Mt.  Holz Science Fiction Society
12/07/18 -- Vol.  37, No.  23, Whole Number 2044

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds
        "Newly Restored" 1910 Version of FRANKENSTEIN
        My Brush with Super Powers (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton (audio book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        ASTOUNDING (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        Penguin Quote and Quotes in General (letter of comment
                by Paul Dormer)
        This Week's Reading (THE IDEA OF PROGRESS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds

There is a good article (with illustrations) on maps of imaginary
worlds at:


TOPIC: "Newly Restored" 1910 Version of FRANKENSTEIN

Open Culture has it at
But I am not sure I would say the version has been restored.  It
has been improved and has more scenes, but I would not claim to be
s restoration of the original.  Nonetheless it is impressive to see
the film that for so many years to be forever lost.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: My Brush with Super Powers (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

With the passing of Stan Lee I have been thinking about how this
man affected my life.  First, I have not had a whole lot of contact
with him and his art.  I never read Marvel comics.  My parents let
me have comic books for an interval of maybe four years before they
became convinced that I should be reading something more
respectable.  My father was very self-impressed that as a boy he
read THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.  I tended to more frequently lean
toward Batman.  My father thought I should be doing things more the
way he used to.  If in my writing I misspelled a word he would ask,
"What's the matter?  Doesn't that word show up in comic books?"

But there was a short interval of time that my parents would
grudgingly let me read comic books.  I especially liked origin
stories for superheroes.  Some poor nebbish would get bitten by a
radioactive spider or would have a basin of secret chemicals
dropped on his head and suddenly he had powers that nobody else
seemed to have.

But believe it or not something like that actually happened to me.
Let me say that again.  IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO ME.  Oh, it was no
power of any value to me.  Only when I was thirty years old or so
did I realize other people did not have this power and they were
skeptical (to say the least) that I really did.  But the power was
there all right.

So what was this all about?  Well, about 1980 our kitchen had some
sort of electrical problem.  The refrigerator was not running.  The
electrician said the circuit breaker must have popped.  I told him,
no, the refrigerator was getting power.  It was just not turning
on.  How did I know that, he asked.  Well, I could feel it.  There
was power running through the front of the refrigerator.

I could see by the look on his face that he thought I was some sort
of idiot.  At least I had Evelyn there to vouch for me.  Except
that she came in to the controversy on the electrician's side.  She
thought it was a put-on.  Even Evelyn thought I was only
pretending.  I told her to gently rub her hand over the front of the
refrigerator.  She did and felt nothing.  Now she was sure that I
was trying to pull a stunt.

Mr.  Electrician finished the task without my help, but he verified
that I was correct about the circuit breaker.  He still thought
what I claimed to be doing was a hoax.  This really piqued my
curiosity.  Were they really not feeling the sensation I was
feeling?  If I ran my fingertips lightly over the front of the
fridge I would feel a vibration.  It was almost an electrical
buzzing with the vibration.

I suggested we try it with the fan in the den, which I had noted
had the same property.  I would leave the room and Evelyn would
plug in the fan or unplug it or would do nothing.  Then I would
gently stroke the fan and see if I felt anything.  The fan would be
turned off but on each of ten trials it would be plugged in or not.
It would be ten trials.  Except it wasn't ten.  Evelyn gave up
after the sixth trial and declared she believed me.  I had been
given six trials and got it right every time.  That was enough to
convince her.  I have never gotten a good enough explanation as to
why my fingertips detect a funny, buzzy sensation when I run my
fingertips over a surface that is slightly electrified.  It has
been suggested that there is a short circuit in a mechanism that
has that problem.  But Mark Leeper is the man with the power to
feel electricity in a piece of metal.

Is that good enough to get me into the X-MEN?  I know Stan Lee had
a syndicated TV series called SUPERHUMANS.  They showed what they
claimed were genuine superhumans from around the world.  On it
guests would do superhuman stunts.  If you looked you could see how
the tricks were done.  Most were poorly concealed carnival tricks,
and you could figure out how they were done.  My feat of feeling
electricity was one step up.  It was real.  Honest.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton (copyright 2018, Del Rey, 564
pp, ASIN B07837SGSY, Tantor Audio, 19 hours and 2 minutes, ASIN
B07DVNWH9R, narrated by John Lee) (audio book review by Joe

Peter F. Hamilton is one of those British authors who writes space
opera/hard science fiction, along with folks like Alastair
Reynolds, who seem to be wildly popular but don't get a lot of
recognition--although Reynolds does get more recognition than
Hamilton does, and has recently had Hugo nominated novellas (SLOW
BULLETS in 2016 and TROIKA in 2011).  Most notably absent from
awards rolls is Iain M. Banks, whose "Culture" novels are widely
loved but oddly lack recognition.  Banks' THE ALGEBRAIST was a
finalist for the Best Novel Hugo in 2005, but it wasn't a Culture

