Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/29/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 26, Whole Number 1995

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        Bread Magic (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in January (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        IT DEVOURS by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
                DARKNESS (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (ALICE'S PUZZLES IN WONDERLAND)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

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
February 8: JOHN CARTER (2012) & A PRINCESS OF MARS by Edgar Rice
        Burroughs, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
        (however, this is apparently a bad OCR)
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: Bread Magic (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Some cultures believe in sympathetic magic.  Some people from some
cultures believe that powdered rhinoceros horn is an aphrodisiac.
Because rhino horns are pointed and sharp they believe that
ingesting rhino horn will make a patient have a phallus that ill
have the same properties.  We think that Western culture is beyond
all that, but the idea is strangely popular in the West.  Here we
believe that if a bread roll is twisted into the shape of a bagel,
it will magically become a bagel and can be identified as a bagel.
I can assure you that a lot of what passes for bagels really is
not.   [-mrl]


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

I have wanted to recommend THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965) in the
past, but I could not tell the major plot twist, because that twist
really is the heart and soul of this film.  I cannot recommend this
adventure film any other way but tell you the idea behind the film.


A twin-engine Fairchild C-82 Packet cargo plane crashes into the
Libyan Desert.  Most survive the (excitingly filmed) smash up.  But
the crash is only the beginning of the problems the survivors face.
As the survivors try to find a way to save themselves and they
simply fail.  It seems rather obvious that they are all going to
die.  Then a German engineer says that with materials from the
crash used as parts and scrap they have everything they need to
build a new plane and fly it to safety.  They can do it if they can
work together.  But they are not yet ready to cooperate.  This will
be of particular interest to engineers, but it is an exciting film
all around.  [Friday, January 19 8:00 PM]

You know, I want to defend John Boorman's film EXORCIST II: THE
HERETIC (1977).  Fans and critics alike brutalized this film.  I
saw it of its first day of release.  At that time it was not great,
but it was okay.  After I saw the film it was pulled from theaters
and partially re-cut.  Most people who go to a sequel go expecting
it to be more of the same thing they saw in the original, but with
less prestigious actors.  Too often a sequel is either a thinly
disguised remake or it is an entirely different story just re-using
the same characters in an entirely different story.  So what should
a part 2 be that is true of EXORCIST II.   The sequel should do
what the second half of a novel does for the first half.  It should
create a wider context for the first half.  It should tell the
viewer the rest of the story.  In this case it should tell why was
Regan the one possessed not someone else?  There is a reason.
EXORCIST II introduces an entire new mythology, that of the so-
called "good locust".  Boorman tries a number strange touches, and
they are hit and miss.  But a few do hit.  EXORCIST II is rarely
seen but deserves another look.  [Saturday, January 20, 04:00 AM]

My choice for best film of the month is Leo McCarey's almost
forgotten MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW.  This is really one of the great
American films.  But like Italy has its BICYCLE THIEVES it is our
equivalent extremely poignant and bittersweet film.  An elderly
couple has their relationship terminated by the Depression. After a
lifetime of being together and deeply in love with each other they
find they the world is tearing them apart.  The husband is too old
to be employed so they cannot save their home from foreclosure.
They hasve several children but no one of their children can take
in both.  They are forced to separate and circumstance says they
will never see each other again.  Their time of being together is
coming to an end.  They have one final afternoon in their lives to
be together.  It is a very moving story.  Orson Welles said of this
film that it would make a stone cry.  [Saturday, January 20, 7:45

TCM starts the year right giving us January 3rd and 4th to
celebrate the new year in a big way with 1950s monster films.  They
have a full 24 hours of monster movies.

  7:45 AM THEM! (1954)
  9:30 AM GIANT BEHEMOTH, THE (1959)11:00 AM GODZILLA (1954, Japanese
12:30 PM RODAN (1958)
  1:45 PM ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958)
  4:30 PM INVISIBLE BOY, THE (1957)

My suggestion, by the way, would be to skip QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE
and maybe ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN.  You can't go far wrong with
the rest.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: IT DEVOURS by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (copyright
2017, Harper Perennial, $21.99, 347pp, ISBN 978-0-06-247605-0)
(book review by Joe Karpierz)

We should all be allowed our guilty reading pleasures now and
again.  I apparently have at least three: the extended "Dune" saga,
written by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert; the neverending
"Ender Saga" by Orson Scott Card; and what appears to be a new
guilty reading pleasure, the "Welcome to Night Vale" novels.  There
really is no justification for the various guilty reading
pleasures--well, maybe there is.  In the case of Dune and Ender,
I'm something of a completist as well as an eternal optimist.  In
both of these cases, not only have I read all the other books in
the series (well, sort of in the case of Ender.  I haven't read the
Ender books that are collaborations between Card and someone else),
but I keep hoping against hope that the books will be good.

And then there's Night Vale.  I've been reflecting on my reading
cycle during the year, and it generally involves reading the Hugo
finalists as well as trying to stay ahead of the game when it comes
to the next year's finalists.  There is also the occasional ARC
that I read that the publishers are nice enough to let me have
copies of.  Out of the 30+ books I've read this year (yeah, I know.
I'm a slow reader; that's just the way it is), there are just a few
that I've picked up because I was looking for something to read
that I didn't have a commitment for.  I need a break in my reading.
Something silly, something light, something that isn't up for an
award or has won an award in the past or just might be up for an
award.  That something is Night Vale.

If you are unfamiliar or indeed haven't heard about the wildly
popular podcast "Welcome to Night Vale", please go take a few
minutes to look it up and see what it's about.  I can wait.  I'll
be right here when you get back.  Got it?  Good.

