Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/23/04 -- Vol. 22, No. 43

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

	Seven with One Blow (announcement)
	Degrees of Science Fiction Fandom (comments
		by Mark R. Leeper)
	Cattle Wars (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
	The English Language (letter of comment by Jerry Ryan)
	TIMELINE (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)
	CALLAHAN'S LADY by Spider Robinson (book review
		by Joe Karpierz)
	This Week's Reading (Exodus, THE SUN ALSO RISES, THE TRIAL,
		and PALADIN OF SOULS) (book comments by
		Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Seven with One Blow (announcement)

Well, not exactly seven, but two.  But you can hit both Leepers
with one e-mail address.  You can address your mail to  Or you can just send to if you just want to talk to the brains of
the operation, or if you want the one with
the good looks.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Degrees of Science Fiction Fandom (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Well, the Hugo nominees for this year are out.  That means my days
as a "second-degree science fiction fan" are probably numbered.
It was good while it lasted.   What is a second-degree fan?  I
defined degrees of fandom many years ago.  The first-degree fan
reads the Hugo-winning novel even before it was nominated for a
Hugo.  The second-degree fan read it once it is nominated, but
before it wins a Hugo.  A third-degree fan reads the Hugo-winning
novel after it wins, but before the next year's Hugo nominations.
A fourth-degree fan, retroactively named, reads the Hugo-winning
novel at some point in the future.  A fifth-degree fan has seen
THE MATRIX.  (It used to be STAR WARS but I am told that today's
younger fans have decided that STAR WARS is no good and what rules
is THE MATRIX.  Only us old fogies still prefer STAR WARS.)  Years
ago I felt cheated.  I read all the novels nominated but BLUE
MARS.  I had read RED MARS, but was not going to read two long
novels for one nominee.  Wouldn't you know, BLUE MARS got the
Hugo.  Last year I read only HOMINIDS and by gosh it won.  I
wonder if I should extend degrees of fandom to the Retro-Hugos.


TOPIC: Cattle Wars (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Hmmmm.  It says here in the news that a cattleman wants to test
his cattle for mad cow disease and the government is prohibiting
him.  Wait.  I must have that wrong.  That must be backwards.
Surely it is the government that wants him to test his cattle and
the cattleman is refusing.  No.  That is not what it says.  It is
the cattleman who wants his cattle tested and the government that
does not want buyers to know if the cattle are sick or not.  Can
that be possible?  I mean surely the government is put in place by
us taxpayers to look out for our interests.  How can it be
possible that they would ever be against testing?  Well, I guess
that is how things are in the topsy-turvy looking glass world of
politics under the current administration.  What is the story

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a meatpacker based in Kentucky,
wants to certify the beef it sells as being free of mad cow
disease.  Now that seems like a good idea to me.  They are doing
it not so much for American market but for the Japanese market who
insist that all beef that is imported is certified free of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy.  Well, maybe American consumers are not
going to reap the benefits, but it seems like a fair request on
the part of the Japanese.  And if Creekstone wants to test its own
cattle at its own expense then the United States government should
and would cooperate.  Right?  No.  It seems the United States
Department of Agriculture is not cooperating.  Well, that's got to
mean that they are just too busy.  Well, no, it seems that they
disagree on principle with allowing cattle to be tested for mad
cow disease.  They are telling Creekstone that they have to send
the cattle to market without testing them.  Why?  Well, apparently
like God, the Cattle Industry requires faith.  Yeah, that's it.
It is a lot like God.  The Cattle Industry feels that to actually
test cattle for sickness constitutes a denial of faith in Them.
If They allow one company to prove its safety, it cold lead to a
crisis of faith in beef all across the United States.

