Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/28/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 52, Whole Number 2073

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 July (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
        THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        THE GLASS BEAD GAME (letter of comment by John Hertz)
        Five-Way Chili (letter of comment by Neil Ostrove)
        This Week's Reading (BLACKASS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

July 11, 2019: DESTINATION MOON (1950) & "The Man Who Sold the
        Moon" by Robert A. Heinlein (novella), Middletown Public
        Library, 5:30PM
        by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886), Old Bridge Public Library,
August 8, 2019: FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964) & THE FIRST MEN IN
        THE MOON by H. G. Wells, Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM
September 26, 2019: LAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor, Old Bridge Public
        Library, 7PM
November 21, 2019: THE SLEEPER AWAKES by H. G. Wells (1910),
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
January 23, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Old Bridge Public
        Library, 7PM
May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
July 23, 2020: TBD by Jules Verne
September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
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)
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: My Picks For Turner Classic Movies in July (comments by Mark
R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)

I rarely pick just one film in a month to recommend here.  However,
this month TCM is celebrating the 50th anniversary of humans first
landing on the moon.  They have chosen to run the rarely seen THE
WOMAN IN THE MOON (DIE FRAU IM MOND).  This was the first science
fiction film to try to be serious and accurate in depicting
celestial travel.  While it is not too hard to find, few science
fans and science fiction fans have actually seen it.  TCM is
running it for the first time.  It will run at 11:00 PM on July 2.
As a bonus Evelyn sends along a list of films of special interest
for the month in July.

In 1927 Fritz Lang made what may be remembered as one of the
greatest science fiction films of all time, METROPOLIS, based on
his wife's novel of the same title.  Certainly the image of the
female robot is one of the more notable images of early science
fiction cinema.  Two years later Lang was back making another SF
film for the screen, DIE FRAU IM MOND (THE WOMAN IN THE MOON).  It
is the story of a team of people who design and create a rocket
ship to be the first people on the moon.

This is not the first film of a trip to the moon, but it was the
first film that seriously treated the subject of space travel.  The
portrayals of conditions on the moon are a good deal wide of the
mark.  That was to be expected.  There was very little real
information about what the moon would really be like.  On the other
hand, German rocketry was the most advanced in the world, and there
was not yet a military clampdown on rocket science.  Rocket
scientists on the level of Willy Ley and Herrman Oberth gave their
expertise to the project.  The rocketry portrayed in the film was
mostly either actual science or informed guesswork.

One piece of trivia was that Lang wanted the moment of the rocket
firing to play as the most dramatic scene of the film.  But when
the rocket was fired there was not much to see until the moment of
firing. Lang remembered that during the war when a big gun was to
be fired people were alerted by the person firing the gun would
count backwards from ten to zero, firing the gun at zero.  It
worked for the audience.  This was the first verifiable time a
rocket blast-off was associated with a countdown to zero.

Here is Wikipedia's list of what were essentially lucky guesses,
cases where the film made correct guesses about the first real
rocket to the moon:

--The rocket ship Friede is fully built in a tall building and
moved to the launch pad.

--As launch approaches, the launch team counts down the seconds
from ten to zero ("now" was used for zero), and WOMAN IN THE MOON
is often cited as the first occurrence of the "countdown to zero"
before a rocket launch.

--The rocket ship blasts off from a pool of water; water is
commonly used today on launch pads to absorb and dissipate the
extreme heat and to damp the noise generated by the rocket exhaust.

--In space, the rocket ejects its first stage and fires its second
stage rocket, predicting the development of modern multi-stage
orbital rockets.

--The crew recline on horizontal beds to cope with the G-forces
experienced during lift-off and pre-orbital acceleration.

--Floor foot straps are used to restrain the crew during zero
gravity (Velcro is used today).

--These items and the overall design of the rocket led to the film
being banned in Germany from 1933-1945 during World War II by the
Nazis, due to similarities to their secret V-2 project.

Evelyn has picked out all the fantastic films of TCM July and sends
along the list:

2     Tuesday

8:00 PM  Trip to the Moon, A (1902)
8:30 PM  Metropolis (1926)
11:00 PM  Die Frau im Mond (1929)

3     Wednesday

2:00 AM  Things To Come (1936)
4:00 AM  Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
2:30 PM  The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

5     Friday

10:15 AM  On Borrowed Time (1939)
8:00 PM  Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
11:15 PM  Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1939)

6     Saturday

3:45 AM  Rabid (1977)
4:15 PM  Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
6:15 PM  Muppets Take Manhattan, The (1984)

7     Sunday

1:30 AM  China Syndrome, The (1979)

8     Monday

6:00 AM  Scared to Death (1947)
7:15 AM  Nosferatu (1922)
9:00 AM  Vampyr (1932)
10:15 AM  Spooks Run Wild (1941)
11:30 AM  Dead Men Walk (1943)
12:45 PM  White Zombie (1932)
2:00 PM  X from Outer Space, The (1967)
3:45 PM  Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
5:00 PM  Brain That Wouldn't Die, The (1962)
6:30 PM  Cremators, The (1969)

