MT VOID 12/30/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 27, Whole Number 1315

MT VOID 12/30/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 27, Whole Number 1315

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

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/30/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 27, Whole Number 1315

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

NJ Science Fiction Book Group (schedule):

The Old Bridge (NJ) Library's science fiction group meets at the library 7PM the fourth Thursday of every month (third Thursday in November). The upcoming schedule is:

    01/19/06: THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS (Stanislaw Lem)
    02/23/06: DYING INSIDE (Robert Silverberg)
    03/23/06: DARWINIA (Robert Charles Wilson)
    04/27/06: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (Philip K. Dick)

All are welcome; you do not have to be an Old Bridge resident. (If anyone cares, Mark and I are regular attendees.) [-ecl]

We Have Lost a Good Egg (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

On December 19 we lost one of the acting greats. Yu Fujiki was an actor who gravitated toward comic roles. He was in many films but will probably be remembered mostly for one great role. Remember in GODZILLA VS. THE THING Mothra's return to Japan in the form of an egg? One reporter who finds relevance in because he himself is eating his own egg (apparently in the news office)? This was the guy. In the right quarters he will be greatly missed. He was the Egg Man. He was not, however, the Walrus. That was Haruo Nakajima in the Japanese versions of GORATH. I believe he is still with us.>


Big Up (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

In my log of my trip to Japan, I talked about the weird word combinations you see in Japan. I commented that the Japanese loved the English language but had not gotten quite the hang of it. We would pass a restaurant called "Café, Isn't It." Then there was a department store called "Big Up." What the heck does Big Up mean? Well to my chagrin and embarrassment I was listening to a BBC radio program and somebody liked what someone else says and said "Big up to Julie." So the expression which sound so weird really does exist. I owe the Japanese an apology. It is the British who have not gotten the hang of the English language. [-mrl]

Why Do the Homeless Feed Birds? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

A while back (in the 02/11/05 issue of the MT VOID) I reviewed the documentary THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL. That is about a man with no visible means of support who tends to the feral parakeets on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. I posted my review to Usenet. These days doing even that is asking for trouble as there are a lot of people with large chips on their shoulders who look for opportunities to say something provocative and anti-social. Freedom of expression will always have people who exploit it for less than noble ends. And then there are the people who are out-and-out jerks.

One such self-styled curmudgeon, call him Dufus, responded to my review and asked, "Why is it every welfare bum or senile old bag become enamoured to the exclusion of all else, with animals?"

I responded, "That is an easy one. They know what it means to be marginalized and ignored by society, so they have sympathy for others in a similar situation. And they have the time to do something about it." I stand by that, but I think that it goes further than that. I think that there are several other reasons. These are generally people who do not have a lot of positive impact on other people's lives. At least they don't individually. Yet this is something they can do that is appreciated by the animals they feed. The animals may not really be grateful, but they are appreciative. So I suppose there is some egotistical reason for this charity. Further when you feed birds and you get a crowd coming around, you are important in their lives. If you are feeding pigeons in the park you are a VIP to them. If you change bench, they will undoubtedly follow you. The people who do the feeding may generally feel powerless and here they have a power of a sort.

Dufus might ask, what is the point of helping animals? Animals are not humans. There is the feeling that making animals happy is unimportant. For a long time the attitude of science was that animals did not even have emotions and hence appreciated nothing. They were treated as furry or feathered machines. Some people have to take that attitude. If a farmer were to worry excessively about what his animals were feeling he could not go about his business. Whether it is moral to eat animals or not is a more difficult issue and one I will not go into here. But certainly if you slaughter animals as part of your living, it is comforting to believe that animals do not have a capacity to suffer.

It seems, however, that giving free food to wild animals makes them happier. There are other issues to take into account. There may actually be good reasons to not want to feed pigeons and squirrels. One is that feeding animals sends the message implicitly that this is an environment in which food is plentiful. The result is that animals have larger families-- families that expect food to remain plentiful. Similarly feeding wild birds may actually change their migration plans. They may stick to an area where someone is feeding them well now, but will not be in this future. This means that feeding animals has got to be a longer-term responsibility than the people who feed do not want to commit to. The animals may be happy now, but in the end feeding them may be doing more harm than good.

