MT VOID 06/28/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 52, Whole Number 1760

MT VOID 06/28/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 52, Whole Number 1760

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/28/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 52, Whole Number 1760

Table of Contents

      Rodgers: Mark Leeper, Hammerstein: 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

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups (NJ):

July 11: ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, Middletown (NJ) Public 
	Library, 5:30PM; discussion of film and ROBINSON CRUSOE by 
	Daniel Defoe (and possibly also FIRST ON MARS by Rex Gordon) 
	after the film
July 25: TRSF by the MIT Technology Review, Old Bridge (NJ) Public 
	Library, 7PM
August 1: THE COOLER, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 6:30PM
August 22: [no discussion]
September 26: THE TIME SHIPS by Stephen Baxter, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
October 24: THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT by Steven Pinker, Old Bridge 
	(NJ) Public Library, 7PM
	K. Dick, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
December 19: THE MOON AND SIXPENCE by W. Somerset Maugham, 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
January 23, 2014: THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS by Cory Doctorow and 
	Charles Stross, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Speculative Fiction Lectures:

July 6: Keith DeCandido, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
August: [no meeting]
September 7: Ellen Datlow, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

Turner Classic Movies in July:

The suggestions for Turner Classic Movies for July will appear in next week's issue, but don't worry--none of them are being run before then.

R.I.P., Richard Matheson (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

We have lost in rapid succession two men who have been largely responsible for my love of science fiction and fantasy. Less than two months ago Ray Harryhausen died. Now Richard Matheson is also gone. Both have been heroes to me. They were both terrific creators of the fantastic. Richard Matheson died June 23, 2013. Though I never met the man, I had had a long relationship with Matheson's stories that meant a lot to me. So, with Matheson deceased, I feel a genuine loss.

I should say what I see as Richard Matheson's contributions. But there I don't know where to start. There is too much to say. What can I say about what he did that could come even close to covering the subject? His work is just so diverse. He wrote war stories and award-winning western novels. He could write a good tense suspense thriller. And I can think of no other author who did as much for science fiction, horror, and fantasy over a long stretch of years. Stephen King comes to mind. Even King admits that he is a fan of and owes much of his success to what he learned from Matheson's writing. Look at horror before Matheson and you see arcane settings like Transylvania and Arkham. Matheson (and Fritz Leiber) moved horror stories from exotic places like Eastern European castles to United States suburbia, houses with two-car garages and a dog in the yard. Making settings tangible does a lot to make the story seem more immediate.

Let's start with his science fiction books. I think I was age ten when I first noticed Richard Matheson. I did not know that earlier he had adapted his novel THE SHRINKING MAN to the Jack Arnold film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957). But I had been given a box of science fiction books by a neighbor. In the box were two collections of short stories by Matheson, THE SHORES OF SPACE and BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN. I was amazed to find that you could get in books stories that were like what you saw on "The Twilight Zone". Then it was a small step just to notice that Matheson wrote many of the "Twilight Zone" stories, sixteen in all. He wrote "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "Night Call", "Little Girl Lost", "Third from the Sun", and too many others to list. They generally were among the best that "The Twilight Zone" had to offer. My regular Friday night ritual each week was to watch "Twilight Zone" and then go to bed reading a Matheson story. I did no know it at that time, but he had already written what I have come to consider the premier American horror novel, I AM LEGEND. What DRACULA is for Britain, I AM LEGEND is for the United States. But he was doing more than writing stories for books and television. But I had yet to be introduced to this story at this time.

By the 1960s Matheson was adapting Edgar Allan Poe stories for Roger Corman to film. Corman claims he never needed to ask for anything to be rewritten in a script. It is very unusual, but Matheson nailed it the first time every time. It was around that time that he wrote the screenplay for Corman's HOUSE OF USHER and followed it up with THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE RAVEN, TALES OF TERROR, and in much the same vein THE COMEDY OF TERRORS. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the excellent THE NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (a.k.a. BURN, WITCH, BURN). He adapted a mash-up of two Verne novels into the film MASTER OF THE WORLD. Steven Spielberg's first directing that got critical notice was for the film DUEL, based on a solid, suspenseful story and screenplay by Richard Matheson. The list of people he influenced and worked with goes on and on.

