Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/16/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 33, Whole Number 2002

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        That's the Way to Get Ratings (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Fire Birds (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        PERSEPOLIS RISING by James S.A. Corey (book review
                by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        PERSEPOLIS RISING by James S.A. Corey (audio book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        RAVEN STRATAGEM by Yoon Ha Lee (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MUSIC OF SILENCE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MT VOID Issue 2000 and Mashed Potatoes (letter of comment
                by Bill Higgins)
        Exapno Mapcase (letter of comment by Kip Williams)
        Scientists and Applications (letter of comment
                by Dorothy J. Heydt)
        Mashed Potatoes (letter of comment by Robert K. Shull,
                Joy Beeson, Jay E. Morris, Scott Dorsey,
                Dorothy J. Heydt, and Keith F. Lynch)
        This Week's Reading (ARTEMIS and THE MARTIAN) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: That's the Way to Get Ratings (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I went to a McDonald's and afterward looked at the receipt.  It has
a message that began "Please Rate us HIGHLY SATISFIED & Receive One
FREE Item with Purchase of Another Item Equal or Lesser Value".
This makes them sound stupid on so many levels.

-- They have no idea where to capitalize.

-- I think they would insist the other item would be of greater,
not lesser value.

-- They are missing an "of" before the word "Equal"

-- It is dishonest to reward only ratings of "HIGHLY SATISFIED".

English, she is a funny language.  No?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Fire Birds (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

One of the repeating themes in my column is animal intelligence.  I
guess that comes from my memories of the behavior of my dachshund
when I was growing up as old Sam demonstrated to me that he could
think in abstractions in a way that I did not think dogs were
supposed to be able to do.  I mark that one up to human vanity.
Most humans never had much respect for canine intelligence, even
claiming that a dog really had no intelligence.  He (or she) was
just a pile of conditioned reflexes.  And more recently when they
have studied dogs they have come back with funny expressions on
their face claiming, "Wow!  Do you know what intelligent things a
dog can do?"

As Wikipedia says in their entry on dog intelligence, "Studies have
shown that dogs display many behaviors associated with
intelligence.  They have advanced memory skills.  For example, a
border collie, 'Chaser', learned the names of over 1,000 objects
and retrieved them by verbal command.  Dogs can use such memory
skill to make inferences, and a border collie named Rico learned
the labels of over 200 items and then inferred the names of novel
items by exclusion.  That is, he identified and retrieved those
novel items immediately and also 4 weeks after the initial
exposure. "  How many humans are there who can perform similar
feats?  The intelligence criteria has to be humorously and
repeatedly revised because there has been some animal found in
nature that can perform some mental feat that humans thought was
their own private domain or beyond it.

Well, there recently was a new feat of animal intelligence that we
had not dreamed any non-human would think of.  This one is not
exactly nice.  We had thought at one time that animals did not
forge tools.  We now discover that birds may have discovered using
fire tens of thousands of years ago.  It seems black kites,
whistling kites, and brown falcons had given some thought to using
fire and had noticed that brushfires could work to their advantage.
They will pick up twigs on fire, fly to some non-burning spot, and
set it on fire.  This will panic small local animals so that they
throw caution to the winds (perhaps literally) and run from the
fire.  Guess what they find when they leave the brush?  They are
easily picked off by the avian arsonists who set the fire
and who now can easily pick up the panicked prey.

See .

This behavior is seen in the wilds of Australia where the
Aborigines apparently have known about the behavior for what is
probably tens of thousands of years.  In fact, it seems that birds
may well have been using fire as a tool for longer than humans
have.  There is no way of knowing whether it was humans or birds
who started using fire first.  But we still have the edge on birds.
They use their twitter for only very limited communication, but we
can use ours to start a nuclear war.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: PERSEPOLIS RISING by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2017,
Orbit, $28.00 hardback, 560pp., ISBN13 9780316521529) (excerpt from
the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)

One of the reasons I don't write book reviews very frequently is
that I if I enjoy a book, I often have little to say about it
besides 'I liked it' (and if I didn't like it, I probably didn't
get very far into it).  PERSEPOLIS RISING, the seventh book of
James S.A.  Corey's excellent Expanse series, is mostly in this
vein.  The Expanse books have a tendency to get better and better
as the series progresses, and while I don't think I can say for
sure that PERSEPOLIS RISING is better than BABYLON'S ASHES, it was
at least as good.

There are just a couple of things I want to talk about--like how
detailed this book is.  Not detailed in the way "A Song of Ice and
Fire", for example, is detailed: describing every dress or piece of
armor in excruciating depth.  Nor detailed in the way "The Wheel of
Time" was detailed: building the world until there's barely room
left for anything else.  Not even detailed in the way most science
fiction is detailed: intimately exploring how the science works as
if it's a secret language that belongs only to a privileged few.

