MT VOID 06/09/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 50, Whole Number 1338

MT VOID 06/09/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 50, Whole Number 1338

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/09/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 50, Whole Number 1338

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

Hawai'i Logs:

Our Hawai'i trip logs are available at:

How To Be Smarter Than a Fish (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Honest, I really saw this. I was in a used bookstore and I saw a set of matched books that included the titles WALLEYE TACTICS, TIPS & TALES, and ADVANCED WALLEYE STRATEGIES. They also had MASTERING LARGEMOUTH BASS and ADVANCED BASS TECHNIQUES. These were not little booklets either. These were full books. How much study are people willing to do to outwit fish? Fish, for cripes sakes. Hey, I saw JAWS. I believe that fish can be fairly intelligent. But that was a movie. Come on, how can anybody feel proud that they are smarter than a walleye? What a triumph! [-mrl]

The Return of the Water Engine (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

A friend has said that she recently had seen a news item talking about a water-powered car. She thought that she had seen the item on CNN news. At first I had wondered if it was an April Fools joke, but she had seen it in May, not on April 1. My friend insisted that she had seen the story and she later pointed me to a reference to it. It did indeed seem to claim that there was a car with a water engine. Water-powered cars are part of our folklore. One of the most popular urban legends is that somebody once developed a car that would run on tap water. The legend is that the big money interests--usually either the automobile companies or the oil companies--heard about it and realized that their days were numbered. (Why it would be a threat to the automobile companies, I am not sure. For them it would be just a new type of engine that would sell very well. But usually they are blamed rather than the oil companies.) In any case, the legend says that the evil capitalists bought up the rights to the engine and/or terminated the inventor with extreme prejudice. They liquidated him. To avoid the consequences of the discovery it was hidden and hushed up, not unlike the Ark of the Covenant at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. There was a David Mamet play about urban legends in general and this one in specific. The play was called simply "The Water Engine."

I told my friend that a water engine is probably impossible. There is just about nothing in the universe as chemically stable as water. To get useful power out of water you would have to reduce it to a more stable state. There is just about nothing that you can make out of hydrogen and oxygen that is anywhere nearly as stable as water is. Water that is the ambient temperature has almost no more energy you can squeeze from it chemically. The last remaining way to get energy from it is to drop it. In fact, though we do not think of that way, much of our households are water-powered. We just do not see the water. It is way off somewhere falling on the blades of turbines. They convert the kinetic energy into electricity and the electricity carries the power to our homes. Of course, not all electricity comes from waterpower. Some comes from burning coal; some comes from nuclear fission. But it seemed to me if a car was to be water-powered it would be in a roundabout way through turbines and electricity.

Powering a car is perfectly possible using water through the process of electrolysis. You may remember from your high school chemistry a funny-looking device that a tank of water at the bottom and two tubes sticking up at the top. (You can see one at

You turned on the electricity to this thing and the water level dropped a little over time. Then your teacher took a match and held it near the stopcock at the top of one of the tubes, opened the stopcock and there was a small explosion. (High school chemistry teachers love those small explosions. They are very dramatic for a class. Filmmakers know the same principle, though they like bigger explosions. Big explosions in chemistry class are frowned on by the school administration, or we probably would have had more of them. But I digress.) In any case that explosion comes from hydrogen which had to be bribed with a lot of energy to separate from oxygen (the content of the other tube). It sits in that tube, rich in energy but pining for its lost oxygen. When it gets near a flame, which is just rapidly oxidizing, it jumps a chance to combine again with oxygen and release the energy it held. That it does and if humans get in the way, Oh, the Humanity. But a car that runs on this energy is not running on water, it is running on electricity. It is just uses the water, or rather the hydrogen created from it, as a way to store energy.

