Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/04/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 19, Whole Number 1935

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        The Interplanetary Experience
        Monster of a Wine??? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        More Thoughts on STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE END OF ALL THINGS by John Scalzi (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        THE VALUE OF THE MOON by Paul D. Spudis (book review
                by Greg Frederick)
        STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Retrospective Hugo Awards (letter of comment by John Hertz)
        THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS (letter of comment by John Hertz)
        This Week's Reading (CROSSTALK and YOU CAN LOOK IT UP)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: The Interplanetary Experience

 asks what places on Earth people could
go to, to try and have a real Interplanetary Experience, as if they
where explorers on these planets.



TOPIC: Monster of a Wine??? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

"...And this is wine to drink."  "Drink... Good!""

You know even Turner Classic Movies goes too far:

"Frankenstein Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, dark monster of a wine
from Francis Ford Coppola's Director's Series;"




TOPIC: More Thoughts on STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

I was asked by a friend what I thought of the latest STAR WARS
film.  This was about nine months after I had seen the film. And it
was not long after I saw STAR TREK BEYOND.  That sort of jammed my
space-opera circuits in my memory in a way that seeing a non-space-
opera like CITIZEN KANE probably would not have.  I could have sent
him my official published review after seeing FORCE AWAKENS, but
what fun would that have been?  I wanted to see the film again and
give you some fresh comments.  I will republish the earlier review
later in this mail.  Let me add to it some additional comments
based on my second viewing.

My first impression is that the film borrows a lot from the 1977
STAR WARS.  That was the complaint most critics had.  But that
might have been part of the point.  There is a repetition, but that
is not necessarily a bad thing.  Consider the following.  Here is a
question for you.  Which GODFATHER film am I describing?

"Michael Corleone is trying to stay within the law.  But then
somebody does something terrible to his family.  He thinks he knows
who the culprit is and wants to move against him.  The peacemaker
of the mob tries to convince him that this is a bad idea but he
goes ahead anyway.  He soon realizes this was a mistake.  The real
villain was the person who was behind his victim.  But who is that?
It turns out to be the peacemaker.  Michael calls up all his forces
and kills everyone who is giving him trouble in one big bloodbath.
Michael, more powerful than ever, is left to ponder the meaning of
his action."

So which GODFATHER film was that?  It is hard to tell.  That is a
fairly complete plot that fits all three GODFATHER films.  The STAR
WARS series is nowhere near as repetitive.  Like the GODFATHER
films STAR WARS repeats itself.

That said it would have been better if they could have had more
that was new.  There were lots of little bits that are repetitions
from the first film.  In the first film there was a giant skeleton
in the background in the desert that the principles don't even
comment on.  In this one there was a giant wrecked spacecraft that
seems to have crashed.  We see it in the background just like the
skeleton in the first film.  I don't remember them all but there
were a bunch of little homages to the 1977 film.

One thing in general I really dislike is an obvious failure of
imagination in the writing.  In the 1977 film the real threat is
from the Deathstar, a really, really big spherical flying weapons
platform that the good guys blow up.  In 1983's STAR WARS: THE
RETURN OF THE JEDI the threat is an EVEN BIGGER (!) spherical
flying platform that the good guys blow up.  In the new film the
threat is an EVEN BIGGER STILL (!) humongous spherical platform
that the good guys blow up.  You can tell where this is going.  The
fact that they cannot bring a more original threat than just
another Deathstar is a failure of imagination.

So in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS a film overflowing with
imagination, there are some notable gaps in imagination.
Nonetheless I am sort of now amused seeing the series the
chronicles of one family.  Nearly everyone important is now related
to someone else in the story.  Darth Vader and Padme Migdala are
the parents of Luke and Leia.  Leia married Han Solo and they give
birth to Lylo Ren.  Now Rey has the Force so is probably glommed on
somewhere on the family tree.  I find STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
spotty, but it is kind of fun.

Anyway, I felt a little embarrassed that when asked I could not say
much about FORCE AWAKENS at the dinner.  After all I had even
reviewed the film so when I got a chance to see the film again I
wanted to respond about the film to you. I suspect you were the
only attendee that evening who was interested in discussing science

Anyway, when it is not trying too hard to be funny I generally
enjoy the STAR WARS series.

