Science Fiction News & Science for the Spring 2005

This is an archive page. Go here for the latest seasonal science fiction news.

SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases for Spring 2005 | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

 

Science Fiction News

The other sub-sections within SF News to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Artist News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other Convention News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.

The Hugo Awards were presented at the 2004 Worldcon, Noreascon, on 4th September a few days after our illustrious webmaster had received Concat's autumnal material. However in case you had not heard, here are the winners.
Best Novel: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Best Novella: The Cookie Monster by Vernor Vinge
Best Novelette: Legions in Time by Michael Swanwick
Best Short Story: A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
Best Related Book: The Chesley Awards by John Grant, Elizabeth L. Humphrey, & Pamela D. Scoville
Best Professional Editor: Gardner Dozois
Best Professional Artist: Bob Eggleton
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): "Gollum's Acceptance Speech at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards"
Best Semiprozine: Locus
Best Fanzine: Emerald City
Best Fan Writer: Dave Langford
Best Fan Artist: Frank Wu
And for the John W. Campbell Award: Jay Lake
None of the core team made it across the Pond this year, however we received comments from, and some of us had a drink or two with a few of those that did, and of course (as we do twice a year for all prospective Worldcon and Eurocons) we e-mailed the committee inviting comment or further information. Our no so brief report is below.

Canada's premiere SF award, the Prix Aurora Awards, for 2004 were presented at Canada's national convention over Halloween weekend.
The Best English Long-Form went to Robert Charles Wilson for Blind Lake. We noted last year that both Locus and ourselves liked this title and indeed it was nominated for a Hugo though did not win. (The winner was another we both liked.) Robert Charles Wilson has won an Aurora long-form once before in 1999 for Darwinia. Both are hard-ish SF so likely to appeal to sciencephile SF fans frequenting Concat'. However you may need to get your bookshop to order these for you this side of the Pond. The other Aurora category winners were:
Best French Long-Form: Phaos by Alain Bergeron
Best English Short-Form: Scream Angel by Douglas Smith
Best French Short-Form: La Course de Kathryn by Elisabeth Vonarburg
Best Other English Space Inc. edited by Julie E. Czerneda
Best Other French: Solaris Joel Champetier, ed.
Art: Jean-Pierre Normand
Fan (Zine): Made in Canada edited by Don Bassie
Fan (Organizational): Martin Miller
Fan Achievement: Eric Layman

The 2004 French SF Prize, the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire [Imagination Great Prize], winners were presented during the Utopiales Festival (See the convention reviews index for past Utopiale coverage.) The winners in the various categories were:
French novel: Transparencies by Ayerdhal
Translated novel: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
French short story: Serpentine a collection by Melanie Fazi
Translated short story: Sisyphe et l'Etranger [Sisyphus and the Stranger] by Paul Di Filippo
Children's or YA Book: Mosa Wosa by Nathalie Le Gendre
Translation: Nathalie Mege, for her translation of Perdido Street Station above
Graphic Work L'Art de Jean-Claude Forest [The Art of Jean-Claude Forest] by Philippe Lefevre-Vakana
Essay: L'Histoire revisitee (2e edition) [History Revisited, 2nd edition) by Eric Henriet
Special Award: NooSFere (www.noosfere.org ) the French Canadian website
European Award: Andreas Eschbach for his European anthology in German, One Trillion Euro

The 2004 World Fantasy Awards were presented at the World Fantasycon in Tempe, Arizona, 28-31st October:
Best Novel:Jo Walton for Tooth and Claw
Novella: Greer Gilman for A Crowd of Bone
Short: Bruce Holland Rogers for Don Ysidro
Anthology: Rosalie Parker, editor of Strange Tales
Collection: Elizabeth Hand for Bibliomancy
Artist: Donato Giancola & Jason Van Hollander(tie)
Special Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Special Non-Professional: Ray Russell & Rosalie Parker for Tartarus Press
Life Achievement: Stephen King and Gahan Wilson
Art show awards were also presented at the convention:
Best in Show: "Grand Conspiracy" by Janny Wurts
Best Colour Picture: Transcendence" by Don Maitz
Best 3D Piece: "Buckin' Tradition" by Heather Johnson
The World Fantasy Convention is the annual convention mainly for professional fantasy authors, artists, and editors. As such, with far fewer fans attending, it is smaller than the SF Worldcon and this year's had over 800 attending. The theme of the convention was 'Women in Fantasy and Horror'. The Guests of Honour were: Gwyneth Jones (author); Janny Wurts (artist); Ellen Datlow (editor); Betty Ballantine (publisher); and Jennifer Roberson (toastmistress). Special Guests were: Don Maitz (artist) and Yvonne Navarro (author/artist). Next year's convention will be in Madison, Wisconsin and in 2006 Austin, Texas.

Tharg has done it again with 2000AD winning 6 Comics International Awards at this year's Diamond National Comics Convention (Bristol). 2000AD and Starlord led British comics SF and sci-fi at the end of the 1970s and the two merged. Since then 2000AD has always had a strong showing in the various national comics awards (it was the Eagle Award back then). Since 1999 Comics International has benchmarked UK appreciation. 2000AD, with its flagship character 'Judge Dredd' did very well despite stiff competition from Europe and the US. Indeed the Judge Dredd Megazine came runner-up to 2000AD as comic of the year. Here at Concatenation, whose core team had fan links with 2000AD way back in the 1970s, the news was only marred by letterer Tom Frame failing to get nominated. Tom's work has been integral in bringing the scripts to life, complementing the artists' works. Tom, your day will come! Meanwhile you can check out the 2000AD website that was also one of the Award category winners.

The winners of the British Fantasy Award were announced at Fantasycon, Walsall, UK in September.
Best Novel: Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
Best Short Fiction: American Waitress by Christopher Fowler
Best Anthology: The Mammoth Book of New Horror: Volume 14 edited by Stephen Jones
Best Collection: Told by the Dead by Ramsey Campbell
Best Artist: Les Edwards
Best Small Press PS Publishing
Karl Edward Wagner Special Award: Peter Jackson for his film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings

Dell Magazines' Science Fiction Cruise is due to take place May 21-28, 2005 with the editors of Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction magazines, plus, Kevin J. Anderson, James Patrick Kelly, Rebecca Moesta, Robert Sawyer, and Connie Willis. At the time of posting places were still available.

The new Daleks have been unveiled for the forthcoming return of Dr Who TV series. Fortunately the changes are minor. The shape of their speech lights, and the base rim are the main differences. Overall they are the same. (Phew. The universe can breathe easy in the knowledge we'll recognise them when they arrive.)

Star Wars is to come to TV. At least that is what it looks like. The word is the new show will hopefully hit the airwaves in 2006. Apparently George Lucas has, for the time being anyway, entrusted the venture to someone called Kevin Smith.

A James Bond prequel book, Silverfin is to be launched in March (2005). It will be the first of a 'Young Bond' series of adventures from Puffin. ISBN 0-141-31859-7. Guess it was only a matter of time... (Time, young Bond... Oh, have it your own way.)

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has been banned from the Lebanon due to complaints from the Lebanon Catholic Information Centre.

SciFi Wire, the web site for SciFi Channel went all futuristic in December 2004 with a face lift and a page copyright notice that read (c) 2005. Let's do the time warp agaaiin.

The Autumn sadly saw us lose the following scientists and SF personalities:

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr., died aged 77. He was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and flew on the Gemini 5 mission. He died, October 4, on the same day the X Prize was won by SpaceShipOne and on the 47th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik (and 48th anniversary of one of our editor's birth). An era passes.

Alfred Coppel, the prolific US writer, most famous for his 'Rhada' space opera series of books, died aged 83.

Bob Haney, DC comics writer for numerous titles, aged died 78.

Edward (Ted) Hughes, British fan.

Ed Kemmer, the actor who played Cmdr. Buzz Corry on the TV show Space Patrol.Ed Kemmer was also a World War II fighter pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines. Space Patrol is not so well known this side of the Atlantic. The idea, from Mike Moser, was that the Space Patrol provided security from super criminals for the solar system c. 3000 AD from its base, the terra-formed planet Terra, and lead by Commander Buzz Cory. The series began as began as a 15 minute programme on a local Los Angels station in March 1950 and continued 5 days a week with around 800 episodes until 1953. At some point ABC took over and it developed 210 30 minute episodes. The show ran until February 1955.

Bill Krucek died in October aged 49 after a month or so of illness prompted by diabetes. A Chicago area fan he was involved with Windycon for a quarter of a century.

Stieg Larsson the influential Swedish SF fan and crime writer, died aged 50.

Irv Novick the artist who frequently drew Batman from the 1960s to the 1980s, died aged 88.

Christopher Reeve, the actor who played the Hugo-winning Superman (1978-87), not to mention starring in Somewhere in Time and the remake of The Village of the Damned. On the science front he was a tireless campaigner in the US for stem cell research which held out the promise of a possible cure: he was wheelchair bound since a riding accident in 1995. He recently appeared as a scientist in the TV series Smallville so effectively handing over the Superman torch. He died aged 52.

George Tage Valentin Sjöberg, the long-standing Sewdish fan and fanzine editor died aged 73.

Lyn Smith, the Australian fan, and widow of Bob Smith (1930-2003), died aged 60.

John Vanible, the New York fan aged 49.

