Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/05/07 -- Vol. 26, No. 14, Whole Number 1461

 El Presidente: Mark Leeper,
 The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper,
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

        A New Look (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Top Ten Westerns (Part 2) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
                by John Stanley (book review by Mark R. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (THE GODS THEMSELVES,
                the Oresteia, and a request) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: A New Look (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Scientists have discovered that velociraptors--the dinosaur made
famous by Steven Spielberg's 1993 film JURASSIC PARK--actually had
feathers just like they will in all future re-releases of Steven
Spielberg's 1993 film JURASSIC PARK.



TOPIC: Top Ten Westerns (Part 2) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I am continuing my list of my favorite Western films.  The reader
may have noticed that I am listing the film in chronological
order and may find it odd that I have listed no pre-1952
Westerns.  The fact is that the Western changed a great deal with
the addition of color.  That was a large enough change by itself,
but it also brought style and theme changes.  The John Ford/John
Wayne cavalry Westerns were good, but I have to think that after
color came in and the two Johns made films together like the
(non-Western) THE QUIET MAN their films together became richer in
character and theme.  Their best film together was probably THE
MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962), which was back in black and
white, but still was a very different sort of film from the
cavalry films.  In any case the Western changed a lot in the 1950s
and it is closer to my taste.

Complicating the matter of making this list is that it assumes
that it is easy to tell what films are and are not Westerns.  For
seem to have a cowboys, but they lack some of the tropes and feel
of Westerns.  They just are modern stories set in the West.  On
the other hand QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is a Western in all aspects but
for the fact that it takes place in Australia.  I am picking
films that are Westerns and I like them as Westerns, not as good
dramas set in the West.  Further I am choosing films I like, not
ones that I accept as good but do not like as much.  For example,
THE SEARCHERS is probably a very good film.  It may be better
than some of the films I chose, but it only partially works for
me.  The following films work better.

The best of the spaghetti Westerns is still low on my top ten
list.  I think that the characters are thin and that it is more
an excuse to string together visually highly dramatic Western
scenes.  I do not think we ever get to know his characters beyond
them being types.  This film, however, does show some historic
scope and is a sort of elegy on the death of the frontier and the
coming of modern times.  It is like a collection of the great
Western film ideas without having a really good story in itself.
But it is still engrossing.

Clint Eastwood directed and played the main character.  Josie
Wales, once a simple Kansas farmer, was turned into a dedicated
guerilla fighter in the Civil War.  At the end of the war his
commander betrays his whole band to be betrayed and murdered by
vengeful Union soldiers.  Wales gets his revenge, but in doing so
becomes an outlaw and fugitive.  The bulk of the film is his
flight through the post-War southwest with an accent on the
unusual characters, many of whom are unforgettable.  The final
sequence is for me one of the most memorable scenes of the
Western film.

I tried to watch this film and gave up two or three times over
years before I got into the rhythms of its lazy pacing.  I now
see that as part of its charm.  Two former Texas Rangers go on an
epic 2500-mile cattle drive from Texas to the newly opened lands
of Montana.  Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones play two
fascinating characters.  At an epic six hours the film won
seven Emmys after the novel it was based on won the Pulitzer

In an ironic and bitter film Clint Eastwood again directs
himself.  The film comments on the violence of his early Westerns
and on the myths of the West.  A reformed gunfighter who is not
what he seems straps on his guns to avenge an incident that is
not what it seems and kill some people, some of whom are
innocent.  Gene Hackman plays a psychotic and sadistic sheriff of
a small town.  Again Eastwood stars and directs.  This is a
complex and very intelligent script making for an excellent film.

