THE MT VOID
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/01/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 9, Whole Number 1978
Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, email@example.com
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Greece Trip Report and Philcon Convention Reports
(comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
Grocery of the Living Dead (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
Of Kangaroos and Thinking Cars (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
ANTI-MATTER (a.k.a. WORMS) (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi
(audiobook review by Joe Karpierz)
NEVER LET GO (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
1977, TAFF, Worldcon, Television Shows, HAROLD AND LILLIAN,
and THE MARTIAN (letter of comment by John Purcell)
This Week's Reading (THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Greece Trip Report and Philcon Convention Reports (comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
My trip report on our vacation to Greece earlier this year is
My con reports for Philcon 2015 and Philcon 2016 are available at:
TOPIC: Grocery of the Living Dead (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
Evelyn goes to a grocery store called Aldi that seems to attract
people to the store. Any time we go in we see these people
wandering the aisles listlessly. (I guess a few have shopping
lists.) But I look at them and ask myself, "Aldi lonely people,
where do they all come from?" [-mrl]
TOPIC: Of Kangaroos and Thinking Cars (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
I remember hearing long ago that Australia had a serious traffic
hazard in places where you might least expect a traffic hazard.
The problem is something we could call kangaroo manners. If a
kangaroo intends to cross a road he/she will carefully walk
(bounce?) up to the road safely on his side of the road. The roo
will very politely look both ways and then will bound across the
road regardless of anything that is coming. Kangaroos assume that
anybody else will watch out for them. Why not? They are bouncing
along on this flat land. They are nice and visible and the masters
of creation in these parts. It is just part of driving in
Australia that the driver knows that he/she needs to watch out for
kangaroos. The kangaroo may do just about anything when crossing a
road so the driver has to be prepared for just about anything.
Sometimes that is possible and sometimes it is not. That is why in
Australia 90% of car collisions involve a kangaroo doing something
Well, this sounds like a cute little animal story. It really is a
story about technology. Recently something happened that
constituted a new threat to kangaroos. The new thing in their
lives is the driverless car. There are lots of animals that might
be hit and injured by driverless cars. But there is software in
the driverless car system that knows how to avoid all of the common
breeds of moving wildlife. If an emu steps in front of an
approaching driverless car the software guiding the car knows an
evasive maneuver so car, passengers, and emu all will get home that
night and the emu will have a heroic story to tell its family of
how it beat one of those... those funny shiny things... You know.
Anyway, the problem that Volvo engineers are having is that the
kangaroo has a distinctly different behavior from just about any
other animal. Well, you can guess it if you just look at one, with
those weird back legs and the I-don't-care look in its eyes. And
those legs are the key to the whole problem. Most animals pace or
run. Kangaroos bounce. The car judges where the animals it sees
are by how the leg moves forward and back over the ground. A
kangaroo's legs do not move forward and back. They go up and down.
On dry land a kangaroo cannot move his/her hind legs apart from
each other. The two legs act as one and the tail is used for
balance. It is basically a different means of locomotion. It is
very hard to associate the leg with a point on the ground. I bet
your current car does not have a kangaroo tracking system. In the
future it will.
So maybe Volvo engineers can figure out how their cars can react
safely in the presence of a hopping crazy roo. Does that mean your
Toyota in Canada will have to know how to react to kangaroos in
Australia? After all you may want to ship your car to Australia
and to drive it there. It will need the kangaroo software package.
I wonder how many other breeds of animal will all cars have to know
See the Guardian article on this problem at:
TOPIC: ANTI-MATTER (a.k.a. WORMS) (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
CAPSULE: Quantum teleportation may have side effects. This film is
like a Whitman Sampler of cutting edge physics ideas packed into a
science fiction mystery. ANTI-MATTER is very much auteur science
fiction. Newcomer Keir Burrows writes and directs based on his own
story. This is a film that could well earn a cult following.
