Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/25/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 47, Whole Number 2016

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Nebula Award Winners
        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in June (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        SIX WAKES by Mur Lafferty (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        A. E. van Vogt and the Weapon Shops, BEYOND THIS HORIZON,
                THE SHAPE OF WATER (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo Award Best Short Story
                finalists: "Etaoin Shrdlu",  Mimic", "Proof",
                "Runaround", "The Sunken Land", and "The Twonky")
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Nebula Award Winners

Novel: THE STONE SKY, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Novella: ALL SYSTEMS RED, Martha Wells ( Publishing)
Novelette: "A Human Stain", Kelly Robson ( 1/4/17)
Short Story: "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM",
        Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex 8/17)
The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:
        GET OUT
The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction
        or Fantasy Book: THE ART OF STARVING, Sam J. Miller


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

June 14: EL INCIDENTE (2014) & TIME OUT OF JOINT by Philip K. Dick
        Library, 7PM
September 27: Nebula winners for short fiction:
        Novella: ALL SYSTEMS RED, Martha Wells ( Publishing)
        Novelette: "A Human Stain", Kelly Robson ( 1/4/17)
        Short Story: "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM",
                Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex 8/17)
                , Old Bridge (NJ) Public

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

Years ago the Universal horror films showed up on TV Saturday
nights in my own home.  There were not a lot of them I had not
seen, because Universal's horror distributor rented them out in
packages to local stations.  But many of Peter Lorre's films were
not rented out the same way.  Pretty much all of the major
Universal horror films showed up at one time or another.  On the
other hand some major Peter Lorre films did not show up ever
because whoever owned the copyright did not rent them out.  These
impossible to find films became legendary and a prize to watch for
in TV Guide. As the years went by these two films became celebrated
in the pages of Famous Monsters.  They were prizes on the pages of
monster magazines and of Lorre's.  I hoped some station would show
MAD LOVE (1935) and THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946).  I remember
I still could not find and see MAD LOVE until I was 27.

MAD LOVE was MGM's remake of the classic German horror film, THE
HANDS OF ORLAC.  Stephen Orlac is a great concert pianist and his
extremely beautiful wife Yvonne is the queen of the Grand Guignol
stage.  She has one fan who is consumed by his obsession with her.
This fan is Dr. Gogol, perhaps the world's greatest surgeon.

Then Orlac is in a train collision.  He survives but loses both his
hands.  Orlac is inconsolable and on the point of suicide but Gogol
offers to graft hands onto Orlac's arms in return for Yvonne's
love.  It proves to be a Faustian bargain.  Lorre plays Gogol as
short, and hairless and totally crazy. He is probably the craziest
character Lorre has ever played.
[Friday, June 29, 12:30 PM]

In 1946 Warner Brothers made their first (and last) horror film of
the 1940s.  It is dark and reserved by comparison to MAD LOVE.  It
is at heart just the sort of film in which a man is dying and his
relatives and associates are all gathered around secretly wishing
to get a piece of the of the departed's fortune.  One of the
hopefuls is played Peter Lorre who is not looking for money but for
the old man's superbly complete library.  Lorre's character is a
student of astrology and the occult.  He thinks he can get what he
wants to know if he can have free reign of the old man's library .

The film's title comes from the story the film is based on, "The
Beast with Five Fingers" by W. F. Harvey.  Ironically it was
adapted to the screen by Curt Siodmak who wrote so many competing
horror films for Universal.
[Friday, June 29, 6:30 PM]

I do not have a great choice for best film of the month.  I will
stick with MAD LOVE.

Evelyn thought you might like a listing of the short film festivals
in June.

6     Friday
  6:15 AM  Green Slime, The (1969)
  8:00 AM  Satellite in the Sky (1956)
9:30 AM  From The Earth To The Moon (1958)
11:30 AM  Forbidden Planet (1956)
1:15 PM  Countdown (1968)
3:15 PM  2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
6:00 PM  2010 (1984)

13     Friday
6:15 AM  Dead Men Walk (1943)
7:30 AM  Mysterious Doctor, The (1943)
8:30 AM  Disembodied, The (1957)
9:45 AM  Plague of the Zombies, The (1966)
11:30 AM  Devil's Own, The (1966)
1:15 PM  I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
2:30 PM  Black Magic (1949)
4:30 PM  Hypnotic Eye, The (1960)
6:00 PM  Two On A Guillotine (1965)

20     Friday
8:30 AM  Gorilla Man, The (1942)
11:30 AM  Body Snatcher, The (1945)
2:30 PM  Doctor X (1932)
4:00 PM  Return of Doctor X, The (1939)

