Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/05/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 45, Whole Number 1961

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Chart of the History of Science Fiction (and Napoleon's
                Retreat) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        The Soap Opera Effect Meets Dracula (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS by Peter F. Hamilton (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        Davy Crockett, Enceladus, HIDDEN FIGURES, and THE RISE OF THE
                ROCKET GIRLS (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (NEW YORK 2140 and LATIN@ RISING:
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Chart of the History of Science Fiction (and Napoleon's
Retreat) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Ward Shelley has taken the history of science fiction (until about
2008) and brought it down to a statistical representation of the
various strands of science fiction in one chart. Read about it at  You can click on the diagram, blow
it up in size and have fun exploring it.  Shelley is looking for
Kickstarter support to update his diagram.

This was probably inspired at least in part by Charles Joseph
Minard's fascinating statistical chart of Napoleon's retreat from
Russia.  It may be the most inclusive and impressive graphical
statistical display in history.

See it at



TOPIC: The Soap Opera Effect Meets Dracula (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

When I was growing up the high point of many if not most weeks was
11:30 Saturday night when Channel 40 would run one of the old
Universal horror films.  It might be DRACULA or THE MUMMY.  Maybe
it would be THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Channel 40 was a UHF
station, which meant that the signal was not as strong as it might
have been.  It was watchable and I would have been willing put up
with a little fuzziness.  As time went by, video technology got
better and better and Universal became a little less possessive of
their copyright properties.  It got so I could see the classics
whenever I wanted ... on VHS.  The image was not quite perfect.
VHS sometimes flagged a little at the top of the frame but it was
almost as good as watching the films on Channel 40.

Then came the year that Universal released their old horror movies
on DVD.  It was not quite as complete a set as I would have wanted.
of the Universal classics and I never was very fond of Abbott and
Costello.  As far as I was concerned I had what I wanted.
Universal released their classic horror on what they called "Legacy
Packs."  They were released to DVD over two years, both times in
October to catch fans in a Halloween frame of mind.  And the films
had the sharp picture images that came with good DVDs.

But I wondered if this was it and there would be no more releases
of the classic Universal films.  They could not do much to sell
more if their classics on disk if virtually all of the great ones
were out for sale on DVD already.

Well, Universal had at least one more trick up their sleeve.  They
released "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection".
It contained the first film of each of their series: DRACULA,
MAN, etc.  And, because it was considered too popular to leave out,
they also included THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  But the real selling
point was that the films were released on Blu-ray.  I heard from
friends that Blu-ray was a real improvement.  You could see the
film better than you ever saw it before.  In the scene where the
Frankenstein monster meets his creator's bride you could see the
detail on the texture of the train of her wedding gown.  It sounded
good to me.  I bought the set.  And it was just as advertised.  But
somehow the screen images were too sharp.  Blu-ray players (often?)
come with image enhancers to make sure the picture is really sharp.
It made the detail so sharp it was like watching a live videotaped
play.  That somehow de-mystified the visual effect.

It seems that to give film a more dreamlike quality directors may
put a woman's stocking over the camera lens.  That is an effect
that the cinematographer may or may not want to use.  Apparently
old-fashioned cinema film is not as sharp as digital video.  It is
a matter of taste, I suppose, but what modern Blu-ray players are
doing are undoing a needed imperfection of the film process.  It
makes the films look like they were shot on videotape.

What I had stumbled onto was a known phenomenon.  It is called the
"soap opera effect."  Soap operas are shot on video and give a very
literal effect, sharper than cinema film.  A modern Blu-ray player
will interpolate between consecutive images to create an image
between images to give the effect of a greater number of frames per
second.  Apparently there was a similar problem in filming THE
HOBBIT at 48 frames per second per eye.  I believe the idea had to
be scrapped.  It robbed the film of some of its fantasy.


As Wikipedia says in their "Motion Interpolation" article: "Motion
interpolation or motion-compensated frame interpolation (MCFI) is a
form of video processing in which intermediate animation frames are
generated between existing ones by means of interpolation, in an
attempt to make animation more fluid and to compensate for display
motion blur."

