Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/29/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 13, Whole Number 1982

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        NASA Flight Directors (comment by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Alternate Universes (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in October (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE 13TH FRIDAY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Mathematics and Taxes (letter of comment by Peter Rubinstein)
        ARTEMIS (letter of comment by Kevin R)
        Infinity (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch, Radovan
                Garabik, and Tim Merrigan)
        This Week's Reading (QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOOK OF SPELLS and
                MY FRIEND MR CAMPION) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

October 12: SOLARIS (1972) & SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
October 13: THE EXORCIST (1973), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
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: NASA Flight Directors (comment by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Ginger Kerrick, when asked what she does for a living, replies that
she is a flight director at NASA.  When the other person looks
confused, she adds, "You know, the guy with the vest and the buzz
cut?"  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Alternate Universes (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

In science fiction these days you hear a lot about an idea that is
fascinating but sadly totally untestable.  You have the two
universes split off over some small even and each universe goes its
separate way.  You really want to see the two universes and pick
the one that is not headed for disaster.  Now politically we can
choose.  For example, at one branch point we get two universes, one
in which we just had the worst hurricane ever; in the other we used
to have bigger hurricanes.  At another branch point, Mexico is
going to pay for the border wall; in a parallel universe it will be
the US tax payer who will pick up the tab.  In one Trump is
negotiating with Democrats over deporting the "dreamers" and in one
he is not.  Trump will decide what universe we will be picking.
Trump is there deciding which universe will be ours.  [-mrl]


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

This is the month that Turner Classic Movies does its annual
Halloween tribute to the horror film.  When I was growing up the
film critic for my local newspaper automatically gave a low rating
to any science fiction or horror film.  This sort of film was just
not considered respectable by the local newspaper.  Similarly, the
public schools had much the same prejudice and just told parents
that they were trying to teach good taste and fantasy was "comic
book stuff."  Over the years that sort of attitude has gone out of
style luckily.  These days some schools will even assign science
fiction and fantasy books.  It would not have surprised me if I had
found a similar sort of snobbery at TCM.  But the late Robert
Osborne loved film and was no more or less enthusiastic about the
fantasy genre than I was.  And every October a major theme of TCM
is the fantasy genre film.  There it is, each October they have
really terrific lines-up (line-ups?) of Halloween-spirited films.
There are Universal horror films. Hammer films, independent horror
films, foreign language horror, and more.

But it is not easy for me to find uncommon films among them.  This
column is all about what can I recommend that the reader may not
have seen before.  This month my column calls the readers'
attention to classic Japanese horror of from the mid-Fifties to the
mid-Sixties.  I find even horror fans have rarely seen old Japanese
classics.  So that is my theme for this month's column.

These are very nicely made films though not seen much these days.
I think the general wisdom is that viewers do not want to suffer
with subtitles.  (Admittedly at one time these films were badly
subtitled.  I think one other reason is that the films are highly
textured films that require a degree of patience that many viewers
lack these days.  The films do not jump right into horror.  The
idea may be that it takes time for the evils to fester.  These
films may be considered an acquired taste but they are crafted
works of art.  These five Japanese horror films (in order of
release) will show in October.

UGETSU (1953)
A potter lives by making dishes and making a profit selling to
passing soldiers.  But when he tries to make too much of a profit
things go bad for him.  He meets a ghost princess who seems to have
an unnatural interest in him. [Monday, October 30, 4:15 AM]

This is one of thirty different screen adaptations of "The Ghost
Story of Yutsuya."  It is a complex story of adultery, betrayal,
revenge, and madness.  And a ghost exacts some supernatural
vengeance. [Monday, October 9, 4:00 AM]

JIGOKU (1960)
A young man (who does not strike one as particularly evil) falls in
with bad friends.  The film takes a turn about half way in when the
character is sentenced to Hell--literally.  The film then turns
surreal as we see the tortures of Hell, almost like a new Dante's
Inferno.  It is a very imaginative film.  It is a mix of surrealism
and sadism, which is probably why JIGOKU is rarely seen in our
country. [Monday, October 9, 2:00 AM]

ONIBABA (1964)
A woman and her mother-in-law were abandoned when the woman's
husband went off to fight in the civil war.  On the point of
starvation, the two abandoned women murder passing samurai and
steal their possessions.  One object stolen is a mask, which they
wear when robbing samurai.  It turns out the mask is owned by
supernatural forces.
[Monday, October 30, 2:15 AM]

KWAIDAN (1965)
Lafcadio Hearn collected Japanese legends and ghost stories and
wrote them down  (not unlike the Grimm Brothers in Eastern Europe).
This film is an anthology of four of his stories.  Color
photography was unavailable prior to this time.  KWATDAN makes up
for lost time by bursting from the screen with glorious,
oversaturated bright color.  The stories have ghosts, snow maidens,
and Hoichi, who plays the biwa and had his ears stolen by demons.
This is a horror film and an art house film. [Monday, October 23,
3:45 AM]

What is the best film of the month?  It is hard to say.  It may not
be the most likable but the most respectable is probably KWAIDAN.


