MT VOID 11/20/98 (Vol. 17, Number 21)

MT VOID 11/20/98 (Vol. 17, Number 21)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 11/20/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 21

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 201-447-3652 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 2E-537  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: Infinity Plus - The SF & Fantasy Archive. An archive of fiction and non-fiction by authors such as Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, and James Patrick Kelley. [-ecl]

Holidays: Just a month or so ago we came to the time of year most Jewish kids used to look forward to when I was growing up. It is that period just after the holiday season, when we have no more Jewish holidays we have to pay attention to for about another six months. I know. That sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? Holidays are supposed to be something that you look forward to. They are the bright spots on the calendar. Well, wake up and smell the coffee. Not all cultures are alike.

For some time I have been acutely aware that disliking holidays is something that is not as true in other religions. In most religions holidays are things to look forward to. They are sort of a reward for the putting up with the daily grind. Frankly I always preferred the times that were not Jewish holidays. So did most of the Jewish kids I grew up with. I won't say that Jewish holidays are all unpleasant--mostly because I have been trained not to say it and I expect some sort of Divine Retribution. But I will say this. But no matter how bad things got when I was growing up, I usually could tell myself at least it wasn't a Jewish holiday.

Jews have two kinds of holidays, the unpleasant ones and the joyous ones. It takes an expert to tell them apart. The unpleasant ones we do like we have been doing them 3000 years and must carry on the tradition. The joyous ones we do with the uncertainty as if they were really invented some time around the time around the mid-60s and we still don't quite have the hang of them. Jews are just not quite sure how to enjoy themselves on the joyous holidays.

I don't know for sure what it is like in other religions, but Jewish holidays are not really exciting for a kid. Jewish holidays are more occasions of responsibility. For the serious holidays you have the responsibility to participate in certain rituals. For the pleasant holidays you have the responsibility to participate in certain rituals. But in addition you have the responsibility to enjoy the holiday. There might be some fun things to do, but usually they get skipped.

I guess that Christians really enjoy Christmas. Boy, do Christians enjoy Christmas. They can't wait for things like the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. This is early November and it has already been lit. That is about a sixth of the year that the thing is lit. I think by the year 2050 they will not bother ever shutting the thing down. Then you get to December and you cannot escape Christmas music just about wherever you go. Chanukah is not the same sort of thing, somehow. It is okay and it is nice to have a gift-giving occasion, but it is not like non-Jews think. First, to lay one myth to rest, you don't get a gift every night of Chanukah. We didn't anyway. We exchanged gifts the first night only. Chanukah was always a sort of low-rent version of Christmas--a sort of a "me too" holiday. Rather than all the tree-trimming and stocking-hanging and the other razzmatazz, in theory you celebrate Chanukah by eating potato pancakes and playing a game where you spin a top called a dreidl.

So after we got gifts on the first night, Chanukah had already outstayed its welcome and there were still seven nights to go. The traditional fun game of Chanukah is dreidl. I can't even tell you the letters on the side of a dreidl. The traditional Chanukah gift is money or pieces of chocolate clad in foil to look like money. Like the myth that Jews are particularly mercenary isn't bad enough: we give candy money at Chanukah. But believe it or not, Chanukah was always a very minor festival. It only became important these days because it was at about the same time as Christmas and it had some tradition of gift-giving. (More next week.) [-mrl]

GOING HOME AGAIN by Howard Waldrop (Eidolon Publications, ISBN 0-9586864-0-8, 1997, 223pp, A$19.95) (St. Martin's, ISBN 0-312-18589-8, 1998, 223pp, US$22.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Back in 1979, Baird Searles and friends wrote a book titled A READER'S GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION, the main part of which consisted of short biographies/descriptions of science fiction writers, each ending with a paragraph saying, "If you like [this writer], you should also try [these other writers]." At the end of R. A. Lafferty's section, they said, "There is no one who writes like R. A. Lafferty, so if you like one of his books find some more." If Howard Waldrop had been included in that volume, that's what they would have said about him as well.

For example, "El Castillo de la Perseverancia" is about Mexican masked wrestlers. (Note: It was written three years before Jesse "The Body" Ventura put wrestling on the front pages.)

"Flatfeet!" has the Keystone Kops careening through the major events of the twentieth century, perfectly oblivious to them. Even his "straight" alternate history stories ("You *Could* Go Home Again," "Household Words; Or, the Powers-That-Be," "The Effects of Alienation") focus on people like Thomas Wolfe, Charles Dickens, or Peter Lorre rather than Hirohito or Hitler.