I did not have high expectations for this film since it seemed to
be a me-too film trading off the notoriety of Kevin Costner's
upcoming WYATT EARP.  All of a sudden there was another film
about the Earps and the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.  The
director, George P. Cosmatos, had previously made RAMBO and
COBRA, action films that I did not greatly respect.  However of
the many film portrayals of the notorious gunfight--and there are
more than twenty--this one is probably the closest to what really
happened.  The film is entertaining.  No little part of the
success of the film comes from Val Kilmer who takes the role of
the most interesting character of any OK Corral film, Doc

Of these five films and the five I listed last week--HIGH NOON,
available on DVD.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Never-before-seen footage of the Apollo space program
and interviews with nine astronauts give new life the story of
how the US put men on the moon.  Personal interviews with several
astronauts tell much more than most of us have known about the
adventure and experience of going to the moon.  This is an
enthralling documentary even if you have seen the story told
before.  Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

I would guess that in my lifetime I have seen what must be fifty
different retellings of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  I have to say that
the prospect of seeing yet another new retelling of Charles
Dickens's story is just not greatly exciting to me.  On the other
hand, the story of the Apollo mission to land on the moon I have
seen not nearly as many times.  People have questioned whether
that story of the space program really needs another retelling.
If the story gives me new information that is compelling, my
answer is yes.  To me IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is at once more
real and more compelling than previous attempts at the same
material.  So the idea of a new telling with so much photographic
footage that has not been seen before is worth seeing.  In IN THE
SHADOW OF THE MOON British director David Sington pieces together
some familiar footage and some footage never seen publicly
before.  With insets of explanations by nine astronauts who
actually have been to the moon, it tells the experience of being
in the Apollo space program and the effort to put men on the

As the film reminds us, the Apollo mission took place in
troubling times.  We were fighting the Vietnam War, which had a
supposed goal to stave off all of Southeast Asia going communist.
There was the frightening prospect of nuclear war with the
Soviets.  There were a lot of possible futures and some were not
very inviting.  But the people of the space program were working
to make possible a much more positive and exciting future.  It
was the idealistic future we had read about in science fiction
that included the adventure of space exploration.  This effort to
reach the moon was "great" in just about every meaning that word
has.  It was making our country great when racial tension and a
badly fought war was bringing us down.  The subtext of IN THE
SHADOW OF THE MOON is that perhaps it is time to be great like
that again.

Think about it.  The solar system has almost nine planets and
maybe a couple more further out.  But Earth has the largest moon
in proportion to its size in the solar system we know of.  The
pair of Earth and its moon is, in fact, nearly a double planet.
Without the presence of a big moon advanced life could not have
evolved.  The moon has had a vital role in the formation of
conditions on Earth.  And from 1968 to 1972 some people were
privileged to actually go to this near planet.  Using new
footage, some of it fairly rough, IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON shows
us what it was like to go to the moon.  And it has eyewitness
accounts by astronauts who have actually gone to the moon.  They
may not have actually been on the Apollo 11 flight itself, but
their experiences have been very similar.  So this is probably
the most complete telling of what it was like to go to the moon:
what did it feel like?  What thoughts went through the minds of
the men as they prepared to ride and then did ride these giant
rockets that took them to another celestial body.  The story is
familiar from documentaries on PBS and at museums takes on whole
a whole new feeling when seen from different eyes.

The film is mostly the story of the Apollo project from inception
to the Apollo 11 mission in which Neil Armstrong became the first
man to walk on the moon.  However, in the interview insets with
Jim Lovell it also tells a little of what had to be done to save
the three astronauts on Apollo 13.  Since the moon astronauts
have a great deal of commonality of experience, their reactions
to their own missions apply in large part the to Apollo 11
mission also.  Participating in the interviews are Buzz Aldrin
and Mike Collins from that mission and Alan Bean, Gene Cernan,
Charlie Duke, Jim Lovell, Ed Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt, and Dave
Scott.  Notably missing is the now-reclusive Neil Armstrong
himself.  These men are mostly in their 70s and three moon
astronauts are already dead.  Their age proclaims the degree to
which we have abandoned the exploration of space.

