MT VOID 10/18/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 16, Whole Number 2089

MT VOID 10/18/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 16, Whole Number 2089

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 10/18/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 16, Whole Number 2089

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

10^6 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

THIS IS A PUBLIC NOTICE FOR ALL PEOPLE WHO SEND ME E-MAIL. There is a certain word that I no longer accept in my email. I do not have anything against this word. But I am finding it extremely difficult to deal with e-mail that uses this word. We are talking about a seven-letter word, starting with the letter "m" and that expresses the number 1,000,000. If you take the asterisks out of the string m*i*l*l*i*o*n you will get the particular offensive string. I guess, if you want to use the asterisks, that is okay then. I do not want people spelling out the m-word in normal fashion. I cannot accept e-mail with that particular offensive string spelled out that way even with suffixes like "aire." I can accept no e-mail that has that seven-letter string. It is with great sadness that I part with the usage of this word, particularly being a mathematician who has a great love of numbers, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.

The reason I am parting with all e-mail using this word will be obvious to some. It is because I want no longer to receive mail from Mr. Tim Mcquitty who calls himself a white commercial farmer from Zimbabwe; Dr Luisa Pimentel Estrada, the wife of Joseph Ejercito Estrada, former president of Philippines cannot send me e-mail either; Mr Temi Johnson of the Democratic Republic of Congo and One of the close aides to the former President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Laurent Kabila is on my don't-email-me list; Mr.James Ajah, member of the Federal Government of Nigeria Contract Award and Monitoring Committee in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is another. Any of the other scum-sucking weasels claiming to want to use my bank account to smuggle large sums of money out of their respective countries are also proscribed. At first I was amused by these people, but enough is enough. They claim to have m*i*l*l*i*o*n*s of dollars in their country that they are trying to smuggle out. And of all the people with bank accounts in the United States they have picked someone at random on the Internet to help them. It just happens that the person they have picked was me. As the story each one tells goes, they are going to keep the lion's share of the money for themselves, but they are willing to give a paltry $10,000,000 or $12,000,000 to me for the use of my bank account. If I play this confidence game as they hope, I will get greedy and start wondering how I can rip-off the scum-sucking weasel who sent me the mail and get the full sum of money for myself.

In fact, the e-mail does not have a word of truth to it. Well, that may be a little harsh. It does have one word of truth. When the people who are sending it imply that they are crooked scum-sucking weasels, they are expressing uncharacteristic frankness. In fact, what they want is for me to get greedy enough to be willing to send him a few thousand dollars, supposedly to be used for money laundering. The rest has nothing to do with the truth. They probably don't have a pot to cook peas in. But I get two or three of these offers a day. Most come from Nigeria, though the scam is becoming international. All kinds of different names show up as the person proposing the relationship. I have decided to have my mailer recognize these pieces of mail and automatically throw them out. I will use what is called a "mail filter" that will recognize the offensive mail based on a strong it contains.

Ah, but the mail comes from different people in different countries. So what do all the pieces of this kind of mail have in common? Most write out in words the amount of money that they are supposedly going to try to purloin from their respective countries. To do that they use the m-word. They are always stealing an ammount in the m*i*l*l*i*o*n*s. At least for now nobody could hope to find a billion dollars to steal from someplace like Nigeria. And if they expressed the money in thousands they are not going to be all that tempting. No, they like to spell out the sum of money and use the m-word. They are playing right into my hands, the fools.

I will throw out all pieces of mail that use that particular tempting word, but I run the risk that someone who really wants to communicate with me will use that word. I don't know how, but you never know. It might come up in conversation. Not many people do currently other than the scum-sucking weasels. It is probably a word I can dispense with entirely in e-mail. I mean in oral conversation it is just fine. Just if you email me and use that word, I probably won't see your message. I have given up on using that word in e-mail. That word no longer will clog up my inbox. I can get along without it. Sure.

You know, the computer age is bringing with it some problems I don't think anyone foresaw.

Note: for the time being I am asking people to avoid 10^6 since that is breaking open new territory. For that matter if you use the string (5+5)^6. But I am afraid that too many people I correspond with will just not understand it. [-mrl]

TIME TRAP (film review by Dale Skran):

One of the great things about Netflix is that it brings to a larger audience films that would otherwise remain obscure. The 2017 SF film TIME TRAP directed/produced by Mark Dennis and Ben Foster premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival (which I did not attend), and was released to video on demand on November 13, 2018 (which I knew nothing about). Fortunately, the Netflix recommender engine offered it to me.

I've watched a couple of far from great SF films of this sort on Netflix, but TIME TRAP rises above the pack. I'm not going to recount the details of the plot (which borrows a bit from THE DESCENT), as a group of mostly unknown actors filmed partially in a "found footage" format get themselves stuck in a fantastical situation. TIME TRAP serves up many of the charms of Damien Broderick's STUCK IN FAST FORWARD or even the original time travel story, H. G. Wells THE TIME MACHINE, including a real sense of wonder as our heroes slowly find out just exactly how much trouble they are in.


TIME TRAP mixes together slow time, the fountain of youth, cowboys, cavemen, weird archeology, nuclear war, and space settlement into a story that at its best evokes a really good Analog puzzle yarn. I'm not going to say that the physics or the biology (what do the cave dwellers eat?) of this fully makes sense, but a lot of it does make sense, and it is entertaining enough to get you really engaged. TIME TRAP also has the virtue of being one of the more space-settlement-friendly-films of recent vintage. Unlike the grim future of AD ASTRA, TIME TRAP conveys pretty well the kind of "unlimited" future that settling space offers to humanity. There is a vivid metaphor in which our heroes are trapped in slow time in a cave, but eventually escape to real-time and an amazing future in space.

