Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Spring 2006

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

[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases for Spring 2006 | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Science Fiction News

Editorial matters briefly -- Concat these days is notionally quarterly, however one upload is really little more than house-keeping but not this Spring. Keep an eye out on our what's new page sometime from late January, probably February, for some really major news. A bigger event than Essential SF... No more news just yet as we are finalising the legals.
        Talking of checking the site out. We have noticed the past couple of years a trend for site visits to increase the month of one of our seasonal updates. No surprise there, except that this surge in visits been getting bigger and... this year because of one season's delay we noticed that we had around 1,000 more visits than average before the site was actually uploaded! It does rather suggest that there is a certain following anticipating our latest 'edition'. Consequently we are investigating to see if there is any self-running free site update notification system we can provide our regulars. It has to be self-regulating and to be able to keep e-mail addresses of those registered confidential. If anyone out there has any recommendations then do let our Dan know: dan [at] concatenation [dot] org. (Dan mainly deals with PCs and small servers and not internet stuff, so some guidance really would be helpful.)
        Aside from our afore-mentioned mid-Spring event launch, our next big update will be after Easter. Apart from the news column and more reviews, there will be our annual box-office related analysis of genre films, and science & SF whimsy from Gaia.

HEADLINES

Robert Sheckley dies -- details below.

Ken Bulmer has also left us -- details below.

Science Fiction sees the launch of a new international 'radio' station -- let's tread boldly below.

Britain's monthly SF newsletter, Ansible, is censored by Glasgow University. Shock, horror, drama probe! -- see below.

Wallace & Gromit team up with Jules Verne to celebrate 200th anniversary of engineer Brunel! -- see below.

Interzone celebrates 200th issue. see below.

More on the new Dr Who success. There have been media (not SF) awards and a new spin-off series is promised -- see below.

Sci Fiction has been wiped and The Infinite Matrix is going. -- see below.

Top SF Books of 2005 -- A look back at the past year in time for the Hugo nominations. -- for our selection see below.

Top SF Films of 2005 -- A look back at the past year in time for the Hugo nominations. -- for our selection see below.

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

An new SF broadcast station Area 51 has been launched on the internet. We think that this may well be the World's first specialist internet SF station. It certainly caught our interest. (Especially as two of the Concat team, Graham and Jonathan used to be part of the Radio Free Entropy science fiction programme on Campus Radio Hatfield in the days when radio meant 'radio', but then they had Kenny Everett who gave the lucky sods Kremon. Meanwhile Dan has been banging on for months now that Concat needed to do just this. 'No way,' we replied.).
        Area 51 is wholly owned and operated by Great Web Radio Limited. They say that, "The concept of a radio station for the fans of science fiction was born out of the Area 51 team's own interest in sci-fi and the fact that no radio station existed that could satisfy the fans at any time of any day." John Billingsley, Dr. Phlox from the Star Trek: Enterprise series, officially opened the Area 51 station on the 22nd October.
        The programmes themselves tend to be either music (pop, rock etc.) or music interdispersed with some sci fi content (news, interviews, and the occasional convention outside broadcast). What is not clear from their website is whether Area 51 is being run on an amateur, professional or a semi-pro basis. We will probably soon find out. If the former it will be short-lived. If professional it runs the risk of losing out to commercial drivers. The latter probably could give the station its best chance of permanence and potential international genre status from which financial viability may ultimately flow.
        Focus? It has to be said from their website, and listening to some of the programmes, that currently the station largely broadcasts pop music and the SF content is both minimal and 'sci fi' orientated. Nothing wrong with that, it's early days yet, but it remains to be seen whether they will seek to establish themselves as a real 'science fiction' station should they wish to appeal beyond a Trekie type audience (as large as that may be) to others (equally large) with a genre interest. If so they will need to broaden a great deal to include SF films (not just Star Wars and space opera), SF books (and its convention fandom), not to mention computer gamers (their audience does use PCs). Naturally not all their programme experiments will work. Two things they really need to do. First greatly increase the currently minimal genre content. Second, and as vital, is to establish hard and fast time slots that fans of differing ilk can recognise even if specific programmes change. These slots can then be promulgated by fan websites (again only if the slots are strictly adhered to as net rot will be a perennial problem). Key specialist programmes with a high SF content will need to be appropriately repeated so as to hit not just UK listeners but east and west coast north Americans too, especially as today the Anglophone market is seeing international boundaries become increasingly permeable. At the moment their programmes are firmly geared to UK time (morning 'mayhem' show etc), which is a little daft given they are using the planetary web.   It also would be beneficial if when they repeated high SF content programmes to allow for an international (well N. American, Australasian and British Isles audience time zones as well cater for those who only listen either at work or at home.   This will take thought and planning. Only if they can build up a substantive audience will they be likely to attract review copies, press tickets etc., let alone generate income streams, and that is going to be a long, hard slog, at which they will need to stick at if they are to succeed.   Anyway, they have our best wishes. It is a brave venture and they are 'treading boldly' but so far have only really proven that the technology works. Bring on the SF please. Queue Krem song... Krill tray into position.   Let's tread boldly.

Brit SF short story magazine Interzone marked its 200th issue in the autumn with extra pages, colour throughout and a slightly wider format. Usual mix, largely of short stories and some reviews. Richard Clader is interviewed. The 5mm extra width means that SF bookshelves throughout the land will be re-adjusted.

Fantasy Magazine launched. This quarterly from Prime Books is mainly short fiction with some reviews. Details www.fantasy-magazine.com.

Locus has increased its rates but is still value. Now its US$56 surface mail for US subscribers, US$60 for Canada and Mexico, and US$65 surface for other countries outside N. America. Surface overseas takes between one and three months (depending on the time of year and Spring is always slow) but given that SF books from the US take longer to reach European bookshops (those that do that is) this is not really a problem. (Besides we're told wasting carbon alters biospheres.) If you have not read Locus it is effectively the English language (and somewhat US centric) trade magazine on SF books and authors (with lots of news, reviews and author interviews (less the questions which you can have fun guessing). So if you get Locus and then a magazine like SFX for film and TV, you've got the genre more or less covered. With the strength of the £ and Euro, now is a good time to subscribe. Europeans can pay, see the <Locus website, using Visa and MasterCard.

SciFi.Com has shut down the SciFiction website. 'Why?' one asks. The site just won a Hugo at this year's Worldcon and so presumably has a reasonably dedicated genre enthusiast following irrespective of size. This begs the question whether those running SciFi.com are out of touch with the broad SF community or are those voting for the Hugo out of touch? Or could it simply be that written fiction is just not suited to the internet?   SciFiction was edited by Ellen Datlow (formerly of Omni). Though of limited consolation, those going to this year's Eurocon will be able to chink a farewell glass with the good lady herself as she will be one of the guests. Meanwhile attempts are being made to preserve the site's content. If someone tells us if any of these come to fruition then we will pass on the news.

The Infinite Matrix has ended. However this on-line SF book and written fiction orientated magazine will have much of its content still on-line for a year. Co-incidentally, as with the editor of the recently defunct SciFiction website (above), The Infinite Matrix editor is also due to be a guest at this year's Eurocon. Now we are by no means suggesting a causal link but it is worrying our own editor who will also be attending, though perhaps fortunately not as a guest. Our commiserations to Eileen.

Regarding the previous two news items... The core Concat editorial team are a little worried. Concat was slow to transfer from print to the web and now that these two SF written fiction story sites have closed how doe this bode for Concatenation's forthcoming development? More news hopefully in February.

Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds theme album will be brought to life by the man himself at a series of concerts in April 2006 in the UK. Venues include: Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Manchester. Detailswww.waroftheworlds.com.

The intergalactic Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens shimmers into view at The Venue-Leicester Square, London, until mid-February at least. This brand new glam-rock space odyssey, stars Faye Tozer (formerly of STEPS) who makes her West End debut playing Space Vixen, Jubilee Climax. New cosmic choreography is by the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing's panellist, Bruno Tonioli. Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens was first performed ten years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it was success. The show's development led to a successful West End Season.

The monsters are coming... at least in the form of an exhibition of John Cox's monster models and animatronics at the Australian Museum, Sydney. Cox is an Academy award-winning special effects artist. The show will run until March 06 and then tour major Australian cities.

The Lord of the Rings musical launches in Toronto. We mentioned the shows pre-production back in back in the summer. The show is due to open in March and will run through to 2007. Advance ticket sales have been more than brisk. Unfortunately, contrary to our earlier news, a London venue seems less likely due to a lack of a sufficiently spacious West End stage venue. Details at www.thelordoftheringsmusical.com.

The 2006 Williamson Lectureship will be held at the Eastern New Mexico Campus, Portales, on 2nd March. This year's topic is 'ecological apocalypse' and the guest speaker will be Kim Stanley Robinson, the author of Forty Signs of Rain.

The film fest Sci-Fi London is to run between the 26th and 30th April. This is later than usual. The event has now become firmly established. It is a little different from other Fests and you pay for just those films you see. A reminder -- Unlike its 'sci fi' title, this fest features a fair range of the SF cinematic ambit and there are usually some great independents, a few fan films and at least a couple of premieres. Given that screening actual celluloid films hardly ever takes place at conventions, and given the diversity of SF, this is a very welcome event. (See last year's news.)

Germany's Deutscher Phantastik Preis for science fiction winners were presented in October.
Novel: Der Krieg der Zwerge by Markus Heitz.
First Novel: Lycidas by Christoph Marzi.
International Novel: The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King.
Short Story: 'Quantenmuell' by Andreas Eschbach.
Anthology: Der Atem Gottes - Visionen 2004 edited by Helmuth W. Mommers.
Book Series: Perry Rhodan.
Non-Fiction: Das Science-Fiction Jahr.
Graphic Novel: Spider-Man.
Cover Artist: Dirk Schulz.
Audio Book: John Sinclair.
Website: Phantastik News.

Israel's 2005 Geffen Winners for Science Fiction were presented at Icon October.
Translated SF book: Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke and translated by David Hanoch.
Translated Fantasy Book: Transformation by Carol Berg and translated by David Hanoch.
Original Hebrew Short Story: 'The Perfect Girl' by Guy Hasson and translated by Vered Tochterman.
Original Hebrew Book: End's World by Ofir Touche Gafla.

M. John Harrison's Valo [Light] has won Finland's 2005 Tahtivaeltaja Award for the best SF novel published in that country.

The 2005 International Horror Guild Awards were presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin in November. The principal category winners were:
Novel: The Overnight by Ramsey Campbell.
First Novel: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood.
Film: Shaun Of The Dead.
Television: Lost.
Periodical: The Third Alternative.

The 2006 SFX magazine awards have been announced. (SFX being the UK high street magazine covering SF in TV, films, books and comics more or less in that order of priority).
Of the principal award categories:
The Best Novel went to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which beat Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in second place)
The Best Non-Fiction Book went to Serenity: The Official Visual Companion
The Best Film went to Serenity
The Best Actor went to Nathan (Serenity) Fillion
The Best TV Show was Doctor Who (which also picked up TV actor and actress awards)
The Best Director went to Joss (Serenity and Buffy) Whedon.
Now you may have spotted a vague trend here? No prizes or bets that Serenity will get nominated for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) next year... There have also been some rumblings on the net about individual shows' fans galvanising the vote so that it does not reflect that of SFX's actual readers... Meanwhile the SFX Hall of Shame Award went to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The (UK) Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger of Daggers Award went to John Le Carre. Specifically it was for his 1963 novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) annual Golden Dagger Award went to Arnaldur Indridason's Silence of the Grave. The shortlist this year saw four out the six books being works translated into English: French, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swiss. If the European SF Society (ESFS) ever managed to encourage such a degree of translation into English, which in at least one sense (but not others) dominates international SF, there would be dancing at the next Eurocon. Strange then that, before the November week was out following the award presentation announcement was made, the CWA announced a rule change so that in future the £3,000 (US$5,000) prize-monied Golden Daggers would only go to books originally published in English. Was this because new novels from established top-selling UK authors such as Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham did not get short-listed? Did a sponsor have a hand in this? Scuttlebut abounds. Nonetheless all rather myopic, but then...

...In December the CWA announced it was developing a new prize with a new sponsor for translated works. So expect a possible Duncan Lowrie Dagger prize in 2006 for translated new crime novels. The prize winner will also, it is said, get £20,000 (US$33,000). This award raises, in financial terms, the prize nearer to that of mainstream prizes such as the Booker. The news is timely as the CWA marks its golden jubilee.

DC Comics science fictional superheroes are to get their own US postage stamps in 2006. The set of 20 US stamps will feature Superman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Batman and the Green Arrow among others. They will cost 39 cents, as the US postal rate increases on January 8th. However Concat has a niggling suspicion that using the one portraying the Flash will not do anything to enhance speed of delivery...

 

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

Don Adams, the US comedian remembered as the bungling Agent 86 in the 1960s TV spy-spoof, gadget-ridden series Get Smart died aged 82. He was later the voice of the Inspector Gadget cartoon character.

Teisho (aka Sadamasa) Arikawa, the Japanese director of the original Gojira/Godzilla and a number of its several sequels, died on 22nd September aged 80.

Barry Bard the US con-runner died. He was on a number of Phoenix convention and Comicon International committees.

Sir Hermann Bondi died aged 85. He was a mathematician who became Director General of the European Space Research Organization (the predecessor of ESA), past Chairman and also Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (Britain's governmental funder of environmental research), and a past UK Defence and then Energy Chief Scientific Advisor. He recommended the construction of the Thames flood barrier. Indeed he had an encounter with a member of the Concat' team at a private Environmental Agency workshop on sea level rise when our man explained that geological evidence suggests past sea level rise twice, and higher, than current global warming computer models suggest. Herman's comment was that he was glad that someone still uses real data. His books include Cosmology (1952) -- he was for a while into steady-state theory -- and his autobiography Science, Churchill and Me (1990).

Lloyd Bochner US actor died aged 81. He played Commandant Leiter in episodes of the 1979 TV series Battlestar Galactica. he also appeared in episodes of Mission Impossible and The Wild Wild West as well as in the Twilight Zone episode 'To Serve Man'.

