MT VOID 05/23/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 47, Whole Number 1807

MT VOID 05/23/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 47, Whole Number 1807

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/23/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 47, Whole Number 1807

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

All The Times Science Fiction Became Science Fact in One Chart:

A handy chart on io9 of science predictions and when they came true:

How STAR WARS Ruined Sci-Fi (link submitted by Charles S. Harris):

How 'Star Wars' ruined sci-fi
By Lewis Beale

"Star Wars" has corrupted people's notion of a literary genre full of ideas, turning it into a Saturday afternoon serial.[...] I'm giving up on the whole thing.[...]

Instead, I'll queue up "The Matrix," and enjoy the most Original sci-fi movie of the past 25 years.

Charles Harris sent in the link and particularly noted these comments:

Really, you're going to critique Star Wars based on the zap zap, action action, and CGI special effects and then praise, of all things, The Matrix???[...]


[Ender's Game] failed because the film makers vastly overrated how beloved the book is (it sells as well as it does because it's been a required book on almost every grade school reading list for the past 30 years, not because kids are going out and finding it on their own and loving it) and underestimated the amount of current antagonism there is towards Card's open bigotry.

Mark responds:

Many people's notion of the genre was already corrupted years before by pulp covers of scantily clad women and bug-eyed monsters. STAR WARS was a step up from that. [-mrl]

The Pope and the Martians (link submitted by Charles S. Harris):

In, the Christian Post reports:

Pope Francis spent some time during Mass at the Vatican on Monday talking about alien life forms, and suggested that Martians, should they ever visit Earth, would be welcome to be baptized as well.

"If--for example--tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here ... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them ... And one says, 'But I want to be baptized!' What would happen?" the Roman Catholic Church leader theorized, as reported by Vatican Radio. [...] "Who are we to close doors?"

Charles Harris sent in the link and comments:

This raises further questions. I know the Pope is infallible and all, but in the pictures I'm familiar with (search for "alien" in Google Images) the aliens have NO ears and little or no nose. Does the Pope know something we don't? [-csh]

Hugo Award Links:

Link to Hugo nominees available free online:

Link to "New York Times" article on the Retro Hugos:

Nebula Award Winners:

Best Novel:
Best Novella:
    "The Weight of the Sunrise", Vylar Kaftan (Asimov's 2/13)
Best Novelette:
    "The Waiting Stars", Aliette de Bodard (THE OTHER HALF OF THE 
Best Short Story:
    "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:
    SISTER MINE, Nalo Hopkinson

Corals Remember Faster, Shorter Days (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Most people know something about Dendrochronology (even if they do not recognize the word). That is the study of the markings on wood and their relation to the passing of time. If you had a very old tree and you cut across the trunk you would see rings centering on a core. As the tree grows from year to year it is marked by the change of seasons. So if you look at a tree trunk cut straight across you see the rings. When a tree grows there is no room for the wood inside toward the core to grow. A tree trunk just deposits new wood around the outside. And the color of that would vary with the weather. Hence the wood will have layers of wood wrapping around the core and you will see these as tree rings. Most of us knew that.

What I did not know until recently was that the same effect occurs in several other living species. For example, some shellfish and corals have their own equivalent records of passing time. The study is called Sclerochronology.

A mussel has, of course, a much shorter lifespan than a tree has. The markings on a mussel vary with the tides and also the phases of the moon. Corals record both the passing of seasons and the passing of the days. Having both records of days and years gives us some interesting new information. For certain prehistoric corals there are about a hundred day markings per season. But wait. Four seasons add up to about 365 days. One hundred markings a season adds up to 400 days a year. These corals lived in a world that had either longer years or shorter days than Planet Earth does today.

There is no obvious mechanism for the years to become shorter without Earth spiraling into the sun. If we somehow lost momentum in our rotation around the sun we would be in an unstable orbit and would be coming closer to the sun and actually should be orbiting it faster. We should not be looking at the length of the year to be longer, but the length of the day to be shorter.

For some reason, the spinning of the Earth around its own axis must be slowing down. The time for the earth to make a complete rotation on its axis is getting longer with time. So it is not just daylight hours, but it is the complete days that are getting longer.

