Science Fiction Fan and Convention News
and Forthcoming Science Fact and Fiction Books
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Science Fiction book releases
SF imprint comes to UK! See SF News below.
Ian Watson (the UK Guest at the 2nd International Week of SF, May 2003) has had his Harlequin reprinted by Black Library (ISBN 1-84154-255-5) as part of the Warhammer series. First published in 1995 it tells of an inquisitor's work fighting corruption and the enemies of mankind.
March 2003 SF book releases
The Line of Polity by Neal Asher, Tor UK, trade pbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-333-90365-X. (Some listings give Pan or Pan Macmillan as the publisher and you may need to be aware of this if ordering though a bookshop.) The destruction of outlink station Iranda by nanomycelium is clearly sabotage and agent Cormac is sent out on a titanic dreadnought (the Occam Razor) to bring the perpetrators to book.
The Skinner by Neal Asher, Tor UK, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-48434-6. (Some listings give Pan or Pan Macmillan as the publisher and you may need to be aware of this if ordering at a bookshop. It was published earlier this year (2002) by Pan in trade paperback format at £9.99.) Spatterjay is a remote ocean dominated planet where you can face death in an instant. Three travellers, one aided by a hive mind and another who has been dead for 700 years, come to the planet for their own personal reasons. With an exploration of the concept of immortality - or longevity at least - this could be a compelling read.
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, Orion, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-75285646-4. Originally published earlier this year (2002) by Gollancz in a larger format. However the surprising thing is not its new release half a year later in smaller cheaper format (nothing unusual there) but that Orion is publishing this as a crime book. Fair enough this is a thriller albeit a futuristic one, but the SF tropes are there. Apparently the Orion market people are saying forget the SF 'it's actually "futuristic" stuff'... and so we go. Well at least they (the publishers) may sugar coat SF for a more mundane readership, but don't let this put you off checking this out.
Stone by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-57507396-9. The Universe's first mass murder for millennia confesses.
Freedom's Ransom by Anne McCaffrey, Corgi, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-55214909-9. The fourth book in the Catteni series.
Book reviews of a number of these will no doubt appear in the Concatenation review section in the fullness of time.
Out in March 2003
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King, NEL, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-34077074-0. A collection of short stories. If true to form, these will be mainly horror but some might have a science fantasy theme.
Limbo by Andy Secombe, Tor UK, trade pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-4050-0484-3. A first novel in which worlds of fantasy and reality intersect with a dollop of SF thrown in for good measure. The final conflict it appears is about to erupt near Brighton, UK: over Hove's bowling green to be exact.
Out in May 2003
The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford, Tor UK, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-41319-8. In the 'Well-Built City' a physiognmist called Cley uses scalpels, callipers and other instruments do ascertain a person's character and indeed foretell their future. This novel won the World Fantasy Award in 1998 so it's good to see it over here in west Europe.
Out in September 2003
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, Tor UK, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-49374-4, and Kushiel's Chosen, Trade pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-4050-588-2. Kushiel's Dart has been out in the US a couple of years now and was Carey's debut novel. It also came top of the Locus best first novel poll which says quite a bit. However strangely it has also been published by the Macmillan imprint at the end of 2002 (ISBN 1-405-00097-X). Given that Tor UK is being managed by Macmillan you may well ask what is going on? We at Concat suspect that they expect sales to be so great that the publishers won't bother to reprint under the Macmillan banner but under Tor UK's so as to ensure that imprint's success. Alternatively all SF from that UK publishing house might come out under the Tor UK imprint allowing the Macmillan imprint to die. (A shame if this last is true.) Anyway, what about the books' plot? It concerns Phedre no Delauny, a young anguissette, a courtly spy and keeper of national secrets in a world of war and magic. Its sequel Kushiel's Chosen came out in the US last year (2001), to favourable reviews, so fantasy fans this side of the pond will welcome these two titles being published in west Europe. However, why-oh-why is Tor releasing these in two different format sizes? Not good for fans collecting a series as a set on their bookshelves. Could it be that Tor (US) is in part using Tor UK to off load stock, or are we overly cynical?
Out in January 2003
Rocket Dreams: How the Space Age Shaped Our Vision of a World Beyond, by Marina Benjamin, Chatto, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 070-116926-5. A personal look at our fascination with space from the first Moon landing to UFOs and cyber worlds.
Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the 21st Century?, by Martin Rees, Heinemann, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 043-400809-5. The author tells us why he thinks our species only has a 50/50 chance of surviving the century. (One of the Concat team once had early morning coffee with the author at the Royal Society and he seemed an interesting chap. Then again he (the author not the Concat team member) is the Astronomer Royal and so was game to talk of space exploration, cosmology and other factual genre trappings. Conversely, our species' survival has comparatively few astronomical risks compared to non-astronomical ones so it will be interesting to see how the author fares with this topic.)
The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, by Ellen Ruppel Shell, Atlantic, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 184-354141-6. The science and history and business politics of how the developed World put on weight. Some solutions are offered. This is a desperately important area (especially for much of science fiction fandom) but it is doubtful whether this book will do much to prevent western Europeans becoming more like their transatlantic cousins.
Out in February 2003
Say 'mass extinction' and the chances are you think of dinosaurs with asteroids. Painful. But there have been other mass extinction events and the one 251 million years ago wiped out about 90% of life on Earth. You didn't know. You could be a physicist. Well, fortunately Michael Benton has done us a great service in charting it for us in When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time from Thames & Hudson, hdbk, £16.95 ISBN 0-50005116-X.
OK. So hands up who wants to go to the stars? Fair enough, judging by your response many of you. Bit of a bummer though that the speed of light in vacuo is fixed... or so you may have thought if you are a biologist but in fact not necessarily so. Joao Magueijo sheds a ray of hope with Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation from William Heinemann, hdbk, £16.95, ISBN 0-43400948-2. Is there hope for FTL drive?
The astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, clearly has time on his hands (see January above) as February also sees the publication of his Our Cosmic Habitat from Phoenix at £7.99 (pbk). ISBN 0-75381404-8. It's an introduction to the universe and cosmology. If you have a casual interest in space matters and it has been a while (i.e. more than 10 years) since you acquired a basic cosmology text then this could meet your needs.
Carl Zimmer provides an introduction to Evolution, £7.99, B format pbk, from Arrow. ISBN 0-09943982-4. A popular text all about - you guessed it - evolution. There is an introduction by the late Stephen Jay Gould and for some (but alas not Concat's regular bioscientist) this in itself is a decided plus point. Gould aside, our man will be flicking through it in the bookshop as texts on evolution are variable. To date, little rivals Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene and R. J. (Sam) Berry's (now out of print) Studies in Biology volume, Evolution. Could this bring something new to the table?
Is this human biology or fantasy? You decide. Erin Kelly gives us Searching for Sex in the City from Ebury (the reproductive biologist Jack Cohen's publisher) £5.99, pbk, ISBN 0-0918-8918-9. It's an irreverent (for which read non-functional) guide to "pulling" in the city. Possibly fun depending on your taste.
Out in March 2003
The Common Thread by John Soulston and Georgina Ferry, from Black Swan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-55299941-5. A description for how the human genome came to be sequenced from the man who should know. John Soulston won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Book reviews of a number of these will no doubt appear in the Concatenation non-fiction section in the fullness of time.
Two video (VHS) classic re-releases out for Christmas are well worth checking out by fantastic film buffs. The Mind Benders and The Final Programme from DD Video of Leisure View. The Mind Benders is a psychological thriller starring Dirk Bogarde, Mary Ure and John Clements. A physiologist commits suicide but was he a traitor or were the experiments into sensory deprivation for space travel something to do with it? However for us the classic buffs will really go for (especially as we reckon it has only ever been shown on UK terrestrial TV twice) is the adaptation of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius tale The Final Programme. Jerry is, of course, a sexual athlete, time traveller, crack shot (sometimes), Nobel prize winner and chocolate biscuit addict. Ever so 1960s, decidedly cool camp, a dash of comedy and stacks of dry wit, don't miss Jon Finch and Julie Edge run Jerry's father's computer program to create the next stage in human evolution. Miss Brunner the vampire (of sorts) is brilliant.Out in time for Christmas (02) is the Star Trek: The Starfleet Survival Guide at £7.99 (pbk) from Pocket Books (ISBN 0-7434-1842-5). Now this could have been a brilliant idea to actually inform Trekies and Trekers with real survival skills, genuine astronomy and theoretical (because it currently all is) exobiology. However this clearly was too much effort for the authors, and the publishers are clearly happy with any ruse to part you from your money.
