The View from Entropy Hall (Online Archive) - From Ed Meskys - RR2 Box 63 - 322 Whitter Hwy - Center Harbor NH 03226
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Issue #19

The View From Entropy Hall #19 for APA-Q 415, 13 December 1997, from Ed Meskys, RR #2 Box 63, (322 Whittier Hwy Mbo), Center Harbor NH 03226-9708, [email protected], 603-253-6207. Text online at: and as email list.


Some time ago Forry Ackerman kindly sent me a copy of his book REEL FUTURES (ed by Forest J. Ackerman & Jean Stine, Barnes & Noble, 1994, xxii + 538 pp.). I finally got it put on tape by Volunteers of Vacaville and it took 21 hours of tape. The book contains a lengthy introduction and 16 stories, several of them complete novels.

I never read the other, earlier, anthology of movie inspiring SF, but many years ago Mike Bastraw had read me the table of contents. I don't remember details, but I believe that that book had been much shorter.

The intro was excellent, discussing the place of SF in the history of cinema, the sociological and scientific ideas in the stories, and their dramatic impact. Also, sometimes the authors placed the written story in context in the history of SF, and of the movies in the history of film. Forry spoke a little of some of the differences between the original story and movie.

In the intro Forry said that the only major SF movie to be made from an H.G. Wells short was based on "Empire of the Ants." At Worldcon I asked him about THE MOVIE BASED ON "The Man Who could Work Miracles." hE EXPLAINED THAT THAT WAS FANTASY, NOT sf. gOOD POINT! While I like Wells very much and have read a good fraction of his fiction this story was new to me and I was glad to read it. I had never heard of the movie, however. Was that my density or did the movie vanish like, say, FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE or WHO?. Aside from the two movies just mentioned, I can think of five others based on WElls novels (FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, INVISIBLE MAN, ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, TIME MACHINE, and WAR OF THE WORLDS) and one on a non-fiction book (THINGS TO COME). I expect the short story was selected for the anthology for reasons of space even though TIME MACHINE and WAR OF THE WORLDS are much better known films.

Nor had I read Lovecraft's Herbert Brown, Reanimator." I found it very repetitous. Each chapter read like a separate short story in a series where the author had to re-establish the background and history of the characters. You Lovecraft fen out there, was this first published in segments? The repetitiveness got to be quite annoying.

The third story was William Francis Nowlan's ARMAGEDDON 2419 A.D., the inspiration for Buck rogers. I was very surprised to see how different this was from the comics and movies. The US and Europe had been weakened by a disasterous WW II and the US was eventually occupied by a Soviet/Chinese coalition, later supplanted by Mongolians. Only Buck's 500 year suspended animation and his becomming involved with a young woman named Wilma Deering were retained in the comics and movies.

There are futuristic weapons, rocket guns, flying warships, but no space travel, aliens, etc. The remnant American population huddles in underground retreats under the forests from where they harrass their overlords who usually ignore them. The Mongol science is very advanced with automated production and they do not need American labor to support their dozen towering arcologies. Nowlan created an interesting society among these refugees in their own land, and explained how it had evolved after the disastrous wars. I don't remember any sociological speculation among any of the later incarnations. I know Nowlan wrote a sequel called something like THE AIRLORDS OF HAN which I now want to read. I assume it will involve the final expulsion and defeat of the Mongols, but will it introduce space travel?

I only saw the old Buster Crabbe serial once on TV around 1950, as well as the three Flash Gordon serials, but have little memory. However there were spaceships which, if I remember correctly, looked like van-sized sleds of triangular cross-section. In the '40s I read the sunday comics and comic books, and remember a short lived radio series in the Mutual network afternoon kid's slot, right after all my mother's soaps. In the comics I remember a spaceship made up of two giant cones joined at their points, and a green- skinned Martian crew member who died. While I was reading these comics they recapitulated the origin story about Buck being trapped in a cave at least twice. I don't remember what sort of earth he re-emerged into. The radio serial, which lasted about a year around 1948 or 1949, featured space travel. I remember the clouds of Venus were made up of plastic vapor which clogged the rocket exhausts. Because of a family outing I missed the final installment but friends said Wilma and Buck solved all their problems, got married, and were headed for Niagra Falls, an old tradition from his days.