Sir John Vane The British Nobel Prize winner (medicine, 1982) for discovering how aspirin works died November aged 77. A chemist turned pharmacologist, also discovered prostacyclin (a short-lived hormone that dilated blood vessels and prevents platelet clumping). He published over 900 papers and was joint editor of over 20 books. He was also the victim of 'animal rights' extremists who fire-bombed, and scrawled graffiti on, his house. Coincidentally a book Aspirin: The Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys, Bloomsbury, 0-747-57077-9, is now out.

Doug Webster, the British fan who did much to keep fandom going during WWII died at the end of August.

Fred Whipple, US astronomer and co-author (with Willey Ley and Wherner von Braun) of the 2004 Retro Hugo winner Conquest of the Moon (1953), died at age 97 on 31 August. It was only four days before the Retro-Hugo win was announced and two months before his 98th birthday. He discovered six comets and the asteroid 1252 Celesta (named after his mother) and came up with the 'dirty snowball' model of comets. During World War II he led an effort to dupe enemy radar with strips of aluminium (chaff) dropped from planes and before Sputnik developed the Whipple shield (a series of thin metallic layers) to protect space craft from micrometeorites. On his 90th birthday when asked the secret of his longevity he quipped, "you've to start early".

William J. `Bill' Widder, long-standing US fan and non-fiction SF author, died aged 78.

Maurice Wilkins, who shared the Nobel with Watson and Crick for discovering the structure of DNA, died aged 87 early in October. Wilkins' contribution was on doing the X-ray diffractions as did Rosalind Franklin who died before the Nobel was awarded the team.

Tetsu Yano, long-standing Japanese SF author, translator and fan, died aged 81.

 

SF BOOK TRADE NEWS

As those in the trade know, Hodder Headline and Orion have become the Hachette UK Book Group. Together they publish 13% of UK books and in turn now come under ownership of the ownership of the French group Hachette Livre. However there are ethical concerns in that a third of the Hachette conglomerate income comes from the defence company EADS (European Aeronautical Defence and Space) who manufactures the European airbus as well as cruise missiles, fighter planes, attack copters and so forth. Are Hodder's authors aware of this? Probably not. Hachette's long-term strategy is reportedly to be the book leader across three markets: French, Spanish and English. Yes, and the latter ultimately includes in the long-term the US.

'Read books, get brain' was the slogan of a book/literacy promotion plastered all over 200 New York city buses last autumn. However 'get brain' is a slang term used by the young in the US for oral sex. NY's Metropolitan Transit Authority's spokesman said, "It's easy enough to understand how that would get by based on someone not knowing the expression." Apparently as of November others did not as the slogan also appears on buses and bus shelters in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Since clearly this season's news column is rapidly going down-market, you might want (or not as the case may be) to check out the Big Dick Lit website. It is devoted to literary references to large members in the classics such as Shakespeare.

The Antwerp book fayre last autumn attracted a record number. The 68th annual book fayre lasted two weeks and had a record 182,000 visitors.

Peter Donaldson and his Red Lion bookshop gets a big plug from the (UK) Bookseller trade magazine (Nov) as a specialist SF bookshop that successfully competes against the non-specialist book chains. Well we all know how poor WH Smiths coverage of SF is, but is there anything to Donaldson's claim to attract customers from his Colchester (Essex) shop from London and Anglia? Well we gave it some thought. Our Jonathan remembered that last year he found hardly any of the Hugo novel nominations in the London flagship shop of a major SF chain, and Graham was dumbfounded that the same chain's Manchester branch did not carry a single copy of any Philip K Dick! Meanwhile our Tony has already found his specialist shop in Leicester. So would-be specialist bookshop owners, there's a niche but find yourself a big town that only has chains and no competing specialist for a score of miles.

Penguin TV is to close. The division set up only last year to promote joint TV and book projects is to close with on-going projects handed over to the books division.

This Spring Penguin is to promote a new series of H. G. Wells book releases. Time to tie in with Speilberg's The War of the Worlds film and the National Film Theatres H. G. Wells season in May. Penguin have secured notables such as Brian Aldiss and Margaret Atwood to write introductions to the books.

Just time for a quick look back at the Christmas (4 weeks of December) UK book charts. Stephen King's Dark Tower entered the all-title charts at number 2, while Terry Pratchett's Going Postal entered at no 5 but held its own while Dark Tower slipped. Turning to the 'Original Fiction' chart, Susanna Clark's Jonathan Norrell and Mr Strange entered the chart weekending September 25th at no 7 but then started to slip. 'The Non-Fiction' top ten was dominated by Himalaya by Michael Palin which shows the power of TV, but the other real science title that gave it a run for its money was Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything which itself did well in the far tougher 'all-title' chart reaching 14 early in December and so beating Pratchett's fiction Going Postal which at that time was 37.

Odd book titles of 2004. Yes, its that time when we look at what Bent of The Bookseller has been advised as the weirdest book titles of the past year. All are meant to be genuine titles. Applications of High Tech Squids is by one J. Clarke, and not Stephen Baxter. Not to be confused with the horse riding fraternity's Equids in Time and Space or Bombproof Your Horse. Perhaps the title that might be most appreciated by fans of that BECCON favourite 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clute', or even BBC's R4's 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' there's Sexual Health At Your Finger Tips. Samantha...

More book news shortly after Easter. Meanwhile...

 

MAJOR SF AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Clive Barker's Midnight Picture Show company has reportedly joined with Armada Pictures to produce Plague. Plague is to be set in the future when mysteriously the world's children have become comatose. (A family film then?) Barker will also be a procucer with Jorge Saralegui and Tim O'Hair. Meanwhile Clive is producing Dread for Fox based on his short story.

Gregory (Timescape) Benford and Walter (City on Fire) Jon Williams will be (Dr) Jack Williamson Lectureship guests at the 29th annual Lectureship to be held 3rd March, 2005, at the Eastern New Mexico University. There will be a panel discussion of science-art interactions at 7pm in the Buchanan Hall of the Music Building. Connie Willis will be the MC. Benford's next book will be The Sunborn and will also be published that month. A recurring theme of much of astrophysicist Benford's SF has been the concept of plasma beings living in stars, and presumably this idea might relate to his latest's title(?).

Ray Bradbury received an award from President Bush in the White House in November. Bush and the first lady presented him with the National Medal of Arts in the Oval Office. We've not noticed any offers of ashtrays on e-bay.

Just missing our September update, Joe Haldeman was voted the 2004 SESFA Lifetime Achievement Award in October. The South-eastern Science Fiction Achievement Award (the SESFA) is an annual award founded in 2001, and designed to honour accomplishment in science fiction, fantasy or horror to individuals born or living in the South-eastern United States. Aside from being an excellent hard SF writer, Joe is one of the few US authors to have frequented the Eurocon in central and eastern Europe a couple of times in the past decade or so. Our congratulations.

Ursula LeGuin is annoyed with SciFi Channel's treatment of her Earthsea. Talking about the new mini-series, she says on www.slate.com: "It's full of scenes from the story arranged differently. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film he's a petulant white kid."

Phillip Pullman makes a case for reading being a democratic activity which theocracies discourage. He powerfully presented his argument in an essay published in the autumnal Index on Censorship vol. 33 which was then reprinted in The Guardian Review. He goes on to say that Bush's America is heading the same way.

Phillip Pullman once again shows that speculative fiction tends to predict the future when the US film-makers adapting His Dark Materials decide to remove references to God. Apparently this censorship is so as not to offend Christians unable to turn the other cheek and so likely to be intolerant to religious critique. SciFi Wire's poll had over 3,000 vote as to whether or not this censorship should happen. 80% voted for the film to be as the book. And so it goes.

According to a Sunday Times survey J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter books, was the highest female earner in Britain during the year to September 2004, earning eight times more than the Queen. We await the postage stamps.

Robert J. Sawyer received the "Civic Award of Recognition" from the city of Mississauga, Ontario on October 7th in honour of his international success in science fiction. Two Olympic athletes from Mississauga also received awards.

Rob Sawyer has also been in touch to say that his novel Hybrids, the concluding volume of his 'Neanderthal Parallax' trilogy (one of which one a Hugo in 2003) is now out in N. America from Tor. The first in the series won the Hugo for 'best novel' in 2003. Those this side of the Pond will probably need to order it unless your specialist SF bookshop has it. ISBN 0-765-34906-X. The second volume of his 'Quintaglio Ascension' trilogy, Fossil Hunter will be reissued in March 2005, and the third, Foreigner, will be out in August again from Tor, ISBN 0-765-30972-6. Finally, his next novel, Mindscan, will be published in April.

Robert Sawyer's Identity Theft has won the prize in the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya's annual contest for best unpublished sf novella in Catalan, Spanish, English, or French. He gets Euro 6,000 which if Sawyer was residing in the US (as opposed to Canada) would benefit from the recent excellent exchange rate.

Paul Harland (John Paul Smit), SF author, was apparently murdered. He had previously been reported as having committed suicide on June 17, 2003, but in September (2004) a Dutch court sentenced his Bosnian husband `TD.' to 12 years' imprisonment for premeditated murder. The motive was apparently TD's fear of losing Dutch residency rights if an intended separation had been completed.

J.R.R. Tolkien's eight-bedroom house has been given listed (protected) status. The residence at 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford, now has a Grade II listing. This makes it harder for anyone to knock it down or alter its external appearance.