23     Monday
6:00 AM  Godzilla (1954)
7:45 AM  Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)
9:15 AM  Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters, The (1954)
10:30 AM  Spook Chasers (1957)
11:45 AM  Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)
1:15 PM  Black Scorpion, The (1957)
2:45 PM  Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)
4:00 PM  Bucket of Blood, A (1959)
5:15 PM  House on Haunted Hill (1958)
6:45 PM  Killer Shrews, The (1959)

30     Monday
7:30 AM  Seventh Victim, The (1943)
8:45 AM  Ghost Ship, The (1943)
10:00 AM  Bedlam (1946)
11:30 AM  Isle of the Dead (1945)
1:00 PM  Leopard Man, The (1943)
5:00 PM  Cat People (1942)
6:30 PM  Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007)
8:00 PM  Them! (1954)



TOPIC: SIX WAKES by Mur Lafferty (copyright 2017, Orbit, 400pp,
trade paperback, ISBN-10: 0316389684, ISBN-13: 978-0316389686,
ASIN: B01CDDAETS) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book
review by Joe Karpierz)

SIX WAKES, both a Hugo and Nebula finalist for Best Novel in 2018
combines two genres--science fiction and murder mystery--in an
interesting tale in which almost all of the characters in the book
are clones.  So, what we have is a murder mystery in a space ship
where clones are the only suspects (well, I suppose that's not
exactly true, but we'll get to it).  In a time-honored tradition,
it *must* be one of them because they are the only ones awake.

The setting is the starship Dormire, which is carrying thousands of
colonists from Earth to the planet Artemis in the Tau Ceti system.
The crew is made up of six clones and an AI computer.  One of the
clones wakes up in a cloning vat (more on that in a bit as well) to
find that her most recent self, as well as the rest of the recent
selves of the crew, have been murdered.  What also is evident is
that everyone's memories of the trip so far have been wiped and the
ship itself is slowly veering off course. To complete the mystery,
the AI, IAN, is also malfunctioning.  Whoever is responsible for
the murder actually has the blood of six murders on their hands.

And thus we have the following problems: who committed the murders,
why is IAN malfunctioning, why is the ship off course, and what is
the motive behind all of this?

The novel starts out with the statement of the "International Law
Regarding the Codicils to Govern the Existence of Clones".   While
essentially an infodump, and one to start off the novel rather than
it appearing later on, the Codicils are important to the story and
it's a good thing to have them right up front, as clones, cloning,
and the ethics and morality of cloning are key elements in the
story.  Lafferty has done a nice bit of world building with these
Codicils.  It's not just the Codicils themselves, but how they came
about that fits into the story.

It really is somewhat difficult to talk about a murder mystery
without giving much away.  The interesting thing about all clone
crew members is that they are former criminals, and have been given
their positions on the ship as a way of atoning for their crimes
and, at the end of the journey, will get a fresh start on Artemis.
The novel interweaves the present dilemma that the clones are
attempting to solve with flashbacks for each character--sometimes
multiple flashbacks--which gives the foundation for each
character's behavior as well as providing clues as to What The Heck
Is Going On and Why.  We learn about each character's crime, what
their motivations are, and how they got to be on the crew of the
Dormire.  Pile on top of that the fact that everyone is a clone--
and that there are rules governing a clone's existence (which comes
into play with one of the clones)--and you have quite the engaging
and entertaining story.

I liked SIX WAKES, of that there is no doubt.  It's a fast-paced
and complex murder mystery, made all the more interesting by the
fact that not one of the characters on the ship is a standard
human.  Even IAN, the AI running the ship, has a very interesting
story and background that plays an integral part of the story.

However ... I'm not on the bandwagon that says this is an award-
worthy book.  I've said a lot of nice things about it over the
course of the last few paragraphs, but it didn't strike that
resonance with me that wants to give it an award.  I've written
many times of the last several years how I measure Hugo-worthiness,
so I won't get into that here.  I wouldn't mind if it won the Hugo-
-or Nebula, but as I write this it didn't win that award--it's just
not what I'd put at the top (or near the top) of my list.

There are a ton of science fiction murder mysteries that have been
written over the decades, and this will go down as one of the
better ones and one of the more inventive ones.  I do recommend it.


TOPIC: A. E. van Vogt and the Weapon Shops, BEYOND THIS HORIZON,
WATER (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)

In response to various comments in various recent issues of the MT
VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

My loccing MT VOID is a process not unlike Harlan Ellison's editing
of THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS.  That is, another issue comes in
with another slew of comment hooks, so I never actually get
anything done.