Well, corals in the ocean showed us this odd slowing phenomenon; let the oceans help to explain it. If the earth were just a solid rock it would not be damping down the spinning of the Earth nearly as fast. But much of the surface of Earth, about 71 percent, is covered by water. As the earth spins the moon pulls on the oceans of Planet Earth. Water is pulled upward from the earth on the side nearest the moon, and the planet is pulled away from the water on the other side. This acts like a brake sapping energy from the rotational momentum of the planet. It is called "tidal braking." It slows the Earth at a rate of .000023 seconds a year.

It is a very slow process to sap spin from the spinning planet. Every once in a while an extra fraction of a second must be added to the time on Earth. Usually it is done in the first second of a year so people are not likely to notice it. The slowing is small, but continuous. The Earth slows its rotation by 2.3 milliseconds per century. That does not sound like a lot, but in 100 million years it amounts to about a 38-minutes longer day. It is an interesting planetary phenomenon, but it was sea animals that showed it to us.

This article was partially based on the article "Historical Geology/Sclerochronology":


GODZILLA (2014) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Kaiju Noir. With the Japanese franchise on the King of the Monsters in hiatus, the Godzilla character is being loaned to Warner Brothers so that Gareth Edwards can make an American Godzilla film. This is a script whose drama is better than Toho's usual fare, but audiences may find the new film is dark and drab and slow at getting to the fun. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

In the American version of the first Godzilla film (titled GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS) the camera drifts from the monster's destruction to show you a woman with two small children sitting at the base of a building. The mother is saying something, but we see only her lips move. In the original Japanese version (titled GOJIRA) the woman is audibly speaking and she is telling the children, "We will be with your father soon." That is perhaps the most somber scene of a somber monster film, but it was only in the Japanese version. GOJIRA did not pull its punches. But there has been nothing so solemn in a Godzilla film since. The new GODZILLA has a man looking through a window and watching a loved one dying just inches away. After sixty years we finally have a film that is again willing to disturb the audience. This year's GODZILLA has some strong stuff, but somehow not all that depressing today.

The tone of the new film is uneven. Sadly, there is not so much serious drama all throughout of Gareth Edwards' GODZILLA (2014), but it is there. The original was a reminder to Japan of the tragedies of their then recent war and its nuclear conclusion. This film harkens to those memories, but also has earthquakes at a nuclear plant and a tsunami to bring back more recent memories. As an origin story the screenplay by Max Borenstein is at least returning to the some of the tension and gravity of the original.

Toho's kaiju (giant monster) films after the first were never prized for their good writing. They often would go seriously funky with props like robotic Godzillas, alien flying saucers, and time travel. One even had a Japanese Indiana Jones character. In a later series (there were three series really) there was a Japanese defense unit called G-Force, commissioned to fight the giant monster who had both a grudge and partiality for Japan. The stories were never very good. They rarely went much beyond excuses to stage kaiju smack-downs.

The Toho studio of Japan has twice opened up its franchise to allow American film companies to make their own Godzilla films. In 1998 they let Roland Emmerich make a Godzilla film, but I believe did not let them use the characteristic Godzilla shape. The result was a poor story married to what fans call G.I.N.O., short for "Godzilla In Name Only." The result was a film almost nearly good enough to be called mediocre if they had not used the Godzilla name. But they did use the name and real Godzilla fans will never forgive them.

GODZILLA (2014) opens in 1999 when two eggs and a skeleton, all enormous, are found in the Philippines. Shortly thereafter a nuclear plant in Japan is destroyed in an apparent earthquake. This constitutes a large professional and an even greater personal loss for plant supervisor Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston of BREAKING BAD). Fifteen years later Brody, still a haunted man, is still trying to prove that what destroyed the plant was not a natural disaster. Was it a natural disaster? I guess it all comes down to whether or not you consider giant monsters to be natural. Max Borenstein wrote the screenplay based on a story by Dave Callaham. The first reel is a little slow-going and expository, and the real action is saved for the final act.

While the Japanese films are anxious to show their monsters to the audience as soon as possible, director Gareth Edwards is coy about giving us views of his giant creatures. The audience is kept in suspense. Mostly his focus is on the human story. Sadly in GODZILLA the main character is just not very engaging. Edwards' biggest failing with this reincarnation of Godzilla is that he does not give us a central character we really care about. There were better actors in this film playing more compelling characters and more of the spotlight should have been on them.

