Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/05/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 14, Whole Number 2035

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Maybe We Are Not Smart Enough to Clone (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper
        THE RAIN (letter of comment by Fred Lerner)
        THE CALCULATING STARS and THE FATED SKY (letter of comment
                by Daniel Kimmel)
        THE ODD COUPLE (letters of comment by Peter Rubinstein
                and Kevin R)
        December 7, 1941 (letters of comment by Joy Beeson,
                Keith F. Lynch, and Dorothy J. Heydt)
        Spoilers (Including Some Spoilers!) (letters of comment
                by Kevin R, Tim Merrigan, Paul Dormer, Arthur T,
                and Dorothy J. Heydt)
        This Week's Reading (SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS, FIVE OTHERS)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Maybe We Are Not Smart Enough to Clone (comments by Mark
R. Leeper

The recent film THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS brought up some of the
old questions about the effects of cloning people.  What seems to
worry people is that if we can control our offspring we will start
making selfish decisions with the process.  I am not sure what
would be "selfish" decisions about planned clonings.  We certainly
try to give our kids every advantage we can over other children.
Is it so different from altering a child genetically to be better
able to survive?

Consider a simpler choice than cloning a whole person.  What will
be the effects when we can choose the gender of a baby?  The
example that usually comes to people's minds is China where male
children were at one time highly valued and female children were
much less so.  It is not unknown that in the country where you may
be allowed only one child (not everywhere but in come countries
there are strong disincentives for having multiple children) for
parents covertly to kill female babies at birth so the parents can
have another chance at having a male child.  What people bring up
to me is what if the Chinese were allowed to choose the sex of
their child.  What would stop them from having an overwhelming
numbers of boys?  Well, not a thing.  Well, wouldn't that be
terrible?  No.  It would mean for a start that there would be less
of this infanticide.  Further, at first the Chinese would have a
lot of male children and not many female.  That would put girl
children in very short supply.  This would certainly mean that
girls and women would undergo a much-needed status elevation in
Chinese society.  It would have to happen.  There would just not be
enough women to go around for marriage purposes and those that
were would be much sought after.  It wouldn't take very long
for people to prefer girl-babies.  Eventually the ratio of the
sexes would approach a happy balance.  I doubt that it would be as
much as a 60%-40% split--60% boys, 40% girls.  Note: (I am guessing
that this is what would happen, but it seems reasonable.)  That
would mean that at least 20% of the population could not find
mates.  More likely it would end up in the long run with a 50%-50%
split with each gender pretty much equally valued.  But in the
meantime with shortages of women to have, wouldn't that create a
population shortage?  In China?  Be real.

You see Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" applies to more than just
economics if you let it.  The best thing that can happen to a
country that values one gender over the other is to remove the
natural tyranny of the Law of Averages.  Those laws say that it is
a random chance what the gender of your children are.  With a 50%-
50% distribution.  But if you really could choose market forces
would take over and they generally work smarter than pure chance.

So returning to full-fledged cloning, what will it mean when we can
all choose to have superstar athletes for children? We won't have
more superstars, we will just have stiffer qualifications for
superstar status.  Maybe basketball will get better.  Maybe it will
just mean become less egalitarian.  The game may be taking over by
clones of great basketball stars.  Or maybe the rules will be
changed so using clones of great basketball stars will be
considered like using steroids.  One difference, you won't have to
do drug tests to find out if a basketball player has been cloned.
The rule will be that if you look too much like some basketball
star of the past, you are not welcome on our court.

I would hope we would also have a few Einstein clones.  I am afraid
that as things are going we would have people more willing to clone
the great athletes than to clone the great thinkers, but we would
probably have some of those also.  But point-for-point I see far
more advantages than disadvantages to the capability to custom-
design the next generation.  So why are so many people terrified of
the concept? Well, it will lead to a very different world.  Better
the devil you know than the one you don't.  But we have a world
plagued with people who are selfish and unintelligent.  We could
use a few more of the brilliant thinkers.  And cloning just might
do that for us.  The problem may be that people just will be
reticent to use these techniques enough.  I mean we have sperm
banks now and we don't have very many people willing to give their
children just half a good set of genes, effectively mating with the
great minds of our times.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE RAIN (letter of comment by Fred Lerner)