PERSEPOLIS RISING is detailed in a more human way.

Corey has an incredible affinity for character, and it comes out in
the way the book zooms in on every individual and reminds us that
they are nothing more or less than *people*.  Ursula Le Guin in THE
LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS understood something about humanity as a
whole; Corey in PERSEPOLIS RISING understands something about the
individual and the way they move through life.  They remember the
little things--the way a spine cracks when you stretch, the need to
keep your nails trimmed as some grasp of normalcy in an anxious
world.  These seem like pointless moments to focus on, they sound
unnecessary, but they aren't.  Every one of those tiny little
reminders was like Corey saying, 'Remember, they're real.' You
could know these people.  You could live their lives.  They may be
shaping the course of the galaxy, but they're real.

The one letdown about this book was that, for once, this character
development centered around not only the familiar crew of the Roci
(primarily though not exclusively Holden and Bobbie), but also two
mostly uninteresting people.  Singh is an agent of the Laconian
government, the new governor of Medina station, and though Corey
seems to be trying to make him sympathetic by describing his
attachment to his wife and child, the attempt falls flat.  He is
vastly uninteresting.  He is the spitting image of every dedicated
military man ever seen in a TV show: crew cut, immaculate uniform,
unwavering belief in his government.  The addition of his close
relationship with wife and little girl only really serve to make
him feel more stereotypical: Here he is with his clean-cut family
to go with his clean-cut posture.  I really didn't like reading his
sections at all.

The other major viewpoint character is Drummer, president not of a
military operation or a country, but a transport organization.  She
has to deal with the fallout of the Laconian invasion: trying to
prevent it, trying to understand it.  Her story is emotionally
important, her trials genuinely sad to witness, but it was
difficult to invest in her.  The best part of her chapters was
definitely the return of Chrisjen Avasarala, old as hell and still
swearing up and down like a particularly vile sailor.  She's blunt,
she's a little bitter, and she always knows what to do.  She is
without a doubt the best character Corey--possibly anyone--has ever
written, and if she dies in one of the last two books, even if just
from old age, I will be completely inconsolable.

There's one more thing I want to address, and it goes along with
the humanity of these characters.  While the plot of invasion is
throwing things into chaos, a smaller and more potent plot is
revolving around the crew of the Rocinante.  The crew is dividing,
and watching every individual member of that crew react to loss...
It really resonated with me on a visceral level.  I don't like to
spoil things in my reviews, so I won't say what's happening or why,
though I want to.  (Duelist Fish Joe doesn't share this holdup, so
if you want to know, see his review.) It's an interesting dance of
dealing with change on a personal level while still trying to save
the galaxy, and Corey writes it beautifully, painfully well.


TOPIC: PERSEPOLIS RISING by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2017 Orbit,
560pp, ISBN-10: 0316332836, ISBN-13: 978-0316332835, ASIN:
B06XKN9G27, copyright 2017 Recorded Books, 20 hours and 34 minutes,
ASIN: B074XK7YWT, narrated by Jefferson Mays) (excerpt from the
Duel Fish Codices: an audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

I've been reading science fiction a fairly long time.  I can't
remember for sure which was the very first sf novel I read, but I
can remember vividly reading the novelization of 2001: A SPACE
ODYSSEY by Arthur C. Clarke not long after the movie was released.
I was nine years old when that movie came out, and I saw it three
times in the theaters at that age.  And because I've been reading
sf a long time, I've read a *lot* of sf.  But there was one thing I
never understood.  I would hear or read from many people that they
couldn't wait for the next book in a particular series, that they
were in love with characters who jumped off the page at them, and
that they couldn't stand the long wait for the next book.  I flat
out never understood that attitude.  A book is a book.  The
characters aren't real.  There is nothing *that* engrossing about a
book that a person can't wait for the next one in the series--
assuming there is a next book (ask readers of A Song of Ice and
Fire; but I digress).  To state for the third time, I never
understood it.

Until now.  Until The Expanse.  Until James Holden and the crew of
the Rocinante.  Until Chrisjen Avasarala.  Until Fred Johnson.
Until.  Until.  Until.

PERSEPOLIS RISING is the 7th book in the "Expanse" series, and is
the first book in the last trilogy of the series.  With each book,
the series gets better, the characters get deeper, the stories get
stronger, the stakes get higher.  "The Expanse" is an apt title for
the series.  It's big and keeps getting bigger all the time.

There's that word.  Time.  It passes for all of us.  But not for
our favorite characters.  They don't age, or if they do, it's not
substantially.  Our favorite characters are the same 10 books into
a series as they were in the first book of the series.  Well yes,
Harry Potter grew up, but he was going to school.  He aged seven
years.  Miles Vorkosigan got older too.  As did Hari Seldon.  But
some aging hits us harder than others.  And it is that which makes
this book the most touching and poignant (to swipe a word from the
other half of the Duel Fish Codices) novel in the series to date,
even with all the action, political intrigue, and espionage.