Lynn (StarDoc) Viehl has launched a 'Dark Fantasy' website, www.darkyn.com (no longer functioning when link-checked Jan 2007), for her debut dark fantasy novel series published by Signet Eclipse. Apparently this project nearly never happened for in addition to writing eight novels in 2004 (yes, eight!), Viehl spent months researching and developing the website. "The three hurricanes that hit us this summer didn't help much," said Viehl. "I lost two computers and did most of my work on a battery-operated PDA." Viehl has had twenty-five novels published in five different genres, since her professional debut in January 2000. She hopes to have seven titles out this year (2005). In short she has a long way to go before she catches up with Lionel Fanthorpe who, for over a decade at the end of the 1950s and early '60s, had well over a book a month published (Clute says that at Lionel's peak it was virtually weekly). Mind you Fanthorpe cannot claim to have been hindered by three hurricanes. We will watch Lynn's career with a certain interest.

Oscar Wilde has had a bit of a result (something we never thought we'd be saying on the Concat' news page). At the end of October a collection of his works, including a rare early print of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and other material was sold at Sotheby's (London) for a total of £850,392. This came as a surprise being well above the £600,000 estimate.

Peter Weston has written a book! It actually documents a bit of Brit SF fandom history mainly in the 1960s and 1970s up to the Worldcon Peter helped organise.Peter is of course known for organising the 1979 British Worldcon and for Hugo spaceship building. His intentionally OTT promotion of his book was a running joke at last year's Worldcon at which he was fan guest. The book is called With Stars In My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom and is available from NESFA Press. Peter had copies at the December meeting of the London Circle: one for tru-fans. Its publication has caused some fans to make their own comment on Brit fan events of yore and this has led to an on-line supplement in e-fanzines.

Diana Wynne Jones's first book, Changeover, is back in print after an absence of more than 30 years. The book, a comic satire, has been reprinted by new small press Moondust Books. Best known for her children's fantasy, especially the Chrestomanci series, Diana Wynne Jones has written more than 40 books in total.

 

EUROCON/WORLDCON NEWS

The 2004 Worldcon, Noreascon, just missed getting included in our Autumnal news review (see Hugo Award news above). It was (from the first hand reports we received and other coverage) on the whole most successful. By and large the convention was well run beginning with short to non-existent queues at registration. It was also good to see two Brit guests at an American Worldcon: Terry Pratchett and Pete Weston. The two also got together on stage with the former being interviewed by the latter. The only major downside for everyone was that the largely-excellent programme was not streamed by interest, so that all too often fantasy items clashed with fantasy items, etc., and of course the many science-with-science clashes concern our regulars. All most irritating especially when it could so easily have been avoided.
There were the usual readings and signings not to mention a range of panels that largely seemed to touch on most of the genre's spectrum from comics, TV, and lit crit to science (more of which later).
The cinematic programme was above average considering for a recent Worldcon - Worldcons of late have marginalized this genre dimension with: poor film choice (Torcon showed Trek documentaries we've seen before), or dispensing with celluloid in favour of video projecting (it ain't the same), and a number of Worldcons have the film programme poorly listed with no director, country, or paragraph synopsis and many provided the information on a separate sheet given out somewhere beneath the stairs. However Noreascon recognised that in addition to the Hugo Best-Dramatic nominations there is little point screening films you can pick up at the video store or see on TV (hooray), and so there were a few independents and some amateur films. They also partly recognised that the cinematic experience is a social one and there was the Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Of course in 2005 with the Eurocon-Worldcon the opportunities for viewing rarely seen SF are great indeed.)
Science was amplycovered, according to the original programme schedule, with a large number of items, mainly by panels. Stand by for the mega-list: 'Living in an SF World', 'How Possible is Time Travel?', '(Really) Hard Science for Beginners', 'Designing Real Spacecraft', 'Alternate Ecologies', 'The Invention of the Laser', 'Science Writing', 'How to Lie With Statistics', 'Artificial Intelligence', 'How the Brain Works', 'Science and SF Reading in the Upper Elementary Grades', 'The Science of Chocolate', 'Tall Tech Tales', 'Birds of Prey', 'Future of the Space Shuttle', 'Highlights from the Hubble Space Telescope', 'Space Weather Forecasting', 'The Future of Forensic Evidence', 'Restoration Ecology', 'Asteroids: Friends or Foes?', 'The Two Cultures in F&SF: Science Confronts the Humanities', 'People for the Ethical Treatment of Mars', 'The Cassini Mission', 'SETI Update', 'The MIT Media Lab: A Visit From the Future', 'Cyber-Crime: Present and Future', 'Physics vs. Fiction', 'Teaching Science With Science Fiction', 'Mars is for Robots', 'Can Explain That! - The SF/Fantasy Challenge', 'Science and Song', 'Turning Science into SF', 'The Space Elevator', 'Where Art Meets Science: The Genomic Sculptures of Mara Haseltine', 'The Ethics of Cloning', 'Beyond the Human Genome Project', 'Is Wernher von Braun Haunting NASA?', 'The Future of Food', 'Futurists and Science Fiction Writers: Tools of the Trade', 'Terraforming Venus?', 'Biological Nanotechnology', 'Pictures from Mars', 'How to Use Science and Technology in SF - Or Should We?', 'Turn Left at Orion: Using a Small Telescope', 'Snowball Earth: When the Planet Froze', 'The Brain, the Universe, Consciousness, and Free Will', 'Technology Today!', 'Genetic Engineering', 'Beyond Hubble and Keck - Really Big Telescopes', 'Weird Tales of Early Aviation', 'Have Spacesuit...', 'Can SF Teach the Scientific Method?', 'The Human Cloning Wars', 'A David Hardy Interview', 'The Fermi Paradox: Where is Everyone', 'Lonely Planet: The Extinction of Everybody But Us', 'The Next Plague', 'Discoveries That Weren't: Near Misses in Science', 'The Afshar Experiment: A Farewell to Copenhagen?', 'Ethical Issues in Neuroscience', 'Obsolete High Technology', 'What's New in Astronomy?', 'In-Space Propulsion Systems', 'The Medieval Technology and Science that Fantasy Ignores', and 'Space Habitats and Biospheres'. The 2003 Worldcon (Toronto) had just four major science programme clashes and not the dozens that Noreascon had, and virtually all the 2003 science items (at least the life science ones) ran to their original scheduled time. Next year's (2005) Worldcon (Glasgow) is headed up by the same person who ran the 1995 Worldcon and that had themed programme streams which effectively eliminated subject-interest clashes. Of course with a dozen programme streams one cannot see anything but less than 10% of the programme, but that is exactly why theme streaming is so, so important.
Reports of the extravaganzas were largely good. There were some complaints from a few photographers. The masquerade did not suffer from being long and drawn out as it was in 2003. The Hugo ceremony went off as usual. See the award winners above. The Japanese made a particularly visual contribution for the preceding Seiun Awards for works translated into Japanese (one thing which bodes well for 2007 as the Japanese will be running the Hugo ceremony). Robert Silverberg gave a short account of past Hugo ceremonies of which he is most familiar. From other coverage of the event, a minority of commentators winged that a couple of winners were not present but most did not seem to mind. However the only slightly major problem appeared to be that the Locus team got just one Hugo trophy as opposed to one each for the three on their senior core team. This was later settled and (according to Locus) they were due to get extra trophies after the event. This is only proper as one of their team has left Locus and deserves the memento.
Finally Erwin 'Filthy Pierre' Strauss picked up the E. Everett Evans 'Big Heart' for services to SF and fandom as well as separately a Noreascon 4 special committee award for someone who has contributed to fandom or SF for many years.
The bookroom saw more dealers than the previous year in Toronto. Presumably Toronto's poor dealer showing was part driven by the difficulties in getting stock across the border from the US. But this year we were told that dealers from outside the US had hassle and expense in bringing goods in. Added to which we have been told that sales were not exactly buoyant and one book dealer, we've been informed, did not make a any sales at all for the first few days of the convention! Of course Worldcons vary and it may well be time to start to collect and publish sales data from bookdealers so that those considering dealing at future conventions can begin to gauge the size and nature of the market?
The World SF Society business meetings went as well as usual. There had been worry that the move to two year bidding from three years in advance would be controversial and scuppered. Holding a conrunning team together for well over three years (which is what you have to do with three year bidding) is a long time, hence the decision to shorten this lead time. The arguments against are that you need the lead time for preparation. As it happened the motion went through more smoothly than many expected. We were told that it was easy to identify the real conrunners who actually do the work and they were all of a like mind, so in the end no problem. The motion went through comfortably.

