richard Matheson's "Little
Girl Lost."  Note the name Richard Matheson.  He could write a good
science fiction story that would fit in a half-hour show.  But just
like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, more than half of THE OUTER LIMITS episodes
were at best mediocre.  We remember these TV programs for their
best work.

The SF/Horror anthology series is something of a rarity these days.
There are a number of reasons for that.  To do a science fiction
story one these days one expects a fairly complex environment.
That can cost production money that would be used in only one
episode.  STAR TREK had the advantage that the deck of the
Enterprise could be used over and over at little expense.  It did
not have to b built from scratch for each episode.  And the public
does did not have to learn new characters each week.  There is much
less reason to make characters of lasting interest for TALES FROM
THE CRYPT than there is for STAR TREK.  Anthology series have
characters that are use-once and thrown away.

These days we get very few anthology series.  In the past decades
there have been some attempts to reboot many of the successful
series.  None have lasted very long, but ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS,
TWILIGHT ZONE, and THE OUTER LIMITS were attempted.  But they just
did not have the influence of the originals.

The last series I remember having any impact at all was TALES FROM



TOPIC: Ten Things I Like/Don't Like about the Prius (comments by
Evelyn C. Leeper)

Ten Things I Like about the Prius
        Ten Things I Don't Like about the Prius

1. The gas mileage; on our 300-mile vacation to Cape May,
    we got 69.7 miles per gallon.
        1. The gas mileage means it is easy to forget to ever
            look at the gas guage.

2. It is roomier than our old Corolla.
        2. It is three inches wider than our old Corolla; our
          garage isn't.

3. The touch-up paint is reasonably priced.
        3. There is no setting that has the headlights come on
            automatically when you start the car, but turn off
            when you turn off the car.

4. Toyota has gone back to the folding side mirrors.
        4. The glove compartment is smaller than the one in
            our old Corolla.

5. There is a grace period between when you turn off the car
    and when the electric windows stop functioning.
        5. It is a hatchback.

6. The car gives you a lot of information.
        6. The car gives you too much information.

7. There are four cup/bottle holders.
        7. There is no ashtray.

8. It plays files off a USB stick.
        8. It plays files off a USB stick in what appears to
            be a somewhat random, or at least not controllable,

9. It does not have a whip antenna.
        9. It has a 700-page manual, most of which covers
            features our model does not have.

10. You do not have to take the key out to unlock the doors.
        10. You have to have the key very close to the
             driver's door (i.e., not the hatchback) to open
             the car.



TOPIC: LOCAL CUSTOM by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (copyright 2002
Ace, 2012 Audible Studios, 11 hours 31 minutes, ISBN-10:
0441009115, ISBN-13: 978-0441009114, narrated by Bernadette Dunne)
(excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: an audiobook review by Joe

It is not common for me to start reading a book series that has
been around several years (Exceptions would be the novels of The
Culture, by Iain M. Banks or Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire
books).  I have no plans to dig into George R.R. Martin's "Song of
Ice and Fire" series for example, Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of
Time", or Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" (Although that one I keep
telling myself I want to try since I enjoyed the short-lived
television series from 2007).  So, I was not inclined to dig into
the "Liaden Universe" novels by Lee and Miller, which a bit of
research reveals has been around since 1988.  However, an eight-
hour drive to Kansas City for MidAmericon 2 was looming.  While I
was reluctant to start yet another series, not long after the trip
began we started listening to LOCAL CUSTOM.  I will have to say I
was pleasantly surprised.

It is difficult to describe where LOCAL CUSTOM fits in to the
Liaden Universe timeline; Lee and Miller have written 20 novels and
numerous short stories in the universe in the nearly 30 years since
the first book came out.   LOCAL CUSTOM arrived in 2002; I have a
nasty habit of wanting to read things in order--whatever I define
order to be at the time--and this didn't seem like the right place
to start.  However, not long into the audiobook, it became clear
that this was a reasonable entry point into the series.

Liaden custom dictates that a male marries a contract wife chosen
for him by his clan and provide an heir.  Er Thom yos'Galan (we'll
stick with Er Thom) wants no part of this custom; however, he
realizes he has a duty to perform.  Before he gives in to the
inevitable, he must deal with a bit of unfinished business.  Three
years prior he met and fell in love with Anne Davis, a linguistics
professor on a world called University.  Er Thom decides to make a
trip there to get some closure with Anne, whom he has never
forgotten.  When he gets there, he discovers that he has a son--
Shan--from that affair.  As the reader would suspect, this fact
throws Er Thom into a quandary and is really the central item that
starts the conflict in the story rolling.