There is little visual flash to the story but it is an accomplished
technical mystery. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
The technical revolution in filmmaking is allowing some films to be
made at a small fraction of what they would have cost a few decades
ago. This means if a young filmmaker comes along with a good idea
for a science fiction plot, it is not so hard to turn it into a
film. So we are getting better science fiction films made without
being hampered so much by budget constraints. Examples include
time travel films like PREDESTINATION, CHRONO-CRIMES, and PRIMER.
The latter involves a group of young science entrepreneurs who
accidentally find a means of time traveling, strictly to their own
disadvantage. ANTI-MATTER feels like it will be this year's PRIMER
and has much of the same look and feel. Probably it will go
directly to DVD, but I expect it will still get an audience.
The main character of ANTI-MATTER is Ana, played by Yaiza Figueroa,
in the kind of role that used to go exclusively to white males. At
Oxford Ana is a PhD student on a four-person team of physicists
exploring some super-physics effects. They find a phenomenon that
seems to have the power to make objects disintegrate. Before long
they find that they also can teleport objects. Ah, but will it
teleport a human? The physicists draw lots to see whom they are
going to teleport. It turns out to be Ana (big surprise). The
team prepares to send Ana--presumably taking adequate precautions
to be sure that they are not at the same time teleporting a fly.
The moment of teleportation should be the greatest moment of Ana's
life, but when it is over and she is successfully teleported,
suddenly she cannot remember whether it actually even happened. It
turns out teleportation has unexpected memory effects.
Her other team members seem suddenly reticent to discuss the
results with Ana. At this point the film turns into a mystery as
Ana has to figure out what could have happened and why her team
mates are unwilling to talk to her. She finds that the formerly
close-knit team are no longer so friendly. What is going on?
Burrows juggles multiple red herrings to maintain suspense.
The science may of course be a little bogus. But the dialog that
describes it sounds like it really has some meaning. That is
another parallel to PRIMER. It is interesting to see what Burrows
finds in other films to borrow. There is even a tribute to PLANET
OF THE APES.
ANTI-MATTER is director Burrows' first feature length film, but he
seems to have a good idea of what he is doing both in the writing
and in this direction. The film does slow down a bit toward the
middle of the film, but it does come back and while it does most
audiences will stick around to see where the film is going. Yaiza
Figueroa is a newcomer as well, but she also holds the audience's
The ending has some logic problems but it still is an idea I have
not seen elsewhere. And a film with new ideas is always welcome.
I rate ANTI-MATTER a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The
indistinct English accents may be a problem for some viewers.
Release date: September 8
What others are saying:
TOPIC: THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE (The Interdependency #1) by John
Scalzi (copyright 2017 Tor, 2017 Audible Audio, narrated by Wil
Wheaton, ISBN-10: 076538888X, ISBN-13: 978-0765388889,
ASINB01L2PERQY, 336pp, 9 hours 16 minutes) (audiobook review by Joe
With THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, John Scalzi starts off (I believe) his
new contract with Tor in typical Scalzi fashion. The first book in
the "Interdepency" series contains everything the reader has come
to expect out of a John Scalzi novel: snappy dialogue, engaging
characters, a good dose of action ... and something to think about.
