Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/06/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 10, Whole Number 2083

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Harryhausen on THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and Soviet Space Posters
        A Return to THE 27TH DAY (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        TIAMAT'S WRATH by James S.A. Corey (audiobook review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        James Bond (and VCRs) (letters of comment by Peter Trei,
                Kevin R, and Sam Long)
        This Week's Reading (ASTOUNDING) (book comments
                 by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Harryhausen on THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and Soviet Space

 From time to time people have speculated on how Ray Harryhausen
would have interpreted THE WAR OF THE WORLDS if he were to adapt it
to the screen.  RH did apparently some visualization of Wells'
classic novel.  Take a look on Open Culture:

Also from Open Culture:



TOPIC: A Return to THE 27TH DAY (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Many a story is written with a good beginning and a good middle,
and then the author has no idea how to end the story.  That
certainly was the fate of THE 27TH DAY (1957).  In fact, the end is
such a let-down that I never thought much of this film.  On this
viewing I realized how much of the film is well thought-out and how
only the ending is what makes this film leave a bad taste in ones
mouth.  Most science fiction films tend to ignore mass psychology
and the game of international politics.  This is a canny film that
starts with an engaging premise and then follows a believable
course after that set-up.  The film is from a screenplay by John
Mantley based on his own novel.  Mantley was a film actor in 1950
but took a turn as novelist and later produced TV programs Gunsmoke
and Buck Rogers.  This book and film are sort of an anomaly in his

An English woman, Eve Wingate (played by Valerie French), is on a
beach in Cornwall when she is approached by a thin tall shadow.
She starts to scream but never completes even that.  A similar
experience happens to newspaperman Jonathan Clark (Gene Barry).
The two wake up on a flying saucer (borrowed from EARTH VS. THE
FLYING SAUCERS).  There are three other people present: German-born
Professor Klaus Bechner (George Voskovec), Russian Ivan Godofsky
(Azenath Janti), and Chinese woman Su Tan.  Incidentally, the film
never mentions Russia, but refers to Godofsky as coming from
"behind the Iron Curtain."  It turns out they have been brought
aboard the saucer by an alien who calls himself, imaginatively
enough, "the alien."  It seems the alien's world is dying and he
wants our world, but his moral code will not allow him to take our
planet by force.  Convinced that mankind will eventually kill
itself off, the alien just wants to speed up the process by giving
each of the five a weapon powerful enough that the combined effect
is sufficient to kill off all life on earth.  Each is given three
capsules in a transparent case.  Only the recipient can open the
case, but once it is open anyone can use it by speaking a latitude
and longitude into the capsule, cause it to kill everyone within
1500 miles of that point.  The humans are returned to Earth where
the women immediately nullify their capsules, Eve by throwing them
into the ocean and Su Tan by committing suicide.  The men do not
feel the pressing need to destroy the capsules and soon find that
that policy is a mistake.  While it seemed a simple matter just not
to talk about the capsules and their extraordinary experience,
secrecy becomes impossible when the alien announces via hijacked
broadcast all over the world the names of the five abductees saying
they have information of importance to everyone in the world.

Eve had come to Los Angeles to find Jonathan and arrives to find
Jonathan waiting for her at the airport.  The two go into hiding at
a racetrack closed for the off-season while the world searches for
them.  The professor is not so lucky and is almost immediately in a
traffic accident that puts him in the hospital.  Ivan is captured
by his government where a Stalin-like leader (at least more like
Stalin than the then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev) uses a number
of strategies to squeeze the information from Ivan as to what the
capsules were all about and eventually even uses deception to gain
control of the capsules.  From there events take their course as
people on each side of the Iron Curtain play their hand.