Er Thom has never really forgotten how he felt for Anne and does
not want to participate in an arranged marriage, the sole purpose
of which is to produce an heir.  He would be truly happy with a
life contract marriage to Anne and have the chance to be with her
and their son in the type of family he truly wants.  He brings Anne
and Shan back to Liad to present Shan as his true heir.  This
raises the hackles of his aging and frail mother, Petrelia, who
wants no part of the outsiders, and in particular Anne, whom she
sees as inferior to any Clan Korval woman that he would marry.  A
Liaden-Terran marriage would not be appropriate or allowed, if
Petrelia had her way.

A side plot lurking in the shadows, one which I presume is covered
in later novels, is that Davis and another linguistics scholar have
discovered that there is a single root language from which the
three main languages (Terran, Liaden, and Yxtrang) of the Liaden
universe have descended.  There are factions within the Liaden
government which are not happy with this line of study or its
results.  This side plot contributes a bit of action to the novel,
but is mainly added as a launch point for later novels.

LOCAL CUSTOM is less of a science fiction story than it is a story
of romance and family conflict.  It's a story that has been around
a long time:  man finds his true love in a place that is least
expected, tries to bring her into his resistant family, and ends up
in conflict (at least for a while), with said true love.
Eventually, things work out in the end and while it may or may not
be happily ever after in this case (science fiction and fantasy
series have a tendency of turning stories on their ears just to
stir the pot a bit--although I really have no clue as to what will
happen next), things for now are all (mostly good).

Bernadette Dunne does a work(wo)man like job narrating the book.
She is neither spectacular nor grating; she did not throw me out of
the book at any time.  Her best voice is that of the child Shan.  I
found it charming and delightful.  The voices of the rest of the
characters were not memorable, but that didn't bother me terribly.
I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to another book she narrated,
her narration would not be the reason I avoid listening to a
particular audiobook.

Due to its family underpinning, LOCAL CUSTOM has a bit of a feel of
a Catherine Asaro Skolian Saga book, although at least for this one
there is much less science and much more romance.  The next book in
the series, SCOUT'S PROGRESS, is one I may plop onto my to-read
list in the hopes that I get to it some day.  [-jak]


TOPIC: LONDON ROAD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A musical with unusual subject matter was commissioned by
the British National Theatre and then adapted by almost the same
cast and crew into this movie version.  The residents of London
Road in Ipswich, England, are gripped by fear and paranoia after
five naked corpses of prostitutes have been found on their little
road.  All of the action takes place off-screen except for the
reactions of the people only involved because it happened on their
street.  The dialog is taken from interviews in the three years
after the murder and the neighborhood buries their horror by all
getting involved in a neighborhood-wide hobby.  The first third of
the film lives up to the promise of the concept, but what follows
is a very English reaction on the road and it will likely not
enthrall US audiences.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

A quiet, unexceptional road in Ipswich is rocked by the finding of
the bodies of five prostitutes who had been brutally murdered.  The
retelling of the events of the true crime and the reaction on the
road was adapted into a very successful stage play with a twist.
The locals' actual accounts of the incident were adapted to musical
form.  That musical had two sell-out runs at the British National
Theatre.  The musical play was nominated for four Laurence Olivier
Awards and has now been adapted by its stage director Rufus Norris
into a film.  As on the stage, Alecky Blythe provided book and
lyrics and Adam Cork contributed music and lyrics.  It fact most of
the actors and crew are directly taken from the successful stage

The idea of taking a startling crime and turning it into a stage
musical brings back memories of "Sweeney Todd."  Sadly, unlike that
play this film carefully avoids all the possible thrills in their
telling.  The subject matter is not the crime itself, but the
reaction of the residents of London Road.  In fact, we are never
even told how the criminal was caught.  The perpetrator is caught
about a third the way into the film and most of the rest of the
story is how the street residents decide to give their road a good
name by cleaning the local yards up and having everyone competing
to have the most beautiful flower-filled garden.  The film
culminates in the road's flower festival where awards are given for
the nicest gardens.  To an American it seems a very British
reaction to seek solace in making their gardens grow.  American
audiences would and the other extreme and would want at least two
car chases and a look at the victims' bodies.  The music of this
musical in large part is injected by having characters speak in
singsong voices.  There is no melody anybody in the audience is
going to want to be humming.

The American viewer longs for the early moments of the film when
people were saying anybody could be the killer and "everybody's
very, very nervous," and the story might have gone into s Rod-
Serling-ish "The Monsters Are Due on London Road."  There are not
many light moments unless they are just looking at some of the
stranger personalities.  There is a moment or two of levity
watching a newscaster who is not allowed to say the word "sperm"
and cannot think of an alternative.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen has some nice photo studies of paranoid
faces.  His photography early in the film seems to have the feel of
a perpetually overcast sky that clears up in time for the end of
the film and the flower festival.        