Hamilton writes space operas that are grand in scope, with
multitudes of characters and complex plots.  His stories are more
idea than character driven, which is probably why these days his
books do not make the short lists for awards.  What his stories are
is traditional old school science fiction, providing a grand sense
of wonder with modern sensibilities--except for that whole
character thing.  I've heard many a reader say "I stopped reading
that book (which ever "that" book is) because none of the
characters grabbed me and I didn't care for any of them."  That's
fair, of course.  My love of science fiction as a youth was driven
by these idea driven, sense of wonder stories.  Many people must
still feel that way, as writers like Hamilton still sell but don't
win awards.

SALVATION is the first novel in the "Salvation Sequence", to be
followed by SALVATION LOST and SAINTS OF SALVATION.  It is not set
in the Commonwealth universe, but in a brand new universe.  Like
the books of the Commonwealth Universe, the story advances in
multiple settings, with seemingly unrelated characters and events,
which eventually join up at the end to knock the reader for a loop.
SALVATION has an additional twist; the story also follows two
different timelines.  The first is set in 2204, and the other is in
the far future 51st century.  The linking technology is quite
literally linking; quantum entangled trans-dimensional gates that
are placed throughout the galaxy.  This has the effect of making
traditional modes of transportation outdated and useless.  Still,
there are places that spaceships can't yet go.

In the 2200s, an unknown space ship is found on a planet that has
been recently explored, and a team of experts and specialists are
sent to the planet to investigate the ship and its contents.  In
the 51st century, the story follows the development of specially
genetically engineered troops whose purpose is to fight and destroy
an ancient alien enemy.

You wouldn't think these two things are related, would you?  Yes,
yes, you would.

I found the portion of the novel that deals with 2204 much more
readable, accessible, and interesting.  I would think that's
because the soldiers of the 51st century are foreign, almost alien
to me.  We see how the genetically engineered military units are
built, trained, and come together.  But that part of the story line
doesn't really hold any interest for me.  Well, except until the
very end.

SALVATION is typical Hamilton, starting out with a sprawling story,
the parts of which don't seem to fit together.  And yet, as with
any other Hamilton story, the parts DO fit together, and a
narrative that doesn't seem to be making any sense comes together
just when it needs to.  I wouldn't call it the best of his novels,
but since it's the beginning of something new I think it needs to
be given a chance.  I look forward to SALVATION LOST.

John Lee once again proves to be an outstanding narrator for a
Hamilton novel.  His tone and inflection reflect the majesty of a
star spanning story as well as the complexity of the plot that
Hamilton has written.  He seems to be well suited for space opera;
he was also great as the narrator of Reynolds' THE PREFECT.  I look
forward to his narration of the next book in the series.  [-jak]


TOPIC: ASTOUNDING (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of ASTOUNDING: JOHN
THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION in the 11/23/18 issue of the MT
VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Please extend my thanks to Joe Karpierz for reviewing ASTOUNDING:
taste of the gossip and rumors in that book.

(I have always regarded "gossip" and "rumor" to mean second- (or
more distant) hand yak yak without regard to its falsity--or its
lack) I especially like how the figures in the book figured into
Joe's early fandom.  Like him, I read BALL FOUR at a formative age,
but do not recall any particular disappointment about ballplayers
when I first read it at age 13 (that came much later, when certain
Pirates players were implicated in a "cocaine scandal").  Like
Asimov's non-fiction/fiction writing ratio, my reading goes 9-to-1
these days and I shall regard ASTOUNDING to have a similar
truth/fiction quotient.

My own fandom includes Asimov's sketches of JW Campbell and the
redoubtable Heinlein--and recall nothing about Hubbard--who, I
understand is "rumored" to have never written non-fiction (not that
I read a single word of Hubbard).  (Said another way, I will get
the book only because of Campbell, Heinlein, and the Good Doctor.)
Asimov, in his autobiography, noted that Heinlein's politics had
shifted right since he first knew him and speculated that this was
to please the new wife after remarrying.  I will be interested to
see if ASTOUNDING addresses this.

Finally, I will indulge in a publishing gripe.