As per our Autumn news posting, the Plovdiv Eurocon in August went off well complete with a cosmonaut and a letter of welcome from Bulgaria's President: surely two firsts for a Eurocon. We now have Jim Walker's convention report plus supplementary coverage. But you may have seen other reports in English of the convention on western websites and even in western specialist magazines in August through to November. Unfortunately we understand from a committee member that these are based on separate reports by two fans who attended the Eurocon for just a day of the event and who did not run their report by the committee or, as far as we know, with anyone who attended all of the convention! These reports therefore contain a number of serious errors and omissions. One website report even stated that the Eurocon Awards went undecided! (Well we were delighted with ours.) An international specialist magazine (which normally has high reporting standards) only reported Eurocon Awards presented to representatives on-stage at the Eurocon. (Ours was meant to be a surprise given to us just after the event but which anyone who really attended the ESFS Award-deciding meeting would have known and we were thrilled to have our presentation at the Festival of Fantastic Films.) The same magazine also quoted the numbers attending as a third of those actually there. Other mistakes included people contributed to the programme who in reality were not even there so original intentions and aspirations (that were on the Eurocon website) were not manifest but reported as if they happened! Rest assured the Eurocon report in Concatenation's Autumnal news was provided by a member of the Eurocon committee and cross-checked with Jim Walker who both attended the Eurocon and participated in its programme. Notwithstanding, Concatenation was a media partner for the convention. Website and magazine editors need to be sure of their sources and you, dear surfer, need to be able to trust those disseminating SF news.
Meanwhile, as reported below, our Jonathan and Graham were presented with Concat's aforesaid European SF Award at the Festival of Fantastic Films who posted the news on their website together with pictorial evidence that there were indeed ESFS Eurocon Awards this year.

Preparations for the 2005 World-Eurocon, Interaction (Glasgow) are coming along nicely. There has been a change in the programme committee purely (and sadly) due to health and, separately, also in those running the science programme. Concat' was told that this last might result in a communications hiccough (which is perfectly understandable) and if you had sent a message to them regarding the science programme and have not received a reply then it might be helpful to re-send your message. (They are usually good at follow-up.) No news received as to the Eurocon dimension, other than on the film side efforts are being made to secure offerings that have been dubbed into English. If you are an independent film maker from continental Europe or an amateur with a short and would like to have it aired, then post a good quality video tape to the convention programme folk as soon as possible before Easter (the convention is using a video projector). The annual SF Worldcon only comes to Europe once a decade so it is up to us to make the most of it.
PROGRESS REPORT 3 came out just before Christmas however, because of the Xmas post, registrants may not get theirs until January. It is a big one and features travel details and (a nice touch for overseas visitors some previous Eurocons have done) provided for a holiday tour of Scotland the week before the convention. As of October, some 2,415 had 'attending' registrations plus there is a further 598 other categories (such as 'supporting membership' who get the convention literature). With less than 8 months and counting to go numbers are not bad but could be a little better, it all depends on the last few months rush. Regarding registrant nationality after the Brits and US Americans, the Germans (three score or so), Scandanavians (50) (bidding for next year's Eurocon), Poles (a score) and Canadians are the nations most represented with a sprinkling from a dozen other countries.
The membership rates have gone up for those yet to register. New attending is now UK£100 for all five days (and nights) of the convention and this will get you into programme items on all of the several parallel programme streams, extravaganzas, bookroom and art show etc. The overseas rates are: Euro 165; CDN$ 260, AUS$ 275; 1,210 DKR; 1,360 NOK; 1,480 SEK; 710 PLN; JPY 22,000; and US$ 195. There is an approximately two-thirds discount for children aged between 7 and 15 years. Hotel rates and other accommodation details link off of the Interaction World-Eurocon 2005 site. The organisers are organising a staff weekend 4-6th Feb 05 in Glasgow. (If you live in the area and you'd like to volunteer some time helping out with a particular aspect then why not go along. See their website for details.) Click and scroll down a little for Concat's last season's news of the event.

Preparations for the 2006 Eurocon in the Ukraine are also coming along, notwithstanding the November-December post-election hiatus. Eurocons in Central and Eastern Europe have always been difficult to organise, if not due to state control before 1990 then few resources after 1990. However the Ukraine and far eastern Europe that border Russia are still going through many of the stages that Central European nations completed in the early 1990s. Against this backdrop, attending the 2006 Eurocon really will be an experience above and beyond the usual Eurocon adventure but western fans and professionals should not go with any preconceptions as to what to expect. At the time of compiling this Spring news (December), Kiev had effectively seen a revolution and it is clear that, whatever the electoral shenanigans, the country was split. The consequence for the 2006 Eurocon organisers is that formal state support is not as rock solid as they would like, nor do they know exactly what resources they can draw upon but promising dialogue and some progress has been made. However the news is that the 2006 Eurocon has told Concat' that: "we already have a good news - the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture will include the Eurocon in their cultural event list and will offer some assistance in organizing process." And also that, "[they] have made an agreement with IGI group which runs KinoExpo Kiev. So we will have a special movie programme for both the general public and convention members along with additional contests and guests." Concat' was also told that to balance this that guests relating to written SF are currently being secured from both eastern and western Europe. (In fact Concat' is doing its bit to help and so can confirm excellent aspirations.) The 2006 website www.eurocon.kiev.ua is currently (December) not active but will be in the Spring. Finally, if enough people show an interest they may organise a trip to Chernobyl the day before the convention, especially as 2006 marks the 20th anniversary of the disaster. (A brief one-day low-rad exposure should not be problematic: Michael Palin did it.) Energy may be part of the science theme.
To sum up, despite major problems not of their making, things are coming along fine with progress made on both book and film fronts as well as both an eastern and western SF professional presence. Stand by for major news in the spring and the Ukrainians providing a solid report at this year's European SF Society business meeting in August at Glasgow: which we, of course, will relay to you.

The Japanese are gearing up for the Worldcon in 2007 having won the bid in the autumn. The convention Chairman, Hiroaki Inoue, writes: "We are delighted to have the opportunity to host the 65th World Science Fiction Convention and to have the chance to invite many science fiction fans from overseas to visit Japan. Much original and translated science fiction is published in Japan today. I consider it our good fortune that we have a common language, which transcends cultural and language barriers: the language of science fiction. We look forward to talking with visiting fans about Hugo award winning works and to providing them with the opportunity to discover Japanese science fiction. We'd like overseas fans to learn about the history of Japanese science fiction and fandom. Let us enjoy what we have in common as well as our differences." before Christmas, five of the Nippon team went to SMOFcon in Washington DC. The convention details can be found on www.nippon2007.org. The price for an adult full attending membership to Nippon 2007 will increase to US$180.00 on October 1, 2005. Until that date, the rate is US$160.00. The Nippon organisers hope to be able to accept credit cards sometime in the Spring, until then its cheques to agents.

The bid that lost to Japan 2007 was Columbus, Ohio and there have been rumblings. The word is that they are not going to let the resources they gathered for the bid to go to waste. They told us just as we were collating contributions for the New Year update that there would be an announcement soon. So why not check out their website?

The Irish National convention Octocon 2004 in October formally approved the proposal to combine the existing Irish Eurocon bid for 2007 with the Octocon natcon that year. As per last time's news, the bid to host the 2007 Eurocon is a hot one. The Irish bid is an attempt to bring the Eurocon back to that country ten years on from the last Octo-Eurocon. While the 1997 event had its successes, the convention committee had gone through a number of incarnations. Finally the whole thing was rescued by Karen Bollard and a handful of colleagues who took over, working hard, just six short weeks prior to the event. The 1997 Eurocon even lost one of its Guest of Honours, and so Harry Harrison marvellously stepped in at the last minute, and together with Joe Haldeman, Robert Rankin, Diane Duane and Peter Morwood, made a respectable programme. However 1997 never captured the Eurocon spirit with few Eurocon regulars attending from beyond the British Isles. Only German fandom was present in force to promote their bid for 1999, Dortmund. Though it is a new team for 2007, the Irish clearly will need to demonstrate that there will be a continental European presence at the convention and on the programme if it is to convincingly compete with rival bids. The decision as to which country will run the 2007 Eurocon will be decided at this year's Euro-Worldcon in August in Glasgow.

Other bids for the 2007 Eurocon come from Denmark and Sweden. The Danish are expected to formally combine their bid with their natcon at Fantasticon in April (Copenhagen). Olav Christiansen of Fantasticon told Concat' that they were concentrating on Fantasticon first and then the bid. Because Fantasticon will take place just after Concat has prepared its April posting for the summer it is unlikely that we will have much news before the Glasgow Eurocon in August. However we will check with Fantasticon in March to ascertain the score and see what we can include in our Easter update for the summer. The Danish part of the Fantasticon website has been updated (December), but the English bit still needs a fair bit of work on it so if you want to get the latest then get the internet to translate their news page for you.

Looking ahead to 2008, there is no news from the bid the 2008 Chicago Worldcon. What details there are are on their website. However there is little point your making enquiries as they don't seem to be monitoring queries. Perhaps they'll get better nearer the time or if a rival bid comes along?

 

FANDOM &: OTHER EVENT NEWS

The Nova Awards for British fandom were awarded at Novacon, Walsall, Birmingham. Best Fanzine: Zoo Nation ed. Pete Young. Writer: Claire Brialey. Artist: Sue Mason. Best Fan (Life Achievement) Ray Bradbury (the Brit fan not the US writer).

The next British Fantasy Society's open meeting will be in London on March 4th. In the Devereux pub, East Street, off the Strand, London. 6.30pm onwards.

The Brti SF Association and the SF Foundation AGMs (one each) and SF author talks (details to be announced) free event, will be held on April 16th at the Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1. 10:30am-5pm.

The US Baltimore Science Fiction Society has tax problems following a court decision to remove their tax exempt status. A well organised and long established SF group, the Society has had a club house that has enjoyed tax exempt status since 1991. Though the Society is recognised by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation as an educational organization so qualifying for tax exemption, the lower court formally disagreed. Aside from the annual Balticon, the Society encourages young writers with a contest and holds writers workshops which do seem educational.

