MT VOID 06/19/09 -- Vol. 27, No. 51, Whole Number 1550

MT VOID 06/19/09 -- Vol. 27, No. 51, Whole Number 1550

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/19/09 -- Vol. 27, No. 51, Whole Number 1550

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

Acknowledgement (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the Pre-Owned-Humvee Owners Exchange. Buy a used Humvee today. Statistics show that in any traffic collision with a Humvee you may not be safer, but the other guy will still come out much worse. [-mrl]

Science Fiction Discussion Groups:

June 25: RETURN FROM THE STARS, Stanislaw Lem, Old Bridge (NJ) 	
	Public Library, 7:00PM
"Hal Bregg is an astronaut who returns from a space mission in 
which only 10 biological years have passed for him, while 127 years 
have elapsed on earth. He finds that the earth has changed beyond 
recognition, filled with human beings who have been medically 
neutralized. How does an astronaut join a civilization that shuns 
risk?"  []

July 9: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, Vonda McIntyre, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, original film at 5:30PM, discussion of film and story after film

Answer to Trivia Question on Sports Films (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Last week I asked, "What sports film made in the 20th century won its director a Best Director Academy Award?" I admit it. I screwed up. I meant to eliminate ROCKY and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. I did the latter by saying it was made in the 20th century. I forgot to eliminate ROCKY.

The answer I was going for was BEN-HUR (1959). What makes the question interesting is that we tend to think of sports films only if they include currently existing sports. It makes me wonder if someone who enjoys a sports film would really want to be watching the sport. Now I wonder if we can count SPARTACUS (1960) as a sports film?

People who emailed me the correct answer are: Dave Anolick, Jerry Ryan, David Shallcross, Peter Rubinstein, John Purcell, Randy Wrigley, and John Sloan. But first among equals is Jarry Ryan who did give me the film I meant to be asking for, BEN-HUR (as well as ROCKY). [-mrl]

Lost in Translation (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was listening to a Beatles song that goes "I don't know why you say goodbye. I say hello." Just how would you translate that into Hebrew? [-mrl]

Sir Christopher Lee (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Many of you may have seen the film THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. The monster's creator has given up on the experiment actually working. Then the man he has built gets up on his own and in a jerky move, rips the bandages off his face to reveal a visage with lumpy scars and stitches. Apparently Victor Frankenstein had been more concerned with making a face that would function than making one that would look good. It is a classic moment of shock. In fact, it is campy enough that Stanley Kubrick used it in LOLITA. The characters of that film are watching what I think Kubrick meant to be a shockingly bad horror film and he chose the first revelation of the monster's face in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. For many people this revelation will have been the first time they have ever noticed Christopher Lee.

Lee had been in a few major films previously. He was at least on-screen (though with no speaking role) in the Laurence Olivier HAMLET (1948). He is an excellent swordsman and got a chance to cross swords with Gregory Peck in CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER (1951). But he was mostly just a bit player and minor face on the screen until THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, made by Hammer Studios. He was in that film largely not for his face but for his stature. Lee is an imposing 6' 5" tall.

That film was an unexpectedly huge success. It also would bring Lee together with what would be a lifetime friend and frequent acting partner, Peter Cushing. When Hammer wanted to repeat that sensation they made DRACULA (1958, US title: HORROR OF DRACULA). This was an even bigger success, making Hammer a major force in the horror film. Finally audiences noticed Christopher Lee. A frequent feature of the formula was to unite Lee and Cushing. His interpretation of Dracula became as well known as Bela Lugosi's. Lee's acting was not limited to Hammer films or even to horror, though he made many of each. Though his stature is markedly different from that of an ancient Egyptian he made a surprisingly vigorous mummy in THE MUMMY (1959). And the Hammer Dracula films were not his only series. He made several films as Dr. Fu Manchu. But he also started being cast in non-horror films. He played a memorable Rochefort in THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974), the screen's best adaptation of the Dumas. It is said that Charlton Heston, a mere 6'2", found it disconcerting to have to be propped up so he could look Lee in the eye for the camera.