I tried a few installments of the TV series of a decade ago but didn't care for it. Sandy loved it and even arranged to get both seasons complete on video tape. I remember that there was interstellar travel and something had happened to Chicago so that it was a radioactive wasteland. Sandy doesn't remember what had happened to cause this, or whether the reason was ever given. She tells me that she thinks there was a world government on earth, and while it was at peace with the surrounding alien societies there was a threat of invasion from one. This updated Buck's suspended animation by having him on the last, mission of a failing NASA which left him frozen in an extremely eccentric orbit.

John Campbell's WHO GOES THERE was the basis for two different movies called THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD). I saw the first movie in 1951 when it first came out, but have never seen the second. Both movie and story are very moody but totally different except for one point...the thawing and revival of an inimical alien from a crashed alien spaceship in the arctic. In the story the ship had crashed in Antarctica many millenia ago, while in the movie the scientists see a flying saucer crash in the Arctic. In the story the alien can assimulate the flesh of any creature, gain its knowledge, and make a walking imitation of the original. The problem is to discover which of the human explorers are still human and destroy the others. In the movie the alien is merely a maurading monster who kills members of the human team and must be hunted down and destroyed. In both the monster(s) are destroyed by an electric arc. The first movie does have great tension and suspense and is regarded highly by film buffs, but is sneered at by literary fen who dismiss it as the prototype of the Hollywood monster movies of the '50s, and without any of the scientific problem solving of the original . I know nothing of the remake.

"Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates is the source of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Again only the initial situation was used in the film, an alien spaceship with a robot and human-like alien land in Washington DC and as they step out of it the creature is shot and killed by a nervous trigger-happy person. The story is from the viewpoint of a human reporter who learns that the robot is trying to recreate the killed humanoid and is using imperfect photographic images which sabotage his work. The human gets the robot the camera with which the pictures were taken so it can compensate for the imperfections in the lenses. Himts are deftly given during the story but the kicker at the end is that the robot is the master and the humanoid the servent. I don't remember if in the movie the humanoid is reconstructed and whether the human reporter plays a part in it, but then there is a lot of stuff about the aliens coming to earth to warn us not to use atomic bombs to destroy ourselves. As a dramatic gesture the aliens cause all electrical activity on earth, including ignition circuits in gasoline motors, to stop except for planes in the air and in surgical theaters in hospitals. After delivering their warning they depart. The story was written before WWII and was set in the future with a human base on one of the planets, while the movie was set in the "present." The movie was made in the early '50s before TV had obliterated the radio networks. I remember one scene with the human reporter walking disconselately through a residential neighborhood of Washington and you hear coming out of a house the signature of Mutual radio commentator, Gabriel heater, saying "There's bad news tonight...."

Raymond F. Jones' THIS ISLAND EARTH was the basis of a movie of the same name. Here the first section of the book is followed VERY closely by the movie. A talented engineer is recruited to a secret organization of scientists and engineers by being presented with a technical problem and solving it. He has to construct a device of unknown function called an "interocitor" from parts, something like building a radio from a "Heath Kit," but vastly more complex and without a wiring diagram or instructions. He is greeted by a color television image of a man who then recruits him before the machine self- destructs. The color image in the movie was a novelty as color TV had not yet been perfected. Also, in the movie the screen was triangular, point down, while in the book it was conventionally rectangular. The book had several sections which read like connected stories. I suspect that it was originally published as three or four novelettes in a pulp magazine. Anyhow, in the next section our hero is placed in charge of a production line of interocitors and is told that a secret society of scientists has for centuries been working to develop knowledge and prevent war. Inexplicable events cause him and his new girl friend to discover that in reality they are making war supplies for a great multi-galactic war between two great forces which has been going on for centuries. In the third he has to help overcome sabateurs from the alien enemy, and in the fourth he learns that the war is going badly and the computers indicate that earth and this sector of the galaxy must be abandoned to the enemy, and that earth will be totally destroyed. He has to help develop a strategy by adding unexpected actions to the computer generated strategies of both sides to turn the tide and save earth. The title of the book comes from the anology of our situation in this story to that of Pacific Island natives during WWII as the US and Japanese forces came and went. Needless to say, nothing of the last three sections of the book were in the movie.


