Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/25/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 30, Whole Number 2051

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in February (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                RETOLD THROUGH OUR GENES) by Adam Rutherford (book
                review by Gregory Frederick)
        Jules Verne's Geography and Politics (letters of comment by
                Joseph T. Major, Mike Glyer, Kevin R,
                and Dorothy J. Heydt)
        Hot Food (letter of comment by Peter Trei)
        Around the World in 40 Minutes (letters of comment by
                Peter Trei, Dorothy J. Heydt, and Keith F. Lynch)
        Hot Food and MARY POPPINS RETURNS (letter of comment
                by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (TIME WAS, UNLOCKED, and ALICE PAYNE
                ARRIVES) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

February 14, 2019: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) (a.k.a. LIVE. DIE.
        REPEAT) & ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
March 28, 2019: WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1920)
May 23, 2019: DIASPORA by Greg Egan
     by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
September 26, 2019: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada
November 21, 2019: THE SLEEPER WAKES by H. G. Wells (1910)
January 23, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada
March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs
May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada
July 23, 2020: TBD by Jules Verne
September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada
November 19, 2020: Rudyard Kipling:
     "A Matter of Fact" (1892)
     "The Ship That Found Herself" (1895)
     ".007" (1897)
     "Wireless" (1902)
     "With the Night Mail [Aerial Board of Control 1]" (1905)
     "As Easy as A.B.C. [Aerial Board of Control 2]" (1912)
     "In the Same Boat" (1911)

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


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

It is the coldest part of the year.  You might want to sit down
someplace warm with a good movie.  Again here I am using a misspent
youth watching movies, good and bad, and letting you reap the
benefit. This is the month each year when TCM shows only films that
were at the very least had been nominated for Academy Awards.  I
think that this leads of a lot of repetition from year to year.
But I cannot really complain since they have even more repetition
from one October to the next when they show nearly every horror
film in their library.  I may not watch any of their films that
month but it is good to know the films are there.  Well, on to the

One film coming up is a very good movie directed by French
filmmaker Louis Malle.  It takes place in an older Atlantic City
that was a romantic place to be.  Its old boardwalk was a national
attraction at the end of an era.  Now the historic hotels are being
torn down and replaced and monetized into being a plastic money-
making machine for soulless bankers and financiers.  Burt Lancaster
plays an old gangster--but not really.  Actually he had been only
an errand boy for the mob, but he cherishes the memories of when
the city had been great.  He has become obsessed with pretty, young
card dealer (Susan Sarandon) who is a neighbor.  Sarandon's sister
and her husband Dave come to visit.  Dave has stolen a mob shipment
of drugs, putting everybody in danger.  Lancaster decides to protect
Sarandon from the mobsters and to prove to himself that he
could have been a really dangerous thug.

Malle has a beautiful sense of atmosphere.  John Guare wrote the
film and does some pretty impressive writing.  The sister-in-law
just says one sentence about Dave and he is completely
characterized.  It seems like no great feat of writing until you
realize how much you learned about Dave from that one sentence.
Lancaster is great and melancholic as he is bringing to life his
memories of the mob running the town like it needed to be run.  I
would pick this as the best film of the month.  [ATLANTIC CITY,
Saturday, February 16, 02:00 AM (ET)]

INHERIT THE WIND (1960) Stanley Kramer frequently fearlessly
courted controversy when he directed a film.  INHERIT THE WIND
(1960) is an adaptation of the 1955 play of the same title by
Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.  The play is loosely based on
the events of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial when a high school
biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee was put on trial for having
broken the state law that made it illegal to teach evolution in the
classroom.  William Jennings Bryan offered to prosecute for the
state.  But the trial became a national sensation when Clarence
Darrow agreed to lead the defense.  These were the two most famous
and controversial lawyers in the country.  The result was a media
circus and under it all two great lawyers debated about the
separation of Church and State. Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, and
Gene Kelly star.  March gives a terrific performance that really
captures the mannerisms of William Jennings Bryan.  Much of the
courtroom testimony is taken verbatim from the trial record.
[INHERIT THE WIND, Wednesday, February 20, 12:00 PM (ET)]

I should cover THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954), one of the most
influential disaster films.  It is melodramatic as all get out, but
it is a lot of fun.  John Wayne is a commercial pilot who earlier
made a mistake as a pilot and it cost his the life of his wife and
family.  He is now co-piloting another plane over the Pacific hen
an engine dies on him.  He has to decide between a wet or dry
landing and what piloting strategy will save his passengers.  Fun
film.  The trailer is hilarious:
You will see many cliches that later showed up in AIRPLANE!  [THE
HIGH AND THE MIOGHTY, Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 12:15 AM]



RETOLD THROUGH OUR GENES) by Adam Rutherford (book review by
Gregory Frederick)

