MT VOID 06/27/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 52, Whole Number 1812

MT VOID 06/27/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 52, Whole Number 1812

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/27/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 52, Whole Number 1812

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

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):

July 3: THE CHEAP DETECTIVE, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library
	William Goldman (book), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 
July 24: THE DEMOLISHED MAN by Alfred Bester, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
	Mappan, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
September 25: IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT by Gregory Benford, Old 
	Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
	edited by Dan Ariely (selected articles), Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
November 18: ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
December 18: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Speculative Fiction Lectures (subject to change):

September 6: David Mack, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

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

My first pick this month is ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. It was originally scheduled for earlier this year. I picked it for that month and wrote a few comments about the film. At some later time TCM dropped it from the schedule. I ended up with a big hole in my column and a description there was no point in publishing. At least it will make its contribution this month. And you get another chance to see the film.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) is one of John Carpenter's few films that do not involve what is usually considered fantasy. The Precinct 13 police station of South Central Los Angeles is being decommissioned. In this, the last night the building will be used they have cut off the phone service and other means of communication. There is only the bare minimum of staff. It is a bad night for it. The police have enraged a local street gang, the Street Thunder, not knowing the Thunder have recently stolen an arsenal of rifles and pistols. A citizen whose daughter was killed by the street gang kills one of the gang's leaders and then is chased to the station house where he takes refuge. The gang wants the man back and is happy to unleash their fire-power on anyone who gets in their way. While I cannot say that this is a kind of film I like, I make an exception here. There are scenes in this film as scary as any in Carpenter's horror films. The images of the police station under a rain of silent bullets are really effective. The film is only 91 spare minutes long meaning there is nothing that goes to waste in this bare bones and spare little film. The viewer is swept up in the action almost before he knows it has started. [Sunday, July 6, 3:00 AM]

DETECTIVE STORY (1951) starts out as a typical day in the life of a detective squad. As such it sort of creeps up on you as it transforms into a very powerful drama. Kirk Douglas made a number of very powerful film in the early 1950s. This starts out as a look at one day in the life of a police precinct station, but builds into a hard drama. Kirk Douglas is a police detective with a Javert complex. He has a beautiful young wife and a hatred for all criminals. And he isn't above breaking the rules a little to defend the law. The movie features Lee Grant's first film performance (and the last before she was blacklisted for her liberal politics) playing a terrified, penitent first time shoplifter. Joseph Wiseman (later to play DR. NO) is a burglar with a rather cat-like bearing. The story was a successful Broadway play before it was a film and several of the cast repeat their roles from the stage. The film is directed by William Wyler (THE BIG COUNTRY, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, BEN-HUR) who gets some really good performances. [Wednesday, July 30, 8:00 PM]

KING OF HEARTS (1966) is a French language anti-war film made during the Vietnam years. It was directed by Philippe de Broca and starred Alan Bates and Genevieve Bujold. Toward the end of World War I retreating German soldiers have planted enough explosives in a small French town to completely obliterate the town. A nearby Scottish regiment hears about the plot and sends to investigate the soldier they can most easily spare. This is Pvt. Charles Plumpick who is an incompetent but he does speak French. Plumpick finds the village deserted except for the inmates of the local madhouse who have been released and left to meet their fate. The mad people accept Plumpick and he is drawn into their insanity. Plumpick is crowned by the crazies as the King of Hearts. The film asks why these gentle people have been sent to the insane asylum while the sane people are trying so hard to kill each other. The film has a great musical score by Georges Delerue. The film was very popular on a double feature HAROLD AND MAUDE (not shown this month, unfortunately). [Friday, July 25, 6:00 AM]

Best film of the month: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) [Friday, July 18, 8:00 PM]


ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie (copyright 2013, Orbit, $15.00, 384pp, ISBN 978-0-316-24662-0) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz):

From what I've gathered by listening to my dad and otherwise being completely oblivious to the rest of the world, ANCILLARY JUSTICE is currently the darling of the SF community. I can see why-- intriguing premise, original world--but it certainly makes me a little nervous to say some of the things I'm about to say.

ANCILLARY JUSTICE revolves around "Breq," who used to be an ancillary--an AI appendage of a starship that once had hundreds of such appendages, who could all function individually and simultaneously. Breq is seeking something--a very particular something--for a very particular reason--all of which is hidden from us for the first quarter or so of the book.

I bet you want to know what that something is, don't you.