In response to Dale Skran's review of THE RAIN in the 09/28/18
issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

In his review of "The Rain", Dale Skran writes that "it strains
credulity that they could build a wall that appears to be 100 feet
high across a large part of Scandinavia". I believe that it has
been established that with a sufficiency of ice and a dash of magic
such a structure could be built (cf. "Game of Thrones").  [-fl]


by Daniel Kimmel)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE CALCULATING STARS and THE
FATED SKY in the 09/28/18 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Kimmel writes:

Currently reading the second book.  Most entertaining.  On top of
what you mention I thought it interesting that she made her
narrator a Jewish woman from the South.  [-dk]


TOPIC: THE ODD COUPLE (letters of comment by Peter Rubinstein and
Kevin R)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE ODD COUPLE in the 09/28/18
issue of the MT VOID, Peter Rubinstein writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "Nothing to do with books, but in THE ODD COUPLE
have you ever wondered how a broke sportswriter can afford a
beautifully furnished eight-room in New York City?"  [-ecl]

Hardly a unique situation.  The vast majority of TV domiciles are
ridiculously unaffordable by their occupants.  [-pr]

Kevin R writes:

They had "Friends" Rent Control?

I always figured Oscar was "broke" mainly because he made enough
to play the ponies, or pay alimony, but not both.  Betting on other
sporting events might get him fired, or at least banned from major
league press boxes and locker rooms, which would make it hard, if
not impossible, to do his job.


Oscar Madison: Blanche used to say to me, "What time do you want
dinner" I'd say "I dunno, I'm not hungry". Then 3 o'clock in the
morning, I'd wake her up and say "now".  I've been one of the
highest paid sports writers in the east for the past fourteen
years, we saved eight and a half dollars in pennies.  I'm never
home, I gamble, burn cigar holes in the furniture, drink like a
fish, lie to her every chance I get.  Then on our tenth wedding
anniversary, I took her to the New York Rangers-Detroit Red Wings
hockey game where she got hit by a puck!  I still can't figure out
why she left me, that's how impossible I am.

[/quote] - 

Oscar, in story, was making "Dick Young" money, but it went out
as fast as it came in.


At his peak, he {Young} was probably the highest-paid
sportswriter in the United States.


Guy pissed me off when he feuded with Tom Seaver, which many feel
contributed to The Franchise being traded.  [-kr]


TOPIC: December 7, 1941 (letters of comment by Joy Beeson, Keith F.
Lynch, and Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to Evelyn's comments on where the latest generation's
great-grandparents were on December 7, 1941, in the 09/21/18 issue
of the MT VOID, Joy Beeson writes:

I have it on good authority that I was sitting on my mother's lap
on that date.

Keith Lynch responds:

What, all day long?  [-kfl]

Joy responds:

I presume that it was only during the radio broadcast.

I didn't ask whether we were at home at the time.  This was before
we got electricity and running water, but Dad had a wind charger to
runthe radio.  [-jb]

Dorothy Heydt replies to Joy:

I was just a little closer to my mother than you were to yours: I
was a three-month fetus.  [-djh]

Mark notes:

My parents had just gotten engaged that morning and my father, who
irritated easily, was bothered at first that he brought big news
and a ring into the house only to find everybody huddled around the
radio and nobody listening to his news.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Spoilers (Including Some Spoilers!) (letters of comment by
Kevin R, Tim Merrigan, Paul Dormer, Arthur T, and Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to the comments on spoilers in the 09/28/18 issue of
the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

I will gauchely quote myself from an old rasfw thread:


I'm still ticked at Charles Schulz for having Lucy spoil the
Rosebud McGuffin for Linus in a Sunday "Peanuts".  I knew of
the movie, but it only ever aired on the Late Late show,
and my bedtime was significantly earlier than that.

1973.  I hadn't graduated high school yet.  If he had held off
for 18 months, I'd have seen it at one of my college's old
film nights.  AAAUUUUGGGGGHHHH!  Indeed.  [-kr]

Tim Merrigan replies:


As I recall in the scene showing Little Charlie Kane being taken
from his mother(?) nanny(?) there's a brief shot of the abandoned
sled, showing its name.  We, of course, never see it again until it's
burning in the incinerator.  [-tm]

Paul Dormer replies:

My memory is that in the earlier scene, the name is covered in
snow.  After all, the film opens with Kane saying "rosebud" and the
reporters in the newsreel screening room then repeat that that was
his last word before we start getting the flashback sequences with
the sledge.  (I could go down and get the DVD and check that.)