I am out of time and will comment on the rest of the book in a future ENTROPY. The remaining stories are:

"THE Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury
"Sentinal" by Arthur C. Clarke (2001) "Seventh Victem" by Robert Sheckley (Tenth Victen)
"Racer" (Deathrace 2000)
"The Fly"
"8 o'clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson (They Live)
I Can Remember it for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick (Total Recall)
Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
Enemy Mine by Barry Longyear "Air Raid" by John Varley (Millenium)


All in all I recommend this book most highly. I do wish the original dates of publication were given with the stories. If they were given on the copyright page, this information was not on the recording.

Also it would have been great if the screen play could have been placed opposite the story for comparison, though this would have almost doubled the size of the book. I have not seen about a third of the movies in question, and many of the others I saw back in the '50s and only have vague memories. As an example, I remember the first half of THIS ISLAND EARTH very well, where it followed the book, but after that I only remember that the hero ended up on another world where he met a hideous alien monster. I do not remember why he met it, what came of the meeting, or how the movie ended.


I feel very frustrated in the next three Worldcon site selections. This summer we will vote for the 2001 site. Originally Boston was supposed to get the 98 con in their every-9-years rotation and Phili ran for 2001. They have not had a worldcon since 1953 despite several tries, and put up a good bid with good facilities. Then Boston lost its facilities and the concom split. Had they but known that it was possible to do what Baltimore did and simply shift away from the Labor Day weekend.... Anyhow, they are making a brave effort for 2001 though their facilities are again iffy. I cannot understand the hostility by all the Boston hotels. They have an excellent concom and ALWAYS put on superb cons. I am really torn which way to vote. I am leaning towards Phili since it IS their turn. Perhaps the NESFen should pass up this rotation and make a big push for 2007, 18 years after NOREASCON 3. Also I believe there will be more hotels built by then and they will have a better crack at facilities. Also they can take solise in having the '99 World Fantasy Con. Since there are more cities bidding these days, perhaps they should shift to a con every 12 years after '07.

2002 is a similar problem. I love the San Francisco Bay Area and want to return to visit old friends, and the '93 worldcon was a lot of fun. On the other hand Seattle has not had a worldcon since '61, I only visited the city once in '62 for the World's Fair, and Sandy has never been there and wants to see the city. Finally in '03 there is Kankun vs. Toronto. I have never been to Mexico, except a brief tour of Tijuana in '69 conducted by Bjo & John Trimble. On the other hand I guess Kankum isn't really Mexican but is an international city belonging to yuppies. Is there anything Mexican about it other than the Mayan ruins just outside it? Toronto is a good city and I have not been there since a small con called Ozymandius a few years after torcon 2. Also I have friends on both committees. I have not made any decisions about these last two elections and have presupported all candidates. However I would presupport them anyhow, since I eat their food at bid parties.


I am still working my way through the old ANALOGS which I have on phonograph records from the National Library Service for the Blind & Handicapped (Library of Congress), and have just finished the issue for July, 1987. ANALOG runs quotes as fillers at the ends of articles and stories and this ish had one that really struck me.

"We know the prodagility of nature. How many acorns are scattered for one that grows to an oak? And need she be more careful of her stars than of her acorns?" A.S. Eddington

Perhaps this is why SETI has failed thus far.

Thish also concluded the serial THE REPORT ON BILBAIS [spelling?] FOUR by Harry Turtledove. This is the second novel by Turtledove which I have enjoyed very much. The first, CASE OF THE TOXIC SPELL DUMP, was an excellent fantasy which was very funny and punny. In an alternate world where magic works bits of left over industrial magic are stored in an authorized dump, but someone has dumped toxic spells which are leaking out and causing abnormal births in the neighborhood. The evil forces are finally confined by calling upon the Lithuanian thunder god, Perkunas.

