Sci Fi News & Recent Science Review for the Spring 2007

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

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

EDITORIAL MATTERS

NEW CONCAT' SITE UPDATE ALERT SERVICE: Now you can receive e-mail alerts (only every other month) letting you know when this site has a major update. This alert service is free and your e-mail addresses will not be passed on to other parties. For details see the bottom of this news page.
        So far we have used this update to alert those signed up to two 'Futures' stories and the autumn's news. Dan reports that there have been zero problems. So, treat yourself and also e-mail a friend who you think would be interested... Go on, brighten someone's day and e-mail them right now with this electrifying news. SF to your computer at near the speed of light. :-)

In-house project news: Essential SF is now available from Amazon.co.uk. Do your bit to spread the genre word. Makes for a great birthday present. See also news of signed copies from Porcupine Books (who can send you copies cheaper...).

As you know each season we carry a single selection of the Nature 'Futures' one page short stories. (Nature being the leading multidisciplinary science journal.) With the end of 2006 the series in Nature at least, has come to an end. This means that we have one more to select in February out of the autumnal pick. What then? Well we have not yet discussed matters with the good folk at Nature. The easiest thing to do would be to stop our run of selections. However there is the earlier 2000 run of stories a few of which very much deserve a new airing. This we will have to consider and see if Nature are up for this and of course the individual authors have to give their blessing too. (So far not one author has turned down being presented on the Concat site and this is something for which we are most grateful.) What we probably will not be doing is following the series for its short run in one of Nature's companion journals that specialises in physics. This likelihood is born out of pragmatism (and not our in-house (good-natured) rivalry between the natural and physical sciences). We will let you know what is decided after a chat with the folk at Crinian Street with our post Easter upload. Meanwhile there is stacks of news for you to tuck into...

Stop Press: Our other Tony is to swim the English Channel (or 'La Manche' for our French neighbour fans) and he is doing this for charity (and the personal challenge). Details on http://uk.geocities.com/thecontact_2000/WhoDaresSwims.html, so if you haven't supported Concat through getting (and giving) Essential SF you've now a chance to support the amazing and nearly bionic Tony instead (or even as well...).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

Fiction Awards, and the Autumn saw all the fantasy biggies... -- The World Fantasy and the International Horror Guild Awards were presented at the World Fantasycon, US. The Zilant was presented at the 16th International Fantasy and Role-Playing Games Fantasycon, Zilantkon, Russia. Meanwhile, in the UK the British Fantasy Award winners were announced.

More Fiction Awards from -- the Ukraine, Israel, Spain and Germany.

The Nobel and Ig Nobel Prizes have been announced -- click here for Nobel and Ig Nobel details below.

The New Tolkien book, compiled from notes and drafts, is likely to be the fantasy event of the year! -- click here for details.

Stephen King visits UK to do signings and get marooned on a desert island.

The 2006 Blue Planet Prizes and the Loebner (artificial intelligence) Prizes have been announced -- click here for Blue Planet and Loebner details below.

The Russian film Viy, of Gogol's story, opens with much interest. -- details below.

Dr Who tops book and audio charts, meanwhile spin-offs profligate. -- For top books/audio see here and for spin-offs see here .

Our recommendations for the best SF and Science/non-fiction of 2006. -- details below.

British Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, resigns -- click here for details.

MS Internet Explorer 7 launched to hassles. -- click here for details.

Libyans' death sentenced again! -- click here for details.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SF NEWS

The 2006 Nobel Prizes were announced in the autumn, so it was once again black tie and off to Stockholm time... The winners in the science categories were:-
Chemistry was won by US biologist Roger Kornberg for elucidating transcription mechanisms for getting sequence information from DNA via RNA to form proteins.
Medicine was won by two US geneticists, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, who will share the £750,000 (US$1.4 million) prize money. In 1998 they elucidated the process of how RNA interference (RNAi) allows a gene to be specifically 'silenced'. This helps to regulate gene expression, and protects against viral infection and 'jumping genes' that can replicate and spread through the genome. The discovery overturns the previous, commonly held assumption that DNA is in control.
Physics was won by US cosmologists John Mather and George Smoot for cosmic background radiation discoveries. In 1990 John Mather announced that the cosmic background radiation had a black body curve. In 1992 George Smoot announced that he had found ripples, small variations, in different parts of the sky of the background radiation using the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. Subsequent to this work there was a more detailed satellite examination using the Wilkinson Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), named after David Wilkinson. Wilkinson sadly died in 2002. Some think that he would have shared the prize had he been alive today (as the Nobel is only awarded to the living). In 2008 there will be an even more detailed survey of the sky with ESA's Planck satellite. +++ This year's Nobel wins cause debate - see piece in the General Science section below.