Further to our Autumnal news that this year's Festival of Fantastic Films also went off well, we now have a full review elsewhere on the site. Numbers were still down compared to the Nadler years but the new venue worked and the committee have recognised that they need help and so Adrian James has joined their ranks. The problem appears to be largely a lack of promotion and a positive engagement with the rest of the community. However the event remains one of the few British events where you can see really old, very rare SF, fantasy and horror movies together with new independent and foreign ones. It is also most friendly and social. (However, in case you jumped to this and missed it previously, if you want real horror see the picture on the Fest's web page of Concatenation's Jonathan and the European SF Award. Not since last year when the British Medical Journal allegedly featured our Alan on its cover has the public been so exposed...) The announcement of this year's Fest details will be made shortly (Spring) and hopefully it will be a weekend or two before the Glasgow Worldcon

"Sci-Fi-London", the surprise science fiction film festival is to return for a fourth outing in London, in 2-6 February. The fest covers a refreshingly wide range of SF with the surprise being the exception of recent (past couple of decades) sci fi: so despite its name don't go expecting the likes of Battlestar Galactica or Trek. The Fest does widely cover the rest of the genre in cinematic form from both the UK, US (obviously) and from other countries as well as independent offerings and shorts. It also includes a non-fiction series of documentaries. There is literally something for everyone. In lieu of convention progress reports you can subscribe to a free e-newsletter. Sci-Fi-London is one of just two or three UK genre-related film events of the fantastic film calendar. That their newsletter acknowledges (and is supportive of) other events demonstrates their increasing awareness of the UK fantastic film landscape. If they continue to develop the social side to Sci-Fi-London, they will find they have nurtured an extremely solid fan base on which they can count in future years.
European or UK Premieres Expected At This Year's SF London Film Fest
(You buy tickets to see each of these individually so check www.sci-fi-london.com and treat yourself and partner to a couple.)
SLIPSTREAM (USA 2004, Dir: David van Eyssen) Professor Conway (Astin) who lost his funding plots a bank robbery based around his newest invention - a time travel gadget that will send its user 10 minutes into the past. Everything goes according to plan until a group of violent thieves arrive, lead by the notorious Winston Briggs, who have planned their heist for the same day.
CUBE ZERO (Canada 2004, Dir: Ernie Barbarash) Welcome to the world of Cube, The first CUBE (1997, Dir: Vincenzo Natali) was a razor-sharp little cult classic, while the CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE (2002, Dir: Andrzej Sekula) offered gruesome gore. So where does the third instalment, CUBE ZERO, take us? - Why back to the beginning.
ABLE EDWARDS (USA 2004, Dir: Graham Robertson) On his death, Abel Edwards, a billionaire entertainment mogul, is cryogenically frozen, hoping to live again in some distant future. Decades later they still cannot bring him back but the Corporation decide to clone him, hoping to revive their failing fortunes - but is this Abel able?
LADY DEATH (USA 2004, Dir: Andrew Orjuela) Based on a comic book series this is an entirely US produced Animé. Hope is an innocent young woman living who has no idea her father is actually Lucifer. When the town priest discovers his secret, Lucifer escapes to Hell, leaving his daughter behind to pay for his evil.
SAVING STAR WARS (USA 2004, Dir: Gary Wood) Woody's Son is terminally ill. They both have precious memories of seeing the Star Wars movies with each other. His Son makes a last request for his Father to continue to go see the movies without him and remember him when he does. Woody goes to a massive Star Wars convention with his best friend to try and hand-deliver a letter to George Lucas, asking him to never stop making Star Wars movies. Made for under $50,000, it has one of the wittiest scripts and most endearing characters seen in a long time.
PRIMER (USA 2004, Dir: Shane Carruth) Four techies are seeking venture capital for a machine they're building in the garage. They are not entirely sure what it does but know it does something, with a bit more funding it could massive - they think. Two of the friends keep working on the machine and discover that is can alter time. Only problem is the loops, paradoxes, loose ends and doubles it creates. So, you can travel through time but not without consequences - should you?
RECON 2020 (Canada 2004, Dir: Christian Viel) An elite squad is prepped for a mission deep behind enemy lines. Their goal is to reconnoitre the disused colony, once there, the squad will find itself face to face with an armoured battle robot, a nightmarish insect swarm, relentless zombies, a savage werewolf, an unstoppable cyborg assassin, a lightning-fast spacecraft, an apocalyptic horde of barbaric scavengers and more. All they have going for them is their guns, their guts and a mouthful of tough-guy talk.
THE PURIFIERS (UK 2004, Dir: Richard Jobson) - Gangs run the cities in Scotland's first martial-arts flick, set in the near future. From the maker of 16 Years Of Alcohol. THE MACHINIST (Spain 2004, Dir: Brad Anderson) Unable to sleep, haunted by visions and a mounting sense of paranoia, a factory worker seeks redemption, first in the arms of the hooker who lives downstairs, then with the waitress Marie. But who, exactly, keeps leaving those cryptic notes in his home? And what about his confidante Ivan - who his workmates claim doesn't actually exist? And: whose body's inside his fridge.
STEAMBOY (Japan 2004, Dir: Katsuhiro Otomo) Best known for his seminal animé movie AKIRA, Otomo brings us one of the most lavish and costly animated films ever. This SF steampunk epic is set in Victorian London, took 10 year to finish and has more than 400 CG shots.
STONERS (Canada 2004, Dir: Rod Bruinooge) Imagine playing a game where everything around you is a possible clue to your puzzle, even the things you personally create. Such is the life of Stoners and the Enigma they are pursuing.

The 2005 UK SF national convention will be held over Easter, 25-28 Mar 05 and called Paragon2. The venue is the Hanover International Hotel, Hinckley, Leics, which has quite a good reputation as a convention venue. Registration, £45, is payable to 'Paragon2' at 4 Burnside Ave, Sheffield, S8 9FR. The Paragon2 team have drawn the short straw as it were in that they are responsible for organising the Eastercon the same year as a Worldcon which inevitably draws heavily upon UK convention-running resources. However if you are into SF, especially written SF, and enjoy SF artwork plus fancy dress, and live near central England then why not treat yourself to a weekend holiday and check Paragon2 out. Inevitably you will find many involved with the up-coming Worldcon there so there should be a buzz in the air.

The 2006 UK national convention is Concussion, to be held over the four days of Easter. Further to last time's coverage, their www.eastercon2006.org website now has their Guests of Honour and some, note 'some', of their anticipated special guests. GoHs are authors: M. John Harrison, Elizabeth Hand, and Justina Robson. The artist GoH is Brian Froud while the fan is Ian Sorensen. M. John Harrison has been a GoH before (1989) while Ian Sorensen could potentially be a really fantastic Fan GoH. 'Potentially' not to sleight the man but because his profile is arguably a little lower to what it used be in the early 1980s when he was (now don't blush Ian) a kind of mega-fan. Then he wowed us with his rock fan musicals while between cons for a number of years he ran the immensely useful Conrunner zine for the benefit of those organising conventions. All the while he was involved in Scottish convention fandom which only began in the late 1970s and which ran some really great Eastercons, not to mention their own series of Faircons, through to the mid-1980s. As noted last time, the Eastercon used to be the UK gathering of the SF clans while today it is mainly singly focussed on books (albeit with an art show and fancy dress parade thrown in). Its attendance has shrunk and aged. (Books are great but there is far more to SF.) Being the first UK natcon following the Glasgow Worldcon there is a very real opportunity, should the organisers wish, to re-instate the Eastercon as the premiere UK convention and engage with the youngsters. So where are we now? The main guest authors will delight the litcrits. Having an art GoH is a good move. However with the other guest being authors (which in itself is fine) it is perhaps somewhat of a pity that the organisers appear to be solely relying on broadening their SF appeal with their special guests. However media SF gets welcome attention with special guest Mat Irvine who has worked on BBC special effects (such as Dr Who and Blake's 7) and more recently popular science. Mat even had a go in the early 1980s in helping a new SF magazine (remember Voyager). Marc Gascoigne and Dan Abnett are other special guests who might pull in some of the gamers due to their Warhammer ventures. Marc has also briefly engaged with Forteanna. The other special guest of note, unlikely to draw a broad base of UK folk in unless heavily promoted by the organisers, is Finland's Johanna Sinisalo, but which may be of interest to Eurocon regulars. Her genre work spans Finnish books, TV and comics. (It might have been better if she was one of the GoHs?) In short, Concussion appears to be making a sincere effort but has a way to go, for instance what is their to draw those whose interests include film? Fortunately Easter 2006 is also a way off so lets see what happens and how they decide to promote themselves and their anticipated programme at the Worldcon and elsewhere. :-)

The Odyssey SF writers' workshop is scheduled to run from June 13-July 22, 2005. Prospective students come from all over the world. The application deadline is 15th April. Tuition is $1,500 and housing in on-campus apartments runs $625 for the six weeks. Students have the option of receiving college credit. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor and past Odyssey graduate, they are offering three Gandalf Grant scholarships to the most promising writers of the class of 2005 in the amounts of $1,250, $500, and $250. Details are on http://www.sff.net/odyssey.