This part is quite well done, but leads up to a very believable
endgame strategy that would have destroyed all life on earth.
However, it does not, because Bechner figures out how the capsules
work sufficiently to use them to destroy only the enemies of human


Gene Barry was already familiar to science fiction film fans from
the lead in WAR OF THE WORLDS.  George Voskovec is not a familiar
name though that same year he would make a film that is considered
a classic, 12 ANGRY MEN.  Steven Schnabel as the Stalinist has been
a perennial character actor in films with a latter-day career in
soap operas.  Paul Frees, whose distinctive voice had been heard in
so many science fiction films of the Fifties, actually gets a
screen appearance as a TV commentator.  The gaunt features of
Frederick Ledebur make the greatest impression of any of the cast:
He is best known for playing Queequeg in MOBY DICK.

During the Fifties as frequently since science fiction films have
cast scientists in the Frankenstein mold, amorally releasing
horrors on an unsuspecting world.  The thrust has often been to
blame the Manhattan Project scientists for releasing the horrors of
nuclear war on the world.  This film makes the point that it is
political game-playing in international politics that is the root
cause behind the use of super-weapons.  It also very forcefully
makes the point that the most dangerous moment of the twenty-seven
days of vulnerability is the very end and the endgame strategy.

Faults of the film prior to the fatal last act are sparse.  The
film cheats us a little.  Suspense is raised by showing us the
alien's shadow and even his silhouette as having a tall body with a
small head.  When we actually see him he looks quite normal by
earth standards.  Perhaps the implication is that he is making
himself appear to look like us, but if so that does not come
across.  When we see him in silhouette we are seeing him behind a
curtain just before he reveals himself and if you watch you see a
crude substitution and that it was someone else casting the shadow.
In a later scene we get a camera filming a raft at sea from a mile
away and looking down on the raft from an impossible angle.  We see
more than one person killed by the capsules and the effect seems
different each time.  Dr. Bechner claims that "in mathematics there
is always a solution."  In fact, that is a false statement, as was
proven by Kurt Godel.  Finally the whole concept that rays from
space could pick out every enemy of human freedom is as unctuous as
it is absurd.

At its best the film has a surprisingly sophisticated view of
international politics and its game-playing.  At its worst it has
an absurd deus ex machina ending very much spoils the otherwise
intriguing story.

Rating THE 27TH DAY is difficult because of the bad ending put on
such a promising beginning and middle.  On balance it gets a +2 on
the -4 to +4 scale.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: TIAMAT'S WRATH by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2019, Orbit,
544pp, ISBN-10: 0316332895, ISBN-13: 978-0316332897, copyright
2019, Recorded Books, 19 hours and 8 minutes, ASIN: B07GFNQFFB,
narrated by Jefferson Mays) (audiobook review by Joe Karpierz)

I went back and read my review of the previous book in the
"Expanse" series of novels, PERSEPOLIS RISING.  I'm glad I did.
There were a bunch of things that I wanted to say in this review of
the eighth book in the series, TIAMAT'S WRATH, that I discovered
I'd already said about the prior book.  The superlatives and
emotional feelings apply to this book as well as the previous, so
there really is no reason to say them again, although they bear
repeating, and repeating often.  I suspect I'll want to say them
again when the series completes after the next novel, scheduled to
come out sometime in 2020 (and since I've read only two of the
"Expanse" novellas, I probably ought to try to read them before the
last book comes out).  Maybe I'll say a few of them at the end of
this review.

So, where are we when we start this novel?  James Holden is a
captive in the capital city of Laconia, and while he is technically
a prisoner, he is not behind bars locked away in a cell somewhere.
He is free to roam the city--within reason--and God Emperor (to
steal a title from the "Dune" series) Winston Duarte of the
Laconian Empire parades him out at various functions and even
listens to Holden's counsel when it suits him.  Holden proclaims
himself Duarte's Dancing Bear.  Naomi, Alex, and Bobbie are part of
the underground, trying to undermine the Laconian Empire with the
hope of eventually toppling it.  Naomi is doing it one way, and
Alex and Bobbie are doing it another.  Amos has disappeared on
assignment.  Naomi, Alex, and Bobbie are afraid that both Holden
and Amos are dead, and they resolve to fight the good fight without

