Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

01/03/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 27, Whole Number 2100

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, * *

Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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      MT VOID Emails: The Saga Continues (comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


RUNS A MARATHON) (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

SEA CHANGE by Nancy Kress (book review by Joe Karpierz)

      Christmas Movies and Other Entertainments (letter of comment

by Gary Labowitz)


OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE) (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: MT VOID Emails: The Saga Continues (comments by Evelyn

C. Leeper)

A couple of people have sent comments.

Gary Labowitz said regarding multiple emails, "Gee ... I just used

my magic "Delete" key and those extra emails were GHONE. (That's

fannish for ... well, you know.)"  [-gl]

John Purcell wrote, "Many thanks for explaining what happened with

the multiple copies of MT VOID appearing in my mailbox last Friday.

The second two came with a spam warning, in case you're interested,

but Evelyn's explanation clarified reasons for the mess.  I am in

another listserv that was through Yahoo Groups, and the

administrators of that listserv gave members a few weeks notice to

back things up just in case folks wanted to save information or

prior messages.  In any case, glad to have VOID still coming on its

weekly schedule."  [-jp]

Evelyn notes:

Since this group had no postings or files except the MT VOIDs,

which are archived both at and

Art Stadlin first asked, "Did you change something?  The font is

not so easy to read like it was previously.  Just wondering, and

then wrote:

"OK, I just read your intro.  This issue did not process via Yahoo.

I guess GMAIL sends it out as fixed-width font in HTML mode...

I suppose of GMAIL will send in HTML, you might as well select an

easier font to read.  :-)

Or maybe there is a setting in GMAIL to convert your issue to plain

text before sending?

The joys of list ownership.  :-)  [-as]

Evelyn responds:

I send it plain-text (it's a '.txt' file, so it can't really be

anything else).  When I receive it, both on Gmail and in

Thunderbird, I see it as plain text.  When Mark reads it in Opera,

he sees it as plain text.  Is anyone else seeing unreadable

formatting, and if so, how are you reading it?  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 3 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

More mini-reviews, this time two documentaries and one narrative


BUDDY is a feature-length documentary study of working dogs and

their relation ship with humans.   Having a special love of dogs I

would have expected this to be one of the best films of the batch,

but the chapters are long and slow.  One comes away at once feeling

affection for the dogs but finding the text of little interest

value. In Dutch with English subtitles.  Rating: +1 (-4 to +4).

THE SERENGETI RULES looks at a new paradigm for seeing the

interactions of species in nature.  Previously it was thought that

human influence had overpowers nature and too often was killing the

order of nature.  It is now thought that in some ways nature wins

out.  An action in the eco-system damage may damage the entire

system and that change may stimulate a new predator may come to

power.  The eco-system may then reach a new stable environment. A

simple collection of rules may govern population sizes.  Some

animals are very important to govern the eco-system while others

may not be.  The species on which the population sizes most depend

are called keystone species.  Importance to the ecosystem is not

the same thing as physical strength.  A simple herbivore may be

controlling the system.  The documentary is based on the work of

Sean B Carroll.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4).

BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON: This story is a little overly familiar.

They say that it is based on a true story, and I don't doubt it.

The basic story is simple enough that it had to happen before just

by the Law of Averages.  Brittany at age 27 wakes up to the fact

she is not taking care of her body nor her mind.  She is not strong

enough to fully run a Marathon, but just shaping up the effort is

enough to put her life in order.   Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4).



TOPIC: SEA CHANGE by Nancy Kress (copyright 2020, Tachyon

Publications, print ISBN: 978-1-61696-331-6, digital ISBN: 978-1-

61696-332-3) (book review by Joe Karpierz)

SEA CHANGE is something a little different, yet much the same and

familiar, from Nancy Kress.  The new novella, in addition to being

smart science fiction is also something of a thriller.  It also

heavily relates to our times and our society, and gives the reader

a scary look into what could be in store for not only our nation

but the world in the very near future.

