MT VOID 02/12/10 -- Vol. 28, No. 33, Whole Number 1584

MT VOID 02/12/10 -- Vol. 28, No. 33, Whole Number 1584

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/12/10 -- Vol. 28, No. 33, Whole Number 1584

Table of Contents

      C3PO: Mark Leeper, R2D2: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted 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

Science Fiction Discussion Groups:

February 11: TOTAL RECALL/"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by 
	Philip K. Dick, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, film at 
	5:30PM, discussion of film and book after film
	Public Library, 7PM
March 11: FLATLAND by Edwin Abbott, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 
	film (FLATLAND: THE FILM) at 5:30PM, discussion of film and 
	book after film
April 8: THE ILLUSTRATED MAN by Ray Bradbury, Middletown (NJ) 
	Public Library, film at 5:30PM, discussion of film and book 
	after film

Good News and Bad News (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The good news is you don't have to worry that global warming is one day suddenly going to do serious damage without warning. That is just not going to happen. That is just not how most things happen nature. The bad news, of course, is that we've had our warning. [-mrl]

Good News and Bad Newsilliam Tenn (1920-2010) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Doing his best writing in the 1950s and 1960s Phillip Klass (who wrote under the name William Tenn) was considered to be one of the first rank science fiction authors. While some of his stories were serious, he more frequently unleashed an impish sense of humor in his writing. He was born in London, but at an early age moved to New York. Most of his youth was spent in Brooklyn. He was a combat engineer in WWII and then an engineer. He was later employed by Bell Laboratories. He published sixty stories, two of which he rewrote as novels, OF MEN AND MONSTERS and A LAMP FOR MEDUSA. He moved to Pennsylvania where he taught at Penn State. His collections of stories include OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS (1955), THE HUMAN ANGLE (1956), TIME IN ADVANCE (1958), THE SEVEN SEXES (1968), THE SQUARE ROOT OF MAN (1968), and THE WOODEN STAR (1968). NESFA Press collected all of his stories in two (beautiful) volumes IMMODEST PROPOSALS (2000) and HERE COMES CIVILIZATION (2001). One of his best-remembered stories is "On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi!" An interview with Klass and his reading of this story can be found at:

(His reading of the story starts around 41 minutes into the recording.)

For more information see .> William Tenn died February 7, 2010, three months shy of his 90th birthday. He was respected and well-liked. William Tenn will be missed. [-mrl]

Back to PONTYPOOL (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There is an interesting sort of a zombie film with a really different sort of premise. The film comes from Canada and is called PONTYPOOL.

A shorter version of the same story was adapted as a radio play and was played on the BBC. Now the BBC is not known for broadcasting a lot of plays about zombies, but they apparently found the idea interesting enough that they included it their series of Worldplays about science. You cannot download the play, but you can hear it on your computer at

I have seen (and reviewed, in the 01/08/10 issue of the MT VOID) the film and it has the same cast as the radio play. I don't know when or if the film will get a general release. But it is probably best if you do not know where the story is going until you get into it. [-mrl]

Why the Wolf Man Returns (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The film industry, which recently has depended all too much on remakes and what the filmmakers expect will be a built-in audience, is releasing today their remake version of THE WOLF MAN. I have not seen the re-do. The trailer seems to suggest that the new version might be relatively faithful to the story of the original, though changing the title to THE WOLFMAN is not a very good sign. It seems likely that the diminishing ranks of horror fans that let themselves enjoy classic monochrome, low-budget horror films will still prefer the original version made in 1941. I will say having the director be Joe Johnston (of THE ROCKETEER and OCTOBER SKY) is a major incentive to see the film even if it is a remake.

The 1941 version is the classic. I think that came as a surprise even to the Universal studio management. 1941 was no longer even the golden age of the horror film at Universal. That ended with the Laemmle family lost control of the studio and the new owners wanted slicker but more soulless horror films that exploited the monsters that were introduced in the early Thirties.

