Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/11/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 6, Whole Number 1975

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        What to Look for in the Eclipse
        Bottled Water (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        A Cyber-Crime Too Big to Fail? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        1944 (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        6 DAYS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        "West Wing" (letter of comment by Philip Chee)
                CRYPTOZOIC!, TIME'S ARROW, and "What Has Passed Shall
                in Kinder Light Appear") (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: What to Look for in the Eclipse

Greg Frederick sends us the following from

"The August 21 total eclipse will last several hours.  There will
be many interesting things to look for.  Bookmark this handy
checklist of must-see events and effects, from eclipse gurus Fred
Espenak and Mark Littmann."


TOPIC: Bottled Water (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Has anyone tried this new Poland Spring Concentrate?  Just add
water.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: A Cyber-Crime Too Big to Fail? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I am hearing a lot about cyber-crime these days.  What exactly is
cyber-crime?  In its most general sense it is any criminal activity
that employs computers and/or the Internet.  Types of cyber-crime
include direct attacks on computer systems, cyber-bullying, spam,
phishing, and distribution of child pornography.  Any activity that
is a crime and is assisted by use of computers or the Internet
qualifies.  In addition, there is any activity that may not have
been outlawed because until the cyber-age has not even been
possible but which would be criminal.  This might include some
forms of election tampering.  Drone-spying on a political opponent
would be called cyber-crime.

I have been thinking about election tampering.  Wouldn't it be
possible to modify vote totals and rig election results?   There is
a famous quote attributed to Joseph Stalin (falsely, I believe, but
it does not matter).  He said, or probably did not say, "It's not
the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the
votes."  Votes are count might well be vulnerable to tampering by
hackers.  There is no way to be sure that it is not happening or
that the election software is not hackable.  Well, that sounds bad,
but things have gotten worse.

Hacking the electoral system in the United States is a crime that
strikes me as too big to fail.  What would we do if it were
discovered that Donald Trump paid some large sum of money for
Russian hackers to tip all the right polls in the November
elections so Donald Trump won the November elections?  To impeach
the President for stealing the election would mean admitting to the
world that our electoral system is vulnerable to hacking and was
giving false results.  I doubt that we want to send that message.

I suspect we could never admit that our elections had been hacked.
The hacking would be a crime just too big for us to admit to.  Ask
yourself what would be done if the FBI or CIA or even the NSA were
to discover that Donald Trump paid some amount of money to
completely hack the electoral system to give himself and the
Republican party a huge landslide in the elections.  You could not
make that information public.  They could not go to Hillary Clinton
at this point and tell her that she was now President.  There is at
most one person who is prepared to be President at this point and
that one person is Donald Trump.

What would happen if the world in general were to find out that our
election process had failed and the person serving as President had
no legitimate right to that title?  The only reasonable reaction to
that piece of terrible knowledge would be to hush it up.

It is true that a number of recent votes have gone in unexpected
directions recently.  It was claimed that exit polls showed results
very different than the actual election.  Britain has had the
Brexit referendum and Theresa May's "snap election."  Both had very
unexpected results.  That could be just how it came out or it could
suggest vote total tampering.

The assertion that major tampering has been going on for years is
not really falsifiable.  We might find out that it is true, but we
never can be sure it is false.

It is conceivable (and non-falsifiable) that the hackers as a whole
represent a new political power.  And it is not just another party
to be pleased.  They could conceivably be the most powerful
political force in the world.

Like the coming of the plague to Europe, people had no idea what
was causing the effects they were seeing.  There were all kinds of
crazy-seeming ways to fight the problem, but you were never sure
you were safe.  Charlatans would claim they could protect you and
they might never even know that they themselves were wrong.  [-mrl]


(copyright 2017, McFarland, $25.00, trade paperback, 264pp, Print
ISBN: 978-1-4766-7026-3, Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2966-7) (excerpt
from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