Hammer Films hired Matheson to adapt I AM LEGEND into a film. The project bounced around and ended going to Italy where his screenplay was modified and made into the film THE LAST MAN ON EARTH in 1964. The story had a non-supernatural pandemic that appeared to be fatal, but the victims returned from the dead with vampire-like behavior. George Romero was heavily inspired by THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and made his own NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. When you see what is now called a "Zombie" film it derives from Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND and his adaptation THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. Matheson finally did write a film for Hammer, THE FANATIC (a.k.a. DIE! DIE! MY DARLING!). And then he wrote the screen adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, released in Britain under that name but retitled THE DEVIL'S BRIDE for US audiences. I would pick this as the high water mark for the Hammer horror film. 1971 saw another, though inferior, adaptation of I AM LEGEND as THE OMEGA MAN.

In 1973 Matheson adapted another of his novels, HELL HOUSE into the film THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. For HELL HOUSE the theme was a ghost story by Jeff Rice but the approach was science fictional in style. He adapted a novel into the TV movie THE NIGHT STALKER. Matheson adapted DRACULA for the Dan Curtis TV movie.

In 1980 Matheson adapted his own novel BID TIME RETURN into the romantic fantasy SOMEWHERE IN TIME. The film did not do well at the box-office but has had a second life being rediscovered and building a large fan following. He wrote stories for Steven Spielberg's TV series "Amazing Stories".

In 1999 Matheson adapted another novel, a ghost story, into the film STIR OF ECHOES. In 2007 I AM LEGEND was made into a film once again, this time under its own title. This was fifty years after he saw THE SHRINKING MAN made into a film.

All that is extremely impressive. Recognize this is just a small part of all that he did. Take a look at his IMDB and Wikipedia entries.

Just cataloging all of his contributions would be futile. He is a man whose imagination never flagged. His death and it coming just 47 days after the death of Ray Harryhausen make this a most lamentable year. There is no way that Richard Matheson ever got the recognition he deserved. [-mrl]

[I previously wrote a tribute to Matheson in the 03/06/06 issue of the MT VOID:]

CIVILIZATION: THE WEST AND THE REST by Niall Ferguson (book review by Greg Frederick):

The book CIVILIZATION is basically a historical perspective about Western Civilization with some thoughts about its future. The author states that for the past 500 years or so Western Civilization has grown and dominated large areas of the World. Its form of civilization has also influenced most of the other World's civilizations over time. The author believes that six killer applications have made the difference between Western Civilization and the rest of the World. These killer apps include: competition, science, modern medicine, democracy, consumerism, and the (Protestant) work ethic.

In the past, Europe's competition since the 1500's for example helped to create more advance technology and better forms of government than a static empire such as China. In past history, China was the most powerful country in the Far East therefore they lacked competition. Of course, China in the recent few decades has been following the examples of Western capitalism and consumerism which is turning them into more of a World player. Colonial North America's practice of giving newly arriving male indentured servants land and the right to vote after their service was completed helped to create democracy and a better standard of living in the USA today compared to South America. The Spanish in South America did not allow large immigration from Europe to their colonies and also did not provide land ownership to either the native Indians or many of the Spanish settlers.

In 1683 the Ottoman Turks were defeat by a combined European army at the battle for Vienna. After this battle, Prussian King Frederick created a government where church and state were separated and he changed the Prussian education system so it would be based on scientific inquiry. The leading Islamic power, the Ottoman Turks fostered an era of religious control that prevented the study of science. The result of these actions caused scientific progress to be hindered by religious rules in the East, while it flourished in the West. With modern science, the West pushed the frontiers of tactics and artillery warfare and established its position as the world's military master.

