Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/31/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 40, Whole Number 1956

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Tomorrow (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in April (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Video of Mars (comments by Greg Frederick)
        BETHANY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        BOKEH (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        INTO THE FIRE: SAMANTHA KANE #1, by Patrick Hester
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        THE MAN FROM MARS (letters of comment by Allan Maurer
                and Tim Bateman)
        Selecting Words (letters of comment by Peter Trei
                and David Goldfarb)
        This Week's Reading (DOWN HERE IN THE DREAM QUARTER)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Tomorrow (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Tomorrow is an auspicious day in our household.  Fifty years ago
tomorrow I married my best friend.

Of course Evelyn insisted I have it annulled.  Hey, did you see
what tomorrow is?  [-mrl]


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

April 13: GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and "Doubled and Redoubled" (short
        story by Malcolm Jameson), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
        5:30PM (rescheduled from February)
May 11: THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR (1999) & SIMULACRON-3 by Daniel
        F. Galouye, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
May 25: REPLAY by Ken Grimwood, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
July 27: THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF by David Gerrold, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
September 28: THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genevieve Cogman, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
November 16: THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
January 25, 2018: OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

I find it ironic that in some ways movies and television programs
have traded places for respectability.  When I was growing up, if a
producer wanted to tell a serious story the best venue was the
movies.  Television writing was not going through a very good
period.  It had programs like "Gilligan's Island" and "The Man from
U.N.C.L.E."  If a storyteller wanted to say something serious, the
proper medium was the theatrical film.  That is why I like TCM.  It
has the best drama of the period.  But starting with "The Sopranos"
the better story telling moved to television.  Now if you want to
see longer and better developed stories like "Mad Men" and "House
of Cards" they require more time to develop and you cannot really
make a film that long.  So theaters have ended up the venue for
super-hero films.  Television has the best writing these days.

Well, here are my picks for April.

Let me begin with two very good, but somewhat different films about
the profession of making movies. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL gives a
behind the camera view of the business by focusing on one producer.
It tells the story of one of the most hated men in Hollywood.
Jonathan Shields, played by Kirk Douglas, lies and cheats his way
and is ready to betray any friend to get to the top.  The account
is fictional with a load of real anecdotes mixed in.  This film is
plenty entertaining even if a lot of the allusions will go over
most viewers' heads.  Those more knowledgeable will see a lot that
is familiar.  Horror fans will see a fictionalized account of how
Val Lewton got his horror style.  This film is a favorite of cinema
podcasters like Terry Frost.  (The final scene makes a strong
point, but still is something of a cop out.)  Vincente Minnelli
directs.  The film won five Academy Awards, proving that one of the
film industry's greatest fascinations is the movie industry itself.
[Friday, April 7, 3:45 PM]

Francois Truffaut has his own expose of the film industry with a
focus on the making of a single--not very good--film.  DAY FOR
NIGHT (1973) is all about a single film's production and all the
exasperation and chaos and a bit of joy the director goes through
to make what will ultimately be a forgettable family film called
MEET PAMELA.  Again there are lots of allusions to actual
incidents.  Our director has to mold a film out of the performances
of drunk actors, backstage romances, animals that are
uncooperative, strangers on the set, etc. etc. etc.  The film is
really a collection of anecdotes about being a film director.  Some
of what happens on the set will actually be a learning experience
for film buffs.  [Monday, April 3, 4:00 AM]

It has been several decades since the last time I saw this film
being shown, probably in part because it is in black and white.  I
have seen it on DVD but otherwise I thought it was lost.  It is
sort of a science fiction film and sort of a spy film though very
low key in both realms.  Basil Dearden (KHARTOUM) directs a
screenplay by James Kennaway based on Kennaway's cold war novel.  A
scientist is working in the field of sensory deprivation and what
does it do to test subjects. (This is the same field that was
studied in ALTERED STATES).  The scientist is commits suicide and
is found to have a briefcase with large sums of money.  It looks a
lot like he was spying for the soviets.  Military Intelligence
thinks that sensory deprivation might have softened the scientist's
mind to be brainwashed.  They want to test the hypothesis on
another scientist (played by Dirk Bogarde).  What happens was
certainly chilling when the film was first shown.  I think it will
still be effective.  [Sunday, April 2, 10:30 PM]

I guess by general agreement of the "experts" the best film on TCM
this month is what has been voted the best film ever made.  It is
Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958).  I find some serious logic flaws
in the film, but then I have been told that Hitchcock freely
admitted that there are logic flaws in his films.  He didn't care.
Well, it is a good film in any case.  [Saturday, April 1, 1:45 PM]

Hey, a side note: By some sort of coincidence that I really cannot
account for my recommendations are frequently films shown early in
the month.  All four of these films will be shown the first week of
April.  I really do not have a good explanation why that happens.



