MT VOID 04/16/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 42, Whole Number 2167

MT VOID 04/16/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 42, Whole Number 2167

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 04/16/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 42, Whole Number 2167

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Sending Address: 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 or unsubscribe, send mail to The latest issue is at An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

Mini Reviews, Part 13 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper):

Here is the thirteenth batch of mini-reviews, this time of four horror films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON: Apparently inspired by ROSEMARY'S BABY, this is the story of an elderly couple who are attempting to call up the Devil to restore their dead grandson to life. The film nullifies any sympathy one might have for them, and the pacing is slow, but there are new interesting twists in the plot. Released 12/03/20; not yet available on streaming or DVD. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)

THE BEACH HOUSE: For a long time it is not clear where the story is going. It seems to be just two couples meeting and spending time together, but then it turns into something else. This is an example of how inexpensive special effects can be used to good effects. Released 07/09/20; available on Amazon Prime. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4)

THE MORTUARY COLLECTION: The anthology horror film, once a form that was popular, makes a dubious return in this film. Four stories of varying length, plus a framing sequence, comprise this film. The stories are not as good as the old ones (e.g. those in DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS) but they still have some punch. Released 10/15/20; available on Amazon Prime.. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4)

ALONE: This is a standard stalker film set in the backwoods with a pinch of DUEL and another of MOST DANGEROUS GAME. The villain chases the protagonist in woods and/or at night. Released 09/15/20; available on Amazon Prime and on DVD from Netflix. Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4)


HOW TO MARS by David Ebenbach (copyright 2021, Tachyon Publications, 256pp, $16.95 trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-61696-356-9, $9.99 digital formats, ISBN 978-1-61696-357-6) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

What if you were a scientist who was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to go to Mars and do research on the red planet? What if there was a catch or two, like a) it's a one-way trip and b) the mission is going to be the subject of a reality show? Would you consider the proposition? If you were offered a spot on the mission, would you accept it, knowing that you'd never come back to Earth, and that your every move would be scrutinized by not only Mission Control, but by anyone on Earth who cared to watch?

This is the premise of HOW TO MARS, the first science fiction novel from mainstream writer David Ebenbach. The idea for the book came from a news story about a now-bankrupt company called Mars One, which was going to send twelve people to Mars on a one-way mission. Ebenbach wanted to explore the idea, including who would even want to do it, who would propose the idea, and how the people who were sent to Mars on the mission would live and survive. It's an interesting investigation into the possible make up of the people who would jump at the chance, and just how they would handle everything that would come up.

To help with that last point, the eccentric owner of the Destination Mars! corporation wrote a handbook that would try help the Marsonauts survive on the planet. The handbook, almost assuredly entitled "How to Mars", is both whimsical and serious. It seeks to provide real-world advice, set down rules for the colony, and remind the Marsonauts that the book itself can't conceivably cover every eventuality that they would encounter. It was also very clear on one thing: there is to be no sex on Mars. It's actually not a bad idea, although if the owner of Destination Mars! actually thought anyone would listen to that particular idea he was mistaken. Clearly, there could be all sorts of relationship problems between the people involved, and social implications for the group as a whole. Not to mention what would happen if one of the Marsonauts got pregnant.

Well, life on Mars, including research, is really boring, even for scientists. The same thing day after day, with nothing new happening, results in so much dullness that the reality show is cancelled and some people actually stop their research. Things got so boring, that the inevitable happened.

Yep, you guessed it. Josh and Jenny had sex, and Jenny got pregnant.

On the plus side for the Destination Mars! corporation, the reality series was picked up again because people back on Earth were of course interested in all the possible sordid things that could happen now that something new and interesting is actually going on up there.

And while one of the other points of the missions was starting to prepare their location for further Marsonauts with the long-term goal of starting a true colony, this was not the way the Destination Mars! corporation wanted to go about it. And so, the novel is really an exploration of the characters and backgrounds of the 6 scientists who were selected for the mission and how those backgrounds prepared them to handle the ultimate unexpected (but really, it should haven been expected) situation.

Well, maybe not the ultimate unexpected situation. While the group was hoping to eventually discover life on Mars, they certainly did not, at least not the conventional type of life. No, to this point I haven't mentioned the native Mars life form, which calls itself the Pattern, and how it revealed itself only to Stefan, a Marsonaut prone to anger and violence. I'd like to call the Pattern aliens, but if the Pattern is native to Mars then aren't the humans the aliens? Yes, an age-old question.

Ebenbach's novel is lighthearted and fun, but thought-provoking. Just how would we handle ourselves in the situation the six Marsonauts found themselves, and would our natural humanity take over just when things were entering uncharted territory? Although the question of how our natural humanity would actually play out, it's probably a pretty good bet that things would come out okay in the end. They usually do. [-jak]

Hugo Awards/Lodestar Award/Astounding Award Finalists:

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

I just watched LOST HORIZON (the 1937 version, of course) for the tenth time this millennium. I have commented on this before, but given the recent trend toward re-evaluating the attitudes of classic films (and books, and other art), I thought I would note what would raise eyebrows these days, not to claim the film should be burned, but to recognize.

And completely separate from these is the problem that while one can suspend disbelief about a valley being so salubrious as to prevent ageing, it is pushing it into the realm of the supernatural to suppose that someone who has remained young for years would have all that ageing catch up with them in a few minutes if they leave the valley. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Never express yourself more clearly than you are 
          able to think
                                          --Niels Bohr

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