 

CONVENTION ORGANISERS NOTE: We welcome news from you in March relating to Worldcon, Eurocon and National SF Convention events when we plan for our Summer (April-September) news pages. Yes, this is our BIG season (during which we have a holiday) and so the last chance for you to promote your venture through this site for nearly a 6-month period! We also welcome reviews of national conventions and those with an international dimension. So make a note in your diary for March to inform us (at info [at] concatenation [dot] org). (However remember we do not cover other events, such a small regional science fiction events as there are simply too many.)

 

FILM, GRAPHIC NOVEL + TV NEWS

See Sci-Fi-London film fest above - in case you missed it. We could have as easily placed that news in this section instead..

Harrison Ford has revealed that Indianna Jones 4 will be made and that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are pursuing script options. He also said that will he will play Indianna Jones one more time, after that he would not mind a younger actor playing the part in possible future films.

A sequel to Soylent Green is being tentatively mooted. Based on the Harry Harrison environmental classic Make Room, Make Room about a cop investigating a murder in an overcrowded (Malthusian) future, Soylent Green added the tag that "Soylent Green is people". We' will be keeping an eye out for developments and hope they liaise with Harry.

The film Serenity has been rescheduled again and will now be released on 30th September (2005). Apparently Universal felt that there was much to much other SF and sci-fi being launched in the Spring. For those who do not know what the fuss is about, it is a spin-off film of a TV series, Firefly, recently cancelled halfway through its first season due to low ratings. The (half) series has not yet been broadcast terrestrially in Europe but in North America has attracted quite a fan following and sales of the DVD were excellent. (Where have we heard this story before and why doesn't Hollywood learn that TV ratings (never particularly accurate) economically mean less and less in the information society.) The series is about the crew of the Firefly-class, rag-tag transport ship Serenity in the aftermath of an interstellar war. Though only running for half a series, two episodes (yes two!), 'Heart of Gold' and 'The Message', were nominated for a Short-Form Dramatic Presentation Hugo last year with the latter only just missing out on the Award to 'Gollum's Acceptance Speech at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards'. Buffy's Joss Whedon wrote and directed Serenity. We understand that this is his cinematic directorial debut.

Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds (based on H.G. Wells' novel) is rumoured to launch Wednesday, 29th June 2005. This means a really tight production schedule - 8 months. So no room for Mr Cock-up. Famous last...

The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy film is scheduled to be released in May 2005.

The film of The Fantastic Four is due to launch early July unless the above War of the Worlds scheduling changes things. Looks like a potentially interesting summer.

A new Babylon 5 spin-off movie The Memory of the Shadows is to begin production in the UK in April. Steven (Ghost Ship) Beck is to direct. Plot: Someone is releasing the Shadow technology after they left our Galaxy (at the end of Babylon 5). An Earthforce intelligence officer is tasked with finding out who. She is joined by the techno-mage, Galen, as the mages do not want anyone acquiring Shadow abilities.

Marvel's superhero 'The Sub-Mariner' is to come to the big screen. Chris Columbus is to direct and produce the production for Universal Pictures.

The forthcoming film, adapting the Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' (from the 2000AD stable) Watchmen 1986 graphic novel classic, is to be directed by Paul Greengrass. Apparently Darren Aronofsky had to step down due to scheduling problems. The release date could well be 2006. Hollywood does have a habit of badly screwing up big time British SF (cf. The recent Avengers, Thunderbirds, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fiascos.) We therefore can but hope... Let's at least hope that Moore and Gibbons are firmly onboard.

Following previous news as to the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise's uncertain future, episodes in October and November did very well in the ratings. The episodes guest starred Brent (Data) Spinner, playing a gm-type reproduction of Data's creator. The episodes were 'Borderland', 'Cold Station 12', and 'The Augments'. Ratings are a concern for the show's future.

Following last Easter's news (yes that long ago), that William Shatner may guest on Star Trek: Enterprise, the autumn saw Shatner say that UPN blinked over money. Shatner is still up for it and wants to do a two-parter. UPN are money conscious. The fourth season has seen budget cuts as an incentive for UPN to renew the show whose ratings are considered borderline for costs. Budget economies include the forthcoming season being shot on high definition video and not film.

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise's fourth season are meant to tie up last season and the Temporal Cold War (but we doubt it as the concept allows for all sorts of returns). Many episodes in the fourth season deal with the effects of last season's Xindi war arc. Apparently there will be more multi-episode narratives limited to two or three episodes.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis have both been renewed for a ninth and second series respectively. Filming will begin in March (2005). Amanda Tapping may have a low profile in SG1 for a while due to her pregnancy. Atlantis, which has had very good Sky One ratings will have its UK terrestrial debut on Five (not Channel 4).

Just missing our last update by a whisker Stargate TV series' lead actor Richard Dean Anderson was/is appreciated for positively portraying the US Air Force. He was invited to the Air Force Association's 57th Annual Air Force Anniversary Dinner in Washington DC in September.

Hex, billed as the British Buffy, has nearly achieved 1 million viewers on Sky One. A second series has been commissioned. You may have missed it because the first series only had 5 episodes. The second will be around 13. Filming is due in the Spring. Meanwhile a DVD is due out January.

We had some info on the forthcoming Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith. But we are so disappointed in the way the 2nd trilogy has gone that we really can't be arsed to work up any enthusiasm. You/we deserve better... Oh, all right. They say it is going to be "darker" than the others. Shades of the excellent The Empire Strikes Back? We can but hope. Believe it if you can but Lucas is unlikely to completely give up directorial control.

The other sub-sections within SF News above to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Artist News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.

 

Spring 2005
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games| Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

Mothership by John Brosnan, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07627-5. A satirical spoof space-opera.

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts, Orion, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-752-86864-0. The sequel to Saucer.

Atlantis by David Gibbons, Headline, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-755-32421-8. Indianna Jones meets the Da Vinci Code when a marine archaeologist stumbles across clues that suggest leads to the lost city of Atlantis. This is due out around May so we may duplicate this entry in our summer listing to be posted shortly after Easter

Extinction by Ray Hammond, Macmillan, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-333-90726-4. Hammond is more of a techno-thriller writer who brushes up against SF. This is a disaster novel set in 2025 when the Earth tilts on its axis. (What would Imbrie and Imbrie say?). We previously reviewed Emergence.

Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-330-49331-0. Multi-page space opera. We previously reviewed his Misspent Youth.

White Devils by Paul McAuley, Pocket, pbk £6.99. ISBN 0-743-46187-6. This is the paperback release of the hardback previously reviewed hardback. We also have reviewed Pasquale's Angel, Red Dust, and The Secret of Life.

Woken Furies by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-755-32421-8. Billed as an SF thriller, Morgan is attracting a growing following. We have previously reviewed his Altered Carbon and Broken Angels.

Imitation is Death by J. D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-749-9344-3. This is the 17th in a series of futuristic crime novels, so crime readers must like her. However we are fairly busy reviewing SF and the occasional fantasy to check this out, so if any of you want to then please let us know how she handles the futuristic SF component.

Olympos by Dan Simmonds, Gollancz, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07261-X. We have previously reviewed his Ilium and found it superb.

Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Collins, hdbk, £17.99. (ISBN: The publicity material has no ISBN - there will no doubt be one in the Spring.) Big business meets big science in a corrupt world.

The Affinity Trap by Martin Sketchley, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-46848-1. The paperback release of last year's hardback.

Coyote by Allen Steele, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49367-8. The first in a space exploration trilogy.

Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49334-1. Ultra hard SF space opera spiced with the occasional dash of humour that lets rip towards the end. It will almost certainly be nominated for a Hugo. (See our review.) This is the European paperback release of last year's hardback.

Banner of Souls by Liz Williams, Tor, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-405-04124-2. In the future a shattered Earth is ruled by a Martian matriarchy. A Martian soldier goes to Earth to protect a young girl... Liz Williams writes both fantasy and science fantasy (as opposed to solid SF). We don't seemed to have reviewed her and this is probably because we tend to focus a little more on hard SF but she does have a good reputation on both sides of the Pond.

In depth reviews of fiction books can be found off the reviews index.

 

Spring 2005
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Prisoner of Ironsea Tower by Sarah Ash, Bantam Books, pbk, £6.99, ISBN 0-553-81471-0. The paperback release of last summer's large format trade paperback. A classic sword and sorcery. Book 2 of the Tears of Artamon series from the author of Moths to a Flame. Ash is a regular for many fantasy readers. (She also must be discerning living, as she does, down the road from Concat' mission control.)

The Etched City by K. J. Bishop, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-42710-5. A surreal first novel.

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason, Arrow, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-099-451956-6. Billed as more intellectual than the Da Vinci Code but in that mould. A 15th century manuscript reveals a hidden crypt... The hardback sold reasonably well.

The Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-00-715760-6. The eight elder gods take it in turns to sleep, four on and four off at a time. The gods are vulnerable when they are asleep so... Popular and fairly prolific US fantasy authors. This one even comes with a map which, if you squint, looks a bit like the US complete with Rockies mountain range, and archipelago for Lower California, an isle for Florida and another archipelago for Mexico. As they say, best to write what you know.

King of Foxes by Raymond Feist, Voyager, pbk, £6.99. ISBN: 0-006-48358-5. The second volume in the 'Conclave of Shadows' series.

Swords of Night and Day by David Gemmell, Bantam Press, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 0-593-04447-9. This is his second Skigannon novel. This is the paperback release of last summer's hardback. That release did very well and generated Gemmell's best hardback sales to date and entered the Sunday Times best seller list at number 3.