When I was working on a novel for my Honors thesis last year, my advisor taught me about something called "false suspense," which is /way more frustrating/ than real suspense. False suspense obscures information that the reader really has no reason not to know, except for the fact that the author wants to pretend things are suspenseful. In real suspense, you want to know if a character is going to succeed at his/her/etc. goal. In true suspense, you haven't a clue what that goal is, or why it is the goal, or why you /care/ about the goal. Mostly you're just confused about why you don't know these things.

Fellow duelist fish Joe Karpierz (a.k.a. Dad) mentioned being confused at least three times in his rave review of this novel [below].

ANCILLARY JUSTICE is in /first person/. The book is written from Breq's point-of-view; there is consequently /no reason/ that we should not know what Breq is looking for or why. WE ARE IN HER HEAD. She's not hiding it from herself, so she can't be hiding it from us.

But she is.


"/Tell me,/" Strigan said ... "Tell me why."

I closed my eyes, felt the disorientation of not being able to see through other eyes that I knew I had once had. Opened them again, took a breath to begin, and told her.

"Thank God," said duelist fish Gwendolyn Karpierz out loud on page 139, until she read the next chapter and realized that the narrator was telling Strigan /but still not actually telling the reader/.


Since I thus spent most of this book confused, I also spent most of it pretty bored. I did not have the true suspense of eagerly wondering if Breq would achieve her goal, or how, or what the consequences would be. I didn't know enough to care.

However, I will admit that the last hundred pages changed that for me. (I'm actually a /lot/ fonder of this book in retrospect than I remember being while reading it.) About three hundred pages in, I really started to feel a connection between the characters; the dialogue became much more amusing, realistic, and interesting--I actually started laughing at conversations that were meant to be funny--and /finally something was happening/. The plot was explained at last, and now the real suspense kicked in: would Breq succeed? The climax was excellent. I was on the edge of my seat.

And, too, I was sad. I was sad for the ships, for the AIs who suddenly became what the entire book wanted them to be: human. People. /Characters./

I don't want to spoil it by typing it out, but my favorite moment in this whole book was twenty pages from the end. That's when it hit home.


There are a few other concepts Leckie proposed that were fantastic, but underutilized and, consequently, lent more to my frustration than my approval. First, the thing everybody's talking about: the gender.

In the main language of the book, Radchaai, there is no distinguishing pronoun for gender. In principal, this recognizes that gender is fluid and not particularly important, which is excellent. In practice, the book just uses "she" for every single person in the story, which doesn't erase gender; it just makes everyone female. I had a lot of trouble not picturing the novel's universe as being entirely populated by women, and I have to agree with my dad on this point: Leckie doesn't push it far enough. If she had, perhaps, chosen a non-standard pronoun (there are so many of them) that did not come with preconceptions, this might have worked. Instead it was just ... confusing.

It does go along with some really interesting twists of language that Leckie pulled. I loved every time she tried to have a discussion based around words that don't necessarily exist or have distinctions in English. Like Radchaai/civilized vs. uncivilized, or songs/songs--professional vs. entertaining. They translated surprisingly well, and served to remind us that, no matter what we thought we were reading, Breq was /not/ thinking in English.

This did not, however, work all that well for the songs themselves. The inclusion of music as Breq's distinguishing characteristic was a fabulous trait, but most of the songs were so stilted that they lost all their impact. I'm fairly certain some of them were translated--fitting in with the language exploration I just mentioned--but it was ... awkward.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I think I could have. But I will end with the idea I thought was absolutely the most fabulous in the whole of ANCILLARY JUSTICE:

"When Anaander Mianaai had taken control of the core of Radch space some few ships had destroyed themselves upon the death or captivity of their captains, and rumor said some others still wandered space in the three thousand years since, half-mad, despairing."

Spaceships gone mad with grief at the loss of their captains, and wandering empty eternity mourning their dead?

That's what AIs should be used for. [-gmk]

ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie (copyright 2013, Orbit, 409pp, ebook ISBN 978-0-316-24663-7) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):

Right about now, Ann Leckie's first novel, ANCILLARY JUSTICE, is the talk of the science fiction world (well, more or less, given the controversy surrounding this year's Hugo ballot). It's won the Nebula and Clarke awards, tied for the BSFA award, and is on the shortlist for both the Locus and Hugo awards. It really has taken the field by storm. There really should be no reason why it shouldn't win the Hugo, but then again I can say that about Charles Stross' NEPTUNE'S BROOD. Each of these novels introduces stunning ideas that, while not setting the SFworld on its collective ear(s), set them apart from the field to the point where, I believe without even having finished Grant's PARASITE and Correia's WARBOUND, they have set themselves apart from the rest and should both be atop the final Hugo ballot. If either one of them win and the other comes in second, I will be completely pleased with the result.

