MT VOID 10/26/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 17, Whole Number 1725

MT VOID 10/26/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 17, Whole Number 1725

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/26/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 17, Whole Number 1725

Table of Contents

      Ozzie: Mark Leeper, Harriet: 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

Layout (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I have been told that to be a true fanzine, one must have illustrations and layout.

Okay, here's an illustration of the Loch Ness monster (courtesy of Skidoo):


Is everyone happy now? [-ecl]

The Trouble with One-Way (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I never did like one-way streets. Up until their invention you could always leave some place the way you came. With one-way streets they can trap you. [-mrl]

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

So, what am I recommending for November on TCM that others might have missed? (All times are Eastern Daylight/Standard Times.)

BURN, WITCH, BURN (1962) is going to be shown Saturday, November 10, at 3:15 AM. I would hope this film is not all that obscure, but not everybody seems to know it. Horror greats Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont adapt the novel CONJURE WIFE by another superb fantasy writer, Fritz Leiber. The original tile of the film NIGHT OF THE EAGLE was perhaps an allusion to NIGHT OF THE DEMON (a.k.a. CURSE OF THE DEMON). And the two films have very nearly the same stature. A college professor who rails against superstitious beliefs discovers all of the faculty wives are witches and worse, the witchcraft seems to work for them. The novel was adapted to film at least two other times (albeit poorly). It was adapted as a Universal Inner Sanctum mystery WEIRD WOMAN (1944) and uncredited it was the basis for WITCHES' BREW (1980). But this is the version to see. [Saturday, November 10, 3:15 AM]

One of Hammer Films's most under-appreciated films is a nifty little cat and mouse game, THE SNORKEL (1958). Candy Brown's mother dies unexpectedly, apparently of suicide. But Candy (Mandy Miller) suspects what the viewer already knows--that her mother's new husband murdered her. We know how the husband Paul (Peter Van Eyck) made it look like her mother was alone in a locked room at the time of the death. He finds clever ways of using a swimming snorkel to fool the police and get away with murder. Candy has to do her own detective work before Paul kills her too. This is a very cleverly written thriller, quite different from other Hammer crime films. [Wednesday, November 7, 7:30 AM]

Every once in a while a film comes out that clicks with people. It will have little known actors who a few years later will all be stars. A nothing cast given a few years will be an all-star cast. In Britain such a film was TRAINSPOTTING. That will not be on TCM. TCM will have DINER (1982). I am not sure this is still an obscure film, but if you have not seen it you should. It is the first of Barry Levinson's Baltimore films. It features very strong character writing with people you think you know. Actors featured in the film include Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser. [Friday, November 8, 3:45 AM and again Friday, December 21, 4:15 AM]

I have saved your brush with great literature for the last. Thursday, November 8 at 3:30 AM TCM is running the great cinematic triumph MOBY DICK (1930). What follows is a true and accurate synopsis of the 1930 film MOBY DICK, starring John Barrymore (as Ahab) and Joan Bennett. Noble Johnson plays Queequeg. It is based on Herman Melville's classic of men and the sea.

The film opens with the camera moving in for a look at the book Moby Dick, or The White Whale. The novel begins, "There never was, nor ever will be, a braver life than the life of the whaler. Compared to the game they hunted the mightiest land beast was but a poodle dog." [Boy, that Melville! He sure can write!]

Fade to the harbor of the New Bedford seaport. The Mary Anne is pulling into harbor; all eyes are on the callow young seaman doing acrobatics on top of the mast. Why, it's handsome young Ahab showing off again! Ahab comes ashore and flirts with some of the girls and hilariously insults others. ("If they cut into you they'd certainly get plenty of blubber.") Ahab sees his brother Derek escorting a new girl in town--Faith, the parson's daughter-- to church. Ahab is struck with Faith's beauty but decides to go to the grog shop instead of church. There Ahab meets Queequeg, a primitive man who carries an idol he talks to. Queequeg becomes Ahab's sidekick. Eventually Ahab does go to church and flirts with Faith.

Before long Faith is losing interest in Derek's courting because, like all the girls, she is intrigued by the handsome Ahab. As Ahab is setting sail again Faith tells him that it is he, not Derek, that she loves. They agree to marry when Ahab returns.

