Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/24/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 21, Whole Number 1990

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
                (book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        "How Great Science Fiction Works" by Gary K. Wolfe (audio
                course review by Joe Karpierz)
        JANE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Just Eleven Light Years Away (comments by Gregory Frederick)
        Convention Reports (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
        THOR: RAGNAROK (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek)
        WONDER WOMAN (letter of comment by Peter Trei)
        This Week's Reading (BEOWULF ON THE BEACH, THUS SPOKE
                ZARATHUSTRA) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

December 8: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) or JOYEUX NOEL (2005),
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
December 14: PREDESTINATION (2015) & "All You Zombies" by Robert
        A. Heinlein, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
January 11, 2018: SILENT RUNNING (1972) & "The Word For World Is
        Forest" by Ursula K. Le Guin, Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
January 12: THE IMITATION GAME (2014), Middletown (NJ) Public
        Library, 12N
January 25: OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
March 22: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula K. Le Guin, Old
        Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
May 24: TIME TRADERS by Andre Norton, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM (available in Project Gutenberg)
July 26: FIRE WATCH by Connie Willis, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
September 27: TBD (probably a Hugo-nominated novella), Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

I will concentrate this month on one very good film.  TCM ran this
film for the first time in 2016 and is running it for the second
time in spite of the fact that it is more recent than most films it
runs.  It is in fact recent enough that I reviewed it directly
after seeing it in a theater.  Rather than write an entire new
description I will just take my old review and re-print it.
Information as to what when it will run is, as usual, at the end of
the write-up.

APOLLO 13 (1995): There were two important events in James Lovell's
life in 1965.  He flew the Gemini 7 with Frank Borman,
rendezvousing with Gemini 6.  That event got worldwide attention.
There was, however, a more important event that even Lovell did not
know about.  That was the year that the design team on the Apollo
program decided to increase the voltage on the fuel cell oxygen
tank heaters from 28 to 65 volts.  Only a handful of people knew
about that decision and James Lovell was not one of them.  It was
not a bad decision in itself, but it required replacing the
thermostatic switches in the tanks with ones that could handle the
extra load.  But that replacement was one detail that got forgotten
amongst the millions and millions of details necessary in building
a lunar rocket.  Under the right conditions the wiring could run
hot and the Teflon insulation fail, then the wiring could short,
the switches could fuse open, the oxygen could ignite, and the tank
could explode.  It was an unlikely chain of events, however, and it
did not happen to the first Apollo missions.  Five missions went
into space with what was essentially a bomb in their service module
and each returned safely.  Ron Howard brings to the screen the
story of the sixth Apollo mission into space, Apollo 13.

When I go to see a historical film I like to get more than two
hours worth of entertainment.  I try to read all I can about the
events of the film and try to picture them myself.  I enjoy knowing
that in BRAVEHEART what they called the Battle of Stirling was
really the Battle of Stirling Bridge and Wallace won the battle
because the English army was half on each side of the bridge when
he attacked.  Then if I write about the film I like to tell about
what it got wrong.  However, I will not be pointing out much in the
way of historical flaws in APOLLO 13 because I have little to say.
In 1970 it was Swigert saying "Houston, we had a problem," and I
think in the film it was Lovell saying it in the present tense.
Big deal.  At one point an astronaut develops a fever.  It is a
detail that could have been missed in the accounts I read.  There
may be two or three other minor distortions.  Only GETTYSBURG has
been as accurate an historical dramatization in recent years.
Watching the film after reading accounts of the flight I had fewer
reactions of "Hey, they did that wrong," and than of "Oh, that's
what the book meant." (The book, incidentally, is A HISTORY OF
MANNED SPACEFLIGHT by David Baker, a book that is fairly detailed
and authoritative.  NASA also has an account of the mission on the
World-Wide Web and which is included below.) The film does a
remarkable job of making the technical concepts comprehensible.
But where it comes to a choice between understandable or accurate,
the film chooses accuracy.  It was the right choice.  The film
takes the risk of not underestimating the intelligence of its
audience, and as of this writing seems to be playing to sell-out
crowds.  It may not have more thrills than a Sylvester Stallone
film, but they are authentic.