You see, PERSEPOLIS RISING takes place 30 years after the events of
BABYLON'S ASHES.  Things have settled down in the Solar System.  We
have a semblance of organization, what with the Earth-Mars
Coalition and the Transport Union.   Humanity has spread out past
the Gates into the universe beyond.  There are more than 1000
colony worlds out there, gaining their footing.  Humanity is
reaching for the stars.  And James Holden and the crew of the
Rocinante are essentially hired hands, taking jobs for pay and
flying the aging--yes space ships age too--Rocinante all over the
place at the behest of the EMC and the Transport Union.  There is
.... peace and contentment.  No, not all is good and right.  There
are still problems.  But for the first time in decades, there are
no major calamities or catastrophes that need to be handled.  There
is no need for ... James "effing" Holden (if you will) to come
forward, do some grandstanding, and save the day and the Solar

And he's feeling his age.  He's tired.  He doesn't want to do the
Rocinante thing any more.  He and the crew will take one last run
to the Freehold system to try and deal with that colony's violation
of Transport Union's rules and guidelines.  And then he and Naomi
Nagata will retire somewhere.  They arrange to sell their shares of
the Rocinante so that when the Freehold run is over, they're done.
They can retire and relax.

Oh, come on, you really didn't think it would be *that* easy, did

Out beyond the gate, on the colony of Laconia, Winston Duarte has
slowly built an empire, an empire he intends on spreading to the
rest of humanity.  You see, Duarte's vision for humanity is peace
and prosperity for all, and it is *his* empire that will provide it
for mankind.  And he thinks he will win.  He has been having his
body modified with protomolecule technology, and he's been building
ships with protomolecule technology.

You remember the protomolecule, don't you?  Yeah, that intelligent
alien organism that would essentially trash anything it came in
contact with, or transform it into something else.  Yeah, *that*
protomolecule.  We haven't seen much of the protomolecule in the
last few books, as Corey was busy setting everything else up for
the final showdown that I absolutely, positively guarantee is going
to come in book nine.  Because, where there's a protomolecule,
there's a race trying to destroy the users of it.  But never mind

Duarte's army invades the colonies and the solar system via a ship
that is made of and by protomolecule technology.  It's unstoppable.
There are other ships in the fleet, and Duarte installs Captain
Santiago Singh as governor of Medina Station.  Poor Captain Singh
is way out of his depth.  You see, he has to deal with the crew of
the Rocinante and other rebels on Medina Station who are trying to
take it back from him.  And of course they're good.  They're very

I don't want to give away much more of the story.  I think that's
for the reader to discover and savor.  But I do want to talk about
Holden just a bit.  Holden has been our hero for the entirety of
the series.  Every time something goes wrong, Holden jumps in, does
something Holden-esque, and saves the day.  This book is not about
James Holden.  Yes, he plays a part in this book.  Yes, he does
something Holden-esque to help his friends in their quest to stop
Singh and the Laconians.  But it's not about him.  It's about our
heroes aging, and doing things one more time because they can, even
if after all those years of doing that thing they know better and
that they shouldn't do that thing.  They can't help who they are.
They just do it.  It makes Holden genuine, even as every bone in
his body creaks and makes noise.  Heck, it makes everyone genuine.
Bobbie Draper has a thought early on in the book:  you know you're
old when you stop doing things to prove that you're not.  I don't
know, does that mean Holden isn't old, because he does, one more
time, something to prove he is not?
Oh yeah, speaking of old.  Any Avasarala fans out there?  Yeah, I
can see your hands in the air all the way to the back of the room.
And you can squee just as loud as I did when she shows up the first
time in PERSEPOLIS RISING.  I said it in an earlier Expanse review,
and I'll say it again.  I will probably miss her more than any
other character in the series once it's over.

This book hit me in a different way than I was expecting.  Holden
wants to retire.  So do I.  I've got a few years to go yet, but
still, it made me think of my life and the things I've done over
the nearly 37 years since I joined the adult workforce, and it made
me realize that, like Holden, I still want to do things that
matter.  This book hit home.  And I loved every minute of it.  And
I'm pretty sure I'm going to love the remaining two books in the
series as  well.

So, my goodness.  What more can I say about narrator Jefferson
Mays?  His reading, tone, inflection, characters, *everything* are
all outstanding.  I will say that he does the best Avasarala in the
world, even better than the actress that plays her on the TV show.
And yes, I nearly drove off the road the first time her voice
popped up in the reading.  Come to think of it, not only will I
miss Chrisjen Avasarala, I'm going to miss Jefferson Mays reading
her.  [-jak]


TOPIC: RAVEN STRATAGEM by Yoon Ha Lee (copyright 2017 Solaris,
$9.99, 355pp, ISBN 978-1-78108-537-0) (book review by Joe Karpierz)

One of the biggest challenges in any genre, including science
fiction, is keeping it new and fresh.  That's a difficult thing; if
one accepts the statement that Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN is the
first science fiction novel, we realize that science fiction has
now been around for 200 years.  I'm not a scholar of the field by
any means, but I'd be willing to state that the field really didn't
pick up steam until the early 20th century.  Even taking that into
account, the idea of keeping science fiction fresh, new, and
interesting is tough for a genre that has been going strong for
well over a 100 years.

