MT VOID 08/17/07 -- Vol. 26, No. 7, Whole Number 1454

MT VOID 08/17/07 -- Vol. 26, No. 7, Whole Number 1454

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/17/07 -- Vol. 26, No. 7, Whole Number 1454

Table of Contents

      El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Administrivia and Names (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Thanks to Steve Goldsmith and Rob Mitchell for mailing out the MT VOID while we were on a five-week vacation to the Canadian Rockies. The issues were composed before we left, which is why several letters of comment are appearing much later than they were actually sent.

Also, some of you may have noted that the names for letters of comment are not always consistent: sometimes the first name is used in full and sometimes a nickname, or sometimes a middle initial is used and sometimes not. This is because I am working from e-mail headers, e-mail signatures, and memory. I will merely quote Walt Whitman, that great New Jersey poet: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" If you have an actual preference for how I should refer to you, please let me know. [-ecl]

Commoner Vulgarities (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I note an increase of the use in family and children's programming the use of phrases that have a sexual interpretation. It seems to me to be just a little vulgar. On such phrase that I have heard increasingly frequently is "size matters." It was already a stale joke when the bad GODZILLA used it as their film tagline. This morning CNN used the line "You never forget your first time." These naughty double entendres may have been fresh and funny at one point but certainly not since the 1980s. Still, I don't want to feel I am as prudish as the women at one of my former companies who was hooking up her PC. The Help Desk asked her if a cable end was male or female. She did not know what that meant and the Help Desk made the mistake of explaining to her. [-mrl]

Why Are British Tools Incompatible with American Ones? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Interesting fact for mechanics and math fans: The British system for defining the size of a hexagonal bolt is to give the length of one side.of the hexagon. The American system was to give the distance between the parallel sides. If the edge length is one, the distance between the parallel sides is the square root of three. This is why American and British wrenches are incompatable. British widths and American widths vary by a factor of the square root of three. To work on both you use an adjustable monkey wrench. [-mrl]

Is Ray Bradbury the New James Fenimore Cooper? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was recently in a discussion about Ray Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. The book is a novel written in 1950 about the colonization and subjugation of Mars by humans who had screwed things up on Earth pretty badly and were migrating to Mars. The conflicts with the native Martians in some ways reflect the coming of Europeans to the New World and the destruction of the native peoples. It is not really a novel in the traditional sense but a collection of short stories Bradbury had written about the conquest of Mars in the 1940s. A local radio station found radio broadcasts of the individual stories in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Most of these came from the programs DIMENSION X and X MINUS ONE. What struck me as it had not before was that the individual stories were not of that high a quality. Most were on the level of TWILIGHT ZONE episodes or comic book stories. Now I generally like TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, but I do not consider them great literature.

The MARTIAN CHRONICLES stories are not very good. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. I think that later generations will wonder what we saw in Bradbury. Perhaps he will be remembered more for his novel FAHRENHEIT 451 about a future in which all reading including classics like OLIVER TWIST will be forbidden. It is a frightening vision of a possible future. I will, however, point out that that is not the future we are currently in. If I want to read OLIVER TWIST, I can download it free to my palmtop with about five minute's effort. It was a lot harder and probably more expensive to get to get a copy in 1953 when Bradbury wrote FAHRENHEIT 451. For over fifty years this book has been interpreted as a warning against Soviet-style censorship.

Recently Bradbury has commented on the book and said it was not really about censorship. Now he says it was not about people not being able to get books but about their disinclination to read. Indeed, in our world the forces who want censorship are currently losing their battle and the Internet is more and more triumphant, but alliteracy, people who could read choosing not to, is indeed very much with us. But for half a century Bradbury never commented on this claimed "misinterpretation" of his novel. I believe the novel is about censorship. Montag, his main character, really does want to read and is not allowed to possess literature. That is censorship; the book is not about his refusal to read.

FAHRENHEIT 451 is a good novel, but its prediction of universal censorship of literature is simply wrong. In my opinion THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES is not a very good novel. His science was absurd, even for its time. His writing style is lyrical and his writing is admired because of it.