Ahab and the Mary Anne are at sea when Ahab sights Moby Dick, the black whale with a white hump and forehead. [This allows the use of stock footage.] As Ahab and his cronies chase the whale in the long boat, Ahab takes one risk too many. The whale turns on Ahab and bites him. Ahab loses a leg and it is replaced by a peg.

When Faith sees Ahab is returning she is overjoyed. But when she sees the peg leg she is momentarily shocked and runs away. Weeks later, we see Ahab unable to get work as a whaler. Faith asks Derek to tell Ahab that she still loves Ahab. Derek twists the message so Ahab thinks Faith does not really love him. Derek then tells Faith that Ahab has cursed her.

Ahab goes to sea for seven years, but not as a whaler. Faith realizes too late that she should not have trusted Derek. Eagerly she awaits Ahab's return. Eventually Ahab manages to buy his own whaling ship, the Shanghai Lady. He sails it back to New Bedford to get a crew to go after Moby Dick.

[It should be noted that we are now fifty minutes into a seventy- five-minute movie and are ready to start telling Melville's story. Melville tells only the last third of the story, which, of course, is why Moby Dick is such a thin book.]

Ahab is unable to get a crew so must shanghai one from the brothels and grog shops. The meaner and nastier the crew, the better, he decided since he really wants revenge on Moby Dick. Once at sea, however, the shanghaied crew is surly and unmanageable. They are cutthroats one and all. There is one exception. It is Derek who was shanghaied onto the Shanghai Lady with the rest. Derek finds out his brother Ahab is the captain, but the mates don't believe it and will not let him see Ahab.

During a storm Derek decides to break out of the hold to confront Ahab. The rest of the crew take this opportunity to mutiny. With storm and mutiny raging, Derek finds Ahab at the wheel and accuses him of intentionally shanghaiing him. The two fight and Ahab is winning when Derek throws a knife into Ahab's back. Queequeg-- Ahab's old friend--picks up Derek and breaks his back. There is no explanation about what happened to the mutiny, but it seems to have ended by the next scene.

Fair weather returns, but Ahab is depressed. He decides Moby Dick has beaten him. "He's licked me, Mr. Stubbs," he says. Just then Moby Dick is sighted. The longboats hit the water. Moby Dick turns on Ahab's longboat but Ahab swims to the whale and, demoniacally laughing, repeatedly stabs the whale with a harpoon. Moby Dick dies. We last see pieces of Moby Dick being cut up on the deck of the Shanghai Lady.

Ahab and the Shanghai Lady return to New Bedford. There Ahab discovers that Faith has waited for him. The two fall into each other's arms.

Boy, that Herman Melville! He sure can write! [-mrl]

Extrapolation (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

In one country we went to we discovered that getting lunch was very confusing. First of all, there were no prices on the menu. We asked how much the hamburger combination was and were told it was $10. But when the bill came, it totaled $30. In addition to the $10 for the food, then was a charge of $5 for the use of the plate, $1 for the use of the silverware, $3 for the server, and $2 for the busboy, as well as a $2 water charge, a $3 electricity charge, and a $4 gas charge. When we pulled out our credit card the waiter looked at it and said that they had a 10% discount for that card. (We discovered later that a different card had a 50% discount.) After we left, they sent a supplementary $20 bill to our hotel for a table charge, a ketchup charge, and a chef's charge.

And the name of this country? HealthInsuranceLand. [-ecl]

Return of the Vampire Blood Types (letter of comment by Tom Russell):

It would be very boring if all humans were clones of each other. And if it were not possible to breed and cultivate animals and plants for characteristics we want, life as we know it wouldn't be possible. There would be no edible potatoes, not to mention no french fries.

New variations come about when a cosmic ray interferes with copulation. Well, not exactly. Variations persist and come to dominate due to what is called "natural selection" if humans have nothing to do with it and "science" if we do. Well, not exactly. Blue eyes are more common in people than in horses. Copulation. We have a "natural selection" for blue eyes but horses don't.

