Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/30/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 27, Whole Number 1943

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in January (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        ALIEN MORNING by Rick Wilber (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        Fake News (letter of comment by Jerry Ryan)
        Sherlock Holmes Pastiches (letter of comment by Kip Williams)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

January 12: 12:01PM (1990) and 12:01 (1993) and 12:01 (short story
        by Richard Lupoff, F&SF December 1973), Middletown (NJ)
        Public Library, 5:30PM
January 13: THE IMITATION GAME, Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
January 26: "The Spectre General" by Theodore R. Cogswell and "The
        Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz (both in SCIENCE
        FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library,
February 9: GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and "Doubled and Redoubled" (short
        story by Malcolm Jameson), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
February 10: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Middletown (NJ) Public
        Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

Well, we are just about ready to close the book on 2016.  Everybody
is saying how fast the year went by.  Actually I read an article
that said what makes an interval of time feel like it went by fast
is the number of moments in your memory.  If you have a lot of
moments that you can distinguish from one another in your memory
the interval of time will seem proportionally long in your memory.
If you go through the same routine every day and the days are so
much alike you cannot remember which one was which, you will
remember time as having gone very fast.  If you go on a vacation
very often the first day will be in your memory the longest.
Toward the end of the trip you might find the days seem to be
speeding up.  For me 2016 went by very quickly so that says
something about my daily routine.  You may remember lot details
early in a film better than you remember ones later.

I am going to recommend a film not because it is a good film.
Actually it is a very mediocre science fiction movie.  But it is a
fascinating artifact.  The film is THE INVISIBLE BOY (1957).  Just
what the film is qualifies the film is strange.  It is a low-budget
black-and-white sequel to the much higher budget FORBIDDEN PLANET
(1956).  It takes place in the near future.  That should make you
wonder how a film set in the near future could be a sequel to a
film that takes place much further forward in time.  (Hint: they do
it sort of like the Planet of the Apes films did it.  They assume
time travel.)  The script is downright juvenile.  So why is this
film so worth seeing? Well, there are two reasons.  This was the
second film to have featured FORBIDDEN PLANET's Robby the Robot.
And it is not just a film using the same suit and even Marvin
Miller's voice again.  This is supposedly the selfsame robot as was
in FORBIDDEN PLANET.  But even that would not make this an
interesting film.

What is really interesting about THE INVISIBLE BOY is that it
extrapolates out what computer science would be like in the near
future and darn if they do not get it mostly right as no other film
nearly that film's age ever did.

The film features a super computer that has just about all human
knowledge if you just ask it a question.  I have something like
that on my desk.  You can ask the computer a spoken question in
English and it will get you the answer spoken out loud.  We can do
that now.  That information is constantly being updated and
revised.  Yup, we do that.  We get to the current information by
going on the Internet.  The villain of the piece is the Master
Computer.  Sadly this great computer has evil plans to get its
masters power.  Connect Robby to the Master Computer and it takes
over Robby.  Even today you have to be careful where your computer
connects.  There is malware and spyware out there.

The scientist in the film finds out his great master computer is
being used against him.  The scientist asks the computer, "Who am I
speaking to?" In other words, "who has broken into the computer and
is controlling it?" This sort of person would one day come to be
known as a "hacker," or more accurately a "cracker."  The scientist
protects his information with "a secret numerical combination" that
only the scientist knows."  It sounded impressive then and a great
idea.  Today that is what is known as a password.  And we all have
too many of them for comfort.

Now you could say that these are all reasonable extrapolations of
what was known about computers in 1957.  Perhaps that is true.  But
I would be impressed if someone could point to a 1950s film that
had so much computer science and got so much of it right or very
nearly right.

THE INVISIBLE BOY will play on TCM on Wednesday, January 11, at
6:30 AM.  TCM will continue with vintage science fiction films
until 7:30 PM that day.  The lineup will be:

  6:30 AM THE INVISIBLE BOY (1957)
11:45 AM 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
  3:45 PM COUNTDOWN (1968)
  5:45 PM THE GREEN SLIME (1969)

Best film of the month?  Let me go with THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940),
based on John Steinbeck's novel of the life of a family of Okies
during the dust bowl years.  That runs Tuesday, January 3, at 2:15



TOPIC: ALIEN MORNING by Rick Wilber (copyright 2016, TOR, $25.99,
300pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-3290-5) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices:
a book review by Joe Karpierz)

First contact stories have been a part of science fiction
storytelling for a very long time.  A subset, the alien invasion
story, seems to be the most prevalent, but some of the best have
nothing to do with invasions at all.  One of the best first contact
stories is in theaters right now in the form of the movie Arrival,
based on "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang (As an aside, Arrival
is a really terrific movie.  I highly recommend it, and I expect to
see it on the final Hugo ballot in 2017).  Another worthy entry
into the first contact category is ALIEN MORNING, by Rick Wilber.