Perhaps to add a little marquee value the film has one fairly
recognizable actor, Tom Hardy.  He has only a small part but he is
a flavor of the month after making films like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD,

The biggest problem with the film is that so soon in the film it
loses all of its tension and goes flaccid.  After that the only
thing people are nervous about is getting up on the stage at the
flower festival.  Viewers looking for suspense and excitement will
be disappointed.  I rate LONDON ROAD a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale
or 5/10.  LONDON ROAD went into a limited American release on
September 7, 2016.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



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

MOBY-DICK AS DOUBLOON edited by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford
(ISBN 978-0-393-9553-7) is a collection of criticism (i.e.,
analysis) about MOBY-DICK.  It has all the contemporary reviews of
the novel, as well as well over a hundred articles published over
the years since then.

The contemporary reviews seem to be mostly positive, though many
are mixed, and I did not keep an accurate score.  One thing that
struck me was that several reviewers felt that Melville's
disrespect towards organized religion was a serious flaw in the
book.  For example, the magazine JOHN BULL wrote, "[Readers] must
be prepared, however, to hear much on board that singularly-
tenanted ship which grates upon civilized ears; some heathenish,
and worse than heathenish talk is calculated to give even more
serious offense.  This feature of Herman Melville's new work we
cannot but deeply regret.  It is due to him to say that he has
steered clear of much that was objectionable in some of his former
tales; and it is all the greater pity, that he should have defaced
his pages by occasional thrusts against revealed religion which add
nothing to the interest of his story, and cannot but shock readers
accustomed to be a reverent treatment of whatever is associated
with sacred subjects."

THE COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER said, "We regret to see that Mr. Melville
is guilty of sneering at the truths of revealed religion.  On page
58, he makes his hero, 'a good Christian--born and bred in the
bosom of the infallible Presbyterian church,' unite with a
Polynesian in worshipping and offering incense to an idol, and in
this connection virtually questions the authenticity of the first

The METHODIST QUARTERLY REVIEW also objected to Melville's
attitude: "We are bound to say, however, that the book contains a
number of flings at religion, and even of vulgar immoralities that
make it unfit for general circulation."  And TO-DAY complains, "Yet
the humor of those parts where sacred things are made light of revolting to good taste, and may still, we fear, be dangerous
to many of those persons who will be likely to read the book."

Several reviewers seem to have misunderstood the end (i.e., that
Ishmael survives by clinging to Queequeg's coffin, and is the
"orphan" found by the Rachel).  The LITERARY GAZETTE wrote, "How
the imaginary writer, who appears to have been drowned with the
rest, communicated his notes for publication to Mr. Bentley is not
explained."  Clearly, the reviewer did not bother to read the
"Epilogue", assuming it was just some unimportant statements by
Melville, rather than the final narration of the Ishmael.

There are other sloppy mistakes.  The MORNING CHRONICLE called
Queequeg's idol "GoGo" instead of "Yojo", and the Third Mate
"Flash" instead of "Flask".

The NEW QUARTERLY REVIEW seems to think that MOBY-DICK was inspired
by the destruction of the ship "Ann Alexander" by a whale in August
1851.  Melville was actually inspired by the similar destruction of
the ship "Essex" thirty years earlier.  To have written all of
MOBY-DICK and have it published in only two months (from the date
of the wreck of the "Ann Alexander" to the date of the first
review) is simply not possible.

(The NEW QUARTERLY REVIEW also makes the "no-survivors" error: "As
there was no survivor of the catastrophe, how became the author or
Mr. Bentley possessed of these minute and painful details?"  And

As one moves towards the present, the comments are less quirky--
people have figured out that the Epilogue describes Ishmael's
survival, the jibes at religion are not so shocking, and so on.
This could be selection bias--while the first part strives to
include all known contemporary American and British reviews, the
second and third parts must be more selective, and probably leans
toward the more important and influential commentary rather than
the most off-beat.

I should note that most of the long passages quoted in the articles
are cited with elisions; for the full text the page references are
given to the Norton Critical Edition of MOBY-DICK.  This is not too
surprising, as MOBY-DICK AS DOUBLOON is also published by Norton,
but may cause difficulty to people using another edition.  And
speaking of various editions, one professor at Berkeley, who wanted
everyone to use the same edition so that citations could be by page
number, understood the financial plight of the student and chose
the Dover Thrift Edition as the class standard, being both cheap
and lightweight compared to other editions.

I'll also add that I have gotten as far as Chapter 95 in my
annotations on MOBY-DICK (


                                           Mark Leeper

           The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing
           seem like a stable business.
                                           --John Steinbeck