The Ig Nobel prizes for 2006 were announced shortly after the Nobels. The prizes are more a fun exercise in communicating science to the public than a high-flying science award. Though at first the winning works might seem zany, actually there are serious implications lurking underneath. The prizes were announced in October at Harvard in the US. Winners included:-
Biology: Bart Knols and Ruurd de Jong from Wageningen U. (Netherlands) for discovering that female malaria mosquitoes find the smell of Limburger cheese equally appealing as human feet. (Relevance: A synthetic cocktail might result that may lure mosquitoes away from people.)
Medicine: Francis Fesmire (Tennessee U.) and three from Bnai Zion Medical Center (Israel) for a cure for hiccoughs. (The cure: Digital rectal massage.)
Ornithology: Ophthalmologist Ivan Schwab and psychiatrist Philip May, both of California U., for discovering why woodpeckers don't get headaches. (Answer: Little cerebrospinal fluid to transmit shockwaves and a layer of spongy bone.)
Acoustics: Lynn Halpern of Harvard Vanguard medical Associates and Randolph Blake of Vanderbilt University for discovering the likely reason why people hate the sound of fingernails scratching on a blackboard. (Answer: The sound resembles non-human primate warning calls that trigger a vestigial fear response.) Literature psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer (Princeton U.) for his paper 'Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly', in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. In his acceptance speech he said: "My research shows that conciseness is interpreted as intelligence. So thank you."

The 2006 World Fantasy Awards were announced at the World Fantasy Convention, Austin, Texas. The award for Best Fantasy Novel went to Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. For details of the other categories see www.worldfantasy.org.

The 2006 International Horror Guild Awards were announced at the World Fantasy Convention, Austin, Texas. The award for Best Horror Novel went to Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. For details of the other categories see horroraward.org.

The 2006 British Fantasy Awards were announced at Fantasycon. The 'Best Novel' went to Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, published by Headline. For news of all the categories see the British Fantasy Society site. The convention was attended by about 300.

The 2006 Ukrainian Star Bridge Awards went to:-
Gold - Novel - Dalia Truskinovskaya for "Shaitan Star"
Silver - Novel - Olga Gromyko for "Flower of Kamaleynika"
Bronze - Novel - Sergey Dyachenko for "Wild Energy"
Gold - Series and Sequels - Alexander Gromov for "Islandskaya karta" [Icelandic Card], (The first book of Dilogii)
Silver - Series and Sequels - - Aleksey Pekhov for the "Finders of Wind" and "The Wind of Wormwood" (The first two parts of the "Wind and Spark" trilogy)
Bronze - Series and Sequels - Fedor Berezin for "War 2030" and Attack of Rocky Mountains" (3-4 books of the "War 2030" series)
Gold - New Author - Shimun Vrochek for "Sergantu nikto ne zvonit" [No-one Calls to the Sergeant]
Silver - New Author - Sergey Slyusarenko for "Tactile Sensations"
Bronze - New Author - Igor Paul for "Angel- Keeper 320"
The Awards were presented in September at the Kharkov, Ukraine and, we are told, made of real gold, silver and bronze respectively.

Spain's Ignotus Awards were presented at Hispacon.:-
Best Novel - Danza de Tinieblas [Dance in Darkness] by Eduardo Vaquerizo
Best Novella - 'La Traición de Judas' ['The Treason of Judas'] by Joaquín Revuelta
Best Foreign Novel - Tormenta de Espadas [Storm of Swords] by George R.R. Martin (published by Gigamesh)
For details of all the other categories see "http://www.ciencia-ficcion.com" Sitio de Ciencia Ficción [Site of Science Fiction].