The spirit of the film as well as the subject matter makes it a
logical successor to THE RIGHT STUFF.  The tone could well have
been a pessimistic account about the dangers of space exploration.
Instead, Howard chooses to give us a much-needed reminder that the
problems of space are soluble, and they would continue to be so
even under incredibly short time constraints.  Like DIE HARD WITH A
VENGEANCE, this is a film about people solving problem quickly
under extreme pressure.  But the reason is not nearly so contrived
and is far more believable.  This is the story of the incredible
no-excuses-no-failure engineering feat of taking a wrecked
spacecraft that had fifteen minutes of life left in it and turning
it into a lifeboat capable of bringing three men 200,000 miles to a
safe landing on Earth.

The film begins with the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, a preparation for a
sub-theme of the fear with which the families of all the Apollo
astronauts live all the time but particularly during missions.  Jim
Lovell (Tom Hanks) tries to reassure his family, but still makes
clear to his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) that he is going to walk on
the moon.  The film shows something of the training and the tricks
of fate that determine the crew who will go on the ill-fated
voyage.  Much of this part may be interpolated and the matter of
guesswork.  But once the flight begins--with what is probably the
most breathtaking rocket launch in any film fact or fiction--from
there the NASA accounts of the flight are pretty much the scenario
of the film.

Future films depicting the weightlessness of free-fall will have
APOLLO 13 as a standard to live up to.  There are no rotated camera
effects or floating objects on wires.  The weightless shots were
filmed in genuine weightlessness within the atmosphere.  The scenes
were shot in short segments aboard Air Force KC-135s flying
parabolic courses to create in actuality a zero-G set.  Some roles
call for actors to make special sacrifices, but having to actually
act in freefall must have been particularly difficult as well as
unique.  It also must have made it impossible to film any one long

Having to go through this particularly difficult form of acting is
Tom Hanks who is no doubt learned that a real lunar mission can
have more surprises than a box of chocolates.  His James Lovell,
Jr., is played with a sort of quiet professional dignity that is a
first for him.  Kevin Bacon plays the hot shot pilot John Swigert,
Jr.  Playing the third Junior of the three on board, Fred Haise,
Jr., is Bill Paxton.  None of these are particularly flashy roles.
After letting Tom Cruise over-act just a little in FAR AND AWAY,
Howard has much more subdued performances in this film.  Kathleen
Quinlan is losing some of the fragility of her earlier roles, but
what she still has is useful here.  And of course there is a role
for Howard's favorite character actor, his brother Clint, here
playing a nerdy technician.  There is even a semi-comic role for
Ron Howard's mother as Lovell's slightly confused mother.  Howard
was reluctant to cast Ed Harris as nervous, go-getting flight
director Gene Krantz, since Harris is known best as John Glenn in
THE RIGHT STUFF.  However, the character is written thinly and the
audience needs the previous characterization to flesh out the

James Horner provides a score lending a quiet dignity to the
scientific pursuit supplemented by just a little too much rock
music that really does not do all that much to capture the feel of
the period.  More is done by the clothing and set design,
especially the occasional slide rule, which at least for a
technical type (nerd) like me did much more to create an early
1970s feel.  Also slightly overdone was the emphasis on urine and
vomit.  Special effects are first-rate and flawless.

This film is a paean to the power of perseverance to solve even the
most impossible problems.

[Friday, December 29, 10:00 PM]

Incidentally, TCM is also running THE RIGHT STUFF (1983).  Also
very good.

[Wednesday, December 6, 9:00 PM]



TOPIC: THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
(copyright 1990-2013, Tor and other publishers, 11,731pp) (excerpt
from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)

In 2014, the entirety of the series THE WHEEL OF TIME, by Robert
Jordan--and, in the end, Brandon Sanderson--was nominated for a
Hugo Award.  Since I was doing reviews of Hugo Nominees at the
time, a part of me jumped immediately into CHALLENGE ACCEPTED mode.
I quickly gave that up; it was ridiculous to believe I could read
all fourteen books (fifteen if you count the prequel) of THE WHEEL
OF TIME in one summer.