Alisa Harrison of the USDA says "We are looking at what the
consensus of international experts is when it comes to testing,
and that consensus is that 100 percent testing is not justified."
Creekstone is not asking for 100 percent testing, of course.  They
are only asking for the beef they are selling Japan to be tested.
Still apparently the Department of Agriculture agrees with Cattle
Industry reasoning that faith in beef is better, possibly as a
part of President Bush's Faith-based Initiative.  After all if one
producer of beef proves its safety, where will it all end?
Perhaps tomorrow another beef producer who sells to a foreign
market will want to certify his cattle as safe.  Then what happens
if some of this certified safe beef accidentally leaks into the
American market.  It could lead to disaster.  You could end up
with proven-safe beef popping up all over the country.  People
might start using it as a selling point that their beef is
certified safe of mad cow disease.  That could lead to a crisis of
faith all over the country.  Marketers of certified beef (CB)
might start using it to get a competitive advantage over sellers
of faith-based beef (FBB).  The Cattle Industry is still smarting
from wars they have had to fight over small homesteaders putting
up fences on what They have always considered Their open range.
And  after that they had to fight against the onslaught of
sheepherders.  Now this new issue comes up to threaten Them.  They
may figure there is no need to start now a war between CB cattlemen
like Creekstone and the FBB cattlemen.  They might just start
lynching anyone with the gall to test his beef.

The fault is probably not Creekstone Farms.  They cannot afford to
lose a major customer like the Japanese, who are the biggest
foreign market for American beef.  They say they are now losing
$200,000 a day and have laid off around fifty employees due to the
loss of the Japanese market.  They are caught in the uncomfortable
position of having to deal with the Japanese who for some reason
cannot see the logic of accepting FBB when it is easy enough to
test and get CB.  Creekstone has to do business with these
Japanese who figure if they are willing to pay for the
certification process they should be able to buy beef that has
been proven safe.  In some senses I feel sorry for the Japanese
who, coming from a comparatively simple and straightforward
culture like theirs, have to deal with the admittedly weird and
inscrutable Americans.  It is also possible to see it from the
point of view of the Americans who see the insistence on safe food
as just the third major attack on this country from the country
that previously fought WWII against us and then later gave us

References:  and others.  This is a real
news story.  Honest.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: The English Language (letter of comment by Jerry Ryan)

Mark wrote, "For that matter, when someone calls someone else
half-assed, is that better or worse than being fully-assed?  Are
there people who are completely non-assed?  I can see that
anatomically it might be impossible, but might it not still in
some senses be a superior state?"  Jerry Ryan responded, "Somehow,
this would be a posterior state, I would think."


TOPIC: TIMELINE (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Mary Beth Semler wrote me back in January: "I also have a request.
I saw "Timeline" which I quite enjoyed, even though most critics
panned it.  I didn't read the book, so I'm not sure if that was a
factor in their dislike.  I'd be quite interested in your
comments, should you ever choose to review it."

I finally saw TIMELINE, which was just released on DVD.  I found
myself thinking the science was wrong more than usual for a
Crichton story.  Transcription errors would NOT happen the way
they said.  They would be no more likely on the tenth transmission
than on the first.  They don't occur because you have been somehow
weakened by previous transmissions.

They use the analogy of the fax machine for transmission.  A fax
sends the information to make a facsimile rather than sending or
destroying the original.  The original doesn't go anywhere.

The concept of the story finally comes down to hocus-pocus.

The chances that they would end up at a memorable point of history
are minimal.  That made the story somewhat contrived.  Too often
the story relies on coincidence.

On the other hand any film with a recreation of a 14th century
siege can't be all bad.

I like the fact it didn't have a lot of familiar actors.  It meant
they could be the characters, not the characters the actors played
in previous films.  The one familiar face (to me) was David
Thewlis, a fine actor but perhaps even his part should have been
played by an unknown.

I would give TIMELINE a high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: CALLAHAN'S LADY by Spider Robinson (copyright 1989, Ace
Science Fiction, ISBN 0-441-09072-9, 237pp, $3.95) (book review by
Joe Karpierz)




Those are the sounds of my expectations being dismantled.  This
isn't a Callahan book.

Those of you who have read this, please raise your hands.  How
many of you are saying "but wait a minute, there's Jake, and
Eddie, Sally, Mary, and even Callahan himself.

So what?

It's a wolf in sheep's clothing.  It *looks* like a Callahan book,
it smells like a Callahan book (well, maybe not :-) ), and I'd be
willing to bet that if I took a bite out of it it would taste like
a Callahan book.  It's a good thing we didn't step in it (with
apologies to Cheech and Chong).

