Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

12/25/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 26, Whole Number 2151

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, * *

Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

Sending Address: *

All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the

author unless otherwise noted.

All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for

inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, send mail to *

The latest issue is at **.

An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at



Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,

Lectures, etc. (NJ)

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in January (comments

by Mark R. Leeper)



Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Convicts and Television,

and THE MEN WHO UNITED THE STATES (letter of comment

by Taras Wolansky)

This Week's Reading (THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN) (book and

film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,

Lectures, etc. (NJ)

Reminder: Now that all the meetings are Zoomed, you don't have to

be in Old Bridge or Middletown or even New Jersey to participate.

So if we are discussing one of your favorites, contact me at

* * for Zoom information.

Both the Old Bridge and Middletown groups have (temporarily, we

hope) switched to Zoom meetings.  For Middletown meetings,

participants need to watch the film on their own ahead of time as

well as reading the book.

January 7, 2021 (MTPL), 7:30PM: 1984 (1984) & novel

by George Orwell




January 28, 2021 (OBPL), 7:00PM: I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov

February 4, 2021 (MTPL), 7:30PM: THE PRESTIGE (2006) & novel

by Christopher Priest


    rental: **



TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in January (comments by

Mark R. Leeper)

The political thriller seems in large part to have been created in

the early Sixties and had its heyday at that time, but remains with

us.  This January it is represented on TCM by THE MANCHURIAN

CANDIDATE.  This is part of the "package" of what I consider to be

the two best, each with a great script and a great cast, and each

directed by John Frankenheimer.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) features a deliciously convoluted

and clever plot.  Pulled from circulation for many years, its re-

release was considered a major cinematic event.  Bennett Marco

(Frank Sinatra) recently returned from the Korean War is having odd

and violent nightmares concerning his war buddies and particularly

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), winner of the Congressional Medal

of Honor.  While he knows Shaw was hated by everyone, Marco finds

he has a strong mental block against saying anything negative about

Shaw.  George Axelrod adapted Richard Condon's novel.  Janet Leigh,

Angela  Lansbury, and Henry Silva co-star.


If you are looking for its "partner", you will have to find it on

your own; TCM does not have it scheduled at this time.  For SEVEN

DAYS IN MAY Rod Serling adapted the novel by Fletcher Knebel and

Charles Bailey.  There is something fishy going on behind closed

doors at the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.  An odd pool on the

Preakness, a lie here, a rumor of an unfamiliar military base

there.  Something is going on and the Director of the Joint Chiefs,

Jiggs Casey (Kirk Douglas), wants to know more.  His superior, a

charismatic James Matoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) seems to be at the

core of the mystery.  Fredric March, Ava Gardner, Martin Balsam,

Edmond O'Brien, George Macready, and John Houseman co-star.





Conan Doyle, Convicts and Television, and THE MEN WHO UNITED THE

STATES (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)

In response to various comments in various issues of the MT VOID,

Taras Wolansky writes:

Some comments on recent--well, recentish--issues of MT VOID:

#2147:  The review of WORLD WITHOUT END reminded me of Philip Jose

Farmer's joyfully risque novel, FLESH (1960), in which the belated

astronauts discover a world dominated by a fertility cult: the

capital now has two domes (and the less said about Washington

Monument, the better).

#2145:  The 50-Foot Woman makes another memorable appearance,

voiced by Reese Witherspoon in the 2009 animated hit, MONSTERS

VS. ALIENS, a love letter to several classic cinematic monsters.

Reduced to normal size by an invading alien overlord, she chooses

to become giant again to help defeat the invasion; introducing a

poignant subtext the kids didn't get, as she gives up any chance of

a normal life.

#2144:  Darrell Schweitzer and I discussed TIME's 100 best

fantasies during Virtual Capclave.  We were both rather dismissive-

-no Apuleius?  Nothing from the Middle Ages?  No E. R. Eddison?--

and suspected its "presentist" bias had to do with identity

politics.  Darrell said Neil Gaiman had given the editors an

erudite list of suggestions, including Hope Mirrlies' classic LUD-

IN-THE-MIST, but they had ignored it.

#2143:  The review of GALILEO AND THE SCIENCE DENIERS reminded me

of a comment I made to James Morrow at the last "real" Capclave.

How odd it is, I said, that we are constantly reminded of Galileo

being put under house arrest 400 years ago; yet we never hear about

Darwinists persecuted to death in the Soviet Union, less than 80

years ago.  The Soviet government (rightly!) considered natural

selection incompatible with Marxism.