I was right.  It took me almost two years.

I didn't start them that summer.  My mom had read the first one or
two before and had only bad things to say about them, so I was
already put off.  They were fourteen books (I didn't learn about
the fifteenth until later) of 600+ pages each, and I had absolutely
no desire to read them.  My best friend, however, holds them in
high regard; and after hearing him talk about them, after him
writing me texts full of compelling quotes, after painting him an
elaborately detailed map of the world without ever having read one
of the books, I gave in during early 2016 and decided to give it a

"If you can get past problematic gender politics...," he said, it's
worth the read.

THE WHEEL OF TIME, starting with THE EYE OF THE WORLD and running
all the way to A MEMORY OF LIGHT, follows primarily Rand al'Thor, a
farmboy who is told by a mysterious magic-user (an Aes Sedai) that
he is the prophesied Dragon Reborn, foretold to both break and save
the world.  He doesn't want to believe it.  Boy oh boy does he not
want to believe it.  Luckily, since Rand spends several books being
whinier than a doorhinge in serious need of some grease, the series
also follows a veritable horde of other characters--including but
not limited to his childhood best friends, his nearly-betrothed,
his lovers, the Aes Sedai, queens, villains, conquerors, generals,
and petty, quibbling minor nobles as they try to aid or prevent the
Dark One from destroying the Pattern which governs the universe,
ending the Wheel that is time, and turning the world either into an
eternal miasma of despair or into nothing at all.

I've not been terribly complimentary so far, so let me start.

While Rand (the main character, in spite of the hundreds of both
memorable and forgettable other characters) spends much of the
first few books being insufferable, there are enough characters and
stories weaving around him to carry you through the first book, if
you're willing.  It is slow to take off, but I was intrigued enough
by Egwene, Perrin, Nynaeve, Lan (and eventually Mat, but he has
some dire straits to weather before he's enjoyable to watch) that I
was compelled to continue.  Book two, THE GREAT HUNT, is still
slow, until the last third or so, when it becomes quite exciting.

At this point in time, I had only promised my friend that I would
read the first three, threatening to give up after that if it
didn't catch my attention.  I didn't want to commit myself to all
fourteen (right, fifteen) books.

The trouble is, book three (THE DRAGON REBORN) was excellent.

Better news, so were books four and five (THE SHADOW RISING and THE

Another friend had mentioned to me that it was best after book five
to just "wander off and make your own ending." I think part of this
stemmed from the long wait for future books while he was reading
it, but in some ways, he was right.


I can't say much in detail about the first few books because I read
them *so* long ago.  (It's worth noting that I read two or three
other novels between each WHEEL OF TIME installment; I needed a
break.) I do know that I enjoyed the first five.  Somewhere,
possibly around book three (perhaps later), Rand graduated from
excruciatingly whiny to compelling, intricate, and sympathetic.

Unfortunately, even as Rand became my favorite character, others
took his place as insufferable, petty, and/or useless.  Nynaeve and
Elayne made me want to stab someone.  Perrin eventually grew static
and dull.  (Only Egwene, Min, and Lan managed to maintain
consistently interesting and appealing personalities--and how.
That sounds like a lot of people, but compared to the vast cast of
characters, they are but drops in the ocean.)

I think I've probably put you off at this point, but hear me out.

Books six through ten are exceedingly dull.  Most of them have an
exciting last 50-100 pages, as if Robert Jordan had some great
ideas but didn't know how to reach them without pages and pages
(and pages and pages and pages and pages and--) of agonizingly
repetitive skirt smoothing, hair tugging, petty bickering, and more
things you've read a hundred times throughout the books.  Every
woman is introduced by the shape and cut of her neckline, and half
the men by how much embroidery is on their sleeves.  (This is often
supposed to indicate their personality, and is equally often the
only thing we know about a person besides their name, which is
exactly the same as three others' names in the same book.)

No, really, hear me out.

The first five books: worth it.

And if you can get past six through ten: It picks up again.

