MT VOID 09/28/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 13, Whole Number 1721

MT VOID 09/28/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 13, Whole Number 1721

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/28/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 13, Whole Number 1721

Table of Contents

      Fred Flintstone: Mark Leeper, Wilma Flintstone: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted 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

Gimme That Old Time Politics (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have to admit it. I am old enough that I remember when in politics if you were called a "Nattering Nabob of Negativism" it was considered to be a bad thing. Now it seems to be a party- loyalty requirement. [-mrl]

Turner Classic Movies for Halloween Month (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have made up a listing of all the myriad films of some fantasy interest on Turner Classic Movies in October. See it at Also see my recommendations

Nice Little Problem (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

This is a nice little problem (though if I could give you a diagram it would be nicer.)

You have a square that is 13 units on a side (the sides are horizontal and vertical). At the top of it, pointing upward, you construct a 5-12-13 triangle with the long side being upper horizontal side of the square. Similarly at the bottom, pointing downward, you construct a 5-12-13 triangle with the long side being the lower horizontal side of the square. Do it so the whole figure is symmetrical around the center point of the square. You now have a figure whose outer boundary is six-sided. The sides that make up the outer boundary are 5-12-13-5-12-13 in order. The two points furthest apart are the very highest and very lowest points of the figure. How far apart are they?

The usual rules apply. I will publish a solution next week along with the names of all the people who got the answer. [-mrl]

THE ROAD TO THE STARS (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

In 1956 and 1957 the Soviets made a film showing how good Soviets were going to go to the moon. For the 50s they do fairly well by the special effects. A 25-minute excerpt shows the best special effects of the film. It can be found at All the speaking and narration is in Russian, but it is the visuals you would want to see and those transcend the language barrier.

If you want to see the whole film (?), about 49 minutes long, it is at However, the shorter version has all the interesting scenes. [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for October (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Well, it is again Halloween month on TCM, and there are a lot of good horror and science fiction films that might be recommended. But considering most readers of this column will have seen a fair number of these films already there are not that many I am recommending. If you have not seen the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, of course by all means you should see it. But you do not need me to tell you that you should see it. At one time Turner was able to turn up a really obscure film or two. Those have been mostly used up. These days there is not much Halloween fare on Turner that is obscure and certainly little that is both obscure and recommendable. They do have one well-rated film that I admit is new to me. It is a 1947 French film directed by Maurice Tourneur (father of the great Jacques Tourneur), CARNIVAL OF SINNERS listed as fantasy and horror. The story seems to be a variation on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp." (Monday, October 22, 2:15AM)

But with so much of the month being horror and science fiction, there is less non-Halloween fare and so less recommendable. All times are Eastern Standard Time. First let's look at two non- Halloween films.

First up is THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965). Sadly, I cannot tell you why it is recommended. What makes it a good film hangs on a plot twist that you should not be expecting when you first see the film. Telling you why this adventure film is so interesting would spoil some of the story for you. I am honor-bound to say very little about the plot but a ramshackle airplane flying over the Sahara runs into a sandstorm. There is little that veteran pilot Frank Townes (Jimmy Stewart) and his co-pilot (Richard Attenborough) can do but crash-land. Some of the passengers are killed immediately. The rest have to figure how to stay alive under the intense heat of the desert sun. Though nobody wants to admit it the chances of rescue are nil, and the hope of walking to an oasis is nearly as small. Then a little German engineer who was a passenger comes up with a ridiculous and desperate plan for how they might save themselves. But even a tiny chance of survival is better than just giving up and dying. This is a strong and suspenseful film with good characters. It is based on a 1964 novel by Elleston Trevor who, under another name, wrote the Quiller spy novels. (Thursday, October 11 8PM)

I was asked once who are my heroes from cinema. I think the guy who asked me was expecting something like James Bond. After a little thought I said Thomas More from A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (not on TCM this month) and John Singer from THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968). This on is on. Alan Arkin in a rare dramatic role plays a deaf mute who moves into a Southern town to be near a hospitalized friend. There he becomes involved in the lives of several people he meets, especially young Mick Kelley (Sandra Locke). This film, somewhat along the lines of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is based on a novel by Carson McCullers. Arkin got an Oscar nomination for his role. There are good performances from Percy Rodrigues, Cicely Tyson, and Stacey Keach.) (Sunday, October 7, 2PM)

On to the Halloween films...