Lee has often said that his best role was in the film THE WICKER MAN (1973) in which he played Lord Summerisle. This was Anthony Shaffer's intelligent thriller about an island off the coast of Scotland that has returned to the pagan ways of pre-Christian Britain.

Lee found his aristocratic manner and his familiarity to the public to be a real asset in getting work and in keeping his face before the public. He was Francisco Scaramanga in the 1974 Bond entry THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. He remained a popular actor in films for the following decades. In 2001 at the age of 79, when many actors would be thinking of retiring, he had the major role of Saruman in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which, of course, meant that he was in all three films. (Though he was in only the extended version of the third "Lord of the Rings" film.) George Lucas, who had already had a prominent role for Peter Cushing in the first-made STAR WARS film, created a good villainous part for Lee as Count Dooku in STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) and in STAR WARS: EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005). He continues to do voice acting in STAR WARS films. Lee has been showing up in Tim Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and CORPSE BRIDE (2005). He has almost become a status symbol for continuing fantasy series. THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2008), intended to be the first of a series, had a role for Lee.

By now there is an entire generation that has seen him in major blockbuster films but that barely remembers his previous life as an icon of the British horror film. Last month Lee turned 87, yet he seems to be in robust good health and the IMDB lists several film projects that he is currently working on.

Looking at his early roles as monsters it is hard to imagine that he would be a candidate for great British honors, not to disparage those roles. But Queen Elizabeth II has now given Christopher Lee a knighthood. He is Sir Christopher Lee. And fantasy fans all over the world are applauding the honor. [-mrl]

[The IMDB notes, among other things, that Lee is the only actor who has portrayed three different Sherlock Holmes characters: Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes and Henry Baskerville. He was a distant cousin of Bond creator Ian Fleming. -ecl]

DEAD SNOW (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A week-long Easter vacation visit to a remote cabin in the mountains turns into a horror for eight young medical students. Following the inspiration of Sam Raimi films Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola does his own horror film of something nasty out in the woods. This is very much by-the-numbers horror film making. It is not at all bad, but it has little that is fresh and new. DEAD SNOW is done with sufficient style to keep it interesting, but a little originality would have gone a long way. This is not going to create much of an international market for Norwegian horror film. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Last year we saw an unusual sort of horror film from Sweden. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was a vampire film, but it was distinctly Swedish, and the biting cold and the darkness of Sweden in the winter filled every scene. It was one of the better films last year. Perhaps inspired by the success of that film, this year we get to see a Norwegian horror film. But the style of the film is distinctly American. The film was made in Norway and the language is Norwegian with English subtitles. It even starts with a thundering rendition of Edvard Grieg's "The Hall of the Mountain King" from "Peer Gynt". But the plotting and the atmosphere are all inspired by films from right here in the United States. And in fact if you were not noticing the similarities, one of the characters is a film nerd who reminds us how similar the situation of the characters is to that in films like Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD I & II. The film starts out as a more serious horror film--if "serious" is the right word--but by the last twenty minutes it will definitely visit gonzo-Raimi-land.

DEAD SNOW starts with eight Norwegian medical students, four male and four female, on Easter Break. They are headed into the mountains in a remote part of their country. Here they have a cabin in the snow and they expect to spend the week snowmobiling, drinking beer, and having sex. But we keep seeing signs that there is something moving in the woods outside. It is something that moves fast and kills, but we cannot see what. Our eight students are oblivious to it all. Then the first night someone comes to the door. He is a camper in the area who demands a cup of coffee. He tells the visitors that they are on dangerous ground. In World War II the German Army was particularly brutal in this area. The area was of strategic value to them and they wanted to be sure to control the locals. When they started losing the war the entire unit of soldiers turned to looting the town and then went off to hide in these forests. He is mysterious as to why this piece of history, more than 60 years old, is still important. But the visitors come only too well to understand.

Director/co-writer Tommy Wirkola films the proceedings generally effectively, but he really has very little original to give us. Except for detail about what exactly the threat is, this is mostly well-trodden territory. (I will not reveal what the threat is here, but it is less than imaginative and was used as far back as 1977 in a Peter Cushing film.)