The Laconian Empire has its own agenda.  As we should all remember,
what we have learned by reading the prior seven books in the series
is that the protomolecule was made by a vastly superior species, a
species which was killed off by another, more powerful species.
The Empire--spanning some 1200+ systems, due to the gate system
opening up--is trying to discover the nature of the enemy in order
to find a way to destroy them and solidify Winston Duarte's place
as the God Emperor of all of mankind.  To that end, scientist
turned military officer Elvi Okoye (who we met earlier in the
series) is being sent to various systems to find out what she can.

The problem is that that big, nasty, evil enemy, the one that
killed off the creators of the protomolecule, have taken notice of
Laconia's actions and is none to happy about it.  They are making
their presence known, and retaliating against Laconia. This is
causing all sorts of havoc within the Empire and the rest of
humanity as well.

All of which is setting things up for what may be one of the
grandest finales in all of science fiction space opera history.

I wrote that PERSEPOLIS RISING was about our heroes aging.  It's
not something you see in extended series.  TIAMAT'S WRATH is about
family.  Winston's daughter Teresa is being groomed to step in for
her father in case anything goes wrong, and she find she doesn't
like it.  And like most petulant teenagers, she takes things into
her own hands in a manner contradictory to what the hierarchy
wants.  Along the way she meets the mysterious friend Timothy, who
has a big role to play in the story. The other family is that of
the crew of the Rocinante.  They are all old friends, and are used
to being around each other. They are also family to each other.
And it's clear that just one more time, that family will get
together to do their best to stop humanity from being destroyed.

Corey is (are?) not afraid to shake things up.  In fear of angering
those who are sensitive to spoilers, I will say that we lose of
couple of beloved characters in TIAMAT'S WRATH, one in the very
first sentence of the book.  I think this is Corey's way of saying
that we need to get back to basics if we are going to get this
thing settled, but it's also his way of saying that time stops for
no one, and that heroes make sacrifices.  In order to win, we must

And for goodness's sake, what else is there to say about Jefferson
Mays?  He continues to be the one and only narrator who can read
this book.  He is simply outstanding.  And he's going to need to be
just one more time, as I think the final book in the series is
going to be a whopper, and he is the only one that will be able to
pull it off.  [-jak]

[James S.A. Corey is the pen name used by Daniel Abraham and Ty
Franck.  The consensus seems to be for a singular verb, probably
because one considers it a collective noun acting as a unit.  -ecl]


TOPIC: James Bond (and VCRs) (letters of comment by Peter Trei,
Kevin R, and Sam Long)

In response to Mark's comments on James Bond movies in the 08/30/19
issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

[Mark wrote,] "What can I say about the James Bond series?  For most
of the time I  was growing up this series dominated the popular film
market.  I remember back in the 1960s a friend scrambled to have two
blank VHS tapes to get two of the off-air- broadcast Bond movies."

I think you mean 1980s.  VHS was released in 1976.  [-pt]

Kevin R replies:

Unless he was using a VTR....

My high school had a closed-circuit TV station,* and it used to VTR
the Blue Eagles' football games, in glorious black & white. Our
boys wore white at home, anyway.  Game replays were fed to the
classroom TVs on Mondays, after classes.  The team went 23-0-1
before losing a game in my senior year, when our school was in its
last year, and promising JV players who might have made the varsity
had transferred out so that they could spend years at schools where
they would graduate.

So, they had tapes that could go at least 2, maybe 2.5 hours.  We
didn't play overtime, and there was no reason to tape half-time, as
we did not have a marching band.  They could have changed tapes at
the half.

