MT VOID 11/09/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 19, Whole Number 1727

MT VOID 11/09/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 19, Whole Number 1727

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/09/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 19, Whole Number 1727

Table of Contents

      Nick Charles: Mark Leeper, Nora Charles: 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

Announcement and Corrections:

Neither rain, nor wind, nor staying at remote cabins with no Wifi, nor travel to South Africa, nor week-long power outages after post-Hurricane Cyclone Superstorm Sandy (or whatever the heck its name is) will stay the MT VOID from its appointed rounds. In other words, you can run but you can't hide.

You received the last MT VOID a day early because we had WiFi on Thursday (not at home!) but did not know if we would have it Friday. Here in NJ, we had no power at home, though some areas near us did. We had plenty of food, batteries, etc., so we were doing okay. However, we had to go to specific restaurants to get WiFi, and recharging our netbook was iffy.

However, the outage did mean we could not proofread the last issue as much as usual. As a result, all the issue references were off by a week (e.g., when we referenced the issue of 10/12/12, we meant 10/19/12, and when we referenced the issue of 10/19/12, we meant 10/26/12). The on-line HTML copy has the correct dates and links. (There may have been other typos as well.) By the way, we now have power back, after a nine-day outage, so things should be better. [-ecl]

Storm Diary, Part 1 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

When I travel I try to keep a log of my travels to tell people what the trip was like. Maybe people will be interested in my experiences before, during, and after I got hit by a Hurricane and Superstorm Sandy.


I first heard about Tropical Storm Sandy several days ago. It had hit Haiti fairly hard and killed dozens of people. My next door neighbor was in Haiti and I thought he could bring me some stories about the hurricane. Later people were suggesting that the same storm was going come north and hit the eastern seaboard. That is where I live, in Old Bridge, New Jersey and it does not sound good.

Hurricane Irene hit us hard just fourteen months earlier. We lost power for 94 hours (four days). Most of our friends were out for longer. I was hoping we did not go through that again. Though I have to say that toward the end I was getting into the swing of things. If we had been without power another day, it did not seem to me to be too bad. I had plenty to listen to on my iPod. I had lots of tapes with radio drama. I could keep myself entertained. There are a lot of books in my house and I am way behind on reading them. It is almost like going camping.

Really what makes power failures seem so long is that I just do not know for sure how long the power would be gone.

If you expect the power to be restored in an hour, five hours seems like a long time. If you expect to have it back by evening, noon tomorrow seems like a long time. It is expectation and hope and being kept in the dark figuratively as well as literally that makes a power outage drag on. It makes the power outage seem to go on forever. If I just consider the outage a new temporary way of life, I can live with it. That was how I felt toward the end of the Hurricane Irene experience. Life goes so much easier if you abandon hope. As Bernard Shaw says, "What is hope but a form of responsibility?"

So I was not too worried about Hurricane Sandy. After all, how could a storm with such a simpy name as "Sandy" be much bother? Sandy is short for Alexander. Now a Hurricane Alexander could be a conqueror, but not a Hurricane Sandy. It sounds a little prissy. (Apologies to all the macho men out there named Sandy.)

[Sandy Koufax thanks you. -ecl]

Every time someone mentioned Hurricane Sandy on the news it was to make it sound worse and worse. First it was going to hit the United States at Florida. Then it was going to go on from Florida and up the Eastern Seaboard. Then it was going to take a left turn at New Jersey. (Well, maybe it *was* going to be another Irene.) Then they started calling it a "superstorm." (I don't know what qualifies a storm as a superstorm, but it does not sound good.) Then it was going to suck in other storms. Then it was going to hit land at the time of the full moon when tides are highest. Then it was going to make landfall at high tide during a full moon. And the path of the storm looked very much like it was headed for central New Jersey, where I live. It was going to hit with full force at 2 AM Tuesday. I would be asleep for the worst part. Nope, now it had speeded up and would hit at 6:30 PM. At least it was going to be centered on southern and not central New Jersey. The eye of the storm was southern New Jersey but the storm is a disk 900 miles in diameter. I was sure we were in for it.


Now it is 7:23:56 the night of the storm. I am being precise about the time since a super-hurricane, reinforced by the fact this is the time of the full moon, is ripping a hole through southern and central New Jersey. It seems to be aiming just a little way south of my home.

I was afraid I would lose power in the height if the storm. Where I live it doesn't try so hard. At 3:38 this afternoon our electricity said, "I'm outta here" and has not been seen since.

The storm itself did speed up. Landfall was supposed to be 8 PM. It came ashore less than an hour ago, but at 6:30 PM, and the nastiest part will be over about 10:00 PM. So far it is scary but the worst it is doing directly to me is knocking out the power. For several days I will not be able to do much but listen to my iPod and have poor meals. I cannot heat anything and I can get very little out of the fridge without letting out the cold. I will have things like room temperature pizza (and be glad to have it). I am hoping that in a few days some local stores, restaurants, and libraries will get their power back. Then at least I can get out of the house and do something. But I am not betting on it. The damage will be very widespread. For previous storms we could draft repair people from surrounding areas. But we are the center of a 900-mile-diameter disk of destruction. There are not too many people we can call on and a lot of other areas will be calling on the same people. This is not going to be a four-day fix.