While the general photography is atmospheric, an effect of a head pulled apart is very unconvincing. One character supposedly loses an arm, but it is really just misplaced because we can easily see it tucked in his jacket. Several of the characters end up covered with and/or spitting blood, a brighter hue than the real thing making it not very convincing. There will be a lot of stage blood visible before the final frame.

There are also some script errors. We are told early on that cell phones do not work this high up the mountain, but later when the plot calls for it a cell phone seems to work perfectly well. The film frequently uses false scares intended to make the viewer jump. But Wirkola's film is not nearly as spellbinding as it would have to be to make those shots work.

In the end the worst fault of this film is that it is too good an imitation of the films that Wirkola admires. I rate the film a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. There is some vulgar language, but that seems to be the custom these days. Norwegians are a lot like Americans.

DEAD SNOW opens theatrically in New York June 19, and on demand via "IFC in Theaters" starting June 10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


ZOE'S TALE by John Scalzi (copyright 2008, Tor, $7.99, 406pp, ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-5619-2, ISBN-10: 0-7653-5619-8) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

The blurb on the back of the book asks "How do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history?" It's an enticement, a come on, a way to try to hook the book buying public into picking up the fourth book in the "Old Man's War" trilogy. The back cover has a couple of additional paragraphs that attempt to make the reader truly believe that there will be some marvelous revelation in this book that will let the reader know just exactly what part Zoe played in the conflict surrounding the last colony.

Bzzzt, thanks for playing.

So if you don't know by now, Zoe's tale is the story of the events of THE LAST COLONY as told through the eyes of Zoe herself. It's another entry in a field that I hope doesn't get too large: that of retelling a story through the eyes of another character from the same book. Orson Scott Card did it best so far, in my opinion, with ENDER'S SHADOW. This book doesn't even come close.

The problem here is that I don't quite know even what to write about this book. It's pretty much the same story as THE LAST COLONY, except that we get the teenage perspective. We do follow around Zoe and her close friends, we learn more about her relationship with Hickory and Dickory, her Obin bodyguards, and we do delve a bit more deeply into her "diplomatic mission" to deal with the Consu in an attempt to get their help in defending the planet Roanoke after it has learned that the Colonial Union will no longer defend it against the inevitable attacks that will follow now that Roanoke has defeated the Conclave attack fleet.

But there's nothing outstanding here, nothing to make it worthy of a Hugo nomination, let alone the award itself. I'm not saying it's a bad book--it's not. It's a nice, light, fun read that won't tax your brain too much--perfect for summertime reading, but that's about it. I think the best audience for this novel would be a teenager in the 14- to 17-year-old range. So, I'll give it to my 16-year-old daughter and find out what she thinks.

So, no, we still don't have a winner in the list....


So now what? I have two weeks or so to read ANATHEM. I wasn't planning on even starting it; instead, I was going to read the short works and vote intelligently on all the rest of the categories. Then, Evelyn, subtle editor that she is, says "Well, as usual, Joe Karpierz is covering the Hugo-nominated novels, so I figured I would discuss the short fiction." Yes, Evelyn, I know you didn't have ulterior motives in writing it that way, but now I feel guilty for wanting to blow off the doorstop and read the shorts instead (and no, I don't have time to read both ANATHEM and the shorts--it's one or the other). So, I will try. I guarantee you I will not finish ANATHEM by the voting deadline, but I will try. And when I'm done, I will review it. Be ready in August. :-) [-jak]

[Well, I read the beginning of ANATHEM and gave up, so I'd certainly recommend that you spend the time elsewhere. But we're disagreed in the past, so who knows? -ecl]

Copyright(letters of comment by Richie Bielak and James LaBarre):

In response to Mark's review of RIP! in the 06/12/09 issue of the MT VOID, Richie Bielak writes, "I hope you found I will be more than happy to argue Copyright issues with you.... ;-) I'm a follower of Lessig..... [-rb]

Mark responds, "It would be a one-sided argument. I have no strong opinions but that both sides seem extreme to me." [-mrl]

