Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/23/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 34, Whole Number 2003

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.
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in March (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Nebula Award Nominees
        THE SECT (a.k.a. THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER) (1991) (film review
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MILLIONAIRES' UNIT (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MT VOID Issue 2000, Mashed Potatoes, Computer Fonts,
                THE BERLIN PROJECT, "By the Red Giant's Light",
                (letter of comment by John Hertz)
        This Week's Reading (synchronicity, A NUMERATE LIFE,
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

        K. Le Guin, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
March 22: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula K. Le Guin, Old
        Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
April 12: JOHN CARTER (2012) & A PRINCESS OF MARS by Edgar Rice
        Burroughs, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
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 in March (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

My choices for March are about dangerous journeys.

THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (1985) makes its Turner Classic Movies
premiere.  Back in the mid-1980s Disney Studios was struggling with
their business case.  They had been releasing some very puerile
films with names like THE LOVE BUG, SUPER-DAD, and THE COMPUTER
WORE TENNIS SHOES (not being shown on TCM).  Then in rapid
succession they made and released two of the best live-action films
they would make in the 20th Century.  One was NEVER CRY WOLF (also
not being shown).  The other was THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN.  The
Great Depression was a time of desperation for many.  People had to
battle every day to find food enough to eat.  In Chicago Sol Gann
took care of his daughter Natty not knowing what they could eat or
where they could sleep.  Then Sol is offered a job logging in
Washington State.  But the bus is leaving before Sol will be able
to find Natty.  He makes the mistake of trusting the wrong friend
to act as guardian and take care of Natty.   Suddenly Natty is
homeless and penniless and has to grow up very fast.  She has to
jump trains, riding the rails to get from Chicago to Washington on
her own across a country devastated by the Depression.  Contrary to
what one might have expected from Disney this story is has a grim
and real view of the 1930s in the US.  It is told on the level of a
good family film, just a little higher than the Disney classic OLD
YELLER.  [Friday, March 30, 2:15 AM]

I bet if I mention the Titanic you will have images of the 1997
James Cameron film TITANIC.  Once that film came out it overpowered
all previous versions of that film.  In fact there were at least
three previous films about that great ship (spoiler warning ...)
sinking.  There was a German propaganda film blaming the British
financial interests.  There were also at least two disaster films
about the sinking in the 1950s.  1953 brought the melodrama TITANIC
with a sad melodrama starring Barbara Stanwick and Clifton Webb.
It was not a bad film, but it could have been better by covering
more of the sinking.  But it is hard to screw up a story so
very dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic.  Clifton Webb
discovers that he is not the biological father of the boy he had
assumed was his son.  He refuses to accept the boy until losing the
ocean liner under him shows him there are things more important
than his foolish pride.  Nyaaah!  This TITANIC is just okay.  At
least it brought the story of the sinking to the screen.  [Sunday,
March 25, 8:00 PM]

That film is followed by A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958).  For me anyway
this film still ranks close to Cameron's film.  This is not a film
with chases and gunshots like the Cameron version.  It sticks
fairly close to telling he story of the great sinking of the
unsinkable Titanic.  The film is based rather closely to Walter
Lord's book of the same title, presented as what today we would
call a docudrama.  This is one of those spectaculars that has
several good contemporary stars in large and small roles.  You can
try to pick out you favorite stars, but I promise you the drama of
the sinking will hold your attention.  The film was directed by Roy
Ward Baker who would go on to direct QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.  The
film stars Kenneth More, the Tom Hanks of his day.  Also there is
Honor Blackman, today best remembered as Pussy Galore in
GOLDFINGER.  You will hear a lot in the dialog that was also in the
Cameron film.  Some technical details are wrong in the film, but
few of the  current sources were available.  [Sunday, March 25,
10:00 PM]

There is no clear winner for the best choice of March.  A personal
favorite of mine is BLOOD SIMPLE (1984).  This was the first film
written and directed by the Coen Brothers whose films have become
an institution in the film industry.  The owner of a Texas
roadhouse suspects his wife of fooling around on the side, and he
hires a private detective.  But when he extends the deal to murder,
an incredible chaos of misunderstanding ensues.  The viewer can
follow what is going on, but none of the characters can.  I like to
say this film is dedicated to the "Huh?" experience.  It has a
great cast with M. Emmet Walsh stealing the film.  The last line of
dialog is really a corker.  [Sunday, March 18, 1:45 AM]



TOPIC: Nebula Award Nominees

Best Novel

     AMBERLOUGH, Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor)
        Theodora Goss (Saga)
     SPOONBENDERS, Daryl Gregory (Knopf; riverrun)
     THE STONE SKY, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
     SIX WAKES, Mur Lafferty (Orbit US)
     JADE CITY, Fonda Lee (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
     AUTONOMOUS, Annalee Newitz (Tor; Orbit UK 2018)

Best Novella

     "River of Teeth", Sarah Gailey ( Publishing)
     "Passing Strange", Ellen Klages ( Publishing)
     "And Then There Were (N-One)", Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 3-4/17)
     "Barry's Deal", Lawrence M. Schoen (NobleFusion Press)
     "All Systems Red", Martha Wells ( Publishing)
     "The Black Tides of Heaven", JY Yang ( Publishing)