Ken Bulmer the British SF writer died before Christmas aged 84. Ken Bulmer will be fondly remembered by middle-aged and older SF fans on both sides of the Atlantic for not only was he a prolific author, with well nearly 200 books mainly from the early 1950s to the late 1980s (and under a variety of pseudonyms), but he was also an SF fan at the heart of the UK SF community. His most famous work, popular in the US, is arguably the Dray Prescot series of Rice Burroughian style space adventures, again often written under pseudonyms.   And then he did work other than books. For example, he wrote the story for the first three adventures of the Valiant comic's Steel Claw strip that is currently being collected as a graphic novel.   Some of the Concatenation team will remember Ken for being Guest of Honour at PSIFA's (Hatfield SF's) first Shoestringcon in 1979 (a student con series that was to run to over a dozen). Again others on, and close to, Concat remember the production of his bibliography for the first London-region BECCON (1981) and which became one of the first Beccon Publications (that are still going strong today). Those close to the heart of UK book-SF fandom will also remember Ken for his early support of the SF Foundation (now based at Liverpool U.) Hence it was not surprising that Pete Weston mentioned Ken at last year's British-venued Worldcon when reminiscing past British Worldcons with those who had previously attended a few. Sadly the past decade Ken was unable to participate in many fan activities however his name invariably cropped up in conversations at book-SF conventions and the news of his parting, along with that of Sheckley (below), caused a pause at a number of pre-Christmas fan gatherings. Had he known of this reaction, Tully Zetford would probably give a wry smile.

Alastair [Al] Graham Walter Cameron the Canadian astrophysicist into stellar nuclear synthesis died aged 80. he also proposed in the 70s that the Moon formed out of a planetesimal-Earth collision. He was also into SF and fandom.

Hamilton Camp died aged 70. He was the actor who of sci fi interest had bit parts in Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine. He also co-starred in the futuristic gladiator movie Arena (1989).

Michael Coney the British-born / Canadian-resident author died from cancer on 4th November aged 73.

Richard E. Cunha the fantastic film director died aged 83. His credits include She Demons, Giant from the Unknown, Missile to the Moon and Frankenstein's Daughter.

Charles L. Harness the SF author (and US patent attorney) died aged 89. His several novels included the 1953 book The Paradox Men (revised from Flight into Yesterday 1949) which is a time travel story: a trope which he seemed fond of exploring. In 2004 he was awarded the accolade 'Author of Distinction' by the SF Writers of America.

John HollisUK actor in the 1960s TV series A For Andromeda and The Andromeda Breakthrough, died aged 74. Other appearances include three Supermanmovies, The Empire Strikes Back< and the BBC's Day of the Triffids.

Charles David Keeling the atmospheric carbon dioxide scientist died aged 77. If you have ever seen a long-term, direct measurement, graph of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide since the late 1950s then odds on it was through Keeling's efforts. Indeed Keeling's team has been taking measurements at Hawaii (away from major industry and continental human sources) ever since. Since the late 50s concentrations have risen from 315 part per million to over 375 ppm. His regular analyses also should the northern hemisphere 'breathing' (more photosynthesis than respiration in the summer and vice-versa in the winter). Though not a Nobel winner his work gave us a pioneering perspective.

Denis Lindbohm the Swedish fan and a significant contributor to Swedish fanac for many years, not to mention a writer, died aged 80.

Constance Moore the US actress died aged 85. She co-starred with Buster Crabbe in Buck Rogers (1939) film serial.

Joe Nolan a Belfast fan, who helped author James White with some of his research, died (we understand) aged 94. Not only was he one of Ireland's oldest fans he was also one of the longest being active in fandom.

Keith Parkinson the US genre artist and game designer, died aged 47 from leukaemia just days after his birthday.

Michael Piller the US writer/producer of several episodes of Star trek Next Gen, Deep Space 9 andVoyager as well as co-creator of the Dead Zone series, died aged 57.

Gary Potter, the US horror fan who also co-published Voyages into Darkess by Stephen Laws & Mark Morris, died aged just 46.

Robert Sheckley, the US SF author, has died aged 77. An SF grandmaster, Sheckley is one of the (surprisingly) few SF authors to have an international reputation in places isolated from the West such as Central Europe and the Soviet nations. He wrote over a score of novels and literally hundreds of short stories. His writing even spawned four films including the French La Decima Vittima [The 10th Victim] (1965) and the Hollywood Freejack (1992). Further, his stories were used for a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone. 'Bob' was also well known within international SF fandom. And, in Concat's small sphere of physical manifestations, it was a pleasure to share with him the 1st International Week of Science & SF in Timisoara, Romania, that also saw the launch of the Romanian edition (Transfer Mental) of his book Mindswap. He must have had a good time and, such is the man's spirit that, he arranged for copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine to be sent to the second International Week as this featured a story inspired by the first International Week. His death did not come as a surprise due to his age and that he had been ill last year which prevented him from attending the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon as a Guest of Honour. He was also slated to be a Guest of Honour at this year's Eurocon in Kiev. He recovered somewhat in his last months and was even writing in the months before his death and briefly contemplated a trip to Mexico. Many within the SF community will miss him and not least by those of us on the Concat team.

Richard Smalley, the US chemist and Nobel winner, died aged 62. Richard Smalley's Nobel came about due to him being the co-discoverer (with Brit chemist Harry Kroto) of new allotropes of carbon, fullerenes. His subsequent goal was to make a conducting rope of fullerene-type tubes, which theoretically would be many times stronger than steel weight for weight. Alas this dream was not to be personally realised. He was also a supporter of nanotechnology.

Richard Southwood, the British entomologist and ecologist, dies aged 74. He initially worked at Rothamsted and then Imperial. In 1979 he moved to Oxford to become Head of Zoology and ultimately Vice Chancellor of the University. In the 1980s he also spent some of his time chairing the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and one of its reports at the time highlighted the hazards of lead (as an anti-knocking agent) in petrol. This helped lead in petrol to become banned in the UK and several other countries. In 1988 he chaired a working group on the BSE crisis and criticised meat-rendering processes and the half-value compensation farmers got for infected cattle (which was an incentive for farmers not to report all cases).

Vladimir Volkoff, the French thriller and SF author born of Russian emigre parents (hence his name), died aged 72. His Metro pour L'enfer [Subway to Hell] won the Jules Verne award (1963), and Le Retournement [The Turn-Around] won the Prix Chateaubriand (1979).

J. N. Williamson the US horror writer died aged 73. In 2003 he received a Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America.

Robert Wise the US film director aged 91. His genre offerings included Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Haunting (1963), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

 

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Top SF books of 2005... Yes, it's time for a quick look back at the past year in case you missed anything we think you might like. And of course for many of them there's their paperbacks this year to come. Unlike the past couple of times we've done this, this year we've done it a season earlier. This did not matter so much last year as our Easter upload for the summer tied in with the Hugo nominations (as the Worldcon last year making one of its once a decade European manifestation) but did very much coincide with the Locus recommendations which we were in fact reporting. However we thought we go a little earlier this year, discussing matters with Christmas very much in the air, so as to have our recommendations come out more or less at the same time as Locus magazine's top list instead of a couple of month's after. It makes it more fun... Anyway here goes:
        Here, There & Everywhere by Chris Roberson from Pyr. A delightful waltz around time that brings together many interpretations of SF's time travel trope. Though intelligently written it is an easy adventure read for teenagers and with many nods to SF, history and, of course, Beatles music, to add depth for older readers.
        Olympos by Dan Simmons from Gollancz. A tale of a human and post-human future based on the Iliad and itself a sequel to the excellent Ilium. A classic tale... ('Classic' geddit? Oooh, never mind missus.)
        Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, and also from Gollancz. Decades from now, when we are puttering around our solar system shifting comets about for raw material, one of Saturn's moons breaks orbit revealing itself to be a starship. As it accelerates out of the system there is a chance for a nearby ice tug to make for a brief first encounter... Boy, is this book a ride. ('A ride...' Look this is quality coverage you're getting here.)
        Spin by Robert Charles Wilson from Tor (US) continues half a decade of a great-book-a-year from the man with an initially very near-future tale of the Earth being wrapped in a stasis shield so that the galaxy outside seems to spin. How do we cope and why is this happening drives the reader along a really great story.
        Woken Furies by Richard Morgan and another from Gollancz, with its protagonist sometime detective, sometime alien artifact explorer, now a man on a mission of vengeance...
        Learning the World by MacLeod from Orbit, in which a far future generation ship from Earth discovers and so approaches the first alien intelligent (bat-like) species that has an early 20th century technology complete with science fiction. Actually we are a little divided on whether to include this one as Tony (from the above title review link) wasn't too keen, but it has had some good reviews elsewhere (outside of Concatenation). So we throw this into the mix with a word of caution: perhaps you had better make your own mind up. The story is told in parallel perspectives from each culture. One sees the forthcoming encounter as first contact, and the other as alien invasion (much like our SF genre commonly portrayed things at the beginning and end of the last century).

        Now, if none of these gets nominated for a Hugo then our Jonathan says he is simply going to quit fandom out of sheer embarassment. Seriously, we think a couple of titles are bound to be nominated, though all deserve to. However, as outright fantasy books (and nothing wrong with them) are eligible for the World's 'SF achievement' award, some of our SF choices are bound to be knocked off the final Hugo ballot by non-SF nominations. Meanwhile our Tony is going for Dan Simmons and Richard Morgan as hot favourites.   Both Jonathan and Tony reckon that Chris Roberson might be a bit of a longshot though Here, There... really deserves recognition and all the more so since the book came out the 25th anniversary year of John Lennon's murder. It will be interesting to see whether the SF community votes for Chris and a vote for John...   Jonathan swears by Spin but we don't know whether this is due to his science lobbying of politicians, though it has to be said we do have a bucket of water on standby to dampen his excitement for whenever Robert Charles Wilson's name is mentioned.   Graham has been reading past books and current short story collections this year and therefore is out of the loop, while Alan isn't that into books (though confessed to enjoying Haldeman's Forever War). So, this year it is Jonathan and Tony's selection. What do you think?

Wallace & Gromit together with a Jules Verne classic book are to help mark engineer James Kingdom Brunel's bicentenary. Wallace and Gromit will appear on the cover of a special edition of Verne's Around the World in 80 days published by Oxford University Press. 52,000 copies of this edition will go to schools, libraries and some companies in the SW of Britain. A further 50,000 copies of an illustrated children's edition will be distributed free. It is all part of SW England's Brunel 200 Great Reading Adventure to mark Brunel's bicentenary. The link with Verne is that Brunel opened up the Victorian world through his railway lines, bridges and steam boats.
+++ Separately, Brunel's picture has been doctored. The thought police have struck again and Brunel's photograph has been electronically 'edited' in some recent school books. His smoking of a cigar has been repixelated with the cigar removed.

Rebellion (computer game makers who are the owners of 2000AD) are looking for writers for their new SF imprint, Abaddon Press. They are offering £3,000 on a one-off contract basis for a 90,000 word novel to be strictly delivered to an agreed time schedule. The books are tied to specific Rebellion computer game projects and so you need to get in touch with Rebellion to find out what these are. Given the rates being offered, professional SF writers are unlikely to be attracted in droves, but this could well encourage a new generation of writers and help them find their feet with words. One suspects that familiarity (as opposed to expertise) with computer games would be a distinct advantage. For further information contact authors (at) rebellion.co.uk.

Speaking of 2000AD, Alan Barnes, the editor of the sister publication The Judge Dredd Megazine, is moving on after 4 years. Alan Barnes has seen some 50 issues of The Meg' including two changes of format. The first was from the British A4 size to the US equivalent (now fairly common for UK magazines) but the return to saddle stitch (rather than the flat spine that sported the issue number and title) was not popular. Fortunately sense prevailed and a year later the flat spine returned. His other house-keeping initiatives included revising the daft volume and number form of edition counting (and the volumes did not even tie in with the year) to a more sensible issue number system. But it is content where editors usually gain or lose points. Here Alan Barnes ran some very worthy strips that included: a nifty run of the futuristic vampire strip Durham Red: The Scarlet Apocrypha, a two and a half decade old reprint of Charlie's War (a semi-historical account of front line WWI), The Simping Detective an SF noir series set in Dredd's Mega City 1, and Scarlet Traces a truly excellent steam punk story set after Wells' The War of the Worlds in which Britain used Martian technology to further the Empire. Only occasionally poor artwork and ancillary material such as highly variable SF reviews with 'colourful' language, and excessive 2000AD and Megazine historical articles (which does have the merit of providing a few a certain academic resource), marred Barnes' otherwise excellent choice of content. The occasional poor artwork, though, might perhaps be due to the publishers, Rebellion, not being always able to afford decent craftsmen, and so this may not have been entirely down to the editor.   Alan Barnes moves on confident that he has left the Meg in a decent shape. The challenge the new editor has is to engage with the readership and to get Rebellion (who are very nice people for taking 2000AD onboard) to sort out its (presumably inadvertent) customer-pushy and SF community-engagement light image. Time will tell.

Random House, the UK publishers of The Da Vinci Code are apparently being sued by historians Michel Baigent and Richard Leigh. Baigent and Leigh wrote The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982 and which postulated that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and founded a bloodline that has been protected through the years by secret agents. This follows a writ Baigent and Leigh filed against Random House last year. If the case wins then a proportion of Brown's income from the 29 million book sales of The Da Vinci Code could go to Baigent and Leigh. It could also affect the prospects of the forthcoming £53 million Tom Hanks film in the UK. The trial date is set for 27th February 2006. Now before those of you who have read both works say that the trial's conclusion is inevitable,Concat's legal guy (well close to legal at any rate) says that it is not the idea itself that is copyright. (Ideas have to have intellectual protection through things like patenting.) Copyright protects 'the expression' of an idea. Consequently Baigent and Leigh will only have a case if they can demonstrate that Brown followed the sequence of steps, or the chain of argument, Baigent used or quoted actual chunks (our guy's near-legal technical term) of text word for word without citing or acknowledging the source in some way. However nobody on the Concat' core team has read either book, let alone both, and so we can not give you a clearer analysis.

Harper Collins has announced plans to become the UK market leader in graphic novels. It aims to do this by 2008. The implications for genre graphic novels remains unclear.

Awards, awards... Its been all go on the awards front in the UK since August when we had the Hugo Awards ceremony and then later the Bookseller Retail Awards in London. The former (we've already covered) was, this year, mercifully quick. The latter was a grand sumptuous gathering held in the cathedral-like main hall of the Natural History Museum with a rather nifty meal. Amazon.co.uk won the General Retailer of the Year. Silverdell of Kirkham, Lancashire, got the independent prize with The Aldeburgh Bookshop highly commended. David Lund of Waterstone's Castlepoint branch in Bournemouth was Manager of the Year.

Two works from the publishers Orbit are to become TV series. The 'Stookie Stackhouse' Vampire novels by Charlaine Harris (which to date comprise four novels) and a series based on the 'Dresden Files' by Jim Butcher.

