MT VOID 05/19/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 47, Whole Number 1335)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/19/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 47, Whole Number 1335

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

Yiddish (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The reason you can't express idea "disappointed" in Yiddish is the same reason that you cannot express the idea of "wet" in fish language. [-mrl]

My Dudgeon (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There is a word you hear occasionally that really exemplifies a state of mind. Do you like the word "dudgeon"? Do you know what it means? I think that may be a test of age. If you are young you probably have never heard of the word. If it is recognized at all it is probably by the over-forty set. My dictionary says it is "a fit or state of angry indignation usually provoked by opposition; ill humor, resentment." Another says "Extreme displeasure caused by an insult or slight: huff, miff, offense, pique, resentment, ruffled feathers, umbrage." I don't think that is quite as accurate. Because that seems to imply it was aimed at the person who is miffed. "Miff" is another good word. You can take umbrage at something not at all intended for you specifically, but it still gets your goat. But you rarely hear of just normal dudgeon. What you hear about his "high dudgeon." High dudgeon is something that started with a pet peeve. Years ago it may have been just a peeve. And you pointed it out to the world. You hoped that pointing out the problem would do some good. But it spite of what they tell you, in a lot of things one person *cannot* make a difference. The world went right on doing what it had been doing. And the pet peeve festered. Oh, we've got lots of good words today. There are lots of good words about anger. It festered. The peeve went from being your pet to you being its. It got worse in the same way an injury does. And slowly you went from being peeved to being in high dudgeon. And the world ignored you. A world has no shoulders to shrug, but if it did it would have. And people don't change.

My dad had his share of peeves that he would complain about. There was the word "hood". Not the kind of hood that you have on a jacket, but as a sense of a hooligan. My dad would comment whenever anybody used that word that it was pronounced wrong. Most people pronounce the word like it was the part of a jacket. They rhymed the word with good. My father would explain that the word was a short form of hoodlum. And in hoodlum the first syllable rhymes with "rude." So if you used the world hood to mean hoodlum you should pronounce it to rhyme with "rude." Of course there are people who pronounce hoodlum with the first syllable rhyming with "good," but I think my dad would have thought that was a mispronunciation also. My dad may have even been right in theory, but being right is not all it takes to convince the world to do things differently. This was just one of many peeves that was working its way to high dudgeon.

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and I have my own list of pet peeves. Some of the readers may have heard me say this before. It keeps coming back. That is what makes it a pet peeve. That is the power of a peeve and even more of a high dudgeon, it is hard to let go of. Every time you see the thing that caused the irritation in the first place, it will get worse. These things do not go away and do not get better. So I have my share of pet peeves.

Charlie Harris sent me a quote from a web page:

"From an order form for 8mm to DVD transfer:

Per foot .8¢: x foot = Exact Copy - Please see below. Per foot .14¢ x foot = Edited Copy with Video Effects."

I don't know if the character set of your PC handles this properly but the symbol after the 8 and the 14 is a cent-sign. And of course the symbol in front of the numbers is a decimal point. ".14¢" means one tenth of a cent plus 4 one-hundredths of a cent. Those total to considerably less than a cent. Now from context I can guess that the person who put this together did not mean to say considerably less than a cent. What he intended was 14¢ or $.14. Those are two expressions for the same amount of money. $.14 means one tenth of a dollar plus 4 one-hundredths of a dollar. The period helps to make the number look small because you have a dollar sign in front. The cent sign also helps make the number look small because you do not use the dollar sign. You get your choice. You can use one or the other. But people seem to think that you can make prices look smaller by using both the cent AND the decimal point. It doesn't work that way. Do you hear me, World? IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. THIS WILL NOT PASS ".14¢" is less than a penny. ".8¢" is as bad or even worse. It means 8/10 of a cent.

Now I can accept that words might change their pronunciation over the years. That is a matter of style. What started as mispronunciation may become the accepted way to pronounce a word. That is not decadence, it is just style. I can give people some slack on that. But to say that .14¢ is the same as 14¢ or $.14 is either to say that one cent is the same thing as a dollar, or to say that 0.14 = 14. To accept one or the other is more slack than I can give.