One intriguing variation in humans is in our sense of taste: some people have several times as many taste buds as usual--the so- called "super tasters"--while other people have only a small fraction of the "normal" complement of taste buds--the "hot pepper eaters." One explanation for this variation: When the only alternative is starvation the super tasters have protected us from eating poisons while the poor tasters experimented with Thai food.

Another interesting variation in Homo sapiens concerns our color vision: some people's eyes have receptor cells tuned to one red wavelength while most people's eyes are tuned to a different red wavelength. The explanation for the persistence of this human variation is more speculative--perhaps it's why you like medium- well and your spouse likes medium-rare.

Now to "reprise" the mystery I enjoyed writing about for MT VOID a while back: human blood types. Certainly variations in blood cells are to be expected just as variations in all other human characteristics. And the variations would persist, and perhaps become dominant, if there is a natural--or unnatural--selection process. How could the "universal donor" blood type become a common variation? Think about it--the only possibility is vampires. [-tlr]

Mark responds:

Everybody's taste diminishes with time. This has made it harder to tell, but I just read a science article saying that spicy food does not decrease sensitivity.

It could be that the secret is of enjoying piquancy (to quote the film LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) not minding that it hurts. That is not the same thing as decreased sensitivity. So hot pepper eaters may be no less sensitive than others. I do know that Evelyn and I pick up on very different flavors in food.

I suspect that on the red wavelength question you would find that there are more than just two. It probably is a continuum of wavelengths and different people would pick up on different wavelengths in that continuum.

I am not so sure if you get down to the blood cell level there is still variation from one person to the next. That would have to be shown. And going further I think we are all made of the same electrons, protons, and neutrons. [-mrl]

DIGITAL RAPTURE: THE SINGULARITY ANTHOLOGY edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly (copyright 2012, Tachyon Publications, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-616-96070-4) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

[In response to Dale Skran's book review of SINGULARITY RISING in the 10/19/12 issue of the MT VOID, Joe Karpierz wrote:

I read with much interest the review by Dale L. Skran, Jr., of SINGULARITY RISING. My plan for the weekend is to write my review of DIGITAL RAPTURE: THE SINGULARITY ANTHOLOGY, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly, from Tachyon Publications. The pair of these books might serve as a nice set of volumes to have for those folks who are interested in the Singularity. It's also weirdly coincidental that the two reviews will be appearing in the MT VOID in potentially back to back issues. [-jk]

And here it is.]

The concept of the Singularity has fascinated many a science fiction writer for the last twenty years or so, roughly since Vernor Vinge wrote his now famous paper on the subject. The singularity is, for the uninitiated and more or less in my own words, that point in time where rate of technological change will be greater than our human mind can comprehend, at which point the human race may become obsolete, possibly enslaved by the Artificial Intelligence that we ourselves created. It is suggested, for example, that at some point the human race will create a machine with intelligence equal to its own, which will in turn create more intelligent machines itself until at some point the human race becomes obsolete--at least in its current form.

The Singularity is the subject of a new anthology published by Tachyon Publications, DIGITAL RAPTURE: THE SINGULARITY ANTHOLOGY, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. This isn't the kind of anthology where an editor or two put together a bunch of stories about something and called it a book. This is almost a scholarly work, a study of the subject of the Singularity. True, there's a bunch of fiction here, a lot of stories by some pretty big names in the field, but there is an insightful introduction by the editors, wherein they discuss what follows, as well as some essays about the subject, including the aforementioned paper by Vinge. The book is divided into four thematic sections, each of which includes fiction and an essay related to the particular theme of that section. Kelly and Kessel group stories and essays together in order to make a particular point about the Singularity, and it feels to me that they succeeded in that endeavor.

Lest you think that Singularity stories are only a recent phenomenon, the first story in the book is "The Last Question", by Isaac Asimov, which I'd read in my youth but haven't returned to since then. Also included from back in the day is Frederik Pohl's "Day Million". Asimov's story takes humanity into the far future in which we are no longer corporeal, and the final question leads to, in my mind, what could be interpreted as the existence of God as created by humans, which is a very odd twist indeed. The Pohl starts out as a love story, but really is much more than that as we learn about the future in which our two "protagonists" live. The first section, "The End of the Human Era", also has a non-fiction piece by J.D. Bernal from 1929, which discusses his view of what the human body could become in the future.