Best Novelette

     "Dirty Old Town", Richard Bowes (F&SF 5-6/17)
     "Weaponized Math", Jonathan P. Brazee (The Expanding Universe,
        Vol. 3)
     "Wind Will Rove", Sarah Pinsker (Asimov's 9-10/17)
     "A Series of Steaks", Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld 1/17)
     "A Human Stain", Kelly Robson ( 1/4/17)
     "Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time", K.M. Szpara (Uncanny

Best Short Story

     "Fandom for Robots", Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny 9-10/17)
     "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM",
        Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex 8/17)
     "Utopia, LOL?", Jamie Wahls (Strange Horizons 6/5/17)
     "Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand", Fran Wilde (Uncanny
     "The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)",
        Matthew Kressel ( 3/15/17)
     "Carnival Nine", Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

     GET OUT (Written by Jordan Peele)
     THE GOOD PLACE: "Michael's Gambit" (Written by Michael Schur)
     LOGAN (screenplay by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and
        Michael Green)
     THE SHAPE OF WATER (Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and
        Vanessa Taylor)
     STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Written by Rian Johnson)
     WONDER WOMAN (Screenplay by Allan Heinberg)

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction
or Fantasy Book

     Exo, Fonda Lee (Scholastic Press)
     Weave a Circle Round, Kari Maaren (Tor)
     The Art of Starving, Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
     Want, Cindy Pon (Simon Pulse)

The Verge (at  has links
to on-line copies of many of the short fiction nominees.


TOPIC: THE SECT (a.k.a. THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER) (1991) (film review
by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is not great, but it is an unexpectedly satisfying
supernatural suspense film.  A schoolteacher nearly hits a very old
man on the road.  She invites him into her home only to find out he
seems to know more about her house than she does.  He seems to know
about some sort of demonic sewer she never knew was there.  The
film is co-written and directed by Michelle Soavi.  It was also co-
written by Dario Argento.  Both men produced.  Rating: low +2 (-4
to +4) or 7/10

At some point the Italian horror film took what I consider a wrong
turn.  They went in big for the "giallo" film.  These are not so
much horror films but serial killer films with a slasher killing
off (not well developed) characters one by one.  But so frequently
the characters are not very well developed.  They are just sort of
fungible targets for the killer.  The films are big into sex and
violence, but somehow there are no characters in the film worth
investing much empathy in.

When I saw that THE SECT was made in 1991 it seemed very likely
that it would be just another serial killer film.  But what a
surprise that it turned out to be a supernatural suspense with two
or three characters whom we come to have a feeling for.  The
original 1991 title was at least a hint that it might be a more
interesting film.  The title THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER conjures of two
Hammer films on Satanism, THE DEVIL'S BRIDE and TO THE DEVIL A
DAUGHTER, both based on horror adventures by Dennis Wheatley.  The
film, which I will call by its current release name THE SECT, makes
some effort to look like an American horror film.  It is dubbed in
English, has a large part for British actor Herbert Lom (who would
be in only two films after this one).  However, any pretense that
this might be an American film quickly fails as we get a title that
says "South California. 1970."  Somehow we do use the name
"Southern California", but we never call that area "South
California."  The film has a short prolog with hippies in a small
group of friends who are visited by a Charles-Manson-like figure.

After the prolog the setting moves to Frankfort, Germany, 1991.
Schoolteacher Miriam Kreisl (played by Kelly Curtis) accidentally
nearly hits a very old man Moebius Kelly (Herbert Lom) on the road.
She is not sure if he is hurt or not, and so she brings the man to
her house.  She indeed had reason to worry since the man does
appear to die.  Then he returns from the dead.  Then he returns to
it.  For a while he treads the boundary between life and death.
During one of his living periods the stranger discovers in Miriam's
basement something that seems like a demonic sewer, decorated as

There are touches that remind one of other films.  There are
moments of Lovecraftian horror and others with a satanic rabbit and
a more satanic rabbit hole.  (It cannot be easy for a writer to
wring horror from a rabbit or from a stork.)  The whole plot could
be considered homage to a certain other well-known horror film--not
that the viewer is likely to guess it in advance.

Herbert Lom, incidentally, made only two films after this one.
This was his last role of this size in a 1991 film.  He died
September 27, 2012 (He was age 95).

Writer-directors Michele Soavi and Dario Argento try a number of
experiments in horror.  Some work and others do not.  But I would
rather see a film with a few experimental horrors that fail than
one that has no new ideas.  I rate this low a +2 on the -4 to +4
scale or 7/10.

