Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/03/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 44, Whole Number 2065

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        PBS Announces "Summer of Space" Lineup
        Classics Illustrated Comics (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Talk to the Animals (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        SOBIBOR (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        MUNCHHAUSEN (letter of comment by Paul Dormer)
        Agatha Christie, Art, and ON THE STEEL BREEZE (letter
                of comment by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo finalists (novels): CONJURE
                BEAD GAME], and THE WEAPON MAKERS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: PBS Announces "Summer of Space" Lineup

PBS announces a six-hour "American Experience" documentary "Chasing
the Moon" running in July, as well as five more new programs and
seven encore presentations focused on space.  See for details.


TOPIC: Classics Illustrated Comics (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Members who are of a certain age (one I hope to attain some day)
will remember that their first contact with some of the great works
of literature--as well as some of SF/horror/fantasy--was from
issues  of Classics Illustrated comics.  They gave a detailed
synopsis of the story in comic book format.  Just go to the URL
below and scroll down the long, long, long two columns.  Pick a
comic and click on it.  They start with two of my favorites,
everything is yours free for the taking,

Start at

Enjoy.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Talk to the Animals (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I read a few science news web sites.  It is one way to keep up with
what is happening in science.  One recently ran an article asking,
"Does your cat know its own name?"  I never had a cat so this
question is less interesting that it might have been.  But the
article suggested you speak a sequence of single syllable object
names and somewhere in he middle include the cat's name as if it
were one more object.  You watch for changes in the cat's facial
expression.  If the cat reacts to hearing its name spoken more than
it reacts to hearing a toy's name, it has recognized it.  Otherwise
it won't.

I didn't have a cat, but I did have Sam, a very bright dachshund.
My brother has had a sequence of Schnauzers.  They were nice dogs
but none of them was the sharpest cheddar in the cheese shop, if
you know what I mean.  No offense, brother.  The first of these
would find he wanted something and would sit in the middle of the
kitchen floor howling until whatever he wanted came by or until it
didn't come by.

Sam could convey abstract ideas.  If Sam woke up in the middle of
the night and discovered he could not wait, he knew Mark would help
him.  He would climb a flight of stairs, come to my room.  Now how
does he express the idea that outside is where he wants to go?  He
would scratch on the outside wall, knowing that if he could pass
through that wall he would fall down and hurt himself.  He did have
a bugaboo about heights so he did not want to go in that direction.
But he knew where the outside was and he knew he was anxious to go
in that general direction.  He mastered the ideas of inside and
outside.  He probably knew much more than that about what was
happening.  He was fed every day at 5PM.  About 4:55 he would walk
over to the cupboard where the cans were stored.  He would knock a
cupboard door open and swing it back and forth with his nose.  When
he saw someone had seen him he would take out a can--always dog
food--knock it over so it would roll, and rolled it to the feet of
the human responding to his call.  None of us had the heart to keep
him waiting any more.  But did he know Sam was his name?

Once when my aunt and uncle, Sadie and Sam, were visiting Sadie sat
on the couch.  She wanted Sam (the uncle) to sit down show she
said, "C'mon, Sam.  Sit by me."  Sam (the dog) was so excited to be
included in the proceedings he bounded up onto the couch and
nestled between her leg and the couch top.   He did not know what
he was called for, but someone was including him in the activity.
He would do his part.

Decades after his death I realized what Sam was saying.  He was
bored.  I wish I had realized it decades ago. [-mrl]


TOPIC: SOBIBOR (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: there were many death camps in the network run by the Nazi
SS.  There was only one that had an escape of any size.  On October
14, 1943 there were 400 prisoners who attempted a mass escape from
Sobibor.  About 100 died in the attempt to leave the camp but 300
escaped, running literally for their lives away to freedom.  This
is the story of that escape.  It is both a document of the
barbarity to which the captives are subjected and at the same time
it is an escape thriller.  Directed by Konstantin Khabenskiy;
written by Anna Chernakova, Michael Edelstein, Ilya Vasiliev;
languages: Russian, German, Polish, English subtitles.  Rating:
+3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

By 1943 the Nazi SS had built and was operating a network of
extermination camps to efficiently murder Jews and other captives.
Victims were brought to Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka,
Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and other camps.  They were shipped
from Germany and other captive countries, including France, Poland,
the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, and were
sent by railroad car, transported under barbaric conditions only to
be murdered a short time after their arrival at the death camps.
Of the death camps only camps Belzec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz
could boast (if that is the word) of greater numbers of murders
than the camp Sobibor.