Ditto another publication also out for Christmas, The Dalek Survival Guide from the BBC at £9.99, ISBN 0-563-48600-7. We at Concat loved (were terrified by) the Daleks as kids back in the 1960s, but today... Is there really still such a following for Dr Who? Apparently. Anyway, nothing wrong with a dash of nostalgia. Yet this book does not inform Daleks how to survive. Nor how to deal with that thorny problem of stairs. Or how to handle non-cyborgs. Nor does it cover diplomacy, or what to say beyond 'exterminate'. Consequently we don't think that many Daleks will be buying this one, but you, child of the 1960s, just might?
The novelization of the forthcoming Daredevil movie will be written by Greg Cox for the US publishers Ace.
Check out the new Concatenation editorial for a report on site performance and our initial thoughts on site development for 2003.
The big science fiction publishing news for western Europe anglophones is that in March 2003 the leading US SF imprint Tor is to come to the UK to build on Pan Macmillan's SF and fantasy list. It has to be said that this is a mixed blessing for English-language SF readers here in Europe. Tor does publish some good SF and if it means we have less time to wait (compared to the usual 12-24 months) for these titles to come to Europe without having to go to the expense of specially importing them then great. The bad news is that the right royally lousy way the UK book trade, and importantly book chains, relate to SF means that new UK talent could possibly be squeezed. (We at Concat have in the past reported how the book trade regularly mis-represents SF as fantasy and vice-versa (though given how the Hugo Awards have been subverted in the past couple of years we in the SF community can hardly complain). We have also previously pointed out at how bad the UK chains are at picking up on Hugo Award and Locus poll winners: they desperately need to improve their book stock selectors' training. Finally the UK has seen a considerable body of World class talent emerge in recent years, let's hope this continues.) Anyway, back to Tor UK. Their March launch list is largely dominated by fantasy, but there is some solid SF (see Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases above). Meanwhile for Tor's own low-down surf www.toruk.com.
Film buffs whose interests stray beyond pure SF found the October 2002 Hammer - The Bray Studio Years film day ably organised by film director Norman Warren and his pal Donald Fearney. We had a delightful time. Four films were shown and of genre note there was The Plague of the Zombies (1965) and The Curse of Captain Clegg (1961). Though the latter is not strictly fantasy, tropes such as the marsh phantoms made it enjoyable for fantasy fans. Two of the Concat team attended this event at the French cine lumiere, South Kensington, London, which was a suitable venue (albeit opposite one of the team's workplace so making for him at least the London trip a bit of a busman's holiday). In addition to the films there was the launch of Wayne Kinsey's new book Hammer Films - The Bray Years and a sprinkling of Hammer stars in attendance. Finally Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan from Blake's 7) picked up her Cult TV Award. Our heartfelt congratulations to Jacqueline. Of the non-genre films, of note was the 35mm war film Yesterday's Enemy (1959), starring Stanley Baker and Leo McKern, whose sub-text is as relevant today as it was in WWII. For film buffs of all persuasions, the joy of such events is viewing films as they were meant to be seen; that is by celluloid projection. Widescreen TV simply does not hack it and will not until high definition TV comes along and since the industry has missed the opportunity when it developed digital we will probably have to wait until IMAX becomes more popular and people's expectation standards of home visuals rise.
Fortunately for us, following on from above, Norman Warren is planning another film day on 8th February 2003 with a one-day Flesh & Blood Film Festival 10.00-23.00. Four features will be shown as well as two shorts. There will also be the launch of a new book, The Flesh & Blood Compendium. Tickets are £25 and available strictly to over 18s by sending cheques payable to 'Fab Press', Grange Suite, Surrey Place, Mill Lane, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1EY. Excellent value considering the rarity of the opportunity for projected viewing of these old films and especially as London West End cinema tickets now cost around £10 per film.
By now you will have realised that the executives at USA's (not the UK's) Sci Fi Channel (who can't even name their own channel correctly since it presents other aspects of science fiction and is not restricted to just 'sci fi') are complete nostrils. Strong language yes, but as you are probably aware the TV show Farscape has been cancelled. The reasons for its cancellation are due to its low US ratings for Sci Fi Channel: they dipped to below a million. (This 'low' ratings problem was the one that beset the first series of Star Trek and later Babylon 5. Worse than news of the cancellation is that Sci Fi did not give the production team a series' notice so that they could properly wrap up the excellent arc story. However the show is popular amongst fans. It is apparently less expensive to make per episode than Buffy the Vampire Slayer though more expensive that Stargate. Anyway there is an on-line petition to save the series at www.ipetitions.com (who, by the way, are doing a good job weeding out duplicate signatures). So if you like the show then now's the time to lend your weight to the cause. Meanwhile the suits at Sci Fi Channel might like to ponder their channel's strategy. Are they solely out to make money producing opiates for the masses (in which case Sci Fi channel's name is appropriate), or will they also fund the occasional marginal, or break-even, series that is just a little more challenging than the usual pap? Farscape does not make a loss; it just doesn't make a huge profit. Furthermore it does sell to channels beyond Sci Fi and is even bought by the BBC here in the UK. Finally, OK so Farscape only has a million viewers on Sci Fi in the US. But what about the number of non-Sci Fi US viewers and the millions elsewhere in the World? Does Sci Fi really want to acquire a reputation for treating viewers callously? Because that is exactly what it is doing! Having said all of this there is, we understand, one small glimmer of hope. Apparently when the cancellation announcement was made to the production team so was an instruction given to get rid of the sets. We are given to believe that this was later change to one of storage, so hopefully the sets will be safe just in case it is decided to make a final series to wrap up the story arc.