Back in 2016 Yoon Ha Lee gave the world RAVEN STRATAGEM, Book One
of the Machineries of Empire.  Yes, it was military space opera,
which certainly wasn't new, but it had a different idea--that of,
for the lack of a better term, calendrical mechanics-- which
governed the way people lived their lives.  As I said in my review
of NINEFOX GAMBIT, "It is a way of life, a belief system, a way to
hold moral fabric together.  And it can be a weapon."  With RAVEN
STRATAGEM, we see Lee take that idea and ultimately change the way
the world operates.

Mad Shuos Jedeo has taken over the body of Kel Cheris, a genius at
mathematics who was having difficulties with formation instinct, a
way of keeping things in order and focus, a way of getting things
done.  Think of always doing what you're told, always deferring to
someone in authority.  Jedeo/Cheris board the ship of Kel General
Khiruev, who is about to go into battle to try and defeat the Hafn,
who are trying to invade the Hexarchate.  Jedeo is of higher rank
than Khiruev, so formation instinct kicks in and she defers to him.
Jedeo claims he is after the same thing that the rest of the
Hexarchate is after: the defeat of the Hafn.

But no one knows if that's really true or not.  There are factions
within the Kel that are trying to kill Jedeo because he is indeed a
rogue operative that they've lost control of and no longer want to
deal with.  He is a madman who has killed his own troops and they
feel he can no longer be trusted.  And yet, all signs point to him
doing exactly what the Kel want anyway.

So, what's up with all that anyway?

The novel is much more complex than what I've described above.
Really, all that is just a starting point for all the political
intrigue and espionage that takes place.  And yes, there's action,
as you would think there should be in a military science fiction

But what's really going on under the covers is much more insidious,
and when the big reveal is made the reader almost has to stand up
and take notice.  The reveal not only involves a character we
thought we were following all along, but a shift in the nature of
the Hexarchate.  I can tell you that I did not see it coming and I
do so enjoy when a novel surprises me.  Yet, the change is
internally consistent and while it wasn't telegraphed by any means,
I think that if you put the two novels together and recall what
happens back in NINEFOX GAMBIT, you should have been able to see it

So, yeah, keeping the genre fresh and interesting.  Yoon Ha Lee has
done that in the first two books of Machineries of Empire. I'm
betting he can do it in the third as well, REVENANT GUN, which will
be released later this year.  I'm looking forward to seeing what he
surprises me with next.  [-jak]


TOPIC: 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In the first Chinese-Australian film co-production an
ancient Chinese emperor guards the secret of immortality hidden in
an underground cave and the emperor is guarded by an army of
spiders bigger than a man's hand.  Crawly things that guard a tomb
go back at least as far as the 1999 version of THE MUMMY.  This
telling would be of above-average quality on the SyFy Channel and
that is probably where it is heading.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or

The film is entitled GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB.  (It is also known as 7
GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB though there are not seven guardians.)
Perhaps the title is intended to remind filmgoers of GUARDIANS OF
THE GALAXY.  The title sounds like it promises a martial arts film,
but there are no martial arts.  It is not clear how martial arts
would work in a giant spider movie.  In the film, legend has it
that a historic emperor had the secret of living hundreds of years.
A young explorer is searching for the secret, but falls into
heretofore-undiscovered cavern.  Now he is missing, and his sister
(played by Li Bingbing) wants to go find him.  She is joined by,
among others, Mason (Kelsey Grammer), the CEO of a large pharma

The small band of explorers enters into the extensive underground
cave.  One of their first discoveries is that the cave is inhabited
by spiders as big as Moon Pies.  And there are lots of them.
Relatively recently there were also rats, but the spiders
eliminated them and there are just dead rat carcasses cluttering up
the floor.  The spiders seem to be in some way connected with the
elixir of long life.  But if you want spiders, there is still no
shortage of them.  They are all over the caves.  One friend who saw
the film says it was "Go someplace.  Fight spiders.  Go someplace.
Fight spiders.  Go someplace.  Fight spiders."  The spiders are
done in digital and they look it.  The digital imagery has improved
since the film was made evidently.  It dates the imagery.  Still,
the effects are clearly newer than the plot of icky arthropods
guarding sinister archeology.  We saw that in THE MUMMY (1999).
The dialog seems to be on the level of dialog in a SyFi Channel

Film production from foreign countries used to put an American or
Canadian into a film to give North American film viewers someone to
identify with.  That appears to be what was done here, but Grammer
is an unusual choice.  I associate him with comedy, so it is hard
to take him seriously in a non-comedy.  I doubt that he took much
pride in his presence in this film.  In addition, the film has been
dubbed into English and by somebody with a very different voice.
So he speaks English with an unfamiliar voice, and that just does
not sound right.

