MT VOID 05/01/98 (Vol. 16, Number 44)

MT VOID 05/01/98 (Vol. 16, Number 44)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 05/01/98 -- Vol. 16, No. 44

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: The home page for URBAN NIGHTMARES, reviewed later in this issue. Includes the history of the book, the text of the introduction, and links to many of the contributors' home pages. [-ecl]

Free Inside: I was reading my cereal box this morning. That is pretty safe. They don't get too many postmodern writers to write on boxes of cereal. In fact I have often wondered who does actually write the text for boxes of cereal. It requires a whole different writing style. For one thing I think you really have to know your adjectives. Words like "light," "crispy," and "nutlike" have to come readily to the pen when writing the text that goes on a box of cereal. But the one thing that I found missing was "Free Inside."

Now when I was a kid the best thing to see on a box was "Free Inside." I grew up in the Golden Age of Free Inside. You don't get great premiums inside boxes of cereal any more. I am not sure you get any toys in cereal boxes. I remember when Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice actually gave away deeds to land in the Yukon inside boxes of their cereal. You probably think I am joking here, but they really did. That was when they sponsored SGT. PRESTON OF THE YUKON. They must have bought up a chunk of land, divided it up into something like square-inch parcels, had legal deeds printed up, and gave them away in cereal. At one time I owned three or four parcels of land in the Yukon. And it worked. I suddenly got really interested in Sgt. Preston and his lead dog King. After all, that was my property he was protecting. At least it was out there someplace. Maybe someday I would find it and build on it. Though a gumdrop was about all I would have been able to place on it. Just to see my land I would have to trespass on land owned by about 37 other one-time little cereal eaters.

Thinking about it, I am sure by now somehow that someone else has gotten ownership of the land, but at one point it was mine. It was so small that if it was all in one place I could hide it with my hand. But it was mine and I owned it. That was the best Free Inside ever.

What are some of the other classics? I guess I remember this stuff pretty well because this is what it took to form me. You really needed something to get you through the day back then. You have to remember that back then a Saturday morning was about as long as three and a half of our days. And children have a lot more energy to dissipate than adults do. They have good muscles, but much less mass than adults do. The square-cube law says that little kids are going to have much higher muscle to mass ratio than we do. I remember wondering why adults just wanted to sit around at the end of a day, and now I know it is because they are pushing around all the mass of an adult body. Perhaps children would be more pleasant and also healthier if we put weights on their arms and legs. But when I was small you could not just shut down all that energy and just sit and watch SKY KING or CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT. You needed something to do with your hands to dissipate excess energy. That's what Free Insides were good for. Well, the Yukon deed might not be so good. What kind of a kid would sit down and read the fine print during WINKY DINK? (Okay, WINKY DINK was Sunday morning.) Probably it was just the ones who grew into lawyers. No, for Saturday morning TV shows I recommend a little toy rocket launcher that came free inside something like Nabisco Honey Wheats. Basically it had a catch mechanism and a spring. You put the little missile on it and it clicked in place, then you pressed the catch and it fired. That one was particularly memorable since it was an action toy. Sometimes you just got little toy plane models of real planes. Somebody at the cereal company must have served in World War II and remembered his days of plane spotting.

I have heard people say that you got decoder rings and glow in the dark rings in cereal. I think you had to send away for those with a proof of purchase. I think you could get a little submarine powered by baking powder in a box of cereal, but the frogmen that went to the surface and then dived again, also powered by baking powder, were a send-away offer. In any case, I will take a further walk down this maudlin Memory Lane next week. [-mrl]

URBAN NIGHTMARES edited by Josepha Sherman and Keith A. DeCandido (Baen, ISBN 0-671-87851-4, 1997, 278pp, US$5.99) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):

The problem with theme anthologies is, well, the theme.

I mean, if I'm reading a story in a general anthology, or in a magazine, and the point of the story is that the main character is a vampire, then the author can tell me that when s/he wants to. But if I'm reading a vampire anthology ... well, you get the idea.

So here we have an anthology based on urban legends. These are all those things that you've heard somewhere that happened to "a friend of a friend." In fact, these are so common that they even have a Usenet group (alt.legends.urban) and a whole set of abbreviations (e.g., FOAF). So if you're reading a story in this anthology in which a fur coat is involved, and you know anything about urban legends, you *know* snakes will start appearing in the coat.

Because of this, the authors pretty much have to tell you early on which UL (urban legend, not Underwriters Laboratory!) they are working with, and then do something original with it. This is not unlike what was done with the "Fairy Tale" series of books, so it is possible.

And of course the problem is exacerbated by my position as a reviewer--I need to read this book in some reasonable period of time. Marketing being what it is, mass-market books tend to disappear after a few months. If I read a story a week, this book will be long-gone before you can read the review. (There are twenty-five stories, an unusually high number. The longest story is sixteen pages long. In fact, the biography section is longer than some of the stories.)

Even making allowances for all this, I think *four* prosthetic arm stories and *four* alligators/crocodiles- in-the-sewers in one anthology is a bit much (though I did like the literary allusions in Bill Crider's piece).

If you are familiar with all the urban legends referenced here, and like bizarre twists on them, you will probably like this book. But if you don't know what "The Hook" is, or find a whole sequence of twists on them more repetitious, you should skip this book. (Me, I find the psychology of the urban legend interesting, but don't see them as a great literary source.) [-ecl]

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

Quote of the Week:

     Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance
     of the law is not punished.
                                   --  Jeremy Bentham