9     Tuesday

8:00 PM  Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
9:45 PM  War Of The Worlds, The (1953)
11:30 PM  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

10     Wednesday

1:00 AM  It Came From Outer Space (1953)
2:30 AM  Thing From Another World, The (1951)
4:15 AM  Forbidden Planet (1956)
6:00 AM  Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

16     Tuesday

2:15 PM  Sinbad the Sailor (1947)
8:00 PM  Destination Moon (1950)
10:00 PM  For All Mankind (1989)
11:30 PM  Countdown (1968)

17     Wednesday

1:30 AM  From The Earth To The Moon (1958)
3:30 AM  First Men in the Moon (1964)
5:30 AM  Trip to the Moon, A (1902)
6:00 AM  20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
7:30 AM  Them! (1954)
9:30 AM  Blob, The (1958)
11:00 AM  Fly, The (1958)

19     Friday

5:15 AM  Seven Days in May (1964)

20     Saturday

2:00 AM  Lifeforce (1985)
3:45 AM  Invaders From Mars (1986)
2:00 PM  Boy With Green Hair, The (1948)

22     Monday

6:00 AM  Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967)
12:30 PM  Horror Hotel (1960)
2:00 PM  Black Scorpion, The (1957)
3:45 PM  Cosmic Monster, The (1958)
5:00 PM  Thing From Another World, The (1951)
6:30 PM  Blob, The (1958)

23     Tuesday

8:00 PM  Time Machine, The (1960)
10:00 PM  2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

24     Wednesday

12:45 AM  Five Million Years To Earth (1968)
2:45 AM  Marooned (1969)
5:00 AM  12 To The Moon (1960)
6:30 AM  Village of the Damned (1960)

27     Saturday

10:08 AM  Spook Busters (1946)
4:15 PM  Fail-Safe (1964)

29     Monday

12:00 AM  Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

30     Tuesday

8:00 PM  Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
10:30 PM  Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

31     Wednesday

12:45 AM  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
3:00 AM  Solaris (1972)
6:00 AM  Logan's Run (1975)
8:15 AM  Westworld (1973)
10:15 AM  2010 (1984)
8:00 PM  Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
10:15 PM  Young Frankenstein (1974)

01 Aug Thursday

4:00 AM  Fly, The (1958)



TOPIC: THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal (copyright
2018, Tor, $15.99, trade paperback, 431pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-7838-5)
(book review by Joe Karpierz)

A notation on the bottom of the front cover of Mary Robinette
Kowal's THE CALCULATING STARS says, "A Lady Astronaut Novel".
Readers were first introduced to the Lady Astronaut in the
novelette "The Lady Astronaut of Mars", which won the Hugo Award
for Best Novelette in 2014.  THE CALCULATING STARS is a prequel to
that novelette, in effect telling the origin story (no, this is not
a superhero story, but I think you *can* call it the story of a
hero of sorts) of Elma York, the Lady Astronaut.  THE CALCULATING
STARS has already won the Nebula Award for Best Novel this year,
and in addition to being a Hugo finalist is also a finalist for the
Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.  As an aside, Kowal has
won two other Hugos as well as the John W. Campbell Award for Best
New Writer (back in 2008).

THE CALCULATING STARS starts off with a meteor striking the earth,
causing an extinction level climate change event.  It strikes near
Washington D.C., which throws the United States into disarray.  Of
course, this is minor compared to the likely destruction of the
human race, but it is important to the story.  Elma, a former WASP
pilot and a gifted mathematician, runs the numbers and realizes
that things don't look good for the human race.  Thus, the effort
to reach space, and colonize the moon and Mars, must be

The novel, of course, is an alternate history of the space race,
but the race is not between the United States and Russia, but
between humanity and looming disaster.  There is no NASA here, but
the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. As an aside, NACA
actually did exist, and was the predecessor to NASA.  NACA was
formed in 1915 and gave way to NASA in 1958.   Since the meteor
strike occurs in 1952, we don't get to see NASA in this novel.
NACA gave way to the International Aerospace Coalition, the
worldwide effort to get man off the planet before the cataclysmic
climate event does its job.

Elma is one of a group of women "computers", those who do the
calculations for the space flights.  The team of computers is
invaluable of course, but they want more.  Since the eventual goal
is to colonize space, the women believe that they should be
considered for the astronaut program.  And thus begins the Elma's
drive to become the "Lady Astronaut".

The novel details not only humanities drive to space, but the
trials and tribulations that the computers face in their desire to
become astronauts.  It is the 1950s, so of course there is the
usual amount of sexism--for a time, the first class of female
astronauts are called astronettes (ugh), and they are paraded about
initially as a publicity stunt, valuable more for their looks
(briefly, in one of the later chapters, Elma notices that one of
the female astronauts has her space suit "taken in" to "accentuate
her figure") than for the qualities that make them suited to be
astronauts.  The initial position of the IAC is that space is too
dangerous for women, and should just be kept in their place on
Earth, doing their computer work or anything else they've been
doing.  There is also an element of racial prejudices in the novel
as well, with obviously qualified women of color not being allowed
to apply for the astronaut program or, even worse, see that the
application process is skewed against them.

