MT VOID 01/26/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 30, Whole Number 1425

MT VOID 01/26/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 30, Whole Number 1425

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/26/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 30, Whole Number 1425

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

NPR Sunday Puzzle:

Mark had a puzzle he submitted chosen for NPR's Sunday Puzzle challenge for January 21. It is too late to submit answers, but it goes as follows:

Challenge from January 21: Name a famous film director, whose last name has two syllables. Phonetically these two syllables sound like words that are opposites of each other. What are the words and who is the director? Challenge from Mark Leeper of Old Bridge, New Jersey.
The answer will be given next week. [-mrl]

Videos Worth Watching:

Amazing stagecraft:

"Handmade" Star Wars Video:

Academy Award Nominations for Fantasy Films:

What I Learned from THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Whenever I get the urge to straighten up the house I watch THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN until the feeling passes. This is the film in which a man shrinks (no kidding) and becomes trapped in his own basement. He survives because he had a messy basement that provided his little self with everything he needed to survive. You never know when something like that is going to happen is going to happen to you, I suppose. (I have no way to predict when it might happen to me, anyway.) This film proves that the more cluttered your basement the better. You are best off if you only do enough housekeeping to get rid of the tarantulas. It is not a good idea to have a cat either, but you are probably smart enough to know that part already. [-mrl]

Analysis of Strategies for Deconstruction of Sandwich Cookies (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Let me start this essay with a confession. I play with my food. It is usually when nobody else can see. But it is playing in what I consider an enlightened and a time-honored way.

There is a commercial on television showing a boy eating an Oreo cookie. When a child eats an Oreo he does it in a specific way. He or she pulls the two chocolate sub-cookies apart and eats the frosting first. That leaves him with the two chocolate sub- cookies, which he then eats separately. I have to admit that under circumstances where it will not lead to a social embarrassment that is the way that I myself eat any sandwich cookie. That is the smart way.

From a structural sense I think that makes perfect sense. The frosting is the best tasting part of the cookie. By pulling apart the cookie one gets the most flavor possible from the frosting. Kids are smart when it comes to sweets. They understand this. The frosting is the most satisfying part of a sandwich cookie. It also may be the healthiest way to eat a sandwich cookie. The consumer (and I literally mean consumer) gets more flavor out of the cookie by the disassembly method of eating. A sandwich cookie is really designed to pack its best part in the interior of the cookie. This is done intentionally by the producer of the cookie. If the frosting were in a more accessible place it would rub off onto the wrapping material. Once the average consumer bites into the cookie and hence breaks it open some of the frosting does reach the tongue, but it is still buffered by the bulk of the broken chocolate sub- cookie. The frosting is really what gives a sandwich cookie most of its flavor and is probably the least healthy part of the cookie. It is made predominately of sugar and fat. Yet with Oreo cookie design little of this frosting comes in contact with the tongue. Not getting the full satisfaction, the consumer is tempted to eat more. Dissecting the cookie makes eating it a more satisfying experience and the consumer is less likely to want a second one.

If the situation is bad with traditional sandwich cookies, it is even worse with sugar wafers. A sugar wafer is like a sandwich cookie, but it is generally more layers, alternating wafer with frosting. This has all the problem of a sandwich cookie and more. It is a device intended to maximize the amount of frosting insulated from the tasting facilities. It is mostly frosting, but the person eating gets only a light hint of the taste of that indulgent frosting. The person who would want to separate out the layers to allow more of the frosting to come in contact with the tongue has two big frustrations waiting: flavor and structural strength. The chocolate sub-cookies of an Oreo have a reasonably decent flavor. One might eat one under normal circumstances. I know of nobody who snacks on unfrosted wafers for any reason but a religious ceremony. In addition, in spite of its crosshatched reinforcement, a single thickness of wafer is actually very weak structurally. A very small amount of pressure will cause it to break. This makes the process of disassembly a sugar wafer a very delicate one and one fraught with peril.

One must very gently bite into the top frosting layer with both the upper and lower teeth. One fastens on the uppermost layer of wafer and delicately lifts a layer of wafer off the main structure. Now if there is too much adhesion of frosting the wafer may not survive this step intact. There is a very real danger that the stress on the wafer will cause it structural damage toward the center, leaving the practitioner with half the wafer in his teeth and half on the cookie. Another common failure is for the frosting to adhere entirely or in part to the wafer layer being removed. This leads to a common but unpleasant condition of having a sheet of wafer frosted on both sides. The seriousness of this situation will becomes immediately apparent when one realizes that there may be several layers of wafer waiting to be disassembled and the common practice is to store the disassembled pieces in one's hand until ready to eat them all consecutively.