The 2006 Israeli Society for SF & Fantasy Geffen Awards were voted on and presented at Icon in October. The winners were:-
Best Translated Science Fiction - Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Best Translated Fantasy - Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Best Original Hebrew Story - "'East of Eden'" by Hagy Averbuch
The 'Best Novel' category is only awarded every other year and it was not its turn this year. The Geffen Awards are named after the SF editor and translator Amos Geffen. Back in the new year 2006 Spin was one of the Concatenation team's choice of best books of 2005.

Old news just in. The German SF Prizes were announced at LyCon II in Luebeck back in the summer. The Best German Novel went to Wolfgang Jeschke for Das Cusanus-Spiel [The Cusanus Play] and Michael K. Iwoleit for the short story 'Psyhack' ['Psy-hack'] that appeared in the collection Nova 8. +++ Author James Hogan was a guest adding an Anglophone dimension, though he speaks German.

Our recommendations as to the best SF of 2006 starts with SF novels. Now this is only a bit of fun, it being a straw poll of a few of those associated with the Concat team, and largely (but not always exclusively) applies to those published in the UK. Having said that, last year we were somewhat predictive of titles short-listed for a few awards (including the Hugo winner) so who knows. It also might be a help to SF enthusiasts in case there is anything you may have missed.
         Capacity by Tony Ballantyne. It is the mid-21st century and Earth's computer system is infested with a virus of possibly non-human origin. (Stop Press Erratum: Apologies, Capacity was published first in 2005 in the UK (it was only the paperback edition published in 2006). It is therefore not eligible for a 'best book' of 2006 but had we had a review copy of the hardback then no doubt we would have had it as a best book of 2005. However this is still newsworthy as Capacity has yet to be published in the US but will imminently (January 2007) by Bantam Spectra.)
         End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. One for those that like a complex and rich plot. This one involves a future Earth that needs a solar protective shield and there is time travel as well in a tale of rivalry.
         Keeping It Real by Justina Robson. A fast-paced, science fantasy adventure set in a near-future world following a collider experiment that brings together parallel Earths and magic. Great kick-arse, motor-biking, cyborg heroine. A little over the top but in a decidedly fun way.
Meanwhile on the firmly fantasy front there was:-
         Temeraire by Naomi Novik with a dragon fantasy military adventure set in Napoleonic times.
         The Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, that had its first English translation debut (from the Russian) last year, and which concerns the balance of good and evil in the present day as maintained by a truce between those with magical powers including vampires and werewolves.
         And there was also The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch about a rogue for whom you can't but help having a sneaking fondness.
         As for reprints of the year there was:-
         Peace and War by Joe Haldeman that brings together his three war-themed, hard SF novels that began with his Hugo-winning classic 1974 story The Forever War.
         and finally Macrolife by George Zebrowski. Originally also published in 1974, it is a hard SF story of one family following events from the present day to the end of the Universe.
On the non-fiction front there was:-
         Counterfeit Worlds: Philip K. Dick on Film by Brian Robb. Not only have films of Dick's works been made but he also submitted ideas for TV. This part-biography and review of his media work appears to be well researched, and is both amply illustrated and very readable.
         The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. This biologist presents a rationalist argument against religious fantasy. We have yet to review it but Tony hopes to have one ready for our Easter update. Given that religion (from Wicca to Christian myth) has inspired so much fantasy fiction (the latter being honestly portrayed as fiction) that it would really be quite something if this was at least short-listed for the non-fiction Hugo. (It has sold very well in the UK.)
As for films, 2006 was rather good. Very worthy mainstream offerings (not counting independents) included:-
         Underworld Evolution. The war between vampires and werewolves continues. Will the mingling of DNA be successful enabling a vampire-wolf hybrid roam in daylight? A great monster romp.
         V for Vendetta. Directed by the (The Matrix) Wachowski brothers who also wrote the screenplay but not the screenstory which is in fact based on the Alan Moore and David Lloyd 1988/9 comic series (compiled 1990 into a graphic novel). It is the near future Britain and a totalitarian regime rules. One enigmatic man stands against the authorities. (The graphic novel was excellent and the film is fairly faithful unlike previous Moore adaptations though does not catch the full Orwellian 1984-ish feel of the graphic novel. In short the comic is more novel like, while the film has a comic-book feel to it.)
         Children of Men It is 2027 and humans have for some years been infertile... This is based on the P. D. James novel albeit a little plot sanitised.
         A Scanner Darkly the latest Philip Dick story to hit the screen and naturally a hot tip for the Hugo.
         The Fountain a thoughtful SF offering from Darren Aronofsky that explores longevity.
         Superman Returns certainly at least rivalled the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films but, some might say, did not overshadow them. (And some in Britain may remember the trouble caused, and Reeve's comments, when Superman won the Dramatic Presentation Hugo in Brighton... steady with those towels folks.)
         However the sheer mass popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest may get this fantasy onto the Hugo 'Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form' Award for Science Fiction Achievement's short list. These things happen.

