Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/13/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 2, Whole Number 2023

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Happy Birthday, Mr. Mosca (Part 2) (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        LIFEFORCE (1985) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
        Electronic Menus (letter of comment by Joy Beeson)
                INDIAN (letter of comment by John Purcell)
                WHO MADE THEM and THE MARTIAN WAR) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Happy Birthday, Mr. Mosca (Part 2) (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Last week I was talking about the 60-year-old film THE FLY.  The
film is based on a short story by George Langelaan that appeared in
Playboy Magazine.  The original story took place in France, but
here it was moved to Montreal to explain the French names while
placing it in an environment that the audience could identify with.
The plot starts almost immediately with a strange mystery.  Andre
and Helene Delambre (Al Hedison and Patricia Owens) seemed to be in
love as much as any married couple could be.  Andre and his brother
Francois owned an extremely successful electronics research and
development company.  Things seemed perfect for them and it.  But
in the first moments of the plot the idyllic life of the Delambres
is over.  The night watchman at Delambre Freres has found Helene
over the dead body of Andre.  It seems he was killed in a factory
press.  What makes this all seem even stranger is that Andre should
have known the press was coming down if it was.  He would have had
to have been a most cooperative victim in his own murder.  What is
more Helene did not know how to operate the press.  That just does
not make any kind of sense.

Francois is called almost immediately by Helene and he in turn
calls in Inspector Charas of the Police to do the police work on
the case.  Helene admits to the killing, but maddeningly refuses to
give answers to certain questions so that the action still just
does not add up.  Helene is free with some information, other
questions she insists that she cannot answer.  The one hole in this
behavior is that she seems to have developed a fixation on seeing
flies--any fly that can be caught.  Francois finds out that Helene
is looking for a particular fly with a white head.  In an attempt
to find out what really happened he bluffs Helene telling her that
he has the fly and convinces her that he will destroy the fly as
she wants if she will explain why and how she killed Andre.  She
begins to tell her story in a flashback sequence that comprises
most of the film..

In the flashback story Andre unveils to her the device that has
occupied much of his time recently.  He has developed a matter
transmission machine.  It disintegrates solid objects placed in a
transmission booth, transmits the matter to a receiving booth and
reintegrates the object.  In demonstrating the machine it generally
works, but has occasional malfunctions, not surprisingly for a new
piece of technology.  At first the machine creates a mirror image
of the object being transmitted.  Then for an unknown reason it
fails to reintegrate just when the family cat Dandello is sent.
But eventually it seems to be reliable, transmitting a guinea pig
and allowing her to reintegrate.  The machine seems to work and
Andre invites Francois to see the machine in action.  But instead
of meeting his brother he leaves a note that he cannot see
Francois.  At about the same time Philippe finds a white-headed
fly, but Helene makes him let it go.  Andre refuses to leave the
lab or to be seen.  That night he passes another note out of the
lab saying he has had a problem.  It seems he wants Helene to look
for a particular fly with a white head.  She is allowed into the
lab, but Andre has a cloth over his head and his hand in his
pocket.  When Helene tells Andre that she made Philippe release a
fly with the white head Andre is shocked enough to take what should
be his left hand out of his pocket, but instead of a hand there is
a sort of black claw.  Andre can eat only liquids, which he seems
to noisily slurp.  It seems that Andre transmitted himself with a
fly in the box with him and the two had their atoms mixed.  Now he
needs the fly to untangle the two.  The next day Helene and
Philippe search for the white-headed fly.  They succeed only in
unknowingly letting the very fly they want get out the window.

Andre loses heart when the fly is not found and is finding he is
losing control of his head and hand.  He knows he needs the fly to
unscramble the atoms but he allows himself to cooperate with
Helene.  He transmits himself one more time in the absurd belief
that it will do some good.  Helene, ever the optimist, pulls the
cloth from his head and finds herself looking at a human-sized fly
head.  (Note: in the story it is a cat head with fly eyes, a side
effect of the loss of Dandello.)  Andre sees Helene's screaming
face through compound eyes in one of the most horrific scenes of
any film ever.  Helene faints and Andre trying to control his body
lays her out on a couch in safety.  The horror gives way to tragedy
as Andre tries to kiss Helene and realizes that he is no longer
physically capable of kissing or caressing her.  In angry
frustration he destroys his laboratory and burns his notes.
Pulling the cloth back over his head he writes on the blackboard
asking Helene for help in destroying himself.  More and more the
fly head seems to be following orders of its own, his last humanity
is being lost.  Andre takes Helene to the room with the press and
with her help he manages to commit suicide, being crushed in the
press to destroy all evidence of what happened to him.

