MT VOID 04/30/04 (Vol. 22, Number 44)

MT VOID 04/30/04 (Vol. 22, Number 44)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/30/04 -- Vol. 22, No. 44

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. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Finally They Are Starting To Understand (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The Internet Movie Database gives this plot summary for the upcoming film THE GODSEND:

"After their young son, Adam (Bright), is killed in an accident, a couple (Kinnear, Romijn-Stamos) approach an expert (De Niro) in stem cell research about bringing him back to life through an experimental and illegal cloning and regeneration process. When Adam comes back to them, however, he's... different...." Well, of course he's different. A clone is no more similar than an identical twin and probably less similar. And there will be an age difference. It's movies that keep telling us clones are identical. Actually there are two kind of cloning science fiction horror films. There are those that supposedly terrify you that clones won't be identical, like THE GODSEND. The others try to terrify you that clones will be identical, like the THE 6TH DAY. It is only a few years that we have known what DNA is. Now we are terrified that people will be coming along with identical DNA. Identical twins are scary, huh? [-mrl]

Watson, the Needle (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

You know, even when I was a kid there were very few horror films that really scared me. I was scared by the shower of deadly sparks from the cobra-head ray machine in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I think that I was frightened by the scene in THE FLY when Patricia Owens pulls the cowl off of Al Hedison. That was a shock moment that was for me what the unmasking was in the original THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. I may have even been scared by the first attack in PSYCHO. There was not much else that comes to mind. I think that PSYCHO was the last time I was ever frightened by a scene in a film. These were fairly well crafted films. But one other film that really scared me was THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN. That is not a very good film at all. And most of the film is just not very effective. Yet it has one really powerful and scary moment. Some scientist thinks he knows how to make the Amazing Colossal Man stop growing. They have some sort of an anti-growth drug and they put it into a hypodermic syringe about six feet long. It takes two of the doctors to take this huge needle and poke it into Glenn Manning's calf. We see the huge head wince in pain. He pulls the syringe out of leg and in rage examines it. He grimaces and throws the needle like a dart at the offending doctor. It hits the doctor like a javelin, knocks him down, and pins him to the ground.

That was a pretty scary scene when that film came out in 1957 and I was only seven years old. But you know it has lost its impact with today's kids. Part of it is that they are used to what I call "fish-hook horror films." Getting skewered by a hypodermic needle is small threat compared to the horrors put in films these days. But another reason is that injections are not the same. Metallurgy has improved. Hypodermic needles these days can be made very, very thin and disposable. They can be coated with a thin coating of a non-stick material. Nobody knew how to do that in the 1950s. Then they had to be sterilized between usages and had to stand up to several penetrations. If they bent, they were useless. So they had to make that needle strong and that meant making it broad. Needles really were a good deal thicker when I was small. That meant that when it went in you really felt it. It had one heck of a sting to it. Hours later it still felt like that needle was in your arm. The doctors and the adults on children's television and, of course, parents always said it didn't feel like anything. And this was how many children first discovered how adults use "the expedient lie." The simple fact is that it did hurt. A lot. And the adults probably in their heart of hearts knew or remembered that it hurt. But the world would have been a better place if hypodermic shots did not hurt and the adults really were going in for the concept of the power of positive thinking. They believed in the principle that if you believe something is true, it will be. Kids of those days learned another principle by this experience: "Don't trust anyone over 30."

My family has a story that tells of when my mother took the three kids in for their polio shots. I am not sure what age we were, but I think I must have been about two, my brother five, and my sister eight. My mother may have actually believed in good faith all the propaganda that said that polio shots were really not painful. She had the choice of having the doctor take the three kids, one at a time, or take all three kids at the same time. Well, if polio shots were not that bad, it was better that the second and third child saw that it was no big deal. So all three of us kids were herded into the doctor's office together. I assume my sister was first, being the oldest. She probably went off bravely to the doctor to set a good example for the two boys. My sister liked being a good example. And we thought of her just about what younger siblings always thought about good examples. She probably marched up and put out her arm. And the doctor pierced her arm with this pointed needle. The needle's diameter might have been a reasonable for pasta; it wasn't so great a diameter for sharp steel. Suddenly my sister found herself in a world of hurt. She shrieked and started crying.

I want to tell you we were really sympathetic. I'd like to tell you that. Somewhere deep down maybe we were. But the sympathetic fibers of our beings were well covered over by fibers that were telling us she didn't like it at all and we were next. I'd like to tell you that my bother and I were brave. I'd like to tell you that. Somewhere deep down maybe we were. But the courageous fibers of our beings were well covered over by fibers that were telling us we wanted to avoid getting that injection any way we could. The weapons in our arsenal included 1) crying, 2) kicking, 3) biting, 4) screaming, 5) struggling, and 6) running. Because we were basically good kids our defense policy probably de- emphasized (3) and (6). So far the doctor had gotten three screaming kids from only one injection. Two more to go. We very soon found out what being good kids got us. A kid that age also feels a little like the parent, who had been loving and gentle as far back as the kid can remember, has suddenly decided to betray all that confidence. It is not a pretty sight.

I think this incident and others like it may have been at the basis of my fear generated by the scene from THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN. All on has to do is multiply the pain of that shot by the ratio of cross-sections of needles to see why that film was really scary for me.I got a wasp sting not too long ago and I think it was not as painful as that 1950s polio shot.