One minor complaint is that after the first few appearances in
interview insets, the astronauts are no longer identified by name
and frequently one forgets who is it who is speaking.  A
particular surprise is the presentation of Mike Collins, the
Apollo 11 astronaut who had to stay behind in the lunar orbiter.
On screen he shows a great deal of personality and wit.  But it
is a fine opportunity to get to know several of the lunar
astronauts and to ride with them to the moon.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is a satisfying documentary I rate a
low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.  By the way, the claim is
false that no science fiction writer foretold that the whole
world would be watching when the first man landed on the moon.
In fact the comic strip Alley Oop portrayed it just that way.

Film Credits:



by John Stanley (copyright 2007, Creatures At Large, trade
paperback, 208pp, $19.99, ISBN-13 978-0940-06-411-9, ISBN-10
0-9400-6411-1) (book review by Mark R. Leeper)

For those who were not around at the time, a lot of baby boomer
horror fans got their start watching the horror film packages
distributed to television starting around the late 1950s.  I know
I lived from one Saturday night to the next looking forward to my
first chance to see some film like HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN that I
had read about in FAMOUS MONSTER OF FILMLAND magazine.  In
Springfield, Massachusetts the Late Show would just have a
science fiction or horror film every Saturday night.  The larger
stations made it a weekly program with a host who went by a name
like Ghoulardi or Svenghouli, usually in some weird costume.

The San Francisco area had a little more class.  KTVU out of
Oakland broadcast CREATURE FEATURES with its host Bob Wilkins.
When horror hosts like Zacherley and Vampira were dressing up in
Halloween costumes and doing skits, Wilkins looked relatively
normal underplayed the horror host role with a sort of Bob
Newhart deadpan style.  His slogan was "Watch horror films...
Keep America Strong."  I enjoyed Wilkins a lot when I was at
Stanford from 1972 to 1974.  KTVU had John Stanley as the host of
CREATURE FEATURES from 1979 to 1984 after Wilkins left.
Unfortunately, I never saw John Stanley on the air.  As far as I
can tell John Stanley carried the Wilkins tradition of the laid-
back style.  (Oddly, each looks like he has a portrait somewhere
doing all his aging for him.)  Stanley also published a guide to
the kind of films he would show, JOHN STANLEY'S CREATURE FEATURES

That brings me to John Stanley's current book, I WAS A TV HORROR
HOST.  As the name suggests, this is a memoir of his years as a
horror host--probably the first memoir of a horror host.  It
covers a lot more including the history of horror hostdom going
back to radio hosts like Raymond on "The Inner Sanctum".

A little over half of the book chronicles John Stanley's
adventures interviewing the major names associated with media
fantasy in the 1970s.  Several people associated with Star Trek
and Star Wars were his guests.  He interviewed Ray Harryhausen,
Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Vincent Price, Roger Corman, and John
Newland (the host of TV's "One Step Beyond").  He finishes
Christopher Lee, William Castle, George Romero, and Boris
Karloff's daughter.

The interviews are not in any great depth.  Certainly they are
not in the depth of Tom Weaver's interviews in numerous books
published by McFarland.  But as Stanley's interviews were
interruptions of the evenings' Creature Feature, they were kept
brief with some interesting tidbits.

What do I like and not like about the book.  Let us start with
what I liked.

-- I have rarely seen the subject of television horror hosts
covered in book form anywhere else.  There was a legion of them
(and Stanley lists most in the book) and there must have been
some good stories about them and their stations.

-- John Stanley illustrates the book with a treasury stills.
Every page has a photo and some have as many as three.

-- The price tag of this book is $19.99.  Unfortunately most
books on popular media of the past years seem to be published by
Scarecrow Press or their clone McFarland.  This is the sort of
book that McFarland might publish.  They would tone down the
silly title fonts, make sure it had the index it really needed,
sandwich it between hardcovers, and slap a $55 price tag on it.
McFarland has a great line of media books, many of which I would
love to own, but I am only a poor corrupt official.  I slightly
prefer Stanley's less dignified format and his $20 price tag is
as nostalgic as the book itself is.