Fantasy dominated the 2005 children's book charts. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came top (surprise). Anthony Horowitz Raven's Gate, Michelle Paver's Spiritwalker and Nix Garth's The Rag Witch all came in the top 6.

The top UK selling SF/fantasy genre-related children's annuals this Christmas were Star Wars that was third and Dr Who seventh.

A rare honour for a publisher to have an entire magazine review section devoted to its works. Pyr is to be so favoured in the April/ May issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. This is all the more a unique happening given that Pyr was only launched last year. If you can't wait then you can check out some of our own Pyr book reviews on this site, including: Galileo's Children, Here, There & Everywhere, The Crown Rose and The Healer. We also have a mini-review of Macrolife below.

The publisher Tachyon is now a decade old. Naturally the San Francisco publishers had a party.

The 18th Moscow International Book Fayre in September revealed that that nation's book market grew 3% to 1.24 billion Euros in 2004. However the growth came from the number of titles (market diversification) and prices, not in print runs. The UK title imports to Russia were led by Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The Russian printing of which was for an initial 800,000 copies.

China's impact on the global market continues to rise and its own book market is growing rapidly as indicated by the Beijing Book Fayre. It saw commercial sponsorship in the form of "The Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Supergirl Song Contest" that was also televised. If you are inclined to snigger then let the following sober you. The TV programme's audience attracted some 400 million and 8 million viewers texted in votes for entries. Meanwhile the inevitable book tie-in reached no. 1 in the Chinese book charts. The trouble is, having read it you feel like reading something else just a few hours later.

This year's Frankfurt Book Fayre (Europe's big book shindig) had a Korean flavour but could 2011 or 2012 be Britain's year? South Korea was this year's fayre's official guest of honour. Traditional dances added to the readings and 100,000 visited the Korean display with coverage from an estimated 12,000 journalists. Apparently the Frankfurt organisers are considering offering the UK the honour leading up to the Olympics in 2012. The cost would be considerable and far, far too much for any one publisher to bear. So will the British Council or some other Government agency step in? Watch this space as they say.

The 2006 London Book Fayre will be held on 5th - 7th March. Its venue (moved from previous years' Earls Court) will be the ExCel centre near the City Airport (nearest tube Canning Town) and next to the Royal Victoria Dock. It promises to be bigger than ever with nearly 30% more exhibition space sold! Pre-Registration will be £20 (on the door £30). Members of a librarian association or the UK Booksellers Association can get free tickets.

Macmillan is to launch a new science fact imprint to tie in with science exhibitions. Macmillan Science will link in with exhibitions and have started with the (Kensington UK) Science Museum's Aliens Are We Alone exhibition.

Simon & Schuster have shed a few staff and plan to become more lean. Its lists will be trimmed with fewer new titles and Pocket Books (who do media tie ins such as Star Trek books) will be made 'engines of profitability'.

HarperCollins Worldwide is to open and office in China. This reflects increased publishing and book trade interest in China. For example Penguin have already created a semi-independent China division.

UK copyright rules are to be assessed by a Government review. The review is being led by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers. he is due to report at the end of 2006, or early 2007 at the latest.

Further to last time's news of two of Britain's largest book chains (Ottakars and Waterstones) merging, the Government is now concerned as to the monopoly that this might create. The Government's Office of Fair Trading endorsed the protests of complaining authors that the range of authors represented in the amalgamated chain of shops might decrease. Some publishers will also welcome this concern as the amalgamation would give the amalgamated shop chain too much power and market control. It has to be said that from an SF book perspective that Ottakars and Waterstones have a far better selection of SF than, say, the newsagent chain W. H. Smiths (whose SF and fantasy book stock has a large TV and film related content). British Isles SF specialist shops since the 1990s have seen a trend of decline in their book stock in favour of comics, models, posters videos (now DVDs) and games (increasingly computer). Increasingly SF book-buyers (both sides to the Atlantic it would seem) are turning to internet purchases (though we at Concatenation would urge all those, who have not yet, to seek out there closest specialist SF shop and to use it, as these managers generally have expertise not found with internet or general high street outlets).   Ottakars and Waterstones SF book selection does though embody among the best SF book representation on many British high streets. If they merged, would this SF representation suffer? Arguably 'yes' as some 'minority' authors would not get a look in.
        Now that it is Spring there is a full Governmental competition investigation underway. The UK Booksellers Association has announced that it is to remain firmly neutral (probably because chains form a sizeable part of its membership base whose view will run contrary to the independents 9the remainder of its membership base)). This is not particularly helpful. It would have been better had they come out with a clear statement that its two halves disagree and the reasons why. This would have at least clearly marked out the area of contention from the book trade perspective and the BA in brokering the statement would gain credibility with both sides. Anyway, the Government investigation should be complete by the end of May. We will keep you posted.

The Bookseller, the UK trade magazine, it transpires saw some "odd voting patterns [emerging] in [its August] online poll to gauge reaction to the W. H. Smiths' new trading terms." Smiths is one of the UK giant newsagent chains that also sells books and because of its number of outlets has a significant effect on the UK market. Unfortunately, as we have commented before, this is not entirely beneficial to SF. Its new trading terms are naturally serve its own interests. The bookseller.com "registered more than double the usual number of votes it receives for its polls, and most sided with the retailer..." (Source: Bent in The Bookseller 19.8.05.) You might think that there was a connection somewhere in all of this but we could not possibly comment.

Meanwhile W H Smiths broke the industry-wide tacit 'launch date initiative' agreement. This is the agreement whereby a number of books are launched on the same day so as to reduce individual publicity overheads. They put three books early on the shelves in October. Smiths does not regret its action and blames some supermarkets that also sell a few books. Smiths' actions are, by some, not always considered beneficial. (Is there an echo in here?)

W H Smiths, the UK newsagent chain, is to open 3 shops in 2006 specialising in books. This follows successful Smiths bookshops in Barnet and Torquay. (Smiths already has branded bookshops in airports.) Their high street newsagent shops will not change nor be re-branded. It will be interesting to see W H Smiths enter (some might say re-enter) the book-selling business in a meaningful way. It has to be said that W H Smiths never had the reputation for stocking Hugo short-listed or Locus or Concatenation recommended titles (and those with long memories will remember our print coverage from the 1980s and 1990s of their SF stock or lack thereof). So not surprisingly their SF did not sell well, hence today's media-related SF book domination of their stock. The big question then will be whether they decide to actually sell great SF books or continue to let the television do the selling for them, reducing their role to being a conduit of opiates for the masses? While we wait to find out, bring on the soma.

And on that hypnotic note....

More book trade news shortly after Easter in April. Meanwhile...

 

MAJOR SF AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Brian Aldiss has welcomed the film adaptation of one of his stories as Brothers of the Head and went to see it in London.

Iain Banks is due to be answering questions on Scotch whiskey on the BBC TV show mastermind just as we are coding and uploading this season's news early in January. By now we'll all know if it all went well.

Peter Beagle is looking to take action against Granada-Media for royalties from the DVD of Beagle's book The Last Unicorn. The US author is struggling to tackle the London-based firm as he is looking after a 100-year old parent. His manager, Connor Conlan, is co-ordinating matters. Details on www.conlanpress.com.

It's December 15th and Greg Bear not only gets a story into the 'Futures' series of SF short stories at the back of the multi-disciplinary science journal Nature but also gets a mini-interview at its front! A neat and rare sandwich for SF-loving scientists. In the interview he reveals that he is currently writing about "thermodynamics and information -- writ cosmologically 100 trillion years in the future. The beginning will be: 'Everything you know is wrong...'" Ahh, but is that an American or a European trillion?

Ben Bova received the Arthur C. Clarke lifetime achievement award in Washington DC, for his popularization of space travel through his writing. (Not to be confused with at least two other Clarke-related awards that abound; this one's from the US-based Clarke Foundation.) His next book is due out in the UK in the Spring.

Ray Bradbury received the Thomas O. Paine Award for the advancement of the human exploration of Mars at the (US) Planetary Society's 25th anniversary dinner in Arcadia, California, in November. He will be joined by film director James Cameron (known to fantastic film buffs for The Terminator and Aliens) who will receive the Cosmic Award for the public presentation of science: Cameron recently did a submarine documentary series.

Orson Scott Card has launched an on-line magazine The Intergalactic Medicine Show with new issues planned quarterly.

Arthur C. Clarke's "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World Wide Radio Coverage?" article in Wireless World was published 60 years ago in October. Heather Couper marked the anniversary interviewing the man. It was broadcast on BBC Radio. His brother Fred remembered their Somerset childhood when Arthur was building telescopes and launching home-made rockets. Did the other children join in their brother's activities? "No!", says Fred. "We kept away from the dangerous blighter".
So it was almost appropriate that the month following the anniversary Arthur C. Clarke received the Sri Lanka's highest civilian honour, the Sri Lankabhimanya award, for `his contributions to science and technology and his commitment to his adopted country.'

James Doohan further to last time's sad news of his death, is to continue to tread boldly. In line with his wishes, his remains were to be launched into a 50 - 200 year orbit on 6th December by Space Services Inc. together with an unidentified astronaut and Mareta West (the astronomer who suggested the landing site for the first lunar spacecraft). This has now been delayed to early 2006 due to problems with the rocket: alas we needed an engineer like 'Scotty'.

Harlan Ellison will become an SFWA (SF Writers of America) Grand Master at the Nebulas next May.

Kazuo Ishiguro's clones-for-organ-harvesting book Never Let Me Go, is a rare genre entry (well techno-thriller) on the Booker Prize long list, subsequently made it to the six-book short list. The Booker being one of the UK's major mainstream lit-crit awards.

Stephen King won the British Fantasy Award 'Best novel' category for The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower in addition to Germany's Deutscher Phantastik Preis. Meanwhile the Dark Tower series will also appear in a Marvel comic series (with King's input) that will expand on the protagonist, Roland Deschain, and include background on his youth. The first instalment is due out in April.

Stephen King helped raise over US$300,000 for the Red Cross via his local Maine Radio station matching all pledges up to $150,000. The drive was for victims of hurricane Katrina.

Nigel Kneale of Quatermass TV and film fame won the British Fantasy Society's Karl Edward Wagner Award for Special Achievement.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle have received Heinlein Awards for 'lifetime achievements for outstanding published work in hard science fiction or technical writings inspiring the human exploration of space.' But as loads of us on the team tell our physicist, Graham, 'but you still haven't gotton us faster-than-light yet.'

William F. Nolan will become an Author Emeritus at the SFWA Nebulas next May. Not surprising given his 150 plus stories not to mention 75 books, including 13 novels. Perhaps his best known best-known is Logan's Run, co-authored with George Clayton Johnson, and later on his own Logan's World and Logan's Search.

Collin Pillinger, the scientist driving-force behind the Beagle 2 Mars lander (no not an SF author but the SFnal aspects of his work are obvious), has won the British Interplanetary Society's Bronze Achievement Medal. The award recognises his vision in conceiving and implementing the beagle 2 miniaturised life science instrument package and that his enthusiasm raised public awareness of the excitement and possibilities of space exploration. (Separately, what is not recognised is that Beagle instrumentation has biomedical implications enabling some analysis to be carried out in local medical practices rather than having them sent off to a laboratory.)

Christopher Priest's The Separation has won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, from the Utopiales Festival International de Science-Fiction as best translated novel into French.

Philip Pullman, in response to a proposed series of films on Narnia, has described the books as books "racist" and "misogynistic". Perhaps a little strong even if one can understand from whence he comes.

Robert Rankin has married Rachel Hayward. The event took place in the States. More Rankin news on the Lost Car Park site.

Anne Rice has reportedly switched her supernatural writing to that about God and Jesus. Her next novel is apparently to be about Christ as a child. "I promised," she allegedly says, "that from now on I would write only for the Lord." Ahhh, but who gets the royalties?

Anne Rice and Philip Pullman to be joint Guests of Honour at an SF convention... No, not really, but it's such an engaging thought...!

Geoff Ryman has won Can$1,000 as part of Canada's Sunburst Award for fantastic literature and gets a medallion for his novel Air. +++ News of his next book (due out in the UK sometime in March) from Harper Collins, which we'll mention here as it does not appear, from the pre-publicity we have, to be SF. It is set in Cambodia, when an archaeologist discovers a 12th century manuscript about a Buddhist who united the then war-ravaged country. Then the archaeologist is kidnapped and the manuscript goes missing...

Terry Prachett is seeing his Johnny and the Bomb novel adapted to TV.

 

EUROCON/WORLDCON NEWS

Preparations for Eurocon 2006's appear to have been minimal in the autumn. So we have little news to add since last time. The proposed guest of honour's recent demise was, due to age and infirmity, not an undue surprise, and Harry Harrison had already been asked to be another Guest of Honour, so everything is still go for Kiev in Easter. The event coincides with the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl and for those who let the organisers know in advance, before the convention there will be a day trip to 'the zone'. No doubt there will be further news on http://www.Eurocon.kiev.ua the Eurocon 2006 website.

The 2006 Worldcon folk are looking out for good Hugo base designs. For details see http://www.laconiv.org/2006/hugos/hugobases.htm. Progress Report 3 is also out.

The 2006 Hugo nomination forms for the World SF Society's SF Achievement Award are now out. See the 2006 Worldcon website. Remember if you attended the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon you are entitled to make nominations (see below)! For suggestions of novels you may perhaps wish to consider then see our best of 2006 book recommendations and for long-form dramatic presentation our recommendations. Also this year there is the committee's award for best interactive computer game. Here we like the oldies and recommend 2005's Doom III which comes with the original Doom as an extra. Other than this how about the latest global climate model from the Hadley Centre? Well it's interactive and computer based...

The 2006 Worldcon Transatlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) ballot is now open. The winner gets sponsored to go from the UK to next year's Worldcon subject to writing a visit report. The candidates are: Bridget Bradshaw, Arthur [1/2 r] Cruttenden (one of UK's longest continually active fans), and Mike [Sparks] Rennie. The deadline for votes is 27th May 2006. Ballots from http://taff.org.uk/ballots/taff2006.html. If you are from the US and want to know a little about the candidates then: Bridget, a fan since at least the 1990s, is probably best known for working with the UK SF Foundation cause; 1/2r is a long-standing Brit fan who can tell you (should you ask) much of SF book fandom's history - especially the London SF Circle - going back to the 1970s (and earlier?); while Sparks is a more of recent fan and who was involved with the UK convention '2Kon'. You can Google their names and key words from the afore for further details. May the best fan win.

Worldcon 2007's Progress Report 1 for Japan is now out and features travel information and guest profiles. Alas it is not so far (Christmas) on their website, most of the English part (at least) of which does not appear to have been updated for a year...

