Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

11/06/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 19, Whole Number 2144

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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Una O'Connor (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Entropy (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

And What May Be the Freakiest Bizarre Animal Story of the

Year (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Ed Bishop (letter of comment by Paul Dormer)

This Week's Reading (Time Magazine's Best 100 Fantasy Books,

OZMA OF OZ, and FIVE CHILDREN AND IT) (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Una O'Connor (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Una O'Connor was the Jar Jar Binks of her age.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Entropy (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Mark Leeper's Journal, December 9, 1988

As I promised last week I would explain a study I am doing on

entropy.  As you probably know, universal entropy increases.  This

means things get more mixed up.  If you put red marbles and green

marbles in a large Tupperware snuff mull and shake them up and look

inside, it is unlikely that all the green marbles are together and

all the red marbles are together.  The highest probability is that

they will be mixed together and no amount of shaking the mull will

separate them.  Entropy says things get more mixed up.  (I tell

people that things are getting more confused, but they tell me the

problem is all in my mind.)

Anyway, one cannot decrease the overall entropy of a closed system.

You can make a machine that will cool your Jolt cola and blow hot

air out the bottom, but it has to expend energy to do it and that

energy is dissipated as heat.  These forces clearly apply

universally or they are not true at all.  It has been observed that

the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  This goes against

entropy in a limited area but that area is not a closed system.  In

fact, if the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, such a system

must be expending energy as heat.  This heat gets observed as

racial friction leading to long hot summers.  It may also be

generally contributing to the heating up of the Earth's surface

which will change climates so that our growing seasons will be

affected and we will have more droughts.  Poorer nations will get

richer; richer nations will get poorer.  Entropy will win out in

the end.

Anyone know if you can get Nobel prizes in economics *and* physics

for the same work?

In our last MT VOID, Estes Slade was told to look up the definition

of "disenfranchised." He did so and this is what he reports:

"dis-en-fran-chised - 1.  Being formally part owner of a small

hamburger chain.  2.  An ex-citizen of France.  3.  An over-weight

person having had a stuck French fry removed from the lower gut."

So now you all know.



TOPIC: And What May Be the Freakiest Bizarre Animal Story of the

Year (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Well, we've swarms of locusts in Africa, dangerous funnel-web

spiders in Australia, Pablo Escobar's hippopotamuses as an invasive

species in Columbia, iguanas falling from tress in Florida, wild

boar on the streets of Barcelona, mountain goats in a town in

Wales, whales in the Mediterranean shipping lanes, seagulls in Rome

hunting rats and pigeons, and murder hornets.  But the latest story

may have the best headline:

"Escaped cloned female mutant crayfish take over Belgian cemetery"




And we thought we had social unrest.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Ed Bishop (letter of comment by Paul Dormer)

In response to Evelyn's comments on Ed Bishop in the 10/30/20 issue

of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

[Evelyn wrote,] "The only problem is that whenever I hear Ed

Bishop in anything else, I immediately think, "What is Philip

Marlowe doing in this?"  [-ecl]

For me, Bishop is always Commander Straker in UFO, although he was

also the voice of Captain Blue in CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE

MYSTERONS, which I watched when it first came out.  [-pd]


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

Time Magazine just ran its list of "100 Best Fantasy Books of All

Time" and naturally there are objections.  (See

** for the


One big objection is that Time gives three slots to J. R. R.

Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, separate slots to Lewis Carroll's


two slots to two parts of Philip Pullman's HIS DARK MATERIALS, both

of which are really one work in three volumes.  Of course, everyone

disagrees on what should go in the four slots that would be

produced.  My suggestion for one of them is Homer's ILIAD and


Anyway, the list serves as reasonable suggestions of what to read

in this time of pandemic.  I've read twenty-six of them, and have

another eleven.  Of the remaining sixty-three, my library has a

whopping forty-nine.  And by "my library", I mean my town's own

library, not the county consortium of libraries or any inter-

library loan network, though my guess is that with those, I would

have access to almost all of the remaining fourteen.  (Currently, I

can check books out of the local library, but inter-library loan

has been suspended.)

I was surprised at how many are classified as either juvenile or

young adult, which I'm assuming means (the later Harry Potter books

notwithstanding) that they won't be massive tomes.  Of course, the

major one I'm looking forward to is THE ARABIAN NIGHTS; I have the

unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation, which is three

massive tomes.  (However, it has only one slot.)

So far on this project I have read OZMA OF OZ by L. Frank Baum

(courtesy of Project Gutenberg), FIVE CHILDREN AND IT by E. Nesbit

(Puffin, ISBN 978-0-141-32161-5), and THE DARK IS RISING by Susan

Cooper (Margaret K. McElderry Books, ISBN 978-0-689-82983-3).

I was never a big fan of the "Oz" books; in fact, I read at most

the first one, and I cannot say I recall reading it--just that I

figure I must have done so at some point.  So I'm not sure why Time

Magazine picked OZMA OF OZ over the other books in the series; one

would have expected them to pick the first book, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

THE WIZARD OF OZ is one of my favorite movies, though that may be

from the iconic stature it achieved while I was growing up.  It is

well known as the film that ran every year, but only once a year,

and people waited eagerly for it.  (The first time I missed it from

my early childhood on was in college when there was some sort of

field trip that day.)  OZMA OF OZ was okay, and maybe my being an

adult makes my judgment less valuable for this, but I cannot see

why it particularly is on the list.

FIVE CHILDREN AND IT is basically a sequence of short stories where

the five children find a "sand fairy" who grants them a wish a day.

(They are four really--one is just a baby and not involved in the

wishing or anything else that requires cogitation.)  As with every

story involving magical wishes, the wishes go awry.  There are

about a half dozen wishes, and the theme goes a bit tedious after a


However, FIVE CHILDREN AND IT has one startling feature--Nesbit was

an "early adopter" of gender-free pronouns.  She does not invent

new ones, but she has no problem with using "its" as a pronoun

referring to people ("Each of the children carried its own spade"

[page 6]), or using the plural "their" to refer to a single person

("Has anyone else anything to do with this?"  "Yes, ... but it

wasn't their fault." [page 122]).

She also has one character say, "Friends, Romans, and countrymen--

and women..."  On the other hand, at one point one of the girls

says to the other, "Oh, Jane, do try to be a man!" [page 112]

However, she follows this with "Jane did try to 'be a man'" so

maybe she's getting in a sly dig here.

It is quite surprising to find these in a book first published in

1902.  (Yes, I know Jane Austen used the third-person plural

pronoun as grammatically singular.)

(Looking around, I see that this has been observed by others, and

also in other books by her.  There are various explanations given

for why she might have done this, but no one really knows.)

Nesbit concedes that adults would wish differently, but has the san

fairy complain that grown-ups wish for things like "a graduated

income tax, and old-age pensions and manhood suffrage, and free

secondary education, and dull things like that."

I will probably cover THE DARK IS RISING next week.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          The circumstances of human society are too complicated

          to be submitted to the rigor of mathematical calculation.

                                          --Marquis De Custine