Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/30/17 --- Vol. 35, No. 53, Whole Number 1969

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Things We Share (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Free Libraries Shaped Like TARDISes (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper
        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in July (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        A QUIET PASSION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Minions (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
        AN ECONOMIST GETS LUNCH (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        BEFORE THE DAWN (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        This Week's Reading (Hugo novelette and short story
                finalists) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Things We Share (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Evelyn, who is annotating Moby Dick (don't ask), said her next
project would be remembrance of things past.  I have the same
project.  In fact, I have a problem with remembrance of things
present.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Free Libraries Shaped Like TARDISes (comments by Evelyn
C. Leeper)

An article in Open Culture reports, "Free Libraries Shaped Like
Doctor Who's Time-Traveling TARDIS Pop Up in Detroit, Saskatoon,
Macon & Other Cities":

I guess that would be very handy, because you could fit a lot more
books in it than its exterior size would indicate.  [-ecl]


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

Note that this has been revised since the last schedule!

July 13: LIMITLESS (2011) & "Limitless" ("The Dark Fields")
        by Alan Glynn, ,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
July 14: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), Middletown (NJ) Public
        Library, 12N
July 27: THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF by David Gerrold, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
August 10: THE MARTIAN (2015) & THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
August 11: HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 14: QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) & "Aficionado"
        by David Brin,,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
September 28: THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genevieve Cogman, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
October 12: SOLARIS (1972) & SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
October 13: THE EXORCIST (1973), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
November 9: CAT PEOPLE (1942) & "The Bagheeta" by Val Lewton
        (available in Marvin Kaye's WEIRD TALES and Peter Haining's
        VAMPIRE OMNIBUS), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
November 10: CACHE' (2005), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
November 16: THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
December 8: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) or JOYEUX NOEL (2005),
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
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 July (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Well, we are heading into the hot days of summer.  It is not a bad
time to spend an evening or two watching a late sunset with one eye
and to watch a classic movie with the other eye.  Put on a fan or
an air conditioner and get into a movie.  Well, the month has 1-2/3
of my favorite science fiction films.  What happened to the missing
third?  I will explain that below.  Each film starts with a
deceptively simple discovery, but the results get bigger and bigger
until it will alter our conception of humanity as a species.  They
may well be the two most intelligent science fiction films of the
20th century.  One is about a discovery that would change the
nature of the human race and one is about a discovery that may
already have changed it.

FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1968) is perhaps known better under
the original British title, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.  While digging
a tunnel for a new underground (subway) extension in London,
workmen find humanoid fossils that appear to be five million years
old.  In the same plot of land they find an un-exploded German V-
weapon of WWII.  The odd thing is that they had to both have
arrived at the same time.  Investigating the two finds is Bernard
Quatermass of the British Rocket Group.  Before Quatermass is done,
he will have found explanations for psychic powers, race prejudice,
ghosts, Satanism, why different cultures seem to develop similar
mythology, and much more in one neat little surprise package ready
to explode.  The film is clever and totally engrossing.  (When our
science fiction club in college showed it, the projectionist was
complaining he had expected to study for his French exam while the
film was playing.  But once the film had started he could not take
his eyes off the screen.)

This is the third film (and most people consider it the best film)
in Nigel Kneale's four-film series about Professor Quatermass.
Each film is about some form of alien invasion.  The film
perennially shows up on people's lists of their top ten science
fiction films.  [Saturday, July 15, 6:00PM]

BRAINSTORM (1983) started as a very good science fiction film that
had terrible luck and went bad.  This is the film that Natalie Wood
died while making.  She had a terrible fear of water and apparently
accidentally drowned.  I doubt the film was being shot in
chronological order but just about at the two-thirds point this
intelligent, interesting film left its intelligence behind it as
well as having Natalie Wood go absent.  Obviously some compromises
had to be made to get as much as possible on the screen.  But the
film has a change in style and not for the better.

A high-tech company is working on a new entertainment device.  The
idea is to physically record a brain's sensory experience while
bobsledding or going down a water slide.  Once it is recorded it
can be played back into the users' brains and they can have the
same sensory experience.

