MT VOID 07/18/03 (Vol. 21, Number 3)

MT VOID 07/18/03 (Vol. 21, Number 3)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/18/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 3

Table of Contents

El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

The Unkindest Cut:

Don't expect any great thoughts this issue. These are the lazy silly days of summer and it is time to take a little break. This week the editorial is going to be a "beach read."

I recently came back from a trip in which I spent a lot of evenings in hotel rooms and saw more commercials than I ever see at home. At home most of what I watch is off VCRs and I fast-scan the commercials. Fervently. When I travel I get to see a little more of what the rest of the country is seeing. Nowadays the commercials may be more interesting than the programming round them.

I see that TV is now running ads for the new Gillette disposable shaver. Every two years they come up with ads about how their old shavers were junk. There have a scientific staff who is researching the art of shaving and coming up with new shaving systems that keep up with the latest advances. I picture a laboratory with a bunch of lab rats. Each rat is covered with white fur except for the muzzle. It has been shaved clean by some scientist. I can picture a little pink chin sticking out and a mouth as smooth as shammy. It is a face that I am sure every female lab rat just wants to kiss. But till recent advances it has not been possible to create such a rat. Now they have the design right. Someone came up with the right idea. The new razor plays music for a closer cleaner and more pleasant shave. No, really do you know what they have done? They have added another blade. I guess when they went from one to two blades they figured that they had the problem licked. I remember the ads of the guys with their mugs shaved clean as a bambino's posterior. Now years later they realize it still didn't shave right after all. They missed the concept but just a bit. It wasn't two blades it needed--it was three. Three is the magic number. In another few years they will boost sales by going to four. By the year 2023 they will be up to seven blades and shave cream and aftershave pishers to give the close, comfortable shave that the 2017 six- blade model just could never give the user. Now you know why I grew a beard. If Gillette's razors get any more complicated I'm switching to Occam's. "Occam's Razors for a clean, simple, comforatable shave." They seem to respect simplicity. But an extra blade gives that feeling that you are really doing something for the shave. Whether it helps or not, it just feels better to have that blade there. It is a placebo.

That brings me to the issue of placebos. Apparently medicine has made great strides in what is called "placebo therapy." This, to my mind, seems to be a positive advance. I was reading that a major study found that neither Zoloft nor St. John's Wort was any more effective than placebos in patients with major depression. Now what worries me is that if they prove it is effective enough the FDA is going to decide to regulate it to a much greater extent than they do now. I expect that placebos will be available then only by a doctor's prescription. I think we have to protect our right to buy sugar pills over the counter and to prescribe placebos for ourselves. For years I have been prescribing placebos for myself. I particularly like the colored ones with chocolate inside. I prescribe them for myself all the time. (Oops. The back of my hand is itching. I think I better go take some placebos.) We have to support our right to buy sugar pills over the counter.

We could probably take this a lot further. I would like to bring onto the market Placebocin, a simple mauve pill. It is guaranteed to be totally "non-puissant," unlike those other drugs on the market. I have already started on this project. I am waiting to hear back from the SweeTarts Corporation to see if they want to produce the pill. I think that if they don't want it I can go to the people who make Altoids. I am not sure I want to make the pills that strong, of course. I would like to get one of those big ads in the newsmagazines where the pill looks good on one page and then you have the back of the page with all the side effects in tiny print. I think we can skip the tiny print since the only side effect is probably obesity. And you would have to take a lot of those pills for that. I guess we have to worry about diabetics. Hey, now there's an idea. After a couple years we can make a sugar-free Placebocin.

Now, how do we open up the market for veterinary placebos? [-mrl]

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

This week's column will be somewhat short; I was at Readercon, which manages to add a lot to my reading list, but doesn't give me much time to read what currently on it.

Lyda Morehouse has a series of religious-based science fiction/fantasy. Currently there are three, ARCHANGEL PROTOCOL, FALLEN HOST, and MESSIAH NODE. They are supposedly specifically respectively Christian-oriented, Muslim-oriented, and Jewish- oriented, which makes me wonder what the fourth (last?) volume will be. I say supposedly because I read only the first one and part of the second before giving up--it just didn't seem to be progressing very much. They are, as I noted, both science fiction and fantasy. Fantasy, because there are angels and God and all sorts of other religious beings. Science fiction, because there are advanced computers and networking and futuristic bombs (including one that has turned the entire Bronx into glass). And there are also elements of the hard-boiled detective story. I found the premises and milieu interesting, but feel it would have been better if paced a bit faster.

I read Alan Moore's graphic novel THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN in preparation for seeing the movie. Of course, because of a combination of Readercon, reviews, and a frozen shoulder, I haven't actually seen it yet, but I do recommend the book. I have frequently found graphic novels confusing, with the art incomprehensible enough at times (to me, anyway) to obscure information needed to understand it, but that was not the case here.

Jules Verne's "Dr. Ox's Experiment", published as a novel with illustrations, is really only a novella, and a fairly predictable one. There's some attempt at social satire and commentary, but Verne is better at the "techie" stuff (in this case, a gas that causes aggression), while Wells was the sociologist.

Dale R. Cozort's AMERICAN INDIAN VICTORIES (published by is an odd book. It is not, strictly speaking, alternate history, but rather a discussion of how the conquest and colonization of the Americas went, and a discussion of a set of historical changes with brief suggestions of possible results of these changes. As alternate history it seems like taking the easy way out--coming up with a list of ideas for stories without actually writing the stories. But as history, this is perfectly acceptable, and I would recommend this to people interested in the historical aspects of that period. (By the way, this in general is a period well before the "Indian Wars" of the 19th century, so there are no alternate Custers et all here.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           What I give form to in daylight is only one 
           per cent of what I have seen in darkness.
                                          -- M. C. Escher

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