MT VOID 08/02/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 5, Whole Number 2078

MT VOID 08/02/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 5, Whole Number 2078

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 08/02/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 5, Whole Number 2078

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

Correction: Pop Music (letter of comment by Paul Dormer):

In response to Evelyn's comments on pop music in the 07/26/19 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes: [Evelyn attributed a quote on pop music to Geoffrey Pullum.] Where do you get that name from? As far as I can tell that quotation about pop music is by Lynne Murphy herself and the name "Geoffrey Pullum" does not appear in that blog post at all. [-pd] Evelyn responds: I was under the impression that the entire web site was by Geoffrey Pullum, based on the Home page, but apparently I mis-read it. The site (and quote) are Lynne Murphy's. [-ecl]

What I Shoulda Said (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The Incident: Evelyn and I had visited a zoo while we were on one of our famous road trips. We followed the two people ahead of us, a boy about seven or eight years old and his mother, as they looked in a cage to one side. The boy, whose mind was on different issues from animal life, asked his mom, "When you were a kid did they have Mummy movies?" The mother hushed the boy and they moved on.

What I said: {nothing}. But it occurred that I probably knew a great deal to answer the boy's question. Mummy movies of the 20th Century are one of my special interests. Not unlike the famous scene from ANNIE HALL, I could have given the two visitors more than they bargained for.

What I should have said [from memory--it should be a good memory test]:

The first Mummy movie was made in 1932. That makes it a good deal older than your mother. The movie was called THE MUMMY.' It starred Boris Karloff who at the time was famous for having made some scary movies. The plot of the film was inspired by the fact that several archeologists who had recently uncovered an Egyptian tomb had died within months after finding the tomb. The story suggested that the avenger had been buried in the tomb and had never fully died but was kept alive to guard the tomb. Im-Ho-Tep was returned to life by certain Egyptian spells being said over him.

The supposed guardian of the tomb found at the beginning had been Im-Ho-Tep, the same character who is made the villain of some of the more recent mummy movies. Im-Ho-Tep--the real one--is thought to have been a real person, and, not just that one of the great geniuses of history. He was a surgeon and an architect. He invented pyramids and built one for King Zoser. He was thought to have had great supernatural powers. The name they chose for the Mummy was, as I said, that of a real person of Egyptian ancient history. His consort [or close friend] in the film was Anck-Su- Namun. She was a real person from Egyptian history but from much later time. In fact, even today Im-Ho-Tep would still be more than twice as old as Anck-Su-Namun was. We rarely realize how far Egyptian history goes back.

The film company that made the first mummy movie in 1932, Universal, decided to make it a series of four more Mummy films. This mummy was Kharis and in some ways very similar too Im-Ho-Tep. Instead of Kharis being kept alive by the reading magic scrolls, Kharis was kept alive by drinking a tea like beverage brewed from Tana leaves. Brew three leaves and it will keep Kharis alive for a month. Brew him nine leaves and he will be able to walk and follow orders. The films in this series are THE MUMMY'S HAND, THE MUMMY'S TOMB, THE MUMMY'S GHOST, and THE MUMMY'S CURSE. (I am not counting ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY since I do not count that as part of a horror series.) I would tell you a bunch more, but these are about all I remember about THE MUMMY. Isn't that your mother calling you over to see the polar bear?

Did I leave anything important out? [-mrl]

SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik (copyright 2018, Pan, 480pp, paperback, ISBN-10: 1509899049, ISBN-13: 978-1509899043) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

SPINNING SILVER is the follow-up to Novik's very terrific and successful 2015 novel UPROOTED. Like that novel, SPINNING SILVER takes various fairy tale stories and turns them on their collective ears, most notably Rumplestiltskin. But that well-known fairy tale is just the beginning, just a framework, for the story that Novik is telling here.

Miryem is a moneylender's daughter. Her father is not a particularly good moneylender, as he is essentially too nice. The people who owe him money take advantage of him, of course, and as a result the family lives in poverty. Miryem decides to take things into her own hands, and becomes quite good at it. She's also quite the businessperson - think of her as a shrewd investor and moneymaker. In time, she gains a reputation as someone who can turn silver into gold. This indeed happens, but in a very boring and traditional way. This is about to change, of course.

The village seems to be suffering from and increasingly long, bitter, and very cold winter. The woods are overrun by the Staryks, magical men who come to the village to steal gold from the locals. One particular Staryk takes note of the fact that Miryem can change silver into gold, and well, don't you know, things kind of take off from there.

Miryem's ability to make money has a side effect that brings another thread into play. The local duke wishes to marry his daughter Irina off to the local tsar Mirnatius. Miryem, being tested by the Staryk--who turns out to be the Staryk king--takes silver from the Staryk, has it made into various pieces of jewelry to sell to the duke, who pays in gold (thus the whole turning silver into gold thing). Miryem passes the Staryk king's test, and becomes his unwilling and uncooperative bride. Mirnatius does indeed marry Irina, but to her horror she finds out that Mirnatius is possessed by a demon that wants to consume her because of her Staryk blood.