TOPIC: THE 13TH FRIDAY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A strange mechanical device proves to be a calendar of
supernatural events and a gateway to a parallel world of pain and
horror.  In a plot of ideas not entirely fresh there are few
surprises in this story and just about nothing unfamiliar in the
first half of the film.  Justin Price writes and directs without
much new to engage the viewer.  The title is misleading because it
implies that when they borrow from another film they do something
creative with their borrowings.  That is not generally the case.
Rating: +0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

THE 13TH FRIDAY (gee, that title reminds me of another film)
begins, "Somewhere in Texas is a house said to be so haunted that a
church was built on the property and the family that lived in the
house was never found."  I have seen only one screen and
immediately I am wondering what the quote can all mean.  Do people
who build churches try to build them on really evil plots of land?
Do evil places attract churches?  Luckily for the church builder,
the family was never found even for things like paying taxes on
their lot.  Is the fact it is Texas make it scarier?

As the film opens the camera shows us spooky buildings and the
voice of a young girl tells us the legend of the house in the
story, but it is hard to make out what she is saying.  And there is
something odd about self-claiming to be a legend.

The camera goes to a scene of a teenage girl tied by the wrists to
a flight of stairs.  Her mother comes along and informs her
daughter, "You belong to Him now."  She then burns the screaming
daughter with flammable liquid.

Cut to some time later.  A group of young people are having a party
at an evil old house like the one in THE EVIL DEAD.  They go inside
and there are evil toys like a doll that turns its head to reveal
another face on the back of her head, just like on of the
characters in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.  One of the teens
finds an antique puzzle ball reminiscent of the cube in HELLRAISER,
particularly because each is a gateway to a parallel universe.

This house, we were told, is a legend for evil happenings, but they
are happening right now for one girl who got separated from the
pack.  She is now being held by a demon that lifts her unconscious
body like the girl in THE EXORCIST.  The possessed girl's eyeballs
go white like hardboiled eggs.  We have seen this too in who knows
how many films.  There is also a Biblical prophecy angle on the
plot.   Over and over we see bits from other films recombined.

Do you get the point?  This is not a script that borrows from other
films.  It takes ideas from other films and forces them into place.
The plot, when director Justin Price gets to it is about a local
girl searching for lost people who have disappeared into a K-mart
decorated cave that is supposed to be a parallel universe.  Late in
the film some tension is built.  By then much of the audience may
not care.  though there may be some special interest in a Biblical
Prophecy framework introduced into the plot.

The film combines makeup and digital effects but the digital
effects are not well handled and the effects seem to be in the same
layer as the actors.  The makeup effects are a combination of
prosthetic and simple greasepaint.  The script demonstrates that
Justin Price (who wrote the script) is familiar with post-1970
horror films, but he adds little to the field.  I could almost
accept this film as a pastiche of 1970s horror films.

The actors deliver their lines, but bring little unexpected to
their roles and writer/director Price brings nothing innovative to
the plot.  I rate THE 13TH FRIDAY a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or

The film has been in release since early in the year and will be on
digital in October.

Film Credits:



TOPIC: Mathematics and Taxes (letter of comment by Peter

In response to Mark's comments on mathematics and taxes in the
09/22/17 issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein writes:

[Mark wrote,] "Mathematics is serious stuff. It allows you to have
a feel for where a satellite is in space. You measure the amount
you have to pay the government in taxes this year.

I don't know how your taxes work, but mine are determined by what
is essentially dead reckoning. The tax code ensures that it works
that way. I use mathematics to determine for how long I will go to
jail if the IRS decides I reckoned differently than they did.

Mark responds:

I assume that dead reckoning calculations require mathematics.


TOPIC: ARTEMIS (letter of comment by Kevin R)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of ARTEMIS in the 09/22/17
issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

"Jazz sounds like a Holly Jones brought up on the 'wrong side of
the mass driver.' :)"  [-kr]


TOPIC: Infinity (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch, Radovan
Garabik, and Tim Merrigan)

In response to Mark's comments on infinity in the 09/22/17 issue of
the MT VOID, Keith Lynch writes:

Mark R. Leeper writes, "How many millimeters is it to the star

It's about 400 light years, a light year is about 10^16 meters, and
a meter is 10^3 meters, so about 4*10^21.  I could walk there in a
few eons.