Amazingly, I could barely put down eleven (KNIFE OF DREAMS).  Maybe
it was just coming off ten (arguably the worst), but Jordan really
picked up his stride again.  Several characters had been ruined by
their thoroughly-too-long exploits in the previous books, but their
activities began to gain momentum once more.

Somewhere in here, Rand developed into a dark and deeply hurt
character.  It was tragic to watch--a real change from the
unbearable whiner in the beginner, he accepted his role as the
Dragon Reborn and fought to save the world without saving himself.
The story followed not only him, but the people around him who
loved him despite his depression-like condition, and who were
determined to see him alive and happy at the end of his trials,
despite the prophecies proclaiming that he would die.

Unfortunately, just as Robert Jordan gathered steam once again, he
passed away.  He had left copious notes, and asked his wife to find
someone to take over the series after him.

Brandon Sanderson stepped into the fold.

Picking up with book twelve (THE GATHERING STORM), I can only say
that Sanderson did an excellent job.  Though there are some small
discrepancies in writing style, he adhered closely and lovingly to
Jordan's mode while avoiding all the pitfalls of repetitious skirt
smoothing (I can't tell you how many times a nervous woman smoothed
her skirts) or skirts divided for riding (you can tell I read that
phrase a lot).  The plots were engaging again, and Sanderson
clearly had a devoted fondness for these characters, some of whom
he managed to bring back from the brink of being unsalvageably
irritating.  (Hooray for liking Nynaeve again! Finally.) Egwene
went from enjoyable to incredible, Lan to epic.

I do wish the stakes had been higher: very few characters died
reliably throughout the series.  But as my friend told me:
"Remember, the danger is real."

I read books twelve and thirteen (TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT and A MEMORY
OF LIGHT) back to back.  They were the only things I could get
excited about.  I read 600 of A MEMORY OF LIGHT's 900 pages *in one
Was it worth it?

That's the question, isn't it?  Was it worth the slog, the downfall
of good characters' personalities, the "problematic gender

Here's the thing.  I think it was.

Yes, the middle of the series is mind-numbingly boring.  Yes, the
gender divide is inexhaustibly frustrating, with everyone insisting
on pointlessly stereotyping everyone else in ways that quickly
cease to be amusing and ultimately make me want to yell at
everyone.  But if you can survive all that, Jordan created an
incredibly rich tapestry of diverse cultures, an innovative magic
system, and a vast and vital cast of characters (too many, some
might say).  THE WHEEL OF TIME really is an important series--
somehow it seems iconic, even if it doesn't have the widespread
readership of THE LORD OF THE RINGS or HARRY POTTER.  It certainly
is not as concise as those other series, and the fifteen books is
prohibitive.  I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.  It's not going
to *be* for everyone.  If you're not interested in character over
plot, you might not get through book one.  Even the plot--farmboy
chosen one to save the world from the nebulously-defined Dark One--
seems a little underwhelming.  But it's the exploration of these
things, how they affect each other and the future that's important.
(The future--I haven't even talked about the turning of the Wheel,
but let's just say that the past isn't what you think.) Are you
going to notice all the nuances throughout the books?  No, because
when it takes you two years to read a series, you forget a lot
about it as you go.  But they're there.  And they matter.  You'll
notice some of them, and you won't forget the important things.
Because THE WHEEL OF TIME matters.

If nothing else, the final two books, in the midst of my lack of
interest toward anything I was reading, riled me up again.  They
made me *care*.  A MEMORY OF LIGHT, despite being full of battles
(and making me cry) had a kind of peace to it.  A kind of peace
that comes from completing a great achievement.  Epic, maybe.

Is THE WHEEL OF TIME for everyone?  Absolutely not.  Maybe you read
only the first three.  Maybe you read the first five.  But if you
have a little (okay--a lot of) patience and an interest in fantasy,
the series will take you some places you didn't expect to go.

And I sincerely hope that whatever TV show follows will be really
well done, so that the intricacies of the Pattern can be made
accessible to more people.

I'm glad I made it.

