MT VOID 09/01/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 9, Whole Number 1350

MT VOID 09/01/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 9, Whole Number 1350

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/01/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 9, Whole Number 1350

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

The Real Secret (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Where is Donald Wollheim when we need him? Sadly he is no longer around to ask him about this. He wrote the book THE SECRET OF THE NINTH PLANET that I read as a teen. I guess even he did not know that the real secret of the ninth planet was that it was not a planet at all but a planetoid. [-mrl]

Thoughts on Time Travel (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Recently I watched the film THE TIME MACHINE again. That is one science fiction film that never ages. (In part that is because none of it is set in the present. This film always sparked a disagreement between Evelyn and me about the nature of time travel. Assume the story were true. If today you went down into the cellar of the Time Traveler's house, would you see the Time Traveler there frozen like a statue or would you not see him there at all? Evelyn thought the former and I thought the latter. I am speaking about being in the world of the story, of course. And this is assuming that time travel is possible. I will get back to this discussion a little later, but let us look at some of the ways of thinking about time travel.

There is such a thing as effective time travel and real time travel. Most of us have experienced something very like effective time travel. I do some nights. I am lying in bed at night and the clock says midnight. I close my eyes for just a second, look at the clock again, and it says 2AM. I close my eyes again and when I look the clock says 4AM. One more time and the clock says 6AM. Effectively I have gone through the whole night in just a few blinks. But at any point if you dropped into my bedroom you would see me there, most likely asleep. That is effective time travel. The important point is that if I had a watch in my pocket, it would stay synchronized with my clock. I wake up eight hours older, not a few seconds. But this is very like what I see as Evelyn's concept.

We are talking here about sorts of suspended animation. This is ways of slowing down our personal clocks while the world runs on at its normal rate. In Evelyn's view the time machine becomes a sort of preserving machine. It is not so crude as the falling asleep and waking back up or even as suspended animation. But it is effectively creating a field in which things move slower and time goes faster. This is moving forward in time at a rate faster than one. That means that more than one second goes by for every second the time traveler feels going by. We all travel forward in time at rates very near one. How near depends on our acceleration at the moment, but we rarely feel much force of acceleration so are not accelerating much.

A rate of one is when one second of time in the real world goes by as one second of your time does. The suspended animation example has time going by at rates greater than one. Wells also wrote about people traveling forward in time at a rate less than one but greater than zero. This was not an entire novel but a short story entitled "The New Accelerator."

A copy of this story is available at .

In that story people took a drug that speeded them up so that the world around them looked like it was moving much slower. One second in real time might have felt like (or even having been) one hour under the drug. Traveling forward in time at a rate of zero simply means the world is frozen around you. You see this in a lot of old "Twilight Zone" episodes. A stopwatch or something or other freezes time. Negative rates really mean going backward in time.

My gut feeling is that we mostly all travel forward in time at a rate of one, or very near one. I would contend that rates of greater than one have been accomplished, but not in the Wells manner. When you are accelerating you really are moving forward in time faster than people who are not accelerating. That is what the Twin Paradox in relativity is all about. Wells talked about time travel in which you move forward in time while staying in much the same place. Relativity implies you cannot stay in one place since it requires acceleration.

Negative rates I have always suspected are impossible. If we could go backward in time you run into the question what happens if you kill your grandfather before he had children. There are arguments that if you change history you just fork off into a parallel universe where you did not exist. But that buys into this entire theory of parallel nearly identical universes. That is a kludge and goes against Occam's Razor. I find it possible, but only just. It is not likely as far as I am concerned. That is better than theories that the universe somehow protects itself from tampering by time travelers from the future. It seems most likely that the way it does that is that it does not allow backward time travel.

But getting back to Evelyn's and my disagreement, I think she sees time travel as being a sort of stasis field in which time slows down for those people inside. That is possible. But that is not the sort of time travel I see in Wells. I see it as a sort of a limited existence at each point in time. Consider the town of Brigadoon from the play and film of the same name. It exists just one day a century according to the story. If you live in Brigadoon you are essentially in a time machine in which each day when you wake up the world is a century ahead of where it was the day before. You experience just one day of every 36524 days. Then you skip the next 36523 days. But now speed things up. You experience just one microsecond of every 36524 microseconds. Then you skip the next 36523 microseconds. Now speed it up again and again. The limit is what I see as what happens in time travel. Inside the time machine looking out things seem very much speeded up indeed. Outside looking in you do not see the Time Traveler at all. The Time Traveler is traveling through the time, but he is flitting by too fast to be seen even subliminally. This is why the small model of the time machine is not visible at to moves forward in time.

