Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/24/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 47, Whole Number 2068

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Free Satellite Imagery E-Book from NASA
        Crackpots and Crabwalks (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE LAST MOVIE STAR (film comments by Mark R. Leeper
        FUNNY STORY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        "Clash by Night", "The Silly Season", and the MT VOID
                (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)
        "Attitude" (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo novelettes: "Citadel of Lost
                Ships", "The Halfling", "Mimsy Were the Borogoves",
                "The Proud Robot", "Symbiotica", "Thieves' House")
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Free Satellite Imagery E-Book from NASA

[posted to a mailing list I am on]

"For anyone looking for a break from gloomy weather and divisive
politics you might be interested in a digital "coffee table book"
of satellite imagery put out by NASA:

It's a big PDF, but the pictures are interesting and the text
basically just captions that provide a little explanation of what
you are looking at.  The site is a
regular feature that often displays satellite imagery relevant to
current events (e.g. hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, etc."  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Crackpots and Crabwalks (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

When you were young did you ever do a crabwalk?  You know what a
crabwalk is, don't you?  You lie on the floor with your front up
and your back down and you push yourself up with your hands and
feet and walk around.  Your elbows and knees stick up; Linda Blair
did it as Regan in THE EXORCIST.  You are walking around looking a
lot like a crab.  It is kind of a silly way to walk around but you
can move around that way and it really does look like you are
walking like a crab.  Actually a lot of invertebrates move around
with prominent knees up like that.

But that may not be just a coincidence.  In fact, there is
apparently a lot in an invertebrate's body that looks a lot like it
is a vertebrate doing a crabwalk.  The heart of vertebrate is in
the front and the nerve column is toward the back; in an
invertebrate the reverse is true.  It is very much like we evolved
from a common ancestor, but some of our cousins walked with one
side down, some with the other.  As they adapted and so did their
descendents until you had two different evolutionary paths.  The
conjecture was that there was Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire propounded
something of an inversion that separated us from arthropods in 1830
Paris.  An opposition to the theory was led by Georges Cuvier.  He
didn't include the bit about evolutionary paths because this
hypothesis preceded Darwin's.

The theory has sort of hung around the halls of biology for the
intervening time as a crackpot (or is it a crab pot) theory that
some people stubbornly held to.  The vast majority of these long-
standing crackpot theories shall always be crackpot theories.  The
ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky do not bear close scrutiny and yet are
still championed by some.  Then you get the odd crackpot theory
like that the continents seem to fit together like a huge jigsaw
puzzle.  I remember back as a ten-year-olds my Cub Scout troop made
globes by blowing up balloons and pasting on continents.  And I did
notice at the time that if I deflated my balloon South America
nestled comfortably into Africa.  And ten-year-old Mark said, "I
bet the Earth is expanding and the hard outer crust broke up under
the expansion pressure."  Wrong guess but close; I was looking in
the right direction.  It was only about seven years later that it
became accepted that the pieces really did fit together and rolling
convection currents and not expansion had broken up the outer
crust.  But when I was a kid, the idea that the continents fit
together was nutty stuff.  Just like this inversion.

Anyway, this story about the inversion theory still refuses to die
is just nutty enough that it might be true.  I guess there might
have been a common ancestor that lived perfectly comfortably chest-
side-up or chest-side-down.  At some point groups split up and the
chest-side-ups separated from the chest-side-owns.  It is
interesting to think that a little flip could have changed the
destiny of a species so drastically.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE LAST MOVIE STAR (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In his day Vic Edwards was the Number One box office
action actor on the screen.  It is now about 45 years later and age
has taken its toll.  Vic walks bent over and can hardly get about.
When a little-known film society wants to award Vic its Lifetime
Achievement Award and pay all expenses, Vic reluctantly agrees to
go along.  He very soon finds he had good reason to be reluctant.
Vic is a sort of copy of the real Burt Reynolds, on whom he is
closely based.  Vic will rediscover his past, while making peace
with the present.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Vic (played by Burt Reynolds) was once a major American movie star,
the number one boxoffice draw for six years.  But the film industry
is an unforgiving one.  Make a bad career choice and the phone
stops ringing.  Edwards is old, handicapped, and very mean-
spirited.  The Festival and the actor take an immediate dislike for
each other.  The event, "The International Nashville Film
Festival", would need plenty of fixing just to make it as good as
slap dash.