P.S.  I didn't talk at all about the fifteenth book, "number zero"
(NEW SPRING).  That's because there isn't much to say about it.
It's much shorter--only about 300 pages--and tells the back story
of two important characters from the main series.  Some of it is
quite poignant.  Some of it is literally clerical work.  You win
some, you lose some.



TOPIC: "How Great Science Fiction Works" by Gary K. Wolfe
(copyright 2016, The Great Courses,,
approximately 12 hours, 30 minutes) (audio course review by Joe

Gary K. Wolfe is probably best known in the science fiction field
for two things: his reviews of science fiction and fantasy novels
in Locus Magazine and for being one half of the duo that brings us
The Coode Street Podcast (along with Jonathan Strahan).  Until his
recent retirement, he was a professor at Roosevelt University's
Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies in Chicago.  He
also periodically writes short reviews that appear in the Chicago
Tribune.  I've been listening to the podcast for several years now
and have been reading his reviews for much longer than that.  I
became interested in this course when it was mentioned on the
podcast, and jumped at the chance to get it when it was an Audible
Deal of the Day a while back. It's been clear to me that Wolfe is
extremely knowledgeable and is well read in the field.  Little did
I know just how knowledgeable or well read he is.

While the title of the course is "How Great Science Fiction Works",
it feels more like an overview of the history of the field, a
survey course which attempts to cover as much territory as possible
in its 12+ hours of running time.  But it's not just a history of
the field, it's an exploration of the themes and subject matter
that have intrigued readers and critics for centuries.  It begins
with what is generally considered to be the very first science
fiction novel, Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, which Wolfe uses as an
example of what defines science fiction: that which is possible
(well, yes, there's more to it than that, but for the purposes of
FRANKENSTEIN let's go with it).  Previous stories about monsters
were considered fantasy because typically the monsters were created
by magic or they occurred in myth and legend.  Frankenstein's
monster was created by science--and that's the difference.

As the listener--or viewer, if you want to actually see the
lectures--proceeds through the course, what becomes apparent is
just how large the field is in terms of breadth and scope, in terms
of how it explores the affects of science and technologies on the
societies it explores.  Take a look at some of the topics that are
covered in the 24 lectures:  Evolution and Deep Time in Science
Fiction, Utopian Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares, Environmentalism
in Science Fiction, Gender Questions and Feminist Science Fiction,
Religion in Science Fiction, Science Fiction Treatments of History,
and Encounters with the Alien Other, just to name a few.  It
becomes obvious as Wolfe proceeds through the course that the field
that we all know and love is vast, ever changing, and influential.
It explores the relationship between science, man, and society, and
tells us more about ourselves than we thought it would.

As I said earlier, the course demonstrates the wealth of knowledge
Wolfe has of the field, and he does a marvelous job of not only
presenting that knowledge to the listener, but also in relating the
subject matter to our society and our everyday lives.  He presents
the subject matter in a clear and concise manner and in an engaging
style.  It's clear that he knows his stuff.

"How Great Science Fiction Works" is a great course for longtime
fans of the field, newcomers who want to learn about the history of
the field, and really anyone who wants to find out more about
science fiction.  I can tell you that I enjoyed the science fiction
course I took in college, but this is the one I really would have
wanted to take back in those days.  I'm glad I got to experience it
now.  [-jak]


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

CAPSULE: This biography of Jane Goodall shows us how she has
changed our definition of what is and is not human by her in-depth
(and continuing) study of chimpanzee behavior.  The film is a feast
for the eye with its beautiful animal photography.  Just how these
images became part of the film is actually part of the story.  This
is certainly one of the year's best documentaries.  Rating: +3
(-4 to +4) or 9/10

JANE is a biographical documentary about the life of Jane Goodall
and her study of chimpanzee behavior in the wild.  Perhaps the
first real wonder of the film is that it could be made like this at
all.  There must have been somewhere a tremendous trove of film of
Goodall in the wild.  My first reaction on seeing the film was that
it had been cast with a woman who looked just very like Goodall
herself.  It took a moment to realize this was the original footage
of her days in Africa.  The picture is so sharp for most of the
footage it looks like it has to be re-enactment, but this is the
original photography.

