MT VOID 08/15/97 (Vol. 16, Number 7)

MT VOID 08/15/97 (Vol. 16, Number 7)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/15/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 7

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: Fiona Webster's site of miscellaneous interesting literary writings and materials by her. [-ecl]


I was talking two weeks ago about Becky, Barbie's new wheelchair-bound friend. It caused quite a stir when it was discovered she could not roll right into Barbie's Dream House. It was sort of an education for Mattel to have to follow the Federal rules for accessibility. Barbie was a ground-breaker being anatomically correct, but it is a big jump to being politically correct. But-and remember you heard this here first--as long as dolls are now going to be instructive and training for the real world, Mattel has big plans for next Christmas. If all goes well, Mattel will bring out Mortalia, Barbie's dead friend. Mortalia, the doll with a built in end, will come with a literally endless set of accessories. First of all there is Mortalia's Dream Funeral Parlor. It has a whole big selection of plastic wood-finished coffins. It could have a beautiful mortuary just as Mortalia would have always wanted it. And all of Barbie's and Mortalia's friends can come to the funeral. And it goes without saying Mortalia's doll friends will all need new black outfits, but her good friend Barbie will have the loveliest black dress of all. Ken and some of his friends can carry the coffin. There is the cutest little grave site with a crank to let the coffin down into the grave. Or if you prefer Barbie's Dream Crematorium has a place to screw in a light bulb. It get really hot, and unlike the grave site you can only play the game once. But don't worry because after you have cremated Mortalia, the crematorium doubles as Barbie's Real-bake Oven.

You can have Mortalia's Dream Car with the breakaway windshield. Mortalia's Dream Car is blue. Then there will be Mortalia's friend she never knew, Fred. Fred come with his own red Dream Car with a little plastic six-pack on the seat. Fred comes with some minor contusions and lacerations, but Fred was a very lucky doll and was able to walk away from the accident. Pull the little ring in Fred's back and he says eleven different things like "she wasn't looking where she was going," and "hey, life goes on." Then there is a Joyce doll. Joyce is Mortalia's mother. She's dressed in black also but she has a MADD armband. She also has a black purse. In the black purse is little revolver. And the cutest license. Boy, Fred better look out.

Now, there are some educational toys! [-mrl]

FRAMESHIFT by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor Hardcover, 347 pp., $23.95, ISBN 0-312-86325-X) (a book review by Joe Karpierz):

I first experienced Robert J. Sawyer, or Rob, as he prefers to be called, by reading THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT when it was nominated for a Hugo. I had never heard of this guy before, so I had no idea what to expect. THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT was a terrific book, and I decided to check out more Sawyer.

The next Sawyer book I read was STARPLEX, nominated for a Hugo this year, which was also a fine story. Not long after that, I found out that Rob was appearing as guest of honor at Capricon, a local SF convention in the Chicago area earlier this year, and I decided to attend to find out more about him. At one of his readings, during the Q&A session, someone asked him about his science background. He was brutally honest. His reply was that he had absolutely zero scientific background, although at one point in his life he wanted to be a paleontologist, but found out that being a member of that profession in Canada (where he lives outside of Toronto) didn't pay very well. He said that what he does when he writes a novel is call experts in the field that he is writing about and says "I'm a science fiction writer and I want to get it right."

He gets plenty of help, and it shows, in his latest novel, FRAMESHIFT. The list of names in the acknowledgements section in the front of the book is a mile long, many of them from the Human Genome Project, which is the center piece of the story. His protagonist, Pierre Tardivel, is working at the Human Genome Project investigating junk DNA to see if it isn't so junk (By the way, I won't attempt to explain the science stuff here - Sawyer does a terrific job of doing it in the story). He has met and married Molly Bond, a professor at UC Berkeley, who has the dubious gift of being able to read a person's surface thoughts if they are within a certain range. Not to be left out, Tardivel has his own little genetic thing going on - he has Huntington's Disease, which is essentially a fatal nervous system disorder that also affects the brain. At this point, Sawyer shows off the amount of research he did for this novel, going into some detail about the genetics involved in both the telepathy (wherein we learn about the term frameshift) and the disease. And he does it without overwhelming the reader.

Tardivel works for Burian Klimus, who is a Nobel Prize winner (although a slightly tarnished one, we learn later). When he and Molly decide to have a child via in vitro fertilization, Klimus volunteers to be the sperm donor (since Pierre doesn't want to take the risk of giving his offspring Huntington's disease) AND pay for the procedure, which is very expensive.

Things start going a little haywire, as an attempt on Tardivel's life (the first thing told to the reader in the book) leads him to investigate a series of murders that appear to be a case of genetic cleansing, which leads him to believe that Klimus is actually Ivan the Terrible, a guard at Treblinka, one of the holocaust sites in Germany. Ivan Merchenko (his real name), has been in hiding for years. So, Tardivel believes that the father of his child has committed atrocious war crimes. Meanwhile, there are some shady dealings going on at the insurance company that Tardivel bought a health insurance policy from despite his Huntington's disease. He was insurable due to a new California health insurance law.

What Sawyer has created is a very good near future (or present time, really) thriller that, given the science involved, might not be too far from being possible (with the exception of the telepathy, but what the heck). This really is, in my opinion, closer to a mainstream techno-thriller than traditional SF, although the science is very well done, and makes me waffle between calling it SF or something else. And for all the science in it, we still get good backgrounds on all the main characters, developing them nicely, so Sawyer can't be accused of giving characterization the short end of the deal.

FRAMESHIFT is a fine novel from someone who is rapidly becoming a big name in the SF field. Check it out. [-jak]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

     The world is a vast temple dedicated to discord.
                                   -- Voltaire