Scalzi takes a space opera and makes it relevant to our day,
filling it with commentary that fits with what's going on in the
world today while at the same time not hitting the reader over the
head with it. The novel is entertaining and fast paced while at
the same time giving us some pause to think about how an
interdependent society--not unlike ours--would survive a
The Interdependency--not only the title of the series but the
titular empire--is a group of planets that are connected by the
Flow. The Flow is what allows travel between star systems. Yes,
it's yet another way to get around the FTL problem, but it also
provides the mechanism by which the story is driven. The Flow is
not a two-way tube like your local subway might be; it's actually a
series of tubes (I call them tubes, for a lack of a better word, I
guess) that travel in a single direction. Thus, there are two
tubes between planets--one outgoing and one incoming. A ship
enters and exits the Flow via "shoals". There are entrance shoals
and exit shoals. However, there is no choice as to where the
shoals are placed. In fact, most shoals are near planets that are
uninhabitable; the residents of the planets live in artificial
habitats. Since the residents of planets cannot provide everything
they need for themselves, the Flow is not only used as an
interplanetary highway carrying passenger ships, but as trade
The action of the story takes place on two planets: Hub, where a
vast majority of the Flow routes converge, and End, the planet
furthest away from Hub. Hub is, naturally, the seat of the Empire;
End is the dumping ground for criminals, malcontents,
undesirables. It is important to note that in order to make the
Interdependency work, the Empire is made up of a system of, for
lack of a better term, royal families, who negotiate trade deals,
fight amongst themselves, and of course, with each other. The
system as set up is ripe for political intrigue, power struggles
(both within and between families), and plots within plots within
Sound familiar? Sure, there's a bit of an homage to Dune in this
book (and since Scalzi has said that he started writing the book in
a Dune-like tone as he wanted to try that kind of writing style,
but eventually abandoned it as not working this time around, this
makes a bit of sense. Royal houses, scheming, backstabbing, and
plots to take over the Empire are all either DUNE or, as I now
think about it, GAME OF THRONES elements. But unlike DUNE, which
really doesn't, at least in my opinion, have an impending major
catastrophe on its hands, THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE has one big problem
on its hands: what happens when the Flow begins to shift, changing
the travel and trade routes, abandoning some planets altogether?
All right in the middle of one family trying to wrest the Empire
from another? In DUNE, the resolution to the problem at hand is
which house is stronger than the rest. In THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE,
the issue is how is the human race going to survive, as the
connections between the planets of the Interdependency as they are
known are going to disappear. Will humanity find a way to
cooperate, or will it go down in a blaze of not so much glory?
This book is fun. There is a wide range of characters, from solemn
to profane, from buffoons to cunning schemers. This book made me
laugh--not in the out loud non-stop laughter one gets at a standup
comic's performance, but at the situations and the characters'
reactions to them. By the time we get to the end of the novel, we
like the people Scalzi wants us to like, dislike the people he
wants us to dislike, and maybe, just maybe, feel sorry for the
The book is masterfully narrated by Wil Wheaton. This is not the
first of Scalzi's books that Wheaton has narrated. He changes
voices well enough so that the listener can readily tell the
difference between characters as the story goes on. His pacing
seems accurate, and he certainly doesn't do anything to throw the
listener out of the story.
I've gone to conventions and listened to John Scalzi perform--and
anyone who has seen him live understands that it's a performance
(and even he will admit to that)--enough times to know what he
would sound like in certain situations. Mentally, I can replace
Wil Wheaton with John Scalzi and not miss a bit. I can sense
Scalzi in not only what Wheaton is reading, but how he is reading
it. To my ear, Wheaton sounds like Scalzi. And for some reason,
that threw me out of this book just a little. It certainly didn't
deter from my enjoyment of the book, it just unnerved me now and
In any event, Scalzi continues his high quality of writing with THE
COLLAPSING EMPIRE. I expect no less out of the next installment of
The Interdependency. [-jak]
TOPIC: NEVER LET GO (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
CAPSULE: Filmed in large part in Morocco, NEVER LET GO is an action
thriller about a new mother traveling in North Africa when her baby
is kidnapped. NEVER LET GO has some good action, too much really,
but suffers from an overly formulaic script. What could be a
credible suspense plot is squandered on a new mother suddenly
exhibiting Jason Bourne's superhuman strategic talents for fighting
and chasing. The film is produced, scripted by, and directed by
newcomer Howard J. Ford. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
[Following the main body of the review is an important note on the
statistics given and a comment that could be considered a spoiler.]