As a child Jane Goodall read the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs,
and she wanted to live like Tarzan's Jane in Africa surrounded by
animals.  Sadly, she could not afford college and ended up a
secretary.  In spite of her not having the necessary schooling to
be sent to observe animals in the wild, Louis Leakey--yes, *that*
Louis Leakey--chose her to go to Gombe in Africa to study
chimpanzee behavior.  Leakey considered that education was not
nearly as important as an open mind, a passion for knowledge, a
love of animals, and a monumental patience.  These were virtues
that the neophyte Goodall had in abundance.  The last of these
virtues, the patience, would be badly needed as chimpanzees are
very unhappy with the presence of these strange tall white apes who
cover themselves up and who make these funny noises with their
mouths.  And so began Goodall's first great challenge, winning over
the chimps, in what has become the longest study of any animal in
its natural habitat--going on fifty years and still continuing.

The animal photography in this film is absolutely stunning.  It was
shot by Hugo van Lawick, considered to be one of the greatest
animal photographers of all time.  He plays a major part in the
life of Goodall, as the film relates.  Director Brett Morgen
reconstructed much of the photography from what was thought to be
long-lost footage, but restored and digitally enhanced for this
film.  All this is flavored by a score by Philip Glass and one of
his few scores without repetitious minimalism.

To this point the film has played only at film festivals and has
not had a general release.  A faint criticism of the film: at times
it shows too much of Goodall's private life when the viewer
(perhaps just this viewer) is anxious to get back to insights of
chimpanzee behavior.  Goodall has a battle in convincing the
general population that a chimpanzee is a thinking and reasoning
individual.  Note: If the viewer is expecting a candy-coated,
Disney view of chimpanzees it should be noted that apes are more
like humans than that and Goodall discovers some not very nice
aspects of chimpanzee behavior.  Toward the end of the film there
are some dark touches.

Goodall's choices sometimes seem to be questionable.  She bribes
the apes to come into her camp, an environment very different from
their wild habitat.  We do see some very negative aspects of
contact between humans and apes.  I rate the film a +3 on the -4 to
+4 scale or 9/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is an epic yet personal story, a memoir of one very
young girl.  Loung Ung, who survived in Cambodia when the violently
militant Khmer Rouge controlled much of the populace.  The
narrative is just as vicious and painful as the title suggests it
to be.  Angelina Jolie directs from a script by she herself
coauthored with the real Loung Ung.  Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER begins with the American armed forces
invading Cambodia in the name of "helping the Cambodians help
themselves" as Richard Nixon put it in documentary footage.  The
film quickly jumps to the day that the Americans pulled out of
Southeast Asia, both Vietnam and Cambodia.

There is momentary jubilation in Cambodia that the Americans are
gone but almost immediately the Khmer Rouge, communist guerillas in
red scarves, take control and abolish any private property and
private life.  The Khmer Rouge was the Cambodian Communist
guerrilla organization that controlled much of the country and
killed the opposition. In the name of the people they enslaved the
people with murderous unrestrained brutality.

Loung Ung's family loses their home and all their private
possessions.  Everything is owned communally but young Loung sees
these things being taken from her family and only the barest
necessities of life coming back.  Guns are confiscated and held so
the Khmer Rouge are the only ones armed.  Ung's family is driven
from the city, Phnom Penh, to the country side where they are
expected to farm the dry ground if they want to eat.  Worse is to
come.  We see all this through the eyes of Ung who tells her
memories of life under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.  Ung is played
by Sareum Srey Moch behind a passive face that helps to make the
emotion all the more poignant.

The film was made for Netflix Streaming and is already in release.
It is reminiscent of the film BEASTS OF NO NATION of a year ago.
Both are about threats to and hardship of the innocent--
particularly of the young--in times of war.  Netflix distributed
both films.  Because the film shows the barbarity of the Khmer
Rouge in the lives of the innocent it might also be compared to THE
KILLING FIELDS (1985).  The story of THE KILLING FIELDS' Dith Pran
and of this film's Loung Ung start to converge as both use the same
image to inform the character that the ordeal is over.  Because the
film is long-ish and covers a lot of geography it gives the film
something of an epic feel.