At the risk of repeating myself (see my review of James Gunn's
TRANSGALACTIC back in October of 2016), at the WorldCon in Kansas
City in 2016 I attended a panel made up entirely of SFWA
Grandmasters:  Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg, Larry Niven, Joe
Haldeman, and James Gunn.  Those five science fiction luminaries
represent more combined years of writing and awards than I think
any of us can comprehend.  Of the five, James Gunn has not only
been writing the longest, he's also been with us the longest,
having been born in 1923 (which by my math makes him 94 years old).
To quote a statement that I've read many times in conjunction with
the publication of his autobiography, STAR-BEGOTTEN:  A LIFE LIVED
IN SCIENCE FICTION, Gunn "has been called 'the last Golden Age
author of science fiction.'"  That's probably true, as I can't
think of any other writer still with us that had work published
back in the 1940s (although I'm sure someone who reads this review
will remind me of someone I've forgotten[*]).  The final book in
The Transcendental Machine trilogy, TRANSFORMATION, was just
published by Tor.  While the rest of that illustrious panel are
still active in the field one way or another--either still writing
or attending conventions--it seems that Gunn has decided it's time
to take stock in his life and his contributions to the field of
science fiction, and so he was written STAR-BEGOTTEN to share his
memories with fans and friends.

I've not read many autobiographies that I can remember, if any at
all.  The last biography I read was of the great New York Yankee
Joe DiMaggio (a book which I reviewed in September of 2005).  As a
result, I didn't know what to expect.  I suspect that there are as
many ways to write autobiographies as there are people who write
them.  The way Gunn went about it was to start at the beginning and
go through his life until he got to the present day.  I suppose
that's a pretty good way to do it.  If I lived a life interesting
enough to other people to write an autobiography, I would probably
do it the same way.

What amazes me about Gunn is that he remembers in such detail his
home, neighborhood, and friends growing up.  1923 is a long time
ago, and while he obviously doesn't remember events starting at
birth, it seems as if he remembers everything in vivid detail from
those long ago days.  Later on in the book he does admit that he
doesn't remember everything any more, and honestly who would when
you're 94 years old?

The subtitle of this book is "A Life Lived in Science Fiction".
It's a bit misleading, perhaps, in that a good portion of Gunn's
life was spent outside of science fiction, including spending time
in the military and in administrative academia.  However, he does
recall an incident early in his life in which he went to hear H.G.
Wells speak.  It was that event which probably sent him on the path
toward his prolific writing career and his eventually being named
an SWFA Grandmaster.  Along the way, we learn about Gunn's fits and
starts with writing, college education, and romance.  We learn
about his life with his family and how they shaped and supported
his career.  And of course, we do learn about the fiction and non-
fiction he wrote and was involved with all along the way.

And certainly that's a long career, a career that saw him crossing
paths with some of the biggest names of the field from the past:
Fred Pohl, Ted Sturgeon, Damon Knight, Cliff Simak, Horace Gold,
John W. Campbell, John Brunner, Samuel R. Delany, and others. We
learn about his involvement with teaching students about science
fiction, both by creating college level classes in the field and
traveling the world to spread the word about the genre. Gunn indeed
is a force for spreading the word about how the field works and
about how it influences our lives.  He was always willing to lend
his name and time to endeavors that would enlighten people about
science fiction.  I suspect that while there is a significant
number of writers that are more prolific with regard to their
fiction than Gunn, I believe that his contributions to globally
spreading the word about the field may be unmatched.

What's also fascinating is that Gunn has been around long enough to
see the transformation of the field from the Golden Age of the 40s
through today, from a time when there were few enough personalities
in the field that he could know most of them, to today where if you
know who a handful of them are you're doing a good job.  In that
way, STAR-BEGOTTEN provides an interesting insight into the massive
change in the field in the last 70 years.  Indeed, if you look at
the list of names I provided in the last paragraph, other than
Delany, you won't find any diversity at all.  Today's field would
be unrecognizable to that H.G. Wells of long ago, but Gunn has seen
that change and continues to be part of it.

If I have one issue with the book, it is that there is a lot of
repetition--Gunn repeats events and stories multiple times during
the book.  This jarred me out of the book on occasion, but in the
long run it didn't significantly detract from the memoir.

As I've said a couple of times, James Gunn is 94.  If this is the
last thing he writes before he calls it a career, STAR-BEGOTTEN is
a fitting end to his life in science fiction.  [-jak]

[*] Robert A. Madle published "Black Adventure" in "Science-Fantasy
Correspondent", March-April 1937.  This is from the 1930s.
Ironically, I cannot find a true example from the 1940s, though
Donald Kingsbury did have two letters published in "Astounding", in
1945 and 1949.  There are other possibilities from the ISFDB, but
these are mostly for very obscure authors for whom no death date is
known.  Given that some of them would be 115, I suspect they are in
fact no longer alive.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: 1944 (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In 1944 Estonia was torn between Estonians who were forced
to battle the Germans and Estonians who were forced to battle the
Soviets.  Elmo Nuganen's film 1944 tells a story of a country on
the Eastern Front being torn apart.  Nuganen gives us some striking
recreations of battles and of the effect on the Estonians caught
vise-like between two ruthless war machines.  Perhaps this film is
just one cut below the current DUNKIRK.  This is a chapter of
history that deserves to be better known.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or