This recent science book delves into the study of genetics and the
latest research and findings in this field.  For example,
researchers now know that everyone of European descent has a small
amount of Neanderthal DNA in their genome.  Interbreeding must have
occurred during the time when Homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-
existed.  Also, scientists once thought that since we are a complex
and intelligent being we would have the most genes of all
creatures.  Turns out humans have about 20,000 genes, which is far
less than a roundworm, or a banana plant.  Many plants have huge
genomes and scientists do not know why.  Many plants for example,
have multiple copies of chromosomes.  This book is a very
interesting but difficult read.  Not enough effort is made to bring
the material down to a lay-person's level.  [-gf]


TOPIC: Jules Verne's Geography and Politics (letters of comment by
Joseph T. Major, Mike Glyer, Kevin R)

In response to Evelyn's comments on AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in
the 01/18/19 issue of the MT VOID, Joseph Major writes:

Geographic matters were not Verne's strongest point.

high hill in Florida.  The tallest elevation in Florida is Britton
Hill, which is 345 feet high.  To cap it off, the location given
for Stones Hill is flat.  (A Florida SF club called its clubzine
"The Stone Hill Launch Times".)

North Carolina.  (It also has a Federal Police Force, which is a
little ahead of the time.)

He also tended to be a little vague about politics.

France-Ville and Stahlstadt being given extraterritoriality in
Oregon.  That's a pretty hefty piece of Gilded Age corruption
there.  And the Hayes administration seems rather blase about
France-Ville raising a large militia in response to Schultze's
threats against it.  (And the succession rules for the baronetcy
seem a little odd, since it is passing to the descendants of the
sisters of the original grantee.)

marriage being performed according to French civil marriage
procedure.  In the state of Virginia.  (In general, it could be
seen as an earlier version of Sir Fred Hoyle's ELEMENT 79.)

And then there is the continuity problem between VINGT MILLE LIEUES

Evelyn responds:

I often tell people that the highest point in Florida is the top of
a skyscraper in Miami.  (Currently, that would be the top of the
Panorama Tower, which is 868 feet tall.  There are 35 buildings
taller than 550 feet in Florida.)

And I did note the time loop problem.  [-ecl]

Mike Glyer notes:

Wikipedia says there were *some* Southern members of Congress in
1862--not all the seats were vacated.


Kevin R adds:

There were a few Unionists representing states that had declared
secession in the 37th US Congress, but nowhere near enough to form
a bloc that could push for a more southerly route.  [-kr]

Evelyn replies:

The only states with members were the border states (Tennessee,
Kentucky, and Missouri) and Virginia, which had not yet fissured
into Virginia and West Virginia.  The latter was almost definitely
where Virginia's members came from.  (And though the CSA counted
Missouri and Kentucky as members, neither ever actually seceded
from the Union.)

The bottom line is that the few members that would be considered
Southern would have no real effect on what the Congress decided
about the route of the transcontinental railroad.  [-ecl]

In response to Evelyn's comments on Jules Verne and the capital of
California, Dorothy Heydt writes:

"San Francisco became the temporary capital from 24 January 1862 to
15 May 1862..."  [Whether it was due to a fire or a flood in
Sacramento is unclear.]  [-djh]

Evelyn replies:

However, the events of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS take place in
1872, by which point the capital is back in Sacramento.  [And, yes,
the original French says "capitale".]  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Hot Food (letter of comment by Peter Trei)

In response to Mark's comments on hot food in the 01/18/19 issue of
the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

Chilis: Birds can't sense capsaicin (the chemical which creates the
hot sensation).  Mammals can.  I don't know about insects (there is
some evidence that tarantulas(!) may be able to sense it. Capsaicin
is also a deterrent for some fungi which attack chilis.

Mammals have molars, and destroy many chili seeds when they eat
them.  Birds do not--they pass through.

The general thought is that capsaicin evolved to prevent seed
destruction by small mammals, while allowing it by birds.

One common method to discourage squirrels at bird feeders it to mix
hot pepper into the feed.  [-pt]


TOPIC: Around the World in 40 Minutes (letters of comment by Peter
Trei, Dorothy J. Heydt, and Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Dan Cox's comments on orbits in the 01/18/19 issue
of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Act 2 Scene 1, line 160:

Puck (told to do something quickly):
"I'll put a girdle round about the Earth In forty minutes."