Retro-Hugo recommendations:

I believe that the thought process that led A. E. van Vogt to write
his "Weapon Shop" stories began with the idea that, to prevent war,
a world government would be necessary.  With World War II raging at
the time, this would have seemed a plausible viewpoint.  But then
the next question is, how do you prevent a world government from
becoming a world tyranny?  There's no place to run to, no place to
build a resistance, no place to find allies.

This is where the Weapon Shops come in.  They sell weapons, weapons
that can only be used defensively, with which individuals can
defend their rights.  Incidentally, I always thought the idea of
guns that can only be used in defense was hard to swallow; but guns
that can only be fired by their proper owners already exist and,
for the rest, who knows what a couple of thousand years of AI
development will achieve.

This isn't the first time I didn't believe van Vogt but he turned
out to be right.  In SLAN, the telepaths' tendrils are due to
reappear after a certain number of generations.  I didn't think
heredity like that can work, but it turns out Huntington's disease
is inherited that way:  it gets worse from generation to

Incidentally, some years ago, Isaac Asimov penned an editorial in
his magazine advocating a world government.  My response, that
history suggested the result would be millennial stagnation as in
ancient Egypt, was published in the magazine.  Asimov found my
argument very depressing!

I reread Heinlein's BEYOND THIS HORIZON relatively recently, when I
picked up the Gregg Press hardcover, edited by David Hartwell and
with an intriguing introduction by Norman Spinrad, which argues
that the book's apparently disjoint structure was intentional and
served the author's purpose.

I found the book fascinating and strange.  For one thing, it's a
sort of living fossil, of a time when progressives enthusiastically
supported eugenics (which was swept under the rug after World War
II for painfully obvious reasons).  Heinlein, simultaneously a
progressive and a libertarian, sought to bridge the two ideologies
with a society based on eugenics but without coercion.  (Just as,
years later, he put a libertarian spin on the draft, in STARSHIP

When you look at that historical period, you realize that while
Hitler was out of the mainstream, he was not very far out of the
mainstream.  He just took things a step or two farther.  Consider
that Sweden, which we consider an advanced and enlightened society,
was still practicing eugenic sterilization as late as the 1970s.
This came out in the 1990s, as I recall, when women tried to find
out why they couldn't have children:  because, when they were
little girls, somebody had decided they were defective or inferior.

Another fascinating part of the book is the portrait of the
protagonist's nerdy friend, Monroe-Alpha, a basically benign but
weak character who is seduced by the book's version of Nazism.  He
tries and fails to kill a woman he's falling in love with, because
he's been taught she is genetically inferior; and then he tries to
drive his flying car into a mountain, but safety features (of the
kind currently being implemented in automobiles) don't let him kill
himself.  Heinlein's wisecrack, that it's a good thing women are
forgiving or the human race would have died out long ago, may be
considered politically incorrect today.

Of course, the book's hero, Hamilton Felix, might not care if the
human race does die out.  Frustrating genetic planners, he refuses
to reproduce, until he has some proof that death is not the end.
They bribe him with a research program on the subject.  It
succeeds, though in an unexpected way.  It's clear, at least to the
reader, that Hamilton's little boy has an instant antipathy to his
new baby sister because she is the reincarnation of an elderly and
powerful woman Senator from Brazil that he had met and disliked.

The line, "an armed society is a polite society", is a reference to
the Code Duello.  As both history and common sense suggest,
rudeness tends to be avoided in societies where rudeness can lead
to death.

Going several issues back in time:

Even setting aside all the problems with the premise, the movie,
ANNIHILATION, struck me as a mess.  It makes heavy use of the
horror movie trope that people, especially women, will do stupid
things to get themselves eaten by monsters--because, I guess, it's
easier on the screenwriters if the characters behave like idiots.
The women have some military experience, we're told, but they sure
don't act like it.

The worst example of this is when the women have found a nice, safe
tower to sleep in.  Their leader decides to take the first watch,
but instead of watching from on high she goes down to the surface,
some distance from the tower, and turns on lights which destroy her
night vision.  When they hear noises in the dark, the women all
rush down to the ground so that a mutant bear can carry off one of
their number.

Another funny one is when they just barely survive a battle with a
giant, mutant crocodile.  Almost immediately afterward we see them
paddling on the stream in little tiny boats, just as if the
screenwriter had let them know there's only one crocodile so they
don't have to worry.

Their goal is a lighthouse occupied by some kind of alien force.
But it's on the coast:  why are they spending a week slogging
through the jungle, instead of getting there in two hours by boat?