It wasn't many years later that you were immunized by eating a doctored sugar cube. Today people just don't remember how really painful shots were. Thank goodness for Dr. Albert Sabin.

What brings back these memories is that April 18 the BBC reported Harvard University researchers have discovered that that last bit of pain that still remains from injections soon may be no longer necessary. A new drug delivery injection method was discovered at Harvard. They shoot a stream of gas at the skin's surface. There are tiny abrasive particles in the gas that cut little micro- tunnels through the skin. They are too small to alert your nervous system, but not so small that fluids do not pass through them. The drugs or whatever can then be administered by a moist pad over the affected area. How does it feel? The subjects felt a gentle stream of air on their skin in the preparation. Then they felt the wet pad. The technique is called microscission. The claim is that this technique could lead to painless blood donation and painless administration of injections in the future. But be warned. The people who are claiming this may be over thirty. [-mrl]

Beef Testing (letter of comment by Nathan Justus):

Comments on my article about the Government preventing beef from being tested:


What a great addition to the MT-Void! Watch out, though, you're starting to question big brother here ... soon, you'll be a raving Libertarian, believing that perhaps the goal of the government is to create a stable currency and a simple system of laws, and little else--and that it shouldn't interfere in every aspect of our lives, as it seems bent on doing.

Why, believing that is downright un-American!

The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum....

--Nathan Justus

I am not sure I want the system of laws to be really simple any more than I want medical textbooks to be really simple or a map of Manhattan to be really simple. I want a system of laws that is a fairly close approximation to my morality and that may be complex and messy to fit a complex and messy world. [-mrl]

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

Paul Di Filippo's FUZZY DICE (ISBN 1-902880-66-8, PS Publishing, UK) is one of a new sub-genre of science fiction written by Di Filippo, Rudy Rucker, and Clifford Pickover (among others), though its roots go back to Edwin Abbott. If the sub-genre has a name, I don't know it. It's not "mathematical science fiction" per se, but that's a big part of it. I would describe it as science fiction with a heavy underpinning of quantum physics and geometry. In FUZZY DICE, the narrator is given a yo-yo and a Pez dispenser that let him travel between alternate worlds (as in the multiple- worlds theory of quantum physics). One of them, a cellular automata world, has a lot of similarities to Abbott's FLATLAND. Another is a more traditional alternate world in which hippies have taken control. (Rudy Rucker provides the introduction with a summary on page five of all the worlds visited. Don't read it first.)

All this is imbued with a sense of humor. For example, when the narrator is first visited by the being who gives him the yo-yo and dispenser, a creature he describes as "a self-similar metal shrub of fractal dimensions", he responds thusly: "I scooted back, bumping into a rack of abridged audiobooks. 'No way! I don't even know why I'm listening to you! You're probably just a hallucination anyhow. I knew I was on the verge of cracking up, but I didn't realize I had finally gone over the edge! Or maybe I fell asleep reading that boring science book. An undigested blot of Egg McMuffin, that's what you are!' I slapped myself across the face to wait myself up, and it hurt like the dickens."


This was published as a limited edition in Britain, so whether it will ever become widely available in the United States or even Canada is unclear. (Canada is a good place to buy British books-- the exchange rate is reasonable, and the shipping charges are much better. I usually save up my purchases for our annual trip to Toronto, but I have also used .)

Isaac Asimov's THE RETURN OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS (ISBN 0-786-71248- 1) collects some stories from each of the previous "Black Widowers" volumes as well as some previously uncollected stories. The Black Widowers is a men's club which meets monthly for dinner and somehow always gets a puzzle to solve from whoever their guest is. When I started this volume, I found myself knowing the solutions early on in each story, but I thought it might be because I remembered them from the earlier volumes. But this continued even in the stories that I hadn't read before, so unless Rupert Sheldrake is right about morphic resonance, the only explanation is that the puzzles are really pretty obvious. Or maybe I'm getting better at this. I can remember liking this series years ago, but it seems fairly simplistic now.

Philip Carraher's ALIAS SIMON HAWKE: FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK (ISBN 1-4033-6992-5, 1st Books Library) is another collection of mystery stories, in this case a novella and three short stories set during a time when Sherlock Holmes was incognito in New York after the incident at Reichenbach Falls. Carraher tries, and his evocation of 1890s New York is a reasonable substitute for Victorian London, but I miss Watson's narrative style.

Last week I said I gave up on one Hugo nominee, and this week it was another. I had started Dan Simmons's ILIUM a while ago and decided it wasn't my cup of tea, but felt I should give it another try. Well I did, and gave up just about the same place as last time. (In part it was the idea that after finishing these six hundred pages that I wasn't enjoying, I would still have read only half the story.) I also decided to skip Jose Saramago's BLINDNESS, though it's hard to judge whether the problem was Saramago or the translator or the fact that I was stuck reading it in a large-print edition. Certainly whoever decided that the use of quotation marks or paragraphing were unnecessary for dialogue is partly to blame. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           It is terrifying to see how easily, in certain 
           people, all dignity collapses. Yet when you 
           think about it, this is quite normal since 
           they only maintain this dignity by constantly 
           striving against their own nature.
                                          -- Albert Camus

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