The nomination period has ended (31st Dec) for the 2007 Arthur Clarke Awards for best promotion of UK space research and exploration. The awards are made by the British Rocketry Oral History Programme (BROHP). Categories include: corporate achievement, individual, student, space reporting, education, TV/radio, film, written, public promotion, inspiration and lifetime achievement. The winners will be announced at a dinner at the BROHP conference in April. Unfortunate timing for Concat as we only got news of the nomination period in October after our September posting for the autumn, and the winner will be announced just after our Easter posting for the summer. These things happen. However you can keep track of developments on www.clarkeawards.org.

BAFTA (British Academy of Film & TV Arts) goes boldly where Worldcon fears to tread. Each Worldcon committee has the right to create its own Hugo category for the year and in 2006 is was for the best SF computer game. Unfortunately there was little enthusiasm and not enough nominations to make a reasonable shortlist that could be said to reflect a broader fan approval. However BAFTA have now grasped the nettle with a new range of awards (17 categories all told) for computer games. The first of these annual BAFTA Video Games Awards were announced in October. Category winners of science & genre interest were:-
Innovation - 'Dr Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?' (Nintendo/Nintendo) which is a game test of your mental agility hence age. (Not to be done the morning after a night of heavy partying as four of the Concat team found out.)
Multiplayer - 'Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach' (Atari/Turbine)
Gameplay - 'Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy' (LucasArts/Traveller's Tales)
Sadly 'Rogue' in 'Rogue Trooper' (Eidos Interactive/Rebellion & 2000AD), though short-listed, did not win the 'Character' category (LocoRoco did). +++ For details of all winners see the BAFTA site.

Stephen King does BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs and BBC TV's Newsnight. He did the first programme (aired 19th Nov') while on a promotional visit to Britain. During the programme Stephen King, born 1948, revealed that he first 'sold' stories via his fanzine aged 12 and that he came from a poor background. A basic scholarship package got him into Maine University. In the 1970s he sold stories to men's magazines, and married Tabitha. At that time he was living in a trailer (caravan), working getting a local teacher's salary and so worked summers topping this up in a laundry: he was also writing. His wife Tabitha encouraged him and gave critical advice, including rescuing a draft of Carrie from the wastebasket. He owes his life to Tabitha who not only helped his work but got him onto rehab (1986) for drink and coke. In the summer of 1999 he was a pedestrian and got hit by a van sustaining injuries to his skull, collar, spine, pelvis and leg. Tabitha not only helped him through but also bought the van so as to prevent someone else from selling it on e-bay. While he likes his readers, he also hopes that fans keep their distance from his personal life. He has a number of times been a stalker victim and one time (when he was away in another city) someone entered his home confronting his wife with what was claimed to be a bomb.   Nonetheless he appreciates his readers though does not like the double standards of some reviewers who say they like his stories but that his work is not somehow proper writing. (Let's hope he is not upset with our review of his latest novel.).
          His 'desert island discs' were:
                    'She Loves You' - The Beatles
                    'Desolation Row' - Bob Dylan (King's favourite)
                    'Chalk Tall in Bingo' - James McMurtry
                    'Middle of the Road' - The Pretenders
                    'Barrier Reef' - Old 97s
                    'Ram Rod' - Bruce Springsteen
                    'Ponda Replay' - Rhianna
                    'When The Stars Go Blue' - Ryan Adams
          He also said he liked The Doors but they were not on his list because of bitter-sweet memory associations. His book for the desert island would be W. H. Auden's collected poetry and his luxury would be a water hammock. He also admitted to liking the TV programme Lost.
          His Newsnight TV interview was broadcast on 2nd November (bumped a day due to the current news agenda). In it he said Lisey's Story was fed by his life's experiences, especially those of his road accident, and what happens to love in the wake of death. He again affirmed irritation of literary critics; though the fact his books have sold over 350 million copies is hard to dismiss. Regarding labelling his writing, he said that he always thought that this was done so that people knew where to find an author in the bookshop.