In 1989 I first used MS Word (2.0) on a Mac SE (running System
6.x).  The version of Word offered a very-easy-to-use footnote
feature - which I gladly used for 30 issues of a three-column
monthly newsletter.  Thirty years later, the vast majority of
publishers persist in putting "notes" at the back--thus assuring
most of them will not be read.  [-js]

Evelyn adds:

Jim reports that he is safe and well after the 7.0 earthquake that
struck Anchorage last week.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Penguin Quote and Quotes in General (letter of comment by
Paul Dormer)

In response to Denise Moy's comments on the source of the quote in
the 11/30/18 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

[Denise Moy writes,] "When I checked the quote on Google, I found
this tidbit which offers no verifiable information about the girl
or the book club:"  [-dm]

That's the problem with quotes found on the internet.

I think I mentioned a few weeks back that I have a diary that gives
a quote at the bottom of each page.  One was "Both my marriages
were failures!  Number one departed, and number two stayed" which
was attributed to the composer Gustav Mahler.  And, indeed, I can
find that one on the Internet, too:

Trouble is, I can find no evidence that Mahler was married more
than once.  (Alma Schindler, of course, made famous by the Tom
Lehrer song.)  [-pd]

Evelyn notes:

Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel was born Alma Maria Schindler.


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

THE IDEA OF PROGRESS by J. S. Bury (ISBN 978-0-486-25421-0) was
written in 1931 or so.  (It was published in 1932.)  The world was
in the depths of the Great Depression, but Bury could still see
that humanity was making progress (or maybe he made himself see
it).  He could see that we would pass through the economic problems
and resume our progress (though I doubt he foresaw that it would
take another world war to heal the economy).  But he was blind-
sided by his faith in something that seemed so obvious then, and so
false now:

"As time is the very condition of the possibility of Progress, it
is obvious that the idea would be valueless if there were any
cogent reason for supposing that the time at the disposal of
humanity is likely to reach a limit in the near future.  If there
were good cause for believing that the earth would be uninhabitable
in A.D. 2000 or 2100 the doctrine of Progress would lose its
meaning and would automatically disappear.  It would be a delicate
question to decide what the minimum period of time which must be
assured to man for his future development, in order that Progress
should possess value and appeal to the emotions.  The recorded
history of civilization covers 6000 years or so, and the idea of
our conceptions of time-distances, we might assume that if we were
sure of a period ten times as long ahead of us the idea of Progress
would not lose its power of appeal.  Sixty thousand years of
*historical* time, when we survey the changes which have come to
pass in six thousand, opens to the imaginations a range vast enough
to seem almost endless.

"This psychological question, however, need not be decided.  For
science assures us that the stability of the present conditions of
the solar system is certified for many myriads of years to come.
Whatever gradual modifications of climate there may be, the planet
will not cease to support life for a period which transcends and
flouts all efforts of imagination.  In short, the *possibility* of
Progress is guaranteed by the high probability, based on astro-
physical science, of an immense time to progress in."

The fact is that in 1931, we had no concept of "nuclear winter" or
how the same effect could occur from, say, a meteorite.  In
retrospect, it seems obvious, especially since the earth had
already gone through "the Year Without a Summer" in 1816 after the
cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815.  At any rate, the
threat of a meteor strike was not on people's radar then (not that
they had radar).  Bury's belief that all climate modifications
would be gradual and not so much as to threaten life is touching,
if misguided.  And while it may be true that *life* will survive,
there is no guarantee that *human life* would do so.  In this
regard, Bury seems to put humans back in that privileged role as
having some special protection from a higher power, or at least so
it seems now that we have experienced the extinction or near-
extinction of so many species.

So what does this do to the idea of progress (or as Bury always
writes it, "the idea of Progress")?  Do we return to the ancient
idea of cycles: humanity rises to a Golden Age, then sinks to the
depths, then rises again, and so the cycle repeats?  Or do we
embrace the medieval Christian idea that we have our "Golden Age"
in the Garden of Eden, and have been descending ever since, getting
worse and worse until God ends the (earthly) world?  Or is it more
a progression of waves: the dinosaurs had their rise and fall, then
the mammals (including humans), and after us some other form of
life will take their place?  The last has echoes of LAST AND FIRST
MEN by Olaf Stapledon, since the "men" that follow use are truly
different species.  Or of Russell Hoban's observation in
PILGERMANN: "We are, for example, clever enough to know that a year
is a measure of passage, not permanence; we call the seasons
spring, summer, autumn, and winter, knowing that they are
continually passing one into the other.  We are not surprised at
this but when we give to seasons of another sort the names Rome,
Byzantium, Islam, or Mongol Empire we are astonished to see that
each one refuses to remain what it is."