And, of course, we all know that "rosebud" was Hearst's pet name
for Marion Davies' [private parts].  [-pd]

Arthur T also replies:

Some 20 or 30 years ago, the comic strip "The Born Loser" had a
spoiler for THE MOUSE TRAP which was, at the time, still running in
London.  I felt I could not trust the writer and have not read that
strip since.  [-at]

Paul Dormer writes [in regard to a statute of limitations]:

Then again...


Some years ago, a group of friends organised a visit to the
Shakespeare theatre in Stratford to see THE WINTER'S TALE.  During
the interval, someone pointed out from the cast list that the same
actress was playing Hermione and Perdita, which would make the last
scene difficult.

Now, Hermione had apparently just been killed off before the
interval.  This immediately told me that Hermione was not dead,
which was a spoiler for me.  (For those that don't know, in the
final scene, a statue of Hermione is unveiled.  Depending on how
you read the play, either this is Hermione, who has been in hiding
for sixteen years or an actual statue that is miraculously brought
to life.)  [-pd]

Dorothy Heydt responds:

Heck, in Greek drama they only had two, later three, actors.
Character changes were effected by the actor putting on a different

And A. E. Housman, who was a classical scholar when he wasn't
writing sad poems, wrote a parody of an early Greek drama with only
one actor plus chorus.


Paul notes:

Indeed.  I remember seeing a TV version of the Oedipus plays and
there was a scene where Oedipus says to Antigone something like,
"Why don't you speak?" and I was thinking there are already three
speaking actors in this scene, Antigone would have been played by a
silent slave at this

I once saw a production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS where they had one
actor playing both Antipholuses and one actor playing both Dromios.
They had to have body doubles for some scenes.

Conversely, I once saw a review of THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, Rodgers
and Hart's musical version, where one of the Antipholuses and one
of the Dromios was white and the other two were black, and nobody
could tell them apart.  [-pd]


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

978-0-765-39489-7) is Anders's first collection, containing the
Hugo-winning title novelette ("Six Months, Five Days") and, well,
five others (all short stories).  All were previously published on

"The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model" does not give a new
solution of the Fermi Paradox, but rather a suggestion of one
possible consequence of one of a standard solution of it.  (And a
depressing solution it is, basically implying that while
intelligence may be a common path of evolution, it is an
evolutionary dead end.  (Though this does lead to a bit of a
paradox/contradiction in the story.)

"As Good as New" is a variation on the classic "three wishes"
story, and proves it is true that a good author can take what seems
an over-used idea and still find something new in it.    And even
though one is fantasy and one is hard science, there are definite
connections in philosophy between this story and   "The Fermi
Paradox Is Our Business Model".

"Intestate" is an interesting twist on prosthetics and augmentation,
but did not really seem to go anywhere.

"The Cartography of Sudden Death" has a strange view of time
travel, presuming that is made possible by the unexpected death of
an important person, which causes a time gate to open.  Of course,
since everything takes place on a world totally different from
Earth, it is impossible for the reader to understand any of the
historical issues involved.

"Six Months, Three Days" is at bottom a debate over the question of
free will versus determinism.  Judy can see many different futures
branching ahead of her; Doug can see one future ahead of him.  Judy
is convinced she has free will; Doug is convinced there is no such
thing.  One can argue that she is deluded, but this raises a host
of new questions.  Even if one accepts free will, why does she not
see an infinite set of futures?  But Doug's ability leaves
questions also.  In "The Golden Man" (made into the film NEXT), the
protagonist can see into the future, but he can also change the
future.  How is this possible?

I am sure "Clover" is more meaningful to people who have read ALL
THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, to which it is apparently a sequel/coquel of
sorts (or perhaps it is just an offshoot of a minor plot point), or
to people who have cats.  Since I am neither, I suspect that I did
not get as much out of it as I should have.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           All models are wrong but some are useful.
                                           --George Box