And James LaBarre writes, "The link you are likely looking for is the "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported" license ( It is incorrect for him to say his film is "copyright free"; rather, it is copyrighted in such a way that it gives end-users much more freedom in using it, so long as they in turn ascribe the same rights to any subsequent users (otherwise known as "copyleft"). It's in the same vein as the GNU-type licenses for software ("Open Source"). I suspect the subsequent packagers/distributers inserted their own boilerplate text regarding copyright, without even thinking whether their claims countered Gaylor's CC licensing. From your description of the film, it seems Gaylor isn't too clued on the license either; the CC community in general does not encourage theft of material. What they are pushing for is for content producers/distributors to respect and accept "fair use" laws, and wish too stop the perpetual extension of copyright we are seeing now. [-jelb]

Mark responds, "I think Gaylor is just trying to make his point, but he says he hopes that people will take his film and build on it. His heart is probably in the right place, but I am not sure he has thought out the implications of what he is suggesting. I cannot absolutely swear I got his arguments exactly right, as I said in the review." [-mrl]

Sports Film, Suzanne Somers, and Chili (letter of comment by John Purcell):

In response to the 06/12/09 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

First things first, Mark: the answer to your trivia question is ROCKY (I think it was 1976 or thereabouts), which was a bit of a surprise considering it was a low-budget film with large commercial popularity. The funny thing is about your trivia question is that I did know which sports movie it was, but had to look up the name of the director: John Avildsen. For the most part, I think the whole series of Rocky movies is over-done schmaltz, and Stallone is really not a good actor. He did, though, know what would make a big buck, and in that sense the movie(s) was a big success. Without it, Sly would still be a nobody.

My favorite spoof of the Rocky movies was a movie poster for ROCKY XXVIII (or something like that) in the background on the second AIRPLANE! movie (I think). Or was that in SPACEBALLS? Geez, I forget which. Either way, it was a great sight gag.

Suzanne Somers is not a "pioneer" for the same reason that Celine Dion is not a "diva": neither has had a career that made significant nor innovative contributions to their respective fields and left lasting positive impressions (my main criteria for both titles). Personally, the title of "quackadoo" is much more accurate about Somers, and I would even apply the quackadoo label to Oprah Winfrey herself and that idjit Dr. Phil. I could go on listing names here, but I have work to do.

If you and Evelyn are ever in Texas in early April (the second weekend in April, to be precise), time your trip to take in the Snook Chilifest. It is a HUGE festival of chili, fun, chili, music (big names come to play), beer, other kinds of food besides chili, games, and still more chili. This year's Chilifest attracted over 30,000 people, and the main musical performers were Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen. In past years quite a few of my students attend, and always enjoy themselves. Good food, music, and usually decent weather. The New Jersey State Chili & Salsa Cook-Off sounds like it's a lot of fun, too. That kind of a shebang isn't my cup of tea, but I do love a good chili. My wife Valerie makes a dynamite chili, simmering it all day in the crock pot with "secret ingredients" to flavor it up. Not spice it up, but flavor. Big difference, and it's truly delicious.

I like the VOID almost as much as I like a good chili: it warms the heart, fills your tummy, and gives you gas. Nothing better...

Now I've gone and made myself hungry. Time for lunch. Thanks for the zine, and take care of yourselves, folks. [-jp]

Mark replies:

1. Actually ROCKY was not supposed to be the answer, as I say elsewhere. I am getting sloppy in my old age. I was one of the few people I know who did not think much of the original ROCKY. I did not find it very heart-warming that Rocky salvaged his career in part because someone liked his name. 2. I have seen the bit with ROCKY {some large Roman numeral}, but I don't remember where myself. Also Weird Al did his "Theme for Rocky XIII: The Rye or the Kaiser". 3. Suzanne Somers certainly gets more hype than she deserves. Then again if she does get praise, at least it is from Oprah. That says something about the praise. Not that it is meaningless, but it is from a different sphere from mine. I suspect neither could tell me who Gauss was. 4. The Chilifest sounds like fun. It may have more choice in the chilis, but I suspect I ate as much chili in New Jersey as I would in Texas. I only regret that I have but one stomach to fill (and even that is stretching it). No I think the real advantage is that chili in New Jersey has to be made to the taste of Joisy-ites. That means no incendiary spicing. I want the kind of spicing that makes you want to eat a habanero to cool off. But it sounds like Valerie's chili would be good also.