This serial is totally different. It is not humerous and is straight SF set several thousand years in the future. There is active interstellar commerse and humanity has spread to many star systems. There are many planets with pre- space civilizations and anthropolological teams make secret visits at great intervals (about 1,500 years) to study them and their progress. They are subject to something like Trek's "prine directive" to not interfere with the natural growth of the society but only to observe.

The...anthropologists?...learn the local language by remote observation and disguise themselves as travelers from a distant land, if the natives are sufficiently human like. Anyhow, a team visited the world in question 1,500 years earlier and the team leader so liked a tribal leader that he cured her cancer. Of course he was punished and lost his job on return. Now a follow-up team has just visited the world and found that in some inexplicable manner the cancer treatment gave the leaderin effect, immortality. She has not aged or sickened, but gained in wisdom with experience, and now leads a sizeable portion of the world. She has made a number of innovations which is promoting rapid progress. The civilization is now perhaps at the classical or early medieval level. Everyone, including herself, thinks these strange visitors made her into a god.

The administrator of the survey bureau is a ruthless person who will stop at nothing to protect her organization. They are under pressure from fanatical equivalents of ecofreaks or animalrightists who want to stop all on planet surveying because it might cause accidental contamination of local societies and they could hurt the survey if word of the results of the past interference ever got out. She starts by deleting the report from the public record but not before a university professor had downloaded it and a few dozen other random recent reports for a class project. She starts down the slippery slope by having him killed, but a student of his had already been given a copy. And so it goes. The student is the main point-of-view character and his struggle to get the word out about her deeds is the main plot of the story. His girl friend and then most of the crew of the ship which brought back the report are among those killed before the story is over. In the third installment of the story we see this immortal goddess and Turtledove's portrayal of her is magnificent.

Ten years ago I was between live readers so I wasn't seeing fanzine reviews of books published at that time. I wonder what kind of reception the novel had received? Had it been up for any awards?

The same ish of ANALOG had a delightful short, "The President's Doll" by Timothy Zond {correction after publication--Zahn}, which while presented as SF was really an UNKNOWN WORLDS type of fantasy. The gimmick is that medical doctors of the future find a way to combine acupuncture with voodoo and can pin dolls to treat patients at a distance. There is some mumbojumbo to "justify" the practice akin to the "sillogismobile" in the Harold Shea stories.

In the April, 1987, ish there was "The Lesser Magic" by Gregory Kuznik {spelling corrected after publication, Kusnick} about a psychic investigator who becomes convinced of the reality of his current subject's psychic abilities, but in the end another investigator shows that her abilities are real, but not due to psychic powers. The heroine has the ability to see a little further into the UV than most people and certain natural phenonema reveal the emotional states of the people she is viewing. The story is an excellent investigation of the emotions of the two protagonists and is very moving. But should she be so devasted to learn that her real talents have a normal physioligical explanation? After all, if psychics ARE right and they do have real talents, wouldn't these talents have physical properties? Isn't this what Dr. Rhine was trying to measure?


My son Stanley will be working a coop for his college at Motorola in Mansfield MA starting on Monday 1 December for a period of 9 months. He has taken an apartment at 104 Church St., #4, N. Andover 02760. When he starts work he will get a phone. He is just off I95 near the intersection with I495 between Boston andProvidence. After getting settled in his new job for a month or so he plans to get involved with RISFA and NESFA and look for an Animae group in the area, the SCA, and maybe a gameing or furversion group if there are any. He is definitely planning to be at Boskone and perhaps some other cons in the area. >NEXT MEsKON

On Saturday, Jan 3, we are having an open house from noon to 5 PM and have crash space for distant travelers who want to make a weekend of it. We normally have this open house on New Year's Day, but had to move it back because of Stanley's schedule and ability to be here. Please let us know in advance if you will need crash space. >LETTERS

08-16-97 13:12:43
From: [email protected]

I really enjoyed the mailing, but I wish it could have been divided into about four parts. I have to do my reading on-line, and I only have an hour at a time, before the software cuts me off. (My e-mail is free, so I can't kick too hard.) At my very mundane reading speed, it took me 50 minutes or so. Good thing it was the first thing I went to. (Grin) I appreciate the egoboo of being mentioned. Here are a couple of tidbits to help you fill in the picture:

I think the TSA meeting I attended at Dick Plotz's mother's house in Brooklyn was pre-Star Trek, or at least before the first issue of Spockanalia magazine. With one very minor exception, it was the very first fannish event I ever attended, and Spockanalia I was collated at NYCon III.