There is an obvious similarity between THE CALCULATING STARS and
HIDDEN FIGURES, of course, but that's okay.  They stand apart from
each other, and yet their similarities can be enjoyed for what they
are.  STARS may be an alternate history while HIDDEN FIGURES is
not, but they both celebrate the ability of the women behind the
scenes to make their respective space programs a success against
all odds.

THE CALCULATING STARS is a terrific novel, and a worthy Hugo
finalist.  I look forward to reading its sequel, THE FATED SKY.


TOPIC: THE GLASS BEAD GAME (letter of comment by John Hertz)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE GLASS BEAD GAME in the
05/03/19 issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:

Hesse's GLASS BEAD GAME is one of the finest sf novels, indeed one
of the finest novels.  The architecture, characterization, and what
we've called world-building are masterly.  In these I include
timing, and imagination and handling of the s-f element.  It raises
to a peak Sturgeon's great pun "Science fiction is knowledge
fiction" (the Latin root of "science" means "knowledge").

It was one of the S-F Classics we discussed at Renovation (64th

I rejoice to find it on the Retro Hugo ballot.

You can see an 800-word note by me via , right-hand
column below "meta".  [-jh]

Evelyn responds:

Rather than make everyone track through various links, a direct
link to John's note at the LASFS site is

The first time I tried reading THE GLASS BEAD GAME was in
anticipation (no pun intended!) of Renovation.  My comment then
was, "I gave up on MAGISTER LUDI (a.k.a. THE GLASS BEAD GAME) by
Herman Hesse (ISBN 978-0-312-27849-6) after about a hundred pages--
it just was not working for me.  However, I did run across an
interesting description of the main character, Joseph Knecht, "who
[has] not been driven by a single talent to concentrate on a
specialty, but whose nature rather aims at integration, synthesis,
and universality..."  In this he reminds me of Mia in Alexei

De gustibus non est disputandum.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Five-Way Chili (letter of comment by Neil Ostrove)

In response to Mark's comments on Five-Way Chili in the 06/21/19
issue of the MT VOID, Neil Ostrove writes:

You'll be happy to know that at Skyline Chili you can get your 4-
way with your choice of either onions or beans, so you can have
beans without having to have everything else.  Spaghetti isn't
optional if you insist on a numbered dish, but you can get a Loaded
Chili Bowl without it.

While most locations are in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, there are
six in Florida as well.  [-no]

Mark responds:

On my chili report of a couple of issues back I am told the rules
for combinations of chili are not what I remember them as being.
They may have changed over time.  [-mrl]


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

BLACKASS by A. Igoni Barrett (ISBN 978-1-55597-733-7) is
consciously modeled after Franz Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS, even to the
extent of beginning with an epigraph from Kafka's work, then
starting, "Furi Wariboko awoke this morning to find that dreams can
lose their way and turn up on the wrong side of sleep."  Wariboko
has not been turned into a giant insect, though, but rather into an
oyibo: a white person.  In Lagos, Nigeria, this presents its own
problems, especially for someone living in an African neighborhood,
with an African name, and raised as an African.  But Warikobo still
has some of his African heritage left: his buttocks are still
black, hence the title.

"No one asks to be born, to be black or white or any colour in
between, and yet the person we are born into becomes the hardest to
explain to the world.  Furo's dilemma was this: he was born black,
and had lived in that skin for thirty-odd years, only to be born
again on Monday morning as white, and while he was still toddling
the curves of his new existance, he realised he had been mistaken
in assuming his new identity had overthrown the old.  His idea of
what he was, of who the world saw him as, was shaken by the blemish
on his backside.  He knew that so long as the vestiges of his old
self remained wit him, his new self would never be safe from
ridicule and incomprehension."

That he is "thirty-odd years old" when he is "reborn" is probably
no accident, nor is the notion that he has two essences in a sort
of hypostatic union.  And the whole incomprehension thing is
certainly familiar.

Later, another character (Igoni), who has also transitioned (though
in gender), says, "It was early yet in my journey to the far
reaches of my identity.  Like those before me who had transitioned
into otherness, I had found out that appearances would always be a
point of conflict.   Male or female, black or white, the eye of the
beholder and the fashion sense of the beholden, all these feed into
our desire to classify by sight.  The woman and the man: stuck
together in a species and yet divided by a gendered history going
back to the womb.  But in this war of the selves, I had switched
sides.  Despite the snake of maleness that still tethered me to the
past, I was more than man, interrupted.  I was whoever I wanted me
to be."

And this is the essence of the book: within ourselves, we have both
the power to remake ourselves and the weight of our past tying us
down.  We can change how others perceive us, but only up to a
point.  Some aspect of our earlier self--color, body parts,
whatever--remains, both affecting our notion of ourself, and other
people's perceptions.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           They usually have two tellers in my local bank, except
           when it's very busy, when they have one.
                                           --Rita Rudner