Let's see, it's got a place where everyone hangs out--Sally's
House.  The main character isn't Sally, it's Maureen (or Sherry,
depending on how you look at it).  There's a parlor where people
tell puns, and there's a fireplace in the parlor.  Sally is in
complete control, and every one listens to and respects her.

Is this Sally's House, or Callahan's Place?  See what I mean?

Given the end of Callahan's Secret, the only way to tell more
stories in the Callahan universe was to go back before the end of
that book and tell more stories.  We were introduced to Sally and
Mary (as well as Sally's staircase) in Callahan's Secret, so what
better place to go to find stories than Sally's House?

You know, this really isn't *that* bad--it's just that I was
expecting something else, although I don't know what that
something else would be.  I guess that part of the problem is that
I don't identify at all with a prostitute, so it's hard to get
into the characters at all.  The basic idea is that Sally's is a
House of some not-ill repute, whose clientele may or may not have
special tastes, and who may or may not be well known, and...wait a
minute, that sounds like what I would think would be a regular

Well, yeah, except this one has a werebeagle (I kid you not) in
its employ, and we all know the truth about Sally from Callahan's
Secret.  I honestly think that those are the two only "fantastic",
if you will, things about the place.

There are four stories in this book that purports to be a novel,
or at least looks like one.  The first "A Very Very Very Fine
House", introduces us to Maureen (who later takes Sherry as her
House name), and how she became an employee of Sally's.  The
second, "Revolver", tells the story of a scientist who's House
name is Colt (he's a client--both employees, or "artists", as
they are called, have House names), and how one of his experiments
goes dreadfully wrong (I dare any male to read this story and
think he'd be in heaven if he were in Colt's shoes).  "The
Paranoid" relates the story of a beautiful scientist who thinks
that, well, everyone is out to take advantage of her.  The final
story, "Dollars to Donuts", is probably the best excursion of the
lot, and relates the story of an old lover of Sherry's who is in
grave danger of having, well, donuts where most guys would rather
not think of donuts being, if you catch my drift.

Again, as with all the Spider Robinson that I've read, the reading
is light and entertaining.  Unfortunately, the humor falls flat,
something that wouldn't happen at Callahan's Place.  [-jak]


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

First, a follow-up on my theory regarding the Ten Commandments:
Someone on another mailing list says that in the original Hebrew
the description given in Exodus 34 is not of commandments (either
"mitzvot" or "chu-kim u'mishpatim"), but simply words or things
("d'varim").  This is an answer of sorts, but I still don't know
why it says that *these* are what was written on the tablets--that
would seem to imply more importance than just plain words.

Second, someone asked for more publication information for the
books if they want to order them.  On the assumption that people
are ordering through a bookstore, I'll try to give an ISBN number
at least, with more information for small press items.

A few weeks ago, I was rather critical of Ernest Hemingway's THE
SUN ALSO RISES (ISBN 0-684-80071-3).  Last week we had the
discussion meeting, and all six other attendees agreed with me--a
unanimous thumbs-down vote.  (In case anyone wants to see this as
gender-based, the group was three men and four women.)  I think I
can safely say we won't be doing more Hemingway soon.  (Our next
books include Joseph Conrad's LORD JIM, Graham Greene's THE END OF
Steinbeck's SWEET THURSDAY, Kate Chopin's THE AWAKENING, Paulo
Coelho's THE ALCHEMIST, Jasper Fforde's THE EYRE AFFAIR, and Franz
Kafka's THE TRIAL.)

However, by coincidence I just finished reading THE TRIAL (ISBN
0-805-21040-7), and what can I say but that it's very ...
Kafkaesque?  What is the strangest thing about the events, I
suppose, is that no one in the novel finds them strange.  For
example, hearings appear to be held not in some fancy government
building, but in a back room in a tenement other occupied by
various members of the lower classes.  The one problem I see in
recommending this book is that its originality will not be as
evident as it was to its original readers, because Kafka has
influenced so many authors since his time.

Daniel M. Jaffe's WITH SIGNS & WONDERS (ISBN 1-931-22930-9,
Invisible Cities Press) is an anthology of "international Jewish
fabulist fiction."  I think that means halfway between fantasy and
magical realism, but even if not, that's a reasonable description.
I don't think this would appeal to everyone, but it seems a
reasonable representation of this sub-genre.  (The idea that a
small press in Montpelier, Vermont, published this is almost as
odd as that Martin Gidron's alternate history about Yiddish
culture, THE SEVERED WING, was published by Livingston Press at
the University of West Alabama.)