The next section, "The Posthumans", contains fiction by Olaf Stapledon (in this case, a chapter from his novel ODD JOHN), Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker & Eileen Gunn. All of these stories involve posthumans living alongside "regular" humans, both trying to find their way through the situation they are in. This section also contains what is the non-fiction centerpiece of the book, Vernor Vinge's famous paper on the Singularity. My favorite here is Rucker and Gunn's "Hive Mind Man", a love story that ends with humanity being just a bit different than it was before the story started.

The section "Across the Event Horizon" deals with what happens on the other side of the Singularity. The section leads off with a piece by Ray Kurzweil entitled "The Six Epochs", and contains stories by Greg Egan, David D. Levine, Vernor Vinge, and Justina Robson. The strongest stories here, and my favorites in the section, are Levine's "Firewall", in which once things start getting out of control, the Singularity gets here in no time, and the world joins in the fun at the end; and Vinge's "The Cookie Monster", which won the Hugo award and just starts making your head spin a bit before it's all over.

"The Others", the final section of the book, is where things get a bit difficult and weird, which is to say mostly interesting and somewhat mind boggling. We have stories here by Charles Stross, Robert Reed, Hannu Rajaniemi, Elizabeth Bear, and the team of Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum. Rudy Rucker makes a return appearance with the non-fiction piece "The Awakening", in which Rucker lets his imagination run wild about the future, yet still grounds his speculation about the future in some sensibility as to let the reader think that "hey yeah, this *could* happen". The stories in this section of the book are probably the most difficult. I'd read the Stross before as part of the novel ACCELERANDO, and I still, to this day, love the image of intelligent entities flying around in a spaceship the size of a Coke can. The most straightforward story is the Rajaniemi, "The Server and the Dragon", an abstract piece about a network router and the enemy it encounters, and one which I liked nearly as much as I liked the Stross. Bear's "The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe" is almost so weird that my brain had a hard time wrapping itself around what was going on, but perversely enough I enjoyed the story anyway. The centerpiece of the section is Doctorow and Rosenbaum's "True Names", which is so abstract yet for me, so compelling, that I still am having a difficult time figuring out what it is I read. "Coelacanths", by Robert Reed, just did not work for me.

I still haven't decided, as I write this, whether Kelly and Kessel are trying to say anything in particular about the state of Singularity fiction in science fiction today, or whether they're just giving us a thematic presentation about how *they* see the field today. In either case, the stories in this anthology are certainly not for everyone. Let me make it clear that some of these stories are difficult to read and difficult in concept, and "True Names" trumps the rest of the fiction in this book in that regard. I guess it's also a question of whether the reader believes in the concept of the Singularity, that the reader believes the Singularity will come to pass. And I don't much think we need to know or care whether Kelly and Kessel believe it-- they've presented an excellent sampling of Singularity fiction and non-fiction, and they've left it up to the reader to decide whatever they want about the subject. Let me repeat that this is not light reading, but I'm dertainly not trying to scare you away. I want you to be aware that there is little light banter here that will make you laugh out loud, that in fact this material will keep your brain on overload for days after you finish it.

But really, don't hold that against it. While I admit to being predisposed to liking the book because I am fascinated by the concept of the Singularity, I was certainly not disappointed at all in the stories and essays that were presented here. This is a terrific anthology, and I highly recommend it. Kelly and Kessel have edited some other anthologies for Tachyon Publications. Based on this one, I'll have to look at some of the others. If they are as good as this one, I'm in for a treat. [-jak]


As a bit of an introduction, I'd like to explain why this book might be of interest to SF fans. First, I have never read a history book that made such large usage of the thinking of SF writers such as Heinlein and Asimov. In fact, the axis of the entire book is a quote from Heinlein, "Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things," and he refers to Heinlein as "the great science fiction writer ..." Ideas from Asimov's FOUNDATION and NIGHTFALL are given considerable time on stage as well. Secondly, Morris loves to write historical counterfactuals that will be of immense interest to the serious fan of alternative history SF. Finally, Morris concludes by driving the book write off the edge of history into SF land, by concluding that sometime in the next forty years either NIGHTFALL or the Singularity will come to pass, and in either case the question of whether the West rules and why will be moot. In the case of NIGHTFALL, because no one will be alive to rule anyone else, and in the case of the Singularity the concept of the East and West will cease to have any meaning.