If the title is foreboding you will find the story no less so,
though the horrors are spread wider but no thinner.  I rate FIRST
THEY KILLED MY FATHER a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Just Eleven Light Years Away (comments by Gregory Frederick)

Greg Frederick writes:

One of the closest to our solar system Earth-like planets has been
discovered.  This one is eleven light years away and orbits a red
dwarf star.  This red dwarf star does not have sudden outbursts of
solar radiation that some red dwarfs have.  So this planet has a
more hospitable environment for life and its temperatures are also
compatible with life as we have here.
Details below from CNN:


Mark replies:

Only eleven light-years?  Piece of cake.  [-mrl]

Greg responds:

It is a long distance away but it's still in our neighborhood (in
terms of our galaxy).  I admit that would be a rather long walk to
stroll around this neighborhood, but project Star Shot plans to
send a very small probe on a solar sail powered by a Giga-watt set
of lasers to Proxima Centauri (4.2 light years away) in about
twenty years.  [-gf]

Mark answers:

I think we humans just are not made for interstellar travel.  This
planet may be in our neighborhood, but we cannot do much visiting
in our neighborhood.  We have to just sit at the doorway and stare
out like my dog used to do.  [-mrl]

Greg responds:

You may be right.  But to send a robotic probe for interstellar
investigation could be possible (like Star Shot).  We are exploring
Mars and the outer planets with robotic probes at this time.  Did
your dog have a telescope (I bet he liked the dog star)?  [-gf]

Mark answers:

Sam had no telescope.  He knew his neighborhood by sound and smell.
That made for a very mall neighborhood, but he was content to keep
an eye on things without going places he would see.  I guess that
is a lot like we are limited in doing.  [-mrl]


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

In response to Evelyn's comments on convention reports in the
11/10/17 issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:

You wrote, "I have gotten several years behind in my Philcon
reports and rather than give up altogether, I have decided to
transcribe my notes without turning them into real sentences,
paragraphs, etc.  Maybe someday I will flesh them out, but I would
not bet on it."

You therefore posted your Philcon 2015 and 2016 notes, in lieu of
complete reports.

Only a couple of years behind?  That's nothing: I still haven't
gotten around to writing up my notes from the NYcon II 1956
WorldCon.  Don't hold your breath.  [-csh]


TOPIC: THOR: RAGNAROK (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek)

In response to Dale Skran's review of THOR: RAGNAROK in the
11/17/17 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes:

I particularly enjoyed the way THOR: RAGNAROK brings Jack Kirby's
aesthetic to life on screen.  Much like Moebius and Jean-Claude
Mezieres were direct inspirations for THE FIFTH ELEMENT, or Leon
Benett's engravings for Karel Zeman's THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES
VERNE.  Having grown up with and being a fan of Kirby's work, I can
happily rest easy never seeing another comics-based movie, but
Black Panther sure looks good and that series was also a favorite
in the 70s.  I understand the sentiment that there are too many
superhero movies, but I can't help enjoying the heck out of the
Marvel installments.  [-ak]


TOPIC: UNDENIABLE (letter of comment by Tom Russell)

In response to Greg Frederick's review of UNDENIABLE in the
11/17/17 issue of the MT VOID, Tom Russell writes:

Thanks to Greg Frederick for his review of UNDENIABLE by Bill Nye
in the recent MT VOID.

I will read it after I finish FUTURE CRIMES, excellent book
(science fiction?) by Marc Goodman which I am in the middle of now-
-just getting to the "future" part.  (Did you know that a gang of
bank robbers in London used Uber for their get-away?)