The subject is GMO crops.  Carol Denton is an agent in the Org, a

group of clandestine scientists organized into cells - you know the

drill: cells are small, and no one knows where any other cell is,

and who are the members of those cells, so that if one member is

caught the entire organization doesn't fall--that is trying to

convince the world that GMO crops are not only okay, but are

necessary and essential if the world's population is to be

sufficiently fed.

The issue is something called the Catastrophe, an event brought on

by a genetically engineered drug caused the deaths of hundreds of

children, which caused an economic collapse and all the rest of the

things you might expect.  The end result was that GMO crops were

banned, and that trying to produce genetically engineered food was

considered a crime.  Carol has a personal interest in the situation

in that Renata Black--Carol's real name--had her son die in the


The story starts with Carol encounters a self-driving house (heck,

we're still only working on self-driving cars) that is out of

control and causing traffic problems.  Carol recognizes a

particular colored marker on the house that indicates that it

belongs to the Org.  She goes in to take a look, finds something

unusual (come on, it's not every day your normal self driving house

is out and about causing issues), and the story begins.  From there

we move on to political intrigue, romance, deception, and betrayal.

But the story is not just all about that stuff.  In typical Nancy

Kress style, we learn about GMOs because of her expertise in

biological sciences.  The infodumps, such as they are, really

aren't. They're snuck into the narrative in such a way that the

reader may not realize they are being educated about a subject that

is import now, not just in the time of the story. Kress also weaves

family concerns into the story as she normally does (see her recent

Yesterday's Kin novels).  So even though the trappings are not of a

typical Nancy Kress story, it really is a typical Nancy Kress

story.  As usual, it's also well and smartly written in a style

that makes it easy for the reader to get involved without that

sense of being talked down to.

If I had to pick a nit about something, I would say that at novella

length, the story is too short.  It seems to me that there is a

whole lot more there that can be expounded upon.  The story is

good.  I expect that it could be a whole lot better if it was novel

length.  It would not surprise me if Kress was planning on

expanding the novella into at least a novel, if not a trilogy, much

like the "Yesterday's Kin" trilogy.  The subject of GMO crops needs

more room to breathe, and the public needs to know more about them.

SEA CHANGE is a really good start.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Christmas Movies and Other Entertainments (letter of comment

by Gary Labowitz)

In response to Mark's comments on Christmas movies in the 11/30/19

issue of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

Thanks, Mark, for keeping me on your list.  I enjoy the reviews,

but wonder how you guys read and see so many things! I hardly have

time to see a short new TV series now and then.  I want to do more,

but there just isn't that much time to sit down and read anymore.

I usually like the first version of a film that I saw.  I still

prefer the Sims version of Christmas Carol, and the earlier Jekyll

and Hydes.  I can't stand most of them, not even liking the Spencer

Tracy (1941), preferring the Fredric March (1931).  I saw them both

as a youngster, and they both stuck in my head, but I think I saw

the March version first.  So.

The books I tend to like the most are ones with well-done

illustrations, and that's what mostly stays with me.  Unfortunately

most of my books are gone by the way now and I miss them, but never

get around to rereading the longer ones, like Moby Dick and most of

the Dickens work.  One summer when I was still in college, at the

suggestion of a teacher, I started through all the Dickens novels,

and got fairly into the pile, but never made it through.  I think

I've started Middlemarch about three times, and never finished it!

Perhaps you could recommend a movie version for me.  I see it is

all over TV, but remember ...  the first one I see is what I

usually like the best.  So make it good.