Back in the present Francois and Inspector Charas cannot believe
the story.  The inspector is going to have Helene arrested.  He
returns with a warrant for murder against her.  Helene is expecting
that having told the story her trouble are over and remains
confident until she finds out that Francois did not have the white-
headed fly.  Helene is terrified that Philippe will see her being
arrested and asks Francois to take him away.  Francois and Philippe
make chat and Philippe, not realizing the significance, says that
he has seen the fly in a web.  Francois is dumb-struck and runs to
Charas insisting that he come and see.  Charas follows reluctantly
and is shocked to see a human headed fly in the web just as a
spider attacks it.  Charas takes a rock and destroys the spider and
the fly.  Then admitting to as much of a murder as Helene has
committed, he and Francois concoct a story to cover up Helene's

More on THE FLY next week.   [-mrl]


TOPIC: LIFEFORCE (1985) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE:  Bat-like aliens are found in the tail of Halley's comet.
Also, there are three aliens that look like two human males and one
(beautiful) woman.  They are part of what may be an alien invasion
force. These first aliens are to seed the planet with a colony of
vaampires growing geometrically.  Tobe Hooper directs a screenplay
by Dan O'Bannon and himself with several interesting ideas and
touches.  Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

LIFEFORCE is film destined never to get the respect it deserves.
This may be because it has one long sequence in which a woman is
naked.  Some science fiction fans seem unable to look beyond the
nudity to see the story being told.  At a science fiction
convention I was talking to one of the speakers.  Somehow the film
LIFEFORCE came up.  I said that I actually see a lot of ideas in
the film.  The speaker turned to me and said in a loud voice,
"DON'T EVER TALK TO ME ABOUT FILM AGAIN."  (I haven't.)  Outside a
small cult of film fans of LIFEFORCE gets little praise.  Mostly it
is the butt of humor for the one nudity.  Actually I would tell the
people who were amused by that touch that they should get over it.
There is a lot of nudity in art.  It makes sense in the context of
the film.  Mathilda May's character is Patient Zero for an epidemic
of human vampirism.  No film I have seen has dealt so deeply in
science fiction coupled with metaphysics since QUATERMASS AND THE

LIFEFORCE, with its philosophizing about the metaphysics of life
and death, is inevitably a film of narrow appeal.  Few audiences
want to be told about suggested definitions of death.  Also the
film's most audacious ideas are not entirely made clear to the
viewer until the end of the film (and possibly not even then).

The story keeps the viewer guessing where it is going and following
a series of twists of the plot.  It is radically changes in style
every ten minutes or so.  It can be by turns a disaster film, a
detective film, a zombie film, or a murder mystery.  There is more
than one occasional tip of the hat to Nigel Kneale and his

Henry Mancini provided the main musical theme of the film.  Somehow
it does not seem to go with any of the moods of film director Tobe
Hooper's work.  It does have a brash adventurous feel.  Perhaps it
would be suited to a swashbuckler story.

LIFEFORCE has become a cult film, but does not have much audience
appeal beyond the selective cult.  And it loses some respect with
its naked Mathilda May.  But I would call this an audacious
SF/horror film.  I give it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


What is it all about?  Go with me on this one.

The aliens have come to Earth to create and culture human lifeforce
as we might culture cheese.

How is cheese made?  You take perfectly good milk and introduce to
it just a tiny amount of cheese starter culture.  Then the cheese
culture will grow and spread out.  It infects the milk and as it
goes it will create more cheese culture, which will infect more
milk.  Soon you are left with little or no milk and a lot of
cheese.  Humans do not consider the process of cheese-making to be
in any way immoral even though we destroy a lot of micro-
environment lives in the milk.  This is just how cheese is made.
We do not worry about tiny individual lives of the life forms
consumed by the process are considered beneath worrying about.
When the process winds down it stops.

In LIFEFORCE this is almost the identical process the aliens are
employing.  They probably consider the humans to be beneath their
consideration.  They need lifeforce to live.  Rather than
introducing cheese starter culture to milk, they introduce vampires
to the human race and then they just sit back and let vampires suck
up the lifeforce from their victims.  But vampires can hold
lifeforce for a limited time only.  They suck it in and then
release it.  The aliens just suck up the big pools of lifeforce.
The aliens do not concern themselves with the chaos they are
causing on the planet.  They just follow the recipe and suck up the
lifeforce left by the vampires.  When their source dries up they
just seem to close up the huge collector and silently float away,
probably to their next source.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Electronic Menus (letter of comment by Joy Beeson)

In response to Evelyn's comments on electronic menus and confusion
in the 07/06/18 issue of the MT VOID, Joy Beeson writes:

The first time I saw McDonald's tachistoscopic(*) menu, I gave up
and went to the grocery next door.  I've been back once since then,
but turned right around and left without even trying.  [-jb]

(*) Displaying an image only for a specific length of time [-ecl]