Well, I dug a little into the news story and I found they really are calling this engine "water-powered," as I had to admit to my friend. But that is a misnomer. Anyone expecting to run his or her car exclusively on water is in for a rude surprise. It is actually another electrical powered car and it will require a lot of electricity, assuming it really works. According to what I read the car runs on a controversial gas called Aquygen:

Apparently you give it water and with a lot of electricity you create--not hydrogen, as I suspected, but--something called by the lackluster name of "Brown's Gas" that is also combustible. Water is just the energy storage medium. It is like the old steam locomotives were not really powered by water but by the burning of wood, even though you did put a lot of water into them. Room- temperature water is pretty darn stable. You can add energy to it to perturb it from its H2O-at-room-temperature state and it will try to go back, releasing that energy stored in it. Ways to perturb it include heating it, separating it into hydrogen and oxygen, putting it in a condom and taking it to a high window of a hotel, or (apparently) turning it into Brown's gas.

If this all works--and I suppose it might--you would have a car that is sort of powered by water. At least it is powered by a process that requires water, as did the old steam locomotives. That is not what a physicist would call powered by water. That is still a thermodynamic impossibility. But you could look at it that water is a requirement of the process that creates the power.

Incidentally the claim has been made that a hydrogen-powered engine is less polluting than a gasoline engine. Again this falls to a maybe-it-is, maybe-it-isn't sort of area. Yes, the engine itself is less polluting. But if burning coal generates the electricity it uses, it is still not a very clean process. Now I vote for the guy who runs his car on the old oil that McDonalds has used to make French Fries. There is someone out there with an engine that runs on used cooking oil. It not only runs on a waste product, which is essentially free, but it smells like cooking French Fries.

Info on the frymobile is at [-mrl]

Leet (letter of comment by Paul S. R. Chisholm):

Paul S. R. Chisholm writes, “Congratulations on your "elite" issue 1337: [-psrc]

Mark replies, “The issue is also available in super-leet. A back of the envelope computation tells me that it brings the whole issue down to 47 characters. I would reproduce it here, but many (most) of the characters are not available on standard keyboards. It is so elite and exclusive that only about 6.5 people in the whole world read it at all. The .5 is someone who understands it only when he is off his meds. Probably none of them has ever even heard of the MT VOID, but the issue is available in super- leet if they ever do. At least I don't think any of them has ever heard of the VOID. (If one of you should be reading this let me just say #. I hope I spelled that right.)” [-mrl]


I guess my interest in rats stemmed from seeing the film OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983). This film was promoted as a horror film, but is a sort of a “Moby Dick” story set in Manhattan. A man with a nice home, nice family, etc., finds there is a rat in his home. He proceeds to try to get rid of it and finds himself in a struggle that destroys his home, his life, and his humanity. He gives up all he values to stop this one intelligent and vengeful rat. The film is full of rat facts and rat lore. This film for me transformed rats from being an unpleasant part of the scenery into fascinating and even impressive animals. Among other things they are scavengers who will chew through iron or solid concrete to get to their food supply.

Robert Sullivan, a writer I have seen published in “The New Yorker,” has written RATS: OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORY & HABITAT OF THE CITY'S MOST UNWANTED INHABITANTS. Sullivan took a year to just observe rats and also to research the history of rats in Manhattan. He sometimes goes beyond the bounds of Manhattan, as in telling a little about the Black Death in Europe, but for the most part his subject is rats in Manhattan. His description of his rat observation gear makes quite a picture of himself, apparently, going out to back alleys and garbage dumps to observe. Just why he spent so much time observing the rats is a mystery because there is very little of his observations on rats in the book. In fact, I learned more about rats from OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, unreliable as that was, than I did reading his book. Sullivan describes going out to watch the rats, but he keeps getting distracted by the people he meets around the rats or by giving tangential stories like the history of a legendary rat catcher. His subject matter is not so much rats, but the people whose lives are affected by rats. And the author does not need the night-vision gear he talks about to find out about humans. Sullivan does report the rat behavior he sees but does not interpret it at any depth. I spent most of my reading time waiting for him to get to the rats.