2000AD (the weekly) reached prog (issue) 1,500 and the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine no 250 in the autumn. Both SF comics' autumnal anniversaries were passed in a blaze of lack of publicity, despite the editor noting that it is "a ripe old age in these cut throat times, and one worthy of celebration." Perhaps they're holding their fire until February? 2000AD did though mark it, albeit a few issues late, with a major new Dredd story 'Origins' that started in prog 1,505. Meanwhile the Megazine saw a sequel (another one) to the classic saga 'America', which may signal in the future an updated/expanded edition of The Complete America graphic novel. Called 'Cadet' this sequel centres on the daughter of the democracy activist America, who was taken by the judges to be one of their own after the Judges 'accidentally' shot America.   In the run-up to Christmas the now cheaper Megazine saw its new editor make the publication more Dredd-universe centric with a new series 'Black Atlantic' (named after the future 22nd century, and now heavily polluted, ocean) as well as the return of Devlin Waugh (a gay vampire in the service of the Vatican who is a (sometimes distant) part of the Dredd continuum) and the return of 'The Simping Detective' (an undercover judge into silly, over-the-top (Simping) clothes fashion). Marvellous stuff. This then is an alert for you to check out the current state of both publications and, if you are in the UK and are quick, you might be able to get the 100 page 2000AD Christmas/New Year special called (only slightly confusingly) 2000AD prog 2007. If you are outside of Brit Cit but are into SF comics then you could try a one year subscription to the Megazine (and if you don't like it then pass on the copies at the end of the year as a Christmas present to a friend). Details on www.2000adonline.com. Borag Thungg Earthlets.

2000AD's 30th anniversary is in February. At the time of posting 2000AD told Concat that this will be marked by special content. So as per above, this is a good time for those with an interest in SF in comics but not yet familiar with Tharg to take out a subscription. The Spring also sees a new line of 2000AD collectable figures, that will appeal to core 2000 fans. The 30th anniversary issue will be prog 1526, out 28th February, so if you are tempted then that is the one to ask your subscription to run from if you decide to place an order with them any time by mid January (see the link in the item immediately above this one). This issue sees new stories including: Savage - Double Yellow by Pat Mills and Charlie Adlard, and Nikolai Dante - Hellfire by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser. There are also plans for a celebratory 30th anniversary bash in London. Splundig.

The best of Look and Learn is being reprinted weekly over a two year period starting January 2007. The magazine for children between 7 and 14 was originally published in Britain between 1962 and 1982. The pre-Christmas preview issue showed just how interesting it was with historical and science articles and quizzes. There is even the Don Lawrence science fantasy strip The Trigan Empire (much of which has been previously published in a couple of different editions as a graphic novel but not for a number of years). Mostly well-researched some of the content is a little dated and the science is of its time. For example, the answer to how many ways does the Earth move ignores the various motions about the Galaxy, or the movement of the local group or the movement of the local group and other galaxies towards the Great Attractor, or the expansion of the Universe. The answer to the question as to 'what provides the purest light' obviously does not consider monochromatic and coherent light as pure, while that to what is a billion is now wrong being dated. Nonetheless such quibbles are few and the publication a joy even (albeit a brief one) for adults.

The Rocky Horror Show is back for a tour of Britain. This cult SF comedy musical play, laced with eroticism and with many SF and sci fi references and tropes, is in London for January before touring England and ending up in Glasgow for the last week of June 2007. Details on www.rockyhorror.co.uk.   Dream it.

George Lucas is suing the designer of his Star Wars storm trooper outfits. The designer, Andrew Ainsworth, has been selling reproductions of the costumes he originally designed for Lucas. Ainsworth's lawyer says that there is no agreement of transferring intellectual rights to Lucas. The Lucas view is that the rights are his since he originally commissioned the work. George Lucas has already won this case in the US and was awarded damages of US$20 million (£10.8 million) and is pursuing the case in the UK to obtain this sum. Andrew Ainsworth originally worked for Lucas without a written contract (though a written contract is not actually necessary for a 'contractual' arrangement to be recognised by UK law) and was paid £30,000 for his work by Lucas in 1976. (Concat's informal legal advisors says that payment is one of the three things required for the recognition of a contractual arrangement in the UK, the others being a duty or obligation as well as a service or goods provided). +++   Previously Lucas' distributor 20th Century Fox, has received a settlement from the makers of Battlestar Galactica over similarities with Star Wars (yes, incredible isn't it!). On the other hand Lucas failed in his case against the makers of Starballz, a blue film featuring characters based on Star Wars. The judge ruled that it was a clear parody.

