Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

11/01/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 18, Whole Number 2091

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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Correction and Request

The Great Magdeburg Air Hoax (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

The V-1 and V-2 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

THE DEAD DON'T DIE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

THE FALL by Tracy Townsend (book review by Joe Karpierz)

Private Rocketry (letter of comment by Jim Susky)



(book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Correction and Request

Dale Speirs's name was misspelled in the 10/25/19 issue.  As he

says, "My name is spelled with an 'ei'.  That's why I always put it

in the message text, to improve the odds it won't be retyped with

an 'ie'."  Needless to say, this failed, because I still retyped it


Also, Fred Lerner writes, "When you mention books in this section,

could you give the publisher as well as the ISBN?  This would help

me (and perhaps other readers) to have a sense of the book's

origins.  My expectations of an SF novel comes from Baen or Tor

Might differ from those of a novel from a mainstream publisher or a

small press.  I would like to know if a nonfiction book comes from

a university press or a self-publisher."  I will try to remember to

do this in the future.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Great Magdeburg Air Hoax (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

It appears that one of the oldest hoaxes in science has finally

been revealed.   Much of what we assume in modern physics is based

on assumptions made explaining why helium balloons float.  In 1654

Otto von Guericke took two large hollow metal hemispheres and put

them together, creating of them a single hollow sphere weighing a

total of 8.32 tons.  Then he supposedly pumped the air out of the

resulting sphere.  In spite the metal weighing 8.32 tons the

combination floated away.  It later developed a leak and fell from

the sky, nearly killing a dairy cow.  It has now been discovered

that von Guericke intended the stunt to be no more than a prank.

von Guericke was remembered as having a wild sense of humor.  The

heavy sphere was actually operated by a dwarf.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: The V-1 and V-2 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

In high school I was really thrilled by space and science fiction.

Naturally the interest spread to rockets and even to missiles.  My

imagination had V-1s putt-putting through the sky and V-2s which

flew so fast you heard them making sound backwards.

That made me interested in accounts of World War II.  That

combination brought me around to being fascinated with the V-1 and

V-2, flying bombs.  Late in the war the Germans had these two

missiles, which had little to do with each other except that they

both flew to targets a relatively long distance away.  Their real

names were the F26 and the A-4 respectively.  And their respective

propaganda names were the V-1 and the V-2.

I was a fan of pictures the two German vengeance weapons which I

thought looked much like what spaceships might look like.  They

were airborne forerunners of the rockets that would help mankind to

step into space.  The question never came up if there was not

something funny about this little Jewish kid who was fascinated

with German secret weaponry.

The V-1 you heard putt-putting as they were approaching.  If the

sound went silent you knew the engine had cut off and the bomb was

about to strike.  The V-2 did funny things like reverse sound.  As

they approached they were silent and you heard their sound only

after they detonated.

I thought the V-1's design with an elevated ramjet engine was a

perfect example of this new 1950s' slang word: "cool."  The two

flying weapons were a real threat to the allies in the late days of

the war.  The British and Americans worked jointly to fight back

against the production and use of these long-range rocket weapons.

In 1965, inspired by the then popular wave of spy films as much as

by actual history of the military operation Michael Anderson

directed OPERATION CROSSBOW a film that tells the story of the

Allied effort to destroy the German rocket program.  The film

begins with an introduction to Hanna Reich, the hero of the German

rocket program.  She was a German aeronautic engineer who risked

near certain death riding on a V-1 to debug the V-1 flying bomb.

The British and the Yanks put together a team of operatives to

destroy the rocket production facilities.  That operation was

codenamed Crossbow, Operation Crossbow.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE DEAD DON'T DIE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: The Dead are yet once again back from themselves when the

Earth pitches a little off its axis and in zombie movie scientific

logic this causes the Dead to return to life in a rural central US

town.  Seeing this all happen around them two cop car police

(played by Bill Murray and Adam Driver) are trying to maintain

peace while Driver pessimistically reminds Murray that any

situation looks like it will end badly.  Jim Jarmusch writes and

directs.  Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

This was probably more fun to make than it to was watch.

The so-called "zombie" sub-genre of horror film has become firmly

entrenched in the national consciousness since George Romero booted

it up in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  So many zombie films

have been made in that the fund of potential ideas has been

depleted and now satiric send-ups of the zombie films are much more

numerous enough to constitute their own sub-genre.  Comedic zombie

films almost certainly outnumber the serious ones.  Part of the

reason is that a zombie film costs a pittance to produce one. It

takes very little resource to make a zombie film.  You need some

old clothing and some stage makeup.  After that small investment

all you need is the camera and a makeup artist.  It is a very low

starting investment.

It is probably impossible to copyright invented zombie lore so we

see ideas freely flow from one film to another.  For example, in

DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) the Dead continue to desire the same

merchandise they wanted in life.  That idea has rarely reappeared

in the interim, but the same idea returns in THE DEAD DON'T DIE.

There are a few high-profile cameo parts so the viewer can call out

when he recognizes someone like a Danny Glover or Steve Buscemi.

For the most part the cameo segments do very little to tell or

advance the story.  The story can be presented cheaply and filmed

in a party atmosphere.

I rate THE DEAD DON'T DIE a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE FALL by Tracy Townsend (copyright 2019, Pyr, $18.00,

trade paperback, 464pp, ISBN 978-1-63388-498-4) (book review by Joe


Uh oh.  Stuff just got real.

Okay, I'm being cryptic and I guess jumping ahead a little bit.

