MT VOID 12/18/98 (Vol. 17, Number 25)

MT VOID 12/18/98 (Vol. 17, Number 25)

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/18/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 25

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: This site includes a "study guide" for the film. [-ecl]

Chain Letters: Dear Sir or Madam,

I recently received a chain letter from you with a puerile feel- good proto-prayer expressed as an incoherent thought surrogate. I am so pleased that you thought of me, and I hope you are not overly concerned about your possible upcoming martyrdom for your fatuous beliefs. Let me explain in some detail what I mean. The following facts have come to my attention.

-- Rudolf Hotze was on Death Row for the brutal dismemberment murder and robbery of Robert Rowland. In what was to be his last mail delivery he received a chain letter with some sentimental claptrap. He made up copies and was about to send me one, when decided it was not worth it. HE CHOSE NOT TO SEND ME A CHAIN LETTER. Two hours later his execution was commuted to a prison term. Last week due to DNA evidence he was released and now has a lucrative job.

-- Carol Johnson, got a chain letter in the mail and immediately thought of me. She made up a copy and crossed the street to MAIL ME THE COPY. She was so excited she never saw the UPS truck coming up the hill.

-- A man in Portland Oregon got a chain letter and immediately threw it in the wastebasket. Two days later he won the Irish Sweepstakes.

-- Robert Rowland got a copy of the same chain letter in the mail and he SENT ME A COPY. A week later he had a misfortune and his body was found in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

-- Scott Adams had the idea to send anti-chain-letter mail and today he writes the fantastically successful DILBERT comic strip making millions from what should be common knowledge.

-- A woman in Stowe, Vermont STARTED A CHAIN LETTER and one week later was diagnosed with lymph cancer.

Remember, chance favors people who are not moronic superstitious putzes. You already have made yourself a stupid jerk by giving me a chain letter. A very bad fate may be waiting for you after what you have already done. But there may still be time. Make ten copies of this letter and pass it to the next ten people who give you chain letters. I am doing this because in spite of the fact that you have shown yourself to be dumb as a piece of string, I still care for you and I am ready to forgive. [-mrl]

STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: In a relatively minor STAR TREK story, the "Next Generation" crew stop a miscarriage of justice against a group of six hundred people living a sort of idyllic existence on a magical planet. Beautiful special effects, but a somewhat lackluster story. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), low +1 (-4 to +4)
New York Critics: 6 positive, 3 negative, 7 mixed

Maybe STAR TREK is growing up and what we are seeing with STAR TREK: INSURRECTION is really a good thing. For once the Next Generation crew are not out trying to save the universe from a mad man trying to destroy it. The basic issue being discussed is one that gets seen in American courtrooms every year. The issue is one of eminent domain. Does the Federation have the right to relocate a group of six hundred colonists from a planet and turn that planet into a boon to the entire human race? Do the colonists have a right to say they do not want to give up their planet at the expense of the greater number of people? It is an important legal point. Certainly there are examples in the past when relocating people has been a great injustice. What is at stake are the principles of the Federation. But do we really care, given that we are living in a decade when many large institutions seem to be betraying their founding principles? The idea that the Federation of Planets may be no better than many of our own government agencies is hardly shocking today.

This principle of possession is an odd basis for what is in large part an action film. It certainly is a complex moral issue. Or it could have been a complex moral issue if the writers had the courage to leave it ambiguous. But not surprisingly they did not have that courage. Rest assured that when the movie is over--and in fact from very early in the film--the viewer will know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And what is more--I doubt that this is a spoiler--it is the pretty people who will be the good guys and the ugly people who will be the bad guys. So if the themes are a little more sophisticated than usual, the approach is not.