Worldcon 2007. Further to the fan-trip prior to the convention news announced last time, prospective Worldcon goers from the west may want to check out the latest Japanese fads. They can do so on web-japan.org (no longer functioning when link checked Jan 07) where they will find, among other things, that a toilet that analyses your deposits to give you a health check, and that vinegar-based drinks are all the rage among - one presumes - a sizeable minorities.

NOTE - WERE YOU REGISTERED FOR LAST YEAR'S (2005) WORLDCON IN GLASGOW?: If so then you are entitled to influence matters this year's (2006) Worldcon. First off Hugos. You will be able to nominate books, films, short stories and TV series' episodes for the Hugo Awards for SF achievement. (Though off course you will need to register with Los Angles for the subsequent vote between the short-listed nominations.)
Second, 2008 Worldcon site bid. You may recall that there was no Worldcon venue vote in 2004 due to 2003 changes in the World SF Society constitution from three-year in advance bidding to two-year in advance. However all 2005 Worldcon Interaction members will be eligible to vote this year to choose the site for 2008 even if they are not going to next year's Worldcon in Los Angles (so if you went to Interaction keep your membership number safe). If in doubt check the Los Angles Worldcon website for news. See worldcon.org for the link. If you want a quick summary of the bids then see our report in last season's news.

For links to Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.

The World Fantasy Con site selection for the next three years will be: in 2006, Austin, Texas from 2nd -5th November; then in 2007, Saratoga, New York between 1st - 4th November and in 2008, Calgary, Canada but the 2008 dates have yet to be announced.

For a list of 2006 national and major conventions, check out our convention diary for 2006.

 

FANDOM &: OTHER NEWS

That bastion of monthly SF author and book convention news, Ansible, has been censored by Glasgow University on whose computer system it had been hosted for over a decade. Dave Langford's Ansible can now be found at http://news.ansible.co.uk.   So what caused the problem? Apparently a complaint to Glasgow U. phrased in quasi-legalese about Ansible items such as the following:
        "Amazon Mystery. Authors of fantasies on sale at Amazon.com have noticed a rash of oddly similar customer reviews that rubbish their work and instead recommend, say, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Robert Stanek. The number of Big Name commendations varies, but not the plug for self-published author Robert Stanek. Who could possibly be posting these reviews (many since removed by Amazon) under a variety of names? It is a mystery, but Ansible is reminded of how Lionel Fanthorpe's pseudonymous SF would often mention those great classic masters of the genre, Verne, Wells and Fanthorpe."
        Of course the big difference, from the 'reviewer' purportedly citing Stanek, is that Fanthorpe was properly (as opposed to self-) published, further and he never made a secret of his 'commercial' approach to writing and never habitually rubbished the works of others (not to mention was active in fandom). Our sympathies to Ansible. Our amazement at the fragility of Glasgow U's vertebrae. As for the person making the complaint, the November Ansible reported that Hotmail had revealed it to be timdonaldsonjd@hotmail.com and that Hotmail had closed that account.

Patrick Gibson, an Iain Banks fan, chose the 'Culture' novels as his specialist subject in BBC TV's Mastermind (on national terrestrial TV). Broadcast in November, software developer Pat Gibson did very well in his specialist subject and then went on to perform exceptionally in the general round. He won the week's competition and then capped it all by going on to win the year's final. One of the other finalists had the works of Philip K. Dick as his specialist subject, and yet another Arthur C. Clarke in one of the earlier rounds.

The long-running Brit SF convention Novacon is being cybersquatted. www.novacon.org has been squatted with a near-clone name with assorted low-level genre adverts so now go to www.novacon.org.uk.

Many Sci-Fi film memorabilia were auctions in Hollywood last summer (apologies for the delay in the news). A lightsaber used by actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) went for $200,600 whereas the one used by David Prowse (Darth Vader) only got $118,000. A leather jacket worn by Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade made in $94,400, whereas the leather jacket worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator made just $41,300.

The Clarion SF & Fantasy writing workshop is to return to Michigan State University. Clarion, arguably the most respected writers workshop in the US, will be now administered by a non-profit Foundation and has received tax-exempt status. After a couple of years away the 2006 workshop will be back in Owen Hall from 26th June to 4th August. Staff include: Samuel R. Delany, Gardner Dozois, Nancy Kress, Joe and Gay Haldeman as well as Kelly Link and Holly Black. The application deadline for the 2006 workshop is April 1. Costs and application information is available online.

The Odyssey SF & Fantasy writing workshop is to be held in Manchester, New Hampshire, US. The workshop is a good opportunity to improve writing and to meet editors and authors. This year one of the visiting lecturers will be Robert J. Sawyer, whose strengths probably will be more towards the commercial aspects of writing and getting published. It will be held Saint at Anselm College on 12th June - 21st July 2006. The application deadline is the 14th April. More information is on www.sff.net/odyssey. Tuition is US$1,600 and housing in on-campus apartments is US$625 for the six weeks.

The Irish SF news site is being revamped. For a look at the new look check out slovobooks.com/irishsfnews.

 

FILM, GRAPHIC NOVEL + TV NEWS

New SF film fest in the US announced. Yes the UK has had one and a half decades of the Festival of Fantastic Films and half a decade of the Sci Fi London fest, and now there is to be one for SF shorts in the US. Run jointly by the SF Museum and the Seattle International Film Fest. Here an SF short is defined as 12 minutes or less. They are also running a competition and entries will be welcome up to 1st November 2005. Chosen entries will be screened at their fest in Seattle 3rd - 4th February 2006.

The Incredibles film company Pixar Animation is being sued. The claim is that the company misled investors with inflated projections for DVD sales. In June the company revised its earnings forecast downward to 10 cents per share from 15 cents to account for more potential DVD returns from retailers. The action is being vigorously defended. Last year the The Incredibles won the World SF Achievement Award Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form. (The win and level of actual DVD sales are not thought to be causally connected. Just in case you wondered.)

Philip K Dick's short story The Golden Man is to be a film called Next. It is about a pre-cog (played by Nicholas Cage) who foresees a terrorist attack but is pursued by a federal agent (Julianne Moore). Lee (Die Another Day) Tamahori is to direct. It should be released in 2007.

Superman Returns is to have its 35mm version re-mastered for IMAX. It is due out in the summer.

Superman Returns is to resurrect Marlon Brando. Reportedly "a combination of unused footage, [used] footage and recreated footage. You won't necessarily see Marlon Brando walking around or reanimated in a conventional sense, but you will hear [dialogue] that you have heard before [and] takes that you haven't heard before and a rendering that is completely new."

Stargate and Stargate Atlantis have both been renewed for 10th and 3rd seasons respectively. Production takes place early this year for summer broadcast on US Sci Fi Channel.

Battlestar Galactica has been renewed for a third season. Filming starts in Vancouver, Canada, in February for broadcast later in the year.

DR WHO NEWS. The popularity of the show's return is being recognised all over the place. Now it has done really well at the autumnally-presented UK National Television Awards. The show won the 'Most Popular Drama' award, Christopher Eccleston won 'Most Popular Actor', and 'Billie Piper' won Most Popular Actress. Alas Christopher Eccleston could not make the ceremony which some said was due to him wanting to distance himself from the series (nothing wrong with that and equally it could have been because he had something else to do such as shooting commitments, but who cares?). David Tennant takes over as the new Doctor for the Christmas special and new series in the spring.

DR WHO NEW SERIES NEWS further to last time.   Episode 3 will be the one that sees Sara Jane Smith (from the 'original' Pertwee and Tom Baker series) return with K9. (Will Sara Jane Smith approve of the Tardis's (ahem) makeover...) along with Anthony (Buffy) Stewart Head (playing Mr Finch). K9 has 'his' orginal voice (John Leeson).   Episodes 5 & 6 will see the return of the cybermen.
      Still no news as to whether terrestrial Europe will see The Canadian Broadcasting Company six-part Dr Who documentary that features bona fide SF writers including Robert Sawyer. Come on Auntie.
      A new Dr Who spin-off series is coming out called Torchwood (it's an anagram). It stars John Barrowman as Captain Jack, the gay (or is it bi-sexual, adventurer from the 51st century that the Doctor and Rose picked up. The series centres around a rogue team of temporal investigators. It will be broadcast in the autumn on BBC 3 before no doubt moving to BBC 1 to reach a bigger audience. Apparently it is a post watershed (after 21.00) series for a more 'adult' audience. Apparently it will be a British SF paranoid thriller, a cop show with a sense of humour. A Who team member said, "It's dark, wild and sexy. It's The X-Files meets This Life." Torchwood will be mentioned in the next series of Dr Who but there will be no direct cross-over stories.

From how to make a comeback to how not to... The Prisoner series is reported to being considered for a re-make. Sky One and Granada are said to be behind the move. Apparently the series will not be shot in Portmeirion. David Timmer is said to be behind the series which would apparently take "liberties with the original." Which begs the question as to why bother to do a re-make and not just do a different series?

Thunderbirds marked its 40th anniversary with a Fanderson convention in Elstree, north of London. It was also UFO's 35th anniversary and Space 1999's 30th. Aside from a score of guests, including Gerry Anderson, there were screenings and models: the latter included a full-sized fan-built FAB 1. Some 400 attended this, the first Fanderson con for over 3 years.

The 1962 Ford Anglia car used in the Harry Potter films was stolen from a locked lot of film props. The film was bought for a theme park in Cornwall for £1,300. The engine doesn't work so much of the value is in it being the Harry Potter car and this in turn precludes its turquoise paint job being re-sprayed.

POTTER FAN WARNING:   Fraudsters are using a spam e-mail to obtain personal details of Harry Potter fans. The e-mail purportedly comes from part of the Warner Brothers' media empire but in reality it does not. The e-mail claims to be searching for extras in the next Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which is due around July 2007. Some mention Rowling's endorsement.   These emails are fraudulent and, should you receive one, you might want to forward it to 'anti-piracywarnerbros.com'. (There are agencies that deal with extras for films and no major film is likely to trawl for fans to be extras....)

However a small independents might trawl for extras...

Want to be an extra? You can win a part as an extra in a UK 'Sci-fi' feature film providing you buy a horror book. With every purchase of Written in Blood, StormRider Films first feature film, you can win a chance to be an extra in their new 'sci-fi' movie, Kaleidoscope Man. Stormrider are an independent, UK film company. Prizewinners will get to come to our blue screen studio for the day, be in costume and make up and be in the film. So of course you will see how a science fiction film is made. All you have to do is answer a few questions about Written in Blood which is about a horror writer who inadvertently brings the ghost of a Victorian serial killer back to life - who is intent on destroying the seven virtues to repay a pact with the devil, and bring the World to an end. Copies of are available from www.stormriderfilms.co.uk at £12.99. Naturally ever-sop responsible Concat advises you do not pass on any of your bank details (internet transaction insured credit card excepted) or ID other than contact e-mail and a contact name (a pseudonym would be safer).

BBC Children's TV will adapt Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Bomb. It will star Zoe Wannamaker. Johnny and the Bomb is the third in the 'Johnny Maxwell' trilogy.

Unearthed is a new SF-horror film due to hit the screens this year. It is a along the lines of Alien and The Thing. A small semi-isolated (one road in and out) settlement sees animals dying and people disappearing. Something has arrived in the area. By the time folk figure it out, there are only a few left. Can they defeat whatever it is and how many will finally survive...?   Matthew Leutwyler directs.

Spiderman III's villains will be Sandman and the Venom.

The release of the Ghost Rider, based on the Marvel comic, has been delayed to President's Day weekend (February) 2007 from its original July 14, 2006, release The film stars Nicolas Cage. The date allows some buffer space between Ghost Rider and another Marvel franchise film, Spider-Man 3, which Sony is releasing three months later in May.

Steven Spielberg is working on Jurassic Park IV. It is currently at the script writing stage and if it goes ahead then it should be released in 2007.

Underworld 3 is in pre-production. This vampire and werewolf tale will again star Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman. Word has it (treat this as gossip for now) that it will be a prequel. The release date will be 2007. Meanwhile Underworld 2 to be called Underworld: Evolution is due out this year and is directed by Len Wiseman.

P. D. James' 1993 novel, The Children of Men is said to be being turned into a film. The novel is set in the near future when the humanity has become infertile and fecundity is at zero. No children have been born for several years. Britain is under the rule of a strict dictator. Who will stand up to him...? P. D. James is best known for her crime fiction. +++ STOP PRESS: A release date has been proposed - See our 2006 forthcoming film diary.

Christopher Priest's novel The Prestige is to be turned into a film. The story concerns two rival magicians. Director Nolan has adapted the book for the screen. Priest, of course, was a Guest of Honour at the 'recent' Worldcon which made its once-a-decade European manifestation in Glasgow last August. But then you knew that as we covered it extensively in last season's update.

As we are about to post this season's news, King Kong's December debut brought in a very healthy US$14m worldwide. Hollywood is holding its breath for the film cost around US$200m to make.

Best SF films of 2005. Time for a quick look back at last year in case you are thinking of getting out a DVD or even nominating a film for the World SF Society's Hugo Award for SF Achievement.
        The Fantastic Four had its moments and was a fair transfer from the Marvel comics to the big screen.
        The War of the Worlds had a good 'average person caught up in the invasion' perspective (similar to the book) and an excellent visual portrayal of the tripods and Martians. Sadly liberties were taken with the initial landing, the tripods invincibility (one does get blown up by Tom Cruise) and the sugary ending. It has to be said that some of Concat's core team had a wildly different view of the film.
        The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Starring Wallace & Gromit was huge fun.
        The Land of the Dead was a surprisingly good fourth outing in the Romero zombie series.
        The Descent. This cryptozoological encounter with a cousin species to H. sapiens deep underground, is the closest we have to an independent film recommendation from 2005.
        King Kong at the year's end was both faithful to the original and made the most of 21st century special effects. Nearly all the extra run-time was due to the effects and there were also some out-take scenes from the original restored in the re-make's screenplay.
        Alas none of us have seen many independents this year (gasp, shock, horror) but let's hope at least one makes the Hugo shortlist. Meanwhile, if you want to see what film offerings 2006 have for you then check out our film release diary for this coming year.

Possible Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form. Here there is only one really hot contender. Only one series in 2005 came back after a 15 year gap (as a series, single episode special excepted). Only one series has the length of pedigree: it first aired in 1963. Only one series revitalised pop SF on TV in 2005 and so has such an easily justifiable claim for a Hugo for SF achievement. Dr Who. 'Nuff said.