Chainfire by Terry Goodkind, Voyager, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-007-14560-8. This continues the 'sword of truth' saga.

Deathstalker Return by Simon R. Green, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07643-7. The paperback release.

Seduced by Moonlight by Laurell K. Hamilton, Bantam, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 0-553-81632-2. An erotic gothic adventure.

Earth, Air, Fire and Custard by Tom Holt, Orbit, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-841-49281-7. The third in the Paul Carpenter comic fantasy series.

Necessary Evil by Shaun Hutson, Time Warner, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-751-53522-2. Horror.

The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce, Gollancz, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN: 0-575-07231-8. Joyce is a multi British Fantasy Award winner.

Sieze the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-749-93587-1. Dark, dangerous and yet the somewhat romantic vampires roam... This is the UK debut of the US series that has had some reasonable success. Because a number of the 'Dark Hunter' series have already come out Stateside we are likely to see 6 come out fairly quickly while we catch up. Convention organisers note that this would be a good time to ask the author over.

Shadow of the Lords by Simon Levack, Simon & Schuster, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-743-23977-6. You may be missing out on these as these are billed as crime and Levack is comparatively new. In fact they are historic crime set in the time of the Aztecs and which features the slave Yaoth, but this will almost certainly appeal to many fantasy fans. This is the second in the series but each are fairly stand-alone so dive right in. The first won a Crime Writers Association (Debut) Dagger Award.

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-04105-6. The first in a magical trilogy set in Pict times.

Urchin of the Riding Stars by M. I. McAllister, Bloomsbury, £12.99, hdbk. ISBN 0-747-57355-7. This could be quite popular especially with the young adult market (and perhaps even grown-up young adults). It's a kind of Wind in the Willows meets Watership Down. If you are outside the UK you'll be able to order the paperback from January at £6.99 (or whatever the equivalent is in your currency) plus postage unless your bookshop has it in stock. The paperback ISBN is 0-747-57810-9. Brits should be able to get the paperback sometime after Easter and if so it will feature in our next (summer) release news.

Acorna's Triumph by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Corgi original, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-552-15275-7. Continues the adventures of unicorn girl.

Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-841-49373-2.

Quicksilver Zenith by Stan Nicholls, Voyager, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-14152-1. Next in the Quicksilver series.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Gollancz, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 0-575-07580-5. Its all about two magicians. Some comparison has been made by book trade reviewers that Priest is the new Susanna Clarke. Considering Susanna's debut was in 2004 and Priest has been writing for yonks (well since the early 1970s)... One does wonder who provides the trade's coverage. Indeed Priest is a writer of note and has a rather rare Eurocon Award for that year it was a tie with Hungary's Istvan Nemere. Anyway this paperback release of the hardback is just in time for Priest is one of the Guests of Honour at this year's Eurocon in Glasgow that just happens to also be a Worldcon. If you are one of the 5,000 going to that event and want one of Priest's rather good earlier works then keep an eye out for the surreal hard SF Inverted World.

Enter The Nightmare by E. E. Richardson, Random House, small hdbk?, £8.99. ISBN 0-370-32858-2. Young adult horror billed as 'The Candyman' meets IT. It is out March.

The Artum Castle by Kim Wilkins, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07648-8. A supernatural tale intertwining the faery with the real world.

Nine Layers of Sky by Liz Williams, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-41249-3. An SF fantasy that blends Russian folklore with high adventure. (Well we did say in the preceding SF section that Liz was better known for her fantasy.)

In depth reviews of fiction books can be found off the reviews index.

 

Spring 2005
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction

The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and the Endless by John Barrow, Cape, hdbk, £17.99, ISBN All about infinity.

Critical Mass by Philip Ball, Arrow, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-099-45786-5. How millions of individuals affect the way societies organise.

The Born-Einstein Letters 1916-1955: Friendship Politics and Physics in Uncertain Times by Max Born, Macmillan, £19.99, hdbk. ISBN 1-403-94496-2.

The Electric Universe by David Bodanis, Little Brown, hdbk, £14.99, ISBN 0-316-86182. The history of electricity. (Now has it got that the first public electric street lighting was in Timisoara where we helped hold last year's 2nd International Week of Science Fiction?)

Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books,£8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. Well we know these two incorrigible souls. This guide is a strictly systematic (hence other than the Robinson checklist, a unique) attempt to identify popular SF in which entries had to meet specific criteria which virtual all did on more than one score. A lot slimmer than Clute (which was its portable aim), its core works (there are other supplementary ones too) should be familiar to all book and film buffs but some of the detail may not be. Further, early feedback so far suggests that while genre book readers, using the appended checklists, may have read nearly all the 500 titles, few have over 75% in their collections! Entries on the genre, fandom and academia as well as TV SF complete one of the most condensed, yet wide-ranging, and strictly systematically compiled guides ever. Porcupine say that they are considering making postage and packing free for individual UK direct sales, and a comparable discount to those attending this year's Worldcon and UK Eastercon (sorry New Zealanders). If interested, you are advised to e-mail Porcupine first and they will endeavour to put a copy aside for you for the first two days of each convention. However if you do not collect it and sales are strong then they may sell it after that...)

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive? by Jared Diamond, Penguin, hdbk, £20. ISBN 0-713-99286-7. Our ecologists on the team actually recommend this highly. American Jared Diamond is apparently to give a free early evening lecture at the Royal Society (Central London) in the new year/spring.

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Bryan Green, Penguin, £8.99, trdpbk. ISBN 0-141-01111-4. The story of the universe.

Pop by Constance L. Hays, Arrow, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 0-099-47257-0. 'Truth' (as such as it exists) and power in the Coca Cola company. This paperback edition sports an extra chapter covering their mineral water debacle. One of us once had a business arrangement with Coca Cola and got burned. Never again. Do your bit. If you must, support Pepsi.

Venomous Earth: How Arsenic Caused the World's Worst Mass Poisoning by Andre A. Meharg, Macmillan, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 1-40394499-7.

The Whole Story: Alternative Medicine on Trial by Toby Murcott, Macmillan, £16.99. hdbk. ISBN 1-403-94500-4.

The Truth About Hormones by Vivienne Parry, Atlantic, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 1-843-54428-8. An entertaining examination of how hormones rule us.

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending & Manipulating the Mind by Steven Rose, Cape, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-224-062549. A comprehensive guide to the brain and the scientific and ethical barriers we now face if we are to greatly further our understanding.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings by Garry Russell, Harper Collins, large hdbk, £25. ISBN 0-007-19192-8. First came the story board, then came the art work and finally the cgi and actors. This beautifully produced book (and that is just the production and not the content) covers much of the ground before the actors got involved and includes not just picture art (from sketches to full colour renditions) but also models. If you love the book and the films then this will simply delight. We will post a full review shortly.

Hot Rocks by Iain Stewart, Century, £20, hdbk. ISBN 1-844-13813-5. A geological history of the Mediterranean to tie in with the BBC TV series.

Mathematics With Love: The Courtship Correspondence of Barnes Wallis, Inventor of the Bouncing Bomb by Mary Stopes-Roe, Macmillan, hdbk, £19.99. ISBN 1-403-94498-9.

The Middle Mind by Curtis White, Penguin, £7.99, trdpbk. ISBN 0-141-01675-2. A humorous look at the no-think culture of today.

In Serch of Myths & Heroes by Michael Wood, BBC, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-563-52187-2. Four famous myths as per the forthcoming BBC2 series. Shangri-la, the Golden Fleece, the Queen of Sheba, and the Holy Grail. Sure to fascinate.

 

In depth reviews of science and SF non-fiction books can be found off the non-fiction reviews index.

 

Spring 2005
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins plus Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, Video & DVD, and computer game releases

FORTHCOMING TV & FILM TIE-INS

The World of the Magic Roundabout by Andy Lane and Paul Simpson, Boxtree, hdbk, £15.99. ISBN 0-752-222520-0. An illustrated companion to the new movie.

FORTHCOMING VIDEO & DVD RELEASES

Blake's 7 series 2 boxed set from BBC Worldwide, £49.99 (PG). 13 episodes plus extras which includes cast interviews on chat shows etc, costume designs, models and character introductions. Three episodes come with commentaries. Available from January 17th.

I, Robot Wil Smith vs the machines in a fun action romp but which has little to do with Asimov. VHS £13.99. DVD special edtition £24.99.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Need anything be said? VHS £16.99. DVD £27.99. Complete 12 disc set £59.99 whose many extras include how they dealt with adapting the book.

COMPUTER GAMES

2000AD's Rogue Trooper is being developed by Rebellion. It features Rogue, the genetically constructed infantryman with his chipped (the electronic essence of) fallen comrades, Gunnar, Helm and Bagman who now control bits of his kit. The artwork looks excellent but physically dark. Check out www.2000ADonline.com the 2000AD site.

 

Spring 2005
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Last Quarter's Science News Summary

Jump to the following Science News sub-sections: General Science News Astronomy and Space | Health & Biomedicine | Science & Science Fiction.

General Science News

The Newton exhibition, 'The Newtonian Moment' (geddit, how we roared), is being held at the New York Public Library until 5th February. It presents maps, books, prints and models. Highly recommended.

Autumn's Nobel winners for Medicine or Physiology went to Richard Axel and Linda Buck. The prize recognises their work, in New York's Columbia University, on smell.