Ray Bradbury is considered to be a literary giant. In April Bradbury was given a special recognition from the Pulitzer Prize Committee for "his distinguished, prolific and influential career as a science fiction and fantasy author." While this was not a Pulitzer Prize, it was a recognition of his life achievement.

I think Ray Bradbury is the James Fenimore Cooper of our age. Cooper was considered a great writer in his time. He had a great humanitarian agenda to create respect for the Native Americans. His stories were rather simplistic and often absurd. I remember one incident in which his hero Natty Bumppo escapes from hostile natives when he finds a bear skin, puts it on, and convinces his captors that he is actually a bear. Cooper was at one time considered one of America's greatest writers. Wilkie Collins said of him, "Cooper is the greatest artist in the domain of romantic fiction in America."

Then Mark Twain wrote an essay "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" and it was like the Emperor's New Clothes. People started looking at Cooper's writing and discovering his books were not that good. Today Cooper is remembered as a minor writer. (The essay can be found at

Bradbury is a beloved figure. When I was in school he was the one science fiction writer who got some respect from English teachers. Unlike Twain with Cooper, I am not saying that he is not a reasonably good writer with a poetic strong style. But in a time when fewer of the young generation are reading at all-- Bradbury is right about that--the poetry of his word choice is becoming a dubious virtue. I do not think the next generation will hold him in any special awe. I am just not sure that under the style his stories are more than just okay. His writing has been for his time, perhaps a time that is already passing. [-mrl]

More on Ray Bradbury (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

An additional note about Ray Bradbury: When FAHRENHEIT 9/11 came out, Ray Bradbury (author of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN, and I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC) complained bitterly that Michael Moore had appropriated his title FAHRENHEIT 451 and used it on his own work. [-ecl]

STARDUST (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: With little pre-release fanfare, Neil Gaiman's STARDUST, directed by Matthew Vaughn, comes to the screen as a first-class fantasy film, one of the best. The story is convoluted but not really confusing. A young man from our world on a quest to win his love ends up being the fulcrum in a battle for the rule of a kingdom in a magical world. Gaiman is a fresh and a different voice in fantasy writing so the film is full of surprises and some genuinely funny jokes. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Right now is the Golden Age of fantasy films. This year I have already seen for the first time three fantasy films that are among the best I can ever remember seeing. One was PAN'S LABYRINTH and two have been based on the writings of Neil Gaiman. The earlier one I got to too late to give it a review while it was playing. That was MIRRORMASK. The story is in the range okay to good, but the visuals are hypnotic. And now I was caught by surprise by STARDUST. The title seems a tad twee and the trailer was not very encouraging. It showed the film as mixing unicorns and pirates, which seemed a little over the top to me. Actually it mixes a lot more including ghosts, witches, human- goats, and even some of the feel of the Gormenghast books. And the film does work. It works so well in fact that while I was watching it I was asking myself what other fantasy film could I a make a good case was better. It is not easy to find one that combines character, wit, a fast-paced plot, and visuals that are done as well. (THE WIZARD OF OZ, for example, is a sentimental favorite, but I would have to say that this film beats that one on each of these counts.)

The combination of high fantasy and comedy make THE PRINCESS BRIDE an obvious comparison. That film has considerably more comedy, but the fantasy is a little threadbare (sometimes intentionally as in the case of the giant rodents). STARDUST has a better plot with more original fantasy, but in spite of some very good humor, the older film has the edge.

When this film started I had no idea where it was going. An hour or more into the film I had little better idea, and still was not sure. The film begins with an odd little town in England called Wall. It is so named because it has this circular wall that nobody dares cross. It is claimed that inside the circle is another world. Young Dunstan Thorn crosses the wall and surely enough finds a mysterious land where magic works. He also finds love with a mysterious princess held captive by a magical chain. He returns home the only man knowing what is on the other side of the wall. Uh, actually Dunstan is not really even an important character in this story. What is important is that nine months later he is presented with a son, the result of the romantic encounter. It is Tristran (played by the relatively unfamiliar Charlie Cox) the son with this magical beginning who will be our hero. Well, actually not much of a hero. He is a sort of misfit store clerk in love with a beautiful woman who finds him nearly as fascinating as wallpaper paste is. To win her he sets himself a quest to retrieve a fallen star from the other side of the wall. The star has human form as Yvaine (Claire Danes). The star is also sought by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer). Also involved are the sons of a recently dead king (the king played by Peter O'Toole) who are blithely murdering each other since only one can possess the throne. And I have not even mentioned how the Robert De Niro character fits in since the less that you know the better.