Most adult practitioners choose not to have the frosting come in direct contact with the hand for reasons of wanting to avoid stickiness. Children are less likely to worry about these frosting-hand contacts in spite of the fact that one can never be quite certain where their little hands have been. In any case if the sugar wafer has L layers of wafer it will have at most L-1 layers of frosting. This means that the process, even if it goes smoothly, will yield at least one layer of unfrosted wafer. This may be eaten quickly ignoring its lack of flavor, or it may be discarded. One may then eat the remaining wafers, in the process of eating them inverting them and placing the plane of frosting in direct contact with the tongue. I believe the upper front of the tongue is the best location to be in contact with the frosting as it is thought to be that location on the tongue most sensitive to the sweetness of the frosting.

In any case I heartily recommend the disassembly method of consuming frosted multi-layered cookies and confidently predict that by the 22nd Century this is how all sandwich cookies will be consumed. [-mrl]

Electronic Travel (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I think we are more and more becoming electronic vagabonds for better or worse.

We went to the Singapore Zoo back in 1990, and there was an elephant show that we went to see. We were towards the front, and at one point the elephant took a trunk full of water and I suggested we needed to move back--quickly! Sure enough, everyone in the first couple of rows got drenched. And at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995 we went to something where luckily we had been warned ahead of time that the first few rows got hit with a water cannon, so we could be prepared.

And why do we need to be prepared? Well, travelers in the 1950s and 1960s usually only needed to worry about whether their watches and possibly cameras were waterproof. (Before then, most people had nothing that was that water-sensitive.) But by 1990, people were carrying calculators, electronic watches, Walkmans, and (of course) cameras. Obviously most visitors to the Singapore Zoo in 1990 were not carrying cameras--they were local residents bringing their children for the day. Because if most people had been carrying cameras, they probably would have posted a warning. And by 1995, we had palmtop computers to worry about as well.

And now? Well, on our latest trip, we had palmtop computers, a cell phone, a DVD player, a CD player (for me), a cassette player (for Mark), a radio, a GPS, walkie-talkies, a digital camera, and watches. We do not carry all of these with us all day, and in Arizona there is not much chance of getting drenched, but there are other problems, primarily weight. The items themselves are mostly fairly lightweight (a palmtop computer is about four ounces), but a couple are somewhat hefty (the portable DVD player and the GPS). And then there are the cables to connect the DVD player, the charger for the cell phone, the batteries and charger for just about everything else, the DVDs, the CDs, the cassettes, the card reader for downloading from PCs, and so on. By the time you add it all up, and include a couple of non-electronic technological items like binoculars, it comes to about twelve or thirteen pounds. (This does not include Mark's CPAP, which weighs about ten pounds and takes a separate piece of luggage entirely.)

Now obviously we do not take everything on every trip. (We bring the DVD player only on trips of a week or more and only if we expect to have a lot of spare time in the hotel room.) But given that on trips ten years ago, my entire suitcase weighed only nineteen pounds, I think I can say that creeping technology is making travel more complicated. And of course, one is a lot more concerned about onesself or one's luggage getting wet.

For a lot of trips, I could drop the binoculars, the walkie- talkies, and the DVD player (and accessories). Using non- rechargeable batteries saves carrying a charger. Overseas the cell phone might not work, and the GPS does not at this time have the maps. But I still feel as though technology is making things more complicated, not less. [-ecl]

[That is only because we are becoming Type 2 electronic vagabonds. Type 1 electronic vagabonds never have this problem. They just sit all day in front of the National Geographic Channel and their greatest danger to their electronics is that they may drop the remote in their chip dip. -mrl]

CHILDREN OF MEN (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Mark's review of CHILDREN OF MEN in the 01/12/07 issue of the MT VOID, Fred lerner writes, "A long time ago I read an SF novel called IMPLOSION, by D.F. Jones I believe, which was set in a world in which women had stopped having children. Has anyone read both this and CHILDREN OF MEN? How do they compare? [-fl]

C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA (letter of comment by Per C. Jorgensen):