TOPIC: Video of Mars (comments by Greg Frederick)

It may not be H. G. Well's vision of Mars but this recent video of
Mars is amazing:

[I cannot get this to play in my version of Firefox, but it may be
some setting I have for that--it works fine in Safari and Chrome.


TOPIC: BETHANY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a film of psychological and paranormal horror.  A
woman who had a painful childhood years before and who suffers from
scary visions returns to live in the house she grew up in.  She
starts having increasingly violent hallucinations.  While the film
is tightly and tensely shot with some disturbing imagery, the
script by actor Zack Ward and by James Cullen Bressack is not up to
James Cullen Bressack's directing.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or

Claire (Stefanie Estes) had a particularly painful childhood
dominated by her self-obsessed mother and with few friends.  Her
best friends were stuffed animals, some dolls, and her imaginary
friend Bethany. She lived years in a big, dark, deadening house.
Claire's mother treated her as a possession.  What happiness she
had was playing with Bethany.  But Claire broke free of her mother
and of the house when Claire was eighteen.

In the following years Claire married Aaron (Zack Ward).  She
buried her past until her mother died.  Claire inherited her
childhood home and decides to try to forget the past and return to
living in the old house.  When she feels depressed, which happens
increasingly often, she can talk about it with the imaginary
Bethany who still lives or perhaps lives again in the walls of the
house.  Bethany takes the form of whispers coming from the walls.
But this sort of friendship does not always work as fans of horror
film know. Either Bethany or Claire has taken to arranging and
causing accidents for Claire.  Most fans of the horror film will
have seen a lot of the ideas and mechanisms previously appearing in
other films.  For example this film is being released just two
weeks after Ed Gass-Donnelly's horror film LAVENDER, a film with
which it has many plot parallels.

Bressack knows how to shoot the film without a reliance on false
jump scenes or other "turn the crank" ways to get a reaction from
the audience.  Bressack as director knows better than squander his
viewers' trust.   He does have an eye for mood and color.  While
the real world shown in naturalistic color, the hallucinations are
often reduced to heavy use of primary colors to give a dreamlike
effect.  In general the film is well executed, but just lacks the
creativity it needed from Bressack the writer to set itself apart
from so many similar nightmare fests.  I rate it a high +1 on the
-4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

BETHANY will be released to theaters and On Demand on April 7.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Mysterious goings-on go on at an all-girl Catholic school
over winter break.  The film is shot with an excess of style that
got in the way of the coherence.  The freezing setting of upstate
New York reaches into the tone of the entire film and even the
spirit of the viewer.  The ambience is certainly creepy, but the
story seems to take forever to get to where it is going and too
much is obscured by unclear voices and darkly photographed, often
rear-lit, scenes.  The film is written and directed by Oz Perkins
who went on to write and direct the similarly indistinct I AM THE
PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or

Watching this film is like stepping into a large freezer.  In cold
and icy upstate New York is Bramford, a prestigious Catholic school
for girls.  The school is decorated in a color scheme of metallic
blue and gray, symbolizing complete rejection anything warm and
human.  Director (and writer) Oz Perkins clearly wants to take even
more humanity from its characters and show them as silhouettes
against the blue light coming off the fields of snow outside.
Sadly, this makes the main characters look too similar and even
with a small cast it is hard for the viewer to keep track who each
one is.