The script creates only superficial characters and has very little
to offer other than repetitive spider attacks.  The film may be
entertaining, but it does little more than that.  The 7 GUARDIANS
OF THE TOMB rates a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.  Gravitas
Ventures will release 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB in theaters, VOD, and
Digital HD on Feb. 23rd.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE MUSIC OF SILENCE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a fictionalized autobiography of one of the most
popular singers of all time, Andrea Bocelli.  It is based on his
semi-autobiographical novel, THE MUSIC OF SILENCE.  The film is
really a showcase not of characters in his life, but of music that
Bocelli has loved.  Only secondarily the music is tied together
with a story based on Bocelli's life.  While the film is telling of
the singer's boyhood the film has direction.  Once the singer grows
up the storytelling becomes muddled.  Michael Radford directs, but
his effort is more to show off the music than to delve into the
souls of his characters with much complexity.  Rating: low +1 (-4
to +4) or 5/10

Andrea Bocelli is one of the most popular singers in the world.
Born nearly blind with eyesight that would fail entirely at age
twelve, he learned to absolutely adore music.  He sang as a child
but gave up singing and only went back to it as a profession in the
1980s.  He sings popular music and opera.  He is now considered
among the very finest singers in the world.  Many people know of
him from the popular song "Con Te Partiro" ("Time to Say Goodbye").
There is a link to the song on YouTube below.  (It tends to be an
earworm.)  Curiously while this is Bocelli's signature melody, it
is never played in the film until the very end of the end titles.
To date, Bocelli has sold over 80 million records worldwide.

THE MUSIC OF SILENCE is a musical biography of Andrea Bocelli,
based upon his autobiography.  The musical biography is a form that
has been with us at least since the 1940s when there were such bios
as A SONG TO REMEMBER (1945) about Chopin and NIGHT AND DAY (1946)
about Cole Porter.  The biographical portion is generally just a
frame for pieces of music (often by the supposed subject of the
film).  The accuracy of the framing story is usually of secondary
importance.  NIGHT AND Day's version of Cole Porter's life is miles
wide of the mark--so much so the film bore almost no resemblance to
DE-LOVELY (2004), a second biopic about Porter.  THE MUSIC OF
SILENCE is a semi-autobiographical story by Andrea Bocelli.  The
film is filled with music from Bocelli's career and his love of
great music.  The film has abundant pieces of music, especially
from Puccini.

While I do not know specifics, undoubtedly the framing story has
some of the rougher edges smoothed down.  The film tells the story
of Amos Bardi (played in the film as an adult by Toby Sebastian).
Amos was born with severe glaucoma.  We see the world through his
eyes as just some blurry shapes.  He cannot see visual beauty but
he can hear great music.  As a baby he cries almost all the time,
but the one thing that will calm him is to hear opera music.  His
problems multiply when as a teenager he has a football accident and
goes entirely blind.  But his whole life from a baby to a young man
is an on-again, off-again relation with music, singing music and
making it.  His curse is that he has a very good voice, but not
what it would need to be great.  Also hurting his career is that he
refuses to submit to authority.  He is his own man and lives his
life that way.

While Amos is a young man the viewer wants to see him succeed.  The
film has direction.  Later the story is not so keenly told.  We see
disagreements that Amos has with other people and betrayals.  But
we have lost investment in the character and will go along mostly
for the musical pieces that come wrapped in the story.  Take away
the musical interludes and the film needs more to engage the
viewer.  The characters are thin and needed to be developed more.

Sadly, the greatness of the music is not enough to pull the viewer
into the story.  If one does not love the music the film loses all
its appeal.  I rate The MUSIC OF SILENCE a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale
or 5/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

Andrea Bocelli singing "Con Te Partiro":



TOPIC: THE MT VOID Issue 2000 and Mashed Potatoes (letter of
comment by Bill Higgins)

In response to the MT VOID's 2000th issue (02/02/18), Bill Higgins

Congratulations on reaching your 2000th issue!  I took the liberty
of notifying Mike Glyer about this milestone, as you know, and he
published my letter on the *File 770* site.

Also, belated congratulations on reaching your 1000th issue.  I
fear I failed to send a note at the time it appeared, but better
late than never, eh?