In response to Evelyn's comments on C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA in the 01/19/07 issue of the MT VOID, Per C. Jorgensen writes, "Thanks for the latest MT Void, it was as usual a good start of the weekend (I usually get it by the end of the working day, that is, Norwegian time, of course). I agree that C.S.A. was a surprisingly effective zero-budget movie (of course, I know some fellow alternate history buffs thought very little of the alternate timelime, but I was willing to overlook that). I believe that when it comes to the Jefferson Davis presidency, he was named provisional president by the Confederate constitutional assembly in February 1861, but elected to the presidency in November 1861, and inaugurated in February 1862. So he was first provisional president, and then regular president only from 1862 on. I'm not sure what this means for election years in that timeline." [-pjc]

Mark responds, "I will let Evelyn answer the CSA comments. I will say that we picked Friday because at work we figured it was the day people wanted most to lighten up and get ready for the weekend. It is good to hear that it still has that effect and it transcends international boundaries (not to mention an ocean)." [-mrl]

And Evelyn answers, " Wikipedia does indeed confirm that Davis was elected to a six-year term as president of the Confederacy on November 6, 1861, so presumably the cycle started then. But it still doesn't work--if the first election was in 1861, then elections would all be in odd years (odd years that leave a remainder of 1 when divided by 6, in specific), so 1880 would not be an election year--1879 would be." [-ecl]

PAN'S LABYRINTH (letter of comment by Daniel Kimmel):

In response to Mark's review of PAN'S LABYRINTH in the 01/19/07 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Kimmel writes, "We disagree on so many entries in 2006, that I'm pleased that both of you were as impressed with PAN'S LABYRINTH as I was." [-dk]

Mark replies, "I was a little surprised also, even given our long history of different tastes. Perhaps I was even more impressed than you. I should look up your review. But I don't use words like 'masterpiece' lightly. Del Toro created four interesting creatures. But the scene that sticks with me is the captain's swig of whiskey." [-mrl]

Dan continues, "The Boston Society gave it Best Foreign Language film and my own four-star review came out today. It is, as Mark noted, an *original*. I got to interview Del Toro back when MIMIC came out and I was impressed he knew his SF sources. He explained why he had to open up the Donald A. Wollheim short story, and it was one that he was very familiar with, not just some idea he had used for a jumping off point. He obviously loves genre material and enjoys working with it. His will should be a most interesting career to watch." [-dk]

Mark notes, "He was a kid roughly when we were and was crazy about TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS. Interestingly, MIMIC was his only horror film that went to the multiplexes rather than the art houses. I would be curious to know why. I think he is the best horror film director in the world as far I am concerned." [-mrl]

Kumbha Mela and RIVER OF GODS (letter of comment by John Sloan):

In response to Mark's article about the Kumbha Mela in the 01/19/07 issue of the MT VOID, John Sloan writes, "Just to bring in an SF element, some time ago I read the British softcover edition of Ian McDonald's RIVER OF GODS. (I recommend it over the U.S. edition solely because of the cover art, which I found spectacular.) It was no doubt the best SF I read that year, probably the best fiction that year. It is a near future novel that incorporates many of the elements you mention in your article, including the man who has held his arm up for twenty years. I always wonder about the border between reality and fiction when I read books set in other "real" histories or cultures, and how many "facts" are safe to carry away. But in the spirit of the best SF, this book really caused me to think hard about the role India plays in the future of Western civilization (such as it is, thinking of Mahatma Gandhi's quote).

[RIVER OF GODS was nominated for a Hugo in 2005, quite an accomplishment for a novel that at the time of the nominations had had no American publication. -ecl]

Numbering, Japanese Films, Kumbha Mela, Jay Leno, PAN'S LABYRINTH, C.S.A. (letter of comment by John Purcell):

In response to the 01/19/07 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes, "Man, the renumbering of your zine makes your run even more impressive. Something else. So now it's onward to a few comments I simply had to make about things in MT VOID. Thanks for the video links. I am an unabashed sucker for 'Godzilla' films; he's my hero, what can I say?" [-jp]

Mark responds:

I am also, though on the first series I am not interested much past the introduction of Ghidorah. After that they got a little too juvenile. But I enjoyed many of the films in the second and third series.