Yet, in spite of my best efforts this *evil* practice not only continues, it spreads. Just last week I went through a grocery store produce section and one after another the little hand- written signs with the prices all misstated the price as being 1/100th of what the cashier would have charged me. You see it in libraries where signs proclaim the overdue charge to be .25¢ a day. A library is supposed to be repository of knowledge, not ignorance. In United State National Parks I see signs that the printed trail guides cost .30¢. What is going on here?

Well, I have had enough of it. I point these things out to the people, frequently they correct the error, and two more places start making the error. A hamburger chain advertises its "new .99¢ menu." Jeez! Long ago my peeve turned into a dudgeon. Now I am turning my dudgeon up to high. You aren't going to lick me, World! [-mrl]

Pop Culture (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

CNN was comparing the May 1 immigration boycott to the recent film A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN. I guess they figure that no one watching them remembers the earlier (1960), somewhat science-fictional play "Day of Absence", in which one day all the blacks disappear from a Southern town. But even that was preceded by Ray Bradbury's "Way in the Middle of the Air" (1950), although the disappearance in Bradbury's story is not nearly as mysterious. [-ecl]

Misattributed Quotes (letter of comment by David Goldfarb):

In response to Mark's article in the 04/28/06 issue of the MT VOID about his often misattributed quote, David Goldfarb writes:

You are not the only one who suffers from quote misattribution online. James Nicoll tossed off the following on rec.arts.sf.written:

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

I have the honor of having been the first to .sig that one. At this point it's been quoted in linguistics textbooks and radio broadcasts, and made it into a zillion webbed quote archives.

A fair number of those quote archives (I am too lazy to google for exact numbers) omit the first sentence and attribute the rest-- verbatim!--to Booker T. Washington. [-dg]

GAME OF SHADOWS by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams (copyright 2006, Gotham Books, $26.00, 332pp, ISBN 1-592-40199-6) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

No, GAME OF SHADOWS isn't one of the doorstops in George R. R. Martin's latest fantasy series--in fact, it isn't even a genre novel at all. What GAME OF SHADOWS is is one of the most fascinating and disturbing books I have ever read.

The front cover says "Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the STEROIDS SCANDAL that Rocked Professional Sports". Barry Bonds' name (and picture, along with the Yankees' Jason Giambi) is there as a come-on to get baseball fans to buy the book. Barry Bonds is just a part of the story. The real story here is a sad one, because it truly is sad how far professional athletes--in this case track and field and baseball players--will go to get a competitive edge.

For those readers who follow professional sports, and baseball in particular, this is the book that Barry Bonds tried to stop from being published. For the uninitiated, Barry Bonds is baseball's single season home run king--he hit 73 in 2001, a couple of years before steroids became illegal in Major League Baseball. Again, it's not just about Bonds, however. This story really has its roots in BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, and the world of Olympic level track and field competition. BALCO was run by Victor Conte, the man who wanted to create a super- athlete, and he did so with all sort of legal and illegal performance-enhancing substances.

And the amazing thing is how long the illegal activity went on before he got caught.

The book's authors are investigative reporters for "The San Francisco Chronicle", and it is apparent they have done their homework. One of the book's appendices details their sources for everything in every chapter, for those readers who are skeptical.

The fascinating thing is the history of BALCO, from its beginnings as a legal, albeit shady, provider of nutritional supplements. As time went on, however, Conte's ego took over, and not only did he turn to the dark side, as it were, but he was able to reel in some of the biggest names in track and field. The names include Marion Jone, Tim Montgomery, and Kelli White. And the list of baseball players is pretty impressive too: the list includes the aforementioned Bonds and Giambi, as well as others. Following this story from beginning to the current grand jury investigations makes for extremely fascinating reading.