The book is very much anecdotal. He has footnotes and copious chapter notes in the back of the book. They are only a little more concrete with more specific information about the books he read and they contain more anecdotes. But this is a non-fiction book without an index. That usually indicates to me that the publisher wants the book to be considered breezy rather than serious. Even the chapter titles are not very descriptive. Most chapters have single-word titles. And the one word may be as opaque as "Excellent." (That is the chapter on Bobby Corrigan, champion rat catcher.) If somewhere among the light prose the reader has gleaned a fact that he wants to go back to re-read, the book offers minimal help in finding the material again. In spite of all the footnotes, Sullivan's book seems to be little more than a "beach read" passing for a scholarly work. The book is entertaining, but not very serious. Sullivan's book should not be placed in the same category with books such as THE HIDDEN LIFE OF DOGS by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas that have serious and valuable insights.

I did not learn very much about rats reading this book and I am not sure that Sullivan learned much about rats in his year studying them. I will look for a better book on the subject. [-mrl]

THE SUN (SOLNTSE) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: At the close of WWII Emperor Hirohito saw his country attacked with nuclear weapons, had to surrender his country to invaders, and had to renounce his divinity. THE SUN tells the story of the man under these trials. It looks in depth at a man whose society loaded heavy responsibility on and who was a puppet with heavy self-doubts. The film is slow, claustrophobic, and dark in many senses, but is highly provocative. THE SUN is reminiscent of THE LAST EMPEROR, and is actually more intelligent. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Alexander Sokurov previously made MOLOCH dramatizing Adolf Hitler and Lenin about Lenin. As his next film in this series, he analyzes Emperor Hirohito of Japan. It is the closing days of WWII and the American invaders have invaded Tokyo. Japan his reeling under the effect of two nuclear attacks. We enter Hirohito's mind as he weighs continuing fighting and later the issue of whether to renounce his claim to divinity as a descendent of the sun.

The Emperor himself is torn with doubt of his divine status and looks for scientific evidence of this family's supernatural station. He sees his body as being like other people's. He studies science and writes poetry and fancies himself an artist and scientist. But his science is a study of marine biology in which he learns from specimens brought to his palace. His poetry is kept private.

Much of the film takes place in the bunker beneath the palace. The Emperor has a great fear that the same Americans who had used such a terrible bomb would have no mercy on his people once they invade. He also has do idea of the devastation his own city has already faced since his palace had been spared the bombing.

The film moves with a very deliberate and slow pace, much like a film by Andrei Tarkovsky. The difference is that there is a lot of history to think about in these pauses. This film seems to show the man as a prisoner of his status. It is claimed that he knew little of that his generals were doing in his name and would not have condoned a lot of what was happening. (This seems a more traditional understanding of the man and more recent histories seem to imply a much greater participation.)

By the time he emerges from the palace into the very dim light of day, the Americans have already occupied his palace grounds. In spite of his retainers' insistence that he be formal with them he willingly poses for pictures and seems to like the Americans. A major section of the film is his exchanges with a never- identified-by-name Douglas MacArthur (played by Robert Dawson).

The film gives fascinating little insights into his mind, including a fascinating scene in which he envisions an air raid on his country. In the midst of his own country's racism toward the Koreans and Chinese he detests Americans feeling superior to his countrymen, apparently accepting the idea of a status ladder but not liking being lower than the top. He feels his country was allied with Hitler against racism. Hitler, he informs MacArthur, is a man he had never met.

Issey Ogata plays the emperor as a quiet contemplative man. His expressions with is mouth suggest that of a carp, a fish revered in Japan for its tenacity. Above all he is a man who desperately is searching for his responsibilities to do not what he wants but what is right.