Leckie introduces us to Breq, a former ancillary. This is one of the coolest concepts to hit our field in quite a while. An ancillary is at once a starhip and part of a starship. The ancillaries of a starship together are a hive mind of said starship, and can be sent off to do various tasks for that starship *simultaneously with all the rest of the ancillaries* of said starship. Breq was part of the starship called Justice of Toren. Justice of Toren belonged to the fleet of the Radch, a space conquering race that swept its way through the galaxy, assimilating planetary societies into its way of life through force and violence (it bears some resemblance, I'm sure, to the Roman Empire here on Earth in our past). Now the starship Justice of Toren is gone, and Breq is on her own (we'll get back to the use of the female pronoun later).

We meet Breq on a planet that is a long way from home. Breq is not a happy camper. She is looking for an item that will help her destroy, or at least kill a few of, the bodies of the supreme head of the Radchai. Why Breq is looking for this item to kill this person--and I just cannot use the word individual at all in this context--is the centerpiece of the plot. Over the course of time, some of the Radch have come to see that conquering and assimilating other people is wrong. Thus, a civil war of sorts has begun, and Justice of Toren was at the scene of the takeover that set the events of this story in motion.

There are so many brilliant ideas to talk about here that I don't know where to begin, quite honestly. However, what I'd like to start with is what the novel has been lauded for, which is its treatment of gender. Leckie created a universe in which gender is, while not irrelevant, at least doesn't matter so much. In fact, depending on the society and its language, the same individual can be male in one society and female in another. Breq has difficulty with languages that do make gender distinction, and I would have to say that for a portion of the start of the novel, I was confused as well. However, the very thing that finally relieved me of my confusion is what I believe to be the fault with introducing this concept: she doesn't take it far enough, doesn't include it enough, doesn't remind us of it enough. There are long stretches of the book where this isn't brought into play or mentioned. I soon found myself mentally assigning gender roles to the characters--which is probably not what Leckie wanted us to do. I almost feel (and here's where I will get myself in trouble with certain factions within our community) that this story could have been told without the gender, er, stuff. I'm not saying the novel would have been better or worse, just that it could have been told without it and I still would have enjoyed it.

No, for me the fascinating thing that Leckie introduced was the concept of the ancillaries. The ancillaries themselves are former humans, captured as part of the assimilation of planetary societies, and put in storage until the time they're needed. The supply of potential ancillaries seems to be endless. The idea of multiple iterations of the same starship wandering around a planetary surface doing that starship's bidding is pretty cool. I want to know how it works. Granted, that's not the point, and I'm sure that Leckie won't be giving that information to us in the next two books. But the nerd in me wants to know. Leckie does a masterful job of describing a scene from the points of view of multiple ancillaries at the same time--although I will have to admit that at first I was more than a bit confused until I figured out what was going on--at which point I was blown away.

(Post review note: the other half of the Duel Fish Codices team notes that I mentioned that I was confused while reading this novel at least three times in this review. I'll be darned. I really didn't realize that until it was pointed out. This, then, may be a weakness of the novel, and it really isn't the first time I've heard that readers have been confused by portions of the book. Leckie herself mentions the issue on one podcast or another I was listening to recently.)

All of this leads to a sense of wonder that I haven't gotten from a novel in quite a while. It's good to know that we can still get that from novels in our genre now and again.

There's really a lot more going on here that I haven't talked about --indeed, I've only scratched the surface. Leckie handles it all with a masterful writing style that really did have me wanting to know what was going to happen next. It's been a long time since I've read a book that hasn't resulted in me thinking "well, I've seen THAT before". And I'm thinking you won't have seen it before either.