It is the beginning of the February winter break.  (In fact, the
film was originally titled FEBRUARY.)  The parents should have
collected the girls to take home.  At least that was the plan.
Rose (played by Lucy Boynton) and Kat (Kiernan Shipka) were not
picked up and the headmaster of the school has to make special
arrangement for them to stay in the building.  A third girl, Joan
(Emma Roberts) ends sitting at a bus stop late at night.  We do not
know how she fits in or why.  We do know that Rose has arranged to
miss winter break so she will not have to face her parents and tell
them that she and her boyfriend have on the way a little problem

That is still early in the movie and there is a lot more to go
before the horror of the film kicks in.  Director Perkins knows how
to shoot his scenes to build tension.  Oddly, we know not why this
part of the story has us on edge, but it foreshadows what is to
come.  Still we may not be sure who, if anyone, will be menacing
whom.  When the violence occurs--and yes, it is coming--it is kept
out of sight of the camera.  There is no gore distastefully shaken
in the face of the viewer.

The photography is good, but it is at odds with the story telling.
It is hard to tell the school girls apart in half-light.  It is
even hard to tell a blonde from a girl with darker hair when they
are both lit from behind.  The film uses darkness and slow pacing
much as German Expressionism did.  The musical score in the main
body of the film is mostly electronic music so it does not feel
organic.  I missed what the title referred to.  THE BLACKCOAT'S
DAUGHTER takes a long time to get where it is going, and where it
is going is familiar territory.  I rate the film a low +1 on the -4
to +4 scale or 5/10.  THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER has played at film
festivals and was released to theaters March 31.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: BOKEH (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Bringing up memories of the more engaging THE QUIET EARTH
(1985), this film concerns a young (American?) couple Jenai and
Riley, vacationing in Iceland when nearly everybody in the world
mysteriously disappears.  The two people are the inheritors of
Iceland with its beautiful natural scenery and without any
Icelanders anywhere. In fact, they are without any other humans to
be found.  Jenai and Riley struggle to make sense of what has
happened to them.  The team of Andrew Sullivan and Geoffrey
Orthwein write and direct an enigmatic film about the apparent end
of most of the world.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

A young couple, Jenai and Riley (played by Maika Monroe and Matt
O'Leary) goes to Iceland for the spectacular scenery.  The first
night Jenai wakes up at 3:24 in the morning.  She admires the
scenery out her hotel window, lit by the very early morning sun.
There is a strange flash of white light.  She goes back to sleep.
When she wakes up in the morning all is very quiet.  She and Reilly
go down to breakfast and find it has not been laid.  In fact there
is nobody to serve them.  They go out on the street and find it
totally empty.  At least if there were corpses lying around, it
would explain what happened to everyone.  But all others have been
removed without a trace.  Whatever happened was targeted at humans.
We see cats and horses and hear birds, and they seem not
distressed.  One wonders how pets were or will be faring.

With nobody left Jenai and Riley find nothing to keep them in this
town and with the world outside being theirs for the taking, they
go out on a journey.  They want to find answers and along the way
to appreciate the natural beauty of Iceland and to look for more
humans along the way.  The film serves as both a science fiction
film and a travelogue to show off Iceland as a tourist destination
of rare beauty.  The film is more successful in the latter pursuit.
The scenery becomes of greater interest and even perhaps more of a
character than the two principal leads.

While at the start of the film the two come off as vacuous
tourists, the travel broadens them.  Riley is an empiricist who is
looking for physical answers for what has happened.  Jenai's mind
is more spiritual and poetic.  She feels the apocalypse has brought
her closer to God.  Or, she wonders, has God forsaken them.  God
remains silent.  This does not mean that the two cannot take time
off now and then to clown around or go skinny-dipping, and that
might be a welcome relief for the viewer.  Much of the film is
taken up with chit-chat.  It is mostly just a look at two people in
an intolerable situation.

Never explained is the fact that there are systems that require
human maintenance and without them cities would start breaking
down.  There is no acknowledgement in the story that things are
starting to go away beyond the faucet water stopping.  In fact,
answers seem impossible to get from the story.