So we have two women who are very unhappy with their marital situations. Miryem does not want a sexual relationship with the Staryk king, so she manages to fend him off. Unhappy as she is, she has attained the ability to magically turn silver into gold while residing in the Staryk kingdom. Irina also doesn't want a sexual relationship with Mirnatius, but he's okay with that for his own reasons.

There's really a lot more going on here than what the reader sees on the surface. As a child, I was not exposed to more than a small smattering of fairy tales, and certainly not most of Grimm's fairy tales. I don't, for example, recall ever reading, or having read to me, Rumplestiltskin, upon which SPINNING SILVER riffs. I'm sure that the novel is borrowing heavily from other fairy tales, although I can guess that one of them is Beauty and the Beast, given the relationships between Miryem and the Staryk king as well as Irina and Mirnatius who is possessed by a demon. Aside from riffing on fairy tales, Novik is weaving various social, political, and racial commentary into the story to make it a fuller, richer story.

SPINNING SILVER is not only a terrific follow up to UPROOTED, it is worthy of its status as a Hugo finalist. SPINNING SILVER has already won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel of 2018. I suspect there are many more awards in Novik's future. [-jak]

INFINITE POWERS by Steven Strogatz (book review by Gregory Frederick):

This recent math history book is mostly about Calculus and its evolution from Archimedes to NASA's use of it with the two-body problem and onward to its future use with AI and Chaotic systems. Archimedes was using an early form of Integral Calculus to determine areas under a curve and curved volumes, but it took till the 1600's with the efforts of Newton and Leibniz to more fully complete calculus by them using derivatives and discovering the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Though Calculus needs a continuous function and Quantum Mechanics deals with discrete entities there is a use for Calculus even in Quantum Mechanics. Schrodinger's equation in Quantum Mechanics describes a probability wave that determines the location of an election and Calculus is needed to solve for this equation. If you saw the film "Hidden Figures" it showed Katherine Johnson using the two-body problem which is solvable in Calculus to determine the correct trajectory of John Glenn's Mercury capsule for a successful re-entry into the atmosphere. She also used it on other missions like the lunar landing. Calculus can be used in Chaotic systems as long as you do not exceed a period of time called the predictability horizon. Before that limit the system is determinism which makes it predictable with Calculus but after then it is not. This author makes this subject interesting and enjoyable to read and learn more about. [-gf]

THE MORTAL STORM and THE IMMORTAL STORM (letters of comment by Dorothy J. Heydt and Peter Trei):

In response to Mark's comments on THE MORTAL STORM in the 07/26/19 issue of the MT VOID, Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

Very interesting review; I had never heard of this film before. (Maybe not surprising?) Posthumous kudos to Mayer for defying the German Ambassador and releasing the thing.

Now I'm wondering whether Moskowitz was inspired to title his history of tempest-in-a-teapot early fandom THE IMMORTAL STORM [which I'm sure everyone on [rec.arts.sf.fandom] has at least heard of, if not read; I actually own a copy and have read it, it's awful] by his memory of the film, or at least its title. [-djh]

Peter Trei responds:

I could well believe Moskowitz referenced the film--his book was 1951, not too long after. However, I find an earlier use of the phrase in a short poem by William Blake "A Fairy Leapt Upon My Knee" (~1793). The context is so different from the book or film, that I suspect independent invention. [-pt]

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

Our book group has two themes we're working on: international science fiction, and early science fiction. Since we picked a half dozen of each, and we meet only bi-monthly, we're covered through 2020. This month it was DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson, or more accurately, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". First, one hardly ever sees the full title, must as one rarely sees Edward Gibbon's work called "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". Second, the work is a novella, not a novel, hence the quotation marks. (I referred to "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" as a title, not as the book itself, hence the quotation marks for that.) And lastly, there are no periods after "Dr" and "Mr" because the British usage is to put periods after abbreviations that are initial segments of the words they represent.

It's amazing how one can write 150 words about a book without writing anything about the book.


One thing that someone familiar with the films but not the book will notice is that the fact that Hyde and Jekyll are the same person is kept concealed under the end of the story. In the films, one invariably sees the transformation when it first happens. Oh, there is a big reveal at the end when everyone else discovers that Hyde and Jekyll are the same person, but the audience knows. I suppose that the audience would know even without being shown, unless the names were changed and no one posted any spoilers on the Internet. So "concealing" the secret in a film would just be silly.

Another difference is that while Stevenson wrote in Victorian Britain and could be only very vague about Hyde's disreputable activities, films made since then have been much more frank, and had much more sex. The 1932 Fredric March version was made before the Hayes Code, and had some very salacious scenes, particularly of Miriam Hopkins lying in bed, waving a bare gartered leg. The Spencer Tracy version had to tone it down a bit, but certainly anything recent is much more graphic. Whether that is better is a matter of dispute.

People reading the book now probably see the basic idea as very Freudian, with Hyde representing the id, and Jekyll the ego attempting to rid himself of the id and be entirely super-ego. So it's worth noting that Stevenson pre-dated Freud. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today 
          is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent 
          are full of doubt.
                                          --Bertrand Russell

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