Yeah, this is good stuff. Really good stuff. [-jak]


This book covers the emerging field of theories concerning parallel universes. Max Tegmark is a physics professor at MIT and author or coauthor of more than 200 technical papers. The author proposes some new ideas about the types of parallel universes that could exist. His ideas are still considered controversial since they are not widely accepted by the total scientific community. He suggests that there are four levels of parallel universes which consist of the following; Level 1 (unobservable far reaches of space), Level 2 (post inflationary regions), Level 3 (elsewhere in Hilbert space caused by many worlds quantum branching), and Level 4 (other mathematic structures). The Level 1 theory states that our observable universe which is seen when we look out and see as far back to the beginning of our 14-billion-year-old universe as possible is a huge spherical region. And that there are additional huge spherical regions (universes) outside of our region which we cannot directly detect because of the time available for light to travel thru space. The Level 2 theory predicts that due to eternal inflation (another recent theory) infinite regions of space are created (new universes develop) but are not connected to each other. This is similar to buds on a tree. Each bud is a separate universe. Physical laws and constants are unchanged across Level 1 parallel universes but these can change across Level 2 parallel universes since each universe had a totally separate developmental history. The Level 3 theory uses the branching effect of the many worlds quantum mechanical theory to create parallel universes where every alternate history is occurring. In other words, this is a set of parallel universe with alternate observer histories. For example, there is one universe where Kennedy was not killed and also one where Al Gore was elected president instead of Bush. The Level 4 theory is based on different fundamental equations of physics creating totally new (different physics) parallel universes. The bottom line of all of the cosmology covered in this book is Dr. Tegmark's suggestion that all of the parallel universes are really just mathematical structures. When we look to the smallest scale of matter we are studying mathematical structures and when we look at the Cosmos on the largest scale we are also studying mathematical structures. Whether you agree with Dr. Tegmark or not this book will basically get you thinking about some of the newest concepts about parallel universes and is well written. [-gf]

Reports on NASA Faster-than-Light Travel and on Nuclear Fusion (comments by Gregory Frederick):

Gregory Frederick writes:

Did you hear about the faster than light travel space craft that NASA is working on? Actually, a NASA scientist is doing some limited small-scale lab testing to see if they can even develop a miniature 4D space-time warp bubble. They are far from creating such a ship but if their testing does work then someday this type of space travel could become real. For more details, see the story on

Also, a scientist, Robert Bussard, who died a few years back, was working for the U.S. Navy in secret for fifteen years on another method to create nuclear fusion. Bussard also spent decades working on this method to produce nuclear fusion even before the Navy's secret project. There are three methods to make a nuclear reactor: one method is using many lasers concentrated on a small spherical fuel pellet, the second is a tokamak which is a donut- shaped electro-magnetic ring that squeezes the nuclear fuel, and the third is a polywell. This third method is seldom mentioned or heard of today. It was created back in the 1950's but was thought to be a dead end for commercial fusion efforts. But this secret research conducted by Bussard which has recently gone public is looking promising as a possible way to create a nuclear reactor that can be commercialized and in less than ten years produce more energy then was required to create the reaction. This could be another false hope I am thinking it may not be. See the story on [-gf]

[This is all very impressive stuff. Much of it has been staples of SF and now the boundary is no longer clear. -mrl]

"Parasitology" (letter of comment by Gwendolyn Karpierz):

In response to Evelyn's comments on "Parasitology" in the 06/20/14 issue of the MT VOID, Gwendolyn Karpierz writes:

You noted that "Parasitology" was a duology, but it's recently been declared a trilogy: That's all! [-gk]

Logic and Fantasy and ANTHEM (letter of comment by Neil Ostrove):

In response to Mark's comments on logic and fantasy in the 06/20/14 issue of the MT VOID, Neil Ostrove writes:

Isaac Asimov said it very entertainingly in the forward to Asimov's Mysteries. I can't find it in Google Books but it's paraphrased in the Caves of Steel Wikipedia article (

"THE CAVES OF STEEL is a novel by Isaac Asimov. It is essentially a detective story, and illustrates an idea Asimov advocated, that science fiction is a flavor that can be applied to any literary genre, rather than a limited genre itself. Specifically, in the book ASIMOV'S MYSTERIES, he states that he wrote the novel in response to the assertion by editor John W. Campbell that mystery and science fiction were incompatible genres. Campbell had said that the science fiction writer could invent "facts" in his imaginary future that the reader would not know. Asimov countered that there were rules implicit in the art of writing mysteries, and that the clues could be in the plot, even if they were not obvious, or were deliberately obfuscated. He went on to write several science-fiction mysteries in both novel and short-story form, as well as mainstream mysteries such as MURDER AT THE ABA, which was not science fiction. "

Regarding ANTHEM:

While I agree with Evelyn about the quality of ANTHEM, I read an article by J. Brad Hicks ( that made me think of it in a new light.