The viewer should not expect all questions will be answered by the
end of the story.  We are never even told what Bokeh is.
(Wikipedia defines it, "In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic
quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image
produced by a lens.")  This is a film for the patient and that
patience goes largely unrewarded.  I rate it a low +1 on the -4 to
+4 scale or 5/10.  BOKEH will go into limited release on March 24.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



(copyright 2017, WordFire Press, $17.99, Trade Paperback, 339 pp.,
ISBN 978-1-61475-492-3) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book
review by Joe Karpierz)

I came to know of Patrick Hester a couple of years ago, when he and
John Anealio, who together give the world The Functional Nerds
podcast, were Media Guests of Honor at Capricon 35.  He is a two-
time Hugo Award winner for his work on the SFSignal Podcast and  He's written several pieces of self-published sf and
fantasy, and INTO THE FIRE: SAMANTHA KANE #1 is his first published

Samantha Kane (we'll call her Sam--that's what she would want us to
do) is a cop.  To be specific, a detective in what we presume is
the Denver police department.  As the book opens, Sam is in trouble
with her captain.  It seems she had rushed in to a place she should
have gone following a lead she shouldn't have followed because she
and her partner Jorge had been reassigned.  Now Jorge is in the
hospital hanging on for dear life and Sam is getting read the riot
act by her captain when a fellow by the name of Jack Mayfair walks
in and announces that Sam has been reassigned--to him.  There is
the usual amount of discussion, hemming and hawing, but in the end,
Sam goes with Jack.  And that's just the beginning of Sam's
worklife issues.

And then there's her family.  Sam's father, a retired cop, is in
the hospital in a coma.  Her younger teenage brother is acting
like, well, a teenager.  And mom isn't too happy about any of this,
and she's certainly not happy with Sam, who she feels has been
shirking her familial duties.

Indeed, Sam's life is a bit of a mess--and then she finds out she
may be a cop, but she's really a Wizard (as is her new boss, Jack
Mayfair).  And that Vampires, Werewolves, Golems, Elves, and all
sorts of other creatures exist.  Worse yet, most of them are not
happy that Sam is alive.  Finally, because we really need to have a
story to support all the weirdness is Sam's life, there are a bunch
of big, bad, Evil Eudes out there trying to Take Over, and Sam is
heavily involved in the attempt to Stop It From Happening.

I put all that stuff in capital letters because this is, above all,
and urban fantasy where the bad guys are trying to take over and
our hero--or in this case heroine--is in the middle of the fray
trying to stop the world from ending.  But I used the caps to
emphasize that this is a fun novel and a terrific read on many

While we've seen these kinds of stories before, what sets this
apart, I like to think (and again, urban fantasy isn't my thing),
is the breadth and depth of characterization. Hester gives the
reader a great deal of background about Sam, about Sam's family,
how the family affects her actions, and how the family has been
involved in this since Sam was a small child.  We see Sam's best
friend Jenni getting involved because she's a nerd and loves this
type of stuff, and above all, she loves Sam as a friend.  It's
clear that Sam loves Jenni just as much, and cares for her to the
point that she doesn't want Jenni involved.  We also learn about
Sam's most recent ex, and how he has, and still is, affecting her

Sam's discovery that she is really a Wizard is a turning point in
her life, and Hester guides her through the transformation from
someone how doesn't want to be a Wizard to someone who accepts her
role and eventually relishes it with gusto.  Hester wants the
reader to root for her, but also wants the reader to know that this
is really a tough thing that Sam is trying to do--and on the way
shows us the parallels between Sam and our own real lives when we
have to make transformations that we are neither ready, willing,
nor necessarily able to make, but we're sure going to try.

It's been said that an author should write about what one knows.
Hester lives in Colorado, and liberally sprinkles pop culture and
Colorado references into the story (as I've visited the other half
of the Duel Fish Codices who lives in Colorado numerous times and
am thus somewhat familiar with the area, it was fun to recognize a
few of the places Hester referred to in the story) in a fashion
similar to the way Robert J. Sawyer includes Canadian references in
his stories. Yes, I've been up and down I-25 a number of times and
recognize a number of places that are referenced in the novel.

It's clear that Hester has done a great deal of world building
behind the scenes, and that there is a lot more for the reader to
learn.  He starts out slowly introducing the complex society of
supernatural beings, but as the story goes on we are given more of
the background and we realize that it's a lot more complex than we
first thought.  I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, so Hester
succeeded in drawing me in, wanting to know what's happening next
and what more there is in the Wizarding World (yeah, I went there,
and I'm not sorry about it either).