* I was not on staff, nor any art of the A/V Club.  I did appear as
a guest on "Sunrise News" a time or two, representing the debate &
speech club, and school plays I was in.  An SF-fan, comics Fan,
debater and extemp speaker who got parts in senior year school
productions....where does that put me on the "geek hierarchy?" (+)


Sam Long writes:

A propos of the Bond movies, it's always seemed to me that the
opening of the "Goldfinger" theme and the opening of "Moon River"
are similar enough that one could sing "Goldfinger, / Wider than a
mile...."  Alas, "wider than a kilometer..." doesn't scan.  About
an hour north and west of Springfield, IL, is the Spoon River, not
to be confused with "Moon River"; but it's not a mile, or even a
kilometer, wide.  Its claim to fame is Edgar Lee Masters's
collection of poems, "Spoon River Anthology".  Here is a the title
and first stanza of a very chuckle-worthy parody of Masters's verse
by Sir John Squires:

If Gray Had Had to Write His Elegy in the Cemetery of Spoon River
Instead of in That of Stoke Poges

  The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
  The whippoorwill salutes the rising moon,
  And wanly glimmer in her gentle ray,
  The sinuous windings of the turbid Spoon.

[Also,] it's apparently just a coincidence that Hurricane Dorian
should be threatening the Southeast when THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
is mentioned in MT VOID.  [-sl]

Mark responds:

I do this a lot.  I will hear a piece of THE WIZARD OF OZ in some
classical music.  Unfortunately no examples come to mind at the
moment.  Tchaikovsky's violin concerto sounds a lot like a bit of


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

08-257194-6) in the 11/23/18 issue, so I may end up repeating some
of that, but mostly I want to comment on "heroes with feet of
clay."  The four men in the subtitle were the heroes of the "Golden
Age of Science Fiction," but they would have to be much better than
they were to rise to the level of feet of clay.  Another brown
substance is more like it.

The worst is clearly Hubbard, a pathological liar, who abused his
wives both mentally and physically, attempted to have one
committed, kidnapped his daughter her, and oh, yes, was also a
bigamist.  (All of them had multiple marriages; the other three at
least divorced one wife before marrying the next.)

Campbell was a racist, but perhaps even worse, he was a egotist who
was willing to jeopardize American military secrets to prove how
prescient he (and science fiction) was.  The story "Deadline" by
Cleve Cartmill, which discussed atomic energy and attracted the
attention of the government and the Office of Censorship.  Campbell
told several versions of what happened: the government ended up
exempting him from censorship, the government was worried about how
smart science fiction writers were and started checking them more
carefully...  The fact was that the government had not been
checking them very closely before, and publishing "Deadline"
violated existing laws.  So now the government started keeping an
eye on them, and Campbell had to censor himself, or have them do it
for him.

And the story about the map in Campbell's office with all the
circulation pins around Santa Fe (or variously, Oak Ridge)?  Almost
definitely apocryphal.  (My thought was that with a circulation of
maybe 70,000, you couldn't have individual pins, and color-coding
would make the relative numbers much less obvious.)

As noted, Campbell was also a racist, and had the belief that there
were some racial groups that were by nature slaves, and happier
that way.

And he was abrasive, opinionated, and inconsiderate.  (If the
quotes can be trusted, Campbell called Asimov "Ike", a nickname
Asimov hated.)

Heinlein started out liberal, but became more reactionary with
time.  Even so, as early as the mid-1940s he was giving Asimov a
hard time about signing a request by Jewish employees to be given
Yom Kippur off instead of Christmas.  (During the war, all holidays
except Christmas were work days.)

Among all these, Asimov's sexual predations might seem almost
childish, but even at a time before #MeToo and a stronger attitude
towards such things, many fellow authors (male and female) were
telling Asimov to stop grabbing women.  Harlan Ellison, in an
ironic twist, claimed when he and Asimov would be walking up stairs
with a woman, Ellison would make sure he walked behind the woman to
keep Asimov from grabbing her.

In short, none of these were people with whom you would want to
spend any time.  Most of the other authors mentioned seem less
flawed, and I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
After all, one must still have some heroes.


                                           Mark Leeper

           Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without
           the discomfort of thought.
                                           --John F. Kennedy