The animals come to associate handouts with humans, and that may be dangerous to them if not every human is so kind to them. All of this is very relevant to Timothy Treadwell who has been discussed in the 12/02/05 issue of the MT VOID. He was the man who thought he was protecting grizzly bears in Alaska. (Though he wasn't really protecting them and they weren't really grizzly bears.)

But people who feed wild animals, even squirrels and pigeons, are doing it for multiple reasons. They do it because they feel they are helping the animals. In the long run this may or may not be true. But they are also doing it for some sort of nurturing instinct. It makes some people feel good to feed animals. I like to see my back porch thronged with squirrels and birds eating the seed I put out. Humans may have an instinctive need to see something that moves in ways not absolutely unpredictable. That is one level of companionship, the need to not be alone. When I put out seed I cannot imagine I am doing any more harm than someone who puts up a bird feeder is. But I am mostly feeding animals in my yard because it does something good for me. I do it year round, but I suppose this is the season for giving. [-mrl]

Google Scans (letter of comment by Dan Cox):

In response to Mark's article on Google scans in the 12/23/05 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Cox writes:

Many publishers have already opted out of Google's program, even before Google asked. Let's see what some have to say:

(I'm by the Theology, Philosophy, and Mythology books, so here goes.)

HOW CAN WE KNOW? by A. N. Wilson (uncorrected proof dated 1985). The copyright is 1985, and says "All rights reserved". No specific mention of scanning into a search engine, but it's probably included in "All rights".

Let's try the next book: HONEST TO GOD by John A. T. Robinson. No title page and no copyright page. Looks like they fell out, as the book is priced $1.65.

OUR FATHER ABRAHAM by Marvin R. Wilson (c. 1989, "All rights reserved").

ANTI-SEMITE AND JEW, by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by George J. Becker (c. 1948, c. renewed 1976, "All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.")

Here it is spelled out, in THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver (c. 1980, English translation c. 1983): "All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher".

Sounds like they already opted out. [-dtc]

Mark responds, "True. Those statements were made prior to knowledge of the Google plan. I think they will decide the Google plan is in their overall best interest. For those cases I suspect the publishers will eventually give permission." [-mrl]

Narnia Books (letter of comment by Rich Horton):

Rich Horton responded in rec.arts.sf.fandom to Evelyn's comments on the "Narnia" books in the 12/23/05 issue, saying:

"I am surprised in your review that you suggest that THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE is the best and most popular of the books. Idon't actually know what the general view is, but I certainly preferred all the next four, THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in particular, but also THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. It is my sense that LION is perhaps the weakest as pure story.

I think the subsequent films have a chance to be much better.

Also, while I don't really want to get into the "book order" controversy -- we've had that discussion on [rec.arts.sf.written]! --again I think it is widely accepted that the proper order remains publication order, and I have to believe even new readers are aware of this." [-rh]

Evelyn responded, "Almost everything I had heard about the series (at least until recently) seemed to focus on LION, though that is possibly because it was the first (for some definition of "first" :-) ). It is quite possible that other books are better, but I think many people have read only LION. This may be because they read it when it was considered the first book and didn't like it very much, and so stopped. [Regarding the order], the BBC Boxing Day broadcast [was] of the first four books in the new (internal chronological) order, in that order. 'There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And every single one of them is right!' (In this case, of course, there are 5040 ways of ordering the books and many of them are clearly wrong, but the basic philosophy applies. :-) )" [-ecl]

DUNE MESSIAH by Frank Herbert (copyright 1969 by Frank Herbert, Putnam, SFBC, 221pp) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

I think I figured out why DUNE MESSIAH is so reviled, or at least not well liked, by many folks in SF circles. It's not DUNE--at least not the DUNE they were used to.

DUNE was a novel on a grand scale; politics, intrigue, unique world building, and a dash of ecological commentary all rolled into a really nice adventure story that has become one of the most revered SF novels in history. DUNE MESSIAH, on the other hand, is none of these.