The house was only a few blocks from my mother's house. I don't remember how I heard of it, but I'm pretty sure I was living in Newark New Jersey and going to grad school at the time.

It was the first time I ever met John Boardman, and I remember getting into a discussion with him about whether time travel would ever be possible. He said no. I said we can't know what will be discovered in the future. Naturally, he mowed me down. Little did I know to Whom I was talking. But he didn't pursuade me.

I'm not sure if Devra was there, although she was the one, several years previously, who had gotten me to read LoTR in the first place. I enjoyed the books, but it was only at that meeting, when I heard recordings of the poetry readings from WBAI, that I really got hooked into the Tolkien universe.

It wasn't until some time after that that I discovered, to my astonished joy, the first edition of the Ace paperback of volume I. I'm secretly glad that I didn't learn about the copyright mess until after all three came out and I bought them. To be an avid Tolkien fan in those days, and not to be able to own the books (*much* beyond my purse) was torture. I did buy the authorized Ballentine paperbacks when they came out, for reasons of concience.

You ask if I was at Flycon. Yes, I was. I don't remember if Devra was there with me. Thanks for the explanation of the flies. I never knew why we had been inundated by them.

You mention also the SCA "New Year's Party" that Brian Burley and I held in our apartment in Parsippany New Jersey. Actually, that wasn't a New Year's Party. It was the very first Twelfthnight celebration of the East Kingdom of the SCA. I remember Fred Lerner and Tom (what *is* his last name? Fred would know) reciting Beowulf in the original Middle English. I also remember Carl (heck, I've lost his last name, too. The fan who used to fly kites. He flew them indoors in the ballroom at the end of one worldcon. Flew weather balloons for a living.) playing his bagpipes. Yes, the Scottish warpipes. Indoors. And the four strangers who showed up at the door. I opened it, they said "yes, this is the place," and left. Several minutes later, they reappeared in full regalia as Persian (?) Jannisaries (sp?) complete with seven foot spears with red pompons. Two of them later went on to become kings of the East. Akbar ibn Murad al ben Muhammed, and his (real life) father Murad. I don't know their mundane names. [Carl Frederick flew high altitude astronomical balloons for NASA doing research in infrared astronomy for his PhD thesis. As I remember it (probably wrongly) it was Carl and Barry Greene who recited Beowulf.-erm]

Twelfthnight later became a huge annual celebration, and the thought of one being held in someone's living room became wonderfully ridiculous.

******** Sherna Comerford ***********************************

08-21-97 05:27:28
From: [email protected]

Dear Ed,

Our friend Marge Dwiggins (a remarkably hobbitish name, don't you think?) who sees Elliot frequently got back from vacation this week and I finally got a chance to ask after him. Elliot was actually at a couple of parties with the Dwigginses the day he had his heart attack last winter. He wasn't feeling very well, but nothing in particular to suggest he was THAT sick. Then he got home, felt worse, went into the hospital, and found out he'd been having a series of small heart attacks all day. Anyway, he's much better now, lost some weight, and is essentially back to normal activity. All of which is great, since before, I had the impression he wasn't in great shape. I don't think we've seen him this year, so all this is second-hand, through Marge.

I also wanted to let you know that I got in touch with Cory Panshin when she posted in the Jewish genealogy newsgroup/mailing list a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that her son Adam will be starting at Hampshire this fall, when our daughter Martha will start at Smith. So we'll probably meet in Northampton sometime over the next few years. Cory and Alexei are trying to figure out the logistics of publishing on the Net, since they're feeling pretty stomped-on by the publishing establishment. Meanwhile, I sent her Entropy Hall 12, since she's mentioned in it.

I like getting Entropy Hall by e-mail, so if that's an option, please keep it coming to me that way.

You asked for comments on your account. First of all, you've done an incredible job putting all that together from memory without sighted access to documents. The gist of the parts I know about is essentially true to what I remember, but of course there are some minor factual errors which I might as well correct for you.