INDIAN (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to Evelyn's comments on confusion in the 07/06/18 issue
of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

Frankly, I am already quite confused.  I consider this a wonderful
time-saver because I don't have to wait until I die for confusion
to occur.  Every day I see, hear, and read things that befuddle my
middle-aged brain.  I totally blame modern technology for this,
too.  For example, the autocorrect function on my cellphone's
texting feature is massively frustrating.  Stop changing my words!
I meant to type "faunch" not "flaunt"; and stop interrupting me
while I'm typing a letter of comment to fanzines!  In fact, I am
not worried about being confused when I die, but the frustration of
not being able to finish the book I will probably be reading at the

Mark makes some very interesting comments about the 1958 movie THE
FLY, particularly on how it resonated with the viewing audience.
Yes, it does seem to possess a mythological connection that people
can understand, as if THE FLY is a modern parable that not only
warns us about our over-weaning pride in self--the hubris you refer
to--that can bring about the downfall of humanity, but I think this
movie serves the same purpose of warning humanity against the
dangers of being so enamored of science that we are blinded of its
dangers.  In this sense I can see the themes of Mary Wollstonecraft
Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN (1818) and Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story
"The Birthmark" (1843) framed in a modern context and medium
(film).  In "The Birthmark" Dr. Aylmer deeply loved his beautiful
wife, Georgianna, but by trying to make her perfect through his
mastery of science by removing the sole imperfection on her, a
small hand-shaped birthmark on her cheek, she dies; in this way,
Aylmer and Andre commit the same sin with the same result: their
pride in their command of science brings about tragic consequences.
In the post-World War II, Cold War era of the 1950s, this makes a
lot of sense.  For this reason these examples share that mythic
fear of science, a fear that man should not try to play at being
God-like, nor mess with the natural order of things.  To me, this
is the mythic element of THE FLY.

by Nirad C. Chaudhuri has me very interested in reading it.  When I
remember that you two have been to India, I can see why she chose
to read this.  Here is yet another book to add to my reading list,
which is getting longer by the week.  Hmm.  At this rate, THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN UNKNOWN INDIAN may be the very book I'll be
reading when my final day on this earth arrives.  Great.  Now I'll
never know how it ends.  [-jp]


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

THEM by Stephen Weir (ISBN 978-1-4351-1174-5) are among the worst,
or at least many of them are, but various constraints have led to a
set that are not really the fifty worst decisions.  First of all
may have been the marketability of the book.  Of the fifty
decisions, twenty-four are from the 20th century and eight are from
the 21st.  (Obviously part of this is also that there is more
historical documentation for more recent events.)

Some of the choices are just peculiar.  Why choose Gerald Ratner's
bankruptcy over Pickett's Charge?  And on the one hand he talks
about how people should have put more lifeboats on Titanic, or a
tsunami warning system in Indonesia, but then ridicules the Y2K
preparations.  The argument that there were no Y2K disasters might
mean that the preparations were unnecessary, or it might mean the
preparations helped prevent problems, or it might mean the
preparations might have been a reasonable insurance "just in case".

Weir also seems a little shaky in his history.  He claims the Arabs
had invented the concept of the number zero; actually, it was
almost definitely the Hindus.  And he seems to attribute to
Aelthelred's sobriquet "the Unready" its modern meaning, but in
this case "Unready" comes from the Old English "unraed", meaning
"poorly advised" and is a play on words on his name "Aethelred",
which means "well-advised".

THE MARTIAN WAR by Gabriel Mesta (ISBN 978-0-7434-4639-9) is an
attempt to treat H. G. Wells's classic novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
as a cautionary tale inspired by events unknown to the general
populace but of which Wells was aware.  Unfortunately, Mesta (a
pseudonym for Kevin J. Anderson) felt obliged to bring in many of
Wells's other characters and ideas: Cavor, Griffin, Moreau, the
crystal egg, Herakleophorbia, and so on.  This is even less
convincing that Isaac Asimov's attempt late in his career to retro-
fit all his major works into a single "future history".  The "fun"
of being able to "spot the reference" is more than overcome by the
annoyance of having everyone and everything shoe-horned in.

As far as the story itself, it has its flaws.  Wells was vague
about how long it took Cavor's capsule to get to the moon.  He does
say that the occupants felt no hunger (no explanation given), but
surely their oxygen supply would have been a limiting factor.
Mesta has the capsule not only travel to the moon, but to Mars and
solely by manipulating the gravitational forces.  Naturally, there
is someone who has calculated how long it would take a capsule that
size to fall to Mars if there were no other gravitational forces:
7.8 years if you started at the point where Earth (would have been)
farthest from Mars, or 1.7 years at the closest point.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
                                           --Fran Lebowitz