Now, back in the 1930s Universal had made THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON, arguably even a better werewolf film than THE WOLF MAN would be. But the character of Wilfred Glendon was a little stiff and formal for audiences to really identify with much. Glendon was a patrician stuffed shirt at the best of times and seemed more human when he was in the form of the werewolf. The studio expected their new werewolf film to serviceably fill the bottoms of double bills for a few weeks and then fall into obscurity. What they did not see was that the problems that the werewolf Lawrence Talbot had were ironically in their own way very human problems. Lawrence Talbot was his own enemy. He would at night lose control of himself and do exactly the things he least would have wanted to do if he were in control. Lon Chaney, Jr., may at this point had very similar problems himself. Chaney was a heavy drinker and probably would have had his own out-of-control spells that he later regretted. I have not found it documented when Lon Chaney, Jr., starting having serious alcohol problems, but it was very likely by 1941 when he made this film.

The Wolf Man was really a different sort of monster for film. He had identification value. This was not the daughter of a vampire. It was not a scientist who travels to Tibet. Nor was he a mummy several thousand years old or a scientist working with sinister chemicals. Lawrence Talbot was just this casual guy who had left home at an early age and went to work on the Mount Wilson telescope, apparently as some sort of mechanic. Though he did have roots in a wealthy British family, he left home too young to even have British accent. If the American viewers passed him on the street they might not even notice him. That made him seem much more real.

Like few monsters seen on the screen before, Lawrence Talbot suffered from remorse. Dracula was pure evil and never regretted a bite or a moment of his doings. His daughter wanted more to escape the vampire lifestyle, but showed little remorse for her killings. The Frankenstein monster usually did not want to kill and did not do it voluntarily unless heavily provoked. Im-ho-tep never regretted any of his killings and Kharis was just of puppet of others. Henry Jekyll had some remorse just as Wilfred Glendon did, but was too much of a prig to show it much. But Lawrence Talbot would do bad things when he was in wolf form, and when he realized what he had done afterward he had overwhelming pangs of guilt. He longed for death simply so that he could do no more damage. He was as harsh on himself as his audience was on him. That sort of tragedy really appealed to audiences perhaps as something new. Perhaps no monster of the screen has ever so hated his own monstrous self and his actions. The character was popular enough that even as the other monsters in the Universal stable were winding down their series, the Wolf Man was just getting started. He would appear in four more Universal horror films: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945), and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948). Only the Frankenstein monster would appear in more Universal horror films, eight to the Wolf Man's five.

In the hands of a Joe Johnston this film could well represent the qualities one would want in a remake version of THE WOLF MAN. (Some time soon I will set forward my attitude toward remaking classic films. It may not be what you would expect.) [-mrl]

THE CLAN CORPORATE by Charles Stross (copyright 2006, Tor, $6.99, 310pp, ISBN-13 978-0-7653-4822-7) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

THE CLAN CORPORATE is the third book in Charles Stross's "Merchant Princes" series. Stross has settled in to the series rather nicely at this point, continuing a nice little yarn that doesn't necessarily tax the mental capabilities (like some of his other novels--GLASSHOUSE, SINGULARITY SKY, and IRON SUNRISE come to mind, which were terrific books in their own way) but yet is a beautiful piece of escapism that will occupy your thoughts for a little while. I don't think the series will stick in your head twenty years from now, but it's an enjoyable story to read.

So, our heroine, Miriam Beckstein, is more or less being held prisoner on the other side by her family. She is deemed a troublemaker, someone who is too independent and willing and able to shake up the status quo. Check that, she is a *female* who is too independent and will and able to shake up the status quo. And females, especially those who have returned from "exile" in our familiar reality and who end up being royalty, just don't do that sort of thing. So, the Countess Helge voh Thorold d'Hjorth, er, Miriam, is being trained in the ways of her family, royalty, and world in general.

And she doesn't like it one bit.

So what does she do? Well, what she does best--she goes out and causes trouble and gets mixed up in things that she shouldn't, and finally gets caught doing something so stupid to get some information about a breeding program that will produce more world- walkers (those that can walk between our world and her family's and others--more on that later), that she is essentially put under house arrest until she learns her place and role, and learns how to behave. And in the process, she learns about how things *really* work over there in terms of marriage and political power--by finding out that her mother, whom she trusted (and who lived on our side for over 30 years) has sold her up the river. The upshot is that she is to be the bride in an arranged marriage to the "Idiot", the brain-damaged son of the king. The poor kid was apparently fed aspartame when he was an infant, and that caused the damage.