My January 2016 review is reprinted later in this issue.  [-mrl]


Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Jake's grandfather, thought to be suffering from dementia,
tells the most fantastic stories of his fighting of monsters during
WWII from an island off Wales.  These stories lead Jake to the
island and there he holds the balance of power in a war between
children with strange special powers and supernatural villains.
The plot is surprisingly complex and frequently obscure, but
visually the film is imaginative.  Tim Burton directs a screenplay
by Jane Goldman, based on the young adult novel by Ransom Riggs.
Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Jake grew up on his grandfather Abe's stories of fighting monsters
when the old man was posted off the coast of Wales during the
Second World War.  Then Abe (Terrence Stamp) is killed with his
last words being a cryptic message for Jake.  The boy has a hard
time convincing his parents to let him go, with his father, to his
grandfather's island.  The story has started slowly and here is
picking up speed until a fast-paced fight.  (Well, without fights
what is the point of having characters with super powers?)

as a different approach to the team-of-superheroes sort of story
with still the feel of a young reader's taste.  The heroes here (we
don't call them mutants) have different sorts of powers.  One
controls bees that seem to live inside him; one has power over air
(including incredible lungs); one is a little closer to the Marvel-
style hero, being invisible; one has super strength; and yet
another has the power to make vegetables grow fast.  The twins
can--no, that would be telling.  Then there is Jake (played by Asa
Butterfield).  He is an outsider and, he does not seem to have any
powers at all.  All are loomed over by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green),
who is a shape-changer and who can be neither as innocent as she
seems nor as sinister as she appears.

Beginning with his short film "Vincent" (1982), Tim Burton has
frequently used a particular visual style.  Do not ask me to
describe it, but I know it when I see it.  That style is
conspicuously absent from the new film.  One thing we do see is
some stylistic allusions to other fantasy filmmakers.  The
conjunction of school yards and bombs from Guillermo del Toro's THE
DEVIL'S BACKBONE makes itself noticed.  Creatures with long spindly
legs from THE DARK CRYSTAL do to.  At toward the end we get a very
nice reference to a famous sequence from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

The general look and feel of the film changes as we go from one
setting to the next.  That turns off some parents, but the kids
seem to like it.  The textures of the visuals change rapidly with
the settings.  We go through different worlds as we go from
suburban Florida, to a Welsh island, to a gardened country house.
By the end of the film we are in a battle on an amusement pier in
Liverpool.  Meanwhile the film is playing with time and the basic
physics of the universe.

Some of the images may be inappropriate for the younger crowd.
There is one scene that once thought of, Burton must have felt
compelled to shoot, in which there is a feast of eyeballs.  This is
one of director Tim Burton's better films since he lost the writing
talents of Caroline Thompson, who had humanized his exercises in
weird visuals, good though some were.  Burton has a first class
cast including Samuel Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, and
Allison Janney.  It does not have the same sort of delights as THE
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, but it has its own charm.  I rate it a
+2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE END OF ALL THINGS by John Scalzi (copyright 2015, Tor,
$8.99, 385pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-7610-7) (excerpt from the Duel Fish
Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

THE END OF ALL THINGS is the sixth, and presumably, but not
necessarily (would be my guess), the last book in the very popular
"Old Man's War" series.  The series dates back to the publication
of the original OLD MAN'S WAR back in 2005, and across the eleven
years and five additional books that have followed Scalzi has
developed a large audience for these books; arguably, they are the
most popular of his works.

THE END OF ALL THINGS is a follow on to THE HUMAN DIVISION (and in
fact, is a continuation and conclusion of the story arc that
started in that novel), and like THE HUMAN DIVISION was published
online in e-book format.  While the prior book comprised thirteen
short stories, THE END OF ALL THINGS was released individually as
four novellas, one per week in June of 2015.  Unlike THE HUMAN
DIVISION, which I read in installments, I read THE END OF ALL
THINGS in one shot as a paperback.  While I can see the episodic
elements in it, I believe that reading it all at once is the better
way to go.