Feruguson thinks that Protestant ethics provided the right atmosphere for Western capitalism to develop. Protestants were encouraged to learn to read (initially so they could read the bible) which produced a literate population who could then invent new products and establish businesses. Their common belief in the fair and Christian ethics of their neighbors also could provide a basis for the practice of fair trade. An interesting aspect of this idea is the rapid growth of Protestant Christian religions in China today. Some of the most successful business owners in China are members of a Christian church. The author thinks that it is possible but not inevitable that if things continue as is that China could become a World Superpower even surpassing the USA.

This is a good book which looks into the reasons for the present condition of civilizations in the world of today. [-gf]

Driving the Future (automotive review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

Recently my son Sam started his first summer job, necessitating our family's growth from a 2- to a 3-car family. As is the Skran tradition, I passed on to my son the car I've been driving for a while, a 2007 Hybrid Camry, and went looking for a new car for my primary usage. For a long time I've been thinking of going one step further toward an electric car, and buying a Chevrolet Volt. I considered only plug-in hybrids, as one of my goals was to end up with a car that I could, at least in theory, fuel without using gasoline, having been stunned by the gasoline shortages during the mighty storm Sandy. I rejected electric-only cars, like the Tesla, since for the most part, except for the Tesla, available all-electric cars induce "range anxiety," the fear that the battery will run down and require the car to be towed.

Plug-in hybrids don't have this problem, and they come in a variety of sizes and ranges. The main issue to be considered is how far you drive each day. If you normally drive long distances, a car with limited battery range but very good gasoline mileage and range may be for you. However, I normally don't drive long distances, so I was looking for a car where I could mostly get by on just the battery, but that would run on gasoline for a cross-country trip if needed.

The Volt satisfied this need best of all. Of all the plug-in hybrids, only the volt has an all-electric drive train, with a gasoline engine used only as a generator. The volt gets about 36 electric miles on a full charge (pretty much the best of the plug-in hybrids), and then you can run another 250 miles or so on a full tank of gas before filling up, getting 30 to 35 miles per gallon. This works very well for me--I've had the car for a couple of months, and have yet to put any gas in it.

The Volt is a fantastic car to drive--low to the ground, great pickup, and in sport mode handles like a rocket. I don't think I've ever been in a car with this much acceleration. It gets the advertised 36 miles to a charge. I just plug it in overnight, and it is charged in the morning. So far the electric bill impact has been minimal. I like the hatchback with the folding rear seats that allow for a large cargo space. The Ford plug-in hybrid has an especially troublesome trunk that is mostly filled with batteries, which I did not like. I also really like the rear-view cameras that show you what is directly behind the car when you back up. The front-view collision alarm warns you if you are too close to something. I've seen some complaints on the web about visibility from inside the Volt, but as a former hatch-back owner, I think the Volt is similar to other hatch-backs, which is to say, different from non-hatchbacks, which some may not like.

My only complaints about the Volt are that it is a bit smaller than the Camry, and that the electronics in the center are advanced but the human interface is confusing. The Volt is priced on the high end of similar cars, but you do get a great deal from the dealer and a significant tax rebate at the end of the year.

I have the comfort of knowing that for the most part I am no longer spewing noxious pollution into the air while driving, and that, to the extent electricity in NJ comes from renewable or nuclear sources, I am greatly reducing my carbon footprint. The Volt is not for everyone--a small car with great mileage like the Prius may be the more economical solution, especially if you routinely drive long distances--but I like it. And contrary to all expectation, it is fun to drive. Welcome to the 21st century! [-dls]

THE HAPPY POET (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Billing itself as "an all organic, mostly vegetarian comedy," THE HAPPY POET tells a story that could use a little more meat. Paul Gordon wrote the comedy, co-produced it, directed it, played the main character, and even edited the film. Doing all those tasks he may not have had enough energy left to make the film engaging. As much as one wants to feel for his character his deadpan performance gets in the way. We know he is a poet, but he is inscrutably deadpan and inexpressive through almost the entire film. And that, perhaps, is the point. He is a man who remains a detached man in a world that expects passion. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