5. Almost as much as good chili? High praise. [-mrl]

Paul Erdos (letter of comment by Tom Russell):

In response to Mark's comments on mathematics in the 06/05/09 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes, "Good puzzles in recent issues of MT VOID. MT VOID readers might enjoy the anecdotal biography of mathematician Paul Erdos, THE MAN WHO LOVED ONLY NUMBERS by Paul Hoffman (1998). (The book has mixed reviews at" [-tr]

Mark responds, "There was more comment on the mathematics article than I expected. Maybe I should talk about mathematics more in the MT VOID. (And chili.) Erdos was a fascinating man. I am sorry to say that while I have the Hoffman book I have not read it yet. I have a long input queue." [-mrl]

Chili (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's comments on the chili cook-off in the 06/12/09 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

The earliest chili cook-off I've found so far is the one detailed in THE GREAT CHILI CONFRONTATION, by H. Allen Smith, in which the author and Wick Fowler carry on some correspondence, each graciously conceding that the other makes the world's second best chili, until the two find themselves in a cook-off, which probably didn't hurt Fowler's public image any.

The only chili cook-off I was involved in was in the 1980s, at the University of Houston, where I worked. One of the other clerical types in the physics department directed me to draw a dead rat and a dead cockroach for signage. The cockroach was no big deal, but the rat was such a success that the professor I'd done it for ended up using it on other things. I made some stationery for him with it as well.

A couple of years before that, at another campus, a professor guest-taught one of my art classes. His lesson plan was to dictate his chili recipe to us. Being a first-rate sucker, I asked why it was called "Double Burner Chili." "Well," the teacher explained, "it burns on the way in..." [-kw]

Mark notes, "Well, as I said in my article, these sorts of things just don't happen with tuna noodle casserole." [-mrl]

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

The book/movie discussion group chose THIS ISLAND EARTH by Raymond F. Jones (ISBN-13 978-1-584-45051-1, ISBN-10 1-584-45051-7) for this month. Mark claims that everything good in the book was in the movie, and vice versa, and he may be right. What is true is that the second half of the movie is very different from the book. In the movie, it turns out that the recruiting on Earth is to help the planet Metaluna fight an interplanetary war against another planet. In the book, the war is more widespread, and in fact Earth itself is going to be involved. This makes the title of the book-- a reference to South Pacific islands that found themselves caught up in World War II knowing nothing about the war except that one side has landed on their island and told them to build an airstrip for them. Unfortunately, although the premise is better imagined in the book, it is not very well-developed. On the other hand, the movie may not hold together as well, but it is very interesting visually.

And finally, the Hugo-nominated short stories:

"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson (Asimov's Jul 2008) is a fantasy in what I think of as a Ray Bradbury/Charles Finney mold- -there is a magical circus. I suppose that is actually a much more common theme than just those two authors, but they come to mind first. However, Johnson never really develops the idea into anything.

"Article of Faith" by Mike Resnick (Baen's Universe Oct 2008) is an old idea, well-written, but still nothing new. And wouldn't a robot who has been asked to find logical inconsistencies and then sent to read the Bible ask about at least some of the contradictions in the Bible?

"Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal (THE SOLARIS BOOK OF NEW SCIENCE FICTION, VOLUME TWO) is what used to be called a short- short (and maybe still is). As such, it really needs more of a punch (or something) than it has to be in Hugo contention.

"Exhalation" by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two) is a different take on resource depletion and entropy. As usual, Chiang comes up with a premise and then carefully works out the details and ramifications. In this regard, this most resembles Chiang's "Seventy-Two Letters" in its construction of a different world-view. (One might think of Richard Garfinkle's CELESTIAL MATTERS or Jay Lake's MAINSPRING, but neither of those develop their premises in the thorough and serious manner than Chiang does. It is possible that Chiang has written a story that was not great, but if so, I haven't found it yet.

And "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" by Michael Swanwick (Asimov's Feb 2008) was completely unintelligible to me.

My voting order: "Exhalation", "Article of Faith", "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss", no award, "Evil Robot Monkey", "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Knowledge is two-fold, and consists not only 
           in the affirmation of what is true, but in the 
           negation of that which is false.
                                     -- Charles Caleb Colton, 1825

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