But consider traveling, not to Polaris, but to the edge of the
known universe, then moving over a millimeter and traveling to the
opposite edge, then moving over a millimeter and traveling back to
the first edge, etc., until you've visited every cubic millimeter
in the universe.  (For this to work we have to ignore the expansion
of the universe, of course.)  Do this, not at walking speed, but at
the speed at which the slowest stalactite grows.

The remarkable thing is how easy it is to accidentally write a
computer program that would take enormously longer than that to
complete.  And as computers have gotten more powerful, the slowness
of the slowest possible program has only increased.  That's because
adding one bit of memory causes a factor-of-two slowdown, and a lot
more bits have been added than the number of times computer clock
speeds have doubled.

Mark continues, "No, let's get really big.  How many millimeters is
it to the farthest star ever observed?  Multiply that by the
largest integer anybody has ever conceived of until just a second
ago.  (You see we are conceiving of a larger number right now.)"

That's not valid unless you had some specific number in mind.  And
if you did, chances are someone else had long since thought of a
much larger one.  See, for instance, "hyperoperation."

Similarly, "the smallest number that's too large to be specified by
the number of bits in this sentence" isn't meaningful.

Mark goes on, "Well, no, it really is well below average for
positive integers that > are out there.  Think how big infinity
must be.  It is really huge.  Now I think that kind of size
deserves some respect."

It's true that whatever positive integer you think of, most
positive integers are much larger than that.  But infinity is not a
number.  If you never die, you will experience an Nth birthday for
every positive integer N, but you will never experience an
infinitieth birthday.  (If you did, what birthday would you have
experienced the previous year?) As a practical matter, you'll
eventually lose track of N, since the data storage capacity of the
accessible universe is finite.  (This is known as the "year bignum

My favorite illustration of how large numbers can get is the
Kempner series.  It's easily proven that the harmonic series (the
sum of the reciprocals of the positive integers) diverges, i.e. it
gets large without limit.  But it does so very slowly.  If you want
the sum to reach 100, you need to add up more than 10^43 terms.

A Kempner series is a harmonic series from which all numbers
containing any particular substring are excluded.  For instance the
sum of the reciprocals of the positive integers which don't contain
your ten-digit phone number.  It's guaranteed to converge.

The DVD of, say, THE MARTIAN, is just a big binary integer.
Exclude all integers which have that bit string in their binary
digit sequence, and the sum of the reciprocals of the remaining
integers will converge.

At first this seems very counterintuitive.  It must be very
unlikely for an integer to just happen to contain that movie.
Right?  Actually, the vast majority of integers contain it, as the
vast majority of integers are very very large.  If that movie
contains G bits, then any number with more than 2^(G+1) bits is
more likely to contain it than not.  And most numbers have far more
bits than that.

And for every copy of the movie in the integer, the integer will
probably also contain about G copies of the movie with one bit
wrong, about G^2/2 copies of the movie with two bits wrong, about
G^3/6 copies of the movie with three bits wrong, etc.  Similarly
with all other movies of about the same size.

Mark says, "Then again, I use to look at my father's old camera.
You used to  twist the lens to set how far away the object you were
photographing was.  There was a scale around the lens with
distances marked.  I do not remember the shortest distance you
could set the lens for, but I do remember the greatest distance you
could set the camera for.  It was infinity.  This scale only went
about a third the way around the lens and it went up to
*infinity*!!!  You could actually set this camera to take pictures
of objects out as far as infinity."

As I'm sure you know, that just meant the rays of light were
parallel.  In practice, nobody ever took pictures of objects as far
away as infinity, as no objects are that far away, and if they
were, the light couldn't have reached here from them yet, and if it
had, it would have been much too dim to photograph.

Mark adds, "And this scale went only about a third the way around
the lens. Sadly the camera maker designed the lens so that the
scale only went about that third.  The camera range only went to
infinity and stopped there.  (Only to infinity?  That's an
*ONLY???*.)  I wanted to "fix" the camera so that it went to
infinity and beyond.  But even so I could not interest my father in
the project.  Can you imagine that?  He didn't care to take
pictures of what was out there beyond infinity.

As I'm sure you know, that would just mean the rays of light were
converging rather than diverging.  The numbers make more sense if
you use diopters (inverse meters) rather than meters.