For a reminder of the top films in earlier years then check out our 'Recent top SF & fantasy films'. This page will be updated after Easter once we have checked the weekly UK box office ratings.

So how big is Babylon V compared to say the 2001 space station of Star Trek's 'Enterprise'? Well if that has kept you up at night, or you are plain curious, then check out the following poster at http://mijnkopthee.nl/images/space_comparison_chart_huge.jpeg.

FOR THE LATEST NEW GENRE TV SERIES LIKELY TO HAVE DVDs IN 2006 click here.

 

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

 

Spring 2006
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games| Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

The Voyage of Sable Keech by Neal Asher, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-00140-2. Set on the water-world of Spatterjay. Also by the author Cowl and Line of Polity.

Extreme Science Fiction by Mike Ashley (ed), Constable and Robinson, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-845-29307-X. Now, fingers crossed, this collection of SF shorts might just be very good and fill a long-neglected gap in the market for hard SF, i.e. science and exotic science concept-rich fiction. If, and this is a big if, it is then we'll do our best to review it. Ashley has a reputation for a good understanding of the genre and the word is that this collection has quite a few Brit authors in it.

The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett, Bantam Press, trdpbk, £10.00. ISBN 0-593-05521-7. This is a techno thriller that vaguely borders SF in that there is much science when a GP and former forensic anthropologist is asked by police to bring his skills to bear on a murder case.

Titan by Ben Bova, Hodder & Stoughton, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-340-82396-8. Space adventure. Bova recently picked up a Clarke award.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeir, John Murray, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 0-719-56818-8. This is a science fantasy as opposed to straight SF. A good chunk of the world has seen its population all but wiped out due to a particularly nasty virus. In a plane between reality and the dead, limbo(?), two people begin a relationship. This is Brockmeir's debut novel.

The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man, by Ken Bulmer & Jesus Blasco, Titan Books, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-845-76156-1. This B&W graphic novel was due to have been published in the autumn but has been put back to the end of the year. It is a 'must buy' for anyone seriously into SF and SF graphic novels. The Steel Claw was a character nearly every British 1960s schoolboy knew from the comic Valiant. Unfortunately Ken Bulmer himself has just died.   The graphic novel's basic set up: A lab experiment goes wrong (don't they always) and Louis Crandel finds that when is mechanical steel hand gets charges with electricity he goes all invisible. What mischief could he do? He was the classic anti-hero who sometimes did the right thing for the right people. This volume comes complete with an introductory article. Highly recommended for comics buffs and SF cognoscenti.

Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49207-8. Well we never saw the hardback but have previously reviewed the first in the series Enders' Shadow.

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts, Orion, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-752-87691-0. This continues the story from Saucer that saw the discovery of an ancient crashed spacecraft. In the sequel to this gung-ho story, off they go to the Moon and a secret base. Despite its central trope this is SF-light and more of a techno-thriller.

The Spider graphic novel has been delayed from the summer and re-titled King of Crooks . See below...

King of Crooks by Ted Cowan, Jerry Siegel and Reg Bunn, Titan Books, large hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-845-76000-X. This is probably the first time the adventures of the 1960s British comics b&w superhero The Spider have been collected. The 2000AD stable did include the Spider in a summer special several years ago. The Spider is far darker than the US para-equivalent Spiderman. The Spider is a tough criminal that uses technology to get his 'powers', but he does have a code of ethics that occasionally surfaces. If your partner is British, over 45, and has been into SF since childhood, then this will delight.
       : So why has Titan delayed publication and why the name change? Well one of our contacts with Titan says that they did not want to release this out of sequence with The Steel Claw (see Steel Claw above) which to us is decidedly thin as though the two are 1960s Brit comic strips they are unrelated. We suspect that Titan's delay was due to the name change which we speculate might just be due to a certain US comic publisher perhaps related to a certain web-crawler having made a complaint? Note the 'we suspect'. First, we do not know for certain and secondly, even if this is true then, why are Titan being so lily-livered? The British Spider pre-dates the US 'Spiderman' (should it be this that is the cause of any contention) and so any possible trademark or copyright any US publisher may have will not cover or affect the use of the British Spider character unless Marvel paid for the British rights. (Such a copyright contention happened with the British Starlord character and the British character prevailed despite then the timing was beneath the wire not, as is with the Spider and Spiderman, years apart.) Consequently it is hard to believe that Titan simply gave in... Something else must be going on, or Titan does not have the legal publishing expertise on its staff and that is equally hard to believe...

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss & Ian Bass, Simon & Schuster, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-743-27600-0. This graphic novel is very much in the tradition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Set in Edwardian times this story of derring-do has steampunk elements with the secret agent protagonist. Lucifer Box, meeting techno-controlled zombies and an encounter in a geothermal station deep within the Earth. Gatiss is one of the creators of the BBC's The League of Gentlemen. We hope to review this shortly.

The Cloud by Ray Hammond, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-44187-6. Hammond is more known as a techno-thriller author as opposed to outright SF. But he is there on the fringes, perhaps more so with this one that is apparently a disaster novel (typical of Hammond) involving an alien intelligence. If you like an adventure read then give him a go. He is definitely a good light read adventure writer and one that is slowly pushing his own envelope, so he may well surprise us with something special and SF in the future. Were keeping an eye on the man. See also Emergence.

The Great Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert, Gollancz, trd pbk, £14.99. ISBN 0-575-07070-6. This collection actually came out before Christmas, so we should have listed it last time. Its timing marks the 40th anniversary of the original Dune novel. (Yes, it was that long ago!) Along with that work, the trilogy also contains Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. If you have not already got the original Dune in your collection then now's your chance, and excellent value too as it works out less than a fiver a novel.   See also The Jesus Incident.

The Road to Dune by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin Anderson, Hodder, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-340-83746-2. Leaving aside a couple of stand alone Brian and Kev short stories, this will interest anyone who was engrossed by the original Frank Herbert 'Dune' series; that's lots of us. Boxes of Herbert's notes and plot outlines were retrieved from the attic and garage (and elsewhere) so that the pre-cursor novel to Dune could be reconstructed with whole sections word-for-word (save perhaps for a light edit?) from Frank's pen. There are other items of interest too. See the review elsewhere on this site.

Cell by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-34092144-7. Every mobile phone in the world gets infected with a virus called 'The Pulse' which has an annoying effect of driving people mad and/or kills, within 10 hours of infection. Our protagonist, Clayton Riddell, has to get to his son within 10 hours before he rturns his mobile on... See also Bag of Bones, Black House, The Dark Tower Vol.7, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, , Dream Chaser, Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Song of Susannah, Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4 and Wolves of the Calla.

The House of Storms by Ian R. MacLeod, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-46247-5. This is the sequel to Light Ages and so will be eagerly awaited by a good few.

Acorna's Children: First Warning by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Scarborough, Corgi, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-522-15291-9. A derelict spaceship is found with the crew dead in their seats. A deadly plague is spreading across the Galaxy...

Dragon's Fire by Anne & Todd McCaffrey, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-593-05498-9. Problems down in the firestone mines threaten the security of Pern against Thread. This is science-fantasy as opposed to hard SF. The McCaffrey dragon series has proved highly popular and has many novels appealing both to an SF as well as a fantasy readership, so this will undoubtedly do well.

Romanitas by Sophia McDougall, Orion, trdpbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-752-87709-7. The paperback of the previous hardback of an alternate history where the Roman empire never died out but survived to the modern day, unfortunately with slaves and crucifixion.

Confessions of a Pod Person by Chuck McKenzie, MirrorDanse, Aus$18.95. ISBN 0-975-78521-4. Seems to be getting a few mentions by fans down under.

Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49370-3. Military SF, and apparently the author did time in the services too. However we do not know if this is up to Haldeman's standard as Orbit haven't sent out any pre-publicity.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd, Titan Books, hdbk, £24.99. ISBN 1-845-76182-0. A new hardback edition of the classic colour graphic novel about a future totalitarian Britain and a one-man vigilante with hinted at powers. Due to a cock-up at Concat mission control in the summer we forgot to say that the November film release has been delayed to the Spring, and then news was not passed on between our team (due to a telephone problem and illness) that the graphic novel's release had also been put back. However, returning to the graphic novel original, you can currently get hold of the US vertigo edition.

Robot Stories and More Screenplays by Greg Pak, Inmedium, pbk, US$14.95. ISBN: 1-597-02000-1. This book collects Pak's award-winning film scripts for the first time. The lead screenplay Robot Stories was Pak's first feature film which has screened theatrically worldwide, won 35 film festival awards, and is now available on DVD and VHS by Kino International. Greg Pak has won the 2002 IFP Market Pipedream Screenwriting Award, 2003 Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, and a Student Academy Award. He was the cinematographer of The Personals, an Academy Award winning short documentary, and was recently named one of "25 Filmmakers to Watch" by Filmmaker magazine. Currently Greg is writing for Marvel Comics for the titles Warlock, the X-men mini-series Phoenix: Endsong, Ironman: House of M, and 1602: New World".

Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol, Cannongate, trdpbk, £9.99. ISBN 1-841-95688-0. This is one of our out-of-the-blue Concat' alerts we like to provide to ensure that you get something above and beyond a standard forthcoming books list (of which as a specialist forthcoming SF list we think that this is fairly unique on the web (tell us if we are wrong)). Anyway you may not have heard of Albert Sanchez Pinol as he is a Spanish writer and, not only that, but this is his first book. Alternatively you may have heard of him as this book has, apparently, already been in print in 15 languages! And he has won some Spanish literary prize. The advance word is that this is a mix of being an SF thriller and part a historical fiction. Intriguing huh? Due out in March. Keep an eye out for it.

Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick, Pyr, hdbk, US$25. ISBN 1-591-02337-8. Though published in the US it can be ordered in the UK as Pyr have UK distributors. This is the first in a five-novel series concerning the 'Starship Theodore Roosevelt'. Very much a pulp space opera, this is far better thought out than many comparable space opera battle books. Resnick himself has won a few Hugos for his short stories and the series is set in the same universe as a good proportion of his other SF works. If you like military SF yarns, or even Star Trek, then this could well be for you.

Gradisil by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07587-2. Roberts has been churning a mix out for the past five years. There is his deliberately derivative fun stuff, which one suspects he dashes off, and then his own novels (like this) some of which are quite intriguing and others have attracted some criticism elsewhere. Alas we have no news (yet) as to what this one's about but if you see it in the bookshop then probably worth a browse to see what you think. It is due out just before Easter. See also Salt, Stone, The McAtrix Derided and The Va Dinci Cod.

Keeping it Real by Justina Robson, Gollancz, hdbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07862-6. Now we've reviewed Robson before with Mappa Mundi and we think that this might do as well. If given the chance we'll review this one too. Meanwhile we understand that its about one Lila Black who is a cyborgs who has to keep many side-by-side dimensions from unduly interacting.

Coyote Frontier by Allen Steele, Orbit, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 1-841-49369-4. The final volume of a trilogy. Can planet Coyote's independence be maintained? They had relied on imported technology from the parent world. Can the people of the planet carve out a future without re-visiting the problems of their original world?

Settling Accounts - Drive to the East by Harry Turtledove, Hodder & Stoughton, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-340-82687-8. This is the sequel to Return Engagements and part of his alternate US history series in which the US sees its civil war take place during the 1940s later than it actually did. Turtledove has somewhat of a specialist niche in speculative fiction. Recently his books have been just shy of 600 pages so he provides a substantial read. His background, as a history lecturer at California U., gives his novels a certain grounding. In addition to a following among some genre fans he also has a more mainstream adherence. As you may have gathered from reviews on the site, none of the core team are into Turtledove but Concat is pleased to report that we have someone new into alternate history stories, Mark Cowling, who is going to try out some reviews for us and the first, this book, is on-line now.

Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff Vandermeer, Macmillan, hdbk, £11.99. ISBN 1-405-05360-7. This is a tale of struggling love of a couple each in affluent and powerful families. One manifestation of this impedes on a war between publishing houses. Meanwhile a mysterious race attempts to use fungi to take over the city... Vandermeer has acquired a quite reputation in recent years.

Conventions of War by Walter Jon Williams, Simon & Schuster, trd pbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-743-25677-8. Space opera in which the events in The Praxis and The Sundering are concluded. We listed this last time from pre-publicity sent us as The Orthodox War. The bloody chaos the universe finds itself in is ripe for a new order. But are the far-flung humans ready and up to the task? At over 670 pages, this will delight those who like a good solid book. The first two in the series have had good reviews from space opera aficionados.

Darkland by Liz Williams, Tor, hdbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-405-04125-0. Liz Williams seems to be coming noted for a rather intriguing blend of SF and fantasy. So hopes are high for this one.

Banner of Souls by Liz Williams, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-320-42690-7. This is the paperback release of the previous hardback that has had some quite good reviews in Locus which in turn are reflected by others elsewhere.

Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia by George Zebrowski, Pyr, hdbk / trd pbk, US$25 / US$15. ISBN 1-591-02340-8 / 1-591-02341-6. This is the 2006 reprint of the 1979 near-classic, hard and new-wave SF novel of humankind's evolution from whole-organism to something more cosmic (and as such could well spring from a Stapledonian tradition?). The first UK paperback edition (1980) was published in a 7 point font (not good for the eyes) whereas this edition is in a more conventional 9 point. Pyr have reprinted the 1990 revised edition. In addition they have added an interesting introduction by Ian Watson and inserted in the novel several b&w one-page illustrations from the original edition together with an extra new afterward by the author. This is definitely a dedicated SF book reader's book and many younger readers of hard SF are urged to at least check this out while older ones might want to ascertain that they actually have a copy in their collection. Pyr only publishes a few SF novels a year but seems to be shaping up as a distinguished North American imprint. Pyr's UK and European distribution is being handled by Lavis Marketing of Oxford.

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

 

Spring 2006
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Beware of God by Shalon Auslander, Picador, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-330-44203-1. We have done it before and continue to do as part of the service and that is to point out new works that are being marketed outside of science fiction and fantasy but are likely to have an appeal to genre fans. Auslander's collection of shorts is one such offering. It is a delightful, dark humoured collection around the theme of religion. If you like the sound of this then go for it.

The City of the Newborn by James Barclay, Gollancz, pbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07620-8. Correction from last time: the price is £12 and it's a trade paperback format. Barclay has previously written the 'Raven' series. Despite being the greatest civilization in history, the Estoreans again face war as dissent brews. However four unique children are discovering their powers as they become the first true Ascendants. The empire is about to encounter magic.