Other than this miserable ending of my reading/acting/watching life

my wife and I do go to a lot of theater here in Philadelphia, but I

grow tired of their trying to "pep them up" with current settings

and agenda filled preachy stuff.  We have dropped most of our

subscriptions and try to select our outings to specific shows we

expect to "follow the script."  It's starting to get hopeless, with

several shows we have walked out of in mid-play.  We went to see

"Chicago" a favorite musical of mine, and left during the first

intermission when the cast came through the audience preaching

about their political preferences (anti-Trump, of course; they are

SO daring), and plopping down on audience members laps to get up

close and personal.  Such crap from a major venue (The Arden) and a

waste of our time.  I was afraid of what we might hear when we went

to a concert last month, which had a "sub title" of "New

Beethoven," I was afraid they would be adding banging on trash can

lids, and the like, for a new sound for an old favorite (the violin

concerto) but it turned out okay.  They just played Beethoven and

it was swell.

My history with the concerto goes back to when I was on the radio

in Kansas City, running the weekend Evening Classics program.  I

had a horrible headache and fell asleep during the first side of

the transcription (we did disks in those days) and broadcast seven

minutes of "dead air" with the inner lead out grooves playing! A

phone call to the studio woke me up, and I hit the start of the

second disk immediately, shut off the studio speaker, and answered

the ;phone.  There was no one there.  I found out years later that

it was my wife calling to ask what was going on, and when she heard

the music resuming, she hung up.  That was when I was at KCUR-FM

when we first revived it.  We were the second NPR station in

Missouri (St.  Louis being first), and I was a young announcer,

technician, station electrician, librarian, etc.  at the "new

station." All alone on a Friday evening, running the station, and

sleeping.  Bad scene.

Anyway, it's been a long trip getting to 81 and sitting around

wishing I had read more books through the years and had left all

that science fiction stuff alone.  It ate up a lot of time over the

years.  I hardly touch it any more in any form.

Thanks again, and I hope to read some of the books you have

recommended ...  but I'm not sure I will get around to them.  I'm

busy mostly trying to get an Etsy site up to speed selling some of

my calligraphy.  I may not succeed at this attempt, however.  Same

issue: not enough time.  [-gl]

Mark responds:

I am glad you are finding the MT VOID useful.  I have to credit

Evelyn with doing the vast majority of the reading.  She is a

powerhouse reader and one of the most intelligent people I have

ever met.  Of course that is my biased opinion.

I have to tell you that the Fredric March Jekyll and Hyde and the

Sim Christmas Carol are very widely considered to be the best

versions.  Tracy had to be forced to do Jekyll and Hyde and hated

the film.  -mrl]


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


EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-307-70076-6), from

Book III (I read only through the fall of the Western Empire this


"A people, who still remembered that their ancestors had been the

masters of the world, would have applauded, with conscious pride,

the representation of ancient freedom; if they had not since been

accustomed to prefer the solid assurance of bread to the

unsubstantial visions of liberty and greatness."

E: Some things have not changed all that much, although they may

not be assured of bread, but of security, or (presumed) greatness.

"The incapacity of a weak and distracted government may often

assume the appearance, and produce the effects, of a treasonable

correspondence with the public enemy."

E: In other words, never attribute to malice what can be explained

by stupidity.

"But when the prodigal commons had not only imprudently alienated

the use, but the inheritance of power, they sunk, under the reign

of the Caesars, into a vile and wretched populace, which must, in a

few generations, have been totally extinguished, if it had not been

continually recruited by the manumission of slaves, and the influx

of strangers."

E: I am not sure I agree with the argument that a population will

just disappear with slaves and voluntary immigrants, which seems to

be what Gibbon is saying.

"...  at length consented to raise the siege, on the immediate

payment of five thousand pounds of gold, of thirty thousand pounds

of silver, of four thousand robes of silk, of three thousand pieces

of fine scarlet cloth, and of three thousand pounds weight of


E: Apparently pepper was in some sense almost as valuable as gold

back then.  (This is, of course, black pepper, since chile peppers

were unknown in the Old World at that time.)

"Such extravagant promises inspired every reasonable citizen with a

just contempt for the character of an unwarlike usurper, whose

elevation was the deepest and most ignominious wound which the

republic had yet sustained from the insolence of the Barbarians."