In Whole Number 2000 you write:

"Which I think makes it the second longest running personal zine,
and the personal zine with the most issues, in science fiction

Another example of a long-running fanzine is A. Langley Searles's
*Fantasy Commentator*, which ran from 1943 to 2004 (at least) but
suffered a long hiatus between 1953 and 1978.  One final volume,
numbered as Issues 59 and 60, was published after Searles's death
by his wife, Mary Alice Becker, in 2011.

So *Fantasy Commentator* was published for 68 years, or 61 years if
you count only the years Searles himself was editing it, or 43
years if you're inclined to leave out the long hiatus. or some
other number by some other scheme.  In any case, it is among the
longer-running zines in history.

If I understand correctly, Searles distributed it through FAPA, the
Fantasy Amateur Press Association.  As an apazine, one might or
might not consider it comparable to *MT VOID*.  It might be
interesting to learn whether other long-running zines were
published in FAPA.

Also in this issue, you shared The Illustration, which I admired.
If a zine is going to run only a single illustration in the course
of forty years, D. Kirby's "Sophists of Fury" seems like a good

As for Mark's editorial--revisiting a topic he dealt with in the
1000th issue--I for one am sick and tired of this constant
bickering about mashed potatoes.  [-wh]


TOPIC: Exapno Mapcase (letter of comment by Kip Williams)

In response to Mark's comments on John Campbell's map in the
02/09/18 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I got a smile at the nom Exapno Mapcase.  It clearly identifies the
user as one who has read Joe Adamson's GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO, AND
SOMETIMES ZEPPO, a bio of the comedy team that is as much fun a
watching one of their better movies.  The book shows a poster for a
Russian performance, and Harpo's name in Cyrillic is referred to by
the author as, yes, Exapno Mapcase.

So whenever I run into someone online using that handle, I have to
say, "I read that book too!" because it is one of the great ones,
and I need to find a copy that's not falling to pieces.  [-kw]


TOPIC: Scientists and Applications (letter of comment by Dorothy
J. Heydt)

In response to Dale Skran's comments on immortal naked mole rats in
the 02/09/16 issue of the MT VOID, Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

[Dale writes,] "Anyway, in my story Calico is dedicated to
discovering the secret of immortality and funded by some of the
richest people in the world, so they provide Dr. Bufferstein with
all the funding she needs so she can just work and never has to
fill out any grant applications.  By the way, this is so unlikely
you can be sure the story is made up, since as everyone knows,
scientists spend 75% of their time filling out grant applications.
....  In any case, I have good news.  You, yes, YOU, can figure out
for yourself how this story is going to end, because [SPOILER
ALERT] every fact I have mentioned except one (scientists don't
spend 75% of their time filling out grant applications, they just
FEEL LIKE THEY DO!) is 100% true."  [-dls]

I have some experience in that area.  I used to work for a
professor of molecular biology whose research was funded by a
massive NIH grant.  He was doing lots of good, interesting work,
but he HATED doing the annual re-application.

He would put it off till the week before it was due, in spite of
the woman whose job it was to put the budget part of the
application together CONSTANTLY REMINDING him that time was getting
short and she NEEDED SOME NUMBERS.  Around the beginning of the
last week, he would reluctantly provide her with some numbers, and
then some more numbers, approaching the entire budget section like
Achilles chasing the tortoise.

He would also reluctantly start writing up the text part of the
application, which I would type, and then he'd change it, and I
would edit it and print it out, and repeat from asterisk ... all
week long.  (Thank God I had a computer, at least; I had done
similar tasks earlier in my career when we had only typewriters.)

On the last day, the VERY DAY of the deadline, the budget wallah
and I would frantically make the last changes, and then he would
make more changes, and ...

and by the time it was DONE, the FedEx guy who always came by the
office at 4 PM would have come and gone, and the professor himself
would bundle up the package and drive it down to the main FedEx
station in Oakland to get it in under the wire.

He always got his renewal.  He was, as I said, a very good
scientist; not so much as a human being.  I finally quit working
for him, and for years afterwards I would have nightmares in which
I was still working for him, or was in the building where his lab
was and might possibly run into him, and awaken in a cold sweat.
He died sometime in the 1990s, and after I found that out I never
had the nightmares again.  [-djh]


TOPIC: Mashed Potatoes (letter of comment by Robert K. Shull, Joy
Beeson, Jay E. Morris, Scott Dorsey, Dorothy J. Heydt. and Keith
F. Lynch)

In response to Keith F. Lynch's comments on mashed potatoes in the
02/09/18 issue of the MT VOID, Robert K. Shull writes:

Possibly you've assumed that the name of a dish is a complete
description of the preparation process and ingredients?

While "mashed potato" does generally contain some potato and
involve some mashing, that's about the limit of what can be
assumed.  Also, the potato is generally cooked, which makes the
mashing process easier.

Actually, I'm not so sure about the "mashing" part as I've seen
mashed potato that was not so much "mashed" as "whipped".  Possibly
that counts as "extreme mashing".