Thus, I was gratified when the latest series of COSMOS devoted a

one-hour episode to biologist Nikolai Vavilov, who achieved quite a

lot before he died in a Soviet prison.  Can't help but wonder if

James Morrow saw the program and, if he did, remembered our


#2141:  Evelyn remarks on "the Jews" in Conan Doyle's original

Sherlock Holmes stories.  In at least one of Anthony Trollope's

novels, an improvident character goes to "the Jews" to borrow

money; but when we meet the "Jew", he is named McPherson or

MacDonald.  Just as "Bach" became a synonym for "musician" in parts

of 18th century Germany, in 19th century England Jew became a

synonym for moneylender.

#2140:  Forcing convicts to read, instead of watching cable TV,

sounds like a good idea. They would come out of prison better

readers than when they came in, and thus more employable.

A few years back, Editrix Extraordinaire Sheila Williams was the

speaker at a North Jersey SF group.  She told us prisoners used to

be avid readers of porn Westerns, a genre I had not known existed.

The review of Simon Winchester's THE MEN WHO UNITED THE STATES

moved me to look up what I had posted on Amazon.  I concluded that

where in his previous books he had made dull topics interesting,

here he made an interesting topic dull.  Possibly as a Brit he did

not realize how familiar and old hat some of his subjects are to

every American schoolchild.

Evidently mistaking National Public Radio to be the American

equivalent of the BBC, Winchester ranks it as one of the things

"uniting the States".  In reality the growth of television had

rendered radio a backwater long before NPR was founded, even if its

distinctly left-liberal slant had not been off-putting to a mass


The book is at its best when it tells the story of that Magnificent

Man in His Flying Machine, Calbraith Perry Rodgers, who was first

to fly (mostly crash) his way from New York to California in 49

days in 1911.  And then died during a routine demonstration just

days later.  He deserves to be remembered.

#2139:  I don't think I agree with Mark's criticism of Conan

Doyle's "The Speckled Band".

In extremis, people will say the strangest things.  When I broke my

foot while walking to the PATH station one morning, many years ago,

to my own astonishment I blurted out, "GO-O-O-OD'S DEATH!"

People of a certain age will remember Glenda Jackson as ELIZABETH

R.  This was one of Queen Liz's favorite oaths; but why it surfaced

in my mind at that particular moment I cannot explain.

Also, the murder victim in Conan Doyle's story may not have

understood what killed her, or even that she was being killed, just

that what she thought a speckled band of cloth had moved in a

horrifically unnatural way.

Many thanks for many great issues!  [-tw]


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

Many years ago I reviewed THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN by Simon

Winchester (Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0-060-83978-9), about the

creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and its greatest

volunteer, but also about the history of dictionaries, the American

Civil War, and a variety of other digressions. The professor is

James Murray, the editor of the project.  The madman is

Dr. W. C. Minor, who contributed thousands of quotations for the

project--while confined in Broadmoor Asylum for having committed a

murder while insane.  Having just seen the movie I will reprint

that review, as well as commenting on the film.

There are a few unexpected lessons to be learned.  While Murray

started the project, he estimated it would take two years to

produce the first volume; it took twenty.  All his other estimates

were equally off.  But the fact is, if anyone had realized how long

the project would take, they never would have undertaken it.

And Murray also helped, merely by thinking about the process.  The

editor had volunteers reading from a list of books, sending in

quotations for whatever words they thought worthwhile.  Copying the

quotations in a standard format took a long time, and often words

were skipped that would have been useful.  Murray took a two-step

approach.  He *indexed* each book in a booklet, jotting down all

the words that might be of use, along with the page number, and did

this in such a way that it was in alphabetical order.  When he had

a few of these, he wrote Murray, explaining his method, and asking

what words Murray could use quotations for right away.  Then he

needed merely to look them up and copy those quotations.  This

meant he was not wasting his time copying quotations for words that

would not be worked on for years, while Murray struggled with other

words than he could help out with.

There are a couple of more things I want to mention.  First, this

was an early example of distributed processing, with people all

over the world doing the same task with different books, and then a

team bringing together the results.  Also, the decision to make the

Dictionary descriptive rather than prescriptive was crucial.  In

general, English-language dictionaries are descriptive, while

French-language dictionaries are prescriptive.

I recommended this book for anyone who is interested in either the

English language, or managing large projects.

The film is a fairly accurate recounting of the book, though it

gets some details wrong.  (Murray was never confused about Minor

position at Broadmoor, for example.)  The plot is somewhat obscured

by being related in thick accents, making it hard to follow, and

the dark lighting seems to put most scenes into shade.  But viewers

with an interest in things literary should definitely catch this

one.  Released 03/27/20; available on Netflix streaming and Amazon

Prime.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4)  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          I'd never been in play long enough for the flowers

          to die in the dressing room.

                                          --Mercedes McCambridge