Back on our side, we've captured one of the Clan's couriers, Matthias, a guy that Helge, er, Miriam, met in one of the earlier books of the series. our guys, the good guys, have formed an organization to investigate Clan workings and find a way to travel over to the other side to infiltrate the Clan. It seems that we think that the Clan is a threat to us, given that they traffic in, among other things illegal drugs. Matthias breaks out of his cell, and in the process we find out that there are nuclear explosives planted around our country, waiting to go off if Matthias isn't let go. All sorts of fun stuff.

For those that have been following the series, you'll remember the third world, which Miriam dubbed New Britain. Miriam started a business over there to generate profit for the Clan. She manages to go there before she gets in trouble, and finds that her business is in a bit of shambles given that she hasn't been there to run it. We find out that *that* world has nuclear weapons ("corpuscular bombs"). Makes us wonder where Matthias got his. And there's some other shady stuff going on there too. Heck, there's shady stuff everywhere.

One of the interesting little tidbits that could be lost if the reader is not paying attention is that there are indeed many worlds to travel to. If you remember, Miriam got into this mess in the first book by staring at a fancy pattern in a locket. Well, it turns out that if you alter that pattern, you get a different world. Kind of cool, and something I'd like to see Stross explore in later books in the series.

I have mixed feelings about this series. The concept has been done before in Zelazny's Amber series, but of course with a different twist. Amber was definitely fantasy, while The Merchant Princes is definitely science fiction in fantasy clothing. So, while the world walking provides a plot device, it's nothing new. And it seems that Stross has basically just written one big old novel and broken it up into six parts, arbitrarily picking points to break it up into marketable pieces. These books do not and cannot stand alone, and at least in the case of THE CLAN CORPORATE, I don't quite know what the overall story of this installment is supposed to be. It's just like Stross thought, "Okay, this one will start here, and end there, and we'll put a title on it, and my fans will buy it."

Then again, it *is* a nice little read. It's enjoyable. I like Miriam and some of the other characters. I dislike the characters I'm supposed to dislike, and there's ample reason to do so. The story itself is not anything that will win awards and like I said, have people talking 20 years from now, but does that matter? Probably not, since 95% of all books are that way, I think.

There are three more books in the series, and Stross may decide to write more later on. It won't be a bad thing. It'll be okay.

Just like this book. [-jak]

[Joe will be appearing on a panel at Capricon in Chicago this weekend, dealing with watching the TV series "Flashforward" and comparing it to the Sawyer novel. -ecl]

PHYLLIS AND HAROLD (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Cindy Kline is a filmmaker fascinated by her parents' dysfunctional marriage. In a previous film, TIL DEATH DO US PART (1998, a 20-minute short), she interviewed her parents trying to get to the core of what made their relationship so rocky. Later following the death of her father she could get more from her mother about their problems. Now she can tell a more complete story in PHYLLIS AND HAROLD. Ironically, what she tells us of her parents and what we can see are diametrically opposed. Cindy's conclusions are directly at odds with the evidence on the screen, and the entire story is surprisingly compelling for such a modest effort. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Over the years when she was growing up, Cindy Kline and her sister Ricky were caught in the battles between her parents. Outwardly they seemed at one time an attractive couple. Harold's profession as a dentist allowed them to live very comfortably and to travel extensively throughout the world. They should have been an ideal pairing. But secretly and not so secretly they were in a constant state of conflict. Cindy interviews the two of them and tries to put some meaning onto the discord. The two seem opposites. Harold is quiet and at least in front of the camera is easy going. Phyllis is talkative and acerbic. From early in the film a pattern becomes clear. Phyllis's descriptions are punctuated with sharp verbal jabs at Harold. Harold stoically takes the abuse and gives none back.

For example, Phyllis will say Harold would send "what he considered love letters." Apparently they did not meet her high standards for what constitutes "love letters." Through the years she benefitted from being married to Harold, but usually escaped from any responsibilities as part of the relationship. In the early days when Harold was struggling financially, Phyllis spent weeks looking for a job and then quit the job she found after only one day. She has children by Harold, but then does not want to raise them herself and hires a nanny. For ten years Cindy was closer to the nanny than she was to Phyllis.

In the interviews Phyllis complains about Harold's supposed bad behavior and his faults. Harold says nothing about Phyllis that is not sympathetic. He is proud of his accomplishments, his investments, and how he can provide for his family. He is a simple man and something of a romantic, supporting his wife and ignoring the digs.