Lego Star Wars computer game wins BAFTA. Those who heard our Dan Heidel's talk on SF and the internet either at LOTNA or the H. G. Wells Society, Timisoara, will know of the Lego 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now the Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is out and has won one of the new BAFTA's (see above) It is unashamedly for kids but has a charm that may well enchance some parents. Out from Activision at between £30 - £50, and available for Xbox, Xbox 360, Nintendo, DS, PS2, PSP,Gamecube and PC.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy is to become a computer game. The deal involves Pullman's publishers, Scholastic, and is between New Line (who own the film rights) and Sega.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

The Autumn saw that...

Brian Aldiss was presented with a 'European prize' for his lifelong body of work at the 2006 Utopiales International SF Festival.

Margaret Atwood has been trying out her remote autographing invention signing from Dunfermline in Scotland into books at the 'Word on the Street' book fayre in Toronto (the city in which she normally lives). Last March, when she tried to remote autograph books in New York, the 'LongPen' system which had been working all night suddenly failed. After the event it had transpired that the day time heat plus that of the crowd in the New York shop had upset the computer. Meanwhile, back in the present, this time it worked.

Iain M. Banks sees trade publicity for his new non-SF novel begin -- almost unprecedently -- 5 months prior to publication.The Steep Approach to Garbadale will be released in March and bookshop managers have been treated to a mini-booklet of (presumably) the opening pages. Meanwhile Banks' fans can enter a draw on his website (see our SF author links portal) for the opportunity to get an autographed pre-publication proof edition. This is his first novel since the SF gas giant The Algebraist space opera, but begins the same way with a walk in a garden by water. However it soon becomes apparent that this is a suicide walk. The novel concerns the associated family turmoil.

Clive Barker has announced on his 'official' information website (see our SF author links portal) that Weinstein Co has asked him to script a remake of his horror film Hellraiser (1987) but he does not want to be involved in directing. Apparently the re-make will have a bigger budget and the past two decades have seen a tremendous improvement in effects technology. +++ Those of you who remember Concatenation's print incarnation may recall from the 1989 issue that our Tony visited the set of Hellraiser's sequel, Hellbound. He also got the chance to do one of the effects. +++ Clive Barker is reported that he will team up with Walden Media to make a film about the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. A group of teenagers attempt to uncover what happened during the last two weeks of Poe's life. Shades of Mark Renfield's The Death of Poe that was premiered at the 2006 Festival of Fantastic Films (see our con report).

Arthur C. Clarke has finally stopped writing and reportedly (in December's Ansible) handed over his current novel to sprightly Frederik Pohl, two years his junior, to finish off.

Philip K. Dick and 2007 is the 25th anniversary of Dick's death. Gollancz marks this with reprints of some of his classics -- see below in our forthcoming books listing. Meanwhile the Library of America (US) has announced that it will include Dick in its canon of US literature with the publication of a collection of his work.

Harlan Ellison® is making his mark in SF circles again with, Ansible reports, more litigation. Meanwhile elsewhere reverberations appearing on the net following happenings at the 2006 Hugo ceremony. For example see this site. Other authors have somehow been caught up in all this, for example see here.

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have signed film option rights with director Terry (Brazil) Gilliam for their story Good Omens. The November issue of Locus carries news of Gaiman's comments that are too good to pass. "We like the idea of a Gilliam film. So we put our heads together and decided that it should cost him a groat. And I don't believe they've actually made groats, which is an old English coin worth about four pence, since the 1780s. Which means he is going to have to go to e-Bay... We figured out we were going to need farthings to pay the agents."   (More Pratchett news below.)