Of course, the visuals are as important as the characters. Tonally and visually this is a gray and dark film. I do not remember a single fight that occurs in the daytime. That makes for a darker mood, and it also covers up CGI errors. The American Godzilla movies are the only ones that do not have a man in a Godzilla suit. They are totally CGI. This film is fully CGI in its monster effects, but the design each of the three monsters are built on human torsos and would probably accommodate a man-in-suit implementation of the monster if need be in sequels to this film.

As for the darkness in the story's tone, that is probably necessary after September 11 and the film CLOVERFIELD taught the world the dangers of being in proximity to deconstructing buildings. The opening titles take a swing at government secrecy as by redacting parts of the titles even as they appear.

This is only director Gareth Edwards' second feature film. That does not sound like he would have had much experience with a big budget, but his first film was MONSTERS, a film with economical giant monsters that take a back seat to the story of characters trying to return to the United States from a Mexico ravaged by the presence of aliens. The record of focusing on people and not using a lot of special effect undoubtedly demonstrated that he would be the right person to direct a post-9/11 kaiju film. I rate the new GODZILLA a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Technical note: Godzilla seems to have hands with opposable thumbs. That would be very rare among real dinosaurs. Arguably a Troodon had a rough version of a grasping hand, but not a very effective one. Godzilla does seem to be able to use his hands well.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


THREE PARTS DEAD by Max Gladstone (copyright 2012, Tor, $24.99, 333pp., ISBN 978-0-7653-3310-0) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz):

I think I'm winning this duel [see below]; I'm already more on top of my book reviews than Dad is.

I got this book for free at ICFA (more on that later) and got it signed in what was perhaps the most awkward interaction I've had with an author since I was a small child (I walked up and stared at him; he stared back, then said "thank you" in response to something he probably expected me to say but that I definitely did not actually say; and halfway through telling him how to spell my name, I remembered how to have a conversation--but it was just too late). Then I went away mildly embarrassed ... and excited to have more urban fantasy in my hands. /More urban fantasy/, yes, but not your average urban fantasy: THREE PARTS DEAD is not as hopelessly enamored of vampires and werewolves and faeries (oh my) as most of the genre.

Instead, we have gods and gargoyles and Justice (oh my!). Not to mention necromancers and priests and flying schools (oh my?!--alright, I'm done). And there are a /lot/ of really fantastic things about this book; I spent the entirety of it wanting /really badly/ to like it and simultaneously being completely unable to decide if I did.

Max Gladstone's THREE PARTS DEAD begins when Kos the Everburning, god of Alt Coulumb, well ... stops burning. The god is dead, and the law firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao has been summoned to...

Okay, I'm a little bit fuzzy on this plot actually. I /thought/ they were a law firm. The book flap assures me they are an international necromantic firm. They're probably a law firm full of necromancers, but that leaves me still rather unclear as to what they've been hired to do. To ... bring him back to life? To ... find out who killed him? To ... find out who killed him so they can decide how much they're /allowed/ to bring him back? What does that even /mean/?

So, the first chapter literally launches Our Heroine, Tara Abernathy, off the premises of the Hidden Schools, which happen to be a thousand feet in the air. Well, that's no mystery, you might think: Clearly they expelled her. Violently.

Nope: Tara checks. They graduated her before they defenestrated her.

Weird graduation ritual? Bizarre accident? /I/ had to keep reading to find out. Thus: fantastic hook, but the pacing after that was a /mess/. I think Gladstone was trying to avoid that prodigious crime of writing, the Info Dump; as a writer myself, one of my greatest struggles is the balance between info dumping and trusting the reader /too much/. To Gladstone's credit, he doesn't info dump. Unfortunately, the rest of it blurs by to the point where I don't know anything about plot, world, magic system, character history...

From what I could see of the magic system ("Craft"), it was /absolutely fabulous/. I mean, Tara pulls a /sword made of starlight/ (or possibly lightning, either way) /out of her heart/. Tragically, this sword doesn't get much spotlight. I actually can't remember a single thing she actually does with it after pulling it out. This was part of the problem with the pacing--a lot of fantastic things happen that should have been extraordinarily important moments to character or plot development, but are for some reason relegated to one sentence telling-not-showing. The writing style here fluctuates between 'wow that was gorgeous' and 'why ... why are you suddenly writing like a middle schooler?' The moment in which Tara decides whether or not to enact her revenge should be a big deal, but it's kind of ... not. I literally don't even /remember/ why she was graduated before she was kicked out of the Hidden Schools, and if you'll recall, that's why I kept reading this book in the first place.

