MT VOID 12/23/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 26, Whole Number 1942

MT VOID 12/23/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 26, Whole Number 1942

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 12/23/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 26, Whole Number 1942

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

Death Stars:

Don Blosser sends us the following from DuffelBlog:

"New Documents Show Death Star Flaws Stem from Pentagon Mismanagement"

What Else Am I Going to Do? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Last year I mentioned that I really don't need to have someone on a recorded Christmas carol remind me that Christmas comes this time each year. He seems rather gob-smacked by the concept that a holiday may be on a fixed date in the calendar. Now I am hearing a Christmas song suggesting that I "Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow." Just what options do I have? [-mrl]

Creating Fake News Is Not Just Mischief, It Can Be a Profitable Enterprise (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

During the last election cycle the United States was awash in claims made by people that, to put it lightly, were absurd and libelous. I will not say that most of these stories benefitted on Presidential candidate over the other, but the facts may bear that interpretation.

We are seeing that changes in our communication technology and social media are starting to have profound effects on our political system. Among other threats--I do not mean to imply that this is in any way the biggest threat out there--there is clickbaiting. What is clickbaiting? It is disseminating propaganda, especially political, of a sensational nature intended get people to click on links to it.

You probably have seen web pages that have links to other web pages. Frequently they will say that they are "sponsored" links. On the Internet an arrangement can be made that if X has a webpage and can get his/her readers to jump from that page to Y's web page, Y will pay a commission to X for the service of adding to the traffic on Y's page. And Y can in turn sell advertising on the destination web page and be paid by the people whose advertising appears on the page. If you have a web page that a lot of people are visiting, you can sell advertising on that page.

Amazon has for a long time had policy to have people put a link to Amazon on their web pages and to pay a commission if when linking to Amazon results in a sale. In doing this Amazon is not being unscrupulous. They are getting referrals from other people's web pages and are paying for those referrals that result in a sale. But there are people who are less scrupulous about it. Y could create his own website that would have had an article with a really sensationalist title and also have advertisers. For dragging people past that advertising Y could arrange to be paid by the advertisers. The article on the page need not necessarily tell the truth. I could say for example, "Obama found catching and eating neighborhood dogs." The truth of the claim is unimportant. What is important is that it has a flashy title that would attract more readers and would sell more advertising. It may well be that the more absurd the article, the better the system works. What is important is that the article be attention getting and would bring more people to the page and past the advertising.

But with the title and content of the article being irrelevant to the moneymaking process the author of the page can advance additional ends. A webpage could advertise the products whose ads are on the page, but also it could carry a political payload like the above false accusation. Or the page could download phishing software and malware may be embedded in the site software.

Recently the Planet Money podcast ran a story entitled "Finding The Fake-News King." The staff traced down a man who had turned his computer into a well-paying business. He was inventing a large quantity of bogus news--mostly invented right wing gossip, and making a good living spreading false news to a large portion of the public. He specialized in accusing the Clintons of conspiracies, all of which were drawn from his fertile imagination.

Hear the Planet Money episode here:

These slanders by this gentleman and other people are taken very seriously by a disappointingly large segment of the population. They have serious real-world consequences. They are accepted unquestioned as truth. For example:

See: These false rumors seem to be a real force in determining elections. And by the 2018 elections the people perpetrating the frauds will undoubtedly be more proficient. This is a political force that seems to work and it will only become more of a threat. [-mrl]

Wallets (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Mark recently decided to transfer his wallet's contents to a new wallet. This sounds simple, but it is a project fraught with peril.

First of all, his Medicare card is too large to fit in any of the card slots. Whatever possessed the Social Security Administration to make their totally flimsy card noticeably larger than the standard credit card size (or for that matter, totally flimsy in the first place) is beyond me.

Then, it turns out that the slots on one side of the wallet are slightly narrower than on the other, so only one side can hold credit cards. The other can hold cards that are slightly smaller--business cards, driver license, or (in Mark's case) our library card. That he can put anything on this side is lucky, because otherwise, the wallet is only half useful.

Of course, the other problem is how many cards he (or anyone) has to carry. Even the basic set of driver license, AAA card, three medical cards (Medicare, supplement, Plan D), bank card, two credit cards (basic and Costco), and library card push most wallets' limits (even one chosen to hold a lot of cards!). Add any store gift cards, affinity cards, and so on, and you would need two or three wallets just to hold them. As it is, I have some on key-ring tags, some in one wallet, and the rest stuck in a small envelope in a pocket of my purse. Sort of defeats the idea of a wallet, doesn't it? [-ecl]

COUNTER CLOCKWISE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: This is a very low budget dark comedy and science fiction film with some good writing, and a keen sense of irony. It has just basic production values to call attention to itself. The film is directed by George Moise from a script he co-authored with Michael Kopelow, who plays the main character. Some of the material is inappropriate for younger viewers. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

One subgenre of the science fiction film is the time travel story and one subgenre of the time travel story is the time paradox story, in which people move backward and forward in time meeting later and earlier versions of themselves and making a farce of causality. These stories can be as complex and complicated as Raymond Chandler plots. And some films combine the two to be an extra challenge for the viewer. Some better examples worth noting are PRIMER (2004), TIMECRIMES (2008), and PREDESTINATION (2014). They ask not just "who done it?" but also "what version of person X did it." A new time travel and time crime film is COUNTER CLOCKWISE.