So when Dracula swirls his cape I am seeing it sharper and more
clearly than it was in the 1930 movie theaters.  That can be an
improvement in some ways, but it robs the kindly old bat gentleman
of his dreamlike effect. It looks like a videotaped film.  It is
like a TV soap opera.  You are more aware that you are looking at
an actor made up for the stage.  I guess you have to decide, do you
want to see the master of all the unknown supernatural forces or
would you prefer to see an actor in makeup on a stage?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders (copyright
2016, Tor, copyright 2016 Recorded Books, 12 hours 36 minutes,
$10.99 paperback, ISBN-10: 0765379953, ISBN-13: 978-0765379955,
ASIN: B01A5QB5FW, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan) (excerpt from the
Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

Up until ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, the only other Charlie Jane
Anders fiction I've read was the novelette "Six Months, Three Days"
which won the Best Novelette Hugo in 2012 in Chicago and which was
nominated for several other awards.  It was a brilliant story, but
since I generally don't read a lot of short fiction, I haven't read
anything else of hers.  2017 Hugo finalist ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY
popped up on my radar early last year when there was a lot of buzz
about the book, especially on the Coode Street Podcast.  I'd been
wanting to read the book, but for some reason had made no effort to
do so until it came up as an Audible Deal of the Day.  I snarfed it
up immediately, and was happy to see it was announced as a finalist
for the Best Novel Hugo.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is the story of two people, Patricia and
Laurence.  We follow their story from the time they are children,
around six or seven years of age or so, through their middle school
adolescent years, through high school, and beyond.  Patricia learns
at an early age that she may be able to practice magic--having
birds and a tree talk to you will kind of steer you in that
direction.  Laurence discovers that he has a knack for gadgets; he
invents a device that looks like a wrist watch but is actually a
time machine that moves the wearer two seconds into the future at
the push of a button.  He travels to MIT on his own to witness the
launch of a rocket and meets a bunch of college-age students who
have all invented that same time machine.  His life is never the
same after that.

Patricia and Laurence become friends.  They have a few things in
common, including overbearing parents, being outcasts at school--
and being treated miserably; I think a lot of us can sympathize
with that--and being different.  Laurence, of course, is the nerd
who doesn't like the outdoors.  Patricia is a loner.  They have
their talents, and they share the knowledge of those talents with
each other.  All of this makes them targets for the "in crowd" at
school.  But they are targets in another fashion.  An assassin is
after them, an assassin who believes that they are special, and
will play a big role in the coming apocalypse if they are not
disposed of.

Eventually, Patricia and Laurence drift apart.  They run into each
other now and again, but they travel in different circles.
Laurence is a member of an organization that is working on a secret
project that the group hopes will save humanity from the coming end
times.  Patricia has become a magician and is a member of a local
group of magicians which is working toward the prevention of the
same apocalypse.  Each one of them is special within their own
group, and both play a big part in each organizations plan to save
the world.  As the reader might guess, there's enough going on in
the world without the inevitable confrontation between technology
and magic mucking about with things.  And yet, that confrontation
does happen and does play an important part of the story.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is a brilliant novel, but it's not about
the apocalypse, not by a long shot.  It's a story about
relationships (as was, come to think of it "Six Months, Three
Days"); the relationship between Laurence and Patricia, the
relationship between magic and technology, the relationship between
insiders and outsiders, the relationship between nature and
science, the relationship between those in power and those not in
power.  All these relationships are woven into a tapestry that
tells a terrific story about what may be the end of the world and
how we as a human race, along with a bit of help from technology
and magic, deal with adversity.  Anders makes us care about these
characters, and I think we as readers get a head start in this
department as there are many people who can relate to being treated
as outsiders and outcasts.  We can also relate to finding that
group within which we fit like a glove, and we see that happen for
both Patricia and Laurence.

It's hard to categorize this book as either science fiction or
fantasy, but I don't think there's really a need to do so (unless
the reader really wants to, then the reader can make up their own
minds as to what this book really is).  While magic and technology
are important to the story, they are not the point of the story;
the magic and technology are there as a framework to move the story
along, to help the relationships I've already talked about take
center stage as humanity fights for survival.

The end of the novel is one of the most poignant and lovely scenes
I've read in a very long time.  Both Patricia and Laurence have
suffered great losses along with the rest of humanity, and their
realization that they need each other to move forward and help each
other deal with what's out there makes for one of the best endings
to a novel I've read in a very long time.

Alyssa Bresnahan is, for me, the perfect narrator for the book.
Her ability to switch between the various characters, whether they
be human, animal, or otherwise (hey, I can't give it all away) is
outstanding, as is her ability to provide emotional nuance to each
of the characters as they go through both good and bad times to get
to the end of the world.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY really surprised me.  I didn't know what
to expect as I ventured into it, but what I got was nothing short
of outstanding.  Your version of the end of the world may be
different from this one, but if I had to pick one for myself I
think I'd choose this one.  [-jak]


TOPIC: A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS by Peter F.  Hamilton (copyright 2016,
Del Rey, 721 pp., ebook ISBN 9780345547231, hardback ISBN
9780345547224) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review
by Joe Karpierz)

Peter F.  Hamilton concludes his two-book Chronicle of the Fallers,
a story of the Commonwealth Universe, with the satisfying A NIGHT
WITHOUT STARS.  The novel also seems to be the last of the
Commonwealth novels, but more about that later.

