MT VOID 07/12/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 2, Whole Number 1762

MT VOID 07/12/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 2, Whole Number 1762

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/12/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 2, Whole Number 1762

Table of Contents

      Sherlock Holmes: Mark Leeper, Dr. Watson: 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

The Truth about the World of Harry Potter:

Buzzfeed "blows the lid off" the world of Harry Potter:

Sample: "The government spies on citizens, keeps records."

How Do You Eat Lobster? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

If you want to know if you are eating lobster correctly, let a child see you eating it. If the child does not get nightmares, you are not eating the lobster right. [-mrl]

Classics Illustrated (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have written in the MT VOID and talked at conventions about the early science fiction television shows and a few books and, of course, films that hooked me on science fiction. It occurs to me that there were two major influences I have rarely if ever mentioned. I think you have to be close to my age for either of these to ring any bells, but there was Winston Science Fiction Books and "Classics Illustrated" comic books. I will have to hold off on Winston for another time. "Classics Illustrated" was what hooked me on science fiction as genuine literature.

Back in the 1940s, before I was born, there was a line of comic books called "Classic Comics" that was sort of a plot to get children to be interested in classic literature. Each month they took a classic novel or two and adapted it as a comic book. And I can honestly say that kids were finding stories like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, MOBY DICK, and THE THREE MUSKETEERS to be entertaining. Sadly, the company folded. They sold their copyrights, and another company bought them up and republished the same or minimally modified versions under the name "Classics Illustrated". What do I mean by minorly modified? For example, "Classic Comics" had adapted Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN. The monster was drawn as a large man with grayish pallor and electrical bolts in his neck. Universal Pictures claimed copyright for the idea of the bolts in the neck so the comic that was released was identical to the original but every frame that showed the bolts had been retouched to remove them. You could tell that many of the comics had a more intricate and florid style. Those were the comics that went back to the "Classic Comics" days. Those in which the art was simpler were newly drawn.

In their time these comics probably got more kids interested in classic novels than film adaptations did. For one thing, filmmakers like to try to improve on the story or make it more compact. "Classics Illustrated" and "Classic Comics" before them were generally very faithful to the source novels. And probably a few students tried to get by reading the comic book when they were supposed to be reading the novel. "Classic Comics" had dabbled a little in fantastic stories. They had adapted 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and, as I said, FRANKENSTEIN. I would guess from the art style that FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON dated from the earlier days. Apparently they recognized that the science fiction titles were the most popular.

Then one fine day "Classics Illustrated" started adapting science fiction novels by H. G. Wells. "Classic Comics" had adapted some Verne, but no Wells. Before they were done they had adapted five of Wells's novels: THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, TIME MACHINE, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, THE INVISIBLE MAN, and FOOD OF THE GODS. (FOOD OF THE GODS and FIRST MEN IN THE MOON are novels I had never even heard of until I saw the "Classics Illustrated" adaptations.)

The real crown jewels of "Classics Illustrated" comics were the adaptations of WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE TIME MACHINE. I have seen Martian war machines depicted on book covers, in movies, in other comics, etc., but to me the "Classics Illustrated" visualization is what a war machine should look like. I have seen for sale even three-dimensional models of that version of the war machine so it obviously is memorable to someone other than me. The cover picture of the comic is a classic of itself. It shows in realistic detail artillerymen of the British Army late 19th century facing off against a line of gleaming, futuristic Martian war machines. It is a beautiful piece of science fiction art.

How to design a Martian war machine was, of course, the outstanding challenge for the artist when adapting WAR OF THE WORLDS. Similarly when visualizing THE TIME MACHINE, the major challenge is how to make the machine itself look. The adaptation of THE TIME MACHINE is almost as fondly remembered as THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I have seen the cover illustration frequently reproduced often without credit where it came from. It is not quite so cozy as the time machine designed for the George Pal film, but it is not a bad concept. The time traveler sits astride a wooden horse style box. To set him within a separate space he is surrounded by a horizontal and a vertical ring.

Every once in a while a "Classics Illustrated" pulled out a novel to adapt that I had never heard of. As I said I had never heard of THE FOOD OF THE GODS or FIRST MEN OM THE MOON until I had the "Classics Illustrated" comic book version of each. Also one month they published the adaptation of a Jules Verne's ROBUR THE CONQUEROR (aka CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS). That was a new title to me. The next month they published a sequel, MASTER OF THE WORLD, timed to be released just at the same time that AIP was releasing their own film MASTER OF THE WORLD, an adaptation of the two novels.