The story follows the arrival of one batch of prisoners through ten
days to their escape.

The new arrivals are asked if they know a craft.  A prisoner warns
one that she must immediately get a job--any job--just to stay
alive.  Those who cannot claim skill in some useful craft are
murdered within minutes.  The murder of the unskilled women is
dramatized for the viewer.  This is just one of the first
barbarities visited on the women prisoners.  The men could expect
an even more painful end.

Director Konstantin Khabenskiy shows us a powerful view of the
horrific, but the style remains a little reserved.  Women are
brought silently to gas chambers.  Other dramatizations have shown
a good deal more screaming.  I cannot say which is the more
historically accurate.  After one escape attempt a group of
prisoners are literally decimated.  SOBIBOR is more disturbing than
is Steven Spielberg's SCHINDLER'S LIST (1994).  Each tends to be
not so much about the murder of Jews as it is about the lucky few
who would be survivors.

The director tantalizes the viewer by showing us scenes that would
be repeated during the actual escape attempt.  The prisoners invite
a Nazi officer to take an expensive leather coat (stolen property)
as a gift.  We see bits of the escape plan that pay off (in more
ways than one) during the actual escape.  Then the tone of the film
jumps from dour into a higher tempo with more action.  While the
entire film has been downbeat (to say the least) the film turns
itself into a paean to freedom.  It is strong change of tone.
[Historical information from Wikipedia's article "Sobibor"]

I rate SOBIBOR a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

[My historical sources for this review were Wikipedia and the Yad
Vashem Holocaust Remembrance web site. I will freely include facts
from those two sources the history of the event.  There are
multiple dramatizations of the Sobibor escape and they much agree
with each other on the precedence of events.  I will trust them
for accuracy.]



TOPIC: MUNCHHAUSEN (letter of comment by Paul Dormer)

In response to Mark's comments on MUNCHHAUSEN in the 04/19/19 issue
of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

[Mark writes,] "This may be an odd usage of the word "lucky" as the
film is stodgy and slow and offers little humor, in spite of the
subject matter.

I actually rather liked it.  It turned up on the BBC many years
ago, possibly about the time the Gilliam version came out, and some
years later I found and bought a DVD release.  Maybe I like stodgy
and slow.

There's a great misdirect in the opening scenes that really
surprised me when I first saw it:

Gur bcravat fprarf ner ng n onyy, crbcyr va rvtugrragu praghel
pbfghzr qnapvat gb fhvgnoyr zhfvp.  Gura fbzrobql fnlf fur unf gb
yrnir, tbrf bhg bs gur ebbz.  Lbh frr ure fjvgpu ba na ryrpgevp
yvtug naq trg vagb n zbgbe pne naq qevir bss.  Gheaf bhg vg unf
orra n pbfghzr onyy va gur "cerfrag" qnl.  [-pd]


TOPIC: Agatha Christie, Art, and ON THE STEEL BREEZE (letter of
comment by John Purcell)

In response to Mark's riddle in the 04/19/19 issue of the MT VOID,
John Purcell writes:

First off--Agatha Crispy?? How dare you!  Her name and writings are
sacrosanct around here, you know. for this awful pun I should force
you to read Nancy Drew mysteries as punishment.

In response to Mark's comments on art in the same issue, John

When my wife and I were in Paris during my TAFF trip not quite two
years ago, we went to as many art museums that we could fit into
our cramped itinerary, which was a good half-dozen.  One of them
was the Espace Dali on Montmarte.  Salvadore Dali is one of my
wife's favorite artists, and I have to admit that some of his work
is truly brilliant and mind-bending at the same time.  There is no
doubt in my mind that Dali's work is a good example of modern art--
specifically, surrealism--that at first gained the reaction of
"Qua?" from most art aficionados.  Now, of course, Dali is a
recognized master of 20th century art.