Tabouli and hummus on pita is a good sandwich. But it is an acquired taste. You cannot expect everybody to like it right away. It is not immediately appealing to the average Joe on the street. And it takes some patience. Austin-based filmmaker Paul Gordon's deadpan delivery and humor could make a good comedy. But it is an acquired taste. Like tabouli and hummus you cannot expect everybody to like it right away. It is not immediately appealing to the average Joe on the street. And it takes some patience. Gordon plays in a constant deadpan and is sort of a talking version of Buster Keaton. He intentionally does not put any strength into his character Bill. He projects poet just fine, but the happy part you have to take his word on.

Paul Gordon's Bill is starting a new business. He is fresh out of college with a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry. For some reason Bill does not become an industrial poet for a large corporation. Instead what he wants to do now is to get a hot dog cart and sell street food. But he does not want to sell hot dogs. He is on a campaign against them. They are, after all, poisonous things full of nitrites and nitrates and ground pieces of things that used to have a face. He wants instead to sell healthy, green, organic, natural foods. It will be handmade sandwiches of things like eggless egg salad. (It's made with tofu.) He goes through all the financial arrangements and rents a cart from someone who does not look like he will be understanding if the rent comes late. We follow Bill step by step as he builds his business. We see his mistakes well before he does, but the viewer comes to root for Bill even as mistake after mistake puts his fledgling business into a tailspin.

Now I have to admit the scenes of the organic food being prepared do make the food look appealing. I mean THE HAPPY POET still will not sell itself like BABETTE'S FEAST did. But if I were offered one of Bill's sandwiches I would want to try it. And Bill would let me have it also. Bill is trying to create a market and gives away free samples on request. That is one of his ill-considered policies. Giving free samples is running him out of business. He is meeting a lot of nice young people, but the food stand really is not working for him. And when he meets the young people, his diffident manner is not helping him. Going on a date he delivers an opaque poem for a new friend. When she does not laugh he says, "I guess the humor didn't quite jump out at you." And that is a fine diagnosis of what is going wrong with the whole film. The dialog may be witty, but a deadpan dialog does not help it to work. Bill repetitively pauses in the middle of sentences unsure how to put his thought into words. At times he taxes the viewer's patience. His generosity starts to get spooky as if he is buying friends.

Everything about this film seems minimalist. It is scored with a single piano and usually the music for a scene is a single piano note. Gordon tends to overestimate the boyish charm of his dry and awkward speeches.

Like the food Bill serves the appeal of THE HAPPY POET is selective. The viewer needs to try to be on Gordon's wavelength. I rate this film a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


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

And now for the short fiction Hugo categories.

In the Best Novella category, four of the nominees were published as stand-alone books, with only one appearing in a traditional magazine. In the Best Novelette category, all of the nominees are from anthologies or collections; none are from traditional magazines. In the Best Short Story category, there are only three nominees, because of the "5% Rule". This says that to make the final ballot, a nominee must be listed on at least 5% of the ballots cast in that category. This is to counter the situation where there is a very level field, and there is a virtual tie for fourth or fifth place among many candidates. This could still happen, of course. In the extreme case, if the nominators are split into twenty equal groups, and all the people in a given group nominate the same five items, and there is no overlap between groups, you would have a 100-way tie with everything meeting the 5% Rule. Now there's a nightmare scenario!

Anyway, in the novella category, we have:

"After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall" by Nancy Kress (ISBN 978-1-616-96065-0) I have already reviewed. Maybe I misunderstood what I was reading, but some parts seemed inconsistent with other parts, and other events seemed far too convenient,

"The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson (ISBN 978-1-6169-6092-6) is a very well-written fantasy, with what seems like an original idea, well-executed.

