MT VOID 01/27/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 31, Whole Number 1319

MT VOID 01/27/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 31, Whole Number 1319

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/27/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 31, Whole Number 1319

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

Karloff Festival in New York City:

The Film Forum in new York City will be having a one-week Boris Karloff festival, with the following schedule:

February 3/4 Fri/Sat  (2 films for 1 admission) 	
	FRANKENSTEIN 		1:00, 4:00, 7:00, 10:00
	THE MASK OF FU MANCHU 	2:30, 5:30, 8:30
February 5 Sun  (2 films for 1 admission)
	BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN 	1:05, 4:10, 7:15, 10:20
	THE MUMMY 		2:40, 5:45, 8:50
February 6 Mon  (3 films for 1 admission)	
	THE RAVEN 		2:15, 6:30, 10:45
	GRAFT 			1:00, 5:15, 9:30
February 7 Tue  (3 films for 1 admission)	
	THE BLACK CAT 		2:30, 7:00
	THE OLD DARK HOUSE  	4:00, 8:30
	THE BODY SNATCHER 	1:00, 5:30, 10:00
February 8 Wed  (2 films for 1 admission) 	
	THE LOST PATROL 	1:00, 4:30, 8:00
	THE CRIMINAL CODE 	2:30, 6:00, 9:30
February 9 Thu  (2 films for 1 admission) 	
	TARGETS 		1:00, 4:30, 8:20* 
		*8:20 show introduced by Peter Bogdanovich
	THE HAUNTED STRANGLER 	2:50, 6:20*, 10:30
		*6:20 show introduced by producer Richard Gordon

See for details.

National Security Issue (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I recently commented that we must rebuild New Orleans because we cannot let the hurricanes think that they have won. This apparently echoes the government's stance. The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is stone-walling Congress on investigating the preparation for and the response to Hurricane Katrina I guess this is considered a national security issue and we cannot let the hurricanes know the weaknesses in our defense strategy. [-mrl]

Found in the Morning Phobia (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

You never know what you will find in the phobia when you are a brother/daddy. For example, I found this in my inbox. It is reproduced intact:

------- Forwarded message -------
Subject: Greetings
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 11:11:16 -0500

Dear Brother/ Daddy,

Sorry for choosing to reach to you through this phobia, it's just due to the emagency. I am Wilson Welsh, the only son of late Mr/Mrs welsh who died in fatal accident long ago and before he died his a politician business Man in Siere leone while he was in business he was in to Gold, Diamond & Cocoa exports to foriegn Countries. Presently, the government has not treated my family fairly through their stringent policies against former political leaders and my father has no record of mischief while in the office.

However,my late father has in a safe suspence account abroad the sum of $8.5M deposited in a credit commission. I have the courage to relate to you concerning our situation because of what we are passing through now and believe as aservant of you will be of immense assistant to us,and in handing it over to you will give strenght and confindence of better future.

I want you to recieve the money and pay it into your account for the family safely. I will want you to decide your compensation for assisting me secure this money and summerily you will hep me and my to come over to a country of your choice where i will continue my normal life because living in this continent is sort of misery.

Contact me on my private email Address: ( so that i can forward to you all the neccessary details.for furtherance.

we shall discuss on how I will come over there to meet you as the money enters into your account.

Kindly send your phone and fax numbers for easy communications.

Best regards


More Thoughts on Religion and Ethics (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Few subjects will start as much discussion as religion and there are a few points that I want to amplify on from the recent editorial on the subject. In the United States many of us believe that religion is the source of morality. That is why there is the current issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in public courthouse settings. My feeling is that religions, like corporations, are many and varied. Some are more moral than others. But I do not consider religions to be the source of our morality any more than corporations are.

I mentioned in the previous article (in the 01/06/06 issue of the MT VOID) that of the European and American democracies, those which had the least social problems seem to be the most secular. On the other hand those that had the strongest religious influence also seemed to have the greatest degree of social disfunction. One possible cause, as I suggested, was that a major function of religions is the forgiveness of sins. People who feel that immoral actions can always be forgiven through religious means may drawn to the religion for that reason. Rasputin is said to have believed that people who have not sinned cannot be truly repentant. One had a responsibility to sin so that one could sincerely repent. Or it may be just that religions flourish where they are the most needed. One does not need to place Band-Aids where there are no wounds. Perhaps one has less need for religion where people are more naturally ethical.