The viewer slowly recognizes this little entertainment device will
have huge potential to change humanity.  The film's portrayal of
the research community is about as accurate as any film I have ever
seen.  This is a film that could have dozens of sequels as we see
the ramifications of what is essentially electronic telepathy.
Also starring are Christopher Walken and Louise Fletcher.
[Thursday, July 20, 6:00PM]

Alfred Hitchcock's FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) is not really one
of his better-remembered films in spite of the fact that it has
many sequences that are unforgettable.  One odd touch is that
through most of the film the characters never mention who the enemy
agents are.  They are never called "German" or "Nazi" until near
the end of the film.  As long as Germany was not at war with
Britain the dialog was discrete and did not say anything that would
screw up distribution in Germany.  Then when the shooting was
nearly complete WWII started and Hitchcock worked in one line to
confirm that the bad guys were the same bad guys that Britain was
fighting.  There is probably as much suspense in this film as there
is in later Hitchcock films such as NORTH BY NORTHWEST.  Hitchcock
imaginatively films a chase shot from overhead letting umbrellas
hide and reveal the goings on.  A German assassin is played by
about the last actor you would expect.  And the highpoint is a
plane crash shot from the pilot's cabin.  This film was still about
fifteen years before Hitchcock would hit his stride in Technicolor.
But this is a film too often neglected by the fans and the critics.
[Wednesday July 12, 10:30 PM]

But for Hitchcock fans that is not the only Hitchcock film.  Not by
a long shot.

I won't list a best single film of the month of July.  Instead, I
will point out Alfred Hitchcock's entire oeuvre, which seems to be
showing on TCM.  I am not sure every single film he directed will
be shown.  They will be presented every Wednesday and Friday from 8
PM to about 5:30 the following morning.



TOPIC: A QUIET PASSION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Writer/director Terence Davies gives us a biography of
Emily Dickinson.  The film is A QUIET PASSION.  It has too much
quiet and not enough passion.  The poet led a dry and stilted life
and that really comes through in this dry and stilted drama.  That
may not be Davies' fault.  Emily Dickinson is just not the most
promising screen subject.  Through most of her life she shut out
the world and did not come alive.  And it was optimistic to think
she would come alive on the screen.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or

Emily Dickenson wrote very good poetry, but its virtues do not
translate well to the screen.  Even the title suggests that the
passion is so quiet you might miss it.  This is a biographical film
about Emily Dickinson, the Amherst, Massachusetts, poet who
retreated to living in an attic and who then led an ascetic life
writing poems and growing old.  This subject does not seem as if it
would make for cinema with much cinematic appeal.  And indeed the
film is not all that different from what it might have been
expected to be.  Emily has a bit more spirit than expected, but
rather than compensating for an unexciting figure of literature,
Terence Davies, who wrote and directed, slows down the entire film
to a pacing that Emily might have preferred.  At times the film
slows to a minimal pace as the camera sits on a silent character or
pans slowly around the room.  The music is mostly songs of the
period.  (Emily lived from 1830 to 1886.)  More often the mood is
created by having Cynthia Nixon, who plays the adult Emily, read a
poem or two in voice-over.  The relation between the plot and the
chosen poem is not always obvious.  Cinematography by Florian
Hoffmeister is subtle and does not call attention to itself, but it
is one of the better features of the film.

As a youth Emily (young she is played by Emma Bell, as an adult by
Cynthia Nixon) seems to have had some inner fire.  Later events
will test her liberal viewpoint.  As the film opens Emily is a
schoolgirl who finds that teachers, graduation speakers, and even
relatives seem to constantly lecture Emily on religion.  One gets
the impression that in this society everyone preaches to everyone
else.  Emily has the backbone to stand up to the efforts and though
she does seem to have some belief in God, she is not going to let
others tell her what to think.  Davies' dialog is quick to define a
character, but it is spoken like the diction in a live play.  There
is a pause between sentences so the listener can catch up.

When Emily does exhibit some wit the viewer is left wondering where
it came from.  Everybody seems to stand in line to judge Emily.
And Emily seems to forever be fighting convention, but she leads
such a stilted life she makes convention seem like the better

Emily Dickinson may have been a great poet, but this is not such a
great film.  I rate A QUIET PASSION a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale
or 5/10.  It will be on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray beginning July 11,

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Minions (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)

In response to Mark's comments on minions of evil in the 06/23/17
issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:

[Mark wrote,] "I guess when all you are is a superhero, everything
looks like a minion of evil."