"The Sawing Boys" is Waldrop's retelling of the Grimms' Brementown Musicians, a story that goes nowhere. "Why Did?" has its source in the "Little Moron" jokes that used to make the rounds, not exactly obvious material for a science fiction story. "Occam's Ducks" is about shooting "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" as a race film. (I suppose I should say that "race film" here means an all-black film for black audiences, of the sort produced into 1920s and 1930s, and not a film about horses. With Waldrop you could never be sure.) And lastly is "Scientifiction," which I am at a loss to describe.

Waldrop also includes lengthy afterwords for each story, and a complete bibliography of his work. He writes an introduction which follows one by Lucius Shepard. Even if you had all the stories (and given that one appeared in a World Fantasy program book and another is original to this book, that is unlikely), the book would be worth it for the supplementary material.

I have no idea why this got its first publication in Australia, but now that it's available in the United States, Waldrop fans here have no excuse for not buying it. [-ecl]

1998 Toronto International Film Festival: (film reviews and commentary by Mark R. Leeper) (part 7 of 10)


CAPSULE: John the Baptist is sent from Heaven to see is the world is worth saving. He must find some sign of hope in the people of Newfoundland. This is little more than a TV skit in movie form. It is watchable and apparently will be released to theaters in Canada, but it is unlikely to be seen on the international market. It is diverting but hardly a serious piece of cinema. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), 0 (-4 to +4) Minor spoilers in this review.

CLAY PIGEONS (United States)

CAPSULE: A non-murderer who broke the law avoiding a possible murder charge finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble. The plot is tightly written and reminiscent of Hitchcock's FRENZY. Tightly paced and well acted. Only the very last sequence rings false. Rating: 8 (0 to 10), high +2 (-4 to +4)


We could sleep in a little more this morning since our first film was not until 10. We ate at a sit-down restaurant. I had eggs and toast. We got to the theater and found a line. I guess the show from last night had not let out. Right.

THE HOLE (Taiwan/French with subtitles)

CAPSULE: A science fiction allegory. At the Millennium a lethal contagious virus has hit Taiwan. Officials have cut off water and other services to the center of contagion. Life there devolves and degenerates. A man in an apartment has a hole in his floor and with it harasses his downstairs neighbor. A slow but harrowing film to be missed if possible. Rating: 2 (0 to 10), low -1 (-4 to +4)

THE GIRAFFE (German/Swiss, In English and German with subtitles)

CAPSULE: An anti-Semitic incident in Germany sparks a murder and starts events connected with a 50-year old mystery involving the Holocaust and two people claiming to be the same person. This is a well-crafted thriller. Rating: 8 (0 to 10), high +2 (-4 to +4) Minor spoilers in this review.

Mr. Submarine for lunch. I had a BBQ rib sandwich, but it will be my last chance to eat before late tonight. At a film festival there is time to watch film, eat, stand in lines, sit in dark theaters waiting for films, walk between buildings, sleep occasionally, hit the john. That is just about everything. I am surprised I have been able to fit in time to write reviews.

CURE (Japanese with subtitles)

CAPSULE: A series of killings, each by a different killer seems to have elements in common. One killer may be using mind control to avoid being caught. A Japanese film with an effective concept for a serial killer who would rival Hannibal Lector. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4) Spoiler warning: nearly any description of the premise will be something of a spoiler.

LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE (Spanish with subtitles)

CAPSULE: A tender love about love, fate, and the power of coincidence. This is the story of Ana and Otto who love each other from childhood, become foster brother and sister, lovers, and finally have linked fates within the Arctic Circle. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), low +2 (-4 to +4)

Following that we joined the crowds waiting to see APT PUPIL. I sat next to a woman who was enthralled by Stephen King and horror writers in general. I asked her if she liked Richard Matheson and she had not heard of him. I told her something about him.

APT PUPIL (United States)

CAPSULE: A boy fascinated by the Holocaust finds a fugitive war criminal living in his neighborhood. What follows is a battle for power of each over the other. The theme of the Holocaust seems misused. Good performance from Ian McKellan (so what else is new?). Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4 to +4)

Back at the room I had some fruit juice and a candy bar.


Well, we can get a late start this morning with our first film not on until 10 AM. Breakfast was at the Coach House. I realized afterward that I had been overcharged. I will be more careful in the future.


CAPSULE: The woman Victor loves is marrying another guy and his job is going down the tubes. Then two magical junkmen give Victor a chance to relive the last eight months again and he tries to avoid the same mistakes. The characters are tiresome and familiar. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), 0 (-4 to +4)


CAPSULE: The overly familiar story of a gang of criminals hitting the road. After initial success mistakes and internal tensions take their toll. The moral is, of course, that crime does not pay. What makes this one worthwhile is the fact that James Woods just sizzles. Also starring Melanie Griffith. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), low +2 (-4 to +4)

[to be continued] [-mrl]

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