The other sad news from last month was the death of Jonathan Harris, the actor who played Zachary Smith in Lost in Space. Lost in Space was a dire Irwin Allen US series, but not without charm, that was broadcast in the UK in 1965 and 1970. That charm largely came from the cowardly and somewhat camp Dr Zachary Smith and his foil, The Robot (Robby from Forbidden Planet) as they battled the elements, aliens and other nasties, with the Robinson family when they all crashed their ship on a far flung planet.. Though fondly remembered for Lost in Space Jonathan Harris was an accomplished actor of stage (including Shakespeare), TV (especially the Third Man) and film (his last was a voice of the preying-Mantis magician in A Bug's Life). He died aged 87.
More trouble for the proposed Japan in 2007 Worldcon bid. (See November 2002 News in which we noted Japan was not answering e-mail queries as to why registrants for the past 6 months had not been posted on their website despite recent site updates.) Anyway, up to now the word from the great and the good in fandom was that : Japan 2007 was being given a free run. No longer it appears! A rival 2007 Worldcon bid is emerging for the convention to be held in Columbus, Ohio. If the Japanese are genuinely serious about winning the bid for 2007 then they really need to get their act together. Not only is Japan expensive for Europeans to get to, it boasts the most expensive cities in the World. We need to be given confidence if we are to part with so many hard-earned groats that the event will be worth it. We also need time to save up. Friend of Concatenation, and past Concat photographer on the team, Pete Tyers reported that at this year's (2002) US Worldcon the Japanese had not presented a convincing case. There were few answers to fundamental questions such as the high cost of hotels. Meanwhile the new rival bid in Ohio have been in touch with us regarding promotion: so they seem to at least be proactive. Now, throughout the past year (2002) we have posted a statement of support on our dairy page for Japan in 2007. We now no longer feel that we would be doing right by our regular surfers to support a Worldcon bid that currently (at least) is so flawed, and so for the time being we will not pledge our support for 2007 Worldcon bids until things become clearer. We will continue to monitor both the Japan and Ohio camps. We will keep you informed.
Arthur C. Clarke has been contracted as a consultant on the forth-coming film adaptation of his novel Childhood's End. Currently (Christmas 2002) the film is in pre-production. The studio Universal reportedly paid Arthur $20,000 for all rights in 1953 and this consultancy gives him a further mid-six-figure sum. Let's hope that this means that Universal listen to the man. If they do then the film could be cracking as only in recent years have cinematic effects become capable of translating the novel to the big screen.
The above payment is a mere trifle compared to the $5 million Michael Crichton has reportedly received from 20th Century Fox for the film rights to his high-tech novel Prey. Hopefully this will take the edge off some unfortunate news we have heard affecting the Crichton household. We understand that the Crichtons were burgled in the autumn (2002). A traumatic experience for anyone and the Crichtons have our sympathies.
Unsurprising news that two blockbuster sequels are being produced for 2004, The Amazing Spiderman and Jurassic Park IV. Apparently the former will see more romance while the latter the continuation of Sam Neill in his role. Bit of a gripe from Concat's bioscientist on this one as Neill reportedly has said, "The scientists never seem to learn!" For gawd's sake stop blaming the scientists. Hammond was a business man (employing mainly technicians) who was warned by a scientist of the dangers... Still, a bottle of wine, munchies etc., and all the Concat team will settle down to watch this one. Simon might yet get the date of the K/T extinction to within 5 million years and tell us about the most tricky special effect (the vibrations in the puddle from dinosaur footprints he says), Tony will no doubt pick up on some inconsistency in the action, Graham will fall asleep after an hour (and swear later he didn't), Jonathan will worry about the ecology, Elaine will simply enjoy the movie - well actually we all will, just that we have different ways of doing it.