UNDENIABLE must contain a lot of thought-provoking material.
Perhaps Bill Nye explains why life has evolved only once on Earth?
Or do the "four domains" mean life *has* appeared more than once?
Some jellyfish are immortal--is immortality a dead end for

By the way, if life on other planets is immortal, why be in a hurry
to do anything--evolve?--colonize or explore other planets?  (via
flying saucers or panspermia?)--even just contact us?  (This is
probably beyond the scope of Nye's book...)  [-tlr]

Evelyn replies:

I thought it was three domains (Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya) or
five dominions (as suggested in Luketa S. (2012). "New views on the
megaclassification of life" (PDF). Protistology. 7 (4): 218-237.).


TOPIC: WONDER WOMAN (letter of comment by Peter Trei)

In response to Mark's comments on Wonder Woman in the 11/17/17
issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

You might want to look into the origins of The Wonder Woman.  She
was created by Professor William Marston in 1941, explicitly as a
feminist example for young women.

There's a recent movie 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman',
which explores his life (and his wife, and their girlfriend).  It's
on Netflix, but I haven't seen it yet.  [-pt]


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

LITERATURE'S GREATEST HITS by Jack Murnighan (ISBN 978-0-307-40957)
one can certainly quibble with his fifty choices.  On a technical
level, one can ask why he lists Dante's "Inferno" and "Paradiso" as
two separate works, but "Faust I" and "Faust II" as one work, and
similarly for the two books of DON QUIXOTE.  On a literary level,
why include THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES by Robert Musil or BLOOD
MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy, while omitting Walt Whitman and George
Orwell and Aldous Huxley and Joseph Heller?

Munighan also seems to think that one important topic for each book,
along with "Best Line", "Quirky Fact", and "What to Skip", is
"What's Sexy".  Well, I suppose that might get people to read some
of these, but even so ...

Murnighan also makes a common mistake with Cervantes and
Shakespeare.  He says, "Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same
day: April 23, 1616."  They died on the same *date*, but not the
same day.  Spain had already converted to the Gregorian calendar,
while England was still on the Julian one, so Shakespeare actually
died eleven days later than Cervantes.  (And isn't it a good thing
that it was Pope Gregory XIII who instituted the calendar reform in
1582 rather than Pope Julius III thirty years earlier?)

But Murnighan's sense of time is strange in other ways as well.  He
writes, "For a few centuries now, Emma Bovary has been understood
...," but Gustave Flaubert published EMMA BOVARY in 1856--usually
"few" implies more than one and a half.  And his sense of place--he
claims Queequeg is African, while it is clear he is from the South
Seas.  (It is true that Ishmael refers to Queequeg's idol as a
"Congo doll", but it is clear from Chapter 12 that Ishmael knows
Queequeg's true origins.)

And he puts an apostrophe in FINNEGANS WAKE, which should not have
one.  (This could be sloppy proofreading, but it is a common

If you like reading books about books, this is at least written for
a slightly different audience than that of Harold Bloom or even
Michael Dirda.  But as the title might suggest, it is more a beach
read than a serious look at these works.

Apropos of my comments last week on THE FOREVER WAR by Joe
Haldeman, the following quote from THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA by
Friedrich Nietzsche appeared in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
(1921) which we watched this past week: "Man shall be trained for
war and women for the recreation of the warrior; all else is

Actually, I have also found the original quote rendered as, "Man
shall be trained for war and women for the recreation of the
warrior; all else is folly."  I realize both are translations, but
surely the words for "procreation" and "recreation" are different
in German.

So I looked up the original, which is, "Der Mann soll sum Kriege
ergozen werden und das Weib zur Erholung des Kriegers: alles Andre
is Thorheit."  "Erholung" is "recreation"; "Zeugung" is
"procreation".  I have two possible theories as to why it is mis-
translated.  One is that Nietzsche intended to refer to
procreation, but felt that was too coarse; then later translations
restored his original meaning.  This seems unlikely.  The other is
that translators wanted to make Nietzsche describe women not as
enjoyable, but as mere "baby machines," thereby dehumanizing them.
This one gets my vote.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Every day you may make progress.  Every step may be
           fruitful.  Yet there will stretch out before you an
           ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path.
           You know you will never get to the end of the journey.
           But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the
           joy and glory of the climb.
                                           --Sir Winston Churchill