Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

05/08/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 45, Whole Number 2118

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Eggs My Way (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Day of the Animals Redux (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo Award novel finalists)

(book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Eggs My Way (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

It is desperately important when you are walking a tightrope that

you do not look down.  You put one foot in front of the other and

you keep walking.  You restrict your reality to just you and the

tightrope.  If your reality includes the ground beneath you, just

the knowledge that it is there can defeat you.  I had this morning

one of those disastrous experiences.  I looked at the ground--well,

not literally.  I am speaking figuratively.  Every day I walk

various figurative tightropes in which it is imperative that I do

not look at the symbolic ground or I might fall on my metaphorical


What happened was that I "looked down" both figuratively and

literally while I was eating my breakfast.  In my younger days I

liked to put catsup on my eggs to liven them up.  Later, when I

discovered the joys of Tabasco sauce, I would put catsup and

Tabasco on my eggs.  This disgusted my mother, for whom a spicy

dish was one that had a little black pepper that had been ground

the previous year.  And of all the hot spices, black pepper is one

of the least interesting and, if it is not freshly ground, you may

as well forget it.  Spiciness in our house ran the whole range from

foods as bland as cream of wheat all the way up to foods as spicy

as cream of wheat with a teaspoon of sugar.  My mother, I think,

confused the concepts of "piquant" and "carcinogenic."

When my mother saw me putting catsup and Tabasco on my morning eggs

her reaction was much the same as it would have been if I were

putting flea powder on my spaghetti.  "Actually there is a Mexican

dish that is hot sauce on eggs," I bluffed.  "Not for breakfast,"

she replied with a certainty that came from never having heard of

such a dish.  My mother bluffs well, too.  "Yes, it is! They have

it for breakfast," I lied.  Years later I first heard of Huevos

Rancheros and discovered I had made a lucky guess.  In fact, when

we went to Mexico (and later Puerto Rico) that was my preferred

breakfast for the first half of the trip.  Then halfway through the

trip I developed virtually simultaneously a taste for cream of

wheat and a case of Montezuma's Revenge.

Well, I'm recovered from that now, and I still like a spicy sauce

on eggs, but now I am concerned about silly things like

cholesterol.  Now if you are watching what you eat and are clever

about it, you don't have to sacrifice flavor.  You just have to

look for things of roughly the same flavor.  An omelet is loaded

with cholesterol and yet it has very little flavor.  What it really

contributes to a dish is a sort of a patty of a certain chewy

texture.  I can create a nearly similar flavorless, chewy patty out

of oatmeal.  I just take three coffee scoops of raw oatmeal, just

enough water to dampen thoroughly, and microwave for 90 seconds.

Then I douse it in catsup (that has a bit too much sugar perhaps

but it otherwise is reasonably virtuous), and throw on the Tabasco

(a little too much sodium but not a whole lot either).

So there I was.  For a week I was enjoying something pretty close

to the great taste of my beloved Huevos Rancheros and at the same

time I felt reasonably virtuous.  I was proud of my cleverness and

of my ability to eat a healthy breakfast that at the same time

tasted pretty good.  Even if it wasn't Huevos Rancheros, it was

virtually the same great flavor I'd learned to love.  I was walking

my figurative tightrope and impressing the metaphorical crowd.

Then today I looked down, realized I'd been eating catsup and

Tabasco sauce on oatmeal, and threw up.

(This is a shout-out to friend and former supervisor John

Palframan.  I have in the past discussed some of this material

with him.)  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Day of the Animals Redux (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

And in our continuing coverage of the "Day of the Animals" (though

it's more like the "Year of the Animals"), we have good news and we

have bad news:

The good news:



"Rome's seagulls hunt rats and pigeons as lockdown starves them of


"Seagulls in Rome are 'returning' to their natural status as

predators, hunting down rats, pigeons, and other smaller birds as

the lack of humans on the streets mean no food scraps are to be


'They are catching mostly pigeons but also swallows and black

birds.  They're also going after the fish in the Tiber,' [Bruno

Cignini, a zoologist from the Rome University Tor Vergata] said.

'Luckily, they are also eating rats.  Animals are changing their

habits as we change ours.'"

The bad news:



"Asia's 'murder hornet' will arrive on East Coast and is 'here to


"It's not a matter of if but when the 'murder hornet' will hit the

East Coast, experts warned The Post on Sunday.

The deadly meat-eating Asian giant hornet, which has been known to

kill up to 50 people a year in Japan, recently surfaced for the

first time in the US in Washington state--and New York City

beekeepers say there is no way it won't make its way here, too."