Ethan Walker is working on a matter transmitter (a la THE FLY (1958)). When it transmits, the scene seems almost a reproduction of the similar scene in THE FLY (1958). When he try sending a pet, a sweet, one-eyed dog, he loses the pet in space (a la THE FLY (1958)). Ethan tries transmitting himself, but no, his atoms do not get mixed with the dog. But they do not get transmitted to a receiving device either. He just finds himself sent a few months into the future. However, Ethan finds out that while he was time-traveling his wife and sister were murdered and because he has disappeared he is now the prime suspect that the police have been searching for. So far the story has done nothing that could not have been explained by having Ethan have amnesia and unsure what happened while he had disappeared. In addition, the world seems to have become divided between two rival factions, Rakubian Industries and Syndicate Red. Ethan readies his broken matter transmitter and sends himself back in time to stop the crime. And of course lines of time just naturally tangle like old telephone cords. To clear his name Ethan has to prevent the crime.

I cannot say a whole lot is notable in this film. The camerawork is not particularly polished. The acting is not particularly subtle or evocative. But the dialog is certainly amusing and the actors are as professional as needed for a few off-the-wall characters, particularly a rather strange but magnetic villain. Nor is most of the writing of the quality we would expect from a theatrical feature film. But a big part of the audience for this film will be looking at the time paradoxes and trying to work out warped timelines. And for the science fiction aspect the film does all right. It is not as complex as the plot of TIMECRIMES or PRIMER, but it does keep the viewer invested. The film has only the most minimal special effects. There is a split screen or two, but that was all I noticed. However, with sufficient writing skill the film does not need complex special effects and this film is fun. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


THE DARK FOREST by Cixin Liu (translated by Joel Martinsen) (copyright 2015 Tor (U.S. Edition), e-book, 512pp, hardcover ISBN 978-0-7653-7708-1, e-book ISBN 978-1-4668-5343-0) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):

THE DARK FOREST--book two of the "Remembrance of Earth's Past" series--is the sequel to the Hugo Award winning THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Chinese author Cixin Liu and translated by award-winning author Ken Liu. THE DARK FOREST is translated by Joel Martinsen, while the third book in the trilogy, DEATH'S END, will once again be translated by Ken Liu. (I'll revisit the subject of the translators a later on in this review.)

At the end of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM, we know that the Trisolarans, an alien race from a system with three suns and whose system is collapsing, is planning a hostile takeover of Earth and are on their way to the Solar System. They'll arrive in roughly four hundred years, and there doesn't appear, on the surface, that anything can be done to stop them. Complicating the issue is the presence of tiny computers made of protons called sophons, which can not only monitor all human information, but instantly transfer that information back to Trisolaris. This has the nasty consequence of rendering transparent any plans humanity comes up with to try to stop the Trisolarans. Yes, this is a bit of hand-wavium that may be hard for some readers to swallow, but in the spirit of the story as well as the spirit of the series (THE THREE BODY PROBLEM had its share of hand-wavium as well) I'm more than happy to ignore it. This kind of hocus pocus was prevalent back in the day, and while it doesn't satisfy modern readers of science fiction, I still prefer a bit of cosmic cool stuff in my reading (There is more than enough reading material and podcast discussion about actual science in science fiction to make it believable that I don't need to talk about it here. I refuse to spoil my fun.).

And so the "Wallfacer" project is born. Each Wallfacer is charged with coming up with a plan to defeat the Trisolaran fleet coming to attack earth. They are to do it in secret, not letting anybody know what they're doing, and they are given all the resources they need to accomplish their goal. They have counterparts, designated by the Trisolarans, called Wallbreakers. The Wallbreakers are to study their assigned Wallfacer until the figure out what that Wallfacer's true plan is. One Wallfacer does not have a Wallbreaker. His name is Luo Ji, who is considered by the Trisolarans to be the most dangerous of the Wallfacers. While the other three Wallfacers are well known public figures, Luo Ji is a nondescript astronomer who doesn't understand why he is now the subject of all this attention and scrutiny.

THE DARK FOREST, then, is the story of how humanity through the Wallfacers, and especially Luo Ji, try to find a way to fight the Trisolarans and defeat them.