I think it could have just /focused./

Before I wrap up, though, I just need to mention the characters. Cat is absolutely fascinating; Raz is great; I won't mention the ridiculousness of naming your character made of stone "Shale" (oh, whoops, I just did); Abelard is adorable; I'm a little ambivalent toward Tara, but she ultimately didn't strike me as an utter moron (except that scene at the beginning with the bandits ... I mean, really). Plus, bonus: there was no obvious obnoxious romance that you could see coming from a mile away. In fact, there wasn't really any. I left that novel gloating over my personal 'ships; I love picking out the hints of romances and following their progression without the authors throwing them in my face.

I'm going to tentatively diagnosis this book with 'first book in an urban fantasy series' syndrome, or possibly just 'author's first book syndrome.' It was filled with serious potential, and I really, really, /really/ wanted to like it. I'm still not sure I did. But I'm pretty sure I want to read the next one (TWO SERPENTS RISE) to find out if Gladstone hits his stride. [-gmk]

Trailer Park (letter of comment by Susan de Guardiola):

In response to Mark's comments on film trailers in the 05/16/14 issue of the MT VOID, Susan de Guardiola writes: [You write,] "The program would be called 'Trailer Park'. I guess it was a place where trailers could be 'parked' and then shown to the fans."

It's a joke playing off the concept of a trailer (motor home) park, and it's still done at other cons. Lunacon uses it for a masquerade half-time show, and it's quite popular. Yes, they're available online, but seeing them all in a block lets people find out about films they may not have known were coming out.

[You write,] "This mission deals with stopping somethings called 'the Seminals'. "

That would be "Sentinels". [-sdg]

Mark replies:

I had assumed everybody would recognize that calling the show "Trailer Park" was a pun. Thanks on "Sentinels." The word was not sufficiently enunciated in the trailer. [-mrl]

Kids These Days (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz):

In response to Gwendolyn Karpierz' review of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA in the 05/23/14 issue of the MT VOID, Joe Karpierz writes:

Kids these days. Always challenging their elders. Alright young lady, game on. [-jk]

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

In response to discussion of a recent column written about Celebration, Florida, a planned community designed and built by the Walt Disney Company, I just checked out CELEBRATION, U.S.A.: LIVING IN DISNEY'S BRAVE NEW TOWN by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. The first thing I looked up was what it said about churches (that being one of the main foci of the discussion.). At the beginning of the planning, a consultant had recommended having many churches scattered through the community. But Disney wanted a single church in the downtown area, to be used for joint worship. Not surprisingly, this never worked out. Eventually the Presbyterians bought the designated land. Then Disney wanted them to build an old New England-style church, seating a couple of hundred people. "The Presbyterians balked," say Frantz and Collins. This was still planned to be the only church, and the projected population of Celebration was 20,000. (By 2013, almost twenty years after it opened, it had reached only 7000.) Also, the Presbyterians had their own ideas about what the church should look like. The result was a proposal for a huge $11 million complex, with a main sanctuary seating eight hundred. Then Disney asked for a voice in choosing the minister. Not surprisingly, this was also rejected.

However, two years later, ground had not been broken, and there was nowhere near enough money. For some reason, the people who had proposed this thought that the money for it would come from the national church and other Presbyterians (and probably some from Disney as well), and were shocked to discover that it was the congregation's members who would be footing the bill. After much debate and several false starts, they eventually settled on a much less ambitious plan.

Other denominations ended up worshiping at churches in neighboring communities or in people's homes or other buildings. There was a Jewish congregation, which did not even have a rabbi and had no plans to build a synagogue.

(All of this was as of 1999. Current church information is at . If one looks at the Community Presbyterian Church in GoogleMaps, one sees something quite different from an old New England-style church, and indeed something that looks quite a bit different than what I would think of as "neo-traditional".)