The pick-up at the airport is 45 minutes late and his driver is
dressed in Goth leather shorts and spends the whole driving time on
the telephone.  This is Lil and she is arguing with her boyfriend,
nearly cracking the car up in the process.  This is Lil, played by
Ariel Winter.  The festival is mostly hidden away behind a bar and
in one single screening room.  The attendees are mostly in their
teens and twenties.  The event is run from behind a bar.  Vic is
less than happy to find out that Lil is to be his aide this weekend
and his driver for the whole festival.

Vic feels disrespected not so much because the festival is falling
apart under him, but because the kids running the festival seem
totally clueless that anything at all is going wrong.  Finally he
has had enough and has his driver Lil drive him around the state,
visiting places that figured in his own life.  Vic is uncomfortable
in front of people and he does not like that the once virile sex
symbol is now bent over and in need of a cane to walk.

Again this is very parallel to the real Burt Reynolds' experience.
As they travel Vic can learn from Lil about the modern world from
which he had isolated himself.  Lil can benefit from Vic's wisdom
gathered over the years.

Because this film is at least in part a tribute to Reynolds'
career, the film provides visual quotes of his better-known films.
We will see the Reynolds character fishing with a crossbow as a
young virile stud.  And he is conversing with the very old Burt

This is a very sentimental film about a man who rarely showed the
world a sentimental face.  I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: FUNNY STORY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

SPOILER: Some plot points may be revealed or hinted at.

CAPSULE: A group of female friends is getting together in Big Sur
for the weekend.  One of them, Nic, asks her father Walter to drive
her best friend Kim to the get-together.  Walter and Kim totally
fail to hit it off together.  Walter is a little taken off guard by
Kim's hostility, but he will learn more about the girls this
weekend.  Directed by: Michael J. Gallagher; written by: Michael
J. Gallagher, Steven Greene.  Rating: I rate it a +1 (-4 to +4) or

After the first act of FUNNY STORY there is not so much humor as
drama, much of it frustrating.  Most of the "funny" in the title is
in the first act of the story.  To tell the truth, Walter is a
little shocked at what he sees of the women who are his daughter's
friends, but he is bound and determined to show them that he will
not be judgmental or in any way intolerant of the women's
lifestyles.  Still, the weekend is not going well.

Nevertheless, by the third act the women have decided that Walter
is an irredeemable lothario.  There is an irritating problem in the
script, however.  This group of friends are torn apart by a
revelation about Walter.  But Walter is being used as a scapegoat
for someone worse.

Eventually all the women give in to hostility for Walter.  They
seem to ignore their own share of responsibility for what has
happened.  Nobody takes Walter's side to defend him.  Walter
himself for some reason is so accommodating that he does not seem
to even defend himself.

To her credit, one of the girls realizes that Walter does not
deserve the enmity he is getting.  She comes to this conclusion and
points it out at the very end of the film.  It is maddening that
nobody mentions it before the very end.  It is the one obvious
observation, but the fact that nobody was willing to admit it casts
a very bad light on the whole group.

Writer/director Michael J. Gallagher wants to send a message to the
viewer that the whole situation is really a comedy.  The titles are
done white on black in the same typeface that Woody Allen uses.
This does have some laughs early but this is definitely not a
Woody-Allen-style comedy.

Matthew Glave as Walter does seem to have an affable personality on
the screen in a Robert Forster sort of style.

FUNNY STORY has a few minutes of humor, but it takes more than that
to make a "funny story."  I rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: "Clash by Night", "The Silly Season", and the MT VOID
(letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Retro Hugo finalists in the
05/17/19 issue of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

I always look through the MT VOID to find, and perhaps pick,
something to read or see.  I was somewhat startled to see the Retro
Awards the reference to "Clash by Night."  It is one of my old
favorites.  I also like the poem with its ending phrase, "Where
ignorant armies clash by night."

My other rarely mentioned favorite from (generally) the same era
was "The Silly Season," that I believe was by Jack Dawn.  I'm not
sure I remember that right, but that's what comes to mind.  With
all the nonsense going on at present (political and social) I am
thinking we are due for an alien invasion any day now.  Or maybe

Thank you for keeping me alert.  I just wonder how you could find
the time to read so many things and still get out a frequent zine.
Are you a robot?  (I need one of those boxes you can check to prove
you are not!  I don't see how those could work.  Any robot worth
its oil would easily see it and click the box. Some safeguard!)

