Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/17/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 46, Whole Number 2067

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

        For the Trekkie Who Has Everything...
        My View of Alcohol and Tobacco (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        ROOM FOR RENT (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Wah Chang and Retro Hugo Finalists (letter of comment
                by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo novellas: "Attitude",
                "Clash by Night", "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath",
                THE LITTLE PRINCE, THE MAGIC BED-KNOB, "We Print the
                Truth") (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: For the Trekkie Who Has Everything...

Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets:

It comes with 48 characters, and the Klingon alphabet has 26
letters, so there should be enough duplicates to actually form
words.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: My View of Alcohol and Tobacco (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

At one point some time ago I was comparing the effects of alcohol
and tobacco on our society.  In some ways I don't think that
tobacco is nearly as bad on innocent bystanders, in spite of its
current notoriety.  What people are really complaining about is the
discomfort of breathing someone else's smoke.  There is the
knowledge that it is unhealthy, but the irritation of smelling the
smoke is what causes most of the anger.

I mean, I live in New Jersey where everybody knows there is
unhealthy toxic waste in the water.  We just try not to think about
it.  There is some low-level grumbling, but no overall panic.  Not
nearly so much as if the water tasted of acetone, even if it were
not toxic.  Actually the unpleasant aspects of tobacco are part of
the reason I think it constitutes less of a threat.  When I leave a
building and have to walk through a noxious curtain of tobacco
smoke that hangs just outside the door of so many public buildings
these days, I pick up the pace of my walking.  To me it is good
that tobacco has an unpleasant smell, much in the same sense that
it is good that an unpleasant odor is added to natural gas as it is
piped to customers.  It is a warning.  And in truth I feel a little
sorry for smokers who have to go through so much inconvenience for
their habit.

Now, my attitude on alcohol is that having drinkers around really
constitutes more of a threat to me than smokers.  When people
around me drink, I am not forced to taste their drink.  But every
time I step into a car, I am in danger from the prominence of
alcohol in our society.  I believe that about 31% of fatal car
crashes involve someone who was drinking and in the early 1980s it
was closer to 60% (yes, there is some improvement).  Then there are
the people injured or in some cases killed by abusive people around
them who have been drinking.  I think the reason that this society
is so lenient on drinkers--and it really is--is that there is the
feeling among law-writers and law-enforcers that they themselves
occasionally abuse alcohol, or might some day, and they don't want
to make things harder on themselves when they do.  And so they have
empathy for alcohol abusers.  As an example, one late December when
I lived in Detroit the police department, trying to improve their
image, announced that if they found people driving drunk on New
Year's Eve, they would get them off the roads by sending them home
in taxi cabs.  On the other hand, the Michigan State Police (who
apparently have access to a much richer source of neurons)
responded by announcing that if they found people driving drunk on
New Year's Eve, the drivers would be given a ride to a nice safe
jail cell.  I don't believe that the Detroit Police ever repeated
their kindly offer, thank goodness.

Now I realize that Prohibition was tried at one point.  I am not
advocating Prohibition.  Everybody knows the Prohibition, when
tried in the 1930s, was a dismal failure.  Of course, like so many
things that everybody knows, it is a false assertion.  Based on
current day estimates, Prohibition really did cut down on the use
of alcohol in the United States.  It did not eliminate it, as we
all know, but what it was intended to do it did.  The problem was
that it also did a lot of things not intended like fostering
organized crime.  I am not suggesting any particular course of
action; I am only looking at the problems like traffic accidents
created by alcohol.

The thing is, there are apparently laws in society we intentionally
do not enforce.  As a society we just don't want to really enforce
our own drunk driving laws.  These are not the only laws we
intentionally do not enforce.  New York City has a horrible problem
with gridlock and it also is tolerated.  Go to Manhattan during
gridlock hours and look at the cars entering an intersection when
they know they cannot leave.  When the light changes to red the way
is not cleared for the legal traffic, every car stuck in the
intersection is driven by a lawbreaker.  I have often said that New
York City does not really need to have *both* a financial crisis
and a gridlock problem.  One of those two problems should eliminate
the other.

Similarly, if we all we want to do is catch drunk drivers we
probably know where and when to catch them.  You pick a bar, sit
there at closing time, and catch cars as they are driving out of
the parking lot.  How many people leaving at that time are not
doing it under the influence of alcohol? You still need breath
tests, of course.  But certainly leaving a bar at that time is
reason to suspect the driver is under the influence.  I cannot
imagine that at closing time there are a whole lot of designated
drivers in a bar.  Well, there might be, but are they in any
condition to drive? You probably would have to pick a different bar
each night to not harass any particular bar.  But then I don't have
all that much sympathy for the bar owners since they almost
certainly are making a profit by contributing to the drunk driving

But the point is that cigarette smoke announces itself to innocent
bystanders; drunk drivers usually do not.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: ROOM FOR RENT (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Joyce, a woman recently widowed, finds she has been left
deeply in debt by her late husband.  Desperate for a source of
income, she rents out her house as a bed and breakfast.  She finds
herself getting involved in the private lives of her guests.  In
some cases she likes what her snooping finds, but when she finds
some people she does not like she interferes in ways that are most
unwelcome.  Tommy Stovall (SEDONA) directs a small cast led by Lin
Shaye and by spectacular Arizona scenery.  ROOM FOR RENT is a film
that has few unfamiliar plot turns or touches.  But that leaves
open multiple possible paths and plotlines that the film may be
following.  Where the plot is going will very likely leave the
viewer some guessing which path it will take.  Directed by: Tommy
Stovall; written by: Stuart Flack.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or

In Sedona, Arizona, life can be as beautiful as the majestic
geology around the town.  (Tommy Stovall, director of SEDONA, makes
no secret of his love of the town and its people.)  But life is
definitely no longer beautiful for Joyce, played by Lin Shaye.
Joyce combats her loneliness with romance novels.  She lost her
husband three months back and is only now discovering just how much
debt he left her, $8200 or more.