I'm rating TIME TRAP a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale, but I highly recommend it to SF fans. Lots of things in this film could be better, but it is the ideas that make it interesting. There is some violence but no sex in this PG-type film, although it is too weird/scary for young kids. Most kids under 10 would probably have trouble following what is going on. [-dls]

Mark replies:

I have to admit you got more into the ideas than I even realized was there. [-mrl]

Puerto Rican (and British) Money (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Dorothy J. Heydt):

In response to Mark's comments on Puerto Rican money in the 10/11/19 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

OK, this is a spoof, right, and Puerto Rico actually uses the US currency. (I just checked.)

I grew up in the UK in the pre-decimal currency days--I was 17 on D-Day, 15th Feb. 1971. I've just been reading a discussion on a crossword-solvers' blog about the pronunciation of the name of one pre-decimal coin, worth three old pennies. And, of course, the abbreviation for penny was 'd', don't you know. (From denarius.)

This coin was called things like "threpence", "thrupence", and "thrupenny bit".

So, in pre-decimal days, we had twelve pennies in the shilling and twenty shillings in the pound.

When I was born, the lowest denomination coin was worth one quarter of a penny, but called a farthing. (That was withdrawn before I was old enough to be handling money.) Half a penny was called a ha'penny.

Then we had the thrupence. Next was six pennies, called sixpence, but also know as a tanner. A shilling was a bob. Two shillings was a florin. There was also a coin worth two shillings and sixpence--half a crown. But the crown, worth five shillings, was more or less obsolete. We didn't have any higher value coins generally in circulation. Above the half crown was the ten bob note and the pound note. But a pound could also be called a quid and a ten bob note was often half a nicker. (Much amusement, that one, as knickers is a term used for female undergarments.) There were no coins worth a pound in those days. A pound coin had been called a sovereign.

And some prices, especially if you were trying to show your superiority, were given in guineas. A guinea was one pound and one shilling. But the guinea coin was also no longer around. [-pd]

Dorothy J. Heydt adds:

And I'm sure you remember the joke about the pound coin, which came into use I don't know when, but it was around when I visited England in 1984. It was called a Thatcher, "because it's thick and brassy and thinks it's a sovereign."

Thanks for the glimpse into the past, Paul; I had heard of most of those of those terms, but not all. [-djh]

[More reminiscences and discussion of British money can be found at Google Groups at -ecl]

Omnivore's 100, Kasha, DOWNTON ABBEY, and AD ASTRA (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to Mark's comments on food in the 10/04/19 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

You were both quite "sporting" with the list--fun!

I was a bit chagrined with how badly I interpreted the "kasha" story--so it goes--thanks for clarifying.

Jim also adds:

I'm sure you have seen promotions for the film version of my favorite soap opera--DOWNTON ABBEY--everyone in my family liked the series on PBS. Without doubt, we will like the film.

Returns mixed for the current "SF film" [AD ASTRA] featuring Brad Pitt--the trailers were not compelling for me. This is entirely unlike his role (and everybody's) in this summer's nostalgia piece by Tarantino. My 24-YO movie buff (movie-maker) daughter liked it well enough to laugh several times at the sly humor in that. I liked it so well, that I look forward to a rumored 4-hour "director's cut. [-js]

Mark responds:

We were happy to do the eating experience game. It is interesting how broad some people's taste is.

I was not all that interested to see DOWNTON ABBEY. I liked the series, but I do balk at paying feature film prices for what I used to get for no charge.

AD ASTRA was amazing. I forgot most of it by the time I got to my car. [-mrl]

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

UNHOLY LAND by Lavie Tidhar (ISBN 978-1-61696-304-0) is "yet another Jewish alternate history"--and who would have thought they would ever hear that phrase? I suppose that is unfair, but comes from my surprise at there being so many, relatively speaking. UNHOLY LAND (a Sidewise Award finalist this year) seems most similar to THE SEVERED WING by Martin Gidron (a previous Sidewise Award winner: both deal with alternate histories in which the Holocaust is avoided, and both deal with people who can either see between alternate worlds, or actually cross over. But the method of avoidance in UNHOLY LAND is closer to that of THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION by Michael Chabon: the creation of a Jewish homeland in an unexpected location.

However, UNHOLY LAND is its own thing. The parallel worlds have a touch of H. P. Lovecraft, and the tone is more magical realism rather than the noir of THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION. The setting of the homeland, in Uganda, was one actually proposed at one point, and is as alien to the Levant of our timeline as the Alaska of Chabon's book is. At the same time, the politics (and geo-politics) of "Palestina" (as the Ugandan homeland is called) are depressingly similar, emphasized by the fact that the Jews are called "Palestinians" and other terms run parallel to those of our timeline. In fact, the most negative aspect of the book are these parallels, which at times seem very heavy-handed. (There is also terminology that reminded me of THE CITY & THE CITY by China Mieville, with its notions of incursions and overlays, though more from parallel worlds then from other parts of this one. For that metter, this makes THE CITY & THE CITY seem somewhat of a parallel worlds story in the alternate history sense.)

UNHOLY LAND is a worthy entry to this sub-genre, and to the genre of alternate history as a whole. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          I have a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day 
          at a time. 
                                          --Charles M. Schulz 

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