As a rule of thumb, an object is at visual infinity if the diameter
of the lens is less than the resolution of the object.  The moon is
at visual infinity to a meter-wide lens unless you hope to resolve
objects less than a meter wide on the moon.  There are spy
satellites from which the Earth hundreds of miles below is not at
visual infinity.

Speaking of reciprocals, have you ever noticed that there are more
points inside the unit circle than outside it?  For every point
outside the circle with distance D>1 from the center, there's a
corresponding point inside it at distance 1/D from the center.  And
there's one extra point in the circle, the center itself, which
doesn't correspond to any point outside the circle.

There are lots of paradoxes involving infinity.  Banach-Tarski is
one of my favorite.  But paradoxes involving finite numbers are
much more interesting.  [-kfl]

Mark responds:

Too far to walk.  I would at least see if I could grab the shuttle.

I am not sure where you are going with the space-filling-walk
argument--if there is no place you are not going in the universe.
I suppose you could go everywhere if you are following a space-
filling curve which in this case would be an outer space filling

"Hyperoperation" is a new one on me.  I will read what Wikipedia
says about it.

The birthday paradox is much like the bird paradox where the bird
eats the oldest seed.  Every seed gets eaten eventually.  My memory
may be failing, but wasn't it true that infinity is not an ordinal
number, but it is a cardinal number?  You can use it to measure the
size of sets, but not count up to it?

I assume you realize much of what I wrote about the camera was in
jest.  [-mrl]

And Radovan Garabik responds:

Keith Lynch writes, "It's true that whatever positive integer you
think of, most positive integers are much larger than that.  But
infinity is not a number.  If you never die, you will experience an
Nth birthday for every positive integer N, but you will never
experience an infinitieth birthday.  (If you did, what birthday
would you have experienced the previous year?)"

If we operate on 1st order Peano axioms, then there is an answer:
if you denote your infinitieth birthday as Nth, then the previous
year you celebrated (N-1)th birthday.  N (as well as N-1) could be
infinite, or just very large, but you could not tell which, since
their size will be waaaaay bigger than anything you can compute and
you've lost track a long time ago anyway.

Of course, going from your (3^^^3)th birthday to your (infinite
N)th birthday might take a long time.

Alternately, if your [birthdays] are not discrete, you infinitieth
birthday could be the limit of your mindstate as t->infinity,
assuming there is a limit.  Arriving there would be a problem,
though (but much lesser problem than the first kind of infinities).

Keith goes on, "As a practical matter, you'll eventually lose track
of N, since the data storage capacity of the accessible universe is
finite.  (This is known as the 'year bignum problem.')"

Assuming the growth of your mind is bounded.

Keith writes, "There are lots of paradoxes involving infinity.
Banach-Tarski is one of my favorite.  But paradoxes involving
finite numbers are much more interesting."

Are there any paradoxes involving finite numbers? (not just
counter-intuitive theorems).  Even Banach-Tarski could reflect just
an inadequate axiomatic system - you can give up the choice and
accept the measures instead :-)  [-rg]

Tim Merrigan writes:

I don't know what color will be on top, but it will appear to be
brown or gray, depending on whether the infinitely thin layers act
as pigments or light gels, respectively.  [-tm]

[There is much more in the thread in rec.arts.sf.fandom at
 but it is too interleaved
for me to include here.  -ecl]


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

QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOOK OF SPELLS edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri
Windling (ISBN 978-0-765-33227-1) is steampunk, but with fantasy
instead of technology.  "Victorian fantasy" or "gaslamp fantasy"
does not quite describe it, because it differs from fantasy
*written in* the Victorian era in being very much infused with 21st
century sensibilities.  I have always liked the anthologies edited
by Datlow and Windling, particularly their "Year's Best Horror and
Fantasy" volumes, and they do not disappoint with this one, even
though this is composed of works specifically written for this
volume rather than collected from other sources.

MY FRIEND MR CAMPION by Margaret Allingham (ISBN 978-1-848-58025-1)
is a collection of mysteries centered around amateur sleuth Albert
Campion.  (In keeping with British usage, the "Mr" in the title has
no period after it; the British rule is that abbreviations are
followed by a period only if they form an initial segment of the
word.  Hence, "Hon." and "Rev.", but "Dr" and "Mr".)  There is
nothing very amazing or startling about these--they are just cozy
comfort reads, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Allingham
wrote twenty-one Campion novels and enough short stories to fill
four collections.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The first thing which I can record concerning myself is,
           that I was born.  These are wonderful words. This life,
           to which neither time nor eternity can bring diminution--
           this everlasting living soul, began.  My mind loses
           itself in these depths.
                                           --Groucho Marx