So, to recap:  the Earth and the Colonial Union are at odds with
each other after the destruction of Earth Station.  As a result,
the Colonial Defense Forces are running out of troops to protect
their colonies (as a reminder, the CDF got their troops from Earth
in the form of aging and infirmed humans--thus the title OLD MAN'S
War).  Also sitting out there is a coalition of alien governments
called the Conclave, and either the CU nor the peoples of Earth
have a real good relationship with them.  And now we have a new
entity called the Equilibrium, which is intent on bringing about
the destruction of the CU, the Conclave, and the people of Earth.

We first learn about the Equilibrium in the first novella, entitled
"The Life of the Mind", in which third pilot of the Chandler Rafe
Daquin has his brain removed from his body and placed in a box,
from which he will pilot the ship for the Equilibrium.  The carrot
is that he will get his body back once he successfully completes
his mission.  Daquin knows better, and his captors should have
known better as well.  Score one for the good guys--whoever they
are--as the existence of the Equilibrium becomes public and a
traitor is revealed.

"This Hollow Union", the second novella, goes deep into the
political arena of the Conclave.  The Conclave is concerned about
its future--in fact, the fear is that the Conclave is on the verge
of collapse.  The story is told from the perspective of "the second
most powerful person in the known universe", Hafte Sorvalh, as she
works behind the scenes to protect the Conclave and her boss,
General Tarsem Gau.  It starts out with Sorvalh going from meeting
to meeting, grinding the gears of the machine, trying to get to the
bottom of things.  The story does take an unexpected and powerful
turn at the end, an end that has Sorvalh set up for greater things.

The next episode is "Can Long Endure", follows a platoon of the CDF
going from uprising to uprising, rebellion to rebellion, trying to
keep peace within the Colonial Union as the CU continues to show
signs of tearing itself apart.  It seems like a nonsensical set of
assignments, with no real rhyme or reason, which eventually ends in
the platoon suffering a dramatic loss of life.  In the end, the
question that comes to the front is whether all this is really
worth the effort, and we see one leader's way of dealing with it.

The final novella, "To Stand Or Fall", bring the story of THE END
OF ALL THINGS to a somewhat expected, but not necessarily exciting
conclusion.  We learn about the real motives of the Equilibrium, we
see a brewing conflict between the Colonial Union and the Conclave
and, eventually, "the end of all things".

It's clear that Scalzi is very comfortable writing in the "Old
Man's War" universe, and revisiting his favorite characters for him
must be like visiting with old friends and family in the evening
next to a warm fire with a glass of his favorite beverage.  And it
is much the same for the reader.  We settle in with this universe,
with these characters, and these situations, and it's like seeing
an old friend after a few years.  And, as expected, Scalzi's
writing is sharp, the dialog is witty, and he moves the story
deftly along at a nice pace that keeps the reader interested from
the first page to the last.

It may not be the best book in the "Old Man's War" universe, but
THE END OF ALL THINGS is a fine addition to the series and a fine
way to end all things.  [-jak]


SPACE USING THE MOON'S RESOURCES by Paul D. Spudis (book review by
Greg Frederick)

The author wrote this book to help convince the reader about the
best way to utilize cislunar space.  That is the volume of space
that is between the Earth and the Moon.  He believes that using the
Moon's valuable resources will enable humans to efficiently and
effectively move off the Earth into this region of space and aid us
in deep space missions as well.  The Moon has water, aluminum,
gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten, rare earth
metals and helium-3.  Helium-3 can provide nuclear power without
radioactive waste in a functioning fusion reactor.  But water is
the most useful resource on the Moon that we can use immediately.
Using water ice located in craters at the Moon's poles we can get
hydrogen and oxygen and both in liquid form are great ingredients
for rocket fuel.  The water ice can be disassociated using the near
constant solar power also located at the Moon's poles.  Of course,
water can be used by astronauts for drinking, growing plants, and a
tank of water is a very good radiation shield.  The oxygen is
needed for astronauts to breathe too.