From what I see it is just very windy and rainy. Strong trees are being pushed around like reeds.

Until we get the repairs done I will be listening to recorded novels and plays on cassette. I am writing this by flashlight and candlelight. [P.S. At least I don't need to work. A lot of people will be out of work, laid off because there is no work for them to do. If this goes on for three weeks, as some suggest it will, we could have a crime wave. On the other hand people will get work who might otherwise be unemployed. We shall see.]

To be continued. [-mrl]

IN THE FAMILY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A gay man fights to regain the custody of his son who is the biological child of his deceased life partner. IN THE FAMILY is a moving film that will remind viewers of the emotional tugs of a KRAMER VS. KRAMER. This is a very good 165-minute film, but it could have made a better 105-minute film. The newcomer producer, director, and star Patrick Wang starts out making one of the best films of the year. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Currently legally there is a difference between the rights of a spouse and of a gay life partner. IN THE FAMILY is a drama that takes place in that gap. For years Cody and Joey (played by director/writer/producer Patrick Wang) were effectively a married couple living in Martin, Tennessee. Together they raised Cody's delightful biological son, Chip (Sebastian Brodziak). But then Cody is badly injured in a traffic accident and the hospital will not even give Joey permission to see Cody. When Cody dies his family wants to pretend that Joey never existed. An out-dated will names Cody's sister Sally (Park Overall) as Chip's guardian, and Joey finds he will lose Chip to Sally. It takes a while before Joey can seriously take all the changes in. Then he realizes the law is on Sally's side and he is going to have to fight if he wants to raise Chip. The film takes the time to show us in flashbacks how Joey and Cody's relationship developed. But Joey is usually center stage through the entire film and Wang is able to keep that compelling enough that it does not seem like a director favoring his character.

In large part the film lives or dies on Wang's ability to present us with an extraordinary and compelling view of Joey. For almost the entire film he does that flawlessly. Only in the very late part of the film does he make Joey seem just a little too perfect. Rare is the actor who could present a character so sincerely without going a little bit over the top. But this is an emotional film and audiences will be reminded of films like KRAMER VS. KRAMER. That film was about fathers' rights (or more accurately the lack thereof) in a legal system that overly favored the mother over the father in child custody conflicts. This film is very much a KRAMER VS. KRAMER for our time, but centering on gay rights and unmarried spouse rights.

The characters are civil to each other in a thin veneer of politeness that betrays certain prejudices of an earlier time. Wang has cast himself as Chinese in his origins but having lived his life in the South. One suspects that that is true of Wang himself. It is interesting that Wang goes through almost the whole film without mentioning that Wang's character Joey is Chinese in origin. Nobody mentions it. But the fact he is Chinese and is gay is behind much of what people think of Joey. There is not a trace of Chinese accent in his speech. His Joey is able not just to convince us that his character would be a good father, but that he would be a near perfect father. That is not easy to do on the screen without making him cloyingly sweet.

Wang draws the viewer emotionally into the situation and makes the one mistake of the production. He is a long film with what is at times some very slow pacing. Not every film has to be a speed chase to be under two hours, of course. But Wang occasionally drags a wordless scene on without much action on the screen for what turns into a long take. Perhaps he is conveying an emotion, but he can do that without creating an artificially slow pacing. Through much of this the viewer knows what is going on in the characters' head. Different editing could have conveyed the same emotion in a shorter space of time. That is part of the point of editing. The film could have been better in a trimmer form that could have been even more potent in 105 minutes than it was at 165.

This is a poignant story of a legal situation in which both sides are trying to find what is right and wrong under a great deal of emotional stress.

The unknown but excellent cast of actors and director. It is an affecting experience. I rate IN THE FAMILY a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Psychology as a Science (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Mark's comments on what is science in the 11/02/12 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

You wrote "Psychology rarely would get into measurements. I will not say never, but I would think it would be rarely."

I spend my days indexing literature on posttraumatic stress disorder, and much of that literature is produced by psychologists. They do a great deal of measuring--at last count there were 8,537 assessment instruments that have been used in the PTSD literature that has come across my desk. One of the leading issues addressed by peer reviewers in the psychology literature is the soundness of the statistical methodology employed.

Had you used the term "Psychoanalysis" in your remarks I would not be able to disagree with you. But people who do not measure things would have a hard time getting published in any of the major psychology journals. [-fl]

Supertasters (letter of comment by Tom Russell):

In response to Mark's comments on vampire blood types in the 10/26/12 issue of the MT VOID, Tom Russell writes:

Regarding your comment about my fun "Return of the Vampire Blood Types" piece, the human taste and vision variations I mentioned were taken from the PBS NOVA "Mystery of the Senses" series which aired a few years ago.

