Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/20/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 16, Whole Number 1985

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Leadership (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        A 221B Drabble (by Evelyn C. Leeper)
                by James Gunn (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        Cryonics (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)
        Alternate Realities, STARLINGS, and SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE
                SHADWELL SHADOWS (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        Ulysses S. Grant (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        This Week's Reading (READINGS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Correction

Gregory Benford's letter of comment in the 10/13/17 issue of the MT
VOID was referencing a review of THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES.  I mistyped
it as "MEDUSA".  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Leadership (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

[On June 4, 1986, this was my column in the MTVOID.  I just ran
across it and some seems prescient.  You might want to take a look
for political implications.  Or perhaps for nostalgia.]

In order to further cut costs at AT&T this notice will be funded by
the following paid ad:

What do Ronald Reagan, Moammar Gadhafi, Mikhail Gorbachev, and
Margaret Thatcher all agree on? They all agree that WORLD
LEADERSHIP is a GREAT way to make a living.  How about YOU?  Would
you enjoy...

... saying whatever you like and having people believe it and
willing to die for it?

... hitting at your enemies and having them not able to hit back
anywhere near you?

... treating your friends to lucrative government jobs?

... appointing lawmakers who agree with your political viewpoints?

... putting away millions of dollars in a Swiss bank so you never
have to worry about being middle-class again?

Then maybe *you* have what it takes to be a WORLD LEADER. WORLD
LEADERSHIP CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL wants to help you open up a
potential for world leadership you may have only suspected you had.
WLCS can be that all important boost you need to become a respected
WORLD LEADER. As a prospective WORLD LEADER, do you know...

... how to say just the right thing to inspire loyalty in your

... when should you crush your enemies and when you should appear

... how to make alliances with other world leaders without letting
them know you secretly hate their guts?

... what should you do if you have to entertain another world
leader whose breath is so bad it makes you nauseous?

... how can you rig an election?

... how to make your failures look like INCREDIBLE successes?

... what is the proper etiquette of declaring war?

... how can you make an insurgent army look to the world press like
a bunch of juvenile assholes?

Machiavelli was right and where he is outdated. And starting this
fall WLCS will start a new program in using and defending against
guerilla warfare.  Eighteen world leaders (who wish to remain
nameless) have graduated from WLCS as satisfied WORLD LEADERS.  Now
it's your turn. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:
Prof. Marco Ferdinandos c/o WLCS P.O. Box 2001, New York, NY.


TOPIC: A 221B Drabble (by Evelyn C. Leeper)

[Drabbles are stories that have exactly 100 words.  A variation is
the "221B Drabble", which is about Sherlock Holmes, has exactly 221
words, and has the last word starting with "B".]

Sherlock Holmes sat smoking his pipe.

"Bored!" he groaned.  "I'm bored!"

Watson sighed.  He had heard this before.  Every day Holmes read
the newspapers, and every day he flung them aside in disgust.

Suddenly cries came from outside.  "Martians!  Martians have
landed!"  Convinced this was some sort of jest, Watson got up to
look out the window and see what was happening.  It didn't look
like a jest.  People were running down the street, pushing and
shoving, though from what they were running, or to where, was not
at all clear.

"Holmes, do you know what's going on?  Was there anything in the
newspapers about this?"

"Oh, there was something about green lights on Mars, and some metal
shell or something supposedly landed in Woking yesterday, but
really, it was all very vague and unsupported."

"Well, it seems that it has convinced a large portion of London's
population.  Shouldn't we try to find out what is going on?"

"Why?  There are two possibilities: they are friendly, or they are
hostile.  If friendly, there's nothing to fear.  If they are
hostile, there are two possibilities: they are weaker than us, or
they are stronger.  If weaker, the army will defeat them.  If
stronger, there's no point in fleeing.  Either way, there's nothing
to be done, which is why I am still bored."



James Gunn (copyright 2017, Tor, 208pp, ISBN: 0765386666, ASIN:
B01NACO82D) (book review by Joe Karpierz)

TRANFORMATION (I'm going to drop the "A novel" for purposes of this
review) concludes SFWA Grandmaster James Gunn's "The Transcendental
Machine" trilogy begun in 2013 with TRANSCENDENTAL and continued in
2016's TRANSGALACTIC.  The trilogy started on a high note but took
a dip with TRANSGALACTIC.  Unfortunately, the decline continues in
the final novel, and a trilogy that started with a lot of promise
ends in disappointment.

Riley and Asha return have been through a lot.  They were part of a
voyage the purpose of which was to find the Transcendental Machine.
They found that machine, stepped into it, and ended up on opposite
sides of the galaxy while being transformed into something greater
than they were--something Transcendent.  They spent TRANSGALACTIC
trying to find each other in order to unite against the Pedia, an
AI which wanted the Transcendental Machine destroyed.

In TRANSFORMATION, we learn that planets on the edge of the Federation
have gone silent.  Members of the Federation council agree to
send Riley, Asha, Tordor (the Dorian leader of the Federation
council, Earth's Pedia, and Adithya, a member of a group that is
out to destroy the Pedia since they believe it has hampered the
growth of humanity, out to the fringes of Federation space to
investigate the cause of the planets going silent and report
back if possible. Only Riley and Asha trust each other, while
various permutations and combinations of the other three
travelers do not trust each other--other than the Pedia, who is
incapable of mistrust, I would suppose.  Tordor has the galactic
coordinates of the silent planets, and off the group goes to

The novel turns into a travelogue, as the crew visits several
planets, each one different than the last, with different
societies, physical characteristics, stages of decline.  Other than
the first planet, on which everyone had died, the societies on the
other planets had one thing in common:  they had regressed in one
manner or another, with the result being that each society had lost
what knowledge they had, especially of the Federation.  The
travelers eventually determined the path of what they believed was
an alien force destroying each civilization.  And of course, the
path leads directly to Federation Central.  The result is a race to
the next planet in the hope of encountering the malevolent force
and stopping it before it continues its path of destruction.