THE SECT will be on Blu-ray and DVD February 27.  It has been
remastered in high definition with more than 45 hours of color

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE MILLIONAIRES' UNIT (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In much the style of an episode of "The American
Experience", this documentary recounts the history of a wealthy
group of men at Yale who in 1914 decided they wanted the fun of
learning to fly airplanes.  Then World War I broke out and they
were guided by the principle that "of those to whom much has been
given, much is expected."  They determined to learn to fly and to
be prepared if/when the United States would join the fighting.
They would be ready with America's first real air force.  "The
First Yale Unit", as they called themselves--or "The Millionaires'
Unit", as the newspapers called them--went from private ownership
to being the basis of United States air power and left an
extraordinary record.  The documentary is based on the book of the
same title by Mark Wortman.  Darroch Greer who shares director
credit with Ron King wrote the film.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or

In the days before the First World War a group of high-spirited
students from Yale wanted to learn to fly the newly invented
airplane.  It was a rich man's hobby.  But from the ground they
could tell there was nothing so free as the freedom of the air.
Flying was just one of the privileges of the wealthy.  The small
group got permission to form the Yale men into an official reserve

Then suddenly war was declared in Europe.  Woodrow Wilson had so
far kept the United States out of the war, but the boys from Yale
expected the United States would be pulled into the war and they
wanted to be ready.  They felt if they had the privilege so they
also had responsibility.  So in a spirit of responsibility and
perhaps in the expectation of jolly good sport they went to France
to join the fight.  Paris was better than expected (with women
coming up to them asking "sleep... with... me...?").  But soon they
were in the war and they stayed until the end.  The film gives an
engrossing history of those Yale grads over World War I's four
years.  The spirit of the film is ebullient well into the war, but
it would be unrealistic to expect that some of the men would not be
killed in battle or in flying miscalculations.  The film does have
its downbeat stories.  But overall the spirit ran high.

There is a lot to tell about in those four years in a 121-minute
film.  This is a film for people who like flying themselves or
watching flying, war stories, or history, witness testimony or
expert testimony, stories of courage, or stories of romance.  The
filmmakers do go the whole American Experience route with news and
documentary footage, talking heads interviews, and narration.  The
narrator is actor Bruce Dern.  If he does not seem to be of the
Yale mold, he narrates because he is the grand-nephew of a flyer in
the Yale unit.  His contribution to the story telling is one of the
few stylistic elements that might be questioned.  He tries to add a
little too much zest to the reading, emphasizing some words for no
apparent reason as if to create dramatic effect.

"Of those to whom much has been given, much is expected."  That is
the theme of the film and the philosophy of the unit and a rare one
today more than a century later.  I rate this film a high +2 on the
-4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE MT VOID Issue 2000, Mashed Potatoes, Computer Fonts, THE
STARS, and ENDURANCE (letter of comment by John Hertz)

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

Congratulations on MT VOID 2000, gosh.

Ponder whether Mark's sorrows over soi-disant bagels, and mashed
potatoes, are essentially the same.  Perpetrators offer us similar
coffee, tea, English.  Computer fonts which fake handwriting are
harder to exonerate as no worse than incompetent; their mere use
indicates more strongly an intention to deceive.

 From the past year I recommend Greg Benford's novel THE BERLIN
PROJECT; Larry Niven's short story "By the Red Giant's Light" (Nov-
Dec F&SF); Scott Kelly & Andre Ceolin's aimed-for-children tale of
Kelly's near-year on the International Space Station MY JOURNEY TO
THE STARS, illustrated both by Ceolin's childlike renditions and by
photographs.  I am nominating each--MY JOURNEY for Related Work.

THE BERLIN PROJECT I think not only extraordinary but excellent.
"Light" is one of Niven's pointillistic masterworks: he paints dots
of bright color, we are to perceive the whole.  ENDURANCE, Kelly's
more detailed aimed-for-adults version, is very much worth reading,
but I think MY JOURNEY better.  [-jh]


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

Synchronicity seems to be getting even weirder: On the same day
that the Teaching Company course I am listening to on Alexander the
Great got to the lecture on the Battle of the Hydaspes against
Porus, the chapter in MOBY DICK I am annotating mentions Porus in
the context of elephant hunting!

A NUMERATE LIFE by John Allen Paulos (ISBN 978-1-63388-118-1) is
more about the writing of autobiographies than an autobiography per
se.  For example, Paulos uses Benford's Law to explain (sort of)
why autobiographies tend to cover childhood and recent adulthood
more thoroughly than, say, college or early adulthood.  To a great
extent, this makes the book more interesting than a straight
autobiography would have been.

Landy (ISBN 978-0-8135-2856-4) is a 2001 collection of articles
about the historical film and history as shown in films.  While I
was reading one article, "How to Look at an 'Historical' Film" by
Pierre Sorlin, I came across the following: "We cannot discuss the
cinema without bringing up the central question of money.  As there
is heavy demand, due mainly to the requirements of television, the
film companies charge high prices.  We have to make do with one
film, when for the purposes of comparison we would prefer to use
ten.  In the book from which this essay is taken [THE FILM IN
HISTORY: RESTAGING THE PAST], we are going to discuss a number of
films, but if the reader wants to see them all it would prove to be
an expensive undertaking."  To today's reader (e.g., me) this
sounded odd, so I checked the date of the essay.  It was written in
1980, right before the home video revolution hit big.  These days,
while there are still films that are difficult/expensive to find,
the vast majority of films discussed in books about the historical
film are readily available on DVD, from Netflix or Amazon Prime, or
even on YouTube.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           When a dog wags her tail and barks at the same time, how
           do you know which end to believe?