When Herbert wrote DUNE, I believe that he had a vision of where things could be headed if he continued to write novels in the "Dune" universe. In the original, he set up a path for Paul Atreides, Maud'dib, that could be anything but good. Paul was a messianic figure to the Fremen and all the people of Dune. He unseated the tyrannical Harkonnens as masters of the planet, and got rid of Emperor Shaddam IV to boot. He was the prophecy come true, the outworlder that would lead the people of Arrakis to freedom. As a result, they would go to the ends of the universe for him. There's really no good that can come of that. Which is why DUNE MESSIAH is perceived as a failure, compared to DUNE, by many people.

The story starts out twelve years after the end of DUNE. The Jihad that Muad'dib had seen in his visions had come to pass. He is Emperor now, and through his bloody holy war that has killed untold countless people, all in his name, he appears to have united the universe under one rule. However, people with power and vision--and in his case, it was true, prescient vision brought on by his genetic breeding which resulted in him being the Kwisatz Haderach as well as the spice melange which heightened his awareness--need to be careful, as eventually there will be plots against them.

There were plots against him, from all sectors, including the Fremen, the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, and his own religious leaders. Paul saw them all coming, and realized that the only thing to do was to follow the path as set up for him, follow the path that leads to his downfall.

And herein, I think, lies the perceived problem with DUNE MESSIAH. In DUNE, Paul is a hero, a prophet, a messiah that has come to save the people of Dune. In DUNE MESSIAH, Paul is not the person we met in the first book. He can be and is tyrannical, seemingly caught up in the trappings of his position as leader of the known universe. He never seems to be a kind, gentle ruler. He is almost the antihero. Readers don't necessarily care for antiheroes, and certainly not ones that were seemingly set up for great things.

DUNE MESSIAH is an interesting investigation into the trappings of power and the consequences for those who wield it. Herbert also explores the question of whether prescience affects the future--that is, did Paul head down the path he did because he saw it in his visions, and therefore felt that he had to make it true, or did he head down that path because the vision was true. It's a chicken and egg question. Really, no one comes out of this novel smelling like a rose--it's all bad, for Alia, the ghola Duncan Idaho, for Chani, for the Fremen, for the Guild, for the Bene Gesserit, for the Princess Irulan (who so desperately wants to bear Paul's heir). Bad, bad, bad.

Is it as good a novel as DUNE? No. Is it a great novel. No. But looking back at it from thirty-six years after its publication, it's a pretty good one--one that's not deserving of its reputation. And certainly, if Dune was not written with a sequel in mind, this one had to be, setting up the stage for CHILDREN OF DUNE. [-jak]

THE WARRIOR (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: The plot could have been a thoughtful Clint Eastwood anti-violence Western, but it is set in feudal India. The chief enforcer for an evil ruler resigns to live a life of peace, only to find his bloody past cannot be so easily shaken. As his former friend pursues him he learns the meaning of the brutality that he had formerly lived by. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

With a misleading title like THE WARRIOR, viewers might expect a martial arts action film, even if it does come from the unlikely source of India. This film, shot in 2001 but released by Miramax in the United States only in 2005, is more the South Asian equivalent of a stylish Western. The title person is not so much a warrior--he does not war--but an enforcer and killer for an evil tyrant. If the people from a village do not pay their taxes, these so-called "warriors" come to burn the village and kill. This story could have made an interesting Western or gangster film, but as an historical film from India it is rather unique. Writer-director Asif Kapadia appears to be using a Western style rather than Bollywood conventions for the film. It is too short for Bollywood, only about 86 minutes.

Irfan Khan plays Lafcadia, one of his ruler's chief enforcers. This ruler is something of a stereotype, the evil sovereign who overtaxes his people and makes few exceptions for bad crops. One day Lafcadia realizes that he and his horse warriors are killing people not for crime but for the simple bad luck of being poor. That puts his work and his past in an entirely different light. He resigns from his now unsavory occupation and decides to take his son Katiba with him and return to his birth home in the high mountains to the north. He must go to the high country to escape past in the starkly different climate, a very different world, and to find some value in his life. But resigning is not allowed and his former partner is sent to hunt him down and kill him, starting a new cycle of violence.