The review of the latest "Planet of the Apes" movie made me think
about whether there can be said to exist a "cinema of treason":
movies that encourage the viewer to root against the human race, in
sci-fi films like AVATAR or the aforementioned ape movies, or
merely against the United States (or for its enemies) in mundane
(with its cuddly KGB agent).

THE SHAPE OF WATER may fall in both subcategories, with human evil
specifically identified with the US military (and with
Christianity) while the Stalinist traitor/spy is presented as
benevolent and heroic.

I'm an old-fashioned, patriotic, human chauvinist, so movies like
this rub me the wrong way.  [-tw]

Mark responds:

It is interesting how time alters the boundaries of what is or is
not science fiction.  A more accurate title for I, ROBOT today

Evelyn adds:

I also commented at the time on how the turning on of the lights in
ANNIHILATION was really stupid.  [-ecl]


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

Here are my comments and ranking for "Best Short Story" for the
Retro Hugo Awards for works published in 1942:

"Etaoin Shrdlu", by Fredric Brown (Unknown Worlds, February 1942):
This is a typical Fredric Brown story, with a bit of humor and a
punchline ending.  It has been said that n one really writes
stories like Frederic Brown, and that is probably true.  There are
other "possessed linotype" stories around ("Printer's Devil" from
the original "Twilight Zone" series comes to mind), but this has
its own approach, and one which is very topical today.

"Mimic", by Martin Pearson (Donald A. Wollheim): (Astonishing
Stories, December 1942): This is a story that does not show its age
at all.  While it is definitely science fiction, the science being
biology and specifically evolution, it is primarily a horror story,
and it could very well be that horror stories are more timeless.
Obviously, a story can be so full of outmoded stereotypes and such
that the underlying theme cannot save it, but this story could be
set today.  In fact, it was made into a film in 1997, 55 years
after it was written, without much change.  (Ironically, the main
change was in the science, and it probably was not necessary.)

"Proof", by Hal Clement (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942):
"They had evolved far down near the solar core, where pressures and
temperatures were such that matter existed in the "collapsed" state
characteristic of the entire mass of white dwarf stars.  Their
bodies were simply constructed: a matrix of close-packed electrons-
-really an unimaginably dense electrostatic field, possessing
quasi-solid properties--surrounded a core of neutrons, compacted to
the ultimate degree.  Radiation of sufficient energy, falling on
the "skin," was stabilized, altered to the pattern and structure of
neutrons; the tiny particles of neutronium which resulted were
borne along a circulatory system--of magnetic fields, instead of
blood--to the nucleus, where it was stored."

If this is your cup of tea, then this is your cup of tea.
Otherwise, this will read like a physics book about physics that
you never run into in your daily life.  People who complain that
Clement's MISSION OF GRAVITY has no real characters should read
this--by comparison, MISSION OF GRAVITY is a novel of deep
psychological analysis.

"Runaround", by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, March
1942): This is one of the stories that make up the linked
collection I, ROBOT, and like many of those stories, it is a puzzle
piece.  A robot is acting strangely, and the protagonists have to
figure out why.  In this case, the explanation is a bit of a cheat
on the Three Laws of Robotics, although the solution still depends
on them.  The rest of the story--setting, characters, and so on--
are there merely to pad the puzzle out into a story.  At the time,
it may have seemed clever, with the very science-fictional setting
of Mercury, but now it shows its age.

"The Sunken Land", by Fritz Leiber (Unknown Worlds, February 1942):
This is the sort of "sword and sorcery" fiction tat was very
popular back in the 1930s and 1940s, had a revival in the 1960s,
but which is not seen much of these days, or if so, it is in venues
with which I am unfamiliar.  This is part of the "Fafhrd and the
Grey Mouser" series of stories, re-issued in the 1970s in five
volumes from Ace Books, but not readily available in anthologies.
It's a pity, because there is a certain atmosphere to them (at
least to this one) that is missing from most short stories today.
I am sure knowing more of the series would give the characters more
depth, but it is perfectly fine on its own.

"The Twonky", by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner (Astounding Science
Fiction, September 1942): This is another story that does not show
its age.  Oh, the setting is clearly the 1940s, but it is not full
of outdated science, or sentences or phrasing that make it seem
antiquated, or grotesquely sexist attitudes.  And it is proof that
the current concerns about A.I. controlling us are not new at all.

Ratings: "Mimic", "The Sunken Land", "The Twonky", "Etaoin Shrdlu",
no award, "Runaround", "Proof"



                                           Mark Leeper

           Prediction is very difficult, especially about the
                                           --Niels Bohr (1885-1962)