(ISBN 0-385-51210-4) will undoubtedly be compared to Elizabeth
Moon's THE SPEED OF DARK by those reviewers who have read the
latter.  However, since Moon's book is science fiction and this is
not, most mainstream reviewers probably will not have read the
Moon.  Both are about people with autism (Asperger's Syndrome),
but there the similarity ends.  THE SPEED OF DARK is told by a
third-person narrator, and is set in a future when major medical
advances have been made regarding autism, while THE CURIOUS
INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is told in the first person
by its main character in what is very much the present.  Only in
the sense that the main characters have similar personalities are
the books similar.  Since they seem to have consistent views of
how autism affects people, and since both authors have direct
experience with autistic individuals, I am assuming the portrayals
are reasonable.  In Haddon's book, the narrator (Christopher John
Francis Boone) is a fan of Sherlock Holmes (because he thinks
Holmes has a lot of the same personality traits as he does).  But
though it starts as a mystery, the mystery is solved relatively
early, and the book is more about Boone's learning to cope with
his family and with the world at large.  Perhaps because of the
first-person narration by someone whose though processes are very
different than mine, I was reminded more of FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON.
(I hasten to add that this is not because Boone has a lower
intelligence than average--it's quite the opposite, in fact.)  For
readers who want books examining "alien" ways of thinking, this is
a reminder that sometimes other human beings can be the most alien
of all.

Another book marketed as mainstream is Audrey Niffenegger's THE
TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE (ISBN=1-931-56164-8), but this *is* science
fiction.  (It's so mainstream-marketed, in fact, that the book is
a selection of the "Today Show Book Club".)  Henry has "Chrono-
Displacement Disorder--he spontaneously time-travels, both
backwards and forwards.  He first meets Clare in 1997; she first
meets him in 1968.  (She does not time-travel.)  So in 1991, she
has many years of memories of him, and he doesn't know her at all.
But because he has been time-traveling since 1968, he doesn't have
a major problem accepting this.  Niffenegger seems to take a lot
of time working out all the variations.  For example, Henry time-
travels back to 1981 before he time-travels back to 1977, so this
is why in 1981 Clare remembers him [again] while he doesn't know
her.  Or Henry time-travels back and meets an older version of
himself, also time-traveling back.  Niffenegger doesn't consider
this a paradox, though interestingly she does limit the time-
traveling to just Henry's body--no clothes or even (we discover
later) tooth fillings.  (She does gloss over the problems inherent
in finding yourself somewhere with no clothes--there seems to be a
convenient clothesline, locker, or even trash bin with clothing in
it more frequently than one would find in real life.)

Of course, the reason I say all this is that I am reading this
with the protocols of a hard science fiction novel rather than
with those of a mainstream novel about the relationship between a
couple, which is what it is.  The problem is that I find it more
interesting as a hard science fiction novel, even if it is going
over somewhat familiar ground, than as a mainstream romance novel.
(Robert A. Heinlein would have loved it--take "All You Zombies"
and "By His Bootstraps", add some explicit sex, and bingo!)

If you are a fan of time travel novels, I recommend this just for
all the convolutions.  If you're not, I can't say it did much for
me on any other level.

And one non-review: I am working my way through the Hugo and
Retro-Hugo nominees.  I read 150 pages of Lois McMaster Bujold's
PALADIN OF SOULS before giving up.  (And, yes, I had read the
first book in the series, THE CURSE OF CHALION.)  I understand
that a lot of people liked this, but for me it was the Eight
Deadly Words Effect that killed it: "I don't care what happens to
these people."  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

            The three great apostles of practical atheism,
            that make converts without persecuting, and
            retain them without preaching, are wealth,
            health, and power.
                                           -- C. C. Colton

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-->
Buy Ink Cartridges or Refill Kits for your HP, Epson, Canon or Lexmark
Printer at  Free s/h on orders $50 or more to the US & Canada.

Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to: