Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/18/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 16, Whole Number 2089

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
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10^6 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
TIME TRAP (film review by Dale Skran)
Puerto Rican (and British) Money (letters of comment
by Paul Dormer and Dorothy J. Heydt)
Omnivore's 100, Kasha, DOWNTON ABBEY, and AD ASTRA
(letter of comment by Jim Susky) (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
This Week's Reading (UNHOLY LAND) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: 10^6 (comments by Mark R.  Leeper)

is a certain word that I no longer accept in my email.  I do not
have anything against this word.  But I am finding it extremely
difficult to deal with e-mail that uses this word.  We are talking
about a seven-letter word, starting with the letter "m" and that
expresses the number 1,000,000.  If you take the asterisks out of
the string m*i*l*l*i*o*n you will get the particular offensive
string.  I guess, if you want to use the asterisks, that is okay
then.  I do not want people spelling out the m-word in normal
fashion.  I cannot accept e-mail with that particular offensive
string spelled out that way even with suffixes like "aire." I can
accept no e-mail that has that seven-letter string.  It is with
great sadness that I part with the usage of this word, particularly
being a mathematician who has a great love of numbers, but
desperate situations call for desperate measures.

The reason I am parting with all e-mail using this word will be
obvious to some.  It is because I want no longer to receive mail
from Mr. Tim Mcquitty who calls himself a white commercial farmer
from Zimbabwe; Dr Luisa Pimentel Estrada, the wife of Joseph
Ejercito Estrada, former president of Philippines cannot send me e-
mail either; Mr Temi Johnson of the Democratic Republic of Congo
and One of the close aides to the former President of the
Democratic Republic of Congo Laurent Kabila is on my don't-email-me
list; Mr.James Ajah, member of the Federal Government of Nigeria
Contract Award and Monitoring Committee in the Nigeria National
Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is another.  Any of the other scum-
sucking weasels claiming to want to use my bank account to smuggle
large sums of money out of their respective countries are also
proscribed.  At first I was amused by these people, but enough is
enough.  They claim to have m*i*l*l*i*o*n*s of dollars in their
country that they are trying to smuggle out.  And of all the people
with bank accounts in the United States they have picked someone at
random on the Internet to help them.  It just happens that the
person they have picked was me.  As the story each one tells goes,
they are going to keep the lion's share of the money for
themselves, but they are willing to give a paltry $10,000,000 or
$12,000,000 to me for the use of my bank account.  If I play this
confidence game as they hope, I will get greedy and start wondering
how I can rip-off the scum-sucking weasel who sent me the mail and
get the full sum of money for myself.

In fact, the e-mail does not have a word of truth to it.  Well,
that may be a little harsh.  It does have one word of truth.  When
the people who are sending it imply that they are crooked scum-
sucking weasels, they are expressing uncharacteristic frankness.
In fact, what they want is for me to get greedy enough to be
willing to send him a few thousand dollars, supposedly to be used
for money laundering.  The rest has nothing to do with the truth.
They probably don't have a pot to cook peas in.  But I get two or
three of these offers a day.  Most come from Nigeria, though the
scam is becoming international.  All kinds of different names show
up as the person proposing the relationship.  I have decided to
have my mailer recognize these pieces of mail and automatically
throw them out.  I will use what is called a "mail filter" that
will recognize the offensive mail based on a strong it contains.

Ah, but the mail comes from different people in different
countries.  So what do all the pieces of this kind of mail have in
common? Most write out in words the amount of money that they are
supposedly going to try to purloin from their respective countries.
To do that they use the m-word.  They are always stealing an
ammount in the m*i*l*l*i*o*n*s.  At least for now nobody could hope
to find a billion dollars to steal from someplace like Nigeria.
And if they expressed the money in thousands they are not going to
be all that tempting.  No, they like to spell out the sum of money
and use the m-word.  They are playing right into my hands, the

I will throw out all pieces of mail that use that particular
tempting word, but I run the risk that someone who really wants to
communicate with me will use that word.  I don't know how, but you
never know.  It might come up in conversation.  Not many people do
currently other than the scum-sucking weasels.  It is probably a
word I can dispense with entirely in e-mail.  I mean in oral
conversation it is just fine.  Just if you email me and use that
word, I probably won't see your message.  I have given up on using
that word in e-mail.  That word no longer will clog up my inbox.  I
can get along without it.  Sure.

You know, the computer age is bringing with it some problems I
don't think anyone foresaw.

Note: for the time being I am asking people to avoid 10^6 since
that is breaking open new territory.   For that matter if you use
the string (5+5)^6.   But I am afraid that too many people I
correspond with will just not understand it.   [-mrl]


TOPIC: TIME TRAP (film review by Dale Skran)

One of the great things about Netflix is that it brings to a larger
audience films that would otherwise remain obscure.  The 2017 SF
film TIME TRAP directed/produced by Mark Dennis and Ben Foster
premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival (which I did
not attend), and was released to video on demand on November 13,
2018 (which I knew nothing about).  Fortunately, the Netflix
recommender engine offered it to me.

I've watched a couple of far from great SF films of this sort on
Netflix, but TIME TRAP rises above the pack.  I'm not going to
recount the details of the plot (which borrows a bit from THE
DESCENT), as a group of mostly unknown actors filmed partially in a
"found footage" format get themselves stuck in a fantastical
situation.   TIME TRAP serves up many of the charms of Damien
Broderick's STUCK IN FAST FORWARD or even the original time travel
story, H. G. Wells THE TIME MACHINE, including a real sense of
wonder as our heroes slowly find out just exactly how much trouble
they are in.


TIME TRAP mixes together slow time, the fountain of youth, cowboys,
cavemen, weird archeology, nuclear war, and space settlement into a
story that at its best evokes a really good Analog puzzle yarn.
I'm not going to say that the physics or the biology (what do the
cave dwellers eat?) of this fully makes sense, but a lot of it does
make sense, and it is entertaining enough to get you really
engaged.  TIME TRAP also has the virtue of being one of the more
space-settlement-friendly-films of recent vintage.  Unlike the grim
future of AD ASTRA, TIME TRAP conveys pretty well the kind of
"unlimited" future that settling space offers to humanity.  There
is a vivid metaphor in which our heroes are trapped in slow time in
a cave, but eventually escape to real-time and an amazing future in

I'm rating TIME TRAP a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale, but I highly
recommend it to SF fans.   Lots of things in this film could be
better, but it is the ideas that make it interesting.  There is
some violence but no sex in this PG-type film, although it is too
weird/scary for young kids.  Most kids under 10 would probably have
trouble following what is going on.  [-dls]

Mark replies:

I have to admit you got more into the ideas than I even realized
was there.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Puerto Rican (and British) Money (letters of comment by Paul
Dormer and Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to Mark's comments on Puerto Rican money in the
11/11/19 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

OK, this is a spoof, right, and Puerto Rico actually uses the US
currency.  (I just checked.)

I grew up in the UK in the pre-decimal currency days--I was 17 on
D-Day, 15th Feb. 1971.  I've just been reading a discussion on a
crossword-solvers' blog about the pronunciation of the name of one
pre-decimal coin, worth three old pennies.  And, of course, the
abbreviation for penny was 'd', don't you know.  (From denarius.)

This coin was called things like "threpence", "thrupence", and
"thrupenny bit".

So, in pre-decimal days, we had twelve pennies in the shilling and
twenty shillings in the pound.

When I was born, the lowest denomination coin was worth one quarter
of a penny, but called a farthing.  (That was withdrawn before I
was old enough to be handling money.)  Half a penny was called a

Then we had the thrupence.  Next was six pennies, called sixpence,
but also know as a tanner.  A shilling was a bob.  Two shillings
was a florin.  There was also a coin worth two shillings and
sixpence--half a crown. But the crown, worth five shillings, was
more or less obsolete.  We didn't have any higher value coins
generally in circulation.  Above the half crown was the ten bob
note and the pound note.  But a pound could also be called a quid
and a ten bob note was often half a nicker.  (Much amusement, that
one, as knickers is a term used for female undergarments.) There
were no coins worth a pound in those days.  A pound coin had been
called a sovereign.

And some prices, especially if you were trying to show your
superiority, were given in guineas.  A guinea was one pound and one
shilling.  But the guinea coin was also no longer around.  [-pd]

Dorothy J. Heydt adds:

And I'm sure you remember the joke about the pound coin, which came
into use I don't know when, but it was around when I visited
England in 1984.  It was called a Thatcher, "because it's thick and
brassy and thinks it's a sovereign."

Thanks for the glimpse into the past, Paul; I had heard of most of
those of those terms, but not all.  [-djh]

[More reminiscences and discussion of British money can be found
at Google Groups at


TOPIC: Omnivore's 100, Kasha, DOWNTON ABBEY, and AD ASTRA (letter
of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Mark's comments on food in the 11/11/19 issue of the
MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

You were both quite "sporting" with the list--fun!

I was a bit chagrined with how badly I interpreted the "kasha"
story--so it goes--thanks for clarifying.

Jim also adds:

I'm sure you have seen promotions for the film version of my
favorite soap opera--DOWNTON ABBEY--everyone in my family liked the
series on PBS.  Without doubt, we will like the film.

Returns mixed for the current "SF film" [AD ASTRA] featuring Brad
Pitt--the trailers were not compelling for me.  This is entirely
unlike his role (and everybody's) in this summer's nostalgia piece
by Tarantino.  My 24-YO movie buff (movie-maker) daughter liked it
well enough to laugh several times at the sly humor in that.  I
liked it so well, that I look forward to a rumored 4-hour
"director's cut.  [-js]

Mark responds:

We were happy to do the eating experience game.  It is interesting
how broad some people's taste is.

I was not all that interested to see DOWNTON ABBEY. I liked the
series, but I do balk at paying feature film prices for what I used
to get for no charge.

AD ASTRA was amazing.  I forgot most of it by the time I got to my
car.  [-mrl]


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

UNHOLY LAND by Lavie Tidhar (ISBN 978-1-61696-304-0) is "yet
another Jewish alternate history"--and who would have thought they
would ever hear that phrase?  I suppose that is unfair, but comes
from my surprise at there being so many, relatively speaking.
UNHOLY LAND (a Sidewise Award finalist this year) seems most
similar to THE SEVERED WING by Martin Gidron (a previous Sidewise
Award winner: both deal with alternate histories in which the
Holocaust is avoided, and both deal with people who can either see
between alternate worlds, or actually cross over.  But the method
of avoidance in UNHOLY LAND is closer to that of THE YIDDISH
POLICEMEN'S UNION by Michael Chabon: the creation of a Jewish
homeland in an unexpected location.

However, UNHOLY LAND is its own thing.  The parallel worlds have a
touch of H. P. Lovecraft, and the tone is more magical realism
rather than the noir of THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION.  The setting
of the homeland, in Uganda, was one actually proposed at one point,
and is as alien to the Levant of our timeline as the Alaska of
Chabon's book is.  At the same time, the politics (and geo-
politics) of "Palestina" (as the Ugandan homeland is called) are
depressingly similar, emphasized by the fact that the Jews are
called "Palestinians" and other terms run parallel to those of our
timeline.  In fact, the most negative aspect of the book are these
parallels, which at times seem very heavy-handed.  (There is also
terminology that reminded me of THE CITY & THE CITY by China
Mieville, with its notions of incursions and overlays, though more
from parallel worlds then from other parts of this one.  For that
metter, this makes THE CITY & THE CITY seem somewhat of a parallel
worlds story in the alternate history sense.)

UNHOLY LAND is a worthy entry to this sub-genre, and to the genre
of alternate history as a whole.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           I have a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day
           at a time.
                                           --Charles M. Schulz