The idea of a celestial star in human form may be a bit sugary, as we have in this film is a tad cloying. This is a film full of strange fantasy ideas. Robert De Niro's character is a fresh idea, but I am not sure I like how he takes the role. Still, I like his dialog and the film's wit. One thing that cannot be denied is that STARDUST has a lot of screen fantasy for a single film. This is a creative, fresh, and subversive fairy tale and a lot of fun. I rate it a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:


GLASSHOUSE by Charles Stross (copyright 2006, Ace, $24.95, 335pp, ISBN 0-441-01403-8) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

As I just told my daughter, I have yet to read a Hugo-caliber book among the three nominees that I've read to this point. GLASSHOUSE is better; it's the best of the lot so far. But I'm really not impressed.

Stross is a prolific writer, if nothing else. He's written some pretty terrific stuff, in my mind, but GLASSHOUSE, while interesting, seems to miss the mark for me. The novel apparently takes place in the same universe as ACCELERANDO and not too long after the events of that book. It wasn't clear to me that that was the case--I only discovered that when reading the Wikipedia entry about the book. I guess maybe that's the problem--I had to read the entry to find out more about the book.

Our protagonist's name is Robin, and he's just woken up with most of his memories missing. He's gone through a complete memory edit of sorts, apparently of his own volition. Very early on he discovers that someone is out to kill him. Meanwhile, he is offered a chance to participate in a study of sorts of how folks lived in the Dark Ages--in this case, the Dark Ages is our current timeframe. He's still trying to decide whether to participate in the study when he wakes up after backing himself up to find himself in the study. And things are quite different there.

First of all, he is a she. Second of all, it's primitive by Robin's--now Reeve's--standards. It's more or less just like our time period, with all the trappings, although the fact that Stross states that the women stay home and the men go to work is a little grating to me because it doesn't fit what I know as the present day, although I suppose it could be a couple of decades earlier than our own. The study is being run by sort of a religious hierarchy--the "couples" (every one must pair off in a "traditional" heterosexual relationship, another thing that doesn't quite match today's society) must go to church every Sunday, but it's not a traditional religious service of any kind. It's more of a status update on the state of the "polity" and how folks are doing in the study. You see, there's a point system, and the more points you get, the better things are for you. For example, certain standard, traditional behaviors are rewarded, like having sex with your husband, having children, or living by the rules of the society from the Dark Ages.

But there's something sinister going on, of course. It all has to do with Curious Yellow, a memory-editing virus that infects the gate system. It came to prominence in the Censorship Wars. It turns out that there are probably rogue cells of those who deployed Curious Yellow who are planning to try and reintroduce it into the network of habitats that orbit various brown dwarfs throughout the galaxy.

And that's where Robin/Reeve comes in. It turns out that he's in the glasshouse (originally a military prison) on purpose, sent on assignment to find out what's doing on in that polity. It seems that something is amiss, and it all points to Curious Yellow and the glasshouse project.

GLASSHOUSE is a nice little story--no more, no less. Aside from the Family Trade series of novels, this is the most straightforward of all the Stross novels I've read to date. Still, it's not spectacular. It's a well-crafted, solid novel. Nothing more, nothing less. It's not one of Stross' better efforts. Still, it's the best of the bunch so far.

Next time--EIFELHEIM (no, I didn't write that rhyme on purpose). Until then.... [-jak]

MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: In an account that is by turns funny, shocking, and revolting, director Jason Kohn documents the state of modern-day Brazil, ravaged by poverty, horrendous crime, and political corruption. Chosen for a major investigation is Senator Jader Barbalho who is claimed to have looted two billion dollars from a fund to bring relief to the peoples of the Amazon region. Visuals and descriptions are harrowing. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

[Note that I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the point of view of the makers of this film. But since I cannot vouch for the accuracy or inaccuracy, the views presented below should be taken as those presented by the filmmakers and not a viewpoint to which I personally can attest.]

