Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

02/28/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 35, Whole Number 2108

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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Correction to Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations

in the Dramatic Presentation Category (Short Form,

Part 2)

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,

Lectures, etc. (NJ)

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in March (comments

by Mark R. Leeper)


Strahan (book review by Joe Karpierz)


BIOGRAPHY) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Correction to Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations

in the Dramatic Presentation Category (Short Form, Part 2)

The final paragraph of this got a bit garbled.  It should have


In my introduction to this series of articles I promised the reader

to reveal which two films I considered to be genuine classics.

When I was first becoming a horror film fan I was not quite sure

what to make of CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.  There are certainly

aspects to admire in its well-rounded commentary on children and

imagination.  I still am not quite sure what Val Lewton was saying,

but it has enough to keep me guessing.  Lewton deserves veneration

after all the years.  And the film most easily appreciated is THE

UNINVITED.  Those two were the best fantasy films of 1944 in my

opinion.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,

Lectures, etc. (NJ)

March 12, 2020: THE QUIET EARTH (1985) & novel by Craig Harrison

(1981), Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM


March 26, 2020: THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT by Edgar Rice Burroughs,

Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM


April 9, 2020: THE PRESTIGE (2006) & novel by Christopher Priest

(1995), Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM

May 28, 2020: THE DARK FOREST by Cixin Liu, Old Bridge Public

Library, 7PM

July 23, 2020: CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS by Jules Verne (a.k.a.


published by Ace in 1961 in an omnibus titled MASTER OF THE

WORLD, which is the title of the sequel), Old Bridge Public

Library, 7PM


September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America,

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 March (comments by

Mark R. Leeper)

In 1968 NASA was preparing for its greatest achievement, the

landing of a human on the moon and bringing him back alive.

Science writer Hank Searles released a novel called THE PILGRIM

PROJECT, envisioning in technical detail how such an achievement

could be accomplished.  Much of his technical detail was accurate

or at least credible.  The book was adapted into the film COUNTDOWN

(1968), just one year prior to the actual first real lunar round

trip. The novel correctly had the United States and the USSR trying

to upstage each other, the USSR with a soft unmanned landing just

before the United States had its landing.  A Soviet unmanned moon

shot attempted a moon landing but ended in failure so there was no

doubt the USSR lost the race to the moon, and there was no question

who had won the race to the moon.  See

** for details of the Soviet


COUNTDOWN was the directorial debut of Robert Altman; the actors

included James Caan and Robert Duvall, and a supporting cast

including Joanne Moore, Charles Aidman, and Ted Knight.

[COUNTDOWN, Saturday, March 28, 04:00 PM (ET)]

Top film of the month: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

Peter O'Toole plays the British war hero who united several Arab

tribes to repel German and Turkish military incursion.

[LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Saturday, March 28, 04:00 PM (ET)]

Also, TCM is running an entire day of supernatural stories on

Friday, March 27:

 6:00 AM  Crashing Las Vegas (1956)

 7:15 AM  Thirteenth Chair, The (1937)

 8:30 AM  Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

10:45 AM  Bewitched (1945)

12:00 PM  Brain That Wouldn't Die, The (1962)

 1:30 PM  Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

 4:00 PM  Power, The (1968)

 6:00 PM  Haunting, The (1963)




Strahan (copyright 2020, Rebellion, ISBN 978-1-781-08787-9) (book

review by Joe Karpierz)

Jonathan Strahan's latest themed anthology, "Made to Order:  Robots

and Revolution", arrives in the neighborhood of the 100th

anniversary of Karel Capek's famous play "R.U.R.", where we were

introduced to the term robot.  But R.U.R. was not the first work to

include the concept of an artificial being, an automoton, an AI,

that is meant to serve man.  The concept of artificial entities

made in the likeness of humans has been around for a long time.

And while most people might point back to Frankenstein's Monster as

one of the first examples of this kind of creature, Strahan points

out in his Introduction "Making the 'Other' We Need", that the

concept goes a lot further back than that.

But we're in the present, and "Made to Order" contains sixteen

original stories by some of the top writers in science fiction

today. And while we may think of any of Asimov's creations, or

Robbie the Robot, or the Robot in "Lost in Space", or the two

endearing mechanical creatures in the Star Wars movies as the prime

example of robots, the creations presented here are not only a

little different, their stories are a little different.

My favorite in the collection is Ian R. Macleod's "Sin Eater", in

which a robotic sin eater goes to the Vatican to perform his duties

on the last living pope, and indeed probably one of the last

physical humans, as most have uploaded themselves into the next

phase of existence.  Macleod's tale takes the reader inside not

only the personal history of the character of the pope, but into

the process of sin eating.  I was blown away by the twist at the

end, and as a person brought up Catholic I did not see it coming

but it sure hit me pretty hard.