Some have suggested that if you really had a time machine and went into the future the earth would have moved away from under you as you stay at the same spot. This is assuming that there is such a thing as the same spot. There is not. But it does not matter. Brigadoonians feel the force of gravity the whole time they are around and so the village of Brigadoon moves with the planet. So would the time machine, assuming that such a thing were possible. [-mrl]

Hugo Winners:

This was David G. Hartwell's 32nd nomination (in various categories)--but his first win.

EXULTANT by Stephen Baxter (copyright 2004, Ballantine/Del Rey, 497pp, $7.50, ISBN 0-345-45789-7) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

Readers of this humble reviewer's missives probably have figured out that I have a longing for the good old days of galaxy spanning adventure, of space travel, exotic aliens, lots of stars and planets, and the nice Cosmic Thing thrown in. Yeah, you all remember, that sense-of-wonder stuff that attracted many of us to science fiction in the first place, back during our personal Golden Years of SF.

We have one here, folks. This is the real deal when it comes to everything I like in an SF novel, or at least the things that attracted me to the genre to begin with. This one convinces me what many other people already know--that Stephen Baxter is a top shelf SF writer with brilliant ideas and a grand storyteller's ways. He's been compared to Arthur C. Clarke, and I think I'm beginning to agree with that assessment. This is a terrific novel.

The story takes place 30,000 or so years in the future. Humanity is at war with the Xeelee--yep, this is a novel in the Xeelee sequence, although I don't ever remember it being billed that way. And at best we're fighting to a standstill, and in reality we're losing. Along comes Pirius, who travels into the future to defeat the Xeelee in a battle by acquiring knowledge needed to win. He comes home to a court-martial (along with his crew, by the way). Worse yet, he comes back to a time before he left, which means that he gets to meet his younger self. The older fellow is Pirius Blue, the younger is Pirius Red. Blue is sentenced to a penal colony to serve out his days, while Red is taken back to the center of all things, Earth, by a fellow called Commissary Nilis. Nilis has grandiose plans, unbeknownst to Red, of using Blue's tactic to move humanity's government toward a way of winning the war with the Xeelee.

The plan, eventually, is to attack the heart of the Xeelee operations--Chandra, the monster black hole at the center of the Galaxy. In order to do that, the aid of the ancient enemy Silver Ghosts and that of the refugees from the Qax occupation must be enlisted. Both cause problems for Red, for they go against everything he has been taught to believe.

This is a much more complex book character-wise than might first meet the eye. Back in the Solar System, Red has to confront his feelings about himself, the government, ancient alien enemies, and his entire belief system to get through the ordeal that Nilis steers him to. He also gets to confront first-hand the stagnation that has become human government. Like anything that has lasted 30,000 years, it needs a little shaking up to get it started. The prospect of ending the war has some government officials quaking, knowing that their useful time may be at an end.

Fighting resistance every step of the way, Nilis, Pirius, and the rest of our intrepid cast eventually get what they need--ships and people to go to the Galactic Center to take on Chandra and the Xeelee. But before it's all over, a complication arises that changes everything--a complication that I presume will be settled in the next book, TRANSCENDENT.

At this juncture the two novels appear to be connected by a couple of very thin threads. We do get to see a Coalescence, a hive colony running a library of ancient knowledge. These hive colonies were the subject of the first book in the series. The other is the mysterious and revered Michael Poole, whom I assume will play a large part next time around.

Next up I will return to the "Dune" universe, as HUNTERS OF DUNE, the first book of the conclusion of the original "Dune" saga, will be the next book I pick up.

Till then. [-jak]

[Joe reports that he will be doing fewer reviews because he has changed jobs and no longer has a long commute on the train every day (which is when he did a lot of his reading). His gain is our loss, I suppose. -ecl]

Interviews (letters of comment by Paul S. R. Chisholm, Mike Glyer, and George MacLachlan):

In response to Mark's article on interviews in the 08/18/06 issue of the MT VOID, Paul S. R. Chisholm writes, "Some interviews are decidedly amicable towards the subject; some, decidedly antagonistic. '60 Minutes' is famous for the latter. I've heard they sometimes taped interviews, then (in the absence of the subject) re-taped the interviewer to make him or her more polished, confident, etc. Can anyone confirm?"