This is a deep but very rewarding film. I rate THE SUN a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. [-mrl]

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is really better as an essay on the gentle art of spin and of argument than it is as a story. Written and directed by Jason Reitman, this is a comedy about Big Tobacco's greatest public relations spin-doctor. And the arguments are well enough put that the viewer may well find himself siding with the nefarious Nick Naylor. The plot is rudimentary, but the film is still an education. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

The phrase "Thank you for smoking" has a special meaning for me. Years ago when communications workers went on strike I was ordered to go to North Carolina to fill in for striking workers. I did not know it until I got there, but I had been assigned to work inside the offices and factory of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. As far as I was concerned that was inside "the belly of the beast." I was strongly anti-tobacco. I worked with a charming young executive, very much a gentleman, who over breakfast one day confided in me that his wife worked at a birth control center and that he hoped I would not find that too immoral. I did not have the heart to tell him that to me being a Northeast liberal it is tobacco and not birth control that seems immoral. Just being in the R. J. Reynolds building is an education in itself. That was where I first saw Joe Camel, years before he was on billboards. But many executives around the building had signs on their desks reading, "Thank you for smoking."

In the film's world as well as in the real world the big tobacco companies compete with each other, but they all agree on the cause of protecting the tobacco industry. So they fund the Tobacco Institute, in this film called the Academy of Tobacco Studies. The institute and tobacco get a lot of bad publicity and they have a public relations top gun, a superb spin-doctor in the form of Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart).

Watching THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and seeing Naylor do his thing in an odd way is like watching a Jackie Chan film. Neither film has a very good story. That is not what you see either film for. You see it to watch someone who is a consummate craftsman at getting himself (and in this case the tobacco industry) out of tight situations. Chan uses physical ability and Naylor uses superb rhetorical skills. He can stand in front of a hostile audience and with a few carefully chosen observations he can have them eating out of his hand. And what is fascinating is that even the anti-tobacco viewer is seduced by his logic. Even though, as he admits when he is together with other lobbyists he admits that the tobacco industry has a huge daily death toll, his arguments in favor of the industry are still inviting. We are just fascinated to see him use his ability.

The plot taken from Christopher Buckley's novel and adapted by director Reitman is not the main attraction. It concerns in part how in spite of the bad publicity he gets he still can win the love and admiration of his formerly skeptical son. We see how Naylor dispatches several threats to the tobacco industry. A former Marlboro Man (Sam Elliot) is dying of cancer and wants to initiate an anti-tobacco campaign. Katie Holmes plays an insidious reporter who is trying to entrap Naylor himself. Then there is a plot of a crusading congressman from Vermont, Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy) who is gunning for Naylor and Big Tobacco. The film revels in nasty characterizations of all concerned, not just Naylor. Naylor is adroit and dispatches each of these threats with aplomb. And while doing all this he redeems himself in the eyes of his son.

Naylor is a sort of amoral anti-hero for a new age. His arguments are as cool and beguiling as those of Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN. How can he look at himself in a mirror at the end of the day after contributing to the death and illness of thousands? He uses what he calls "the yuppie Nuremberg defense": Everybody's got a mortgage to pay. He gets his self-respect by doing well at job, not by doing good.

This is not a highly polished film. The cinematography is adequate, but little more. Besides having many familiar faces in the cast there does not seem to be much budget behind the film. But the film's attraction is in the writing and in its nuts and bolts demonstration of the spin profession. I can think of few better classes in how to deceive and mislead. I rate THANK YOU FOR SMOKING a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. [-mrl]

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Terry Zwigoff directs a satire of art school life that runs outs of steam and switches over to a serial killer film. This has the feel of a beginner's film and has some fun moments and a good performance by John Malkovich, but overall does not have enough to keep it going. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10 Spoiler Warning: A minor spoiler follows the review.

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is only partially what it claims to be. It is really two different films tied together uneasily. One is story about the disenchanting experiences of a young freshman in art school. It is sort of an art school PAPER CHASE showing the weirdness of art students and faculty and the frustrations that an art student may expect on the difficult road to success. That would have made an interesting film in itself, though that sort of thing has done before with PAPER CHASE and TRUE GENIUS, to name two such films. However, writer Daniel Clowes (based on his own comic story) apparently realized that he did not have sufficient material to make that film work so he threw in a nearly unrelated plot of a serial killer on campus. Personally I would say that serial killers have been done to death in films and it seems an act of desperation to throw one in here to artificially add interest and extend the story. Serial killers I suspect have little to do with an average art student's experience. The glue that Clowes uses to tie his two plots together is an irony borrowed from Martin Scorsese. Two different Scorsese films have pretty much use this same ironic point and Clowes adopts it. I will give the specific films in the Spoiler Section after the review.