The first meeting I called via graffiti at the 116th St. subway station was actually held on the Columbia campus, not Central Park, outdoors on a bitterly cold day in January or February 1965. My memory may be faulty here, but it sticks in my mind that Ruth Berman was one of those present.

The ad that actually got the Tolkien Society started ran in The New Republic, not the Village Voice, in late April or May 1965. It drew about 70 responses. The first issue of TJ was just a response to those replying to the ad. It and the second issue of three pages were paid for by my parents, not Ian Ballantine. At some point in the summer or fall of 1965 my father happened to meet Ian at a party, and Ian offered to underwrite the printing of TJ, an offer that I think lasted for two issues. I don't recall if those were the third and fourth issues or if we printed some more on our own before Ian appeared on the scene. In any case, it got too big for Ian to justify, and after two issues we arranged for a printer in Brooklyn to print it and we started charging for subs. That arrangement lasted until you took over.

There's a subtle issue of wording and connotation in that paragraph which, while it doesn't classify as an error, certainly ought to be clarified. Bob Foster was my best friend in high school and we did a lot of things together. Unfortunately, the term "close friend," which you used, while absolutely accurate in its dictionary sense, has acquired a euphemistic connotation which is entirely inaccurate. I, for sure, and Bob, to the best of my knowledge, have always been straight. I recently learned from a high school classmate, though, that we were good enough friends, and nerdy enough, that many of our classmates assumed we were gay. They were wrong, and so were any fen who might have had that impression. The things one has to watch out for! Never thought this would elicit such a response, did you?

Incidentally, I'm still in touch with Bob, on and off, but haven't seen him in years. He's writing software documentation for a bank and living in NJ with a woman with grown kids. No kids of his own.

I actually didn't get poor grades at Harvard, because I didn't hang around long enough to get any grades at all that first year. If I had, they sure would have been poor ones! I dropped out right after Thanksgiving, worked in NY, and started over again in fall 1967 with a clean slate. Fortunately for my parents, tuition at Harvard at the time was only $800 for that semester that I didn't finish!

Just one more note about John Closson. Bob Foster, Ian Ballantine, and I appeared on a TV talk show in Philadelphia. I know I got flustered and made a poor show of it, but one mistake was something I didn't even think of. The station used as a backdrop big blowups of John Closson's Frodo Lives and Go Go Gandalf buttons. When we got back John was really pissed off at us because we didn't mention him in connection with the designs. Shortly thereafter I heard he had to go underground in connection with dealing acid, and I never heard anything more about him. [I had heard no rumors about drugs, but had heard at the time a rumor that he had had himself committed because of certain tendencies in his behavior which he could not control.-erm]

Jesus's words on the cross were actually, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But he wasn't asking. He was quoting from I forget which Psalm, and it is now, and I'm sure was then, a standard piece of funeral liturgy, if I remember correctly (I welcome any corrections that anyone comes up with). In any case, it would be a mistake to conclude anything about his real interaction with God from those words, which were style and not content.

I don't know how accessible current SF is to you, but I'd be interested in your reaction to Sheri Tepper's The Family Tree, which I found intriguing if a little too unsubtle. Let me know if you get a chance to read it. [Will check various recording agencies.-erm]



09-09-97 18:51:14
From: [email protected]

Excuse me while I shout (all caps): MR MAGOO IS _NOT_ BLIND! He is badly nearsighted. _I_ should be the one complaining. However, what the cartoon does is display a Philip K. Dick style of reality. Magoo perceives a vastly different world from "external" reality; the episodes display a struggle between his perception and the "consensus" perception, where he wins in spite of being clearly wrong. This may teach kids the wrong thing but it does delve into the question of reality and perception. [I _like_ the Phil Dick comparison! However as you saw in later ENTROPIES, Magoo _does_ hurt the blind even if he isn't totally blind. This is a good excuse for an update. While it IS too late to change the Magoo movie, a Disney VP has made several trips to the National Center for the Blind and we are hopeful that something good might come of this later.-erm]

Joseph T Major


John Boardman read me the last disty while I was in NY Dec 6-9 but I am out of time and have to leave comments for another ish. Sorry.

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