The Ba'ku are an advanced race who have abandoned their advanced technology and returned to a simple life in which they can do simple, pleasant, creative tasks all day long. They have found themselves a planetary Shangri-La that keeps them forever young. It is the kind of non-technological utopia where everybody has nice creative tasks like baking bread or making pottery and nobody within range of the camera has to do laundry, scrub mildew stains, or clean toilets. But another race, the Son'a, are plotting to get control of the Ba'ku's planet so that the Federation can analyze the magic of the planet. The Son'a people look like they were inspired by the Katherine Helmond character of BRAZIL. They look like they started human looking but have had too many facelifts so the flesh is pulled too tightly over their skulls. It is a kind of nightmare that people must have in affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles. There is also something of The Shadow in them as they and the Federation were able to build a large observation station within yards of the Ba'ku encampment, all the while clouding Ba'ku minds so they were never detected.

The Enterprise crew get involved on the side of the Ba'ku, defending their right to monopolize the positive effects of their planet. Curiously this film almost directly contradicts the theme of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN in which Spock tells us that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

The actors playing crew of the Enterprise do their standard competent acting job. It may take a little while to get up to speed remembering the personalities of each of the characters as one viewer told me. But they step through their roles with performances that are equally without flaw or excitement. Even the former great Patrick Stewart is a competent but pedestrian starship captain. Rejoining the crew is Michael Dorn as Worf who manages to be assigned to the Enterprise or to Deep Space Nine, whichever this agent prefers at the moment. F. Murray Abraham is the alpha Son'a, but even he cannot put much passion into his role. The actors are much upstaged by the usual exquisite Enterprise effects. Views of the old starship tacking in and out of nebulae where this film shows its real artistry.

The STAR TREK: INSURRECTION might make a decent episode or two of the TV-series, but it has hardly the makings of a classic film. It just is not sufficiently involving. I give it a 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

MAXIMUM LIGHT by Nancy Kress (Tor, 1998, SFBC edition, 255pp, ISBN 0-312-86535-X) (a book review by Joe Karpierz):

Within the science fiction field, Nancy Kress is well-known for her genetic/biological oriented stories, and MAXIMUM LIGHT is no exception. While not quite up to the caliber of her "Beggars" trilogy, MAXIMUM LIGHT is satisfying enough, I suppose, but a little disappointing.

MAXIMUM LIGHT chronicles the story surrounding the intersection of the lives of three characters: Nick Clementi, a respected 75-year- old physician; Shana Walders, a rebellious young woman attempting to get into the Army; and Cameron Atuli, a blithe (yet another term for gay) ballet dancer. The setting is Earth in the near future where the birth rate is perilously low due to low sperm counts. As a matter of fact, the birth rate is so low that parents will do almost anything to have/get children, including getting babies on the black market, or treating their pets as human children.

All this is due to the fact that genetic research is basically illegal; the people have decided that we've screwed ourselves up enough, therefore let's not risk anymore dangerous research that might mess us up more. As a result, there is a great deal of illegal research going on. One of the results of that research is the modification of chimpanzees to give them the appearance of human children by using a process known as vivifacture to graft human faces and extremities on to the chimps.

So how do our characters fit in? Walders has seen chimps with Atuli's face on them. Atuli's connection? Well, he may be blithe (or gay, or whatever), but he's FERTILE. So he's been kidnapped, and well, that's a little bit more than I want to say here. Clementi? Well, he is a respected physician who is on an advisory committee dealing with medical crises. And the fertility problem IS a crisis, and he's trying to get to the cause of it all. He sits in on a hearing wherein Shana discloses what she has seen.

The story is a decent one, I think, in the fact that it makes us think a little bit about a potential fertility problem and what it could do to our civilization. I'm sure the theme has been explored before, but I've never seen it. Kress handles the science and the story well (as she always does), but it seems to be missing something. While thought provoking, the novel doesn't seem to have the depth of the "Beggars" trilogy, or even some of her shorter works. It's a straightforward narrative, easy to read, and won't give you brain damage while you're trying to follow it. And even though I think that's a good thing in general, it just doesn't do anything for me this time.

Still, I'd say that you should go out and read it. At the very least it's entertaining, and that's what you want from a book anyway, isn't it? [-jak]

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

Quote of the Week:

     Mathematical proofs, like diamonds, are hard as well
     as clear, and will be touched with nothing but strict
                                   -- John Locke