But religions have historically exploited their supposed power to forgive immorality. Once we see God as the source of all ethics, morality, and grace, our sense of good is given over to the religion to control. In the Middle Ages churches sold indulgences. If someone contributed to the Church they would be doing good that would offset and even compensate for their sins. That was how the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitalers, both of which started as religion-based charities, became wealthy and powerful. Essentially they, like churches, were saying people can be forgiven or at least counterbalance the unethical things they have done if they paid money to the religion or to the charity. Some religions still claim the power to forgive evils done to humans. Certainly a lot of good has been done in the name of these religions. But a lot of sins against people have been supposedly expiated by giving the Church a cut.

For me, speaking just for myself, religion, at least the part of religion of value, is all about ethics. I think the value of a religion is not in ceremony, not in their view of science, not metaphysical understanding, and not in faith. For me a specific religion is a brand name on a code of ethics, and some brand names are better associated with quality than others. But doing good is not the real function of a religion.

Functionally a religion is a set of self-reproducing ideas. Like a living organism its primary purpose is self-preservation. It is what has been called "a meme." A meme is just what I described, a self-reproducing set of thoughts. The dictionary describes it as " A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." Memes survive by being passed from one person to the next. And their main function, whether or not by design, is to preserve themselves from going out of existence. Religions that do not preserve themselves by being passed to new people--either by inheritance or conversion--die out and disappear. The religions that survive today are ones that are effective at spreading to new believers.

And the means of spreading a meme need not to have much to do with reality. Fictions can be used to spread religions. Through history there has been all kinds of chicanery in the name of religion. In the Middle Ages there were enough relic pieces of the True Cross sold to make for a very large cross indeed. Later the Church acknowledged that too much wood was being sold to all be pieces of the True Cross. Still it did not want to abandon a trade--honest or not--that helped to encourage faith. So the Church endorsed the concept of "miraculous multiplication," that the cross had actually gotten bigger to accommodate the relic industry and all the pieces are authentic. Morality and truth fell by the wayside in the cause of fostering faith.

I don't know if the association of religious items with control of vampires originated with Bram Stoker, I have been told that it is in the folklore. But certainly at some level there is the concept that religion is insurance against attacks of vampires. There are no vampires, of course, but what is good for the religion is too frequently thought to be the highest form of morality, trumping even the virtue of truthfulness. It is hardly surprising that religions take credit for being the source of morality. And it is generally accepted.

Still, the moral teachings of most religions are largely common sense and intuition. When they contradict common sense and intuition they are generally wrong. People do seem to know what to do to be moral, even if they may lack the inclination. I don't know what would be a truly moral principle that would run counter to common sense. I don't think common decency sense ever justifies stoning a person to death, but there are religions that endorse the action. Common sense says that painfully killing someone who poses no tangible threat to anybody is immoral, though there are certainly some people who do it in the name of God. Moral principles that run counter to common sense are generally not really moral. I seriously doubt that there is a God who sanctifies any action that common sense says is immoral. I guess that would rule as immoral any sort of religious war.

Most people leaven the teachings of their religion with common sense anyway. Few societies would take the Bible writings literally as a definition of morality. For example there is a Biblical rule against wearing a mixture of wool and linen in the same piece of clothing. Deuteronomy 22:11 says, "You shall not wear combined fibers, wool and linen together." I am not sure that any but the most extreme believe that really is a moral rule.

There are places where the Bible does not far enough. The Bible does not condemn rape, but most societies do. Deuteronomy 22:25 says that the punishment for rape of an unengaged woman is to be forced to marry her, paying a fee to the family.

There are places where the Bible rules go too far. A literal reading of the Bible says that people are not allowed to lend money at interest.

Exodus 21:27 says, "and he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death." At the very least that seems to be an over-reaction. I would say that is even an immoral attitude.

I think that even people who credit religion with their morality are really getting their morality from plain common sense. [-mrl]

A. E. Van Vogt (letter of comment by Guy Ferraiolo):

In the 11/25/05 issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn included the quotation, "[A. E. Van Vogt] was the Wile E. Coyote of SF. He ran off the cliff in 1939 and looked down sometime in the 1950s." [John Boston, quoted by Rich Horton]. Then in the 12/02/06 issue there was a letter of comment on this. And now Guy Ferraiolo writes:

I take the comparison of A. E. Van Vogt to the Coyote to mean that, like good old Wile, he was doing the impossible because he hadn't noticed that he was doing the impossible, either that he was doing it, or that it was impossible, or both. Another way of looking at it is that Van Vogt was breaking lots of rules, not necessarily in a way that made his work "not SF", but literary rules. I don't think most literary critics would approve of a major plot change every 750 words, but it's my understanding that at least THE WORLD OF NULL-A (TWoNA) was written according to that principle. It certainly seems like it was. I remember reading the chapter where the hero is gunned down and then going to the next chapter and he's alive again, and going back and re- reading the end of the last chapter, looking for what I'd missed. I hadn't missed anything, but wow, Van Vogt sure had my attention. And it's not a trick or something just for the shock value, it's the key point of the whole work. Wow! BTW, when I was reading it, I was reading it under the covers with a flashlight. It was a while ago. And it still has impact.