MANDA BALA is the picture of a country and a society that is entirely out of control. Told with black humor and stomach- churning detail, this is a portrait of Brazil. In Jason Kohn's film directorial debut we see the ravages that political graft and that unchecked crime have caused. In particular, the film is an indictment of Senator Jader Barbalho who has totally raped the country. Barbalho has administered the funds of SUDAM (Superintendência para o Desenvolvimento da Amazônia), the Amazon Region Development Authority. This investment fund that Brazil established to aid the peoples of the Amazon regions and to foster investment. Instead the film tells us that the investments have been 100% for corrupt projects and to siphon the funds off for graft. They set up 400 projects, all claimed to be corrupt. Nearly two billion dollars was stolen. Barbalho has become very wealthy by graft as his country descends into chaos.

And we see the chaos. The only rich region of Brazil is Sao Paulo. The poor have gravitated there as matter of survival and its population is now about twenty million people. Because this is where the money is, this is also where the crime is, and it has reached apocalyptic levels. The people of San Paulo have adapted as well as possible to the huge rated of kidnappings, at the level of one a day in the city. These are among the most brutal kidnappings one can imagine. The kidnappers favorite tactic is to cut pieces off of the hostages and send them to the family. This has become so common that there is, as the film examines, a major industry in plastic and reconstructive surgery to undo the maiming that kidnappers have done to extort ransom. The filmmakers interview a kidnap victim whose ear was cut off and sent to her family. In what seems like a digression of questionable relevance we hear from a plastic surgeon what the process is to reconstruct an ear from the cartilage remaining and from flesh taken from other parts of the body. We get to see close-up footage of such an operation. We also see the details of bullet-proofing a car, something that has become a necessity of living in Sao Paulo. Courses are given on how to drive the heavier armored automobiles and how to handle an attack by machine guns.

The documentary is told with a dark painful wit. It begins with a frog farm, one of the corrupt projects set up by SUDAM. Frogs are raised here to be eaten as a delicacy. This is farm is used both literally and metaphorically. Under the end-credits we see a tadpole pool with a small open drain. Most of the tadpoles swim around unconcerned while those near the drain get sucked down. Eventually more and more tadpoles fall through the drain and the water level falls until every tadpole is affected.

The film is primarily in English, but with a fair proportion in Portuguese. When a character is talking sometimes it will be subtitled and sometimes an onscreen translator will interpret for the camera. Many will find the verbal descriptions and the images shown on the screen to be disturbing. The filmmakers note that the film is not allowed to be shown in Brazil. And it is a powerful and discouraging picture of life in that country. I rate MANDA BALA a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:


Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (letter of comment by Dan Kimmel):

In response to Evelyn's report of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, Dan Kimmel writes, "[W]hen I visited in 2005 (in town for the NASFIC) ... I have to say it was the *worst* gift shop I've experienced. I was *primed* to spend money, and couldn't find anything. The t-shirt selection was mediocre. The only lapel pins were in elaborate sets. I couldn't believe I walked away with nothing." [-dk]

Unexpexcted Emergencies (letter of comment by Stephen Lelchuk):

In response to Mark's article on cliffhangers in the 08/03/07 issue of the MT VOID (in which he says, "Think about what unexpected emergency may happen to you any moment.", Steve Lelchuk writes, "Tell me about it. (He says, looking out his office window in Minneapolis at the remains of the I-35 bridge.)" [-sl]

Evelyn replies, "Which we probably drove over four weeks ago. But I don't think our Toyota was what did it in, even loaded as it was." [-ecl]

Nano NASFIC Report (letter of comment by Dan Kimmel):

The NASFIC just justified itself with a panel I did this morning on the 7th Harry Potter book. It was a roomful of people who had read it and could freely discuss their reactions and favorite parts (or criticisms) without people screaming about spoilers. -:) [-dk]

School Supplies, RATATOUILLE, WONDERFUL LIFE and "Mystery"(letter of comment by Joseph T. Major):

In response to the 08/10/07 issue of the MT VOID, Joseph Major writes:

School Supplies: "Trapper Keepers" are a kind of three-ring notebook noted for having a different kind of binder lock:

What really worries me is the costs of college. It was hard enough for my mother but at least I didn't end up owing my soul to the college-loan bank. Now all the kids seem to do this, but they need to have a laptop or two, an iPod, a cellphone with camera, a Palm Pilot . . . and the expenses of subscribing to the various services, too. They are so connected that they have nothing to say.