The story takes place in a couple of distincttime periods, with the second being some two hundred years after the events of the beginning of the novel. In that second time period, humanity feels that it has found a way to defeat the Trisolarans, and is no longer worried about the impending invasion. Life has returned to normal.

I hesitate to give much more in the way of details, because giving one detail will necessitate giving another, and another, and another, and so on. Needless to say, and now that the book has been out for over a year, I don't think it's giving anything away to say that the Trisolarans are stronger than humanity thought, and that the technology that the humans have is powerless to stop the incoming invasion fleet. As luck would have it, Luo Ji has a big role in the climax of the book, which sets the stage for DEATH'S END, the final novel in the trilogy.

I had difficulty staying focused on the novel. I did not find the characters engaging, and story did not hold my interest. Time and again conclusions were made based on what seems like intuition; maybe it's me, but time and again one thing one would lead toanother, at which point a character would say, "Ah, it must obviously be *this*". And just about every one of those times, my reaction would be "Huh? How did they come to THAT conclusion?" Because of this, I found it difficult to engage with the story, to suspend my disbelief. Funny, I know, that I'll buy the concept of sophons that can immediately transmit information over light years but can't but these character reactions. And I guess that's the point--I couldn't believe the way the people were behaving, the decisions they were making, and the risks they were taking. A great deal of it made little to no sense to me, and that took me right out of the story.

What's good about it? Grand concepts, space battles, mysterious aliens and their superior technology. Cosmic ideas, the future of humanity hanging in the balance. All that cool stuff.

With regard to the translation of the book: While I clearly do not know Chinese and thus can't truly judge as to whether this is a good translation from the Chinese or not, I can say that I wasn't as engaged by the style or the prose this time around. I can only imagine how difficult it is to translate a novel from one language to another; however, I didn't find the writing as riveting this time as I did for THE THREE BODY PROBLEM. Ken Liu returns as the translator for DEATH'S END. I'm interested in reading his translation of that work.

All in all, for me, a bit of a disappointment, although the book is saved by the grand scope of it all. Hopefully DEATH'S END will pick it back up and send the story to the glorious finish I think it deserves. [-jak]

DAREDEVIL (Season One: Netflix) (television review by Dale Skran):

I've been avoiding the Netflix Marvel shows for a while, but I noticed that DAREDEVIL Season One was out on DVD/Blue Ray so I decided to catch up. The short review is that DDS1 fixes pretty much everything wrong with the Affleck "Daredevil" movie. Affleck is blamed for the movie, but the real fault lies in a failure to stick with the key aspects of the comic character, and the weak scripting. DDS1 is better in so many ways than the movie that is pointless to list them. Some of the highlights include:

This is not to say that DDS1 is just a frame-by-frame adaption of the comic. The Kingpin is more fully realized as a character than in the comic, and makes a great foil for Daredevil. Karen Page is not quite the innocent that appears in the four-color pages. Stick shows up a lot earlier in Matt's life in DDS1 than in the comic. And so on. But none of these changes take anything away from the character, and most add something to it.

DDS1 is highly recommended for super-hero fans. This is "R-rated" cable TV, with brutal, bone crunching fights, torture, corrupt cops, and vile criminals. Hence, only for teenagers and up. Although well scripted and acted, DDS1 may be too violent for some non-fans. [-dls]

Gary [K.] Wolf[e] (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris):

In response to Evelyn's comments on Gary K. Wolf and Gary K. Wolfe in the 11/18/16 issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:

[Evelyn wrote,] "And by the way, science fiction critic Gary K. Wolfe is not to be confused with science-fiction writer and Roger Rabbit creator Gary K. Wolf."

Nor with Gary Wolf (journalist):

a writer, contributing editor at America's Wired magazine and co-founder of the Quantified Self.[1] Among his other Wired stories, Wolf is the author of "The Curse of Xanadu," about Ted Nelson and Project Xanadu, and "The World According to Woz", about Steve Wozniak.>

(Quantified Self is a science-fictional concept that just happens to have already become nonfictional.) [-csh]

Llamas (letter of comment by Sam Long):

In response to Evelyn's comments on "llamas" in the 12/16/16 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

Ogden Nash once wrote a poem on the subject (and annotated it as well):

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.*
*The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as the three-alarmer. Pooh.

Meanwhile, although I can't claim to be an expert in Spanish linguistics, I do know that Latin PL, CL, and (I just learned here) FL often becomes LL in Spanish (planum > llano, flamma > llama). Plain F often becomes H (Fernando > Hernando, fablar > hablar). Most of these changes occurred in the late Middle Ages, IIRC. [-sl]

Evelyn adds:

Famously, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Watson write that Sherlock Holmes says (in "The Adventure of the Empty House"), "I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some days with the head llama." Some later editions of the story correct this error, but Bert Coules uses it for a joke in his BBC dramatization of "The Adventure of Lion's Mane", with Holmes chiding Watson for the error. [-ecl]

Indian Savory Snacks (letter of comment by Kerr Mudd-John):

In response to Mark's comments on Indian savory snacks in the 12/16/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kerr Mudd-John writes:

In the UK, unless you go specifically to an Asian market, you get Bombay Mix:

Plenty to choose from!