It posited that ANTHEM was the final book of a trilogy, and regretted that Ayn Rand didn't live long enough to write the middle book, where [some?] residents of Galt's Gulch returned to take their rightful place in a world that would now know how essential they were. For some reason they weren't brought to power immediately and their efforts to remedy that led to a slight overreaction concerning the benefits of technology and egoism. [-no]

"Hyperpilosity" (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Evelyn's comments on "Hyperpilosity" in the 06/20/14 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

To my mind the interesting thing about "Hyperpilosity" (which I read many years ago in THE ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION ANTHOLOGY) is that it's one of the earliest stories to suggest that the way to deal with an impending catastrophe is not to try to undo it but to work out a way of living with and profiting from its consequences. Thus it can be viewed as anticipating the argument that geoengineering rather than reducing fossil fuel consumption is the best way to deal with anthropogenic global warming. [-fl]

Logic and Vampires (letters of comment by Tom Russell and Sam Long):

In response to Mark's comments on logic and fantasy in the 06/20/14 issue of the MT VOID, Tom Russell writes:

Mixed bag of thoughts related to Mark Leeper's good comments about disappointments with authors changing the rules in a fantasy world (Logic and Fantasy 6/20/14). Mark mentioned vampire weaknesses.

- The nature of science is that new discoveries continuously change the old "rules." So it may not be so terrible if a new "rule" is added in a fantasy world. But, as Mark suggested, any new rule must build logically from all that has come before, and not be in contradiction to previous stories.

- Some recent science suggests a new superpower for vampires:

- Speculating about some possible upcoming rule-breaking(?) vampire-theme movie remakes:
(1) If vampires had sided with the Confederacy, then the South might have won, and Scarlet and Rhett might have had a happy ending in Tara, but sadly the vampire troops were GONE WITH THE SUN.
(2) If Wookiees were vampires, then the full name of Han Solo's sidekick would be Chewbaccaneck.
(3) If one of 007's early foes was a vampire, then that foe and the name of the movie would be ???? (puzzle for MT VOID readers.) [-tlr]

Mark replies:

I would say that the story of scientific research can be every bit as enthralling as fiction, and of course, new discoveries can come along that change everything. But such a story is told with the reader knowing that research went on and we are prepared for the possibility that there may be new discoveries. I think that is different than a piece of fiction suddenly saying that Superman has the power to reverse time. We all know that new science is going on all the time.

To be honest I am sorry you brought up the "young blood" discovery. I had been intending to write a column to the effect that the old Universal horror films like THE INVISIBLE MAN'S REVENGE actually were right about the medical powers that that blood has. Now that you have brought it up, the ironic point I wanted to make has already been made. I was just too slow. And meanwhile I am watching the third season of GAME OF THRONES which is claiming king's blood also has special powers.

Let me encode my answer to the 007 question in rot13. You can decode it at

Vg vf abg uneq gb trg n ovt whzc ba lbhe 007 ceboyrz fvapr gur bayl svyzf va juvpu gur gvgyr bs gur svyz jnf gur anzr bs gur ivyynva jrer QE AB naq TBYQSVATRE. Lbh genafsbez TBYQSVATRE gb TBYQSNATRE. Ohg lbh pbhyq rdhnyyl jryy unir QE AB ERSYRPGVBA. [-mrl]

Sam Long writes:

With regard to vampires, I've often wondered:

... If sunlight injures or kills vampires, why doesn't moonlight (which is merely reflected sunlight) also have the same effect(s)?

... Or starlight, for that matter?

... We know that the sky gets darker after sunset, but at what point does it get dark enough for a vampire to become active? That is to say, what is the fraction of sky radiation relative to noon on a bright sunny day, that is safe for vampires? 1%? 0.1%? What is the relationship between this fraction and civil twilight (sun 6ø below the horizon) and astronomical twilight (18ø below the horizon). As it happens, at locations north or south of latitude 48ø, astronomical twilight lasts all night at midsummer, so vampires would be hampered in northern Europe in summer.

... Could we determine what wavelengths of sunlight do the damage To vampires and make a lamp--or laser, perhaps--tuned to that (or those) wavelengths to use as an anti-vampire weapon?

... We are told that vampires are repelled by crosses. Very well.

... What about vampires before the rise of Christianity? Or vampires from areas of other religious traditions? Would they be repelled by other, different, symbols? If so, which ones?

... Hold a cross or crucifix by its vertical axis, so that the horizontal arm points to the vampire. The vampire can see only the vertical post, and is therefore presumably unaffected by what it sees. Now turn the cross around its vertical axis, so that the vampire now sees a cross-shape. At what critical angle 0ø < ? < 90ø does the vampire begin to be affected by the cross-shape? Presumably the repellent effect is greatest at 90ø, that is, the cross is aimed right at--facing--the vampire. (The effect would be similar if a horizontal axis is chosen instead.)