Mark responds:

The first poem you mention is "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold.  In
11th grade I had to memorize it.  Give or take a word toward the
end I can still recite it.

I know how I do what I do on the VOID.  I don't know how Evelyn
does all she does.  [-mrl]

Evelyn adds:

"The Silly Season" (1950) is by C. M. Kornbluth.  Jack Dann was
five years old at the time.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: "Attitude" (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)

In response to Evelyn's comments on "Attitude" in the 05/17/19
issue of the MT VOID, Charles S. Harris writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "There's always one on each ballot--one finalist
that is totally unavailable--and this year it is 'Attitude' by Hal
Clement."  [-ecl]

How about:  [-csh]

Evelyn replies:

Yes, that works, though not ideally.  You need an login
(free).  Then you need to "borrow" the book, and it's only
available to one person at a time, so everyone will have to wait
until I finish the story, which is a PDF with small print and poor
contrast.  Yes, I can enlarge it, but then each page is too large
for the screen so I have to scroll around to read it.  And there
are fifty pages of this.  Still, I will persevere.  [-ecl]


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

A few weeks ago, I ragged on Jo Walton for her continuing negative
comments on the Dramatic Presentation category in the Hugos.  So I
will say she nailed it for 1998 with, "So, they had GATTACA on the
list and they gave it to CONTACT?"  She also liked the winners for
1999 (THE TRUMAN SHOW) and 2000 (GALAXY QUEST).  I will note that
GALAXY QUEST was one of the rare times that a Hollywood film
actually had live people present to accept the award.  Director
Dean Parisot and co-writer Robert Gordon were there and seemed
genuinely thrilled, both at the awards ceremony and at the party

This week I will cover the Retro Hugo Best Novelette category. (It
may be a mistake to start with the longest items first; as the
works grow shorter they start seeming--and being--less complex and

"Citadel of Lost Ships" by Leigh Brackett is one of those stories
that was based on the planetary knowledge of the time, particularly
of Venus, but now is woefully outdated.  However, that aspect of it
is not the main story, merely the background for the characters, so
it doesn't intrude enough to cause problems.  What is more
problematic is the lack of subtlety in its essentially libertarian
message dressed up in science fiction trappings.

"The Halfling" by Leigh Brackett is another story with outdated
planetary science.  But it is basically a horror story with science
fiction trappings, and so the science is again not a major problem.

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" by Lewis Padgett (C. L. Moore & Henry
Kuttner) has a certain similarity to "The Little Black Bag" by
Cyril Kornbluth--in both cases, technology from the future ends up
in the present of the story, and problems ensue.  This has more
ideas to think about than the other stories, although ultimately it
seems to be almost literally hand-waving.

"The Proud Robot" by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner) is one of a
series of stories by Padgett featuring Gallegher, an inventor who
makes all his best inventions when he is drunk, and then cannot
remember them when he sobers up.  It's basically lightweight humor,
except that the idea of being so drunk you cannot remember anything
is not as funny now as it was back then.  (People have pointed out
that the "Topper" films have the same problem; the idea that Topper
goes out driving when drunk and so kills himself doesn't seem
amusing any more.)  However, the problem Gallegher is working on--
people giving up on one form of entertainment for another was
fairly prescient then (television's explosion into the consumer
market was still several years off), and has parallels now to
people giving up cinemas for watching on large screens at home, and
cable for subscription streaming services.  This wasn't enough for
me, though.

"Symbiotica" by Eric Frank Russell is so full of unpleasant and
annoying characters that I found it difficult to read.  The first
person narrator mentions that their doctor is a "negro", but this
never makes any difference to the story, and later he talks about
the inhabitants of the planet being "on the level of a Congo pygmy-
-maybe lower."  James Nicoll writes of this story, "I think this is
the series where all space doctors are Negros [sic] be cause Negros
are best at space doctoring; it's an attempt to be inclusive that
ends up being a caste system."  It's a pity, because the symbiosis
idea is worth developing, and Russell blows it.

"Thieves' House" by Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a typical sword and
sorcery tale, one of Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray mouser stories,
but very well-written.

Rankings: "Mimsy Were the Borogoves", "The Halfling", "Thieves'
House", no award, "Citadel of Lost Ships", "Symbiotica", "The Proud

Next week, on to the short stories.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask
           yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I
           read? And third, who could I ask?
                                           --Jim Rohn