By now you may be thinking that this is some kind of light-weight pop-sci book, but as can be quickly told from the jacket blurbs, WHY THE WEST RULES is a "New York Times Book Review" Editors Choice and an "Economist" best book of the year. No less than the famous Jared Diamond, author of GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL and COLLAPSE heaps high praise as well. This is a serious book, 750 pages long, with extensive footnotes and bibliography. However, Morris is quite readable, and any repetitious patterns derive from history itself rather than his prose.

I hope by now you have some idea why I might have found this book interesting. Morris deserves a lot of credit for his efforts to create an index of social development that can be used to compare the East with the West, and also each civilization over time. There is an enormous amount of stuff in WHY THE WEST RULES that strikes me as very close to the real truth. Morris disposes quite handily of so-called long-term lock-in theories based on ideas of European racial superiority. It is also hard to attribute the success of the West to one brilliant person or a stroke of luck. Morris also makes a good case that although the success of the West has never been "locked in" once we passed A.D. 1500 the odds were on the side of the West and they got better with every passing year.

Morris finally concludes that the fundamental reason for the success of the West lies in accidents of geography, mainly that the Atlantic Ocean is smaller than the Pacific. I found this less than totally convincing, but there are several other areas where I think Morris goes astray. One major flaw in Morris's approach is his definition of the West. From the viewpoint of Morris, the "West" is a core civilization that started in Egypt and Sumeria, and gradually moved westward, first to Greece, then to Rome, next to England and France, and finally across the Atlantic to the United States. Although this allows for the comparison of "Western" with "Eastern" civilization over a long period of time, what these comparisons really reveal is that the "West" and "East" were quite similar, and had similar levels of social development and technology for a long period of time, i.e., 10,000 years. It is really only with the scientific Renaissance and then the Industrial Revolution that the West gained any kind of meaningful lead. Morris's telling of the story is rather tortured, as he first tries to explain that the Islamic Caliphate was the "western core" rather than an Oriental empire of the old sort, and then explain why if the Islamic Empire was successful for a while why then did it fail so badly later on. This is the worst part of book and at times seems more of an apology for Islamic government than an objective evaluation of how it might have impeded economic progress. The simplistic explanation is that neither the Islamic Empire nor Byzantium should be considered part of the "West" although clearly they were influenced by Western ideas.

It seems obvious to me that in spite of all the efforts Morris goes to attribute the success of the West to geography, it is due instead to a combination of necessary historical progress combined with several key ideas that became dominant in the West and not in China (this is really what Morris means by the "East"). The necessary historical step is the closing of the Asian steppe to migration and disease using gunpowder armies on both sides of Asia. This allowed both China and Western Europe to develop without any new Genghis Khans disrupting civilization. Although this was necessary, it was not sufficient. I think that some combined critical mass of ideas were required, including religions with one god running a clock work universe, a belief in the idea of progress, a failing of the power of kings and the rise of the merchants, a turning away from religion as the main focus of life to commerce, competition between political bodies, a willingness to take significant risks, and most importantly, a national focus on colonization. Colonization is important since it creates a periphery that shares values with the core, but at the same time is open to new ideas and ways of doing things, allowing for rapid adoption of advantageous technologies and ideas. Morris well understands how growth often comes in less developed areas, but his analysis of colonization is superficial. By colonization, I mean, of course, a permanent and large-scale movement of population. By this standard, England colonized America, but certainly not India.

In spite of the size of the Pacific, China could have used its large ships to create a trading empire including Japan, Australia, the Philippines and other Pacific islands if the Chinese were less inward and backward focused. Morris presents all the facts, but dismisses the role of values and behavior.