Not that they can't also be accused of the opposite:

ESPN is working very hard to have more effective interviews:

Hope this helps. [-psrc]

Mike Glyer writes, "You might be right that the crime novelist provided the questions. Isn't it just as likely, though, that the novelist had previously written or spoken about 'what a crime novel can do' and that the interviewer picked up on that in researching the subject? In line with your comment about the interview being done to entertain an audience, surprising the subject with a question is risky and dumbstruck pauses would make bad radio. An interviewer needs to throw pitches they know the subject can hit in order to be certain the result will be entertaining. Or so I have always assumed in preparing to interview SF writers on convention programs." [-mg]

George MacLachlan writes, "Your editorial on "What Can an Interview Do?" struck a chord with me. Someone recently emailed me a URL ( for a video clip that describes the efforts of Reuters, New York Times, and Associated Press to editorialize their photography to put a negative slant on Israel's bombing of Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. If the statements and examples in the video clip are true (given what's going on in the news media today, it's hard to know what is true and what is staged), they are very disturbing indeed." [-gfm]

(There is an interesting article on misrepresentation of the truth in the news at [-mrl])

The Video Revolution (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):

Regarding Mark's comments in the 08/25/06 issue of the MT VOID on the video revolution, Andre Kuzniarek writes, "Golly, I have scads of these [classic movies] on tape, but not just any--on Beta! I still have a Betamax just to be able to watch these when I want to, but I'm so busy these days, I'm only watching films from my DVD collection. I also have hundreds of laserdiscs, which I collected by scouring sales and from video clubs, from just before DVDs came along. I was working long nights and never had a chance to get to a video store at a decent hour, so it was nice to have stuff I could watch from my own collection to wind down with. DVDs make this so much easier of course, having become popular enough to be commodities. Laserdisc (and the Discovision) were actually available to consumer before VCRs became commonly available, but the advantages of being able to record programs were too plain to ever make LD catch on except as a videophile format (and in Japan).... [-ak]

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

This year's World Science Fiction Convention (L.A.con IV) chose four works to be featured. People were encouraged to read them before the convention and then attend discussion groups about them. The four were SPACE CADET by Robert A. Heinlein, TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne, BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley, and "No Woman Born" by C. L. Moore.

I commented on BRAVE NEW WORLD in the 12/09/05 issue of the MT VOID, and since I read it so recently, I did not re-read it for L.A.con IV.

SPACE CADET by Robert A. Heinlein (ISBN 0-765-31450-9) is very much a mixed bag. Written in 1948, it swings between being perceptive and being way off-base, being liberal and being reactionary. On the one hand, Heinlein seems to have foreseen microwave ovens when he has the cadets heat something with "high- frequency waves." On the other, he seems to think that learning will be done by a combination of injections and hypnosis--which does make it easier to fill his book with more interesting things than having his cadets sitting in class for hours on end. On the one hand, he has an important black character, at a time when the military had just been integrated, and equal treatment of blacks was almost unheard of. (Actually, when he wrote the book, the military was probably still segregated.) On the other hand, all his main characters are male and have either Anglo-Saxon or French names and backgrounds, even when they come from Venus or Ganymede. The lack of women, Asians, or even eastern or southern European cadets seems very obvious today.

TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne (ISBN 0-870-21678-3) has a reputation as a children's adventure book. This is mostly because a lot of the characterization and detail that Verne put in was removed by Mercier Lewis, the translator whose English translation has been the most widespread (in the United States at least). For this occasion I re-read the book in Walter James Miller's annotated version (for which the ISBN is given), and Miller includes his translations of the parts that Lewis had omitted, as well as noting the many places where Lewis mis-translated Verne. If Lewis was not writing that the density of steel was "from .7 to .8 that of water" where Verne had said that it was "7.8 that of water," then he was having Nemo talk about "jumping over" an island where Verne says "blowing up" (the same word in French, but Lewis completely misses the meaning). In fact, Lewis consistently gets the numbers and calculations wrong. He frequently confuses the French "six" (6) with "dix" (10), and substitutes English measures for metric. The latter would be almost close if he substituted "yards" for "metres," but he sometimes substitutes "feet" instead! When you read this book, use either Miller's annotated version or a newer translation. (If the fourth paragraph mentions Cuvier and other naturalists, it is undoubtedly a newer translation.) Verne has both a lot more technical detail and a lot more politics and philosophy than Lewis included.

"No Woman Born" by C. L. Moore is a novella about a woman who was turned into a cyborg. As an updating of the Frankenstein story, it has its merits, but it did not strike me as a classic in the same way that the novels that were chosen did. It is available in several anthologies; you can look up an up-to-date list at (a highly recommended site in general). [-ecl]

[When I write up the panels that I attended for these, I will either include those write-ups, or provide pointers to them. -ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Zeal is fit only for wise men, but is 
           found mostly in fools.
                                          -- Thomas Fuller

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