In 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed their infamous Non-
Aggression Pact.  Stalin was guaranteed that by the pact that the
USSR would be safe from attack by a Germany that did not feel bound
by it agreements.  Stalin, then feeling safe from attack by Germany
invaded countries he wanted to swallow into the Soviet Union,
Estonia among them.  The following year Stalin went ahead and
incorporated Estonia into the Soviet Union.  To make his point he
took 55,000 Estonian men and mobilized them into the Soviet Army.
In 1941 the German military, now declaring itself at war with the
Soviets, invaded Estonia and drafted 72,000 Estonians into its own
German Waffen-SS.  Like an imposed civil war, that meant that
Estonians were at war with other Estonians.  Most Americans have
been taught little of this military history.  Much of the history
in this film may be unfamiliar for most American viewers.

The film 1944 takes place July to November 1944 from the Battle of
Tannenberg Line to the Battle of Tehumardi and the interval
between.  Estonia is at war with itself while Red troops fight
against German troops.  The Germans hypocritically tell their
Estonian conscripts, virtually a slave army, that it is an honor to
fight for Hitler and supposedly that it has been discovered that
Estonians are really Aryan just like the Germans and they are all
fighting for a happy and bright future in the Greater German Reich.
Somehow the soldiers forced to fight do not seem to be convinced.

1944 gives the viewer a vivid experience of tank and machine gun
warfare, but a somewhat softened view of trench warfare.  We see
the war for Estonia from the point of view of soldiers fighting for
the Germans and soldiers fighting for the Soviets, each destroying
the country of his birth for the benefit of a foreign dictator he

This film is probably being released currently in the United States
to appeal to the people who liked Christopher Nolan's currently
released film DUNKIRK.  The battle scenes are strong material, but
they do not have the personal feel that the close-ups of soldiers
in battle have in DUNKIRK.  The attention to detail in uniforms and
weaponry is reportedly very good.  However, the uninitiated in WWII
history may have trouble telling who is with what faction and what
is happening to whom.

The film is offered for sale on DVD with optional English dubbing,
but the dubbing sounds like it was recorded on a sound stage. The
voices neither fit the actors' looks, nor their persona.
Occasionally the words are off by half a second.

I rate 1944 a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

1944 is available in on DVD with a choice of Estonian with English
subtitles, or with English dubbing.  Given a choice take the
subtitles which have a much more realistic feel than the dubbing.
The DVD currently is a Wal-Mart exclusive.  The film is also
available on digital.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: 6 DAYS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: 6 DAYS, a UK/New-Zealand co-production, is a docudrama re-
creating the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London.  Iranian
terrorists wanted to force Britain to exert its (dubious) influence
on the Iranian government to release 91 Arab prisoners.  The
account is tense but has few or no serious discrepancies with the
BBC account of the incident (on YouTube).  Still, one hostage
crisis film may be a lot like another.  Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4)
or 7/10

6 DAYS is the story of the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege that took
place in the area known as Princess Gate in the heart of London,
yet it really was aimed at the Iranian government 3400 miles away.
To put the time in historical perspective, both Margaret Thatcher's
term as UK Prime Minister and the Iran Hostage Crisis began the
previous year.  Both influence the embassy siege.

A breakaway faction in Iran calling itself the "Democratic
Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan" wanted to cut
out a piece of Southern Iran, then called Khuzestan and declare it
Arabistan.  It would be a refuge for Arabic speaking Iranians who
are persecuted other places in Iran.

At 11:30 AM Wednesday, April 30, 1980, six heavily armed gunmen
occupied the Iranian Embassy in London and took 26 hostages.  The
immediate goal of the action was to force the Iranian government to
release 91 political prisoners, advocates of the Arabistan
movement.  They also demanded to be given a plane to take the
terrorists and their hostages out of the UK.  As the title suggests
the film follows the events of the six days of the terrorists
occupying the embassy. At the same time the Special Air Service
(SAS)--the elite special forces unit of the British Army--and the
Metropolitan police will both try to rescue the 91 hostages.  We
see six days of negotiation, lies, and bargains.  One demand that
can be complied with: the terrorists want their action covered by
the BBC.  The BBC is more than happy to cover the story.