Mark replies:

In my article I was thinking of just spicy and crunchy out-of-the-bag snacks. The list you cite does not exactly coincide. The list does not have Fulwadi or Sev. And many on the list are served hot. Nonetheless it does look good, and I have had some of the dishes it lists including the widest dishes I have ever eaten, dosas about two feet from stem to stern. You have given me lots of mischief to get into next time I visit an Indian grocery. [-mrl]

PULP FICTION and Other Tarantino Films (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to Mark's comments on JACKIE BROWN in the 01/09/98 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

It seems that PULP FICTION has been getting heavy rotation of late on various cable and pay film channels, and so it was this weekend. Duly recorded and watched at leisure I feasted on the Travolta/Jackson interplay as they passed the time one morning before "getting into character" to retrieve the briefcase-as-MacGuffin-with-glowing-contents. By now, these characters are as familiar as any in the short list of films I will watch at the drop of a hat.

It's hard to imagine that my children were not yet born when I first saw PULP FICTION at a midnight showing on the biggest (conventional, non-IMAX) movie screen I will ever see (at Anchorage's now torn-down original Fireweed Theatre which seated north of 1,000 viewers). I was pleased to see a re-emergent John Travolta and was struck by his character's familiar banter with Jackson's, which suggested they were not exactly "friends" but certainly close associates. And then I was disturbed, over and over again, by its casual treatment of violence, which still doesn't (never will) turn me on enough to be a good reason to watch a film. It may have been the late hour, combined with late libations, and my relatively tender age and film sensibility that led to disturbing dreams after we came home. So far as I can remember that was the last time a film affected my sleep like that.

What I also remembered was the overdose sequence which remains a standard of its kind (at least in my very limited experience). I marveled then that the writers "went there" and still do. What endures is the reason I always enjoy the film--the writing. Dialog expertly written and delivered. He will never do it, but I'd like to see Tarantino do another urban crime drama with understated, oddly witty dialog like that.

And now I see that you reviewed JACKIE BROWN and called it "just a good, hard-boiled crime film". It doesn't hurt that it stars not only Samuel L. Jackson but Pam Grier. And now I see that it has some truly heavy hitters in supporting roles.

It looks like I have a movie to go get. [-js]

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

In 2010, Titan Books started a line of Sherlock Holmes books by reprinting some of the classic pastiches. These included DR JEKYLL AND MR HOLMES by Loren D. Estleman, SEANCE FOR A VAMPIRE by Fred Saberhagen, SHERLOCK HOLMES VS DRACULA by Loren D. Estleman, THE ECTOPLASMIC MAN by Daniel Stashower, THE PEERLESS PEER by Philip Jose Farmer, and WAR OF THE WORLDS by Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman. But when they had down all of these, they realized there was still a market for Holmes books, so they started publishing new ones, and I decided to try some of them, starting with the ones available in my library.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES by James Lovegrove (ISBN 978-1-7811-6541-6) is a steampunk Sherlock Holmes story. I suppose it's okay as steampunk, but as a Sherlock Holmes story, there is too much action and fighting, too much back story and side story, and not enough ratiocination. In fact, there is very little ratiocination at all. Lovegrove has written another Sherlock Holmes book, THE CTHULHU CASEBOOKS: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SHADWELL SHADOWS. I might read it for the Lovecraft connection, but I'm not really expecting much in the way of Holmes in it.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE PATCHWORK DEVIL by Cavan Scott (ISBN 978-1-7832-9714-6) has slightly more ratiocination than SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES, but again, is more action than Doyle's stories. I suppose this is what today's readers want, or at least what authors think today's readers want. While not steampunk, this too has a science fiction element (another common trope in current Holmes pastiches). Again, it is okay, but I think I will read the new books from this series from the library rather than purchasing them.

ECHOES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (ISBN 978-1-68177-225-7) is not part of the Titan series, but there seems to be a minor Holmes revival going on. (Clearly, Benedict Cumberbatch has something to do with this.) This volume is a sort of compendium of a variety of Sherlockian stories. Some are about modern detectives who copy Holmes's methods, or share Holmes's name, or have some other connection. Some are about actors who play Holmes, or authors who write about Holmes, or readers or read about Holmes. In some Holmes actually appears, in others, not. Given this, it is likely you will like some stories and not others, but on the whole I would recommend this book. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not 
          chance the antithesis of all law?
                                          -- Bertrand Russell

Go to our home page