The conversion of water into rocket fuel would allow for refueling
a lunar lander and refueling space craft at future fuel depots
which could be created at the Lagrangian points in cislunar space
or orbits near the Earth or Moon.  These fuel depots would allow
space craft built in space to be refueled for further missions in
deep space too.  Instead of launching a rocket from Earth's deep
gravity well with all of that rocket fuel for its entire mission
only the fuel needed to get parts of a deep space craft would be
launched.  Therefore smaller rockets are needed instead of a heavy
lift rocket similar to the Saturn 5.  The space vehicle would be
assembled in Earth orbit and refueled in orbit.  Another
interesting issue is the source of rare Earth metals.  Currently
most rare Earth metals are found in China and they are essential in
creating modern electronics; the Moon has an abundant amount of
these rare Earth metals too.  The Moon is a great place to test
equipment and technology needed for an eventual mission to Mars.
The Moon is only 3 days travel from the Earth and there is only a
few seconds of time delay in radio communications with Earth too.
So, if something does go wrong help is not far away.

This book is a good source of information about how we can
realistically enter a new age in human space exploration.  [-gf]


TOPIC: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

[This is a reprint to go with my comments above.]

CAPSULE: After about a decade we have a new "Star Wars" episode.
The story is really about the search for Skywalker, a goal that
does not seem particularly inspiring. As always in a "Star Wars"
film the visuals are impressive, but the narrative is not as
compelling as was the story of Darth Vader. The only new character
of some interest is a woman named Rey, the new film's equivalent of
Luke Skywalker. There seems to be more material borrowed from the
first six films than there is that is new. But as long as the
viewer does not need to contend with Jar-Jar Binks or a pod race,
any Star Wars film delivers more than a ticket's worth of
entertainment. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.
Warning: minor spoilers

The release of the new "Star Wars" film has become one of the major
cinematic events of the year. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is not
the most artistic film it could have been and it does not have the
most moving story. It is neither good science nor good science
fiction. But it is highly watchable and it will make a lot of money
as an international film with avid (not to say rabid) fans around
the world.

It has been about thirty (Earth?) years since the action in RETURN
OF THE JEDI and Luke Skywalker, who disappeared years ago, is
slipping from war hero into legend. Meanwhile the Galactic Empire
is falling into the hands of a Fascist military/political party
called the First Order. To maintain their power they have to
capture Skywalker, but nobody seems to know where he is. There is a
map to his whereabouts, but as so often happens in fiction the map
is in pieces and whoever collects the pieces will have a full map.
Great pilot Poe (played by the same Oscar Isaac who was in EX
MACHINA) has instructions to find a missing piece. This piece is
hidden in a droid, of all places. (Now why does that sound so
familiar?) Poe is captured by the First Order storm troops where he
meets a trooper whom the dubs Finn (played by John Boyega). Finn
wants to change sides to be on the side of the good guys. Poe and
Finn are separated and Finn joins up with Rey (Daisy Ridley) a very
highly talented scavenger.

J. J. Abrams directs a screenplay by himself, Lawrence Kasdan, and
Michael Arndt, who are obviously fans of the series. They borrow
ideas freely from the original. For example, the super weapon the
villains have is a Deathstar just as in chapters 4 and 6. But it is
not an old fashioned Deathstar. This Deathstar is much bigger. So
now three of the seven chapters have new Deathstars needing to be
disarmed seconds from disaster. Despite the writers' efforts to tie
this film to the previous six "Star Wars" chapters that were made
earlier, this does not really feel like the Star Wars Universe, but
one somehow it is reduced in scale.

We have the five main characters from chapters four through six
written into the script. But they do little to advance the plot.
One is a father who gets no opportunity to be fatherly and another
is a MacGuffin. Princess Leia looks like her face was replaced by
that same doctor who replaced Luke's hand.

The villain of the piece is a sort of self-styled Darth Vader down
to wearing a similar suit. What makes that strange is that Darth
Vader put on the suit as a sort of portable, wearable iron lung.
There is no reason to have such a suit if our villain has healthy
lungs. But perhaps he thinks a suit is imposing. As far as acting
Daisy Ridley, playing Rey, is a more dynamic female lead than
Carrie Fisher was in 1977, perhaps because Rey is a better-written

If you go to STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS looking for something to
criticize, you will find more than enough in this "Star Wars"
chapter. If you want to find stuff to enjoy, there is plenty of
that here too. Overall, I would rate the new Star Wars film a +2 on
the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. Since this movie has done so
spectacularly well in box-office business and since STAR WARS is a
story told in trilogies, I think we can be assured that more to
this story is coming from Disney.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Retrospective Hugo Awards (letter of comment by John Hertz)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Retro Hugos in the
07/08/16, 07/15/16, and 07/22/16 issues (and others) of the MT
VOID, John Hertz writes:

The year 1940 was certainly a year of achievement for Heinlein.
Six solid works on the Retrospective Hugo ballot in three
categories, including the winner in best Novella and Best
Novelette.  As the nominations remind us, he also produced "By His
Bootstraps", "Universe" (novellas), and "Let There Be Light" (short
story).  This was his *second year* of publication.