I don't think it's going to be much of a spoiler to say that they
do indeed catch up with the invaders and have the confrontation
they are looking for.  While the result of that confrontation is,
in essence, satisfying for the characters, it certainly isn't for
the reader.

This is a book--check that, a trilogy--of big ideas.  The problem
is that this book, and the trilogy as a whole, doesn't live up to
the potential of those big ideas.  The Transcendental Machine
transformed those who went through it into something more, but that
idea seemed to be abandoned, at the very least pushed into the
background.  It really didn't come into play in TRANSFORMATION.
The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying.  Gunn reveals to the reader
the nature of the invading force, but never follows up on it.
There's a whole lot more that is begging to be said about the
invaders and what the Federation should do about them.  Instead,
the story abruptly ends with no satisfying resolution to the

Another problem I had with the trilogy as a whole and
TRANSFORMATION in particular is that there is no real thread tying
all three books together.  The trilogy is entitled "The
Transcendental Machine", but while the titular machine plays a big
part of the first novel, its influence in the later novels
decreases to the point where it is almost non-existent.  While
Riley and Asha appear in all three novels and do play major parts
in the narrative, it's not clear that the first book really has
much of anything to do with the third.

I enjoyed TRANSCENDENTAL, was disappointed in TRANSGALACTIC, and
felt cheated by TRANSFORMATION, especially the ending.  Overall,
The Transcendental Machine is a disappointing work and quite
possibly a sad end to the brilliant career of a giant in the field.


TOPIC: Cryonics (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)

In response to Fred Lerner's comments on cryonics in the 10/13/17
issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

Fred Lerner asks

"...the central question of cryonic preservation and revival: what
incentive is there for anyone in the future to go to the trouble of
reviving someone who underwent the process?"

I addressed this in my novel CHILLER, my first bestseller.  But the
major new answer is: create an Endowment in Perpetuity in nations
such as Luxemborg.  A mere $100,000 or so can appreciate through
investment into millions, to afford your revival.  Several have
done such and I'm in the process.  [-gb]


SHADWELL SHADOWS (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to Mark's comments on alternate realities in the
10/13/17 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

Your latest VOIDing starts off on a rather sobering note.  In a way
I agree with you that the Internet has helped to create alternate
realities that an individual may choose from.  In his essay "The
Mass-Less Media" (The Atlantic, Jan-Feb 2006), William Powers
posits that the Internet has created niche markets which an
information consumer can choose from: the fragmentation of a
central news sharing source-- like the mass markets of CBS, NBS,
BBC, UPI, and Associated Press--that dominated the twentieth
century has resulted in people with the ability to find an
information source that matches their way of thinking, an
individual's particular belief system.  Powers saw that as a good
thing because he felt such a cornucopia of information sources
encouraged active discourse, but by now, twelve years later, these
niches seem to have solidified into almost immovable positions.  If
anything, people go to these same sources time and again to
entrench themselves deeper.  All this raises the disturbing
question of asking if creating the Internet was a bad idea. There's
a dilemma for ethicists to ponder.

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of STARLINGS in the same
issue, John writes:

I hate to admit this, but I have not read much if anything by Jo
Walton.  I may have to correct that situation by perusing my
shelves of science fiction magazines; I know many of those issues
have stories by her.

In response to Evelyn's review of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SHADWELL
SHADOWS in the same issue, John writes:

That Sherlock Holmes book Evelyn wrote about sounds like a bit of
fun. I shall check the local library's online catalog and see if
they have a copy.  [-jp]


TOPIC: Ulysses S. Grant (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Evelyn's review of General Grant's memoirs in the
10/21/16 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes;

Ron Chernow's latest biography, about Ulysses S. Grant, was
reviewed in the 2017OCT02 New Yorker. This reminded me that Evelyn
had reviewed Grant's memoir in 2016.  [-js]

[The issue was 10/21/16, almost exactly a year ago today!  The
review is at  -ecl]


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

(ISBN 978-393-32489-3) once again proves, Dirda may be a reviewer
for a major newspaper (the "Washington Post"), but he is also an
unapologetic science fiction fan.  He talks about reading TARZAN
THE UNTAMED in a department store at age 13 because he could not
afford to buy it.  He also says things like:

"Some title are so good one hardly need the book: e.g., H. P.
Lovecraft"s long poem 'Fungi from Yuggoth', ..."

[After describing how he found a book signed twice by its owner,
Paul A. Linebarger] "Interesting, yes, but exciting only when you
realize that Linebarger wrote, under the pen name Cordwainer Smith,
some of the greatest science fiction stories of all time.  Look for
'Scanners Live in Vain,' 'The Game of Rat and Dragon," and "The
Ballad of Lost C'Mell."

"Among the best novels of the past twenty years is Russell Hoban's
RIDDLEY WALKER.  ...  One of the funniest, most well-written books
of the '80s is John Sladek's satire of robots and modern life, TIK-

"I once thought it would be fun to construct a horror story about
what happens when Miskatonic University, in an effort to save
money, decides to deaccession the NECRONOMICON, that handbook to
all things foul and eldritch by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred."

And his chapter titles include "Childhood's End", "The October
Country", and "Light of Other Days".

Though Helene Hanff (84 CHARING CROSS ROAD) and Michael Dirda would
probably have not agreed on too many books (Hanff preferred older
English essayists while Dirda seems to favor 20th century novels),
one gets the same sense of a love of books and reading from both of
them.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed
           countless successful tests and is now universally accepted
           as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic
                                           --Erwin Schrodinger