In the near future, we meet Peter Holman.  Peter is a former
European league basketball player, washed up because of a knee
injury he suffered during a game.  His career over, Peter heads
back to the U.S. and becomes an early adopter of a technology
called sweepcasting, which allows the user to convey and share his
or her experiences in a multisensory way.  Peter is trying to get
in on the ground floor, looking for a career as a sweepcaster,
making money by selling and sharing his experiences to the world at
large.  It's a tough way to make a living, as the technology is new
and not many people have the equipment to receive sweepcasts.
Events can be shared live, or can be recorded and edited for later

Peter also has a personal technological companion called myBob.
myBob keeps track of everything going on in Peter's life--business
meetings, doctor appointments, dates, you name it.  Interestingly
enough, it also has the ability to control Peter's sweepcasting
equipment (an essential point that becomes useful as the novel

With all this in mind, Peter happens to be at the right place and
the right time to witness and record the arrival of the alien
S'hudonni.  The S'hudonni are interested in trade goods from earth,
and in exchange will provide advanced science and technology.
While this particular trope has been used dozens, if not hundreds
of times in the past, it is used effectively here to open the door
to what's really going on behind the scenes with the S'hudonni.

Stepping back from the S'hudonni for a moment, another aspect of
Peter's situation that plays a very important role in the story is
his family history and dynamics. Peter's brother Tom is a
successful scientist, who is engaged to Heather Newsome.  Peter's
sister Kait is trying to get her life straightened out, living on
the west coast with her spouse after wasting her youth on drugs.
Peter's father is a pediatrician that was not always around the
family due to his work, and who is disappointed in Peter because he
took up a basketball career instead of going into a more
respectable profession. Peter has been sweepcasting a phony affair
with B-list actress Chloe Cary in an effort to raise the profiles
of both Chloe and his sweepcasting career.  In the middle of it
all, Peter falls hard for Heather which angers Tom and sets off
some events later in the book that could prove to be catastrophic.
As for Heather--well, Peter really doesn't know what he's gotten
himself into.  Suffice it to say that there is more than one family
squabble going on here, and Peter just happens to be in the middle
of both of them.

And just who is the mysterious Marina?

There is a lot going on in this novel, and Wilber deftly handles
both the first contact story and the family issues that play an
important part of the novel.  Peter is quite a complex character,
something one wouldn't expect from a professional athlete.  Peter
loves literature, and studied it in college.  He loves art, which
he discovered while bouncing around Europe playing basketball (and
which allowed him to meet the aforementioned Marina).  He loves his
family, no matter how dysfunctional it is.  And I think this
character development, not only of Peter, but of Tom and Kait, is
the true strength of ALIEN MORNING.  Without those characters being
who they are and what they were, this is nothing more than a bland
story of some aliens showing up and looking for stuff.  Wilber has
woven these well-written characters into the fabric of the story to
the point that the reader can't imagine the story being told
without them.

As far as the alien side of the story, well, that's pretty good
too.  There are always family arguments, whether it be between
humans or between aliens.  The novel takes us from the Florida to
California to Ireland.  There are beautiful countrysides, nights on
the beach, old Irish mansions, and everything in between.  Wilber,
through the sweepcasting technology, dabbles in (not so) futuristic
media, an area that he's an expert in.  This is truly a well-
written novel.

It's also the first book of a trilogy, the second of which I
believe will be entitled ALIEN DAY.  If it's anything like ALIEN
MORNING, it will be something to look forward to.  -[jak]


TOPIC: Fake News (letter of comment by Jerry Ryan)

In response to Mark's comments on fake news in the 12/23/16 issue
of the MT VOID, Jerry Ryan writes:

I was very interested to read your "fake news" piece.

One interesting point here is that it is more difficult to libel a
public official.  By that I mean that the Supreme Court's ruled (in
Times v. Sullivan) that there's essentially a higher bar to be used
to evaluate if someone's statements about an elected official are
defamatory of libelous.  The term of art is "actual malice" and the
standard is that if someone knew that a statement was false or
acted with "reckless disregard for its truth or falsity".

I wonder if the actions of the Fake News King could be considered
to be acting with actual malice or with reckless disregard?  I
wonder if it is harder to legislate against/prosecute fake news?