The father of all omnibus horror films--films composed of multiple stories--is DEAD OF NIGHT (1945). If you are a horror fan and have not seen this film you are probably too late, but should see it anyway. Why are you too late? Because this film has been plundered for ideas that have been used in other films and in TV shows. There must be at least three episodes of Twilight Zone that were inspired by DEAD OF NIGHT. In the 1960s and 1970s Amicus films made several omnibus films using DEAD OF NIGHT as a template. I might add that they never had a wraparound story as good as DEAD OF NIGHT's. Counting the wraparound there are probably four good horror stories. (October 1, 1:30 AM)

Then there is TCM's experiment with LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) WITH Lon Chaney, Sr. It is the probably the most celebrated lost horror film. The story may be familiar from the 1935 remake, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE with Bela Lugosi in the Chaney role. The film is lost, but TCM was able to recreate it with all but the motion component. There are production stills are used to show the action. It does not really work, but it is the closest thing to actually seeing the film. No less an authority than Forrest J. Ackerman has said that if the original film was ever found it would be a disappointment to most of the fans. He did not think it was particularly good. Its high interest value stems from it being unobtainable. But it is interesting to see what was made. (October 31, 6:30AM)

I would claim that Hammer Films' best horror film is QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (if you count their science fiction films). The second best has to be THE DEVIL'S BRIDE (1968). The European title is THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, which is also the title of the Dennis Wheatley novel on which it is fairly faithfully based, thanks to a very good script by Richard Matheson. It was made at a time when horror films with black magic took most of their screen time just establishing that evil magic is real. Think ROSEMARY'S BABY, CURSE OF THE DEMON, or THE DEVIL'S OWN. THE DEVIL'S BRIDE wastes little time establishing that there is Black Magic and then takes the viewer on a wild and complex ride through the world of Black Magic and devils. The resulting story is complex and satisfying. (October 18 at 2:15 AM)

Enjoy Halloween month on Turner Classic Movies. [-mrl]

Lessons from Harry Potter (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

There are some good lessons in the "Harry Potter" books (and movies), but there are also some that you may not feel should be presented to young readers:

[Hogwarts is distressingly as unfair as the real world -mrl]

ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Many animators make films that give the impression that anything could happen. But Bill Plympton's cartoons (a.k.a. Plymptoons) make that what-could-happen the anythingest. Bill Plympton makes reality-pulverizing animated films. His friends, his peers, and some celebrities delve into Plympton's life and his art in this documentary study of the life and art of Bill Plympton. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

I started trying to characterize Bill Plympton by arguing with myself how to describe him. I was going to characterize him just saying he was "anarchic." Well, taken literally that means wanting to escape the restrictions of government. But Plympton's cartoons are not at all political. Really what I meant was that he was escaping the usual self-imposed restrictions of the animated film medium. But there are many cartoonists who do that. Well, perhaps what he is refusing is the physical reality of the world. But when the Coyote runs off a cliff and does not fall for several seconds that is counter to reality too. But clearly when a Plymptoon has the individual features of a face run around the head like cockroaches on a kitchen floor and then the head just pops off, this is a profoundly deeper form of anarchy. (Actually that film, "Your Face", earned him the first of his two Oscar nominations.) Plympton attacks our assumptions that nobody even realized were assumptions.

ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS is not just a collection of Plymptoons (his animations), though we do see plenty of them. It is an anarchic study of who this fellow Bill Plympton is. ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS tells the history of who he is going back to his getting into trouble for the salacious campaign posters he created for his high school student body President campaign. (Okay, there he was political. Just not very.)

In interviews friends and celebrities talk about Plympton's past and his creations. The celebrities (like Keith Carradine, Ed Begley Jr., Terry Gilliam, Matthew Modine, and Al Yankovic) are there too frequently only for attempted humor. Peers (like Ralph Bakshi) and friends have more interesting things to say. The interviews are illustrated with classic Plympton cartoons and home movies.

Plympton is the dean of independent animation and we hear in the interviews how that was not his plan. He had hoped to be hired by Disney Studios and would work for the giant (or is it the Mouse?). His plans went badly askew when he got a million-dollar offer from Disney. Suddenly he found that he did not want to give up his independence and have someone else telling him what to do. So with mixed emotions he remained an independent filmmaker.

Plympton, we are told, hand-makes his cartoons, and they look it. His usual technique is to draw each frame without aid of computer. Still, we hear he is fast both in getting his ideas and in implementing them in realized animated films.

Like the Plymptoons themselves, this documentary directed by Alexia Anastasio is uneven, slightly out of balance, made on the cheap side, and has some rough edges to show for it. But the material is definitely compelling.