The term "supertaster" was used in that series. You might check (watch the video). Apparently the proper term for a person with the gene variation for fewer taste buds is "Non Taster"--not "Hot Pepper Eater" (which I made up and prefer...). [-tr]

Mark replies:

I know all about supertasters. I was commenting not on the science but on the choice of "hot pepper eater" as a synonym for non- taster. It is a mistake to assume that people who like piquancy in their food from people who taste foods less. Sometimes a fan of piquancy is just a fan of piquancy and not a non-taster. [-mrl]

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

What I read during the Sandy (and post-Sandy) power outage:

AMIDST THE RIPPLE OF A FLEETING MOMENT AND OTHER STORIES by Claudio Chillemi (translated by Vincent Simonetti, special Chicon 7 edition) was one of four special editions from Edizioni Della Vigna di Petruzzelli Luigi that I got at Chicon 7. The title story, "Amidst the Ripple of a Fleeting Moment" is a somewhat traditional science fiction idea about people buying time from other people, but reasonably well done. "I Visited a Cemetery of Aliens", "The Pink", and "Night Doctor" are a little more "off- beat" (or maybe it is just that they are more European). "The Last and the First Ones" is a "time police" sort of story, a bit preachy, and with not quite enough explanation at the end to satisfy. "The Great Mistake" has another somewhat familiar idea, but (as in several stories here) with a twist at the end.

One general complaint I have is that the translations are not very good, at times having awkward phrasing in English, and occasionally having the wrong homonym (e.g., "peak" instead of "peek").

A RANDOM WALK IN SCIENCE FICTION by Antonio Bellomi (translators unlisted, special Chicon 7 edition) consists of twelve stories by Bellomi (one co-authored with Walther Bellomi), all previously published in English. "The Bonfire" is one of that rare sub-genre of science fiction, mathematical science fiction (though just barely so). Several are "gimmick" or "puzzle" stories that reminded me of many of Isaac Asimov's "Wendell Urth" stories or Arthur C. Clarke's "Tales from the White Hart". (And as a further similarity, two of the stories in this volume are from a series that features a lunar-based crime solver named Uriel Qeta.) Unfortunately, the stories suffer from the problem of a lot of puzzle stories: the solution depends on some completely unlikely circumstance. For example, years ago there was an Ellery Queen story with five suspects, and the victim had dialed a seemingly random phone number as he was dying. The solution depended on there being one and only one name that could be translated into a phone number on an alphanumeric dial. Or the victim grabs a bottle of wine which just happens to be the translation in English of the killer's German name. And so on.

WORLDCON STORIES by Massimo Ferri ("Symphonic Theorem", translated by Massimo Ferri), Renato Pestiniero ("Night of the Id", translated by Joe F. Randolph), and Veronika Santo ("The Venetian Clock", translated from the Croatian By Aleksandar Ziljak) was another Chicon 7 special edition. "Symphonic Theorem" is another piece of mathematical science fiction. "Night of the Id" is the basis of the film PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES {a.k.a. DEMON PLANET, a.k.a. TERRORE NELLO SPAZIO).

I did *not* read OMNE IGNOTUM PRO MAGNIFICO by Donato Altomare and Mike Resnick (translated by Roberto Bianchi, special Chicon 7 edition), because the translation was into Latin, a language in which I am not fluent. Bianchi included a Latin-to- Italian/English glossary for all the words he had to coin (or possibly he got some from papers issued by the Vatican). This is not a co-authored novel, but rather four stories by Altomare and one, "Article of Faith", by Resnick. "Article of Faith" was first published in JIM BAEN'S UNIVERSE and then translated into Italian for an eBook prior to this publication.

Another unusual "anthology" I picked up at Chicon 7 was the promotional booklet to "Sail to Success", a writers' workshop to be held on a cruise of the Bahamas. It contained previously published stories by three of the workshop faculty (Mike Resnick, Paul Cook, and Nancy Kress) and a preview of an upcoming novel by a fourth (Kevin J. Anderson). I haven't seen anything like this since Lands End including a Ray Bradbury story in one of their catalogs.

I also listened to the Teaching Company (a.k.a. Great Courses) LOST CHRISTIANITIES: CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES AND THE BATTLES OVER AUTHENTICATION (Professor Bart D. Ehrman) (ISBN 979-1-56585-555-6), a 24-lesson course I had on cassette which I listened to on my Walkman. (I did not even waste any batteries, as I find that when the batteries that we use in our palmtops are too weak for that purpose, I can still get several hours of Walkman use out of them.) This course is heavily based on the Nag Hammadi library and also Gnostic writings and teachings, with only minor attention to other "heresies". [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Mathematical science is in my opinion an indivisible 
          whole, an organism whose vitality is conditioned 
          upon the connection of its parts. 
                                          --David Hilbert

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