We see the events primarily from two points of view.  Max (played
by Mark Strong) is the negotiator from the metropolitan police.
Working somewhat at cross-purposes is the military SAS, represented
by Rusty (Jamie Bell).  Glenn Standring's screenplay is devoted
almost entirely to the siege, with no side plots or subplots.  Max
does have two daughters who see him on TV.  That is about it.  From
the start the entire operation was botched.  It is not clear why
the terrorists thought the UK could help the hostage-takers.  Iran
and the UK at this time were adversaries.

Mark Strong is a good actor with striking looks, but until now I
have seen him in only supporting roles.  In THE IMITATION GAME he
played a government official.  In JOHN CARTER he was some kind of
secret alien overlord sort of thing.  It is also good to see Tim
Pigott-Smith is still around and making films.  Music by Lachlan
Anderson is just jarring texture with no melody.

Perhaps the biggest problem with 6 DAYS is not the fault of the
account specifically.  Plots of hostage crises and negotiations for
release are very common.  It is hard to find much here that is new
and creative.  If one discounts the violence in 6 DAYS, this film
is a lot like DOG DAY AFTERNOON or INSIDE MAN.  I rate 6 DAYS a low
+2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Release date: August 18.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

BBC documentary on the Iranian Embassy Siege



TOPIC: "West Wing" (letter of comment by Philip Chee)

In response to Mark's comments on "West Wing" in the 08/04/17 issue
of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

[Mark wrote,] "With Trump as President things in politics seems so
changeable these days.  If "West Wing" were revived and set in the
present it  would essentially be an anthology series with mostly
new characters each week."

I haven't been following U.S. politics for a while but I get the
impression that they have some sort of civil war going on both in
the administration and in the alt-right community.
Is there a TL;DR summary of the current state of affairs?  [-pc]

Evelyn responds:

I can't give you a "TL;DR summary" (isn't a "too-long-didn't-read
summary" an oxymoron), but for the benefit of our non-US members,
here is a short list of the people who have come and gone (and the
number of days they were in office under Trump) would include:

Sally Yates, former US deputy attorney general (10)
Michael Flynn, former national security adviser (23)
James Comey, former FBI director (10)
Mike Dubke, former White House communications director (86)
Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary (182)
Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff (189)
Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director (11)
Katie Walsh, former deputy chief of staff
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics



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

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived
forwards."  --Soren Kiekegaard

The theme of this column is time running backward.  I saw the film
MY TOMORROW, YOUR YESTERDAY which uses this idea (somewhat) and I
got to thinking that there have not been all that many books with
it.  So I figured it would try to read all of them to which I could
find a reference--all five.

Well, only four and a chapter.  The first known instance was
Chapter 23 of SYLVIE AND BRUNO (1889, ISBN 978-1-548-52393-0), in
which Bruno has a magical watch that includes a "reversal-peg"
which supposedly reverses time.  And it does--sort of.  The girls
are "un-embroidering" quite accurately, and the conversation
sentences are in reverse order, but each sentence has its words in
normal order, and each word's phonemes are in normal order.  (We
know this because Bruno understands them all perfectly.)  As long
as you have dialogue in a time-reversal story in which the point-
of-view character is not reversed, this problem will persist.

COUNTER-CLOCK WORLD by Philip K. Dick (1967, ISBN 978-0-547-57219-
2) does not postulate that all time is reversed, just that (some)
organic processes are.  It is more a "Benjamin Button" [1]
scenario, although apparently digestion, and even food preparation,
also work backwards.  Dick is not too specific on how food enters
the body, but his people who have risen from the dead extract food
from their mouths, put it on plates where it reforms with what is
there already, and then uncook it and return it to what we would
think of as its original sources.  Dick is also not clear on
whether this affects only humans or all life forms.  (One presumes
if the meat re-attaches to the steak and the steak gets uncooked,
it must somehow ultimately get re-attached to the cow, which then
... comes alive again?

Because it is not a universal phenomenon, the language issue is not
a problem.  Nevertheless, people start conversations with "goodbye"
and end with "hello."  Maybe this is just an affection to
acknowledge the organic reversal.  The other affectation (and
clearly both of these were consciously adopted after the reversal
effect started) is that the mouth becomes the obscene end of the
digestive tract (as in calling someone a "horse's mouth"), and the
new expletive is "Feood!"  Cute, but not likely.