If you like "Godzilla" film let me recommend to you the new "Gamera" films:

     GAMERA 3: IRIS KAKUSEI (1999)

Daiei Studios "Gamera" films were always a lot tackier than Toho's "Godzilla" films and the series died. In 1995 they decided to start it again and they are making better Kaiju films than Toho does. The scripts are better and visually they are really very nice. I think they took a hint from the Dr Who writers. They knew the idea of a flying turtle was not playing well and decided to give a reasonable sci-fi-ish explanation to rationalize why there should be such a thing. Toho never had decent scripts after the first film. Daiei has actual characters. Now notice I am not saying these are actually good films, but they are not bad. Netflix carries them, by the way. The best Kaiju film ever was GOJIRA, but the next three I would claim are these three "Gamera" films. [-mrl]

John continues, "You're right about that Japanese cartoon being very reminiscent of Max Fleischer. It certainly looks as if someone had deliberately tried copying Fleischer's style, tone, and everything. Interesting to watch. *groan" to that Fibonacci art gallery joke. I understand it, too, which makes it that much more painful. Fibonacci jokes must be more popular nowadays thanks to THE DA VINCI CODE, I suppose." [-jp]

Mark replies, "And I thought you said your eyes burned when I wrote about mathematics. :-)" [-mrl]

In response to Mark's comments on the Kumbha Mela in the same isssue, John goes on, "A word of caution for those going to the Kumbha Mela this year: don't drink the water. Not only that, but I'd hate to be living down-river from that convergence point. Whoo-whee!!" [-jp]

Mark responds, "The Ganges was not noticeably polluted when I was at Varanasi." Evelyn notes, however, that Reuters reports, "India's holy river Ganges has become so polluted that some Hindu pilgrims are reported to be refusing to immerse themselves in its waters in their ritual bathe." [] [-mrl/ecl]

In response to Pete Brady's comments on Jay Leno in the same issue, John writes, "A comment about Jay Leno, spawned by Pete Brady's loc: I will keep this simple. Not only is Jay Leno a poor stand-up comic, but he is a terrible interviewer. Like Pete said, Leno interrupts, makes stupid comments, and asks even stupider questions. The best talk show host who is the best interviewer is, in my humble opinion, Jon Stewart, although I totally love the way Stephen Colbert skewers the talk-show host format. Bland generalities usually irritate me, which is why I really don't watch much network television anymore." [-jp]

And John concludes with, "Finally, I really have got to see PAN'S LABYRINTH. From all that I've seen and read about it, the movie is really awesome. Now I need to keep my eyes out for C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. Alternate history books and movies seem to be in vogue lately, and this one sounds really interesting. Shades of Ward Moore's BRING THE JUBILEE." [-jp]

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

"Wired" magazine asked almost a hundred science fiction authors to write six-word stories. In the interests of giving people a better chance of having time to read all the nominees for the Hugo for Best Short Story, I figured I would review some of them, in hopes that the better ones might get nominated. My comments are in brackets.

[There is a copyright problem here: how can one quote just part of a six-word story? I figure I am entitled to quote a single word-- the first. I have also tried to limit each author to only one or maybe two stories--some sent in several--so the first word (or for a few, an interior word) and the author's name should be sufficient to identify the stories. The full article and all the stories, complete, can be found at]

Computer, ...
- Eileen Gunn

[This is concise and to the point.]

Osama's ...
- Charles Stross

[I initially read this as "Obama's time machine", which is also a science fiction story, albeit of a different sort.]

Internet ...
- Charles Stross

[This is similar to, but somehow not as good as, Gunn's. I think it is the whole "unfinished sentence" thing.]

It's ...
- Rockne S. O'Bannon

Steve ...
- Steven Meretzky

[After a while, these unfinished sentences seem like cheating. (Note: I have somewhat re-arranged these stories. These three were not consecutive.)]

Automobile ...
- Stan Lee

[This seems more like reality than science fiction. Then again, I think "Wired" included horror in the scope.]

Machine. ...
- Alan Moore

[This is an old idea--I was pretty sure I have seen this before. I had thought it was a Wiliam Tenn story, but in fact, it was Fredric Brown's "The End".]

whorl. ...
- Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel


Longed ...
- Margaret Atwood

[Atwood is right--she is not writing science fiction. There seemed to be a lot of this sort of story.]

Corpse ...
- Margaret Atwood

[Okay, this is at least reminiscent of Larry Niven, though it seems more urban legend.]

Starlet ...
- Margaret Atwood

[I think we finally have a definite science fiction story from Atwood.]

I'm ...
- Stephen Baxter

[This seems a very gentle humanistic science fiction story.]

He ...
- Steven Meretzky

[In spite of the fact that this has occasionally happened by mistake in real life, it still has a very science-fictional feel.]

