MT VOID 05/10/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 45, Whole Number 2066

MT VOID 05/10/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 45, Whole Number 2066

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 05/10/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 45, Whole Number 2066

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

Harrison Bergeron Is Alive and Well (BBC, Peter Trei, and Kevin R):

Caster Semenya: Olympic 800m champion loses appeal against IAAF testosterone rules - BBC Sport

Caster Semenya has lost a landmark case against athletics' governing body meaning it will be allowed to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) rejected the South African's challenge against the IAAF's new rules.


Now she--and other athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD)--must either take medication in order to compete in track events from 400m to the mile, or change to another distance.

Cas found that the rules for athletes with DSD were discriminatory - but that the discrimination was "necessary, reasonable and proportionate" to protect "the integrity of female athletics". [-bbc]

Peter Trei notes:

Agreed--it's ridiculous. If she's better, naturally, she's better.

My reaction when I heard about this was 'When will they install a height capfor basketball players?'. [-pt]

Kevin R adds:

By extension, if they find female basketball players who are extremely tall *and* trip one of the tests for a "male" level of hormones, they might do the same thing to them.

Human growth hormone is already banned, outside of prescriptions to deal with medical problems, by the sports anti-doping regime.

Now, what if evolution is at work, and more women are just going to have naturally higher testosterone levels than in the past? Or, could this particular case be a response to an environmental stimulus that the competitor had no knowledge of? Some of the East German athletes who were doped claim they didn't know what was going on, and given how young some of the Olympians were, that could be plausible.

There was this proposed solution:


Wah Chang, the Forgotten Hero of Science Fiction (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was ashamed of myself. Evelyn and I were watching an episode of the old science fiction TV series, THE LAND OF THE LOST. There in the credits I noticed something I had never noticed before. The show's credits include one for Wah Chang. "Who was Wah Chang?", she asked.

I started to answer her that he did special effects work for THE OUTER LIMITS. No. I must have been thinking of someone else. There was someone of a similar name who worked on the design idea for the Martian war machine for the 1953 THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Now that I am thinking of it, there was Chang who did design work for first season STAR TREK. I had a bunch of Changs running around in my head. I was confused. Could these all be one man? With a little research it turned out there was a simple explanation. All these Wah Changs and a bunch more whom I have forgotten? All were the same guy. But how is that even possible? Chang seems to be involved with visual design for lots and lots of science fiction films and TV shows for a big piece of my life. Why is he not celebrated by science fiction fans all over? He seems nearly unknown.

So what else had he done?

For STAR TREK he designed alien creatures such as the salt vampire. He designed the tricorder and the communicator. And they were the inspiration of the flip phone. He would be the inventor of the flip phone. David Gerrold described Tribbles, but Wah Chang built them.

The website, (where I am getting most of my information) says that he built the maquette (a reference sculpture for artists) of the character Pinocchio for the Disney film. Later he built the headdress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cleopatra.

George Pal used Wah Chang's creations for the Martian war machines created for 1953's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. The idea behind the design was to combine two shapes that humans find scary, the manta ray and the cobra. Chang also designed the aliens themselves for THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. So what else do you think Chang would have designed? Of course, it was Pal's time machine. That thing that looks like a Victorian sleigh with a spinning disk? That was Wah Chang who invented that design. He also designed the Albatross for MASTER OF THE WORLD.

Ever notice that THE OUTER LIMITS says that the effects are from Project Unlimited? Project Unlimited was Chang's company. He provided the "bears."

It seems that when I was growing up and loving my first contacts with science fiction, Wah Chang was always in the background somewhere orchestrating the images I was seeing.

See his filmography at . It looks like someone could do a really good documentary film about Wah Chang's career.

See also [-mrl]

RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW by Becky Chambers (copyright 2018, Harper Voyager, 368pp, ASIN: B072BFJCB9) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

I really don't know what to make of the third novel in Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series, RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW. I never read the first book in the series, A LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET, and having skipped that, I had no intention of reading the second book, A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT. When that novel popped up on the final Hugo ballot a couple of years ago I figured I'd give it a try. Missing the first book did not affect my reading of the second, which was a good thing, but I didn't think the book was award-worthy. It was a very readable and enjoyable story, and I don't regret spending time reading it--after all, in my review I did say that I liked it--but it wasn't something that was going to make me go back and read the first book.

Once again, I had no intention of reading RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW when it came out last year. I wasn't invested in the world, the characters, or the series. And of course, once again, it popped up on the final Hugo ballot. So, in I dove.

RECORD OF SPACEBORN FEW is just what the title says it is. It is a record of a few characters that are part of the Exodus Fleet that left Earth after humanity basically left it uninhabitable. The fleet made contact with the Galactic Commons long--and I do mean very long--after it left Earth. The Exodans are accepted into the GC (as it is called in the book) and are given given a system and a planet to populate, as well as a whole lot of technology to help them out.

The characters the story is concerned with live on the fleet ship Asteria. All but one are natives to the Asteria, and one comes to the Asteria to live there and experience life in a different manner from which he is accustomed. The tale, then, is how our characters react to changes that are coming as they reach the world they were given. They don't know what's ahead; all they know is how they've lived life before. This is, then, a character study, if nothing else, of people who are explorers who are experiencing new things and are reacting to them.