Morris also dismisses the role of biology, and this may be appropriate because biology played little role the competition between East and West he describes. However, both Western Europeans and the Chinese had significant genetic advantages over other civilizational cores, especially those in the Americas. Both the Western Europeans and the Chinese had developed strong immune systems from long periods of being crowded together and also from exchanging germs with each other. Whichever civilization (West or East) reached America first, Native Americans were dead from the first handshake. Also, both the Western Europeans and the Chinese had developed a substantial tolerance of alcohol that gave them (or would have given them) an advantage in the Americas. Finally, Western Europeans were also mainly able to digest milk. My point here is that biology did have a big impact on history (see THE 10,000 YEAR EXPLOSION), just not on the East/West competition Morris focuses on.

Along about page 617 Morris says "If, as I suspect will happen, we are still holding Nightfall at bay in the mid twenty-first century and social development is soaring past two thousand points, the emerging Singularity will not so much end the race as transform the race--and above all, transform the human race." Such thoughts are commonplace in SF, from Stapledon to Sterling to Stross, but hearing them in a "New York Times Book Review" Editors Choice book makes me think that something is afoot. You may disagree with many of Morris's points but it is hard to ignore the fundamental message of his book--there is a tide in the affairs of men, and it is sweeping us faster and faster toward a Singularity or utter disaster. For further thought on this topic, check out my review of SINGULARITY RISING by James D. Miller. Alternatively, just wait forty years and observe current events. [-dls]

Duck and Cover (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Mark's comments on duck-and-cover drills in the 10/19/12 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

There was a recent nationwide earthquake drill--and the procedure that participants were urged to follow sounded very much like that old "duck and cover" from our schooldays! [-fl]

Mark responds:

For a certain range of destructive power it is a very sensible defense. [-mrl]

Wednesday's Child (letter of comment by John Sloan):

In response to Mark's comments on birthdays in the 10/19/12 issue of the MT VOID ("Most people my age were born on a Wednesday."), John Sloan writes:

How weird! ME TOO! With our sample of two, I think we're on to something here. [-jls]

What Is Science? (letter of comment by Greg Benford):

In response to Mark's comments on mathematics in "My Flange" in the 10/12/12 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

Mathematics is a not science since it cannot be falsified by observation, my friend. It does not predict, it proves by logic. Useful, true--but more like music, thus their similar locations in the brain. [-gb]

Mark responds:

Well, you are more of an expert on science than I am, but I disagree. Don't physics and mathematics both deal in conjectures that that can be falsified by observation?


Further I predict that if I sat down and added up natural numbers from 1 to 1000 I would get 500500 as the sum. But I agree that mathematics has a beauty not unlike good music. [-mrl]

Greg says:

Maybe it's a definition difference: by observation you mean logic; I mean experiment.

Logic has no error bars... [-gb]

Mark replies:

It is a question of what we want the words to mean. But there are sciences that make observations but without error bars. Psychology has no error bars. Of course, psychology is an inexact science and mathematics is a very exact discipline. [-mrl]

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

I find myself at a bit of a loss this week. I am still reading THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon and am now in volume two of the three volumes. I am also still working through MOBY DICK by Herman Melville for annotations. I started THE DREAM OF HEROES by Adolfo Bioy-Casares but found it totally un-engaging, even though it was described as mysterious and phantasmagorical. I was going to re-read THE DRAGON WAITING by John M. Ford, hoping for some speculation on a world in which Julian the Apostate lived long enough to have a lasting effect on the religious make-up of the Roman Empire, but there did not seem to be much of that. (Indeed, when I first read it, I was stuck by how "un-alternate" it seemed.)

Actually, it is disappointing to see how few alternate histories have been written based on a longer reign for Julian (and presumably a shorter one for Theodosius). In English, in addition to THE DRAGON WAITING, there is John Christopher's "Fireball" trilogy and Robert Reginald's "Nova Europa" trilogy, and that's it. The mid-4th century was critical to the character of Western civilization. Had Julian not died in 363, but lived on for another twenty years, Theodosius would not have become emperor in 379, and by the time someone did succeed Julian, the equal treatment Julian gave to all Christians would have left them divided into many rival groups, none of which would have been powerful enough to seize control. (The major dispute was between the Arians and the Catholics. Theodosius backed the Catholics and ruthlessly suppressed the Arians. Under Julian neither would have been able to gain ascendency. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Your manuscript is both good and original.  
          However, that which is good is not original, 
          and that which is original is not good.
                                          --Samuel Johnson

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