Lafcadia finds his journey to be a time to look inward and see the evil that violence does around him to come to terms with evil that marks his past. The evil he has done follows him, making his mere presence a danger to those he meets.

There are long stretches of this film with no dialog, but it is never dull. Roman Osin films the Indian landscapes from the sun- drenched landscapes dominated by yellows in the lowlands, to the cooler greens, blues, and whites of the snowy high country. Along the way we pass the majestic hill forts. Osin is a Western cinematographer, not an Indian, and he went on to do the current PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. This was his only Indian movie and his eye for color and composition made a major contribution to the film. While there is actually a good deal of violence here, we see little of it first hand. Much is just a foot or two outside the camera's view. The film is very nearly bloodless.

Irfan Khan, who previously played in SALAAM BOMBAY! and more recently played an Indian Macbeth in MAQBOOL, has very characteristic looks. His bulging eyes can make him look tearful or wise or dumfounded. Considering that this is a film set in feudal India of an indefinite era, the film should be surprisingly thoughtful and engaging for American audience. I would rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. [-mrl]

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

As Adam Roberts, he was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. As A3R, he wrote STAR WARPED. As A. R. R. R. Roberts, he wrote THE SODDIT and THE SELLAMILLION. As the Robertski Brothers, he wrote THE MCATRIX DERIDED. And now as Don Brine, he has written THE DA VINCI COD (ISBN 0-06-084807-3, or 978-0-06-084807-3). I haven't read the others (though THE SODDIT is on my shelf), but I suspect they are of similar style and quality to THE DA VINCI COD. Two things I'll say about that book--it's much shorter than THE DA VINCI CODE, and the conspiracy in it is almost as convincing. (The one problem is that it ultimately relies on a hitherto-unknown painting, while THE DA VINCI CODE relies on existing works of art, albeit often mis-described.) Brine/Roberts carries the parody through to every part of the book, including the disclaimer, the prologue, and so on. (I was reminded of Robert Sobel's alternate history FOR WANT OF A NAIL, which had a supporting bibliography and even a copyright page maintaining the alternate world.) I suspect people who found THE DA VINCI CODE convincing won't find this as amusing as I did.

(Apparently they are running out of ISBN numbers and they are being expanded from ten digits to thirteen, with the final transition on 1 January 2007. It appears that all existing numbers will have a prefix of "978" prepended, but the final digit [the check digit] will also change in most cases. The rule for calculating the check digit will change as well. See for all the gory details.)

THE ANNOTATED BROTHERS GRIMM with notes by Maria Tater (ISBN 0-7394-5173-1) is a much more academic approach to annotations than some of Norton's other works, with more notes about the variations on the tales, the psychology of the tales, and the ways that the tales were modified in various editions. The last is actually perhaps of the most general interest, proving that even back then authors were concerned about catering to the public. If the public wanted tales stressing the importance of obedience to parents, then the Brothers Grimm would oblige. If the public wanted negative stereotypes of Jews, it would get those too, as one of the stories in the appendix of currently "suppressed" tales indicates. What may surprise most people are the tales themselves, which almost all end with some very unpleasant and graphic punishment for the evil-doers (e.g., being sealed in a nail-studded barrel and rolled down the hill). Most collections of fairy tales these days have much milder endings-- the good are rewarded, but the bad are not punished except by *not* being rewarded: Cinderella marries the Prince, and the stepsisters have to stay where they are.

Our science fiction discussion group read UBIK by Philip K. Dick (ISBN 0-679-73664-6), a novel that we all agreed was fairly incomprehensible the first time through. At Philcon, the Philip K. Dick panel mentioned that John Carpenter's film DARK STAR seemed heavily inspired by this novel, and indeed the film does have the consultations with the dead (who seem to be in some sort of suspended animation even though they are dead), and the talking elevator (and bomb) in the film are similar to the voice of Joe Chip's apartment. Dick is an author we will be re-visiting; THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE was chosen for April. (See the listing earlier in this issue for the upcoming schedule.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Fame is proof that people are gullible.
                                          -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go to my home page