NEVER LET GO begins with a home invasion in which a baby is stolen
and is reported missing. It then tells the viewer this dire
statistic, "Over 800,000 children are reported missing every year.
The first three hours are critical. After that, there is less than
a 25% chance of finding them." The 25% statistic is not referred
to again, and it just overhangs the narrative. This is a film
mostly about a different child snatching.
In the main plot Lisa Brennan (played by Angela Dixon) is a young
mother who is traveling with her baby daughter in Marrakech,
Morocco. She is sitting on a beach with her baby when a man comes
over to talk to her. That moment of distraction was all someone
needed to grab the baby and make off with her.
So far it is a reasonably believable circumstance. Now things
start going haywire with both the thieves' plan and with the film's
script. They picked the baby daughter of Lisa and Lisa has the
fighting and chasing skills of a James Bond or a Jason Bourne. It
seems that Lisa may look domestic as a mother taking care of her
baby, but she is actually also a US government agent. The script
explains why she has this amazing skill set, but it still makes it
too contrived and convenient that she has nearly the powers of a
This somewhat ruins the suspense since in spite of wounds that
would have stopped another person short, she can transform herself
from a good mother to a "mean muthah." She can chases up walls,
bounds from rooftop to rooftop; she seems to be an adept martial
artist. After she is badly cut in her side she needs just a needle
and thread to stitch herself up without benefit of anesthetic. No
problem. In general she is the wrong person to steal a baby from.
She is called on to kill the baddies in her quest to get her baby
back and does not suffer any qualms.
NEVER LET GO has a pacing problem as the script seems to be
designed to show off Dixon's skills, but as with many action films,
when the action really gets going the plot narrative stops dead.
For ten-minute intervals Lisa climbs walls, runs over the tops of
buildings, survives car accidents, and generally does her action
hero thing. All this time the story is on hold. This is not
really a criticism since it probably is what most of the target
audience wants to see. Once we have seen her hugging the baby, it
is hard to really think of her as the action hero. But the acting
serves the film better than the plot does. I rate NEVER LET GO a
low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
NEVER LET GO was available on DVD and VOD as of August 22.
[Reuters, the international news agency, reports that the domestic
danger from kidnappers is much lower than represented here. See
the April 26, 2012, article MISSING CHILDREN IN U.S. NEARLY ALWAYS
MAKE IT HOME ALIVE at <http://tinyurl.com/mrl-kidnap>;.]
[SMALL SPOILER ALERT: Do not expect much along the lines of
suspense. The real villain of the story is instantly recognizable
as the bad guy of the piece. If you cannot figure out who is doing
what to whom you don't see enough mystery films.]
What others are saying:
TOPIC: 1977, TAFF, Worldcon, Television Shows, HAROLD AND LILLIAN,
and THE MARTIAN (letter of comment by John Purcell)
In response to the 08/25/17 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell
The latest issue number of VOID reminds me of the year 1977, when I
did not go to WorldCon (saving up for the following year in
Phoenix) and the debut of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, triggering the
rise of big budget science fiction movies. Other things happened
that year, too, I know, but it's early in the morning and I'm only
on my first cup of coffee. Cut me some slack, okay?
Not only that, but I *think* I am pretty much over my jet lag since
returning from Europe one week ago today. Valerie and I had a
wonderful time visiting fans and seeing some truly incredible
places during my five-week TAFF Trip [attending Worldcon]. I
managed to keep sort of a running diary on my Facebook page of
major events with pictures, and realize that when looking over my
notes and entries for that thirty-eight-day jaunt how bare-boned my
accounts were. No matter. Probably this upcoming weekend I will
begin working on the next issues of Askew and Askance, both of
which will begin accounts of TAFF trip events and other related
stuff. Overall, we had fun and enjoyed the trip.