Priestas of the White by Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £7.99, hdbk. ISBN 1-841-49386-4. This is the first of a new series. Note the price. Note the format. If the pre-publicity is to be believed then this can only to hook readers in on the new series.

The Black Angel by John Conolly, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-83767-5. A gothic thriller with Charles Parker fighting evil spawned from ancient curses.

The Cup of Ghosts by Paul Doherty, Headline, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-755- 32873-6. The first in a series of medieval crime in London's Westminster and featuring a female physician. If done deftly, could be a winning formula.

In The Ruins by Kate Elliott, Orbit, tdpbk, £8.99. ISBN 1-841-49273-6. Vol. 6 of the Crown of Stars sequence.

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson, Bantam Press. hdbk, £20. ISBN 0-593-04629-3. The 6th book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence. The Seven Cities rebellion has been put down but one last rebel force remains holed up in another town. Meanwhile elsewhere greater forces stir...

The Dark Mirror by Christine Feehan, Piaktus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-749-93668-1. Vampire romance.

Chainfire by Terry Goodkind, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-007-14562-4. This is the paperback edition of the recent hardback release that was last year's contribution to the Sword of Truth series. Waking after a battle and injury Richard discovers his wife has vanished. The trouble is that nobody remembers her existing...

Phantom by Terry Goodkind, Voyager, £18.99, hdbk. ISBN 0-007-14563-2. This is the next in the above Sword of Truth series and is due out in March.

A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell K Hamilton, Bantam Fiction, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-553-81633-0. Merry Gentry PI is also Princess Meredith of the Faerie world in this fantasy-thriller. Hamilton is also known as an author of some quite good vampire novels.

Shaman's crossing by Robin Hobb, Voyager, tdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-007-19613-X. This is the first in the Soldier Son trilogy. Robin's books sell well and she has a substantive following.

Earth, Air, Fire, & Custard by Tom Holt, Orbit, B format, £7.99. ISBN 1-841-49282-5. More humour in the third book in the Paul Carpenter series. Holt has been selling steadily over the years.

Smoke and Shadows by Tayna Huff, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49476-3. The first in a new series of supernatural thrillers to be known as 'the blood' sequence. Alas no details from Orbit which is strange for a new series.

The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition Gollancz, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-575-07766-2. Surprisingly this is the first time that the complete Howard stories of the Dark Ages warrior have been published in a single volume hardback. This marks 100 years of the author's birth. Long term fantasy collectors will want this one.

The Shadows of God by Greg Keyes, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-42000-3. The fourth instalment in the 'Age of Unreason' quartet.

Song of Susannah by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-83616-4. This is the first paperback edition of the hardback we've already reviewed.

Forever Odd by Dean Koontz, Harper Collins, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-007-19698-9. The return of Odd Thomas who can talk with the dead. (We should have listed this last time as it just came out before Christmas.)

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan, Gollancz, £8.99. ISBN 0-575-07781-6. This is apparently more speculative fiction rather than straight sword and sorcery fantasy. Such is the level of plot development and standard of writing that lit-crit fans are likely to go for this one.

The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07726-3. Trdpbk, £12.99, 0-575-07727-1. Out later in the Spring this is a debut novel. Many jostle for power but one young man is selected by the gods to lead as heir to the Lord of Fahlan. Despite such backing, violence is around the corner... Good news for fantasy fans, the word on the ground prior to publication is that this really is a well-above average fantasy. Bad news for Lloyd he now has a standard to keep up to. This book is the first in the Stormcaller sequence. The advance manuscript proof copy has only just arrived prior to this season's news posting. Jonathan has dipped into it and affirms that it is intelligently written with good characterization. It should do well. Also the author is young and so has plenty of time to develop further. Fans of fantasy will want to keep an eye out for Tom Lloyd.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, Review, hdbk, £12. ISBN 0-755-3318-3. This was first published stateside in 1995 and recreates the Land of Oz with a story with the wicked witch of the west - Elphaba - as the protagonist. Apparently she is not that wicked. There is a related musical that did well on Broadway, sufficiently so that it will be in London this coming autumn. Now you know the timely nature of the reprint.

Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-04108-0. This is the second in the 'Bride Chronicle' sequence that is due out just before Easter.

A Feast of Crowsby George R. R. Martin, Voyager, hdbk, £18.99 / US$28.00. ISBN 0-002-24743-7. Alas we were told the news in October after our September site update for the autumn, so we mention this release now, especially so as it is the 4th book of the 'Fire and Ice' sequence. After a 6-year wait for this book, there has been a real buzz about this coming out. Martin's reputation is only exceeded by his readership. We hope to review this in full shortly. The US edition is from Bantam Spectra.

Firethorn by Sarah Micklem, Voyager, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-19306-8. The paperback of last year's hardback. Medieval love in a quasi-alternate world. This is her first fantasy -- check out our review elsewhere on this site.

The Vengeance of Rome by Michael Moorcock, Jonathan Cape, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-224-03119-8. This is the final part of the Pyat Quartet from the hugely respected and long-standing author of both fantasy and science fiction. heck, the man is a genre grandmaster. The first three in the series are also being re-printed but with new covers.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik. Voyager, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-007-21909-1. This one could be big. Set in the times on the Napoleonic wars on a parallel Earth, the novel revolves around the adventures on board the fighting sea vessel Temeraire. In chapter one they capture a ship and take its cargo, one dragon's egg. This is a delightful mix of Hornblower and fantasy. Bound to find a sizeable readership. The film potential is obvious. It'll happen.

The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin, Cannongate, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-841-95705-4. This is the first of a new series that re-tells classical mythology. This one is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Shriek by Jeff Vandermeer, Macmillan, tdpbk, £11.99. ISBN 1-405-05360-7. No further details sent us at this time but Vandermeer is carving out a respectable niche for himself.

Route 666 by Jack Yeovil, Black Library, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-844-16327-X. This is an original SF/Fantasy novel from the game-related publishers of the Warhammer series.

Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07721-2. Yes we listed this last time but the ultra advance promo info we had was erroneous: this is a stand-alone novel and not a collection of short stories. Victoria Scott is at a meteorological station in the Norwegian Sea when she has a close encounter with those from Asgard. Kim Wilkins has won a number of fantasy awards down under. This fantasy, mixed with just a dash of horror, has its appeal.

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams, Orbit, trdpbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-841-49443-7. This is the start of a new Williams' epic fantasy series. With this first volume at 844 pages, epic is probably an appropriate adjective.

Black Jade by David Zindell, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-006-48622-3. This is the paperback release of last summer's hardback. Valashu Elahad rescued the Lightstone from the enemy's own city only to have his triumph overturned. Once more the Lord of Lies has the sacred gem in his possession and its power is invincible... This is book three of the 'Ea Cycle'. The publicity blurb cites Zindell as being "nominated for the 'best new writer' Hugo Award' in 1986" - which probably means the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer that is presented at the same time as the Hugos but is sponsored by Dell Magazines and not the World Science Fiction Society through that year's Worldcon who do the Hugos. These things do need to be pointed out.

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

 

Spring 2006
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of the Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom by Sean B. Carroll, Weidenfeld, hdbk, £18.00. ISBN 0-297-85094-6. This is a 'form and function' inter-relationship examination in animals from butterflies to zebras. Perhaps unintentionally(?) this book is of great relevance to those into theoretical (as we have yet to be able to go practical) exobiologists (those interested I the science of life on other worlds.

Please Mr Einstein by Jean Claude Carriere, Harrill Secker, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-843-43304-4. Physics as explained to a young woman in 'imaginary'(?) conversations with Einstein, Newton and others. In the US this will come out from Harcourt Brace.

Planet Earth: The Making of a Landmark Series by Alastair Fothergill, BBC worldwide, trdpbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-563-49358-5. This is the book of the 'series'. The 'series' will actually be in two parts. The first will be broadcast on 13th Feb on the BBC (of course) and the 2nd on 14th November 2006. A major hardback will come out in the autumn.

The Devil's Picnic: A Tour of Everything the Governments of the World Don't Want You to Try by Teras Grescoe, Macmillan, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-405-04581-7. This one really takes the fancy of all on the Concat' team who have discussed it. Swiss absinthe (some of us have had this), Cuban cigars (a couple of us regularly indulge), Bolivian coca tea (sounds interesting), smelly French cheese (we are divided on this one), are just some of the products the author has sampled despite the protests of one or more Governments who would like to see these products restricted if not banned. Sacrilegiously hedonistic. Delightfully wicked.

Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview by Donna Maree Hanson, Aust Speculative Fiction, trd pbk, Aus$45. ISBN 0-975-72170-4. A key reference for those needing to know about Australian SF and fantasy.

We Want Real Food by Graham Harvey, Constable, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 1-845-29267-7. Harvey is the agriculture advisor to The Archers (a famous BBC radio farming soap if your not a Brit), he is also the author of Killing the Countryside -- so the low-down on the Brian Aldridges of this world then.

Movies in 15 Minutes: Hollywood Blockbusters For People Who Can't Be Bothered by Cleolinda Jones, Gollancz, hdbk, £8.99. ISBN 0-575-07687-9. Condensed, and modified with humour, scripts of 10 blockbusters including: Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Matrix, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Spiderman, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Lord of the Rings. With 7 out of the 10 of genre interest, this may well tweak the strings of fantastic film buffs.

The First Psychic by Peter Lamont, Little Brown, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-316-72834-9. An easy read but written to an academic standard, examination of the Victorian Daniel Douglas Home. The term 'psychic' was created as a direct result of his existence. A must for students of Forteanna.

The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock, Penguin, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-713-99914-4. Lovelock is the author of Gaia: A New Look at Life of Earth (1979) and a respected engineer and scientist. His idea is that the biosphere (which is strictly and originally defined as including geology) is an integral cybernetic system. Seems obvious really and since the late 1990s the discipline of Earth systems science has taken off. (Lovelock's Gaia originally caused notoriety among many scientists as the popular press and the loony fringe said that he was saying that the Earth was a single (some even said conscious) organism, which is a little different from saying it has individual organisms that interact in a cybernetic whole.) Anyway, now we have The Revenge of Gaia which tells us that global warming is our fault for messing up the carbon cycle and that nuclear power is part of the way forward. This is an essential read for all scientists (all of whom should be knowledge ambassadors) and anyone concerned about our planetary future (that means many of you).

The Meaning of the 21st Century by James Martin, Eden Project Books, hdbk, £20. ISBN 1-903-91984-3. Based at Oxford U. Martin's was nominated for the Pulitzer. Here he brings together evidence that suggests that humanity is heading for big trouble in the 21st century.

500 Manga Heroes & Villains by Helen McCarthy, Collins & Brown, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-843-46234-3. It does what it says on the can. As for the compiler, well Helen has been known in fandom for many years, first with Fanderson back in its early days and in later years through being a bit of a Manga buff. Should be authoritative.

When The Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce, Eden Project Books, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 1-903-91957-6.Some of the World's largest rivers, including the Nile, and the Indus, no longer reach the sea. With our demand for water outstripping supply, and its beginning to in countries like Britain, this is the next environmental crisis. Fred Pearce is a renowned science writer whose work has often appeared in New Scientist.

The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose, Vintage, (hdbk £30) trdbk £15. ISBN 0-099-44068-7. Apparently it is a complete, note 'complete', guide to the laws of the universe.

The Art of Discworld by Terry Pratchett & Paul Kidby, Gollanzc, trd pbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07712-3. we listed this last time but, oops, had a typo - apologies to Paul Kidby. With words by Terry and art by Kidby this is in effect, according to Terry, the nearest to date you will come to a film of Discworld. Huge fun and a must for Pratchett fans. We hope to do a full review shortly.

MISS OUT ALERT AS THE REVIEWS CONTINUE-- The stock is steadily going down: Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, £8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. The UK high street SF magazine, SFX last season included Essential SF in their 'Christmas present' supplement. It said: "Hunt this small press title down if you can. It's a pocket-sized encyclopaedia of the diverse worlds of SF. It's one of about ten books that our reviews editor keeps on his desk for reference!"   Meanwhile reviews continue (see excerpts and links on the ad). The result -- Porcupine's stock levels are slowly but steadily declining. Naturally we do not want our regular site visitors to miss out, and especially newcomers to the genre our regulars bring. Old SF hands it seems value the guide, not so much for its SF information per se but, out of academic interest as a guide to those favourite SF works that fans have identified through voted awards and polls. (The results have been for many surprising! Including to us So no complaints as to what's in or out.))   Alternatively newcomers have found it a concise 101 on SF. No doubt some, as they go on to explore the genre, will find the far larger, voluminous catch-all and similarly more expensive Clute & Nicholls Encyclopaedia worthy of investment - but best wait for its new edition due later in the year.   You can check out Essential SF's reviews from The Green Man Review, SF Reader.Com and SF Contact.   The guide covers books, films, TV and SF comics that came top of mass fan-voted awards and surveys and also has closely related works (such as spin-offs). Plus there is some fandom information, such as on the Worldcon, Eurocon and national sources of further information. All fully cross-referenced with book and film checklists appended for you to be surprised at what you have read but may not actually have in your collection.   You can mail Brian at  brian[-at-]porcupine.demon.co.uk.

 

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

 

Spring 2006
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases 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

Lost: Secret Identity by Cathy Hapka, Transworld Channel 4. £4.99. ISBN 1-905-02614-5. This is the second novelization of the series.

Star Trek: New Frontier - Missing in Action, Pocket Books, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-416-51080-X. Apparently the author has done over a dozen of ST novels so either the publishers rate the person or ST elasticity of demand is accommodating.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn, Century, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-844-13904-2. This did well in the US apparently. It links in with mentions in Heir to the Empire.

Star Wars: Republic Commando - Hard Contact, Orbit, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 1-841-49524-7. This is a tie-in with an XBOX and PC computer game.

 

VIDEO & DVD RELEASES

Batman Begins DVD £22.99 and is available for VHS video and DVD rental. This is a semi-faithful but respectful re-working of the origins of the Batman that is at least logical and well thought out. Possibly the best Batman movie since director Tim Burton's offerings of 1989 and 1992. Burton's Batman inhabited a stylised Gotham, whereas director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is very much set in a more realistic to our present-day Gotham. The former therefore captured a sense of a comic strip while Batman Begins is very much a re-working of the original style as portrayed in the 1939 DC comics by Bob Kane.

The Company of Wolves the directed by Neil Jordan is now out on DVD, £15.99. Beautifully shot, this is a dark, coming of age, fairy tale in which a young girl, living in the woods, is warned by her elderly guardian to beware of (men who are really) wolves. If you are into modern fantasy classics then you'll need no encouragement, but if you like great fantasy films and have not heard of this then consider this alert a recommendation. Based on the work of, and the screenplay involved, Angela Carter. Superb photography.