But, despite these odd literary maneuvers, his purportedly most outre work was really *great* SF, as an exploration of ideas. He simply choose to explore whole sophisticated systems of thought. TWoNA is an extrapolation of General Semantics, likewise Voyage of the Space Beagle is about General System Theory. That's a lot more advanced thinking than "What if there were a big robot" or "What is a catastrophe left only one person alive" or stuff like that, no matter what you think about GS or GST. [-gf]

Top Ten Lists (letter of comment by Bill Higgins):

In the 01/13/05 issue of the MT VOID, Mark wrote regarding his "Top Ten" list, "My taste seems to be going toward art house films. Only two films here played in the "neighborhood" theaters. I think all the rest are what we call "art house" films. The independent studios are making the best films. [-mrl]

Bill Higgins wrote in to add, "It's also noticeable that only one of the top ten, or twelve, KING KONG, is unambiguously fantastic. (Correct me if I am wrong.) I know you from SF fandom and I think of you as a science fiction (and horror) guy. One would expect you to be biased toward SF, fantasy, and horror. Make no mistake--I read all of your reviews and am very glad to have them. Often they have led me to a good film I might not otherwise have seen. I guess the makers of fantastic films will have to try harder next year!" [-bh]

Mark responds:

You are probably not going to like this answer. I know I am not going to like this answer. You bring up a good point, and I did not think much about this until you raised the question.

I consider that BEE SEASON is also fantastic, at least by my interpretation. There were more films in the genre of the fantastic that I liked. You would think that liking this genre, I would have more. Actually the reverse is the case.

First, consider this. Suppose you have to choose which of three subordinates to promote, two of whom are no relation and one is your son. Also suppose you really do not want to give in to nepotism. That might actually prejudice you against your son. It may be a sort of over-compensation.

Similarly I am trying to ignore my natural bias when I choose the top ten films. I am trying to think mainstream because I am making my list for mainstream readership, not specifically for SF fans. I am trying to recommend films to non-SF fans.

I had 16 films that I rated low +3 or better. I picked 12 of them to mention. Do you want to know which ones were eliminated? FINAL CUT, STEAMBOY, STAR WARS III: THE REVENGE OF THE SITH, and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Three are films of the genre.

Even thinking about it right now, I came out of STEAM BOY and STAR WARS impressed, gave very positive reviews, but the feeling did not stick with me. Now I think of them as being in the +2 range. FINAL CUT deserves more attention and I should be drawing people's attention to it. It is a low-key science fiction film that impresses me much as GATTACA does.

In the final analysis I really honestly picked what I thought were the top ten films and still do, but I wonder if I was fair to the genre films. There were five and I eliminated three of them. What I decided was that for three of these films I could explain away my positive reaction by attributing it to my natural prejudices for fantasy films. [-mrl]

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

Some random thoughts on books: Am I the only person who files some books according to where there is space, rather than what they are? For example, my large volumes of Chaucer are in an archaeology box, because the poetry boxes were full, and one archaeology box was half-empty. And one very large book which should be in with the paranormal and pseudo-science is on the science shelf, because it is holding up the other books.

(I once asked Mark about which books we should keep and which we could get rid of and he said that we should keep "major supporting works." I asked if he meant things like Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES, and he said no, he meant thing like big books with stiff covers at the ends of shelves that were holding up other books.)

But enough of that--onto the books of the week.

Our discussion group this month discussed the books of "Ecclesiastes" and "Job". As well as talking about the content, we talked about various translations as well: I had been reading the King James version, the New International Version (with annotations), the Jewish Publication Society translation, and the Catholic version (Douai/Confraternity). The latter was the most modern sounding of the four, even though it was the second oldest. We also talked about how the works get abridged. For example, during World War II, the United States Army published "Bibles" for the troops to carry in their shirt pockets. These were a New Testament for the Christians and an abridged Jewish Scriptures ("Old Testament") for the Jews. (I do not know if they had differing versions of the New Testament for Catholics and Protestants.) Obviously, the Jewish Scriptures had to be abridged--they would need really, really thin paper to make the whole thing fit in a shirt pocket. So for the "Job", they kept the first couple of chapters, the last couple of chapters (mostly), and cut the entire center section with Job's four "friends"! And of course we discovered the source of all sorts of sayings, phrases, and titles, as well as the inspiration for such authors as Roger Zelazny ("A Rose for Ecclesiastes") and James Morrow (BLAMELESS IN ABADDON, reviewed in the 10/11/1996 issue of the MT VOID).