The film takes some twists. Apparently Phyllis had an affair with a married man with whom she is still in love. The daughters tell her she should have followed her love without much consideration to what it would have done to their family, especially their father. Little incidents boil up from the past. Cindy as a young girl sees a baby and her mother has to tell her that babies do not stay cute for long and they grow into ugly teenagers. Phyllis throughout is domineering and self-obsessed. Even as Cindy makes the film she seems unable to see how destructive Phyllis was. If Harold has a similar negative side, we see little of it in the film. He may be clumsy, but he is a romantic.

The film has the uneven style that might be expected of an inexperience filmmaker. We get some makeshift animation that may be intended to lighten the tone. It is mostly of the photographic style that Terry Gilliam would use for the early Monty Python episodes. Somehow it seems like it belongs in another, perhaps lighter, film. Some of the sound recording is crudely done and a little hard to understand. Some of the scenes go on too long without giving us new information. The use of home movies intercut with the scenes of the present are a familiar touch and the home movies could have been better chosen, but they give a feel for the time period of the narrative.

Cindy Klein give us a picture of herself as a woman who grew up in a household that had the assumption that it is the husband's responsibility to make the wife happy, but not the reverse. She seems unaware that she maintains that prejudice throughout the film, and it may reflect badly on her, but it gives the film its interest. I rate PHYLLIS AND HAROLD a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:


Bears and THE BEAR (letter of comment by Al Stoops):

In response to Mark's 1989 review of THE BEAR, Al Stoops writes:

Just read your review of "The Bear" at

I appreciated your honest comment: "The bear's voice was dubbed after shooting and seems often to be unrealistically expressive, though I do not have sufficient knowledge of bears to decide if that is really true." My wife and I enjoyed watching the movie (and especially enjoyed watching some of the filming of how the movie was made). But we do have sufficient knowledge of bears to find the depictions of the bears' voices to be distracting. Sort of like as if we were watching a movie that had the dogs crowing like roosters or mooing like cows! My wife (Sue Mansfield) studies black bears with Dr. Lynn Rogers in Ely, MN. Bears (grizzlies as well as black bears) never open their mouths to roar--if fact, they don't really roar, or growl. The movie was made by getting the (trained) bears to open their mouths, then dubbing in roaring sounds (maybe a lion's roar?). One of the goals of Dr. Rogers' work is to dispel many of the misconceptions people have about bears. Recently they were able to set up a video camera looking into a wild black bear's den, and thousands of people were able to watch the birth (and subsequent maternal care) of a black bear cub." [-as]

Mark replies:

That is a pity. I do like the film. But that is a cheap touch. I guess they felt that giving the bears understandable emotions was more important than accuracy. That is not defending them, but I can see why they did it. [-mrl]

And Al says:

It is not the only place in movies and other media where I've seen such things, but I don't remember the names of the others I've seen. Actually, I can't remember any at all where bears were depicted accurately. Bears get depicted with their mouths open and teeth bared in taxidermy mounts, on the covers of Time and other magazines, and elsewhere. Apparently people assume that bears must do that (they don't) since cats, dogs, and their wild relatives do. Since people expect it, the media continue to give people what they expect, thus perpetuating the myth. That is only one of many widely-believed bear myths. Another is that is it dangerous to get between a mother bear and her cubs. True of grizzly bears, but not black bears. Almost all the bears people see in populated areas of North America are black bears.


Hope I'm not writing too much, but I also am bothered that frogs in the media always make the same "ribbit" sound. I couldn't find any online links relating to this directly, but I have a book somewhere (by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas) that explores this myth. Most of the hundreds of kinds of frogs make non-ribbit sounds, but the "generic" frog call comes from a species that happens to live in southern California. I now live in northern Minnesota, recently moved from New Hampshire. None of the ten species of frogs that I've heard in those places make a sound remotely like "ribbit", but most people living there seem to believe that frogs say "ribbit". Go figure.... [-as]

AVATAR (letter of comment by Wendy Sheridan):

In response to Mark's comments on plot similarities between AVATAR and DANCES WITH WOLVES and other films in the 02/05/10 issue of the MT VOID, Wendy Sheridan writes, "Yes, those are all salient points. It was the Magic Tree (the Mothertree--or whatever it was called-- in AVATAR, and Grandmother Willow in POCAHONTAS) that made the story comparison even closer (and funnier). Nobody was communing with trees in DUNE or DANCES WITH WOLVES." [-ws]