So the time reversal in COUNTER-CLOCK WORLD is only partial, which
does avoid the language issue but is extremely paradoxical from a
physics standpoint.
CRYPTOZOIC! by Brian Aldiss (ISBN 978-1-497-63758-0), it turns out,
is mostly a straight time-travel novel.  There is a notion of time
being reversed, but it is not the main part of the novel, and since
this seems to be an example of the "New Wave", it was almost
impossible to follow it.

TIME'S ARROW by Martin Amis (ISBN 978-0-679-73572-0) is the truest
to the concept of time flowing backward.  Early on, we discover
that the narrator is apparently a separate consciousness in Tod
Friendly's body who has some inkling that the "time reversal"
universe Friendly is living in is "wrong."  As he says early on,
"Wait a minute.  Why am I walking *backward* into the house?  Wait.
Is it dusk coming, or is it dawn?  What is the--what is the
sequence of the journey I am on?  What are its rules?  Why are the
birds singing so strangely?  Where am I heading?"

And later the narrator sees the dates going from October 2 to
October 1 to September 30 on the newspaper Friendly reads, and asks
"How do you figure *that*? ...  The mad are said to keep a film or
stage set on their heads,which they order and art-decorate and move
through.  But Tod is sane, apparently, and his world is shared.  It
just seems to me that the film is running backward."

The narrator gives us a phonetic example of people talking--and
here Amis covers the language issue, because it is as if it were a
record being played backward: "dug" rather than "good" and "aid ut
oo y'rrah" rather than "how're you today?"  The narrator explains
he found this (and the birds singing, and other sounds)
incomprehensible at first, but learned to understand them, and
hence what we get for the dialogue in the rest of the novel is
really a translation.

*Why* the narrator has a sense that time should go in "our"
direction and not "Tod's" is never explained.  He certainly has no
explanation, even though he recognizes it.  Once, after relating a
conversation between Tod and a woman, the narrator says, "I have
noticed in the past that most conversations would make better sense
if you ran them backward[2].  But with this man-woman stuff, you
could run them any way you liked--and still get no further

Though he senses a reversal, the narrator's memory works in the
flow of Tod's world--he has no foreknowledge of what is coming,
which would correspond to our past.

But in addition to a stricter adherence to the "rules" of time
reversal, Amis's novel is richer and deeper than the other works I
have mentioned.  As I wrote when I first read TIME'S ARROW in 1992:

All this sounds somewhat frivolous.  But Amis is not being
frivolous.  [Friendly] turns out to be (have been?) a doctor in
Auschwitz and part--but only part--of what Amis is doing is showing
how much of life and our existence makes more sense when lived
backward.  Ecologically, for example, turning cars into iron ore
and replacing it in the earth has a certain appeal that going in
the other direction lacks.  And clearly the Holocaust makes more
sense run backwards than forwards.  Many authors and philosophers
have tried to make sense of the Holocaust and, while it's not clear
that Amis's approach provides any practical answers, it does
highlight how the Holocaust may be the archetypal example of
humanity's tendency to do precisely the reverse of what makes
sense.  Conversely, of course, the normal function of a doctor (Tod
T. Friendly's profession) makes more sense forward than backward.
So in both our timeline and the reverse Tod T. Friendly (a name
chosen with great care by Amis) moves from sin/evil to redemption--
in a sense, anyway, though the actual situation is far more

The last work I read, "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light
Appear", Bao Shu (pen name for Li Jun) (F&SF 03-04/15, and picked
up for two "Year's Best" anthologies), is the most recent "time-
reversal" work, although what is reversed here is not time per se,
but cultural progress.  As such, I suppose it technically does not
belong here, but it *feels* like time reversal--certainly as much
as COUNTER-CLOCK WORLD.  There may be more of this sort of work,
under a different classification.  When I first reviewed it, I
said, "It is not a time travel story, though it has some ideas in
common with that genre, and it is not an alternate history, though
it has some ideas in common with that genre as well.  Its
underlying premise has been done before, though Bao Shu has a major
variation from all the examples I have read before."  The major
premise was the reversal, though I wanted to avoid mentioning it

[1] "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
does not count, because *time* is not running backward, nor is
Button living backward.  His memory (and his digestion) is running
in the same temporal direction as everyone else; it is just that
his physical body is getting biologically younger rather than older
as time progresses.

[2] That is to say, *backward* in Tod's world, but in the direction
of *our* world.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Dogs are getting bigger, according to a leading dog
                                          --Leo Rosten