MT VOID 05/23/03 (Vol. 21, Number 47)

MT VOID 05/23/03 (Vol. 21, Number 47)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/23/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 47

Table of Contents

El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

JerseyDevilCon 3 Convention Report Available:

My JerseyDevilCon 3 convention report is available at [-ecl]

Science with Your Eyes Closed (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

It seems to me that science has looked at what happened in the universe billions of years ago in the Big Bang. It has studied phenomena at the edge of the universe. It has looked into the interior of the atom. And these are things that us science fans follow avidly. We don't have much opportunity to do our own experiments, but we are interested anyway. Still there are phenomena that most of us see every day that take place right here and I don't think we know very much about. These are phenomena that have interesting unanswered questions and you really don't have to go very far to observe them. You need no equipment that you don't already have.

Many nights I do experiments with this stuff and nobody seems to have done much study on it before. Frequently I spend my last minutes in the day doing experiments that I have never talked about much.

What am I talking about? Well I turn off the lights, close my eyes and then look. What do I see? Nothing? Just blackness? Well perhaps, but it does not stay just black for long. I start to see fascinating and intricate if not necessarily beautiful patterns. People in dark rooms or caves may see the same sort of images without closing their eyes. I have even seen a description of sky-gazers reporting similar phenomena while looking at a dark sky. And another source might be sensory deprivation experiments.

I suppose the vision centers have to be doing something. They have no data to process so they start creating images from no information at all, behaving as if they were still getting something. Perhaps what they show me is part imagination and part neural. They start creating visual anomalies. The vision centers are remaining active and rather than admitting they have no information are passing data to the brain even if they have to invent it. (My first supervisor at Burroughs reported to his management with much the same philosophy.) I think what you actually see during these experiments probably differs with each person. It also changes dynamically from split second to split second.

Perhaps some reader can compare and describe for me what he or she sees. This is an extremely portable science. All you need is your eyelids and some time. As someone who hates being bored, the convenience of playing with these images is a big plus. The one problem is that while you are experimenting, other people who see you will think you are dozing off even though your mind actually may be more active than theirs may be. And admittedly there is some risk of falling asleep.

Next week I will talk about categories of images I get. Perhaps someone out there can catalog the types of images that he or she gets. [-mrl]

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

Last week our library book discussion group did Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. I never read this while I was growing up, and I suppose it's difficult to judge it as a children's book when I'm first reading it now, but it seemed as though it was full of all the virtues of its time (1930s, when it was written) but not of today. Children were supposedly to always obey their parents and not even *think* about disobeying (even though one can clearly construct a scenario when releasing the dog *would* have been the right thing to do), and never disturb their parents when they are busy, and so on. This does not even address the rather negative portrayal of the Indians (even though this is not absolutely universal), but I will note that there is a very positive black character, the doctor, and this was probably fairly unusual at that time. On the other hand, children might find the descriptions of how one builds a house or makes a chair interesting, and I suppose that if a child today didn't find the children in the book too "goody two-shoes", he (or more likely she) might enjoy the book.

FALLAM'S SECRET by Denisa Giardina was described to sound like an alternate history, but is really just a time-travel romance. The trick of making the main character a woman trained in Elizabethan drama, including playing some of the male parts, is awfully convenient when she has to disguise herself and pass as an Elizabethan. (Well, somewhat post-Elizabethan, but closer enough.) The theater business was of some interest, but the story on the whole wasn't anything special.

Michael Swanwick's BONES OF THE EARTH was an enjoyable enough read, but not really what I would call Hugo material. In fact, this year has been quite disappointing in its selection of Hugo nominees, with at least three striking me as not worthy of being labeled "one of the five best novels of the year."

Jasper Fforde's second "Thursday Next" novel, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK, finally showed up at the library and while I enjoyed it quite a bit (more than the Swanwick, certainly), it seemed a notch below the first (THE EYRE AFFAIR). Of course, it had to work against the fact that the premise of and the ideas in THE EYRE AFFAIR were fresh and new, while here he must take something we are already familiar with and try to improve it. The punning names seemed more forced, and there was no marvelous set piece like the "Richard III" performance in THE EYRE AFFAIR. Still, if you liked the first book, you'll certainly want to read this. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           On the whole, God prefers atheists.
                                          -- Mark Leeper

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