IT DEVOURS is the second "Welcome to Night Vale" novel.  The first
one takes a lot of time and effort to introduce all the characters
that the podcast has introduced, with the effect that the novel is
slowed down considerably until all the introductions are out of the
way.  The other thing that made the first book a bit of a slog was
that it wasn't in the form of a radio broadcast as narrated by
Cecil.  IT DEVOURS has neither of those problems, and thus it flows
more freely and readily than the first.  However, that doesn't mean
the novel is all that much better than the first.

There have been loud rumblings in the outskirts of the town of
Night Vale, as holes open up and whole buildings are swallowed into
the earth.  Carlos, Cecil's husband, is a scientist that is
investigating the rumbling disturbances.  One of his assistants,
Nilanjana Sikdar (who, as I've just learned, actually appeared--or
was mentioned--in episode 107 of the podcast), is assigned by
Carlos to investigate the sites of the disturbances while he
continues his experiments and investigations in the lab.  The
investigation involves The Congregation of the Smiling God, the
house that doesn't exist, the desert wasteland, the dog park, and
the lighthouse on the top of the mountain.  The Congregation
believes that their Smiling God will come and devour everyone's
sins.  Nilanjana learns that bit of information from Darryl, one of
the Congregations most fervent believers.  As the mutual attraction
between Darryl and Nilanjana grows, she comes to the conclusion
that the leader of the Congregation may be planning something more
significant and sinister than the people of the church imagine.

That's the elevator pitch, of course, and while Fink and Cranor
didn't write it, I think it does a reasonable job of selling the
story--to fans of "Night Vale".  If you don't listen to "Night
Vale", this is just another ordinary mystery/thriller involving
love, faith, and humor.  There is a good amount of humor, and
unlike the first "Night Vale" novel I laughed out loud a few times
during IT DEVOURS.  And to be fair, Fink and Cranor do deliver a
twist to the story that was not, in my opinion, telegraphed in the
least until just before it was revealed.  However, nothing is
really resolved here.  And while there is conflict between the
scientists, the Congregation, and the town of Night Vale itself,
the resolution was not really what I would have expected.

I guess that's okay.  Night Vale is a strange place, where nothing
is as you'd expect it to be.  I think that one thing I should be
expecting, after outings, is that the novels are just okay.  And I
guess that's all a guilty pleasure needs to be anyway.  [-jak]


DARKNESS (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to the 12/22/17 issue of the MT VOID (#1994), John
Purcell writes:

Wow! Only six more issues to go until you folks hit the big 2000th
issue.  That appears to be the February 2, 2018, issue.  I sense a
Landmark Issue is in the works.  Then appearing on the morning of
Friday, June 8, 2018, will be MT VOID #2018.  Seems to me you two
are going to have a heck of a New Year.  Thank you for letting us
readers be a part of it.  [-jp]

Mark replies:

Oh, great.  Until you mentioned it we had not given it any thought.
We are open to suggestions  [-mrl]

In response to Mark's review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI in the
same issue, John writes:

So what the heck is there to natter about in this particular issue?
Well, from my perspective there are a couple things to say, the
first being that I haven't seen any of those movies yet, including
the latest STAR WARS movie, which I suspect I will be seeing in the
next week or two just so I can natter with my students about it
when classes resume on January 16th.  I have three weeks, so I'm
not worried.  On the other hand, my two sons-in-law have seen it:
Zach only once, but Eric is the big Star Wars fan in the family so
he has seen THE LAST JEDI four times already!  Naturally a bunch if
not all of the Christmas presents they received yesterday were STAR
WARS related. Even our grandson (who is 4-1/2 years old) did not
escape the grandparents' SW merchandise onslaught.  He loved them,
naturally.  [-jp]

And in response to the two reviews of THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS in
the same issue, John writes:

I may have to re-read THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. It has been
something close to 35 years since I first read it, and remember
finding it a bit daunting at the time, although I did appreciate
its significance and impact on the genre. Perhaps now I will
appreciate the novel much more now that I am All Growed Up and
believe what this book is about is worth reading more than once,
especially the older one gets.

Yeah, I think that will do it for now.  Thanks again for sending
this to me, and I look forward to many more.  [-jp]

Mark replies:

Good to get your responses.  [-mrl]


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

978-1-4351-6327-0) is your typical puzzle book, with the puzzles
couched in "Alice in Wonderland" terms: instead of John and Jim you
have Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and so on.

The real problem is that of the 75 puzzles in the book, at least
two have incorrect answers.

The first is as follows: The Hatter finds a $50 bill.  He went to
the butcher and pays him the $50 he owed him.  The butcher bought a
pig from the farmer for $50.  The farmer paid the carpenter $50 he
owed him.  The carpenter paid the King $50 in taxes.  The King paid
the Hatter $50 he owed him for a hat.  Then the Hatter recognized
the bill as the original $50 bill and realized it was fake.  What
was lost in this and by whom?

The other puzzle involves a shrinking potion and a growing potion.
A witch has a quart iron cauldron of the growing potion and a quart
bronze cauldron of the shrinking potion.  She then takes three
ladles of the stuff in the iron cauldron and poured them into the
bronze cauldron, which she mixed thoroughly.  Then she took two
ladles from the bronze cauldron and put them in the iron cauldron,
then a ladle from the iron to the bronze, and then two ladles from
the iron to the bronze, mixing each time.  Alice then asked which
would make her shorter.

The answers--incorrect and correct--will be given next week.


                                           Mark Leeper

            Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried
                                            --Mae West