At the time, circumnavigation of the globe was the equivalent of a
moonshot, possible, but hard to accomplish, taking years.  [-pt]

Dorothy Heydt responds:

Okay; what kind of orbit would you need to orbit the earth in forty
minutes, and would it be stable?  [-djh]

Peter replies:

You couldn't do so in any normal way: you'd have to be under
continuous power, with the rocket facing away from Earth to prevent
you flying off into solar orbit.  [-pt]

And Keith Lynch says:

The shortest possible unforced Earth orbit is 88 minutes.  A
shorter forced orbit is possible, but would require ridiculous
amounts of fuel.  A 40-minute orbit would require that you
accelerate straight down at 3.8 Gs while moving sideways fast
enough to miss the Earth.  That would be uncomfortable for the
astronauts, but not dangerous.  Also, you'd need rocket technology
way beyond anything we have today.

The necessary acceleration increases with the square of the speed
(minus 1 G due to Earth's gravity).  So if you wanted to circle the
Earth in *20* minutes, you'd experience 18 Gs, which is probably
about the limit for survival even with water immersion.  [-kfl]

Evelyn notes:

But Puck is a supernatural creature, so it's not clear that he
would be affected by G-forces, at least in the same way natural
creatures are.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Hot Food and MARY POPPINS RETURNS (letter of comment by John

In response to Mark's comments on hot food in the 01/18/19 issue of
the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

And the hits just keep on coming!

I do enjoy spicy food, sometimes really spicy food.  A good
flavorful curry that is not overly spicy-hot is something that I do
like, and Szechuan food likewise is welcome on my plate.  In a way,
I am like Andrew Zimmern (the host on Travel Channel's foodie shows
"Bizarre Foods" and "Delicious Destinations") whose mantra is "if
it looks good and smells good, eat it!"  I feel the same way.  It
all depends on the mood I am in and what's available at the
restaurant we are at or what we want to make for dinner at home.
No matter what, if it's yummy smelling, I will definitely give it a

In response to Jim Susky's review of MARY POPPINS in the same issue,
John writes:

I have absolutely no desire to see MARY POPPINS RETURNS, even if
Emily Blunt is a cutie.  I just can't understand why Hollywood
keeps returning to the well and dredging up yet another bucket of
old films or television shows that somebody wants to revisit and
revise.  No thank you, very much.  Oh, and don't get me started on
that abomination called HOLMES AND WATSON starring Will Farrell and
John C. Reilly.  *shudder*  Just.  No.

This week's issue of the VOID was abbreviated, but still full of
fun material. Thank you for producing and sending it along.  [-jp]


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

We are in a "Golden Age" of novellas.  When "short" fiction (under
40,000 words) was published exclusively in magazines, novellas were
rare.  Editors did not usually want to devote a large percentage of
an issue to a single story.  And book publishers thought their
readers wanted something more substantial than a hundred-page

The first publisher to produce novellas in quantity was Ace books.
How?  Those classic "Ace Doubles".  Described by Ace as two novels,
each one was really two novellas (not counting the occasional story
collection).  These appeared in their Western line, but the science
fictions ones were the real success.

Then along came small press publishers such as Subterranean Press,
who were willing to publish works that weren't trilogies or
doorstops.  As the web expanded, various on-line publications
started publishing novellas as well.

But the field seems to have really taken off with Tor Books'
program of publishing trade paperback novellas at the rate of about
two a month.  While one may quibble that some of these are in
"series" that are really longer novels broken into pieces, that's
still a pretty good rate.

Luckily for me (and my pocketbook) my public library is very good
about buying new science fiction in general, and new Tor novellas
in particular.  So on my last trip I was able to check out three
novellas off the new book shelf.

In TIME WAS by Ian McDonald (ISBN 978-0-7653-9146-9) a love letter
found in an obscure poetry book leads the primary narrator on a
search involving mysterious vanishings, old photographs, legendary
bookshops, and something mysterious under it all.  The language is
poetic and evocative, but because there are multiple first-person
narrators, the plot is thread sometimes a bit hard to follow.

UNLOCKED by John Scalzi (ISBN 978-1-250-30799-6) also has multiple
first-person narrators.  In this case, however, these are presented
as something like parts of interviews or report, each labeled at
the start with the name of the source of that section.  Though most
of it is focused on the progression of a debilitating, often deadly
disease (which renders its survivors incapable of even the
slightest voluntary motion), the book is ultimately more concerned
with the social changes that come out of the research to treat the
effects of the disease.  As such, the reader may discover that what
seemed like a subsidiary plot that they skimmed over is actually
the point of the book.

ALICE PAYNE ARRIVES by Kate Heartfield (ISBN 978-1-250-31373-7)
reminds me of "El Ministerio del Tiempo"--there is time travel and
a "time patrol", but there are also other organized groups who have
conflicting ideas of how time travel should be used.  Should one
attempt to "maintain" history?  Should one attempt to "fix"
history's "mistakes"?  Should one try to make changes to improve
history?  (A lot of this shows up in an info-dump towards the end
as an experienced time traveler explains all this to someone just
let in on the secret.)  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           A skilful leech is better far, than half a hundred men
           of war.
                                           --Samuel Butler