-- Stanley does a good job of covering the subject of horror
hosting, and the popular horror including hosts of the past like.

-- John Stanley has an infectious enthusiasm that comes through
in the book.

-- I frequently find factual errors in books about the old horror
films.  Stanley seems fairly careful with his facts.  Stanley is
a fan of the horror genre and has an encyclopedic knowledge.
Through the book John Stanley's positive personality comes
through and lights up the entire narrative.  He is the biggest
asset of his own book.

Now what about the negatives?

-- The biggest fault is that book has no index.  Perhaps Stanley
felt his book was supposed to be just light reading and did not
need one.  Flipping through pages is no substitute for knowing
what page to go to find the comments about Christopher Lee or
Robert Bloch.

-- There are many more attempted jokes than actual laughs.  This
is, of course, a matter of taste and probably is in the tradition
of CREATURE FEATURES.  And I have the same problem with my jokes.

-- I was not looking for Stanley to dish dirt, but he seems
unrelentingly positive on all the celebrities he discusses.  Here
and there he tells an anecdote that maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger
would not like if he were not Arnold Schwarzenegger.  But Stanley
seems to have no pet peeves, no axes to grind, and he had no
problems with the celebrities with whom he dealt.  He likes
everybody, so his narrative feels a little sugar-coated and
perhaps not a good source for insight.

For those who want to understand the state of popular fantasy in
the 1970s or to just reminisce about the period this book is
worth the modest purchase price.

Admission: I have not finished reading the book yet.  What is
left I am going to save to read only on Saturday evenings while
watching good (or bad) horror films.  [-mrl]


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

THE GODS THEMSELVES by Isaac Asimov (ISBN-13 978-0-553-28810-0,
ISBN-10 0-553-28810-5) is so old that the *hardback* I checked
out of the library had a cover price of $5.95.  But that's the
way it is with the library discussion books--we cannot request
current books via interlibrary loan.  The irony is that most of
the older books have been "de-accessioned"--i.e., gotten rid of.
Only classics like Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein seem to avoid
this fate.  (We wanted to read a Robert Silverberg, but there
were not enough copies of any one Silverberg book to go around.)

Asimov has one of his characters say, "It is a mistake to suppose
that the public wants the environment protected or their lives
saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will
fight for such ends.  What the public wants is their own
individual comfort.  We know that well enough from our experience
in the environmental crisis of the twentieth century.  Once it
was well known that cigarettes increased the incidence of lung
cancer, the obvious remedy was to stop smoking, but the desired
remedy was a cigarette that did not encourage cancer.  When it
became clear that the internal-combustion engine was polluting
the atmosphere dangerously, the obvious remedy was to abandon
such engines, and the desired remedy was to develop non-polluting
engines."  This was true in 1972 when he wrote it and it is true
now.  Sugar is bad, so we don't cut back on sweeteners--we invent
cyclamates, and saccharine, and Equal, and Splenda.  We want sugar
with the bad effects.  Fat is bad, so we don't cut back on fat--
we develop Olestra.  But why not?  There is nothing inherently
wrong with cigarettes or internal combustion engines.  If one
could make an internal combustion engine that ran on grass and
did not pollute, why not?  People used to get sick drinking water
until they figured out how to purify it--should they have just
given up on water?

But my real problem with this book is its treatment of gender.
The first section has no female characters.  The second has a
"three-sex" alien race, except that it is obvious that two are
male and one is female.  And the males are the "Rational" and the
"Parental", while the "Emotional" is the female.  Now, the main
"Emotional" is exceptional, but the rest of the "Emotionals" are
flighty ditzes.  This is what passed for well-written gender
roles back then?  (There is a female character in the third
section.  She is a tour guide, sort of a glorified stewardess.)

THE GODS THEMSELVES was supposedly Asimov's way of showing that
he could write alien aliens, and sex scenes.  Reading it now (and
probably even then), it is clear he could not, but this still won
a Hugo for its year.  Go figure.