E: Of course, in our time extravagant campaign promises would never

get an "unwarlike" candidate elected...

"But the desire of obtaining the advantages, and of escaping the

burdens, of political society, is a perpetual and inexhaustible

source of discord; nor can it reasonably be presumed, that the

restoration of British freedom was exempt from tumult and faction.

The preeminence of birth and fortune must have been frequently

violated by bold and popular citizens; and the haughty nobles, who

complained that they were become the subjects of their own

servants, would sometimes regret the reign of an arbitrary


E: In other words, the nobility did not like being controlled by

those "above" them, but felt they had the right o control those

"below" them.

"Eutropius was the first of his artificial sex, who dared to assume

the character of a Roman magistrate and general.  ...  The subjects

of Arcadius were exasperated by the recollection, that this

deformed and decrepit eunuch, who so perversely mimicked the

actions of a man, was born in the most abject condition of

servitude; that before he entered the Imperial palace, he had been

successively sold and purchased by a hundred masters, who had

exhausted his youthful strength in every mean and infamous office,

and at length dismissed him, in his old age, to freedom and

poverty.  ...  This strange and inexpiable prodigy awakened ...  the

prejudices of the Romans.  The effeminate consul was rejected by

the West, as an indelible stain to the annals of the republic; and

without invoking the shades of Brutus and Camillus, the colleague

of Eutropius, a learned and respectable magistrate, sufficiently

represented the different maxims of the two administrations."

E: Apparently Gibbon shared the Roman attitudes towards eunuchs.

"But the whole body of Imperial dependants claimed a privilege, or

rather impunity, which screened them, in the loosest moments of

their lives, from the hasty, perhaps the justifiable, resentment of

their fellow-citizens; and, by a strange perversion of the laws,

the same degree of guilt and punishment was applied to a private

quarrel, and to a deliberate conspiracy against the emperor and the


E: In other words, the people in power started claiming that

personal insults wre not just insults, but treason.

"But if the interval between two memorable aeras could be instantly

annihilated; if it were possible, after a momentary slumber of two

hundred years, to display the new world to the eyes of a spectator,

who still retained a lively and recent impression of the old, his

surprise and his reflections would furnish the pleasing subject of

a philosophical romance."

E: And so time travel was invented.

"...  it may be observed that the monarchies, both of the Huns and

of the Moguls, were erected by their founders on the basis of

popular superstition.  The miraculous conception, which fraud and

credulity ascribed to the virgin-mother of Zingis, raised him above

the level of human nature; and the naked prophet, who in the name

of the Deity invested him with the empire of the earth, pointed the

valor of the Moguls with irresistible enthusiasm."

E: It is interesting that to Gibbon a virgin mother among the

Mongols is a popular superstition, while he presumbly would never

call the belief in the Virgin Mary "a popular superstition."  After

all, he accepts the darkness across the earth during the

Crucifixion as fact even though historians never mention it.

"This reflection naturally produced a dispute on the advantages and

defects of the Roman government, which was severely arraigned by

the apostate, and defended by Priscus in a prolix and feeble

declamation.  The freedman of Onegesius exposed, in true and lively

colors, the vices of a declining empire, of which he had so long

been the victim; the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable

to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to

trust them with arms for their own defence; the intolerable weight

of taxes, rendered still more oppressive by the intricate or

arbitrary modes of collection; the obscurity of numerous and

contradictory laws; the tedious and expensive forms of judicial

proceedings; the partial administration of justice; and the

universal corruption, which increased the influence of the rich,

and aggravated the misfortunes of the poor.  A sentiment of

patriotic sympathy was at length revived in the breast of the

fortunate exile; and he lamented, with a flood of tears, the guilt

or weakness of those magistrates who had perverted the wisest and

most salutary institutions."

E: And this sums up Gibbon's view of the causes of the fall of

the Western empire.



                     Mark Leeper

* *

          This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should

          be thrown with great force.

                                          --Dorothy Parker