[We seem to be on a religious kick in the recent MT VOIDs. I promise to stay off the subject for a while after this discussion dies. I cannot promise for Evelyn. -mrl]

The Darkhorse Comics version of H. G. Wells's WAR OF THE WORLDS, adapted and abridged by Ian Edginton and illustrated by D'Israeli is now complete on-line at: A HREF= . (It will also be released as a hardcover book in February 2006, ISBN 1-59307-474-3.) Edginton and D'Israeli previously collaborated on a sequel, SCARLET TRACES (ISBN 1-56971-940-3).

In my review of the original Wells novel in the 07/08/05 issue of the MT VOID, I discussed some of the anti-Semitic phrases that disappeared in later editions. In the Darkhorse version, D'Israeli takes the revision a step further, and portrays as Jewish the family that shelters and cares for the narrator after the Martians have been defeated. An interesting touch, though one wonders if Wells would have approved.

GUILTY PLEASURES OF THE HORROR FILM edited by Gary J. Svehla and Susan Svehla (ISBN 1-887664-03-1) is a collection of twelve essays on "guilty pleasures" such as UNKNOWN ISLAND, SH! THE OCTOPUS, and THE TINGLER. The least interesting are the essays that are almost entirely devoted to recounting the plot in detail; the more interesting are those which take a more subjective look. However, sometimes people's enthusiasm for a film can get the better of them, such as Robert A. Crick's defense of the Dino Di Laurentiis version of KING KONG (1976). Crick says it "seems remarkable" that we have had dozens of Frankenstein and Dracula movies, but no chain of Kong films. (He does mention SON OF KONG, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, and KING KONG LIVES.) The fact that Frankenstein and Dracula have been in public domain for decades, and Kong has not just might have something to do with that. (Actually, the 1981 "Donkey Kong" court case seems to say that Kong as a character is now in public domain, but before that he was at least thought not to be in public domain.)

But Crick also says, "Almost as if genius were something which died in Hollywood at the moment of Kong's death on the streets of New York, it has since been universally decreed that no remake of KONG, however lovingly executed, can ever be more than a joke." First of all, I doubt you would find very many people who would claim that the Di Laurentiis KING KONG was "lovingly executed." But even more importantly, Peter Jackson has clearly proved Crick's premise wrong. No, it is because the Di Laurentiis KING KONG was a bad "King Kong" movie, with neither the technical artistry nor the charm of the original, but only campy humor.

GODZILLA ON MY MIND by William Tsutsui (ISBN 1-4039-6474-2) looks at all the "Godzilla" films, and is as negative about the 1998 American version as most people are about the Di Laurentiis KING KONG. Admittedly, the TriStar film has even less going for it, as its "Godzilla" neither looks nor acts like Godzilla, but one could argue that if TriStar had called its film RAPTOR instead of GODZILLA, it would have been considered a fairly decent film. However, most of Tsutsui's book is about the real Godzilla (in all his incarnations). It is more a loving, anecdotal look at Godzilla than an academic study, though the notes indicate that Tsutsui did a good amount of research. Recommended for all fans of "the Big Guy."

And more books I looked at but did not read: FROM THE FILES OF THE TIME RANGERS by Richard Bowes (ISBN 1-930846-35-5) looked like it would be similar to Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol" series, but by the time Bowes has added the Greek pantheon (among other things) there is not much resemblance. This is a "mosaic novel" (a.k.a. "integrated collection", a.k.a. "fix-up novel"), but with the components much more interleaved than one usually finds. It is possible I would have liked the individual pieces more; I may go back and see.

BORN TO KVETCH by Michael Wex (ISBN 0-312-30741-1), a book about the Yiddish language, turned out to be too academic for me, with (for example) a lot of time spent tracing the origin of the term "bove-mayse/bube-mayse". But there is no index, which means if you want to go back and look this up, there's no good way to do it! Probably I would have enjoyed this more if I knew more than a "bissel yiddish." [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Comedy is allied to justice.
                                          -- Aristophanes

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