Joyce appears at first to have few saleable skills.  As the film
title suggests, she knows how to care for her house and how to cook
so the perfect plan for her is to turn her house into a small bed
and breakfast.

At first that works well for her, but she feels she needs to know
more about her guests and their private lives.  That conflict leads
her once again into trouble.  Do her guests have a right to privacy
or does Joyce have the right to know what goes on in her own home?
Joyce investigates one of her guests even to the point of
attempting to seduce him by asking him to retrieve a newspaper for
her and hand it to her while she is covered by nothing but soap
bubbles in a bathtub.

Lin Shaye has a good face for just this sort of film.  She projects
a sort of brittle vulnerability.  Even when Joyce is wrong, the
viewer is pulled into her defenselessness.  I rate ROOM TO RENT a
high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

[This 2019 film should not be confused with the 2017 Canadian film
of the same name.]

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Wah Chang and Retro Hugo Finalists (letter of comment by
John Purcell)

In response to Mark's comments on Wah Chang in the 05/10/19 issue
of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

First off, I have to get something taken care of:


There. I feel much better now.

Yes, indeed, I agree that a documentary about his extensive work in
visual design for assorted science fiction movies and television
programs would be interesting.  I had no idea he was behind all of
those fantastic movies and shows of my youth, and still enjoy.  Wah
Chang is without a doubt an unsung and underappreciated contributor
to the genre.  [-jp]

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Retro Hugo finalists, John

Evelyn's reviews of the retro Hugo nominees are, as always,
excellent.  I would have to agree that CONJURE WIFE is top of the
line and would earn my initial vote, but I also like GATHER

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.  [-jp]


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

This week I'll cover the Retro Hugo Best Novella category:

There's always one on each ballot--one finalist that is totally
unavailable--and this year it is "Attitude" by Hal Clement.  This
will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak's "Rule
18" won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had
been reprinted since only once--in Italian.  I think I can safely
say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with
Clement.  ("Attitude" is available in NESFA's Clement collection,
but I have no access to it.)

"Clash by Night" by Lawrence O'Donnell (Henry Kuttner & C. L.
Moore) is a tale of mercenary armies on Venus 1400 years in the
future from when it was written.  As such, its references to
Dickens, Wagner versus Strauss, the Crusades, the Charge of the
Light Brigade, and the Knights of Malta fighting Saracens serve as
constant stumbling blocks, snapping the reader out of the far
future.  It is as if people today made references to Beowulf,
Khosrovidukt versus John of Damascus, the Punic Wars, the Battle of
Zama, and the legions of Rome fighting the Seleucids.  Oh, and
spelling it "uisqueplus" is cute, but frankly, spelling tends to
simplify, not complicate.  Moore has written stories with strong
females; this is not one of them.  In fact, though its treatment of
gender was fairly standard for the time (and certainly in keeping
with supporting the wartime situation of the time), it rings false
now as a picture of the future.

"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" by H. P. Lovecraft, according
to the ISFDB is actually a novel (being more than 42,000 words),
though even it calls it a novella, and it is within the 20% that
allows relocation.  It is full of Lovecraft's style, and devoid of
any dialogue.  Somehow I had no patience for it; if I returned to
it in six months I might react differently.

THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (ISBN 978-1-840-
22760-4) represents half of a first: the first time someone has
been nominated in both a fiction and an art category on the same
Hugo ballot (or, I suspect, any Hugo ballot).  While this is a
classic, and has been in print since its publication, it doesn't do
anything for me.  (Nor do the drawings--I cannot believe there were
not five professional science fiction/fantasy artists--or even ten-
-who did better work than this.)

THE MAGIC BED-KNOB by Mary Norton (ISBN 978-0-152-02456-7 for the
omnibus volume BED-KNOB AND BROOMSTICK) would probably not be
considered even "young adult"; my library classifies it as
"juvenile."  As someone who is well past the target age of even
young adult novels, I have difficulty rating this.  It does seem
however, that most of the other finalists have more substance to

"We Print the Truth" by Anthony Boucher is a clever idea, perhaps
dragged out a little too long, but definitely enjoyable.  If the
idea of a supernatural wish that makes everything a newspaper
prints comes true sounds familiar, it may be because the "Twilight
Zone" episode "Printer's Devil" had the same plot, although that
was credited as being based on a story by Charles Beaumont titled
"The Devil, You Say".  Maybe it is just a very common idea.  Or
maybe not.  At any rate, Boucher seems to have gotten there first.

The two novellas that seem to have survived the test of time are
the two least "traditional" of the novellas: THE MAGIC BED-KNOB and
THE LITTLE PRINCE.  This is not surprising, because only be being
so successful would something not from within the science fiction
world be able to gather enough nominations to make the ballot.  But
whatever has kept them popular has failed to enthrall me.

Rankings: "We Print the Truth", "Clash by Night", no award, THE
MAGIC BED-KNOB, "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", THE LITTLE
PRINCE, "Attitude"



                                           Mark Leeper

           It is better to ask some of the questions than to know
           all the answers.
                                           --James Thurber