It also makes for disturbing reading. The substances that these athletes ingest, inject, and otherwise apply to their bodies is disgusting and unreal. Their reason? Everyone else does it, and you have to cheat to win. In fact, that's the title of the first section of the first book: "Cheat or Lose".

The BALCO scandal did bring down some of the biggest name in professional track and field, and it prompted Major League Baseball to finally get off its butt and do something about the illegal drugs that were taking over the sport.

This book is compelling reading. I highly recommend it. [-jak]

LEARNING THE WORLD by Ken MacLeod (copyright 2005, Tor, $24.95, 303pp, ISBN 0-765-31331-7) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

It's that time of year again--the time when I review the current year's crop of Hugo nominees. I've already reviewed SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson, and told you that it was a terrific novel. I've got another good one here--LEARNING THE WORLD by Ken MacLeod. It appears that, at least in my opinion, we may have something of a bumper crop of nominees (a little side note: I've already started OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, and I'm liking that one a lot too).

LEARNING THE WORLD, subtitled "A Scientific Romance", is a dual First Contact story. The human population of the ancient generation starship "But The Sky, My Lady, The Sky", has discovered a new system with a world that looks promising for colonization. The ship is populated with multiple factions, including the crew, the ship generation, and the council. Basically, the ship generation is the current crop of young folks, who will go out and colonize a planet. After each colonization, the ship moves on to the next likely world, travelling hundreds of years of more. In the meantime, the next generation of colonists is prepared to be dropped off on that new planet. By the time they are dropped off, they are primed and ready to go--which is a problem, in that the world they have picked isn't uninhabited at all. In fact, it's inhabited by a people that are at the time in their development where they are ripe for war--a war that could be sparked by the arrival of these colonists.

Of course, it's obvious that the other half of the dual First Contact is the population of the desired colony planet. The inhabitants are bat-like creatures, humanoid in form but with batwings. One of the creatures is an astronomer who is looking for a new planet. Each night he charts the sky and looks for moving objects that have been up until now uncatalogued. He spots one, and thinks he's found the planet. A colleague of his gives him cause for disappointment when he looks at the plates. It's not a planet--it's apparently an artificial body, most likely a spaceship.

The thing is, both parties involved have up until this point thought they were alone in the universe--and now they have discovered each other. Both now have to start learning the world all over again (which is a nice quote from the dust jacket and the book, which of course is also the title of the novel). The novel, then, deals with how these two civilizations deal with the prospect of meeting alien creatures for the first time. The inhabitants of the starship are civilized and haven't warred for thousands of years, yet things are ready to blow sky-high because the ship generation is ready to leave and go out on its own. By comparison, the inhabitants of the planet are a fairly primitive lot, although we do find out later on that they're not as primitive as we might think. On the other hand, there are several continents on the planet, and they don't trust each other. Yet, they seem to be able to come together to work through the issues that are arising due to the impending First Contact.

I enjoyed MacLeod's portrayal of the ship's culture and civilization, while the bat-people were less interesting to me-- but still kept my attention. While there isn't as much character development as you find in a lot of doorstop novels, there's enough there to explain the motivations for the actions of the main characters. And of course, best of all, it's not a doorstop, nor does it appear to be a series novel, although I suppose it could be the first of a series should MacLeod want to go in that direction.

All in all, a worthy nominee, in my opinion. Next up, OLD MAN'S WAR. [-jak]

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

This week I'll finish up the Hugo fiction nominees with the novelettes and short stories. First, the novelettes:

"The Calorie Man" by Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005) is set in a future where genetically-engineered crops have become ubiquitous, pushed by global corporations after the energy collapse to the point where these crops are all that are grown. In this world, Lalji and Shriram go up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to find someone who can upset this balance of power. The premise is something that has been much discussed lately, and to some extent the interesting part of the story is that someone named Paolo Bacigalupi is writing a story about people name Lalji and Shriram on the Mississippi River. This is yet another example of science fiction writers coming to terms with the fact that the future United States will not be populated entirely with people named Tom, Dick, and Harry, or even Arcot, Wade, and Morey.