I cannot call MASTERS OF DECEPTION by Al Seckel (ISBN-13
978-1-402-70577-9, ISBN-10 1-402-70577-8) a "must-read"--it is
more of a "must-see".  (Well, what else would you expect of an
art book?)  Seckel covers all sorts of deceptive art.  There are
the optical illusions (e.g. the patterns that make straight lines
appear to be curved).  There is anamorphic art, in which the
picture can only be seen from an angle or with a curved mirror.
There are metamorphoses (e.g. a long row of birds which gradually
change into lizards).  There are impossible objects, such as the
Penrose triangle.  M. C. Escher is often thought of when
discussing the latter, but in fact did only three drawings along
those lines: "Ascending/Descending", "Belvedere", and
"Waterfall".  And there are other forms, too complicated to
describe.  Many are three-dimensional and there is a web site which has videos of them
viewed from various angles.  But while the art is the heart of
the book, the text describing and discussing them is very
informative and well worth the time as well.

I will say that some of Shigeo Fukuda's work is based on a
principle that we would see in our mechanical drawing class in
high school: that just seeing the three "elevations" of an object
(front, side, top) did not mean it was instantly understandable.
For example, one can have a solid that is a circle from the
front, a triangle from the side, and a square from the top.
Fukuda uses this principle to create, for example, a sculpture
that is a pianist when seen from the front, but a violinist when
seen from the side.

(As an aside, I have often thought that this could be used as a
way to make the Trinity seem less incomprehensible: three
different appearances depending on one's position/situation.
Somehow the Vatican has not picked up on this.  Or maybe it is
three different representations because they are the intersection
of a single four-dimensional entity with our three-space in three
different ways.)

978-0-441-01499-6, ISBN-10 0-441-01499-2) is a return to classic
science fiction themes.  Matt Fuller accidentally builds a time
machine that jumps forward into the future.  But each time the
button is pushed, the time jump is twelve times greater than the
previous one.  This is very reminiscent of H. G. Wells's Time
Traveler stopping at various points, except that Fuller has no
control over when he will stop.  The only problem is the end,
which seems a trifle contrived, but in spite of this I would
recommend this to all of you who miss the good old stuff.

978-1-59264-153-6, ISBN-10 1-59264-153-9) is a collection of
thirteen Jewish-themed stories--but also literature-themed.  So
we have a Jewish Odysseus, a Kafka living in Yorkshire, a mystery
man who loans the narrator a copy of THE CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA,
and so on, including the final piece, "A Letter from Josef K."
Since Yellin herself is a Jew raised in Yorkshire, she
understands how to meld the various cultures, and has a gift for
language that makes the stories a joy to read.

I was listening to the Oresteia on CD recently, and I noted that
one character tells Clytemnestra that "nothing happens except
through the will of Zeus"--and then proceeds to criticize her for
killing Agamemnon!  Wasn't that through the will of Zeus by his
own argument?  Also, the only reason I can come up with for
Electra and Orestes being so bent on vengeance against their
mother for taking revenge on their father for his sacrifice of
their sister is some sort of patriarchal bias.  After all,
shouldn't they be angry at him for murdering their sister, and
grateful to their mother for exacting revenge?

And finally, does anyone know where I can find a copy of Father
Henry Garnet's 1598 "A Treatise of Equivocation" (later re-titled
"A Treatise Against Lying"?  Googling hasn't helped.  I suspect it
may be in anthologies somewhere, but I have no way to figure out
which ones, and I'm hoping the librarians among you might help.


                                           Mark Leeper

            [I] put the question directly to myself:
            "Suppose that all your objects in life were
            realized; that all the changes in institutions
            and opinions which you are looking forward to,
            could be completely effected at this very
            instant:  would this be a great joy and
            happiness to you?"  And an irrepressible
            self-consciousness distinctly answered, "No!"
                                           -- John Stuart Mill,
                                              Autobiography, 1909