Rich Laron's "An Elephant Never Forgets" is a brutal tale of an

artificial construct being manipulated to, well, help a pretty

nasty guy do some pretty nasty things.  The central character is

fully aware that someone has done something to him, but he doesn't

know how, and he doesn't know why.  As the story unfolds, we

realize that like many other robots, he was just being used.

Alastair Reynolds (one of my current favorite authors) gives us

"Polished Performance", a tale about a group of robots who try to

resolve the problem that a good deal of the humans on their ship

for an interstellar voyage have perished in their cryogenic

containers.  It's a nice little story of class differences within

the group of robots and how one of the lowest class robots comes up

with a solution to save the day.  It's not a deep story, but it

does try to make the point that even robots can divide themselves

into classes.

A story that I didn't much care for as I was reading it, but upon

reflection realized is a truly powerful story, is Sofia Samatar's

"Fairy Tales for Robots".  A human is preparing a robot for

awakening and is telling that robot human fairy tales in a way that

relate to the lives of robots.  A really sneaky story that took

awhile to hit me, but once it did I was bowled over.

Another story I liked a lot was Suzanne Palmer's "Chiaroscuro in

Red", about a college student who is given sole ownership of a

robot by his parents--robots are typically owned by conglomerates--

and his efforts to repair the robot himself and make it useful even

though the model is obsolete.  It's a fun story.

I also enjoyed Sarah Pinsker's (I seem to always enjoy a Sarah

Pinsker story) "Bigger Fish", the story of a PI looking into a

murder of a wealthy businessman only to discover that the murderer

was definitely not someone he expected, and in fact the whole thing

is downright sinister at the end of it all.  It gave me the creeps.

Annalee Newitz gives us "The Translator", a story of a human being

who has the gift of being able to talk to AIs.  The AIs are

leaving, but before they leave they give the human race an

invaluable gift.  The idea that the AIs will help us, but only if

we work to understand their message, is a nice one, and a good

lesson for humanity.

Saad Z. Hossain gives us "The Endless", about an AI that has been

sold and repurposed and is out to get revenge on his new bosses.

It's a well-told and funny story about revenge and rebellion,

perfect for the theme of this anthology.

All the stories in the book are terrific.  There are stories in the

anthology by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Peter Watts (a favorite of mine,

with a good one here), Daryl Gregory, Tochi Onyebuchi, Ken Lui (who

never disappoints), Peter F. Hamilton (yet another favorite of

mine) and John Chu.  Many of these authors are award winners, and

those that aren't should be.  I'm probably drawn to Strahan's

anthologies because his tastes are similar to mine, and once again

he does not disappoint.  This is an outstanding anthology by one of

the leading short fiction editors of our day.  Fans of robots--and

all related artificial constructs--will enjoy it.  [-jak]


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


(Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-19532-4) is the first

book I am reviewing through, and I hope the

formatting is not typical of their books.  For starters, it is in

PDF format, which makes it impossible to enlarge the font, and also

difficult to read on my Kindle e-reader.  I can manage to read it

on my Kindle tablet, although I have to rotate the device and read

it in landscape mode because of the line length.  (I don't think I

could even do this on the e-reader.)  And I had great difficulty in

getting it onto my Mac.

Then within the file there seem to be all sorts of formatting

detritus: "-1"s, "0"s, and "+1"s preceded or followed by dashes.

And words seem to split over lines without even any hyphenization.

Okay, that gets rid of all the technical nitty-gritty.  Now on to

the content.

The Chinese recognized five flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, salty,

and pungent.  Of particular interest to us Sichuan cuisine fans is

Dott's brief discussion of the spices in the "pungent" group that

chile peppers replaced in China, in particular, the Sichuan pepper

(fagara).  As he notes, "In addition to their flavor, the shells

also have a numbing or anesthetic quality."  Other foods in this

group include onion, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon, as well as the

relatively more recent anise, fennel, clove, and black pepper.  (It

also served as a substitute for salt as a flavoring, since the

production and price of salt was controlled by the government.)

The problem for us Sichuan cuisine fans is that Dott's book is

heavy on the academic and light on discussion of the actual food.

Dott covers the mentions of chili peppers in books on medicine, in

artworks, in government reports, in every possible aspect.  One

problem is that he seems to repeat himself a lot, at least to my

un-academic reading.  There seem to be multiple sections that talk

at length about medicinal uses, for example.  And there is a long

section of footnotes and bibliography.  (The main text ends on page

196 of a 296-page book.)

Maybe one needs to be a more serious student of the intersection of

food and culture than I am to really appreciate this book.  I

cannot deny it is well-researched and well-written, but I was

expecting something more like THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES:


long as you know what to expect, you can judge whether this is a

book for you.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get

          to the end and say to myself, "Well, that's not going to


                                          --Rita Rudner