The first novel in the Chronicle of the Fallers, THE ABYSS WITHOUT
DREAMS, ended with the planet Bienvenido and all its occupants--
humans and Fallers alike--being expelled from the Void due to some
work by the ever present Nigel Sheldon into the vastness of space
between galaxies.  It is set some 200 years later than the prior
novel, and the human occupants of Bienvenido are still battling the
fallers.  Complicating the issue is the fact that the humans are
split into two factions:  the Eliters, the technologically capable
and enhanced group; and the rest of humanity, which is almost
luddite in its attitude toward technology.  These are the
descendants of Slvasta, who was a vehement opponent of
technological advances, and is trying to lead the human residents
of Bienvenido away from what he fears will turn the planet into
something like the Commonwealth, who he blamed for the situation
the planet is in.  As a result, the human factions fight against
each other, and can gain no traction against the enemy Fallers.

This blinding hatred of Eliters has, in part, caused humanity to
miss the fact that the Fallers are now planning an all-out attack
on the humans in order to wipe them out and take over the planet.
On their side is an Eliter called the Warrior Angel, but the
current rulers of the planet want nothing to do with her.  The only
real progress humanity is making against the Fallers is a series of
space launches the purpose of which is to attack the Faller "Trees"
that are in orbit, as the Trees are known to be the source of the
attacking Fallers.  One of these flights inadvertently releases and
unusual ship that lands on the planet which contains a baby.  A
local named Florian is charged with taking care of the baby for a
month, at which point things will supposedly look up for the humans
of Bienvenido.  Clearly, the baby is not what it appears to be; it
does, however, appear to hold the key to the survival of the humans
on Bienvenido.

And thus the stage is set for a climactic battle between the humans
and the Fallers.  The path is not easy, as there is much political
maneuvering, back-stabbing, and in-fighting in the human camp,
while the Eliter camp is doing the best it can to save humanity
from both the Fallers and itself.

A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS, while not quite vintage Commonwealth, is
definitely vintage Peter F.  Hamilton:  a large cast of characters,
a grand scope, aliens (friendly and not so friendly), and high
concept scientific maneuverings.  As is also typical with a
Hamilton novel (I keep thinking of the musical Hamilton every time
I type "Hamilton"; I really need to stop that), the story is told
along several fronts which eventually, slowly, and surely come
together for the eventual resolution of the plot and story.

As I read A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS, I couldn't help but see parallels
with what is going on in society today, especially in the U.S.:
technophobes who refuse to accept the benefits of science and
technology, infighting within the government, and potential attacks
from outside (and within).  While this book was written and
published long before the election here in the United States, there
seems to be an eerie parallel between the situations in the novel
and where we reside as a country today.

Earlier I stated that this appears to be the last of the
Commonwealth novels.  After the resolution to the conflict on
Bienvenido, Hamilton takes us on a grand tour of all of the
characters we've become familiar with over the course of seven
novels as the principle characters of A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS are
looking for homes within the Commonwealth:  Edeard, now living in
the Commonwealth after having his own adventures in the Void;
Mellanie; Oscar Munroe; Paula Myo; Nigel Sheldon; and even the
great Ozzie himself gets a mention (although we don't actually get
to see him here).  It's as if the main cast of the Commonwealth is
getting one last bow before riding off into the sunset (although
given that we don't actually see Ozzie here at the end gives me a
slight pause in thinking that this is the last Commonwealth book--
there appears to be a loose end to tie up that may have another
story in it).

If this is truly is the last of the Commonwealth stories, it feels
like A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS ended it in a satisfactory manner.  Like
the individual novels in the saga, the Commonwealth stories have
covered a lot of ground across the grand scope of the universe to
finally come together at the end for one last happy hurrah.  Maybe
there are happy endings after all.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Davy Crockett, Enceladus, HIDDEN FIGURES, and THE RISE OF
THE ROCKET GIRLS (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to Mark's comments on Davy Crockett in the 04/21/17
issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

Well, here we go with a couple brief comments on your latest issue.