Jerome Platz (played by Max Minghella) has been the victim of bullies through his high school career. His one revenge is to draw pictures of his revenge on the bullies. Art becomes more than a hobby for him so when he gets a chance he enrolls in the Strathmore Institute of Art. There he can be in with many other misfits, many with their own outlandish way of getting attention. Also a major attraction for him is the chance to see and draw naked models. Much of the student body is made up of pretentious jerks. The professors are mostly apathetic and self-absorbed with little real interest in the students. His premier teacher is Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich who looking a lot like Pablo Picasso) and while his art looks to the viewer as showing talent, the class seems to put his work down and instead idolize that of class hero Jonah (Matt Keeslar). But more than talent is needed since, as Sandiford says, only one percent of the class will ever make a living at art. Strathmore Graduate Jimmy (Jim Broadbent) had talent and still ended up a campus legend, a burned out alcoholic hanging around campus, and an object lesson to aspiring art students. Jerome does make friends with one attractive model, Audrey Baumgarten (Sophia Myles), the daughter of a famous artist. Oh, and there is also a serial killer who is preying on people in the community.

I suspect that this film was really inspired by somebody's experiences at an art school similar to Strathmore, but the problems the script exposes are likely to be true in any academic environment, and the complaints just seem to be grousing. The name "confidential" seems to imply that something really shocking will be revealed. There is little in this film anyone would want to keep private. Terry Zwigoff previously directed CRUMB, GHOST WORLD, and BAD SANTA. Personally I liked only GHOST WORLD of the three, but all these films had some bite and anger to them. Here the complaints are more like that Jerome's classmates did not appreciate his art. He got an A, but everybody got an A. That is a little weak. Max Minghella who plays Jerome Platz, is the son of Anthony Minghella who directed THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, and COLD MOUNTAIN. Max was previously the musical son in BEE SEASON.

Terry Zwigoff really needed a better script to work from. This film about an innocent learning the ropes seems to be written by a scriptwriter who is also an innocent learning the ropes. I rate ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

Spoiler: The two films I refer to are TAXI DRIVER and THE KING OF COMEDY, films that I think tell very much the same story in two very different environments. It is not quite the same story here but the Jerome finds much the same path to success. [-mrl]

50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: From New Zealand comes Stewart Main's comedy/drama of three teenagers, two boys and a girl, all confused about what gender roles they want to take. None of the characters are believable. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

One can generally tell if young teenage actors are speaking and behaving like real teens or if they are just mouthing lines written by adults. The acting in 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS is simply not real and convincing enough to sell the story. The fault may be with director and screenwriter Stewart Main's script. In any case there is the feeling hovering over most of this film that it was written by adults to preach.

Billy, age thirteen or so (played by Andrew Patterson), is fascinated by a television hero played by a girl with a ponytail. He does not have a crush on her; he wants to be her. He even sticks a cow's tail under his hat to look like a ponytail. This does not seem to be a huge problem for him, indicating that people are a lot more tolerant in this New Zealand ranching community than Americans would be. Billy's sister Lou (Harriet Beattie), on the other hand, is a tomboy who is not just accepted as one of the boys on the rugby team, she is actually better than any of the boys, while never being as violent as the boys.

Billy becomes friends, sort of, with Roy (Jay Collins), a quiet and sad-faced newcomer to the area. Roy is interested in Billy romantically and Billy is tentative about starting a gay relationship. The relationship is complicated when a new hired hand comes to the ranch, Jamie, who is straight but a real hunk. Billy is attracted to him and Jamie is either oblivious or ignoring the situation.