The film has ample examples of the anarchic ideas of Plympton. One of his "Guard Dog" animations has the title beast deciding that a squirrel has homicidal intentions toward the dog's unsuspecting master. That cute exterior and fluffy tail hides the mind of a pure evil genius and an arsenal of unsuspected weapons. Here at last is an explanation if why dogs bark at squirrels. We can see what is going on in the crazy mind of the squirrel. Or more accurately we can see what is going on in the crazy mind of man with a unique genius for bringing impossible ideas out from his subconscious and onto the theater screen. I rate ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. The film came out on DVD on September 25 from Cinema Libre.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


SHADOWS IN FLIGHT by Orson Scott Card (copyright 2011, Tor, $21.99, 237pp, ISBN 978-0-7635-3200-4) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

So, in preparation for this review I went back and read my review of the last Ender "Shadow" book, SHADOW OF THE GIANT, to see what I had written there. I had some vague recollection of things I'd said, but here are a couple of relevant excerpts:

"It appears that with this book Card finally brings the Shadow series of books to a close, but not without an escape hatch for more books in the Ender universe if he wants to write them. Quite frankly, as nicely as this thing finished up, I think it's time to put Ender and his friends to rest and move on to other things."

"Again, it doesn't have to be over. Readers will see for themselves what the escape hatch is, and realize that there's a whole bunch more that can be written. But no more Ender books should be written. It should end right here, while I'm still feeling good about it, and before the series is cheapened even more."

And, more than *seven* years later--that review was indeed written in August of 2005--I feel the same way. This book should never have been written, the series has been cheapened, and Ender and his friends should *still* be put to bed.

Ah yes, that escape hatch. Card used it. Bean, known as the Giant, and three of his children with Petra that have had Anton's Key turned--Ender (yes, named in honor of Bean's friend), Carlotta, and Sergeant--left Earth travelling at relativistic speeds in an effort to allow scientists back on home to find a cure for the malady which has them super intelligent, but also inflicts them with gigantism so they die in their twenties because their bodies are too big for their hearts to support. The story opens with Bean laying in the cargo hold of the Herodotus because he's too big to be able to stand up and walk around. Ender continues research into finding a way to reverse Anton's Key, Carlotta cares for the hydroponics and other things in an effort to keep them all alive, and Sergeant studies the ship, weapons, and war. A meeting of the three is called by Sergeant, and the three of them gather in place in the ship where Bean cannot monitor them. Sergeant proposes that since Bean is near death, and he's using up valuable resources, they should kill Bean. Up until this point, Sergeant has been the bully, with Carlotta siding with him and Ender just giving in. But not this time. Ender breaks Sergeant's nose, and just like that the balance of power has turned.

The other goal of the mission is to find a planet where the three of them can live, and one is coming right up, but it's already got visitors. It turns out that the ship is a Formic vessel, and now the crew of the Herodotus has to decide what to do about this. Eventually they get around to deciding that the Formic ship must be investigated and boarded. Finally, our heroes (as it were) make contact with the occupants of the ship, and the final scenes come about as a result of that contact.

I really don't know that there's much to say about this book. I'm not quite sure why Card took the time to write it. There is a lot of talking--a whole lot--discussing family dynamics, the Formics, war, science, Anton's Key, and more. But nothing much *actually happens*. Oh, there is a sort of big event near the end, but I'm not sure that it's not forced. Maybe it's not.

My understanding is that this is the first half of yet another book that was broken into two because it was too big. This book is small enough, and not enough happens, that I'm betting both halves of the book could have been published together as one book and it would have been just fine.

Go back and look at the paragraphs from my previous review. The statements still stand. I feel like I'm reading another version of DUNE, where the author(s) won't give up; instead, they keep grinding out more novels, presumably for more money. This needs to stop now. It really does. [-jak]

Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (letters of comment from Mike Glyer, Dan Kimmel, Gregory Benford, and Chris Garcia):

In response to Dale Skran's article on the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, in the 09/21/12 issue of the MT VOID, Mike Glyer writes:

Loved the guest editorial about the Dramatic Hugo and Mark's reply. [-mg]

Mike also reported on it in his zine (FILE 770) and asked for comments there; the URL is

Dan Kimmel writes:

I'm with Dale. I was involved in some of the discussions at the time of the split in the dramatic category (although not on the committee that actually formulated it). To me it was obvious: best film and best TV series. However dealing with SMOFs is like herding cats. They are easily distracted and will go their own way. The fear was that some play or radio broadcast would be the best science fiction of the year and could not be nominated in either category. Therefore it was turned into "Dramatic Work, Long Form" and "Dramatic Work, Short Form." For all the rules on time to determine whether something is "long" or "short," they have been applied haphazardly. A short feature length film went into "long form" even though its running time should have indicated otherwise. And we have the complete failure of the short form category by turning it into "best Doctor Who episode."