One personal memory: Somewhere along the line my father, who must have approved of us reading "Classics Illustrated" comic books had a change of heart. He decided that kids should be reading the original novels, not comic book adaptations. The publisher did make sure to end every comic with the message "Now that you have read the "Classics Illustrated" edition, don't miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library." And for every title I mentioned I did.

Other favorites:

I have to admit on the last one the artist should have depicted the Nautilus on the cover.


A PEOPLE'S CONTEST (letter of comment by Gregory Benford):

In response to Evelyn's comments on A PEOPLE'S CONTEST in the 07/05/13 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:

Always enjoy your VOID...

Evelyn's remarks on the reverse symmetry of parties of now vs. 1860: Twice introduced in the Senate were bills to solve slavery by just buying the slaves and setting them free. Both defeated by the Republicans. Cost of doing so: half of 1% of the War. [-gb]

Mark responds:

But for it to work there would have to be no right of refusal to sell. Would there have been something like an eminent domain restriction so that slaveholders could not refuse sale? I would assume some slaveholders were still highly dependent on their slaves. [-mrl]

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

ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe (ISBN 978-1-593-08360-1) was the companion book to the movie shown by our book/movie discussion group for July. (The movie was ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS.) The edition I read was published in the 1940s by Garden City Publishing Company, a Scribner's wannabe, with a cover by D. Cammerota and illustrations by Noel Pocock, who are N. C. Wyeth wannabes.

ROBINSON CRUSOE (often considered the first novel in the English language) was published in 1719, when knowledge of Africa was fairly sparse among the reading population, so the fact that Defoe (in the character of Crusoe) keeps talking about tigers in Africa probably would not have bothered the general public at that time. (Or, come to think of it, even now.)

On the other hand, Defoe is constantly excoriated for having Crusoe take off his clothes, swim out to the wreck, and fill his pockets with bread. But Crusoe says, "I pulled off my clothes ... and took the water." He does not say that he took off all his clothes, and indeed if someone said that today, we would not think it strange if they retained, e.g., their underwear. And indeed later, Crusoe says, "I had the mortification to see my coat, shirt, and waistcoat, which I had left on shore upon the sand, swim away; as for my breeches, which were only linen, and open-kneed, I swam on board in them and my stockings." Given that later he also says that even if the sun and weather were not a problem, he would not feel comfortable going about with no clothes, I think we can agree that by his initial statement Defoe never meant to include all Crusoe's clothing. [pages 62, 64]

This is not to say that Defoe does not have inconsistencies. Crusoe initially says he had nothing but a knife, a tobacco-pipe, and a little tobacco. Then, after a few years, Crusoe muses "how [he] must have acted if [he] had got nothing out of the ship." He concludes, "... if I had killed a goat or a fowl, by any contrivance, I had no way to flay or open them, or part the flesh from the skin and the bowels, or to cut it up..." He also says, "The second thing I would fain have had was a tobacco-pipe..." So he has managed to forget two of the three things he specifically mentioned having before he went back to the ship. [pages 61, 155, 129]

He claims that after four years, "My ink ... had been gone for some time, all but a very little, which I eked out with water, a little and a little, till it was so pale it scarce left any appearance of black upon the paper." But many years later he has enough ink to draw up a contract. [pages 157, ???]

The Biblical quotes are probably intended to be from the King James translation. What Defoe renders as "Call on Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify Me," is Psalm 50:15 ("And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me," in King James.) I cannot find "He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour" at all, though Acts 5:31 is close: "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." [page 114, 116]

Most people probably think of Crusoe as being shipwrecked somewhere in the south Pacific, but in fact he is somewhere in the western Caribbean. (He gives some description of his position, but what with two storms driving the ship, it is not possible to figure out exactly where.) [page 55]

Crusoe originally observes the Sabbath (Sunday) by marking it specially on his notched calendar and by not working, but says, "I soon neglected my keeping Sundays; for, omitting my mark for them on my post, I forgot which was which." He does seem to know the date, though, even after losing track of Sundays, so you would think it would be easy enough for him to count out days to determine when the Sundays would fall. [page 89]