ObSF: "The Year of the Jackpot" by Robert A. Heinlein



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

Because the "Decameron" podcast is not running as regularly as had

been claimed, I will do the finalists for Best Novel for the Retro

Hugo Awards this week.  (I could read ahead on THE DECAMERON, but

I'd rather read in tandem with the podcaster's comments.)

SHADOW OVER MARS (a.k.a. NEMESIS FROM TERRA), Leigh Brackett:  The

finalists seem divided into two groups: the pulp stories and the

"literary" stories.  Graves and Stapledon were writing for a more

general audience who expected style and characterization aimed at

an older audience, while Brackett, Burroughs, and Mayne and Van

Vogt were writing for a younger one.  This shows in sentence

structure and length, word choice, and so on.  (If one were to

assign reading levels to these, the Brackett et al stories might be

10-14 years old, while the Graves and Stapledon would be more like

14-adult.)  This is not to say that the pulp stories cannot be

exciting or enjoyable, but the others offer a deeper experience,

and are (in my opinion) more Hugo material.

LAND OF TERROR, Edgar Rice Burroughs: In Josephine Tey's DAUGHTER

OF TIME, Detective Grant talks about reading a detective novel and

finding three errors of procedure in the first two pages.  I felt

that way reading LAND OF TERROR (although it took eleven pages).

First we find out that because there is no sun or moon in

Pellucidar, time doesn't work the same, and what can seem like a

few "hours" to one person can seem to be several "sleeps" to

another, and apparently no one ever ages.  (Or maybe it's no one

from the upper world, because it's hard to see how the natives

could have children if the babies they have do not age.)  If any of

this made any sense, we would all go live in caves.  Then Burroughs

describes the fauna, which includes dinosaurs, Pleistocene mammals,

and modern mammals.  The problem is that the dinosaurs need either

to die off or to evolve in order to make room for the early

mammals, and similarly the early ones need to make room for the

later ones.  (Apparently, the "explanation" is that for a long time

there was a hole in the Arctic that let creatures from our world

migrate to Pellucidar.  The theory itself is full of holes.)  And

finally, all the tribes in Pellucidar speak exactly the same

language.  That is not how language works.

It might not be so bad if so much did not depend on coincidence.

Just one example: at one point our hero is imprisoned in a corridor

which happens to lead to the only unguarded exit from the palace.

And he learns this because he just happens to overhear the king's

nephew telling this to a woman the nephew is trying to get to

escape with him, and she just happens to be the long-lost

sweetheart of our hero.


This is Robert Graves's re-telling of the myths of Jason, the

Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece (with a lot of other myths thrown

in for good measure).  At 464 pages, it is more than twice as long

as any of the other finalists and so full of names and places that

I don't think one can keep them straight unless one is already very

knowledgeable about Greek myth.  I was halfway through this as an

ebook through Hoopla when the system logged me out and stopped

recognizing me.  Still I read enough to recognize the quality of

the writing; as has been common in past years' Retro Hugo ballots,

works published outside the genre are often of a higher quality

writing style.

THE WINGED MAN, E. Mayne Hull & A. E. Van Vogt: This was reprinted

in book form in 1966 and apparently re-edited: there is a reference

to the Korean War on the second page.  I hate when they do that,

because it makes voting for the 1945 Retro Hugo based on this

version a bit problematic.  How many other changes have they made?

In any case, the story seems to reflect Van Vogt's stated method of

introducing a new plot element every 600 words.  We have a

submarine in the then-present.  Suddenly a winger man shows up and

attaches something to it.  Then it is transported into the far

future.  Then there are other groups from other time periods.  Then

there is another undersea race. And so on.  As with the Brackett,

enjoyable enough as a diversion, but not (to my mind) Hugo material.

THE WIND IN THE MOON, Eric Linklater: As noted earlier, I was

unable to find a copy in my library system and did not feel like

buying it just for this column.

SIRIUS, Olaf Stapledon: This is probably the most accessible of

Stapledon's four major novels (the others being LAST AND FIRST MEN,

STAR MAKER, and ODD JOHN).  As a story of a "super-dog", it has its


scientist avoids Victor Frankenstein's to care for his creation and

Moreau's failure to treat his creations as more than mere

experiments.  The acceptance of Sirius by ordinary people in Wales

seems highly unlikely, but his plight, not entirely fitting into

either the human or the canine world, is conveyed very well.  This

is definitely written at a higher level than most of the other

finalists, with long stretches of philosophy that one doesn't find







                     Mark Leeper

* *

          A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a beer.

          Bartender replies, "For you, no charge."