I could say a lot about things I think could have and should have
reached the ballot--for example, not only "Bootstraps", but
Asimov's "Nightfall"--but that's a long discussion, and fruitless
without detailed analysis.

It was a fine moment when Van Vogt's granddaughter Charlene Piper,
having driven 25 hours from Northern Idaho, entered the hall just
in time to hear SLAN had won Best Novel, and to walk onstage and
accept, amid cheers.  She told me this was not her first Worldcon,
but her fourth.


TOPIC: THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS (letter of comment by John Hertz)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS in
the 06/03/16 through 07/08/16 issues of the MT VOID, John Hertz

I just read Latham & Matthews COMPANION (1971) to the DIARY OF
SAMUEL PEPYS, v. 10 in their 11-volume edition (v. 11 is the Index;
after three centuries the first complete edition, masterly and
definitive), and though of you.  Perhaps you will compare your
remarks with mine (VANAMONDE 606).  I saw the same annoying and
even reprehensible points as you (to show the importance of keeping
an editor's eye open, the phrase was almost "I saw the annoying and
even reprehensible things you did").  I thought the DIARY earned
observation of its merits.

     Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a civilian officer of the
     British Navy.  He was a Fellow of the Royal Society who
     besides science loved music.  He saw the rule of Oliver
     Cromwell, the Restoration of Charles II, the failure of
     James II, and the Glorious Revolution; he saw the Great
     Plague, the Great Fire, and (what a herald of 1688!) war
     with the Dutch.  "Though he made money out of his places
     he never allowed bad work to be done for the navy if he
     could help it ... a hard worker ... a capacity for acts
     of kindness and generosity," ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA
     v. 17 p. 500 14th ed. 1929).  The diary he kept in 1660-
     1669 we after the centuries know for great literature.
     "If there is ... a book which can be called 'unique' with
     strict propriety, it is this.... by virtue of these
     qualities ... found ... nowhere else in combination.  It
     was secret; it was full; and it was honest."  Yet these,
     like his position and even his character, are resources.
     They could make the DIARY priceless, but not art.  The
     BRITANNICA writers Hannay and Tanner do touch it: "A
     human document of amazing vitality."  He had an eye for
     the telling detail, we only feel he wrote "whatever he
     saw, heard, felt or imagined", when in truth,
     miraculously, he perceived what to put in.  His three
     thousand pages, pithy and sharp, often bright and quick,
     are unforgettable, and too short."



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

CROSSTALK by Connie Willis (ISBN 978-0-345-54067-6) is not a
"rollicking send-up," at least in my opinion.  Oh, there are bits
of humor, but the stakes are too high to allow the reader to read
this as a madcap comedy.  The plot centers around a procedure that
apparently stimulates telepathic abilities, but only in some
people, and there are, as one character puts it, UIC, or
"unintended consequences."  One problem I had was that some of the
things that seem to be intended as surprises were not, and others
seemed more major contrivances or even dei ex machinis than
anything else.

It was not a *bad* book (after all, it is Connie Willis), but there
was nothing exceptional about it.

WIKIPEDIA by Jack Lynch (ISBN 978-0-8027-7752-2) has 25 chapters,
arranged chronologically, each discussing two paired reference
works, and 24 interstitial essays.  On the whole the interstitials
are more interesting than the actual chapters, covering such topic
as the rise (and fall) of alphabetical order, the invention of the
codex, methods of organizing books, and so on. Given the chapters
are chronological starting with Hammurabi, they cover a lot of
ancient and medieval works that frankly are not very interesting to
most people today, while the topical interstitials cover subjects
that still affect us.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           In a very real sense, people who read good
           literature have lived more than people who cannot
           or will not read. It is not true that we have only
           one life to live; if we can read, we can live as
           many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we
                                           --S. I. Hayakawa