RATATOUILLE: The talking rat makes me think of THE COACHMAN RAT (1989) by David Henry Wilson, a very dark retelling of the story of Cinderella from a different point of view. It too had a talking rat. Not to mention a rather surprising gloss on the Fairy Godmother.

WONDERFUL LIFE: The evolution of the horse exhibit at the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park shows a tree of proto-horses, even as it still concentrates on the trail leading to Equus equus. I wonder why no one's mentioned in a time-travel story the idea of picking up Hyracotherium as a house pet. Two hands high, let's hope it's easy to potty train.

"Mystery" adaptations: There was a paper given at the Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle Symposium a few years ago about the deficiencies of the later Granada TV adaptations (which often didn't have Jeremy Brett, due to his ill-health by then; the stories had Mycroft Holmes [Charles Gray] and Watson). They added subplots and characters to stretch the stories out to two one-hour episodes. [-jtm]

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, WONDERFUL LIFE, the Second Half of the 20th Century, and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):

In response to Mark's review of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX in the 08/10/07 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

Review of Harry Potter #5, IMAX: Actually, having things poke out at the audience has been pretty routine for 3D movies since the early 1950s, but is looked upon as something of a cheesy stunt. [-tw]

[Mark notes, "They save it for just one or two shots per film. Most of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is recessed but the have a spear gun come out of the screen at the audience. HOUSE OF WAX had the ball and paddle sequence and not a whole lot else." -mrl]

The IMAX version of SUPERMAN RETURNS, with a couple of pretty useless 3D scenes inserted, had Superman fly out over the audience at the end. It looked like a plastic doll on strings.

The 3D sequence in HP5, though it is also computer-generated rather than filmed with two cameras, is far more satisfying and worthwhile, adding something to an important part of the movie. The only oddity was that the filmmakers had already used depth of focus to give a 3D impression in 2D. So there were 3D blurry objects in the background at times.

The politics of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX can be read in more than one way. For years, with tongue in cheek, I've been calling this volume in the series "Harry Potter Starts a Right-Wing Militia".

Wands are, after all, more dangerous than guns. And while Dolores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic don't quite try to make Hogwarts a "Wand-Free School Zone", they do try to prevent the students from using, or learning how to use, their wands as weapons.

Note that the generally accepted chronology of the seven books runs from 1991 through 1998. See (Caution: contains spoilers.)

The Nineties were, indeed, a period in which governments were trying to sweep the growing threat of terrorism under the rug. However, it's pretty obvious the real-world analogue Rowling was thinking of was the reluctance to oppose Hitler in 1930s Great Britain and Germany. [-tw]

In response to Evelyn's column on books in the same issue, Taras writes:

This Week's Reading: Interesting that you spotted the Christian bias in one scholar, J. Rufus Fears, but not the leftist bias in the other: Stephen Jay Gould. Darwinism has always been a problem for the left because, if intelligence developed by natural selection, there had to have been hereditary differences to select.

Gould tries to deal with this in several ways. He pushes human evolution as far back as he possible can, and posits that it stopped maybe a hundred thousand years ago; wishful thinking even before recent DNA work showing significant changes as little as 7000 years ago. He emphasizes randomness over selection in evolutionary history, thereby giving creationists ammunition.