All in all, INTO THE FIRE is a good first novel and a very fun
read.  If you like urban fantasy, I believe you'll enjoy this one.
I know I did.  I'm looking forward to the second book (as I
understand it, the book is being written but has not yet been
purchased by Word Fire Press).  I recommend you all run out to your
favorite purveyor of books, pick it up, and give it a read.



TOPIC: THE MAN FROM MARS (letters of comment by Allan Maurer and
Tim Bateman)

In response to Evelyn's review of THE MAN FROM MARS in the 03/24/17
issue of the MT VOID, Allan Maurer writes:

One thing you did not mention is that Ray Palmer was instrumental
in turning the post-WWII flying saucer craze into a national
phenomenon via his promotion of the Kenneth Arnold sighting, his
flying saucer focus in FATE and FLYING SAUCER mags.  He apparently
believed they came from within the Earth rather than from outer
space.  He planted the seeds that grew into much of the nuttiness
around UFOs that persists today.  [-am]

And Tim Bateman writes:

Thanks for this, Evelyn.  Till now Ray Palmer was little more than
a name to me.  Mind you, I now recall the stuff about the Shaver
mystery and Fate magazine...  [-tb]

Mark adds:

I seem to remember reading about it in second-hand science fiction
magazines back when I was a little shaver.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Selecting Words (letters of comment by Peter Trei and David

First, a correction: it was Peter Trei, not Philip Chee, who wrote
(in response to Mark's comments on selecting words in the 03/17/17
issue of the MT VOID):

The best Twain quote on the subject is probably in an 1888 letter
to George Bainton:

"The difference between the *almost* right word and the *right*
word is really a large matter.  'tis the difference between the
lightning bug and the lightning."  [-pt]

In response to that comment, David Goldfarb writes:

[Mark Twain is quoted as having said,] "The difference between the
*almost* right word and the *right* word is really a large matter.
'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

A nice quote.  But I've always thought it would be better expressed
as "lightning bolt" rather than just "lightning".  [-dg]


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

In the introduction to his 1976 collection DOWN HERE IN THE DREAM
QUARTER, Barry N. Malzberg (ISBN 978-0-385-12268-9) writes,
"Therefore, therefore, in this introduction to this sixth and
possibly last of my short-story collections (there may be more but
they will include work no later than this in point of time since I

have ceased like a drunk pounding helplessly at a luncheonette
window in the cold to write science fiction) ..."

It seems to be an immutable law of science fiction or something
that when an author declares he has given up writing science
fiction, you should believe him only if he says it in his last will
and testament, and even then it's not a sure thing.  Malzberg
"retired" at the beginning of 1976, having written 142 stories and
had five collections published.  *Since* 1976 he has written 200
more stories and had seven more collections published (not counting
those in German, Italian, or French).

(There must have been something in the air in 1975.  Robert
Silverberg, who Malzberg said had only been wrong twice in his
life, made two more mistakes: he claimed he was not going to write
any more science fiction, and he claimed that the idea that James
Tiptree, Jr., was a woman was absurd, because Tiptree was
"ineluctably masculine.")

Anyway, Malzberg's announcement to the contrary, these twenty-two
stories and three essays (counting the introduction) are examples
of his early work.  That all of them are from a five-year period
would be surprising enough in terms of today's writers' outputs,
but what is more astonishing is that they represent less than 20%
of his total output (20 stories in 1972, 30 in 1973, 37 (!) in
1974, and 17 in 1975).  And many of his colleagues of the time were
equally prolific--or more so.  There were giants in the earth in
those days...

Of course, this productivity comes at a price--it is unlikely
anyone will ever issue "The Complete Short Fiction of Barry
N. Malzberg"--although with e-books ...  At any rate, for now, one
will have to hope that what has been collected in his dozen
collections represents "The Best of Barry N. Malzberg".  (There was
a collection titled that, but it was back in 1976, presumably
because of Malzberg's announced retirement from the field.  There
was also a 2013 collection, THE VERY BEST OF BARRY N. MALZBERG.)


                                           Mark Leeper

           You kind of alluded to it in your introduction. I mean,
           for the last 300 or so years, the exact sciences have
           been dominated by what is really a good idea, which is
           the idea that one can describe the natural world using
           mathematical equations.
                                           --Stephen Wolfram