Fiction predicts 9/11 it would seem from a letter published in this month's (December 2002) Fortean Times (the magazine promoting Charles Fort's perspective on life and the unusual). The letter writer was Bruce Harwood who is better known in SF circles as 'Byers' of the Lone Gunmen - the small band of computer geeks who occasionally help Mulder and Scully in the US television series The X Files. ('The Lone Gunmen' is the title of the geeks' anti-conspiracy newsletter.) Harwood tells us that over the winter of 2000/1 they shot a spin-off series of The Lone Gunmen which has yet to be aired in many countries on terrestrial networks. 12 episodes were made but the pilot episode concerns a conspiracy to stimulate the arms trade by having a remote controlled airline fly into the World Trade Center and blame it on terrorists. Harwood tells us they then shot the other 11 episodes before packing up to go home on - you guessed it - September 9th 2001. Obviously it is now unlikely that the pilot will be shown. Story verification: Bruce Harwood's letter appears on p52 December 2002 edition of The Fortean Times. Separately SFX magazine published episode synopses of the first Lone Gunmen episodes in their 'Spoiler Zone' insert to its May 2001 edition (which obviously came out before September 11th 2001).
Budding writers in the US can sign up for this year's (2003) six-week Summer Session of the Odyssey Writing Workshop with Gene Wolfe as the writer in residence. The workshop has a good track record with 40% of its alumni of the past eight years going on to get professionally published. This year there is an added bonus of a few small scholarships for the most promising students at the end of the session. The Workshop is held at the New South Hampshire University. Tuition fees and accommodation costs amount to a total of some US $2,000 - the cost of a decent foreign holiday, so it is good value. Details are on www.ssf.net/odyssey.
Like exploring new worlds and meeting new civilizations? Have a sense of adventure? Booked your foreign holiday for 2003 yet? Well the closest you are likely to get to exploring new worlds is to join NASA as a trainee astronaut, and as for meeting alien civilizations your chances are probably pretty thin. However if, as a science fiction enthusiast you are into at least the broad concept of such activities and wish to indulge yourself in comparative safety then do check out the 2nd International Week of SF (see the progress reports that are linked off the main page). The event is a small one (75 people) but international with a fair proportion of SF professionals and personalities attending. If you have never visited the central European Black Sea states and would like to, then this event combining SF and personalised tourism could well be your chance of a lifetime. Currently over half the places have been taken. Locals are likely to snap up the remaining places in February and March as the organisers are holding off their last publicity push in Timisoara until then. This gives non-Romanian SF enthusiasts a clear run to take up some of the spare places between now and February, 2003. As you will see from the Progress Reports the event will mainly be in English. There is provision for Western visitors to have translator guides, to see life beyond Timisoara and of course meet leading Eastern European SF authors (as well as western SF professionals and personalities). And the registration cost is almost free!!! (See Progress Report 1.) The good people from this part of Europe were largely isolated from the rest of the World from 1945 up to as recently as 1990. Their economy is still catching up, but the stories you will hear are fascinating and their imagination is as wild as yours or mine. So if you have not booked next year's big holiday yet, and you would like a unique experience of a lifetime, then you'll be hard put to find such an exotic blend of travel and SF. (And the hotel and meal out costs are cheaper than the US or Western Europe.)
Just a thought, if you are from outside of Europe and are thinking of attending the 2nd International Week of SF, then do check out the Concatenation diary page. You may find you can take in one or two other European conventions at the same time if you wish to make the most of the transatlantic air fare and have a longer stay. Again, if you do do this and decide to stop off in London, then you will find details on Dave Langford's Ansible site of various London SF meetings and pub (bar) gatherings held each month which range from the London Circle (about 100 attend) to the small such as the weekly City Illiterates (typically only half a dozen).
That's it for now folks. There will be a small site up-date in the early Spring and also do check out Concatenation's post-Easter site news, articles and reviews. Included will be the annual meta-analysis (of 52 weekly top tens) of which dvd/video SF film rentals were top of the year: there are usually one or two surprises and the occasional film you may have missed. Meanwhile Concatenation convention reporters will be at Eurocon 2003, the 2nd International Week of Science and SF, the Worldcon 2003 and the Festival of Fantastic Films as well as one or two other events. And our friends, well they will be there and at a lot of other hapenings too. Splundig, as the good folk at 2000AD say.
See also November 2002 News and the Forthcoming book news to December 2002.
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