Gould's view of the Burgess Shale as showing the randomness of evolution has not held up well in the years since he published WONDERFUL LIFE in 1989. For example, a very weird creature that walked on pointed legs turned out to be a sort of spiny worm, upside down. Wikipedia shows 19 Burgess Shale species assigned to known taxa and only 8 of "uncertain classification". [-tw]

[Evelyn responds, "I guess didn't mention Gould being leftist because I think everyone pretty much recognizes it. As for his conclusions being shown to be incorrect, I suspect he would be among the first to think that was a good thing." -ecl]

In response to Mark's three-part article on the second half of the 20th century starting in the 06/08/07 issue of the MT VOID, Taras adds:

Going back a few issues, the declining amenities of air travel have nothing to do with fuel costs. Ever since airline deregulation passed in 1978 and airlines were permitted to compete on price as well as on amenities, there's been a blizzard of articles about this. I've probably read dozens myself. Deregulation finally permitted consumer sovereignty to operate: it turned out most people preferred cruddy but cheap over fancy but expensive. The airlines that couldn't adjust to the new environment died, while new ones took their place. [-tw]

And finally, he writes, "Thanks for the useful consumer info on the new 'Bourne' movie. I will avoid." [-tw]

[Mark replies, "You might want to get a second opinion. Frankly, I am in the minority on this one." -mrl]

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

Last week I talked about some of what I read (or listened to) on our recent trip to the Canadian Rockies. But wait, there's more.

The BBC ran an adaptation of C. S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia"--all seven books, running about twenty-four hours in total. We listened to this (over several days), and I also read REVISITING NARNIA: FANTASY, MYTH AND RELIGION IN C. S. LEWIS' CHRONICLES edited by Shanna Caughy (ISBN-13 978-1-932100-63-1, ISBN-10 1-932100-63-6). This is a collection of essays about the Narnia books from various perspectives. For example, in "Greek Delight" Nick Mamatas explains how Lewis's theology is very Roman Catholic and often completely at odds with the Greek Orthodox view of God and Jesus. (And also how if you want to recreate the taste of Turkish Delight, you should "find a well-worn sliver of fragrant soap, dip it in confectioner's sugar, and eat it."

Naomi Woods's "God in the Details" makes a lot of points I agree with. Woods says that at times it seems as if Aslan had created Narnia for the benefit of children from Earth, so that they could come there and learn spiritual/religious lessons. Also, all the good children seem priggish, possibly because what Aslan teaches is blind obedience to him. Lewis at times uses characters' looks to signal that they are not the "good guys": "prim dumpy little girls with fat legs" or boys who look like pigs. Eustace's love of informational books and his parents' vegetarianism are considered negative qualities, and the Calormenes embody all the negative stereotypes of the Arabs.

There are *two* essays on the "correct" reading order for the books. They agree that the correct order is that in which they were written, but for completely different reasons.

My own observation is that in THE LAST BATTLE, Shift (the ape) deceives everyone by telling them that they cannot speak to Aslan directly, but only through him. This sounds to me very much like the traditional Catholic view that the priest is needed to intercede between God and man, and I was a bit surprised to see Lewis show that as such a negative thing and prone to abuse.

And if the end of THE LAST BATTLE is "the beginning of the real story", what kind of story can it be, with no conflict and no change? "The term is over; the holidays have begun." But what is the purpose of a never-ending holiday? It may be enjoyable, but as a story, it is not very interesting.

THE MAN FROM THE DIOGENES CLUB by Kim Newman (ISBN-13 978-1- 932265-17-0, ISBN-10 1-932265-17-1) are stories centering around Richard Jeperson, a detective specializing in the supernatural in 1970s Britain. (I wondered if Newman had been inspired by Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin, but in an afterword Newman lists the authors who had influenced him and Quinn is not one of them.) "Tomorrow Town" is probably of the most interest to science fiction fans, since it takes place in a utopian community and involves science fiction writers, Hugo awards, and so on. (The writers and even some of the Hugo categories are fictional, making this an alternate history of sorts.) The best story, though, may be "Egyptian Avenue"; it is also the shortest. Some of the longer ones seem to drag a bit, something I never thought I would say about Newman's writing.

Oh, yes, and synchronicity seems to be omnipresent: I read the glossary for THE MAN FROM THE DIOGENES CLUB, which explained (among other terms) "Heath Robinson" (the British equivalent of Rube Goldberg), and two days later I was watching an episode of the BBC's "Planet Earth" in which they used the term. And watching a documentary on American photography, we saw a high-speed photograph of a bullet going through an apple that we had just seen in a display in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron six days earlier. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; 
           Old Age a regret.

                                    -- Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby

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