In a somewhat famous story (if you were around back in, oh, 1983 or so), Isaac Asimov relates how he came to write FOUNDATION'S EDGE, decades after the classic Foundation Trilogy was completed. He was approached by Doubleday (I believe) which was willing to throw buckets of money at him for writing a new Foundation novel. Not being one to turn down said buckets of money, he accepted and decided that the first thing to do would be to re-read the original trilogy. He came to the conclusion that nothing really ever happened in those three books. It was just a lot of people sitting around and talking.

Nothing really happens in RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW either. There are a couple of tragic accidents, but really neither one is a kickoff point for a plot. They are simply events that the characters have to react to. Granted, not much happened in Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, and I'm not sure there's that much of a plot to his RED MOON, so there is precedent in recent novels (I'm sure there are more, but I'm only going with what I've read), but I really do like the novels I read to have a plot, some conflict, and a resolution. RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW does not have those things.

And yet, once again, I liked the novel. It's well written, the characters are well developed and the reader can get invested in them. The pace is good, the prose is clear. It's a nice light summer read (had I read it in the summer, it would have been perfect). But once again, it's not making me want to read the first book of the series. And I don't think it's Hugo material. Clearly, other people think so. Your mileage may vary. [-jak]

Classics Illustrated Comics (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's comments on Classics Illustrated comics in the 05/03/19 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

Indeed, I recently went there and helped myself liberally. I got a better download of my favorite title, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, which is also the only really faithful adaptation of the story that has been made in any medium. It made me want to read the book. Superb art by Reed Crandall and George Evans, and a script by Alfred Sundel (uncredited) that captures the tone and flavor and conveys the central plot precisely. Most importantly to me, it doesn't whitewash any of the characters.

Tip: The CBR and CBZ files are of higher quality than the PDFs. I normally favor PDFs, but the differences are strikingly clear. The larger file size is a tipoff.

For a while, Archive was hosting National Lampoon back issues as well. I'm presuming somebody's lawyer cleared their throat and they all went away. These included a dead-on, deadpan, faux-CI version of SIDDHARTHA illustrated by Joe Orlando and penned by Doug Kenney, which is why I mentioned it.

Comic Book Plus continues to be a source of delight. It recently occurred to me to look up Jack Cole's "Plastic Man," which is still zany after all these years and worthy of re-reading. [-kw]

Mark responds:

I have thought that the best novel I ever read was LES MISERABLES. (And the longest.) Odd we have chosen novels by the same author. And I also have been frustrated how movie versions become apologists for Phoebes and for Frollo. I also think Hugo's ending is very powerful and only the 50s Italian film (Anthony Quinn) has that powerful ending (of the two skeletons). [-mrl]

Evelyn notes:

For what it's worth, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (or more accurately, NOTRE DAME DE PARIS) was back at the top of the best- seller lists in France a few weeks ago. [-ecl]

Mark responds:

NOTRE DAME DE PARIS is really a much better title for the story. It takes a long time for the reader to realize that Quasimodo is the central character. The traditional title is really a plot spoiler. [-mrl]

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

Last week I covered several of the Retro Hugo finalists in the novel category; this week I will finish with the rest.

Is EARTH'S LAST CITADEL by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner (ISBN 978- 0-441-18112-4) really a novel? With only 128 pages in my edition, it seems more like a novella. It seems a typical pulp story of a motley group of people transported into the far future. Moore and Kuttner have a couple of Nazi spies for topicality, but when everyone ends up thousands of years in the future, that distinction seems to become meaningless. (Perhaps if one of the other characters had been Jewish, that would have added some additional conflict.) There is a slight Lovecraftian tinge to the aliens but I cannot see anything special about this.

PERELANDRA by C. S. Lewis (ISBN 978-0-743-23491-7) is clearly a different style of writing than the "traditional" science fiction finalists (the Leibers, the Moore, and the van Vogt). (I cannot judge the style of DAS GLASPERLENSPIEL, only the style of the translation, which is even further from the traditional works.) It is also a more "serious" with the main story being the battle between the protagonist and the Devil for the soul of a still- innocent Green Lady on Perelandra (Venus). However, Lewis has the Devil trying to get the Lady to sin by filling her head with ideas such as, "[M]en ... in his own world--men of that intensely male and backward-looking type who always shrank away from the new good- -had continuously laboured to keep women down to mere child-bearing and to ignore the high destiny for which Maleldil [God] had actually created her." My problem is that this seems to be a perfectly reasonable statement to be made, while Lewis thinks it a terrible suggestion by the Devil. (There's apparently no pleasing Lewis where women are concerned. In THE LAST BATTLE (one of Lewis's "Narnia" series), Susan is "no longer a friend of Narnia" because "she's interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She was always a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."

However, I won't downgrade PERELANDA just because I don't agree with its premise. It is, after all, standard Christian doctrine, or at least *a* standard Christian doctrine. Why do I give PERELANDRA a pass but not some of the Dramatic Presentations (e.g., BATMAN)? I suppose for the same reason one generally gives Dante a pass for putting "sodomites" in the Seventh Circle of Hell.

However, much of it is difficult (or impossible) if you have not already read OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (the first of the "Space Trilogy"), and the long, drawn-out temptations and arguments are just not very interesting in terms of science fiction or fantasy.


Next week, I will cover the novellas. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          I hate to be near the sea, and to hear it raging and 
          roaring like a wild beast in its den.  It puts me in 
          mind of the everlasting efforts of the human mind, 
          struggling to be free and ending just where it began.
                                          --William Hazlitt

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