Thrillers and POCAHONTAS (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's comments on thrillers in the 02/05/10 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I rather like TEN LITTLE INDIANS (the original title was rather racist) by Agatha Christie. I first read the novel--over and over. In 1977, I got to be in a production of that with a director who was the best I'd worked with, and a tight cast, playing the judge. It is, I think, debatable whether Christie played fair with the audience, but I don't think there are any holes that will cause them to see through everything too early. It has a nice way of getting you to suspect someone and then removing them from consideration. And by 'nice,' I mean 'neat,' not 'pleasant,' or 'kind.' [-kw]

And in response to comments on similarities between films, Kip writes:

When I was watching POCAHONTAS in the theater, I kept thinking of WEST SIDE STORY. Not just the plot, but the numbers. There was, for instance the scene where Ms. Hontas is telling Captain Hunky about the homespun virtues of her land, which could have gone something like:

"I like to be in A-mer-i-ca!
Everyone free in A-mer-i-ca!
We're all PC in A-mer-i-ca!
No PCB in A-mer-i-ca!"

SPOILER: Naq yngre ba, bs pbhefr, gurer'f gur jubyr "n obl yvxr gung / jub xrry lbhe oebgure..." ovg. [-kw]

[You can decode ROT13 at -ecl]

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

REPLAY by Ken Grimwood (ISBN-13 978-0-688-16112-5) is one of those books from which everyone remembers the plot but not the title or author. From the rec.arts.sf.written FAQ (on frequent book identification requests): "The protagonist of this novel lives through a "time loop" wherein he would die, return to his youth (only a little later each time), live a new life each time, but always die and re-commence a cycle. In the course of one life he encountered a woman who experiences the same phenomenon." I re- read this because it was the companion work to the film GROUNDHOG DAY for the Middletown film-book group (*not* the science fiction group). (This was probably chosen because the regular meeting date was, in fact, Groundhog Day.)

In one iteration, Jeff Winston (the protagonist) and another "replayer" place an ad in 1964 or so to try to find more people like them: "Do you remember Watergate? Lady Di? The shuttle disaster? The Ayatollah? ROCKY? FLASHDANCE? If so, you're not alone. Contact P.O. Box 1988, New York, N.Y. 10001"

I do like the fact that Grimwood gets it right in that there is a ZIP code, but the state is still the old style abbreviation rather than just a two-letter code. The ad itself reminds me of the ad placed in Isaac Asimov's THE END OF ETERNITY in the 1930s in an attempt to find people from the future, using a mushroom cloud which would be meaningless to anyone not from the future.

One major difference between REPLAY and GROUNDHOG DAY is that in REPLAY, Jeff Winston relives a much longer period of time (twenty- five years the first time, then gradually decreasing) and so can effect much more change. On the other hand, he only gets a dozen or so iterations. In GROUNDHOG DAY, Phil gets thousands of iterations (think about how long it would take him to learn to play the piano that well), but only a day each time.

The group got into a discussion of 1) why Phil breaks out of the loop, and 2) whether the worlds created by all the different days continue. In REPLAY, the replayers postulate that each of the timelines they create continue after they cycle back. This is conceivable, because they die in one timeline before cycling back, so there is no duplication of consciousness. And it makes it more bearable for them to believe that their loved ones continue on rather than flash into nothingness. But in GROUNDHOG DAY, Phil does *not* die (at least in most of them) before cycling back. One could accept parallel Phils, of course--all the other characters have parallels. But the problem is tied into the first question: why does Phil break out of the loop? If, as seems to be implied, he breaks out because of some internal emotional change, then he cannot continue in each of the thousands of timelines (and hence have every copy of himself break out of the loop), because then there is no change required of him, the change has no effect, and in fact one could postulate that while we have seen Phil-38,427 (e.g.) break out, there is a Phil-38,428 who wakes up back at 6:00AM February 2 again, and a Phil-36,429, and so on. The film's ending implies that when and only when Phil reforms, then he can break out. To have multiple continuing timelines means that this ending is a cheat.

Another similar work is "Shadow Play" (an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE). In it, Dennis Weaver keeps looping through the same dream, but in this version, there are variations each day--the same people, but in different roles. And it is a dream, not a parallel timeline. Similarly, the main character in DEAD OF NIGHT is not really looping around in time, but merely having deja vu. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           If two men agree on everything, you may be sure 
           that one of them is doing the thinking.
                                           -- Lyndon Baines Johnson

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