I don't think I've ever had mashed potato that didn't contain some
potato, although I wouldn't be surprised if there are some non-
potato mashed potato dishes out there for people that can't
tolerate potato.

(My personal recipe for mashed potato only requires mashing half
the potato, adding the rest as chunks at the end, and gets milk,
butter, salt and pepper involved in the middle stages of the game.
My mother-in-law's version involved potato being used primarily as
a delivery mechanism for fat in the form of butter, half-and-half
and cream cheese.)  [-rks]

Joy Beeson responds:

I once read a post by someone who got all excited and offended at
the pretension of writing "whipped potatoes" on a menu.

That wasn't pretension, it was truth in advertising: mashed
potatoes and whipped potatoes are very little alike, and for a
restaurant, mashing is much more expensive.

Reconstituted dried potato ought to be called "potato puree", but
we've settled on "mashed potatoes" for all three dishes.

But if you beat an egg in and bake it, it's "Potatoes Duchesse".

Jay Morris also responds:

My mother had two recipes.  Mashed done with a potato masher, which
had chunks, and would usually contain bacon bits, chives, and
cheese.  And whipped, which was done with a mixer until smooth and
contained cream or milk, and butter.  [-jem]

Scott Dorsey replies:

Remember: One part potato, two parts garlic!  [-sed]

To which Dorothy J. Heydt says:

Do it the other way around, and I would want to eat it.  Can't,
because carbohydrates, but it's the principle of the thing.  [-djh]

Scott suggests:

If you have a problem with carbohydrate, use cauliflower instead of
potato.  It works out very nicely.  Add nigella and a little garam
masala if desired.  [-sd]

Dorothy replies:

We do eat cauliflower occasionally, but I've never tried mashing
it.  I don't own a blender at this time.  My daughter does, but
since it is a gigantic Vitamix that takes a lot of cleaning after
use, I only use it once a year, to make almond milk.  [-djh]

Keith Lynch asks:

You make a year's supply? :-)  [-kfl]

Joy writes:

I hardly ever use my stick blender, and it's comparatively easy to
clean:  just stick the business end into soapy water and turn it
on.  I plan to use it a lot come summer to puree raw ginger for
switchel, assuming the store that sells raw ginger hasn't gone
broke by then.  They have fewer choices and smaller quantities in
the fresh-producedisplay every time I visit.

A blender would puree cauliflower instead of mashing it.  If I
wanted  that dish, I'd use my ulu and chopping bowl.

(It's actually a kraut cutter, but it's curved and has one handle
spanning both ends; looks like an ulu to me.)  [-jb]

Dorothy replies:

My daughter has a mezzaluna and a chopping bowl, but I don't have
the musculature to get much done with that.  [-djh]


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

Given how wildly successful his book THE MARTIAN has been, ARTEMIS
by Andy Weir (ISBN 978-0-553-44812-2) has been eagerly awaited.
However, as is common with most authors whose first book was a
smash, this second book is disappointing.  But even if it were not
being compared to THE MARTIAN, it would still be disappointing.

The main problem, as I see it, is that while Andy Weir can write a
character who is a white male science nerd (actually, in THE
MARTIAN almost all the main characters are science nerds), he does
not do a very good job of writing a Muslim woman smuggler.  (And
for that matter, Rosario Dawson does not do a very convincing job
of portraying one on the audiobook.)  Because ARTEMIS is told
entirely in the first person, this is a major problem, making
everything sound false.

Another problem with second novels (other than unreasonably high
expectations) is that quirks of language or attitude that you
attribute to individual characters in the first novel can turn out
to be representative of the author.  If this is the case, one
starts looking at them with a different eye.

For example, in THE MARTIAN Mark Watney says, "So far the rover and
my ghetto life support are working admirably."  His use of the word
"ghetto" as an adjective in this sense seems to tell the reader
something about Watney, but when Jazz Bashara refers to "a ghetto
airlock," the reader realizes that it is not saying anything about
Wayney or Bashara, but about Weir.  (This is re-affirmed when one
reads an interview with Weir in which he says of his website, "It's
a very ghetto website.")

And I had some quibbles with the science.

And what's with "little girl" stuff?  In THE MARTIAN, when he was
pulled into the airlock with two broken ribs, Watney says, "I muted
my mic and screamed like a little girl."   In ARTEMIS, Jazz says at
one point, "I giggled like a little girl."  (She then notes that
she *is* a girl, but even if we accept that she thinks of herself
as a girl rather than a woman, she is not a *little* girl.

And a science quibble: Weir writes, "Before the temperature could
get up to the patch's melting point of 1530 C, everything that
could melt at a lower temperature had to melt first.  And the
melting point of the smelter walls was 1450 C.  So, even though the
patch was thin and the smelter was thick, the bottom of the smelter
would give out before the patch got anywhere near its melting
point.  Don't believe me?  Put ice water in a saucepan and cook it.
The water temperature will stay at 0 C until the last ice cube

This assumes perfect heat conductivity.  In fact if you put ice
water in a saucepan and cook it (presumably on a stove burner), the
water in the bottom will get hot while the top still stays cool.
For that matter, when a pond freezes the top freezes while the
water below is warm enough to stay liquid and support life.

