MT VOID 08/08/97 (Vol. 16, Number 6)

MT VOID 08/08/97 (Vol. 16, Number 6)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/08/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 6

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: My Readercon 9 report. [-ecl]


There was a forest I know of where the animals all lived happily and ate well for many years under the rule of a family of noble lions. Every few years the family chose the lion who was to be king of the forest. The animals sometimes wished that they could take part in the choosing. But the king was always a lion, noble and strong and who looked out for the animals of the forest and made sure they always had plenty to eat. For in a forest, the animals live by what they can find to eat.

When the food supplies would run low the king would think about where to get more food, and he always thought of something clever to find more food someplace. So the animals were never too unhappy with the choice of the king.

Now the succession of lions one day worked its way to a proud young lion named Ballen. Ballen was anxious to become king of the forest because he had all sorts of plans for how the forest would be run. And Ballen's day finally came and he told himself, "Now I really am the king of the forest."

Ballen was first concerned that there might not be enough food for the lions. The forest needed the lion to rule intelligently and justly. If the lions did not eat well, was any animal in the forest safe? Ballen said that each animal of the forest would eat just a little less so there would be more food left over for the lions. But this was just for now. Surely with a good lion ruling the forest, all would have much to eat. And this was a small price to pay. With so many mouths each eating only a little less, the lions had plenty of food. But some animals grumbled that they were going hungry. Ballen knew that there had to be more food for the forest. He looked off to the south of the forest and saw that there was rich farmland. But it was farmland ruled and cultivated by Man. Ballen sat down and started thinking about Man. All the animals of the forest feared Man. Man was strange and did not act like the animals. But wasn't Man just another animal? Ballen had heard the stories of lions sometimes catching and killing a man in times of hunger. Man was a big animal but not a very fast runner. Even the little squirrel could outrun a big man. It would be a simple matter to take the food from the farm fields and bring it back running faster than Man could run. This was a good plan and Ballen told the animals that they had to give more food to the lions to repay them for finding such a good idea.

For a short time the plan worked and there was more to eat, but Man set traps for the animals and some animals were injured. In some fields new fences kept out the animals. In the end very little new food was found because of Ballen's plan to raid Man. But Ballen and the other lions said the idea was good even if it did not work out and they celebrated with a banquet while the other animals looked sadly on.

Ballen next noticed that the floor of the forest was covered with brown leaves. Any animal that was hungry could eat his fill of leaves, Ballen reasoned. This, Ballen decided was a really good plan since there were so many leaves on the floor of the forest, more than anyone could count. For such a good plan, Ballen decided that he should get rewarded with more food. But when the animals tried to eat the leaves they found that they the leaves did not taste very good and were dry. In fact there was nothing nourishing about the leaves. But Ballen still insisted that he should be rewarded for such a good idea.

The problem with the forest, Ballen decided one day, is that animals can hunt for food only during the day. When the sun goes down, the animals all find beds in the forest leaves--well that they were good for--or return to their burrows. The answer was to look for food all day and all night. But what animal would stay up all night? Ballen thought and thought. Then he had an inspiration. "I am suddenly brilliant," he decided. "The animals that stay up all night are bats. Let us bring bats to the forest. Oh, this is a good plan, and I deserve a big reward." Ballen went to the bats and told them he wanted them to leave their cave and come and live in the forest with the rest of the animals. "We are perfectly happy living in our cave," the bats told him. "No, you are a lot better off in the forest where all animals look out for all other animals. The bigger the forest, the more all the animals can take care of all the other animals. Come and live in our trees," Ballen told them. "We are not going," said the bats firmly. But that was not that.

So that night, when all the bats were out hunting insects, Ballen and the other lions climbed the hill over the bats' cave and pushed down stones until the door of the cave was covered. When the bats returned to their cave they found they could not get in. They had no choice but to go and live in the high branches of the trees of the forest, though it was never so cozy as their cave.

The coming of the bats was celebrated by the lions who made sure there was a big banquet and every lion ate well. And Ballen ate the best of all. But the animals of the forest had less to eat. And in the weeks that followed the animals wondered why Ballen wanted the bats. Yes they hunted at night, but they hunted insects. The bats catching insects helped none of the other animals. And the bats complained all the time about living unprotected in trees.

Finally Ballen decided the bats were not such a good idea after all. The bats would complain about living in the trees, the other animals would complain that bringing in the bats did not help the forest. Indeed it was hard work ruling the whole forest. Ballen announced one day that the bats would all have to go. And in addition, all the animals east of the forest stream would also have a new king. Ballen told himself this was a very good idea since there were a lot of animals east of the stream, but there was less food. With more food and fewer mouths, Ballen could have a nice banquet. And he did divide up the forest and he did celebrate. "Let us have a smaller forest still," said Ballen. The problem with our forest is that there are STILL too many mouths to feed. And many of the mouths belong to bodies that are old and tired and do not produce much food. Let us make the forest smaller like a younger and more vital forest. So that was done and there was celebration, at least among the lions, all of whom stayed in the forest. Many of the animals who were chosen to leave had to find another forest. Some had been looked out for by other animals and some had looked out for other animals. For some it was an unhappy day.

The day came when Ballen had to choose a successor. And he knew that many of the animals were becoming unhappy with lions, though he was not sure just why. But the lions knew of a leopard who had a reputation as a good hunter, a fast runner, and a good leader. With the promise of food, the leopard would come and rule the forest. Ballen did not want to give up his place as king of the forest just yet. The leopard would stay in the forest each year in the position of chancellor of the forest, while he was being groomed. He told the animals that the leopard would soon rule them, but he had some learning to do first. The leopard was not happy, but time, he thought, would fix that. The leopard was anxious to become king. However, Ballen was not happy. It bothered him more and more that this leopard would follow him as king of the forest. Ballen never really liked leopards, anyway. And when he asked the other lions, none of them really liked leopards.

One day Ballen asked the leopard, "Why do you want to be king?" "I want to rule, I want food, I want power. I think I can run the forest." Ballen thought about this answer. The next day he went to the leopard and said, you know that it is really the lions who make decisions in the forest. A leopard can never really lead lions. The leopard was angered at first, but he realized Ballen had told him the truth. Then he was only saddened. "I never really thought about that," he said. "This leopard would not have made a good king," Ballen thought to himself. "You have been a good friend, and now an understanding one," said Ballen. And Ballen had a good idea. "You will have to leave, but you will have enough food for life." Ballen had all the animals of the forest bring food and put it in a big pile. The leopard took eight days just taking away the food. And nobody knows where he put it. Ballen told the animals that this decision was for the good of the forest. And they should have been happy to contribute to the big food pile because it would mean more food for all the animals a later day. And Ballen celebrated.

I heard these tales from an owl who once lived in the forest. But she has gone one to another forest where there is more food. I never heard if Ballen still ruled or another of the lions. But when there is not enough food in my forest--and sometimes there isn't--I am glad that I am where I am and not in the owl's old forest. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

     Everything considered, work is less boring
     than amusing oneself.
                                   -- Charles Baudelaire