This year's Nobel for Physics went to Californian-based David Gross and Frank Wilczek for their work on 'colour interactions'. The colour being the strong nuclear force (and not visual colour).

Bob Batty, of the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences, won an Ig Nobel Prize for fish fart communication. The Ig Nobel goes to research that makes you laugh but also then think. Batty speculates that fish farts help them communicate at night.

Google has launched 'Google Scholar' an academic search engine which will be most welcome. Though the American chemists (the American Chemical Society to be precise) don't like it as they have had an academic search engine called 'SciFinder Scholar' since 1998 and which many users abbreviate to 'Scholar'. Lawyers are being consulted. Children, children...

A new species of human was announced at the end of October. The new species, Homo floresiensis is a small human only about a metre tall. It joins , H. habilis, H. neanderthalensis and H. erectus off of which H. floriensis is thought to be an offshoot. The first African hominins (of which the australopithecines are best known) arose some 7 million years ago (MYA). H. sapiens arose 160,000 years ago and overlapped with the Neanderthals during the last glacial. It now appears that we also overlapped with H. floriensis as the remains are only 18,000 years old, about 10,000 years after the last Neanderthal. This recent date provides a remote hope that some H. floriensis may still be alive today. H. floriensis evolved on the island of Flores which was also home to a pygmy elephant and the world's largest monitor reptile, the Komodo dragon. Islands have odd ecologies. Low energy consuming reptiles can afford to grow large and out compete their rivals. Conversely, high energy expending mammals conserve energy by becoming small. H. floriensis had a smaller proportioned brain, even allowing for its small size, compared to its body and the 'head:body' ratio of modern humans but it still used fire and stone tools.

Europe pushes hard for world test fusion reactor. At the end of November Europe told other countries bidding to provide a home to the next research fusion reactor (ITER), that unless an agreement is reached quickly then it will push ahead by itself with possible support from Russia and China. France leads the push with an offer to cover 20% (US$1.12 billion) and other EU countries 40% of the total cost. The US and the Japanese are not happy. The ITER aims to reach near commercial viability proving that fusion could become an economically practical energy source.

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

The privately built SpaceShip One completed its second flight in less than a week, reaching 368,000 feet, 40,000 feet more than required, to win the prize. The pilot was Brian Binnie rather than Mike Melvill, who flew the craft on each of its two previous flights to space. The SpaceShip One team wins the $10,000,000 Ansari X-Prize.

ESA's SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advance Research Technology) entered lunar orbit mid-November. Whereas the Apollo missions took three days but SMART-1 took 13 months in an ever-elliptical orbit until the Moon captured it. The slow ride was because a new high powered/low thrust drive, a xenon ion drive was being tested. This drive will allow ESA to conduct deep space missions to the outer planets. SMART-1 will map the Moon and remote sense lunar geology.

Meanwhile time to catch up on Titan and Saturn. NASA's Cassini and ESA's Huygens will explore the Saturn system and Titan respectively. Huygens will be released from Cassini on Christmas day (so pull a cracker for it) by which time this news review will be in our webmaster's hands for posting early in the new year. Huygens will touch-down on 14th January (2005). Follow the action on: Cassini-Huygens probe. See the previous news for links to pics taken when Cassini entered the Saturnian system. Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have anything like a proper atmosphere (there are exotic exceptions). With a diameter of 4,800 km, it is bigger than the Moon's by some 38% and smaller than the Earth's by 62%. There are remote possibilities for life (the energy gradient is not encouraging and another factor is that much depends on whether water is there in sufficient quantity). There are stronger possibilities for finding amino acids. However the probe will have to do what it can on the way down as it is not expected to survive the impact. Chemical analyses of the atmosphere will be made as it makes its final descent slowed by parachute.

 

HEALTH AND BIOMEDICINE

The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly deliberately spreading HIV to 400 children (see the autumnal news) may not now be killed. Seif, the son of Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, said in December that the Government would commute the death sentences. Observers say that this is part of Libya's attempt to clean up its poor citizen's rights image. The evidence that the health workers are innocent includes that some of the children had HIV before the workers arrived in the country and that the hospital used to use dirty needles. Nonetheless the health workers have already been in jail for five years. We at Concat are going to doggedly follow this story and ask all to promulgate it. The link for this paragraph is http://www.concatenation.org/news/news1~05.html#libya. Spread the word.

Do you agree with your doctor, nurse or even your insurance company's beliefs as to things like blood transfusions, stem cells or abortion? If American, tough if you do not. As of December, President George Bush is expected to sign a law that includes a 'conscience clause' allowing hospitals, doctors, nurses and even insurance companies to refuse to provide care, counselling or even referral (so they wont even pass you on to a colleague who may share your outlook), for options they find morally objectionable. American patients rights? Well it's the land of the free, and citizens are free to go without treatment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in November that we need to prepare the way for providing mass vaccinations against a possible flu pandemic. Previous Concat' news columns since the 2003 SARS outbreak have reported on the emergence of a new strain of avian flu capable of infecting humans, H5N1. Previous global flu pandemics have taken place in 1918, 1957 and 1968 when avian flu jumped the species gap. Politicians are reluctant to spend on building up vaccine stocks in case the outbreak never happens. As of December, just two companies were testing a possible vaccine for H5N1. WHO warns that 25% - 30% of the world's population could be affected by such a pandemic.

The Swiss have approved embryonic stem cell research. Two thirds of Swiss voters backed the proposal in a national referendum (November) to use cells from left-over embryos from fertility treatment.

France passes 'right to die' law. The terminally ill can now refuse life-prolonging treatment. However the law stops short of legalising active euthanasia.

UK Parliamentary debate on withdrawing medical treatment from those who want to die became very heated. This one will run into 2005.

An analysis of health issue coverage by the US media (BMJ 329,1352) reveals why an earlier Gallup poll showed that TV is one of the least trusted sources. 10 troublesome areas need to be addressed by TV editors: Too much brevity; No full time specialist health journalists; No data to back up sensational claims; Hype; Commercialism (with no balancing statements); Single source stories; Baseless predictions; FDA approval treated as a fait accompli; Little coverage of health policy; and Few stories originating from journalists' own investigations.

Atkins diet a plagiarism! The BMJ (v329, p1412) has been notified that the Atkins diet is a plagiarism of an 1863 pamphlet published by a 'corpulent London undertaker', William Banting, who lost 46 pounds and 12 inches girth by abstaining from most foods except meat. Apparently some use the word 'Banting' to mean dieting.

 

SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

A top SF author, Robert Heinlein, and a top physicist, Neils Bohr, share citation in the 2004 Christmas edition of the BMJ. The Christmas whimsy paper is 'A Field Guide to Experts'. Heinlein's definition is cited: "Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it." Bohr's is: "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field." This may (or may not) come as a relief to our female Concatenation site visitors.

Michael (Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park) Crichton says that global warming is not happening when plugging his new book State of Fear in London and has even been on BBC Radio 4. He claims to have read the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports - the IPCC being set up by the UN to provide a scientific consensus - but appears to have missed its conclusions and calls it 'creepy'. However scientists should welcome their views being challenged, although climate change has already had plenty of that with years of US multi-billion dollar fossil energy company lobbying. Has the Crichton finally lost the plot? Maybe it has something to do with his publishers having to shift 2 million copies? Though Crichton says that he has 'no agenda'. Guess it's his publishers problem then.(Guardian, p3, cols 1-3, 11th Dec 04.)

So what happened to our science predictions for 2004 made at the end of last year? (If you need to remember then click here and scroll down a bit.) Well, we correctly predicted that Beagle 2 would not detect life on Mars. So score one for us: though of course Beagle 2 detected nothing as it crashed. Conversely our prediction that scientists would find it likely that the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation might shut down (so causing Moscow winters in north western Europe) did not happen. The jury is still out. Finally, we were spot on regarding concerns of a new emergent disease (a bit like SARS). A strain of avian flu was found to be transmittable to man prompting a World Health Organisation alert and other concerns (see above), and also in 2004 MRSA (antibiotic resistance) concerns increased. So two predictions out of three, not bad.

As for predictions for 2005... Alas this year our Concat' get-together is after Christmas (when this column is handed over to our webmaster) and so we do not have any prophecies for you. However if you enjoyed this column and are European based then why not make this summer's 5-day Interaction, Glasgow World SF Convention one of your holidays? We safely predict you'll have an experience to remember. With several parallel programme streams covering the range of SF from books and films to TV and gaming, an art exhibition, a mega large dealers hall, fancy dress parade and much more with 5,000 attendees including a couple of hundred SF professionals, and a similar number of scientists, from a score of nations, it will be the European SF event of the decade (which is how often the Worldcon comes to this side of the Pond). The convention is being held at the Scottish Exhibition Centre opposite the new science museum just off the city centre. Think about it...

What! What do you mean this is not good enough and you want a prediction? Oh, very well. Banks' Alegebraist and Stross' Singularity Sky will be short-listed for the 2005 Hugo for 'Best Novel'. There you are. Two predictions for the price of one.

All the best for the rest of the year from Concat's core-team.
Alan, Graham, Jonathan and Tony.

More science and SF news reviewed after Easter plus forthcoming book releases for the summer. Meanwhile ensure you've added the Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation - www.concatenation.org - to your favourites. And why not send a message to yourself delay-timed to April-May alerting you to our Summer site update?


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