I'm not a "Doctor Who" fan but I have nothing against the show and have many friends who enjoy it. However like Dale I refuse to believe it is the best science fiction on television year after year after year. By changing the category to best TV series, "Doctor Who" would have to compete with other shows, not simply take over the category. Perhaps the short form category should be split into "best series" and "best episode."

As for other categories like "best related work," I'll keep my feelings to myself. I did, after all, get the nominee's lapel pin. :-) [-dk]

Gregory Benford writes:

Good comments on DR WHO winning so much. Alas, this is just another example of how the Hugo, once the best award in SF, maybe next to the Nebulas, has eroded until it is a sorry sight. Both awards have been gangbanged by groups so much, they lost in the 1980s any commercial clout in publishing. Now they've done that in the lesser, non-print awards. When a "Harry Potter" novel wins the Hugo, you're in trouble. When gang voting confers honors, there is little honor. Fantasy wins most supposedly SF awards now. Best not to look that way... [-gb]

Mark replies:

I agree with you and Dale on the Hugos, but as I said I do not think the we should think of the Hugos as the ultimate tool for choosing the best piece of science fiction. All polls are popularity polls by definition. [-mrl]

And Chris Garcia writes:

I'll confess, I don't read MT VOID as often as I should. Every time I'm reminded, often by notes on File 770, I'll hop over and go "You know, I should read it more often."

And, of course, I seldom do...

Enough! On to comments on Contents.

As a guy who lost to DOCTOR WHO this year, I don't mind the dominance. I do mind that excellent short films such as "The Fabulous Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" (2012 Oscar winner and a film I programmed for Cinequest which I believe was it's festival debut), "Time Freak" and "The Tragorical Historie of Guidolon: The Giant Space Chicken" all failed to make the ballot over the years. Maybe it's just that I see a lot more shorts than most folks because I programme with Cinequest, but it's sad that it's so difficult to get one on the ballot. I did enjoy "F**k Me, Ray Bradbury" on the ballot, but still, it would have been nice to see s a great short on the ballot. Of course, if we had declined the nomination for the "Drink Tank's Hugo Acceptance", "The Fabulous Flying Books" would have been on the ballot, so mea culpa.

I will argue that with the exception of TORCHWOOD season 2 and LOST's final season, none of those listen shows produced an episode that was better than the episodes of DOCTOR WHO that got on the ballot (with the possible exception of "A Good Man Goes to War", which I thought was very weak). Now, COMMUNITY has had two episodes that should have been on the ballot, and one of them ended up on the ballot ("Remedial Chaos Theory") and one that didn't even come close ("Basic Epidemiology"). Either of those were better than any of the DOCTOR WHO episodes nominated in the last three years. I don't understand the aversion towards great SF that happens in non-SF shows for Hugos. Meh.

Good stuff. I should be reading more often... [-cg]

Mark replies:

Thank you for the kind words about the VOID, but there is no "should" about reading the VOID.

Readers can find "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)" at:
"Guidolon: The Giant Space Chicken (Director's Cut) at:
and "F*** Me, Ray Bradbury" at:

The problem is that a lot of good short films are unavailable or unknown. As for unavailable the system is a lot better now than it was years ago. Of the four nominees you mention, three of them I can give links to on YouTube. It may have been possible in time for nominations but people did not know to look for them. That is where reviewers can help. I try to let people know what I think is or is not good and, if possible, where to find it. And there the situation is getting better because more current videos are available to people than ever before because they are going up on YouTube and Vimeo.

But as I said in my comment, the Hugo is intended to choose the work with the best potential to please the audience, but of necessity it chooses instead the work that actually has achieved already pleasing the greatest number of voters. That is an important distinction. [-mrl]

Faster-Than-Light Travel (letter of comment by Gregory Benford):

In response to Mark's comments on faster-than-light travel in the 09/21/12 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

Many relativity theorists don't take seriously the entire field theory constructs on which the experiment you mention are based; they're mathematically unstable solutions, i.e., not even plausible equilibria. I predict the experiments will fail.