Even when all you are is a stamp collector (or a Disney animation


Mark responds:

These are minions of commercialization.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: AN ECONOMIST GETS LUNCH (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Evelyn's comments on AN ECONOMIST GETS LUNCH in the
07/13/12 (!) issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Back in MT Void Vol. 31, No. 2, Whole Number 1710, Evelyn reviewed
a book I may go get:


She wrote this, which begs a reminiscence:

As for why most American food is--or at least was--fairly mediocre,
Cowen's theory is that the causes are primarily:
-- the bars to immigration between 1920 and 1968
-- Prohibition (which closed a lot of high-quality restaurants)
-- World War II (women working in war jobs needed convenience more
    than high-quality, and the high-quality meat was reserved for
    the military anyway)
-- television (we want to prepare and eat quickly so we can watch
-- spoiled children (our children want bland, simple, sweet foods,
    so we give them to them, while in other countries, children eat
    what the parents decide to serve them)

About thirty years ago the editor and principal writer of THE
ABSOLUTE SOUND (a high-end audio journal) wrote, in response to a
letter recommending some future content:

"My readers don't know what they want until I give it to them"

I believe the best creatives follow something like this principle,
at least in that they create what they themselves would want to
read/hear/view (eat, see below).

I can honestly vouch for the idea that parenting is very creative
as well, the goal of which is to rear the children that parents
want.  So far we have succeeded, in that my progeny were, as
children, fully capable of and willing to converse engagingly with
adults. Not only that they are now fully capable of intellectually
entertaining me as young adults.

(And the "arguments" are the best.)

Anyway, it is hardly news that parental "advice" has been readily
available to Americans since well before Benjamin Spock.  Can't say
much about Dr. Spock but I have noticed various corrupt parenting
theories uncritically repeated over recent decades, mostly in
newspapers and magazines--so corrupt, that the best one can say is
that practicing them amounts to an abdication of parental duties
and a relinquishing of parental prerogatives.


All this is too serious, so I'll come back to the idea of what
children "want to eat".  My daughter was not yet one year old when
a 1995 or '96 Slate article passed through my b#!!$#!t filter. The
premise was that any child will Learn to Eat anything that you feed
her at least ten times.  This was duly passed on to the missus, who
would have prepared foods that Mom and Dad liked to eat, anyway.

(Perhaps it helped that we are none too fond of "kid food" -- mac-
n-cheese, hot-dogs, frozen-pizza's, grilled-cheese sandwiches, and
the like.)

I don't recall if we ever got "food requests" from our offspring--
if we did, Mom greeted them with benign neglect.

One December evening after work I got a "field report" from
Grandma.  That day at Preschool, they celebrated Kwanzaa by serving
"African foods" for lunch.  This was greeted by various child's
objections to their apparent novelty.  Grandma reported that our
mixed-doubles team just tucked in and ate.

Fast forward to a "sleepover" by a ten-year-old neighbor boy, who,
unprecedented in my experience, walked away hungry from our dinner

(And I still laugh up my sleeve at the memory.)

So I guess we live in another country where "children eat what the
parents decide to serve them".

Now off to find that book (thanks to Evelyn)!  [-js]


TOPIC: BEFORE THE DAWN (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Dale Skran's review of BEFORE THE DAWN in the
01/03/14 (!) issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Calling to Dale's review of Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn I offer
the following:

Continuing work on the Human Genome has pushed back the most-likely
date for the Y-chromosomal Adam (the single man who is our male
common ancestor).

In 2004 Wade reported that the "Y-chromosomal most recent common
ancestor" was about 50,000 BC. Now the date is 200,000-300,000 BC.
See here for a somewhat penetrable treatment:

Related--Dawkins has updated his earlier work, which starts with
Homo Sapiens, but goes much farther back:


Finally, a GoodReads friend made note of:


On first impression both are worthy of at least a dip or two--
though I recommend starting with the Dawkins at the beginning.