Being back home also means catching up on the television shows we
recorded on Direct TV, such as PREACHER, IZOMBIE, THE LAST SHIP,
DARK MATTER, KILLJOYS, and a bunch of other programs. Movies were
not recorded because they tend to be repeated. I am glad you
mentioned HAROLD AND LILLIAN is on in September since that is a
movie that sounds really interesting and received great reviews.
It was released only two years ago and is the kind of story that
would reveal some of the many layers that create the Hollywood
mystique and culture. I am looking forward to seeing this film.
There is a "The Martian Wikia"? Figures. The phone booth/kiosk
reference in the book and movie is generally passed over because
Mark Watney is a very well-read and intelligent fellow, so his
knowing about phone booths and Superman is part of American
cultural literacy. I remember the audience chuckling in the
theater at that scene in the original SUPERMAN movie (1978).
That should do it for now. Coffee cup is empty and needs
refilling. It is good to be home. Keep these weekly zines coming,
folks. I appreciate them very, very much. [-jp]
John also notes that he is not in the flooded area of Texas, though
they have gotten some rain. [-ecl]
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
After seeing some of the paintings of N. C. Wyeth at the Brandywine
River Art Museum, I decided to re-read my childhood favorite, THE
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by Jules Verne (no ISBN for the Scribner's
edition) in the Scribner's edition. I still love the book, but as
an adult I see a lot more flaws than I did as a child.
For example, there was no storm as is described in the first
chapters of the book. Indeed, to have a storm blowing so strongly
northeast to southwest for several days from east of Virginia to
the Pacific Ocean is probably meteorologically impossible. (Andy
Weir maintains the tradition of starting a book with an impossible
storm in THE MARTIAN.)
Cyrus Harding comes from Massachusetts, and Neb is described as a
slave from his estate that Harding freed. Since no slaves appeared
on any census in Massachusetts after 1790, this would make Neb at
least 65 years old. All I can say is that he is mighty spry for a
man that age.
The escapees throw away all their personal effects, even their
pocket knives, in an effort to keep the balloon aloft. After they
do this, and the balloon continues to fall, they climb into the
rigging and cut the basket loose. With what?
Similarly, later they clean a capybara before roasting it. I am
not sure what is involved in cleaning an animal to cook it, but I
suspect knives or other cutting tools are required.
While they are throwing out all their possessions, even matches and
pocket knives, *two* of the castaways (conveniently) keep their
A big deal is made of the necessity for tinder, and how its loss is
a disaster, yet in Chapter XIV, Pencroft "struck a light and set
fire to a twig," apparently without any tinder. (Okay, maybe Verne
just did not mention it.
In Book I, Chapter XII, Neb and Pencroft "naturally" become the
cooks, "to the one in his quality of negro, to the other in that of
sailor." The implication is that it is Pencroft's training, but
Neb's innate genetic make-up, that determines this.
In this old (bad) English translation of Book II, Chapter II, Neb
dances like a "n*****". In French, the word is "negre"--the same
neutral word used everywhere else in the book.
Jup is way too human-like. I agree that orangutans are very
intelligent, but they are intelligent in their own way. The idea
that the castaways could dress Jup up and have him wait at table
is not believable. Then again, knowledge of orangutan abilities
was fairly minimal in Verne's time, and their close similarity to
humans probably led many to assume they were as trainable as other
How did they get back into Granite House after they all went to
search the island for the escaped pirates? When they all left they
let themselves down by a double rope and then pulled the rope down
by pulling on one end. When they returned, they "re-entered
Granite House, and with the help of a double rope, shot with an
arrow through the window frame, they re-established communication
between their domain and that of the sun." You can't just shoot an
arrow into a window and then climb it. Even if it was shot *into"
a wooden window frame, it would not be strong enough to support the
weight of a person climbing it. (There is no indication that they
had a grappling hook, and even if they did, they could not shoot it
high enough or far enough.) [-ecl]
When I speak of the beauty of a game of chess, then
naturally this is subjective. Beauty can be found in
a very technical, mathematical game for example.
That is the beauty of clarity.