... Film evidence exists showing that vampires can be repelled by the hero holding, e.g., two candlesticks in a cross-shape.

... Suppose we hold a candlestick horizontally in the left hand, and another vertically in the right, the left-hand candlestick above the right hand one. Then we lower the left-hand candlestick to the top of the right-hand one, forming a T. This is a St Antony's Cross. As such, does it have an effect on the vampire?

... Continue to lower the left-hand candlestick we get first An obelisk (+) or Latin cross, then a plus-sign (+), then an upside-down Latin cross, then an upside-down T. Take the ratio of the length of the upper arm to the length of the lower arm. Is there a critical ratio at which the vampire begins to be repelled? Presumably the vampirifugic effect is greatest when the ratio is 1, i.e., the upper and lower arms are equal, as in a plus sign.

... Would a saltire--an X cross--be as effective as a vertical cross? If not, why not?

... Is there a critical size for a cross to have an effect on a vampire? It would seem so, because they don't seem to be affected by crossed woven fibers in the clothes they wear.

... And what percent silver must a bullet be to kill a werewolf?

"Inquiring Minds Want to Know". [-sl]

Mark responds:

I can answer your first question and several of the others with a question for you. If you as a human can get a sunburn, why don't you worry about getting a moonburn?

Many of your questions seem to come down to binary thinking. Most of nature does not have sharp cutoff points. In STAR TREK they had a plot that said that one hour in radiation was deadly but 55 minutes of radiation was safe. In truth, if an hour is deadly, 55 minutes is very nearly deadly. Sunlight reflected by a mirror would likely be damaging to a vampire, but less than direct sunlight and more than light reflected by the moon.

When you get into crosses against vampires that is another matter. As a Jewish fan of vampire films I decided that all the Christian folderol of the vampire folklore was relative. What was important was not the religious implications of the objects, what was important was the wielder's attitude. If the wielder believes the cross stops vampires it does. If he believes in the same way that Rubik's Cubes repel vampires, that works for him. [-mrl]

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

Tomorrow is a very important date. It is the 100th anniversary of my maternal grandparents' wedding. It is also the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. So in honor of the latter, I re-read THE GUNS OF AUGUST by Barbara Tuchman (ISBN 978-0-345-38623-6). Tuchman's style is quite different from several of the (very thick) tomes published over the last year for the centenary of the start of World War I; here is a sample from THE GUNS OF AUGUST:

"The cohorts of Vladimir dominated a court that was living out its age of Nero, whose ladies enjoyed the thrills of afternoon seances with the unwashed Rasputin. But Russia also had its Democrats and Liberals of the Duma, its Bakunin the Nihilist, it Prince Kropotkin who became an anarchist, its "intelligentsia" of whom the Czar said, 'How I detest that word! I wish I could order the Academy to strike it from the Russian dictionary,' its Levins who agonized endlessly over their souls, socialism, and the soil, its Uncle Vanyas without hope, its particular quality that caused a British diplomat to conclude that "everyone in Russia was a little mad"--a quality called 'le charme slav', half nonchalance, half inefficiency, a kind of 'fin de siecle' fecklessness that hung like a faint mist over the city on the Neva which the world knew as St. Petersburg and did not know was the Cherry Orchard"

Tuchman clearly assumes a level of education among her readers--not just knowing who Rasputin, Bakunin, and Prince Kropotkin were, but also being able to decode the references to Levin, Uncle Vanya, and the Cherry Orchard.

Even better than Tuchman's book, though, or at least more engaging and involving, is Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" podcast series about World War I, "Blueprint for Armageddon". So far he has done three episodes (totaling ten-and-a-half hours) and covered up through 1915. You can find this at

In regard to World War I casualties, I have always been struck by Kim Stanley Robinson's image in "A History of the 20th Century, with Illustrations", which uses the Vietnam Memorial as a unit of measure: "But at the end of every month or two of the Great War, the British had had a whole Vietnam Memorial's worth of dead. Every month or two, for fifty-one months."

Striking as it is, let me add: "But at the end of every five days of World War II, the Russians had had a whole Vietnam Memorial's worth of dead. Every five *days*, for seventy-two months."

(And keeping with the World War I theme, my mother was born on April 6, 1917--the day the United States entered World War I.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you 
          wear a sweater ... suggest that he wear a tail. 
                                          --Fran Lebowitz

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