MT VOID 11/21/97 (Vol. 16, Number 21)

MT VOID 11/21/97 (Vol. 16, Number 21)

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 11/21/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 21

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: All about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. [-ecl]

Year 2000:

I was told something fairly scary the other day. There is a make of car on the road today. I don't know the make.

The car has a pollution control system.

If the pollution control fails the car will not simply not start.

The heart of the pollution control system is a chip.

The chip uses something called a dithering algorithm.

The dithering algorithm uses a random number generator.

The random number generator needs a seed.

The seed is computed as the ratio of a product of numbers in the numerator and a product of numbers in the denominator.

One of the numbers in the denominator is that last two digits of the year.

January 1, 2000, 26 months from now, those two digits will go to zero.

The denominator of the seed will go to zero.

The seed will become an undefined quantity.

The random number generator will fail.

The dithering algorithm will no longer work.

This will make the chip fail.

Without the chip the pollution control system will fail.

Without the pollution control system the car will not start.

This means that there are going to be cars that suddenly will break because we hit the year 2000. Now, a car is not like an accounting machine; it is a mechanical device. If you cannot trust a car to work in the year 2000, there is not much you can trust.

A few months ago someone asked me how serious the Year 2000 (or "Y2K" as it is called) problem was. At the time I said that nobody knows and there will be a lot of people running around making fixes in January. 2000. I realize now I was wrong. I don't think anybody knows how big the problem is going to be, but the more I know the more I am betting on the high side. I think technology is going to take a really heavy hit come January 1, 2000. And the problem will have a multiplier effect. People don't know how important it is but are worried about it. So even if it turns out that we had had it pretty much covered (and don't believe for a moment that we do), there will be enough people uncertain that the stock market will fall.

I will tell you something else. People in technology are used to somewhat flexible deadlines. Even out of technology, people are used to stopping the clock. People who produce are used to getting things out a week or two late. Nobody really minds. This is not that kind of deadline. You can be pretty sure that the year 2000 is coming right on schedule, ready or not. And I'm betting on not. This is going to be a tough one to ride out.

(I should say that much of this article is based on a conversation I had with club member George MacLachlan). [-mrl]


(a film review by Rob Mitchell):

And now, comments from our Distinguished Heinlein Apologist about STARSHIP TROOPERS (the movie):

STARSHIP TROOPERS (the movie) is a visually stunning, but mentally unsatisfying film, doubly irritating to me in that its hatchet job of the book will convince many viewers that Heinlein was indeed the fascist he was often accused of being.

With the possible exception of FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD, no Heinlein book has generated as much controversy as STARSHIP TROOPERS. A review of the book itself must wait for another day (Evelyn -- need a book review in the near future?). Suffice it to say Heinlein offers a view of social duty and individual responsibility, set during a war that the main characters feel is as morally correct as many Americans felt World War II was.

The movie surprised me by including more presentation of the "moral philosophy" of the book than I expected, and was reasonably balanced by including Johnny's parents, who have not performed Federal Service and hence are not citizens, but clearly are well- off. The movie was also quite impressive with the special effects; as Dale Skran noted in his review. Alien swarms, alien close-ups and interactions with live actors, the battles over the planet -- all were executed cleanly and believably.

On the other hand, I wish some of the special effects budget had gone to another rewrite of the script. Verhoeven decided to make a satire ROBOCOP-like in tone, which detracts from the thought- provoking aspects of the book. Earth society in the movie has gratuitous sadism that appears nowhere in the book (e.g. the propaganda clip of children gleefully smashing cockroaches while their parents beamed approvingly). I didn't object to the violence in the combat scenes (war *is* hell), but the ennobling aspects of the Mobile Infantry, as portrayed in the book, were never presented. What happened to "the MI always takes care of its own," or why make Sgt. Zim to be sadistic and vicious? And why not cast a Filipino, or at least a swarthy actor, to portray Johnny as Heinlein presented him?

In sum, I did not care for the film. If it had any other title, I could overlook some of its excesses, bask in the "blow-'em-up- real-good" computer-based wizardry, and promptly forget the movie as I walk out the theater. But to take one of my favorite novels, remove most of its stimulating aspects and hold the rest of them up for ridicule against a backdrop of tacked-on sadism -- this I resent. I do not recommend this film if you like to think about what you watch -- read the book instead. [-jrrt]


(a film review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):


by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Bantam, ISBN 0-553-10704-6, 1997, 448pp, US$23.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):

In 1961, Walter M. Miller's CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. (Miller, by the way, shares with Octavia Butler of having the best "Hugo batting average": both have been nominated two times for Hugos and both won both times.) Now, thirty-six years later, comes a sequel, or rather, a coquel, since the action of SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN takes place between the second and third parts of the original novel. (SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN was written primarily by Miller before his death, and completed by Terry Bisson.)

A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ is a great book. Part of what made it great was that it was fresh and new in its use of the Catholic Church as the lightbearer through the Dark Ages following the Flame Deluge. But SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN doesn't have that. As I read it, I found myself thinking, "Been there, done that." The story, of Brother Blacktooth's spiritual quest, is an acceptable post-holocaust story, but it isn't great. This is much more a story of politics and warfare than of theology or faith.

The other problem is not as obvious, and I needed Gary Wolfe to put words to it: what we're reading here is an alternate history in which the Flame Deluge occurred--in the early 1960s. The Catholicism here is pre-Vatican II, pre-liberation theology, and in general more the Catholicism of the past than the present. Having made his bed in 1959, Miller decided to lie in it rather than remake it (as Asimov attempted to do with his "Foundation" series, for example). But Miller has made some changes, with more emphasis on religious images and ideas apparently drawn from Native American religions.

Does SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN have flaws? Yes. Is it worth reading? Yes. Does it stand on its own? No, but then, A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ is a classic in the field of science fiction that everyone should read.

(I find it interesting--and a bit depressing--that Bantam's cover blurb for SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN calls it "the sequel to the best-selling classic A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ," making it sound as though A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ is in the same category as Danielle Steel.) [-ecl]

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

Quote of the Week:

     Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
                                   -- Oscar Wilde