"On a Red Station, Drifting" by Aliette de Bodard (ISBN 978-0-956-39245-9) is purportedly an alternate history story in de Bodard's "Xuya" universe (though is it an alternate *history* if it is set in the future on the alternate track?). However, it could just as easily be set in our future after the global situation has shifted, as indeed it is wont to do. It is okay, but not Hugo material. "San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats" by Mira Grant (ISBN 978-0-3162-1896-2) is yet another story of "The Rising", a.k.a., the Zombie Apocalypse. By this point, I am getting heartily sick of the Zombie Apocalypse in all its forms. And this one depends on knowledge available only by having read the other works. It is a good addition to the overall story, even if it seems to be pandering a bit to a fan base.

"The Stars Do Not Lie" by Jay Lake (ASIMOV'S, Oct-Nov 2012) is the only story in a traditional magazine, so it is only fitting that it is a fairly traditional story. Unfortunately, it is hard to follow, with sentences like "The Most Revered Bilious F. Quinx; B.Th. Rhet.; M.Th. Hist. & Rit.; Th.D. Hist. & Rit.; 32nd degree Thalassocrete; and master of the Increate's Consistitory Off ice for Preservation of the Faith Against Error and Heresy, watched carefully as His Holiness Lamboine XXII paged through one of the prohibitora from the Consistitory's most confidential library." And unless I missed something (always a possibility), the story does not seem all that original.

My voting order is: "The Emperor's Soul", no award, "On a Red Station, Drifting", "San Diego 2014", "After/Before/During", "The Stars Do Not Lie"

For Best Novelette, none of the nominees are from traditional media.

"The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt suffers by having a double premise--not just a boy who casts no shadow, but also a boy made of glass. I suppose one should have a willing suspension of disbelief here, but it is pushing it. It also seems to have obvious parallels and connections to our world, and the problem is that maybe they are a bit too obvious.

"Fade To White" by Catherynne M. Valente is an alternate history in which some bizarre radioactive disaster seems to have engulfed the western part of the United States (and possibly Japan) and McCarthy is President of the United States. So it presumably takes place in the 1950s. I am not sure that all the differences are plausible, and it seems somewhat influenced by Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE, but it was engaging enough.

"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan was fine after I managed to dig through all the jargon Cadigan created ("decs", "Dirt years", "jellies, "two-stepper", and so on). it's a somewhat traditional premise, but the style is definitely more modern.

"In Sea-Salt Tears" by Seanan McGuire is *not* a zombie apocalypse story. I guess McGuire writes all those under her "Mira Grant" pseudonym. This is certainly a good enough fantasy that one wishes she would spend more time writing non-zombie stories. This one is based on traditional legends, but with a modern sensibility, which seems to be the trend at least since the "Fairy Tale" series from Tor Books in the early 1990s.

"Rat-Catcher" by Seanan McGuire is another story based more on traditional legends. This one is set in 17th century London, though, so instead of the modern sensibility of "In Sea-Salt Tears" we have a Restoration setting (which however seems more Elizabethan than of a later period). The result is less original somehow.

My voting order is: "In Sea-Salt Tears", "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi", no award, "Fade To White", "Rat-Catcher", "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow"

As noted there are only three nominees for Best Short Story.

"Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard is yet another story in her Xuya universe, though its alternate history aspect is minimal. (de Bodard says that this and "On a Red Station, Drifting" did not start out as part of this universe.) It is reasonable enough science fiction, though whether it is Hugo-quality is debatable.

"Mantis Wives" by Kij Johnson is creative enough, but also unpleasant to read.

"Mono no Aware" by Ken Liu is less about the characters, and more about the types they represent, or perhaps more about the philosophies of life they embody. (In this it is similar to Olaf Stapledon's LAST AND FIRST MEN, where the individual is more an iteration of a type or philosophy.) It is certainly has more to think about later than the other two.

My voting order is: "Mono no Aware", no award, "Immersion", "Mantis Wives"


                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          If a writer has any sense of what journalism is 
          all about he does not get into the minds of the 
          characters he is writing about.  That is something, 
          shall we say, Capote-esque who thought he had 
          discovered a new art form but, as I pointed out, 
          all he had discovered was lying.
                                          --Gore Vidal

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