THE GENE has, somewhere in middle, a short (3-4 page) treatment of
genetics as pertaining to race--one that should satisfy those who
think the race is a only a "social-construct" as well as
scientists, who know that the genetic record shows the race is much
more than that (and me, who regards race as a common-sense way to
classify folks--with no need whatever to use race as a means to
exclude and/or mistreat anyone).  [-js]


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

Last week I covered the Hugo novella finalists; this week I'll do
the novelette and short stories.

Best Novelette

"Alien Stripper Boned From Behind by the T-Rex" by Stix Hiscock
(self-published): This was one of the finalists that got on the
ballot by a concerted effort by the Rabid Puppies.  I cannot say I
was sorry to find it was unavailable free.

"The Art of Space Travel" by Nina Allan (, July 2016): This
is more a story about dreams for one's future than a science
fiction story.  Even the inclusion of a couple of Mars missions as
catalysts and focal points does not make it science fiction.

"The Jewel and Her Lapidary" by Fran Wilde ( publishing, May
2016): Only an excerpt of this was available free on-line, and
apparently the entire novelette is being marketed as a stand-alone
book: 96 pages for $10.99.  (It is $2.99 as an e-book, which seems
more in line for a work of under 17,500 words.)

"The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon  (Apex Magazine, January 2016):
There frequently seems to be a trend in Hugo-finalist stories in a
given year.  This year, two of the short story finalists are set in
the American Southwest.  This is in the "shape-shifter" tradition
of that region; "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" (see below)
takes a different direction.  To me, this eems to have more of a
sense of place than the other.

"Touring with the Alien" by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld
Magazine, April 2016): This seems to hearken back to classic
science fiction without seeming outdated.  The discussion about the
relationship between intelligence and consciousness is of course
part of the larger discussion currently going on in society in
general about the relationship between intelligence and self-
awareness, or intelligence and a sense of past and future, or
intelligence and any number of other concepts that people seem to
want to either conflate with intelligence, or say are required for
a being to be intelligent.  Definitely a thought-provoking story
(and in my opinion, an interesting companion piece vis-a-vis alien
intelligence with Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life").

"You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny
Magazine, May 2016): This is the other "American Southwest"
story, and it is basically a zombie story.  It is good, but it
did not seem to "flow" from its setting the way "The Tomato Thief"

My ranking: "Touring with the Alien", "The Tomato Thief", "You'll
Surely Drown Here If You Stay", no award, "The Art of Space Travel"
Not ranked: "Alien Stripper Boned From Behind by the T-Rex", "The
Jewel and Her Lapidary"

Best Short Story

"The City Born Great" by N. K. Jemisin (, September 2016):
In my opinion, this carries the metaphor of a city as a living
being a bit too far, but your mileage may vary.  Clearly, this is
part of the new(-ish) trend toward more literary science fiction
(fantasy?); it would never have appeared in the classic science
fiction digests.  Well, *possibly* THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND
SCIENCE FICTION, but even that seems iffy.

"A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers", by Alyssa
Wong (, March 2016)+: It may be time to admit that science
fiction has passed me by.  I mean, I understood the general plot
(serial apocalypses), but the writing style just left me confused
and uninterested.

"Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies" by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny
Magazine, November 2016): Okay, a short story doesn't give you much
room to develop a story, but surely one could develop more than
this, which is little more than "boy kills girl, girl takes
revenge", although "girl" is not entirely accurate).

"Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood:
New Fairy Tales, Saga Press): This is yet another re-imagining of
the various tropes of fairy tales--a bit didactic, but then fairy
tales have traditionally come with morals or messages of some sort,
so I suppose this one should also.

"That Game We Played During the War" by Carrie Vaughn
(, March 2016): How do you play a game like chess which
requires analyzing and planning, with a telepathic alien?  Vaughn
has an idea and the implications of it are intriguing.

"An Unimaginable Light" by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia
House): Another "Rapid Puppies" choice, and unavailable without

My ranking: "The City Born Great", "That Game We Played During the
War", no award, "Seasons of Glass and Iron", "A Fist of
Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers", "Our Talons Can Crush
Not read: "An Unimaginable Light"



                                           Mark Leeper

           [writing to a magazine that had published his obituary]
           I've just read that I am dead.  Don't forget to delete me
           from your list of subscribers.
                                          --Rudyard Kipling