It seems as though every time I read or listen to THE MARTIAN by
Andy Weir (ISBN 978-0-553-41802-6), I find more things to question.

"I have about 1500 hours worth of CO2 filters."  At the expected 4
hours per person-day, they would have needed 4*30*6, or 720 hours
worth, so they have a 100% margin, and Watney has enough for 4
hours a day for 375 days.  (Watney uses "days", so I will also,
even though they are technically sols.)  He stays for 549 days, and
does not seem to run out, so he must have averaged about 3 hours a
day.  Actually, if the first six days of the mission had them using
filters at the expected rate, Watney actually had only an average
of 2-1/3 hours a day for the remainder of his stay.  Given the
amount of time for EVAs to search for the array, dig up dirt,
repair the Hab, modify the rovers, send messages, and clean the
solar cells, this sounds low.

It apparently sounded low to Weir as well, since by Sol 69, he has
Watney modify his statement, saying "I started this great adventure
with 1500 hours of CO2 filters, plus another 720 for emergency
use."  This is an increase of almost 50%, and would have given the
original crew enough for 12 hours a day each!  Watney claims to
have used 131 hours, leaving 2089, or enough 87 days' worth, which
is says is plenty.  Clearly the arithmetic indicates that he means
that the original team and he have used 131 hours (else the 2089
figure is wrong).  But it must be wrong, because if a team of 6 for
6 days and an individual for 63 days used only 131 hours, then each
person would average only about 1-1/3 hours a day, and Watney has
certainly been doing more than this.  Even if he means he has used
131 hours in 63 days, that's still only a couple of hours a day.

In any case, the 87 days' worth (or whatever the number would be)
does not mean enough to last him 87 days at his current rate, but
is simply the conversion of 2089 hours to days.

If the team used 144 hours in 6 days, then Watney started day 7
with 2076 hours.  If he used 131 hours in 63 days, then he is using
roughly 2 hours a day and should have enough filters to last him
about 1000 days.  As noted above, this sounds like a low usage
rate, but there is enough for him to last the 549 days even at
twice that rate.

One thing I think I noticed before but have not commented on is how
at some point Weir seems to have decided that he did not want to
continue with the same level of detail he had been maintaining, so
Watney's log jumps first from Sol 211 to Sol 376, and then from Sol
389 to Sol 431.  That's basically six months the first time and a
month and a half the second.  For those following all the minutiae
of Watney's converting the rovers, this is rather disappointing.

The geometry of Watney's avoidance of the storm is wrong.  He finds
himself at the western edge of what he assumes is a circular storm
that is traveling west.  He determines that the storm is weaker to
the south, so heads south with the plan of going around it.  When
he gets to a point where he is out of the storm (based on solar
cell efficiency), he says, "With the storm moving perpendicular to
my direction of travel, it means I'm south of the southernmost
point of the cloud (presuming it's a circular storm...).  I can go
directly toward Schiaparelli, [which] is almost due east"  But that
is not necessarily true.  If the *center* of the storm was now
directly north of him, yes, but assume it isn't, and also assume it
has not moved so fast as to be completely past him.  On a Cartesian
plane with the current center of the storm at (0,0) and a radius of
1, Watney could be at (-.8, -.8), be completely out of the storm,
and yet re-enter the storm by going due east.

Where is Watney going to sleep on Hermes? Martinez has already
abandoned his room because of the heat leak, and says Watney's is
no better.  He was sleeping in an airlock because that was the only
place left until Lewis had Beck and Johanssen double up.  But that
only worked because they were a couple and Johanssen was very
small.  I'm sure after the rover and the pop tent, Watney won't
mind sleeping in a small space, but it seems like the problem was
that there was no place not in everyone's way.  (Although I would
think "the Rec" would be out of people's way at night, which is
when he would be sleeping.)

To summarize what I have commented on before:

05/27/2016: How were the laptops transported to the Hab without
having the LCD display "either freeze or boil off," and how did
they survive the Hab decompression?  Similarly, what about the

05/27/2016: How does he put his helmet on (and later take it off)
in his one-armed suit?

05/27/2016: The geometry of the roll-over seems wrong; doesn't the
trailer end up pointing in the wrong direction?

06/02/2017: Watney first says there's no air conditioning in the
Hab," but later says, "I can lower the Hab temperature to 1-degree

06/02/2017: Watney says nothing in the Hab can burn, but later
talks about the paper that he has, which he uses for messages, a
funnel, and a model.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs
           you wanted to.
                                           --Joe Gores