Then I started reading the book at the beginning. Much has been made of the HOA (Home Owners Association) aspects of Celebration: limited architectural choices, strict rules about lawns, landscaping, signs (e.g., no "For Sale" signs allowed), parking cars, etc. These extended to residents being told that even temporary curtains in other than white were not allowed, and you could not even pile moving boxes in front of an uncurtained window when you first moved it.

But other aspects received less attention. Disney dictated what businesses could open in the downtown at the beginning, so while there was a small grocery store, there was no supermarket. Nor was there a hardware store, a florist, or a hair salon, meaning that residents had to drive several miles to the next town for these services. There was not even a library (didn't the planners ever see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE?). Eventually a small branch of the county library was opened in the school for four hours a day. (The town's bookstore was very small and seemed to sell more tourist items and gifts than books. However, according to Frantz and Collins, most of the residents did not seem to read that much anyway: their homes did not have any books or bookshelves around, and they never discussed books.)

Oh, yes--tourists. Because Celebration was so hyped by Disney when it was built, many people who did not live there thought of it as just another theme park, and residents would occasionally find tourists walking through their back yards and peering in the windows, or even asking if they could come into their houses and look around.

However, the biggest problem to many residents was the school. It was designed as some sort of incredibly progressive school, with several grades in a single large room, no individual subjects, no textbooks, and no standard report cards or grades. Students would work on a series of nine-week projects (that they chose) which were supposed to teach them all the subjects (apparently by osmosis). The result was, in many cases, a disaster. Parents had no idea how their children were doing, there seemed to be very little supervision of students in the school, the mix of ages in a single room was okay in the 9-12 grades, but a disaster for the K-5 grades. Most of these families had been attracted by the wonderful promises of a state-of-the-art high-tech school, but the reality was very different.

And if this were not enough, families with children who were looking at colleges were discovering that none of the prestigious (or even just mainstream) colleges and universities would even look at a student who had no transcript with standard classes and grades for them. The school instead sent a "portfolio" of the student's projects and such, but given how many applicants schools get these days, no school anyone was interested in had the inclination to spend time examining a portfolio. Not surprisingly, this was totally unacceptable to the parents. So the school started issuing transcripts, but in many cases the grades (and even the classes) seemed to be made up.

(Eventually, the school returned to a much more traditional structure, with actual classes in math, history, English, etc.; textbooks; and graded report cards, but by then many families either moved, or pulled their children out of the school in favor of private schools or home schooling. The latest information is that there are now also separate schools for primary and secondary grades.)

A continuing public relations problem is the demographics of Celebration. It is an overwhelmingly white town, in a very ethnically mixed county. In part this is because rather than allow "affordable housing" to be built in the town, or allow lower-income people to get government help with their mortgages, Disney paid $300,000 toward some sort of affordable housing elsewhere. The result is that even though the town contains several different "levels" of housing, including apartments, none of them are available to anyone who is not at least middle-class.

(The latest figures show a population 91% white (81.9% non-Hispanic white), 1.5% black, 3.2% Asian, and 0.26% Native American. Hispanics of all races are 11.2% of the town's population. This is a big improvement over the initial figures, but nowhere near reflecting the area as a whole. One theory is that for many people, what makes them move to Celebration is nostalgia for the sort of small town they grew up in and had good memories of, but for blacks, particularly in the South, their memories of this sort of small town are less likely to cause nostalgia than fear.)

But almost all the problems to some extent are a side effect of the fact that Disney built Celebration and promoted it. Most of the people who bought homes there were Disney fans and had visited the theme parks many times. In the theme parks, everyone is friendly, everything is clean, nothing is broken, and so on. This is because there is an entire "backstage" crew making sure of all this, using a vast network of underground tunnels in which to stash the garbage, repair the broken items, and so on. But as Frantz and Collins say, "There are no tunnels in Celebration in which to hide life's nitty-gritty." It is populated by real people, not employees who will always act as they are directed.

And in this regard Disney was equally blind. Used to saying "Jump" and being asked, "How high?" on the way up by everyone from employees to politicians, Disney was taken aback when they could not tell people where they could worship or who their minister would be, or find enough teachers to teach in an experimental school in a town they could not afford to live in, or could sell their homes and leave only if they did not tell anyone why. For them too, the expectation of utopia was a bar they could not reach. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and 
          won't change the subject.
                                          --Sir Winston Churchill

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