The Descent, the Brit science-fantasy horror is now out for rental or DVD purchase at £19.99. A group of women pot-holers push themselves deeper than they should and get into trouble. Worse, they then encounter a new species of subterranean human adapted to the dark and moving through natural tunnels -- a kind of aggressive, beefier but Daredevil-blind H. floresiensis.   Director Neil Marshall was also responsible for the excellent Dog Soldiers. In that movie a platoon in remote Scotland stumbles across a pack of were-wolves and takes shelter in a farmhouse in an attempt to survive the night. Both movies use an encounter with cryptozoology (The Descent) or myth (Dog Soldiers) in the wilderness, juxtaposed with our contemporary technological time to great effect. Both have been acclaimed by fantastic film fans.

Dr Who: The Complete First Series is now out from BBC DVD 2 Entertain at £69.99. OK, how quick is the current BBC management to disavow themselves from the original Dr Who, 'first series' indeed. Series 27 if you please. That aside can anyone not be aware of the improved scripts and effects? No self-respecting timelord would be without this. Nuff said.

Dr Who audio books. A new range is to come out from the BBC between January and April.

Slaughterhouse 5, the 1972 film of the Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five is now out from Universal Pictures at £19.99. This is a classic fantastic film and so a delightful birthday buy for anyone seriously into cinematic SF. The protagonist has become unstuck in time and so re-lives jumbled up fragments of his life. This is apparently due to him having lived for a while with aliens. Now back on Earth he recounts his experience to an audience while we the viewer re-live key moments in his life including the bombing of Dresden in WWII and his time with the aliens. The former includes a darkly comic attempt by the Germans to recruit him (then a prisoner of war) into an all-American German unit. While the latter features an openly humorous instance when the aliens transport to him the model who featured in a girlie magazine centrefold. Brilliant.

Space 1999 series 1 is being released on DVD. These have been re-mastered with high definition (remember the original series was shot on film). The extras include an item on special effects and a Barry Gray (who did many Gerry Anderson programme theme music) sound demo.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is now out a £24.99 but shop around as there are discounts down to £14.99. The word has it that it is marginally better than its two prequels but still not up to the late 1970s and early 1980s original trilogy. (Could be why it got the Hall of Shame accolade from SFX magazine at the end of last year...?)

War of the Worlds is now out on DVD at £24.99 (again though many stores have a discounted price of £16.99.) Speilberg's US-centric take on Wells's classic book. Like the book, the protagonist is middle class. Unlike the book it is set in modern-day US and so will undoubtedly have market appeal that side of the Atlantic. Tom Cruise stars. Spielberg directs. The great effects will, for some, counteract the Hollywoodization of the novel.

LAST SEASON's REVIEW OF NEW SF/FANTASY TV FOR FANS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE POND TO CHECK OUT DVDs IN '06 EARLY SPRING's LONG NIGHTS
        North America's Medium made it across the Atlantic to terrestrial BBC. It concerns a housewife, Alison, who discovers that she has Dead Zone type abilities and can see departed spirits. A handy trick that a police detective employs for tricky cases but hushes up his informant's supernatural sources from the legal system. Meanwhile Alison's sceptical husband provides a Scully-like foil for Alison. However it is all very American with beautiful/handsome lead characters and a stereo-typed overweight police detective.
        Much better was Britain's own take on the series called Afterlife on ITV. Here the medium, again Alison, is a single middle-aged woman who has great difficulty in coming to terms with her 'gift' and who seeks some form of guidance, reassurance, help(?) from a sceptical university psychologist. More grittier than Medium, Afterlife also benefits from a great story arc. Afterlife finished its first series in the UK just before Halloween and a DVD of the series came out in November. Medium fans are encouraged to check this out.
        More supernatural goings-on with, well, er, Supernatural. It's another North American series. Here two children witness their mother being possessed which traumatises them so much that they grow up to be... ghostbusters!.   As with Medium the series features leads who lack physical blemishes and their youth gives the show a look of being a Smallville clone, and indeed it does appear aimed at the teen market.   North American adults probably prefer Ghost Whisperer in which the medium (played by Jennifer Love) passes on messages of the dearly departed to loved ones. However Ghost Whisperer is again very sugary and unchallenging compared to Afterlife . This seems to appeal to a significant audience for CBS have commissioned a second (22-episode) season.
        Turning to science fiction, North American TV has resurrected two series from the mid-1960s and '70s respectively. ABC's Invasion which is based on The Invaders (2 seasons 1967-8). In The Invaders lone David Vincent tours the US trying to find on one hand, and warn humans on the other, that the aliens are among us. Aside form the premise, the original (typical of its time) had an insubstantial story arc and so episodes were largely self-contained. Invasion so far seems to be similarly slow on the plot development front. However there was one bit of excitement Stateside as the initial episodes saw the aliens land undercover of a huge hurricane. Given the 2005 hurricane season being particularly bad for the southern states, and New Orleans in particular, not surprisingly there has apparently been some press comment. Meanwhile, on a similar theme, NBC has come up with Surface in which a marine biologists discovers a new form of possibly dangerous life that the government apparently want to keep quiet. Co-star Jay R. Ferguson, says that the series is not true science fiction. "To me, sci-fi is Star Trek or Star Wars..." but then adds it could be 'speculative fiction'. (Hmmm, does he really know of the 'sci-fi and SF' debate?)   And yet again we have yet another alien series with CBS's Threshold. It sees a kind of government analyst (Carla Gugino) combat aliens who seem to be able to control animals, humans and even re-awake the dead. Similar to the Surface star's comment, producer David Heyman says Threshold should not be called SF: 'It's all played real and true, and it's not played as science fiction'. 'It's played as science fact.' (Err. Right David...)
        Finally, the second series 'sci-fi' fans had been awaiting with bated breath for ABC's up-dated version of The Night Stalker. The original only had one series (1974) but two rather-good-for-their-time TV movies featuring a vampire and an immortal respectively. The show's premise, for those too young to remember, was based on the 1970 Jeff Rice novel The Kolchak Papers and sees a reporter stumble across a succession of stories involving were-wolves, robots, aliens etc., and then seeing his editor bury the stories each week as nobody would believe them. (The one big tragedy some of us (Tony in particular) feel on the Concat' team is that there should have been a concluding double bill, or TV movie, that revealed why it was the reporter either attracted or stumbled across such Forteanna? However this was not to be. (Deep sigh off screen.)) Fast-forward to today and the new series has not one reporter but a duo who, yes, are ever so beautiful and manicured. The jury is still out as to whether the new show will have the cult success of the old. Of course cult success means little to TV stations and producers as its immediate ratings that count to attract advertisers. Remember the original Kolchak series only had one season. But, hey, given the ratings failure of Firefly and yet it had cult success so allowing its film version, Serenity, to come into being and which then became successful in its own film/DVD right, so who can say what the future holds...?

To see what films we can expect in 2006, check out our forthcoming film diary.

 

COMPUTER GAMES

The Chronicles of Narnia, £40 from Buena Vista Games (Game Cube, PS2 and XBOX). Clearly market-launched to tie in with the film this really is other games re-hashed badly into something vaguely related to Lewis' story. For example, in the story the children leave London and its bombing, whereas in the game you get the bombing. This could perhaps be a contender exemplifying games business cynicism of its consumers?

Darkwatch, £40 from Ubisoft (PS2, XBOX).   Cowboys face off a rentless tide of vampires. An excellent shoot 'em up that is marginally further enlivened by the player being able to do good or bad deeds that release good or evil forces.

Hulk - Ultimate Destruction, £30-40, from Vivendi (Gamecube, PS2, XBOX). This is not to be confused with the Hulk game released around the time of the film. This is much better. You can trash a city even as the army tries to stop you. Very self-indulgent and, it has to be said, rather mindlessly enjoyable.

Path of Nero, £30-40 from Atari (PC, PS2, XBOX). This is really only for die-hard fans of the Matrix films that enables you to re-enact key scenes.

Resident Evil IV, £40, from Capcom (PS2).   Once more you have to deal with 'the infected'. This time you're in a Spanish-speaking European country (which apparently is not Spain...). The visuals are not as good as the previous GameCube version but the extra game play and spooky horror atmosphere (as opposed to the pervious puzzle-themes) make this a different and quite a welcome development. 'Resident Evil' game-playing fans will probably appreciate this version. Indeed it was one of the winners of this year's (the 23rd) Golden Joysticks Award that is based on game-player vote -- some 200,000 sent in their nominations. What better a recommendation could you want?

Serious Sam II, £30-£40 from 2K Games (PC, XBOX).   As 'Serious' Sam you have to collect parts of a medallion. As with Serious Sam I you have to decimate outlandish foes (weirdly visually presented) in between hearing one-line wisecracks. It's a shoot 'em up on acid. Serious Sam 1 fans will like.

Star Wars Battlefront II, £30-£40 from Lucasarts (PC, PS2, PSP, XBOX). One would expect a little more from a presumably George Lucas related company if only because the manufacturers would not necessarily have to fork out for an expensive licence from the man. If any cash was indeed so saved, it does not seem to have been spent on developing an engrossing game. Yes, there is a good range of battle formats from the Star Wars cannon but does this make up for creative and development deficits? The quick resurrections from being killed are a mixed blessing. It certainly speeds things up but equally it devalues risk-taking. Star Wars fans, especially younger ones already into battle gaming, however, may well like this.

Ultimate Spider-Man, £30-£40 from Activision (GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox). Not really the 'ultimate' in gaming as the title suggests. Designed to 'tie in' with the latest Spidy movie, it features villain Venom who role you can also adopt..

More new games technology (further to last time's XBOX360 and PS3 news) the former came out in the UK early in December (see below). Games to go with it include: Kameo; Perfect Dark Zero; and Call of Duty 2.
        Meanwhile Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) now has Japanese porn being provided. Inevitable really, and not the sort of thing Sony wants, but as the PSPS is the first personal movie player to really have a significant impact on the market, it was literally on the cards.
        Then there's the Game Boy Micro console, from Nintendo, which fulfils all the roles of Game Boy Advance SP but in a far smaller and niftier volume but possibly a little expensive at £70 except for real addicts.
        And finally the XBOX360 coming out. It hit the shops just in time for the run up to Christmas but they underestimated the demand (well in the British Isles at least) as stocks quickly ran out in most shops in the Isle nations. Similar stories emerged across northern Europe and, apparently, in Asia and the US too. The XBOX360 currently sells for around £210 or £280 with accessories (which you arguably need).   Some of those into games close to Concat' advise waiting. It will be less hassle and cheaper in the long run. Latecomers will also benefit from an increased range of games and other applications.

 

Spring 2006
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases 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 | Astronomy and Space | Health & Biomedicine | Science & Science Fiction.

GENERAL SCIENCE

The 2005 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday evening, October 6, at the 15th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard. The categories and winners were:
        AGRICULTURAL HISTORY: James Watson of Massey University, New Zealand, for his scholarly study, The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley's Exploding Trousers (it's all about the history of New Zealand dairy farming.
        PHYSICS: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland, Australia, for patiently conducting an experiment that began in the year 1927 -- in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly, slowly dripping through a funnel, at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years.
        MEDICINE: Gregg A. Miller of Oak Grove, Missouri, for inventing Neuticles -- artificial replacement testicles for dogs, which are available in three sizes, and three degrees of firmness.
        LITERATURE: The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others -- each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.
        PEACE: Claire Rind and Peter Simmons of Newcastle University, in the U.K., for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie Star Wars.
        ECONOMICS: Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides, repeatedly, thus ensuring that people get out of bed, and thus theoretically adding many productive hours to the workday.
        CHEMISTRY: Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for conducting a careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water? (The answer is surprisingly neither.)
        BIOLOGY: Benjamin Smith of the University of Adelaide, Australia and the University of Toronto, Canada and the Firmenich perfume company, Geneva, Switzerland, and ChemComm Enterprises, Archamps, France; Craig Williams of James Cook University and the University of South Australia; Michael Tyler of the University of Adelaide; Brian Williams of the University of Adelaide; and Yoji Hayasaka of the Australian Wine Research Institute; for painstakingly smelling and cataloguing the peculiar odors produced by 131 different species of frogs when the frogs were feeling stressed.
        NUTRITION: Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats of Tokyo, Japan, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting).
        FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu, Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Lorand Eotvos University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defecation."

The 2005 Nobel Prizes awarded in the autumn were:
        PHYSICS: Was split between Roy J. Glauber Harvard University, Cambridge, USA "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence" and also jointly toJohn L. Hall, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA and Theodor W. Hansch Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Germany, "for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique".
        CHEMISTRY: Yves Chauvin, Institut Français du Pétrole, France, Robert H. Grubbs, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Richard R. Schrock Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), "for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis".
        MEDICINE: Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren for their discovery of "the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease".
        PEACE: is shared between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.

US computer programmers are fed up with having to add every unpredictably few years a leap second to server computer clocks especially those concerned with satellite navigation. At least that is the supposed motivation behind a US-led attempt to international scientists meeting in Geneva to do away with leap seconds. (The US has not given a clear reason behind their request.) However leap seconds are necessary in day and night terms and we get them every year or two. They come about because of the Moon's tidal drag slowing the Earth. (An interesting story but you'll have to get our Jonathan to do you his bio-astronomy talk at your next convention for the full gen.) Failing to add leap seconds means that time will slowly but steadily drift away from the Earth's rotation so that noon (as defined as the time with the Sun at its highest) will be later than 12.00. More immediately, doing away with leap seconds will also mess up astronomers whose observatories use time as a key part of fixing star locations. As it is astronomers have to deal with (Sun-based) solar and (star-based) sidereal time and what this means is that everyday time, which is currently solar time-based, will become that plus an increasing error and then they would have to relate that to sidereal time. The proposed change is all fascinatingly silly. Global navigating systems have to work in the real world and it is about time they got used to it. ('About time', Oh, suit yourselves.) The proposed meeting has now been adjourned until 2006 and the leap second to be added 1st of January will serve to highlight and document problems. The UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (the Office of Science and Technology therein Concat supposes) is co-ordinating its own response to the American proposal. Our sources suggest that the Brit line will be to keep time running parallel to the Earth's rotation and the natural diurnal cycle.

Japan is looking to develop a supersonic jet. The autumn saw the aerodynamic testing of an unmanned prototype boosted by rocket to twice the speed of sound. The test was carried out in Woomera, Australia. The aim is to have the plane in service carrying 300 passengers by 2025. There is no supersonic civilian passenger jet currently in service. (Now, if only Europe could come up with a supersonic passenger jet it would surely revolutionise air travel... wouldn't it.)