Of course, it is not just Bury who makes statements that seem
foolish in retrospect.  in the late 17th century, Charles Perrault
wrote, "Our age has, in some sort, arrived at the summit of
perfection.  And since for some years the rate of progress is much
slower and appears almost insensible.--as the days seem to cease
lengthening when the solstice is near-it is pleasant to think that
probably there are not many things for which we need envy future

Of course, a common feeling, first expressed by Jerome Cardan in
the 16th century, and promoted by Francis Bacon in the 17th century
was that the three greatest inventions of the Middle Ages were the
compass, the printing press, and gunpowder.  These were attributed
to Europeans, of course, as the "advanced" race, and it was only
later (recently?) that all three (and paper, often included in a
"Big Four") were invented by the Chinese.

Bury summarizes Rene Descartes' contribution to the idea of
Progress as not embodied in his mathematics, but in the two
basic principles he espoused: "the supremacy of reason and the
invariability of the laws of nature."  The former destroyed the
appeal to authority that had led "natural philosophers" to rely on
Aristotle and Aquinas without question, and the latter meant that
there was no room for Providence--the intervention of God--in
natural events.  This led to a rise in Deism, the belief that God
created the Universe and its natural laws, and then stepped back
from it and let the Universe run itself.

Bury also says, "At present the [human] race is not more than seven
or eight thousand years old..."  It may be true that civilization
is seven or eight thousand years old, but the human race is closer
to 200,000 years old.

In a theme that has been repeated, more recently by Jared Diamond,
"[Rousseau] ascribed to metallurgy and agriculture the fatal
resolution which brought [the original] Arcadian existence to an
end.  Agriculture entailed the origin of property in land.  Moral
and social inequality were introduced by the man who first enclosed
a piece of land and said, This is mine, and found people simple
enough to believe him.  He was the founder of civil society."

L'AN 2440 by Sebastien Mercier was published in 1770; L'AN 2000 by
Restif de la Bretonne was published in 1790.  Both were forerunners
of Edward Bellamy's LOOKING BACKWARD, and if one considers the
latter science fiction, then Mercier and Bretonne are earlier
science fiction authors than Mary Shelley.

Bury does note, "You may establish social equality by means of laws
and institutions, yet the equality actually enjoyed may be very

Bury's condensation of Kant's thoughts seem to be quite
psychohistorical (in the Asimovian sense).  "Individual men do not
obey a law.  ...  The problem for the philosopher is to discover a
meaning in this senseless current of human actions, so that the
history of creatures who pursue no plan of their may yet admit of a
systematic form."

And finally, Bury, weighs in on the Great Man vs. Tide of History
theories, with:

"The reader of the PHILOSOPHIE POSITIVE will also observe that
Comte has not grappled with a fundamental question which has to be
faced in unravelling the woof of history or seeking a law of
events.  I mean the question of contingency.  It must be remembered
that contingency does not in the least affect the doctrine of
determinism; it is compatible with the strictest interpretation of
the principle of causation.  A particular example may be taken to
show what it implies.  ...

"It may plausibly be argued that a military dictatorship was an
inevitable sequence of the French Revolution.  This may not be
true, but let us assume it.  Let us further assume that, given
Napoleon, it was inevitable that he should be the dictator.  But
Napoleon's existence was due to an independent causal chain which
had nothing whatever to do with the course of political events.  He
might have died in his boyhood by disease or by an accident, and
the fact that he survived was due to causes which were similarly
independent of the causal chain which, as we are assuming, led
necessarily to an epoch of monarchical government.  The existence
of a man of his genius and character at the given moment was a
contingency which profoundly affected the course of history.  If he
had not been there another dictator would have grasped the helm,
but obviously would not have done what Napoleon did.

"It is clear that the whole history of man has been modified at
every stage by such contingencies, which may be defined as the
collisions of two independent causal chains.  Voltaire was
perfectly right when he emphasised the role of chance in history,
though he did not realise what it meant.  This factor would explain
the oscillations and deflections which Comte admits in the movement
of historical progression.  But the question arises whether it may
not also have once and again definitely altered the direction of
the movement.  Can the factor be regarded as virtually negligible
by those who, like Comte, are concerned with the large perspective
of human development and not with the details of an episode?  Or was
Renouvier right in principle when he maintained 'the real
possibility that the sequence of events from the Emperor Nerva to
the Emperor Charlemagne might have been radically different from
what it actually was'?

"[Footnote: He illustrated this proposition by a fanciful
reconstruction of European history from 100 to 800 A.D. in his
UCHRONIE, 1876.  He contended that there is no definite law of
progress: 'The true law lies in the equal possibility of progress
or regress for societies as for individuals.']"  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

            All truth is not to be told at all times.
                                           --Samuel Butler