... pregnant!
- Rudy Rucker

[This is both science fiction and horror.]

... skyscrapers ...
- Gregory Maguire

[I suppose this suggests a sort of magical realist world in which the people who jumped from the Twin Towers were able to fly safely to earth.]

Epitaph: ...
- Vernor Vinge

[This is more like a message than a story.]

... cost ...
- Bruce Sterling

[This sounds like a blurb for one of his books.]

1940: ...
- Michael Moorcock

[Yes, it is alternate history, but not very likely.]

Lie ...
- Richard Powers

[This sounds like a response to James Morrow's (Hugo-nominated) "City of Truth", but without any justification for the conclusion.]

... blood ...
- Orson Scott Card

[This seems inspired by the same mode of thinking that leads people to write "human" when asked their race on forms.]

H-bombs ...
- Howard Waldrop

[Someone once said that if the movie THE DAY AFTER was accurate, it would have been, "Introduce the characters, drop the bomb, pan the crater, roll the credits." Waldrop makes it even shorter.]

Rained, ...
- Howard Waldrop

[This is similar to the previous one, with a touch of J. G. Ballard thrown in.]

... humankind ...
- Ben Bova

Nevertheless, ...
- James P. Blaylock

[These were widely separated in the article, but seem to go together.]

TIME ...
- Harry Harrison

[H. G. Wells did this first, but Harrison has a certain conciseness.]

Tick ...
- Neal Stephenson

[This is science fiction?]

Batman ...
- Cory Doctorow

[I thought that Batman had designed the Batsignal and told them to use it, but apparently in some of the stories it was Commissioner Gordon's invention. I doubt that the symbol of a generic bat could be trademarked after the fact.]

Sum ...
- Charles Stross

[Clearly patent and trademark law is on at least some authors' minds.]

Heaven ...
- Robert Jordan

[George Carlin had a slightly longer version of this in a comedy routine many years ago: "Rocks fall from the sky! Earth in flames! Details at 11, but first: Is your pet psychic?"

Dinosaurs ...
- David Brin

[If they are physically present, what do they need the oil for? Assuming, of course, that Brin intends us to think that oil is dead dinosaurs. I think it is considered that oil is primarily the product of decaying vegetation. There is also the abiotic theory, which says that oil is not a product of dead dinosaurs or tress, but is constantly being produced in the earth.]

Temporal ...
- David Brin

[Somehow, I do not consider summarizing a classic science fiction story in six words the same as writing a six-word science fiction story.]

Mozilla ...
- Charles Stross

[There were other "techie-humor" sorts of stories. This may have been the best, but it is still pretty weak.]

Will ...
- Ken MacLeod

[This is distressingly like those stories consisting of authors' letters to publishers and vice versa.]

Clones ...
- Paul Di Filippo

[I do not think clones will be denied rights, any more than "test-tube babies" are now. However, I probably should not underestimate the power of human stupidity.]

MUD ...
- Paul Di Filippo

[I only vaguely know what "MUD" means, so I am obviously not the target audience.]

Warskiing; ...
- Howard Waldrop

[Admittedy sometimes Waldrop can be hard to understand, but here he has achieved a new pinnacle of achievement: complete bafflement in six words.]

Salinger ...
- Howard Waldrop

[This is back to a more normal level of bafflement. Waldrop loves to use literary figures in his stories, and if I were familiar with Salinger this would probably be more meaningful.]

I ...
- Steven Meretzky

[This reminds me of the story about the man who could not buy life insurance ("Prototaph" by Keith Laumer).]

Leia: ...
- Steven Meretzky

[This is *not* going to be an official part of the "Star Wars" mythos!]

And now a couple of separate categories:

Sam Goldwyn said, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." Not everyone listened:

K.I.A. ...
- Richard K. Morgan

Bush ...
- William Gibson

Three ...
- Graeme Gibson

Democracy ...
- David Brin

Parallel ...
- Steven Meretzky

On the other hand, the following is the first Le Guin in a long time without an agenda.

Easy. ...
- Ursula K. Le Guin

Gregory Maguire decided to go self-referential with four of his:

Finally, ...

There ...

In ...

Commas, ...

And there you have it: dozens of short stories to consider that won't make Hugo reading lists unmanageably long. Alas, this technique only works at the short story level.


                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Music is essentially useless, as is life.
                                          -- George Santayana

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