Bush's administration fails to engage with Kyoto global climate agreement. In the run up to Christmas the US at UN discussions in Montreal rejected the chance to sign up to discussions on possible future greenhouse combating measures from 2012 (the end of the first Kyoto Protocol phase). Presumably the Bush administration is unconcerned about climate change and does not care that in a few decades from now, without non-fossil energy technology, the US will be dependent on imported oil for virtually all its gasoline requirements and that those driving the US economy feel they'll be able to pay the higher prices for this or survive on less energy... Jam today.

2005 was the 100th anniversary of E=MC2. Albert's paper deducing this formula (which actually is an approximation with a lot of other things added on but which are so small as to be negligible) was published in 1905.

If you work in science academia (university and government-sponsored blue skies and fundamental research) then you will be aware of the huge debate that has been raging the past couple of years over subscription versus open access. It is a rather complex issue about which we could bore you at length, however does impact heavily on the way you non-science regulars can access the research you have paid for with your taxes and the way our academic science regulars have their work assessed.   The latest is that the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (CIBER) team based at University College London have conducted another survey. Of over 5,000 academic scientists some 29% have published via open access in the past year (which is up from the previous year's value which was 11%). Of course what we need to remember is that while scientists may recognise the promotional value of open access, assessment of quality both formal and informal largely rests with the peer review and learned society dimension of subscription journals (remember, some of which become open access after a set period of time). Indeed CIBER warns that open access "would undermine scholarly publication."   We, at Concat, prefer the mixed model. You get Concat for free but have to purchase Essential SF. It seems to work.

 

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

ESA launched Europe's first geo-positioning system, Galileo, on December 28th. This is the World's second such global navigation system, the first is run by the US military. Galileo, if you have a tracking device, will tell you were to within a metre which is roughly six times better than the first system.

The Japanese probe Hayabusa [Falcon] arrived at the 500m-long, nickel-iron asteroid Itokawa in November. It attempted to collect samples but seems (December) to have failed, and is due to return to Earth in 2007. It is the first time since the Apollo lunar missions that a craft has visited a celestial body and returned with samples. The Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency is collaborating with NASA on the mission. The probe uses a low-power, but efficient, ion drive. Unfortunately this too is having difficulties.

ESA's Venus Express was launched Nov 9th and is due to arrive at Venus in May. The 1.3 tonne probe was launched by a Russian rocket. It will orbit Venus for over a year.

China had its second manned mission in October, which lasted five days. The two 'taikonauts' were Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng.

Paul McCartney becomes the first person to do a live music broadcast to a space-based audience. Astronauts on the International space station got music to wake up to.

The final Titan rocket was launched on the 19th of October. Titan rockets were introduced in 1959 and used to boost Gemini and Apollo missions to Earth orbit among other things. It was the 368th launch.

ESA's Cryosat satellite crashed when its Russian launcher failed. It was to study polar ice as to date there have been no ice remote-sensing satellites in polar orbit. There are only two weather stations in Antarctica's interior yet Antarctica is the size of Western Europe and the US combined. Global warming computer models have so far failed to capture high-latitude effects and the lack of data has not helped. A second Cryosat probe is being launched. Coincidentally there was a Royal Society (London) meeting on Antarctic ice just following the launch at which the significance of Cryosat's loss was brought home to assembled international climate scientists.

Libya jammed two satellites hence dozens of TV channels. The Libyans objected to a new British and Arab owned station based in London called Sout Libya that covers human rights and freedom of speech issues. The jamming took place on 19th September (just after Concat's last season's news upload) for 50 minutes until Sout Libya stopped broadcasting. BBC World and CNN were among those also affected. Later Sout Libya relaunched as Sowt Alamel and rebroadcast via the US to a different satellite, Telstar 12, that theoretically could not be jammed except from the North American continent. However jamming recommenced until the new station shut down. The US and Brits are not pleased.

Rome is combating light pollution by asking shop keepers to turn down their lights after midnight while the city itself is seeing its street lights lowered. Of course the problem is international and in 2003 a House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee report said that around half the UK population will never see the Galaxy (Milky Way) anyway near its full glory.

 

HEALTH AND BIOMEDICINE

The latest chapter in the saga of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly deliberately spreading HIV to 400 children, is that on November 15 the Supreme Court postponed its ruling on the case. The next court session is set for January 31, when lawyers will submit their legal memos to the court. Relatives of the children remain convinced to the workers guilt. But biomedical scientists and clinicians outside Libya suspect that they are innocent. The workers 'confessions' were allegedly extracted by torture. The Benghazi AIDS case has become an international affair. Both the European Union and the United States are involved in negotiations between the Libyan and Bulgarian governments. Top Libyan officials have suggested the defendants could be pardoned if Bulgaria paid compensation to the families of the victim. But the Bulgarian government has refused the offer because it implies an admission of guilt. On the 10th of November, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the Libyan leader's influential son and the head of the Qaddafi Foundation, said he did not believe the foreign medical workers were guilty. His foundation has helped secure the defendants better conditions in prison.

The AIDS epidemic continues to slowly grow. November saw the UN reveal statistics that the number that had been infected had reached 40 million and that there were 5 million new cases alone the previous year. The year's mortality was some 3 million.

Woo-suk Hwang quit Seoul University following a fraud investigation into his human-embryo cloning work. He has falsified data relating to at least 9 of 11 stem cell lines he created. His actions have undermined the credibility of one of biomedicine's currently most promising areas of research.

A paper in a Royal Society journal has compared bat guano with a MacDonald's Big Mac. It all came about because of a study into cave salamander diets (Fenolio et al, Proceedings of the Royal Society (B)). Apparently 54% of guano is protein whereas a Big Mac only has 23%. Only 1% of guano is fat whereas it is 33% for a Big Mac.   You couldn't make such news up if you tried.

The British Association (for the Advancement of Science) National Science Week 2006 is to run from the 10th -19th March.

 

SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

'The Science of Aliens' exhibition at the Kensington Science Museum (London) will run until 26th February. It takes visitors on a journey to answer the question: are we alone? Discover why we are so attracted to the aliens of the silver screen, how sea creatures can provide clues to alien life (Langford would be pleased that squids in space made it) and how we have tried to communicate with aliens in the past. Tickets: £8.95 adults; £6.25 children / concessions.

Anti anti-gravity patent has been accidentally granted by the US patent office. The patent office is not meant to grant applications on 'inventions' that defy the laws of physics. Such patents would give the inventor a degree of credibility. The patent was granted to Boris Volfson of Huntington, Indiana, US, and is based on a claim by the Russian physicist Eugene Podkletnov that superconductors can shield the effects of gravity. Apparently NASA at one stage was investigating the idea. The patent slipped through due to the volume of work the office undertakes.

Bad science in the media tip. Interested in science fictional ideas (such as bioresonance as well as straightforward misleading the public through false MRSA media scares)? Then check out Ben Goldacre's column each week in The Guardian on Saturdays. It covers bad science journalism such as use of nonsensical terms such as 'implosion researcher' and terms such as the 'electrical field of water', or the implausibility of a story reporting that methane from cows could solve 'all' the world's energy problems and pseudo-science 'research' that without controls 'proves' that homeopathic medicine 'works'.
        Metal hats to protect against Governmental radio monitoring / control are the latest to come under Ben's gaze. Such hats have been put forward by some conspiracy theorists as a way to counter government interference. However these have not been tested, until now that is. Just prior to Christmas Ben Goldacre reported Ali Rahimi's study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that measured the 'reducing' effects of radio waves within the hats. Surprisingly or not (the hats are a partial Faraday cage) the hats largely worked, except... that some specific frequencies were actually hugely amplified around 2.6 GHz and 1.5 GHz. These bands are actually used especially by satellite tracking systems (1.2-1.4 GHz) and 2.6 GHz by mobile phones. Ali and his colleagues, with one presumes tongue in cheek, reportedly speculate that the promotion of these hats by supposed conspiracy theorists may actually be being promoted by sinister government agencies. Goldacre, presumably similarly tongue in cheek comments that this MIT research is itself a transparent attempt to prevent us from taking simple and effective measures to protect ourselves.   What larks.   The man's a gem! If you have any examples then e-mail them to bad.science -at- guardian.co.uk, though bear in mind that Ben receives more comments than he can handle and so is only likely to reply to concise information that takes his fancy.

The Guardian fortunately pre-empted Goldacre attacking his own paper by taking action to address an advert it ran in its 'Money' supplement that claimed that "easily available natural remedies that outperform anti-viral drugs in medical trials". The advert made play of current "bird flu" concerns in the media. The Guardian recognising its error and referred the advert to the Advertising Standards Authority (the UK public watchdog regulating advertising claims). +++ Meanwhile the UK bird-flu 'scare' precipitated such a rush for the annual flu vaccine (which confers zero protection against avian flu) that many doctors' surgeries ran out of stock in November leaving those genuinely at risk (the elderly, those recently hospitalised, the immune depressed etc) without protection. By the time many of you read this (February) Britain's Spring stock should be distributed however once that goes then that is that for it takes several months to prepare each year's vaccine stocks.

All out nuclear war was something that worried many Europeans in the 1960s - 80s. Such apocalypses are also SF tropes. So when Poland released communist era war contingency maps it caused a stir. A strategy -- Seven Days to the River Rhine -- dating from 1979, predicted that Poland would see a heavy NATO nuclear bombardment which would be countered by Russian nuclear strikes against W. Germany, Denmark, and the Benelux countries. Russian-bloc forces would then race to the Rhine. The Polish army was required to participate in such strategy exercises that saw its own nation devastated.

The Turing test may soon (next few years) be passed. A character programme called George won the Loebner Bronze medal prize for the most human-like chat software. It is based on Jabberwacky programming and has amassed 1.5 million chat inputs. When it has acquired another 8.5 million then things should get really interesting. Brit programmer Rollo Carpenter is behind the venture. (The Turing test is a test for artificial intelligence when a person in a booth cannot tell the difference through chatting, between a human and a computer whose physical identities are hidden from the said person.)

The way to teach intelligent design suggested. Richard Palmer of the Systematics and Evolution group at Alberta U., Canada, suggests testing for 'intelligent deception'. Some America schools' 'Christian' authorities are insisting that 'Intelligent Design' be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in biology classes to the irritation of science teachers. Richard Palmer suggests where the pressures are great compliance but to also to present arguments for the null hypothesis (a standard science test that considers the opposite of whatever it is being considered). The idea here is that instead of evolution versus an intelligent designer that there is an 'intelligent deceiver'. Palmer suggests that an Intelligent Deceiver might be behind the creation of the Intelligent Designer movement and that to argue this case produces similar arguments for a Designer making it impossible to distinguish between a Designer or a Deceiver as an alternative explanation to evolution. It makes it difficult for Designer proponents to argue their case without having to accept that fundamentally God is a deliberate Deceiver through creating the Intelligent Designer movement to undermine an appreciation of real evolution. What larks.

Pokemon threatens to sue cancer researchers. Part of the POK family of genes are known as POK Erythroid Myloid Ontogenic or Pokemon. The US Pokemon cartoon firm objects and is asserting its trademark rights.

...And just missing our last season news review, SF give science education a helping hand when Chewbacca threw out (bowled) the opening pitch at Fenway Park in Boston prior to a baseball (rounders) game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. It was all to raise the profile of the' Star Wars: Where Science Meets the Imagination' exhibition at Boston's Science Museum in September.

A UFO 'research' centre is being built in China. US$20 million has been given by a Taiwan company to built the UFO research centre in Guiyang to investigate its Guizhou's Province 1994 UFO sightings.

Molecular and genetic modification in comic form can be found in Adventures in Synthetic Biology.

50 YEARS AGO:   "Within the past few years, many scientists have predicted seriously and confidently that human beings from Earth would, in the foreseeable future travel to the Moon..." (Source: Nature 24th Dec 1955).   Good to see, even with the benefit of hindsight, science fiction become science fact. But wouldn't it have been something if it had been 'human beings other than from Earth'.

And finally, our science and technology predictions for 2006. Tony predicts lots of improved 'smart' artificial limbs and prosthetics, this he suggests would be due to R&D spurred by 16,000 US troops injured in Iraq. Negatively he proffers that no extra-solar Earth-like and sized planets will be discovered before 2010.   Brian foresees the development of a short strand of mono-filament/molecular wire. The trouble is if a metal (with metallic bonding) how many atoms make a molecule? Perhaps a monofilament carbon tube, but hasn't that been done? Interesting thought though.   Graham asks us to repeat one he has been saying for a couple of year's now at our New Year gatherings, that there will be a fundamental re-think of sub-atomic physics in the next few years. Specifically he says it will be, "new physics in elementary particles [that] will shake up the current symmetry group - just as soon as the new colliders get powered up."   Meanwhile Jonathan says to take his global pandemic off of the list even though it still an on-going concern and likely to be indefinitely. He has been saying this since before SARS and this year's political reaction to avian flu scares mean that finally policy-makers are beginning to get the message.   This prompted Simon to give another negative prediction that there will not be a global pandemic in 2006 but added, "maybe I shouldn't [make any predictions], I never get these correct." Break out the hankies folks...

STOP PRESS: Even as we are about to load up new reviews of Essential SF: A Concise Guide come out. We have just managed to squeeze in the latest before the New Year and so if you haven't yet, or you skipped it, you might like to check out the latest news and reviews on this front and maybe, if you haven't yet, order a copy to help keep Concatenation solvent. Brian at Porcupine says he takes Mastercard and Visa if you state which exact type of card you have, card number, date of expiry and your name as on the card. He also does a catalogue of second hand SF, horror and fantasy books and has an SF collector's knowledge should you need guidance on tracking anything down. So ask for this and why not order Essential SF today from this wizened, old SF dealer at  brian[-at-]porcupine.demon.co.uk. And mention Concat when you place the order to receive doubly excellent service with a smile.:-)

Missed any of the 'Science News' subsections, then the following are jump links back: General Science | Astronomy and Space | Health & Biomedicine | Science & Science Fiction.

More science and SF news will be reviewed in the Easter 2006 plus there will also be 'forthcoming' book releases for the Summer. Meanwhile ensure you've added the Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation to your favourites. And why not send a message to yourself delay-timed to mid-April alerting you to our Summer site update? This will include our annual national and international convention listing and annual SF film top ten as determined by box office sales.

Also we hope to have some rather good site news sometime around February.

[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases for Spring 2006 | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Books | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction Books | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]


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