I think it is pretty clear that fake news/clickbait influenced the
election ... though that's as much a decline in traditional
journalism, critical thinking and, um, actual reading as anything
else.  [-gwr]

Mark responds:

Back on November 1 fake news was considered something more than an
amusement and something less than a truly major influence in the
voting.  I think right now fake news is at least being taken
seriously as a threat to our legal system.  At least I would hope
so.  Opposition likely would almost entirely be coming from
factions left of center, at least that would be my guess.  I don't
know what the line is between legal free speech and serious fraud,
but I suspect that that will be getting a close examination.  I
suspect that the problem will not be really fixed while the
conservatives hang on to the power they have.  But there should be
enough people angry to have something done about the problem.

The other issue that should have people worried right now is the
issue of hacking of election results for political.  And the people
who are most capable of doing it are going to be in high demand.


TOPIC: Sherlock Holmes Pastiches (letter of comment by Kip

In response to Evelyn's comments on Sherlock Holmes pastiches in
the 12/23/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I feel like I said this somewhere recently.  If it was here, my
apologies for the repetition.  Anyway, 'Ellery Queen' made a
collection of Holmes pastiches, parodies, and burlesques some time
back called The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes.  The only problem
was that the Doyle estate was still fiercely guarding their cash
cow, and put the kibosh on the book, which was already in print.
In the 70s, it was a treasured item, and booksellers wanted about
fifty hard-earned bucks for any copy they had for sale, so I never
got one.

Years later, Doyle is finally dead enough that his heirs are no
longer powerful, and the book is available at

and downloadable in a variety of formats.  Can it be that all the
stories within are also out of copyright?  I thought Archive was
careful about that stuff, but I don't know.

In my experience, their OCR is horrid, so it's best to go with the
PDF page facsimiles.  Some of these are clever and enjoyable, and
then there are the rest.  Take it with a grain of salt.  What the
hell!  It's free!  [-kw]


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

WORLDS EVER CREATED edited by Laura Miller (ISBN 978-0-316-31638-5)
sounds like a look at the *geography* of fictional worlds, sort of
like Alberto Manguel's DICTIONARY OF IMAGINARY PLACES.  It isn't.
The "worlds" in this case are the conceptual worlds, e.g., THE TIME
MACHINE's division of humanity into Morlocks and Eloi through
evolution, or the meta-fictional world of THE EYRE AFFAIR.  As
such, there is little to distinguish the text from many other books
or articles about these works.  While nicely produced and
illustrated, or perhaps because it is nicely produced and
illustrated, it is more a coffee table book than a true reference

(What I would love to see is a geographical map and analysis of
China Mieville's THE CITY & THE CITY.  It's not very likely,

HIDDEN FIGURES by Margot Lee Shetterly (ISBN 978-0-06-23659-6) is a
book about the African-American women who worked at NACA/NASA as
"computors" before the introduction of computers, and then after as
programmers and engineers.  The film based on it opens this month,
and it takes quite a few liberties.  Not only are the three main
white characters fictional--though presumably reflecting some real
people's characteristics--but some of the events involving
Katherine Johnson in the film actually happened to other people in
real life.  (In particular, the rest room incident involved Mary
Jackson rather than Johnson.)

The fictional white characters are particularly troubling.  Kevin
Costner has a very dramatic moment as Al Harrison--but it never
happened and Al Harrison did not exist.  Jim Parsons is obnoxious
as Paul Stafford, and I suppose represents all the white male
engineers who had those prejudiced attitudes, but he never existed
either.  And Kirsten Dunst's character again is possibly an
amalgam, with a very predictable arc.  The challenges were all
real, and consolidating most of the dramatic events of the story
onto Johnson made cinematic sense, as did making the white
characters archetypes.  (After all, the film is not about them.)
But it would be a mistake to take everything in the film as gospel.

On the other hand, the book is presumably accurate.  However, the
problem is that the book is less engaging, possibly because
Shetterly spends a lot of time on what may be interesting to a
historian, but less so to the general reader: the history behind
the various housing developments (all segregated, of course), the
history of how Virginia's Prince Edward County closed its public
schools for five years rather than integrate, and so on.  There is
also a lot about the history of the aeronautics and space programs
which is not directly connected to the eponymous women.  All this
makes for a narrative that jumps around a lot, from scientific and
mathematical explanations of air resistance to the psychological
effects of the Jim Crow South to the effects of McCarthyism on the
engineering program.  There is a lot of valuable material here; I
just wish it had been organized better.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           If one tells the truth, then sooner or later one
           will be found out.
                                           -- Oscar Wilde