You ask at the end of that little bit called "Shades of Gray" if
Davy Crockett passed the Beaver Hat test.  If he had known how
Texas was going to turn out 180 years later, I think he would have
tossed aside his rifle and left without looking back.  [-jp]

In response to Greg Frederick's comments on Enceladus in the same
issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

I like the idea of exploring Enceladus for life forms.  Those deep
sea vents sound like a probable spot for exploration and testing.
This makes sense. Yeah, NASA should focus on Enceladus.  After all,
we were warned to stay away from Europa.  [-jp]

In response to John Hertz's and Evelyn's comments on HIDDEN FIGURES
in the same issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

It is interesting that John Hertz and Evelyn are exchanging
viewpoints on the book HIDDEN FIGURES.  I have yet to read that
book or see the movie based on it, but recently I read THE RISE OF
THE ROCKET GIRLS by Nathalia Holt (2016), and it was wonderful.
last years of World War II, and is essentially a history of the
women who where literally human computers that were behind the
success of first jet and rocket engine tests that would eventually
evolve into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Fascinating book.  I believe it would make the perfect companion

Yeah, that will do it today. Many thanks for the zine, and take
care.  [-jp]


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

NEW YORK 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (ISBN 978-0-316-26234-7) is a
typical Robinson novel, full of environmental and social comment,
and with plenty of info-dumps.  But a few things seemed poorly
thought out.  For example, will the World Trade Organization and
the G-20 still be around in 2140, with those names?  And there are
other details that also seem just too current to be accurate for
120 years in the future.  (The WTO is only a couple of decades old;
the G20 is not even that old.)  And Robinson has two characters
conveniently named Mutt and Jeff (full names Ralph Muttchopf and
Jeff Rosen), and another named Charlotte Armstrong.  (For those not
up on mystery authors, this is like having a character named "Eric

The biggest problem is that the novel is not well structured.  For
three-quarters of it, we get a fairly interesting picture of life
in "drowned New York".  Then we get an eighth of it describing a
monster hurricane, and the last eighth describing the aftermath.
At the very end we get two pages of an unbelievably facile economic
revolution, and then two pages explaining why it may not last.  If
Robinson intended this as a blueprint for social change, he is
certainly over-simplifying how it would work.  (Admittedly there is
a lot of economic info-dump before this, but still, everything runs
far more smoothly than people should expect.)

Let me start by saying that LATIN@ RISING: AN ANTHOLOGY OF LATIN@
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY edited by Matthew David Goodwin (ISBN
978-1-60940-524-3) has (in my opinion) a terrible title. "LATIN@"
does not refer to science fiction and fantasy in Latin.  Nor does
it refer to anything involving email addresses or the Internet.  It
does not even refer to *Latina* science fiction and fantasy.  As
best as I could guess (and googling confirmed this), this is a new
trendy way to combine "Latino" and "Latina" into a single word,
which however is 1) unknown to most people who would see this book
on a shelf, and 2) unpronounceable.

So let me clarify: This book is an anthology of science fiction and
fantasy by authors of both sexes, living in the United States, and
of Latin American origin.

(And while I am complaining, let me add that I hate the paper,
which has some sort of shiny finish that feels funny *and* reflects
the light if held at the wrong angle, making it difficult to read.
I also dislike the weird font used for the titles.  The publisher
is apparently very proud of both of these aspects, announcing on
the last page that the book was printed on "60 pound Anthem Plus
Matte paper, and that the tiles are set in "Aquiline Two, Bickham
Script, and Adobe Caselon type.")

Many of the stories focus on issues of identity, but it would be a
mistake to assume that is necessarily the focus of most Latinic
science fiction and fantasy.  I am sure that it is an important
topic, but it could also be the case that Goodwin was looking for
that type of story in particular, or that it tended to interest him
more.  The identity may be the characters' ancestral background, or
their more recent family history, or their place in a society not
their own, or their transformation by a disease or surgery into
something else, or even that they are a different species.

The problem with anthologies such as this is that they may be
interpreted as representing the entirety of a group.  Goodwin
acknowledges this, but writes, "And while there is not one kind of
U.S. Latin@ experience, there are historically some overlapping
themes, such as migration, colonialism, conflict between Latin@ and
Anglo groups, code-switching between Spanish and English, and an
indigenous political heritage much different from indigenous groups
in the United States." (As an aside, why "Latin@" but not
"Angl@"?) He seems to imply that stories not dealing with these
subjects are anomalies, and the result is that he ends up leaving
the impression that Latinic science fiction and fantasy does not
cover the broad spectrum of science fiction and fantasy in general.

Given all that, I still recommend it--the stories are good stories,
even if the marketing is not what I would have done.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           And this brings me by natural sequence to the great
           drink question.  As you know, of course, the American does
           not drink at meals as a sensible man should.  Indeed, he
           has no meals.  He stuffs for ten minutes thrice a day.
           Also he has no decent notions about the sun being over the
           yardarm or below the horizon.
                                          --Rudyard Kipling