"Two Hearts" by Peter S. Beagle (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005) is a well- written version of a rather basic "slaying the monster" sort of tale. It is good to see that Beagle is still writing, but it is hard to get too enthusiastic about this piece.

"TelePresence" by Michael A. Burstein (ANALOG Jul/Aug 2005) is in many ways the quintessential ANALOG story--and why I stopped reading it. Here, technology is wonderful, in spite of a few problems, and the message is hammered home in the most obvious lecture I have seen in a science fiction story in a while.

I guess this is the Year of the Robot. In the novella category we had "Identity Theft" by Robert J. Sawyer, and in the novelette category, we have "I, Robot" by Cory Doctorow (THE INFINITE MATRIX, Feb 15, 2005). Doctorow's story is set in Toronto, which is also where Sawyer lives, so maybe it's something in the air in Toronto. This is probably best described by Doctorow himself, who says, "Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of FAHRENHEIT 451 to make FAHRENHEIT 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the totalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic narratives."

"The King of Where-I-Go" by Howard Waldrop (SCI FICTION, Dec 7, 2005) is one of the last stories published on that web site before the Sci-Fi Channel shut it down (right after Ellen Datlow won a Hugo for editing it--go figure). It has all of Waldrop's usual pop culture references, but none of the convoluted weirdness or literary history aspects of a lot of his work. It is just a pretty straightforward time-travel story, with a lot of fishing thrown in.

My vote: Doctorow, Bacigalupi, Waldrop, no award, Beagle, Burstein

And the short stories:

"Seventy-Five Years" by Michael A. Burstein (ANALOG Jan/Feb 2005)] is another story which had (to me) a fairly obvious "twist", and was heavy on the "message" element. I liked this sort of story back when I first started reading science fiction short stories--in many ways it is reminiscent of some of Isaac Asimov's or Arthur C. Clarke's stories--but now I think I want a bit more.

"The Clockwork Atom Bomb" by Dominic Green (INTERZONE May/Jun 2005) could have been another quintessential ANALOG story, with its heavy dose of physics and technology. But the tone and direction of the story makes it unlikely to have been found in that other magazine. This is a much darker story, and if one grants the one major science-fiction premise, all too believable.

I cannot say very much about "Singing My Sister Down" by Margo Lanagan (BLACK JUICE; also THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY & HORROR [18th]) without giving away the premise, so I'll just say that while the idea showed some creativity, I did not find the story itself particularly engaging.

"Tk'tk'tk" by David D. Levine (ASIMOV'S Mar 2005) takes a premise that seems very "Golden Age"--a salesman from Earth in an alien culture--but gives it a very 21st-century sensibility. In the Golden Age, the salesman would have proved the superiority of Earth culture, or would have been shown to be venal and deserving of being bested, or something equally simplistic. Levine adds some layers to the story. (In some ways it reminds me of the film THE BIG KAHUNA, which is a look at three salesmen in which their product is completely irrelevant to the story.)

"Down Memory Lane" by Mike Resnick (ASIMOV'S Apr/May 2005) covers much the same territory Resnick has dealt with before in stories: aging, loss of memory, and so on--all the things that led Judith Berman to bemoan what she perceived as a transition away from the sense-of-wonder science fiction, or even just from the futuristic science fiction of years past. (I suppose there is an irony in being nostalgic for the science fiction that was written before nostalgic science fiction arrived!) At any rate, while this is a story that means well, I just cannot get enthused about it, and the ending, I think, is *awfully* similar to that of another very well-known science fiction work. Homage? I suppose so, but it just makes the story seem that less original.

My vote: Green, Levine, no award, Burstein, Resnick, Lanagan

And as a bonus, here are my votes for the dramatic presentation (long-form) category:


(One gets the impression that "long form" here refers to the titles as well as the works themselves!) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Gradualness, gradualness, and gradualness.  
           From the very beginning of your work, 
           school yourself to severe gradualness in 
           the accumulation of knowledge.
                                          -- Ivon Petrovich Pavlov

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