Main tries to put messages into the film lessons like to not believe in gender stereotypes. But his people seem to be taken more from wishful thinking than from the real world. Some of the music that goes with the film is sugary sweet and the science fiction television show the kids all watch seems like a patronizing stereotype of television science fiction.

There is one minor action scene in which someone falls in a way that seems physical impossible and ends lying in a position that seems equally impossible. If this were Main's first film I would expect he would improve with time. However, I am surprised to see he has been directing films since 1985 (according to the IMDB). I rate 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. [-mrl]

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

FREAKONOMICS: A ROGUE ECONOMIST EXPLORES THE HIDDEN SIDE OF EVERYTHING by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (ISBN 0-06- 073132-X) has been a cause celebre for a long time now, enough that I had to wait this long to get the library's copy. Levitt and Dubner do acknowledge that correlations can be misleading: if A and B are correlated, does A cause B, or vice versa? [Note that commonly you have both in a feedback loop. -mrl] But the other possibilities that they often seem to overlook are that both are caused by C, or that it is just a coincidence. Their conclusions certainly sound reasonable, but I am still skeptical, for example, that they have definitely pinned down the important factors in parenting. After all, everyone who came before them was sure they had the answers also. The chapter on teachers and sumo wrestlers suggesting bias in testing methods does imply that at least some of the accusations derived from the data were admitted to by the perpetrators, but otherwise I suspect the last has not been heard on these subjects. What is true is that if you have been reading all the articles about FREAKONOMICS, you may not get very much additional from the book itself unless you want to try to analyze the data yourself.

MOBY DICK by Herman Melville (ISBN 0-812-54307-6) is a much misunderstood book. People talk about how long it is--but at 470 pages (in the Norton Critical Edition) is shorter than a high proportion of science fiction, fantasy, or thriller novels written today. (Tom Clancy and Robert Jordan write novels *twice* as long.) It has a reputation for seriousness, yet it is full of wit and humor. For example, in chapter one, Ishmael talks about how he goes to sea: "I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But *being paid*,--what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!" (The two orchard thieves are, of course, Adam and Eve.)

And later, in chapter 55, when he is describing how whales are portrayed, he says, "As for the sign-painters' whales seen in the streets hanging over the shops of oil-dealers, what shall be said of them? They are generally Richard III whales, with dromedary humps, ...."

Or, "For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of the nose."

But of course Melville has his serious moments, and much of what he says remains as true today as it was in 1851: "[However] baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make." It was true sixty years after Melville with Titanic, and it was true a hundred and fifty years after he wrote as it was with the fishing boat caught in the "perfect storm."

And in keeping with my noting of disparaging references to Jews in older literature, let me note that in chapter 89 Melville says, "What is the ruinous discount which Mordecai, the broker, gets from poor Woebegone, the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone's family from starvation; what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish?" On the other hand, he does somewhat counterbalance this by saying in chapter 92, "[Nor] can whalemen be recognized, as the people of the middles ages affected to detect a Jew in the company, by the nose."

Robert Silverberg is one of the great science fiction icons of our time. But while he is known now for his erudition and literary qualities, the sixteen stories in IN THE BEGINNING: TALES FROM THE PULP ERA (ISBN 1-59606-043-3) are from his earliest period, in the years during and shortly after when he was a student, and are a small part of his prodigious output for the pulps of the 1950s. Given that there were several times when he had *four* stories in a single issue of a magazine (under different pan names, of course), this can provide just a small sample. However, the fact that none of these have been previously reprinted means that this is a must-read for those interested in the early career of one of the great science fiction writers. Admittedly, at $40 for the signed, numbered limited edition, it is pricier than most other hardcover books but, content aside, the physical book is also much better constructed, with lovely textured end papers, good typography, and high-quality paper. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Man does not live by words alone, 
           despite the fact that he sometimes 
           has to eat them.
                                          -- Adlai Stevenson

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