But then you get artists like Jackson Pollack, whose work Valerie
and I despise. Why did he get so many showings and recognition? He
had a wealthy sponsor. So did Andy Warhol. If you're an artist with
a deep-pocket investor to bankroll your art shows and promote you,
then you are all set. Oh, and don't get Valerie started on "public
taste" in modern art. You might be in for an hours-long harangue as
a result.

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of ON THE STEEL BREEZE in the
same issue, John writes:

Thanks for the word about Alastair Reynolds' novel, ON THE STEEL
BREEZE.  That is one I have not yet read mainly because I don't
have a copy.  I do have BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH, and really enjoyed
that novel.  Off in search I go for the sequel.

Many thanks for the issue, and take care.  [-jp]


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

Once again, it's Retro Hugo time; I will start with the novels, or
at least some of them.

CONJURE WIFE by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (ISBN 978-0-765-32406-1) was made
into the film BURN, WITCH, BURN, and the 1962 Berkley edition has
the latter title in bigger letters on the cover than the book's
actual title.  (In Britain, it was titled NIGHT OF THE EAGLE.)  The
idea that witchcraft works, and that basically all women use it,
put CONJURE WIFE clearly in the fantasy realm in 1943.  Only much
later did we start seeing witchcraft in "mainstream" novels such as
ROSEMARY'S BABY.  As noted below, this is the better-written of
Leiber's two finalists in this category, with more attention to
prose style than GATHER, DARKNESS!

GATHER, DARKNESS! by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (ISBN 978-1-497-60808-5) has
a lot of familiar tropes: the post-apocalyptic society with a
religion and priesthood that is really just a way to sell science
to the superstitious masses, an underground movement, mind control,
....  The thing to remember, of course, is that 75 years ago these
were not the cliches they seem now.  Taken as written in its time,
this is a fairly decent book, not as manic as THE WEAPON MAKERS,
but not as well-written as Leiber other finalist in this category,

978-0-312-27849-6) has perhaps the most complicated history of any
of the finalists in this category.  Published in German in
Switzerland in 1943 as DAS GLASPERLENSPIEL, it was translated into
English by M. Savill and published in 1949 as MAGISTER LUDI.  It
was then re-translated by Richard and Clara Winston and published
in 1969 as THE GLASS BEAD GAME: (MAGISTER LUDI).  The latter is
apparently the preferred translation, but it is worth pointing out
that it is the original German-language novel that was nominated.
And I'll wrap up my comments by saying that this is the second time
I've tried to read this, and I might as well be trying to read the
German.  Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement, but this is way
too dense for me.

THE WEAPON MAKERS by A. E. van Vogt (no ISBN) is a short book (186
pages), but I still couldn't force myself to finish it.  I gave up
after van Vogt had postulated a weapon that could be used only
defensively, a gun that could be materialized from an invisible
plane and fire a death ray and then vanish, an immortal, a process
that could instantly enlarge an ordinary rat to one twenty feet
tall, and a monarchy that has lasted (apparently without any
breaks) several thousand years.  And I had gotten to only page 45.

And then I discovered that I wasn't even reading the nominated
work!  According to the "Prospero's Isle" website, the book version
was a "heavily rewritten and reorganized version in which the two
leading protagonists are essentially merged into the one person of
the super-hero Robert Hedrock, a rewrite that necessitated some
far-out twists as body transfers and mind-reading that make it a
very different and, we feel, considerably less satisfactory tale


As with DAS GLASPERLENSPIEL, I suspect that most (if not all)
voters will be reading a work that differs from the actual
finalist.  In one case, it will be a translation, which presumably
is accurate as to plot, characters, etc., but in this case it seems
to be a very different work--sort of like voting on the 1943 film
version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on the basis of having seen the
1962 version.

Anyway, luckily I discovered my error and switched to reading the
actual finalist instead.  It still has a weapon that could be used
only defensively, a gun that could be materialized from an
invisible plane and fire a death ray and then vanish, an immortal,
a process that could instantly enlarge an ordinary rat to one
twenty feet tall, and a monarchy that has lasted (apparently
without any breaks) several thousand years.  I got further this
time--halfway through--before deciding that life was too short to
read bad books.

Next week, I will finish the novels.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to
           love our enemies; probably because they are generally
           the same people.
                                           --G.K. Chesterton