THE FALL is the sequel to THE NINE, the first book in the "Thieves

of Fate" series and the debut novel from Tracy Townsend, which I

reviewed back in May of 2018.  If THE NINE is the appetizer, then

THE FALL is the main course, and it is indeed sumptuous.  In my

opinion it certainly doesn't suffer from "second book in the

trilogy" syndrome.  Indeed, it takes what was presented in THE NINE

an builds upon it, expands upon it, and then turns things upside

down.  It answers a great deal of questions from the first book,

but raises a whole bunch more.

Rowena Downshire is no longer a black market courier.  Now she's a

clerk in the Alchemist's apothecary shop, the Stone Scales. The

Alchemist, Anselm Meteron (also from THE NINE), and Rowena are once

again together in an adventure, but this one much more interesting

and dangerous.  The Alchemist and Anselm are presented with an

offer to go to the Grand Library in Nippon and meet with Philip

Chalmers, one of the characters that started the whole thing to

begin with back in THE NINE.  Rowena goes along, of course, as a

member of the team assigned to the task.  But the task turns into

so much more as Rowena discovers a computing machine called the

Aggregator, which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to

the reveals that THE FALL gives us.

There are a *lot* of things going on here as Townsend delves more

deeply into the world of these books.  We find out more about

Rowena's mother, who has the ability to see into the future (which

is probably the easiest way to describe it).  We get what amounts

to an infodump, but a welcome one, that tells the reader the

background and genesis of how religion and science were melded into

one.  We learn a whole lot more about the aigamuxa, and discover

that they're not all bad, and in fact once we see the world through

their eyes, we might just become a little sympathetic to them.

Oh yeah, we learn a whole lot more about the Grand Experiment, in

which God the Scientist will be deciding the fate of the human race

based on what he (or she, I suppose) learns about the Nine

creatures being written about in the book that was causing so much

trouble in THE NINE.  Well, one of the books anyway.  And once we

find out that not all the Nine are humans, well, that takes the

story in a whole different direction.  Who doesn't like a little

war now and again, a war in which all of humanity will be

destroyed, and not by that God Scientist fellow?  And oh yes, what

does Anselm's father have to do with the entire thing?  It

certainly doesn't seem to be anything very good.

Townsend really fills out the world in THE FALL.  The novel takes

on a very steampunk feel as Nippon, as well as the Grand Library,

are populated by mechanical creatures, and there are all sorts of

flying contraptions that makes the reader feel as if they've landed

somewhere in the middle of a Girl Genius storyline.  The characters

seem fuller and richer at the end of this book.  Rowena has become

someone who is a force to be reckoned with, and I cared what was

happening to her at the end.

Townsend left all her main characters in a very deep pickle.  There

was a lot going on in THE FALL, but there looks to be a whole lot

more going on in the third and (I presume) the last book of the

series.  There aren't many books these days that keep me in the

dark or leave me with the feeling that I don't know where the story

is going.  This is one of them, and I look forward to the next


As I write this, I have the book in front of me.  My goodness is

the cover art gorgeous.  Adam S. Doyle's cover is outstanding, and

something that in the old days would make me pick up the book and

look at it if I ran across it in a book store.  Really, THE FALL is

the entire package.  Let's hope the final book lives up to the

first two.  I think it will.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Private Rocketry (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to comments on private rocketry, Jim Susky writes:

In case you are interested you might look for updates on SpaceX.

"What about it", on YouTube, claims to post two-per-week updates--

others have been closely following SpaceX as well.

The word "amazing" is so-often used for the ordinary and mundane

these days, that it's almost meaningless--but to witness SpaceX's

various first stage Falcon 9 boosters "land on their feet" is

amazing in its un-diminished sense.

So far, SpaceX has placed a number of satellites in orbit and

several times resupplied the ISS. If all goes well, they will

retrieve ISS astronauts in Q1/2020.

Currently SpaceX is testing, in the same careful, incremental,

fashion as Falcon 9, a much larger booster, said to have roughly

double the thrust of the Saturn V.  A seeming difference is that

the SpaceX increments are accomplished with mere weeks between

tests--compared with months for Apollo.

The biggest difference, however, is the cost/launch and

cost/payload-mass--which is approaching a small fraction of the

cost using "throwaway" boosters.  [-js]


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

A bunch of short takes this week:

A RUSSIAN JOURNAL by John Steinbeck (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-141-18019-

9) is an account of his travels in the Soviet Union in the first

years after World War II.  Not surprisingly, Steinbeck concentrated

on the common people, who end up seeming not all that different

from the sort of people he has written about in the United States.

DIAMONDS IN THE SKY edited by Mike Brotherton (CreateSpace, ISBN

978-1-978-23392-8) is an anthology of "fact-based" space science

fiction (it was funded by the NSF).  It reads like the sort of

science fiction one would have found in the 1950s, and may have

been intended as a young adult book.  The e-book is available free



(Pantheon, ISBN 978-1-984-84738-6) is probably intended to be the

first of a new detective series by him.  Set in Sweden, the book

seemed to have a lot of puns that work in English, but would not

work in Swedish.  I have never really warmed to any of McCall

Smith's books other than the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"


WASTE TIDE by Chen Quifan (translated by Ken Liu) (Tor, ISBN 978-0-

765-38931-2) takes place in the near future on Giuyu Island in

China dedicated to recycling materials from electronic waste.  The

island sounds like a horrific dystopia; the fact is that Guiyu is a

real place now.  (A few years ago it was the largest e-waste

recycling site in the world.)  WASTE TIDE is definitely a novel in

the category of "if this goes on." [-ecl]


                                          Mark Leeper

     I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my


                                         --David Lee Roth