I always read MT VOID, recalling my own VOID of lo! over half a century ago... [-gb]

Mark responds:

As for the physics and mathematics comment--I assume this is about the possibility of faster-than-light travel; sure, I think that this will not pan out. It is unlikely that that this will turn out to make FTL travel possible. Mathematics makes some predictions about physics, but the real world may not fit those predictions. When I think of mathematical predictions that turn out to be untrue I think of a waffle maker. You take the waffle iron and pour some batter onto it and it cooks your waffle. The batter I pour may or may not go all the way to the boundary on the waffle grid. If it does go out that far, I can mathematically predict just exactly where the waffle will have the little square holes. But the batter may or may not have cooperated and slopped out that far. Similarly the matter in the universe may or may not have slopped over into creating tachyons, for example. But if there are tachyons, we can mathematically predict how they will behave. The universe is built on a grid of mathematics, but it does not fill up the grid. [-mrl]

SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN (letter of comment by Chris Garcia):

In response to Mark's review of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN in the 09/21/12 issue of the MT VOID, Chris Garcia writes:

SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN first showed at Cinequest this year! I watched a bit of it, didn't enjoy it much, and as I had another movie to watch, I left after twenty minutes or so. It wasn't strictly me walking out of a movie, I was waiting for another film and when you've got a full access pass, sometimes you'll catch only a few minutes of a flick while waiting and if it catches you, you stick around. [-cg]

Mark responds:

Your assessment is right on the money as far as I am concerned. I got the pleasure of seeing the film before most people did being able to tell people about it. In this case it was to warn people that it was not very interesting in spite of the "Super Hero" in the title. [-mrl]

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

MCSWEENEY'S ENCHANTED CHAMBER OF ASTONISHING STORIES edited by Michael Chabon (ISBN 978-1-4000-7874-5) is a follow-on to MCSWEENEY'S MAMMOTH TREASURY OF THRILLING TALES. The cover is from FANTASTIC NOVELS magazine, January 1949, in keeping with the retro idea. But the stories are by current authors, few of whom were even alive in 1949. I must be out of touch, because they have names on the front cover that I have never heard of (David Mitchell, Heidi Julavits, and Roddy Doyle) while leaving off better- known authors (Margaret Atwood, Poppy Z. Brite, Jonathan Lethem, and China Miéville). The stories themselves are fantasy (including dark fantasy, or horror), not science fiction. I cannot say that I loved every story, but as with the magazines it is patterned after, it has enough to satisfy to make it worthwhile.

COLD COMFORT FARM by Stella Gibbons (ISBN 978-0-241-95151-4) is of a sub-genre I might call "You can't believe everything you read--or can you?" It also includes such works as NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen and MERTON OF THE MOVIES by Harry Leon Wilson. In COLD COMFORT FARM, Flora has formed her opinions of rural English life based on popular novels of the time. So she is convinced that her cousin Judith will have a husband "who is almost certain to be called Amos" and sons named Seth and Reuben, because "highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben." And in all these ridiculous suppositions she turns out to be correct. There is also an itinerant preacher cousin, a crazy aunt, and a variety of bizarre locals. Flora finds none of this at all odd--in fact, she would find it odd were it otherwise.

In this COLD COMFORT FARM differs somewhat from NORTHANGER ABBEY, in which Catherine Morland keeps expecting something like what she reads in novels (in her case Gothic thrillers). When she discovers an old locked chest, she forces the lock expecting to find an old will or other valuable documents. Instead, she finds a discarded laundry list instead. And in MERTON OF THE MOVIES, the situation is that Merton Gill thinks everything he has read about movie stars is true, and everything he sees on screen is done with no tricks. The difference is that Catherine and Merton are humorous because they are wrong in what they expect, while Flora is spot on.

There is some question as to when COLD COMFORT FARM takes place. At the beginning we hear that Flora's parents died of the "annual epidemic of influenza or Spanish plague," and although they say "annual" we can't help but think that this takes place shortly after the 1918-1919 epidemic, and indeed the technology seems accurate to that or maybe a few years later--cars, private airplanes of the sort flown by King Westley in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT or in early Agatha Christie novels. But towards the end someone refers to the "Anglo-Nicaraguan wars of '46" and we realize that this is actually a science fiction novel, set twenty years in the future from when Gibbons wrote it (1932). As such, it does a fairly abysmal job of predicting the future--though if you miss predicting World War II, it is a good bet your other predictions will be off base as well.

(There is apparently an abridged version of COLD COMFORT FARM published by BN Publishing floating around--avoid it at all costs!) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The social sciences, I thought, needed the same kind 
          of rigor and the same mathematical underpinnings that 
          had made the "hard" sciences so brilliantly successful. 
                                          --Herbert Simon 

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