The earthquake Crusoe experiences, and his later thoughts of it and religion, might seem to be inspired by the Lisbon, but that did not take place until 1755, almost forty years after ROBINSON CRUSOE was published. Defoe probably drew upon the (now) less well-known Lima earthquake of 1687, which destroyed the entire city. [pages 98-99, 109]

J. Donald Crowley claims that a he-goat changes into a she-goat, but again I think this is just reading too much into the words. Crusoe says, "In this journey my dog surprised a young kid, and seized upon it, and I running in to take hold of it, caught it, and save it alive from the dog. I had a great mind to bring it home if I could, for I had often been musing whether it might be possible to get a kid or two, and so raise a breed of tame goats... I made a collar to this little creature, and with a string, which I made of some rope-tarn, which I always carried about me, I led him along, though with some difficulty, till I came to my bower, and there I enclosed him and left him..." Through most of this, the kid is merely an "it", and the three references to "him" seem more like the off-hand male default than a specific gender. The references to "her" later, in reference to catching three more kids, seem more likely to be accurate, since they follow a long acquaintance. [pages 133, 171]

On a more serious level, one must recognize that by modern standards, Robinson Crusoe is a real sh*thead. He is captured by pirates and enslaved, but manages to escape with the help of another slave, a boy named Xury. When they are rescued by a Portuguese ship, the captain offers to buy everything Crusoe has, including sixty pieces of eight for what Crusoe terms "my boy Xury." (When did he become *his* boy?) Crusoe hesitates, saying, "I was very loth to sell the poor boy's liberty, who had assisted me so faithfully in procuring my own." However, when the captain said that he would set the boy free in ten years if he converted to Christianity, Crusoe decides this is very reasonable, and so agrees. I cannot help but feel that if it were Crusoe's ten years and a requirement for him to convert to some other religion, he would be less sanguine about it. [page 46]

And after Crusoe has lived in Brazil a while and owns a plantation, his neighbors suggest they all take a ship to Africa to acquire some slaves without going through the government monopoly. This is the voyage during which he is shipwrecked (and all his shipmates killed), and it is hard not to feel there is some justice in this. [page 52]

Crusoe spends twenty-five years on the island before Friday shows up, and somehow retains his sanity and manages to do everything: make pottery, grow grain and turn it into bread, build huts and furniture, etc. I understand that a man of that period was more capable in basic tasks--I have no doubt he knows how to make fire from a flint, for example--but a lot of what Crusoe does is a bit more specialized. And it does seem unlikely that someone living in isolation for decades would not have gone "around the bend." In this regard, CAST AWAY is probably much more accurate. (And most imitations do not put a solitary person on an island. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by Jules Verne has a group of castaways. THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON by Johann David Wyss has a family. And so on. ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS has one castaway, but he finds a companion much sooner than Crusoe.)

Defoe must have been paid by the word--after a twenty-five-page account of his shipwreck and first days on the island, he gives us eight pages of journal which basically just repeats what he has already said.

FIRST ON MARS by Rex Gordon (known in Britain as NO MAN FRIDAY by Stanley Bennett Hough) (1957, no ISBN) might have been a better companion book to the film ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS. However, it has two drawbacks. The first is that it is not easily available (not impossible to find, but fairly pricey for a book that crumbles as you read it). The second is that the John C. Higgins and Ib Melchior almost definitely based their film on Defoe's novel rather than on Gordon's. (For just one example, in both Defoe and the film, the Friday character is brought there as a captive/slave. In the Gordon, there is not even a real Friday character. (Not exactly a surprise, given the British title.)

One characteristic of all these versions is that the Robinson Crusoe character is amazingly capable. In FIRST ON MARS, Gordon Holder is able not only to distill water and oxygen, but also to build a motorized tricycle to carry his equipment around, and so on. It is understandable that Robinson Crusoe could survive on an island, since even when he was at home, much of his activities were no more advanced (for example, making fire with a spark from flint and iron). But by the time we have achieved rocket flight, living at a most basic level is not something with which most people are familiar. Gordon Holder (and Christopher Draper in ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS) just seem a bit too knowledgeable in too many fields: chemistry, physics, botany, mechanics, etc. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          A book exists on many different levels.  Half the 
          work of a book is done by the reader the more he can 
          bring to it the better the book will be for him, the 
          better it will be in its own terms.
                                          --Gore Vidal

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