David Gemmell's 'Troy' trilogy is to be completed by his wife. Last time's sad news of his demise came shortly after his second 'Troy' novel was published. It is said he had already delivered some 70,000 words of the final book (that's getting on for half the total word count). His wife, Stella, had been helping him research the novel and he had already drawn up chapter outlines for the whole book. Transworld is to publish.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood now has a blog. See his site.

James Gunn is to become a Science Fiction Writers of America 'Grand Master'. He becomes the 24th SFWA Grand Master since the first was declared in 1974. The formal presentation will be made during the Nebula Awards weekend in May.

Stephen King had his first UK promotional visit for a decade. He has made media appearances including BBC's Radio 4's Desert Island Discs as well as TV's Newsnight, and did bookshop signings. At Borders of Oxford St, London, some fans began queuing the night before King's appearance scheduled for 4pm the next day. Stephen King previously toured North America including Seattle and Portland, Oregon. +++ See Tony's review of his latest novel Lisey's Story.

Michael Moorcock features quite a bit in the new book celebrating Savoy's 30th along with other SF luminaries.

Alan Moore is to have a voice part in an up-coming episode of the Simpsons cartoon series. Titled 'Husbands and Knives' it concerns the opening of a 'cool' comic shop in Springfield to rival the one run by 'comic book guy'. Sssright, as 'Quinch' said. +++ A DVD has just been released of an Alan Moore interview.

Naomi Novik was understandably a little excited when she heard that Temeraire was to become a film. The Voyager PR office told Concat she said, "There was lot of screaming in my household when I first got the call. I am thrilled."

Christopher Priest seems to be finding out when is an author not an author? Answer: When the film of the book is made.   His book The Prestige, as we reported at the beginning of last year, has been adapted to the big screen by Christopher Nolan for a film also directed by Nolan. Apparently Nolan urged prospective viewers not to read the book beforehand as reportedly: `It spoils everything.' Having said that Nolan has changed the ending. Also it is said that there will not be a US tie-in edition of the book to go with the film's release, though as we noted last time, in our forthcoming autumnal book TV & film tie-ins, Gollancz is producing a UK edition which may well be available in North American specialist bookshops. Meanwhile our advice is not to watch the film until you've read the book. Despite the film's different ending, prior viewing of the film does tend to spoil full enjoyment the book can potentially impart. Meanwhile Chris Priest himself enjoyed the film's London premiere and party afterwards.

Philip Pulman enjoyed a preview of the BBC adaptation of his The Ruby in the Smoke at the National Film Theatre. The adaptation stars Billie Piper and should have been aired by the time you read this and available on DVD shortly.

Terry Pratchett was asked to present the Random House Award for Outstanding Contribution to Bookselling as part of the 2006 Bookseller Awards at a glitzy dinner at the Natural History Museum. Ottaker's James Henage received the award. +++ He also had an acting TV appearance over Christmas as the toymaker at the end of the adaptation of his own The Hogfather. (See also news with Neil Gaiman above.)

Roberto Quaglia, the Italian writer, is hoping will be visiting the UK in January or February. His UK itinerary will include visiting author Ian Watson with whom he has just completed a collection SF short stories The Beloved Of My Beloved. One wonders whether a Brit edition will be forthcoming but a story from this collection has already been sold to, and can be viewed at Clarke's World online magazine at http://www.clarkesworldmagazine.com/watson_11_06.html. Finally, Roberto hopes to visit a few of those active in the European SF Society (of which he is currently an officer) to discuss Eurocon matters.

Carl Sagan, cosmologist with an interest in the prospects for alien life, now has a memorial blog. Marking the 10th anniversary of his death, bloggers reveal how Sagan has impacted on their lives.

Martin Sketchley has redecorated at his website www.martinsketchley.co.uk.

Robert Silverberg is enthusiastic about a forthcoming series of anthologies of his short stories. The first collection covers 1954-8 and came out from Subterranean Press in the US before Christmas. "One of the stories is the very dark and bleak novelette, The Road to Nightfall, which I wrote in 1954, but which was considered too dangerous to publish until 1958." He wrote it when just 19 years old.   We do not normally cover authors' comments on their own work but many European SF readers may well be interested in this book series. There will be nine volumes in all.

Charles Stross has a particularly informative blog item (10th November) on why fiction book production takes so long. +++ On which Jonathan comments that science fact production takes as long. Science book productions have no plot editorial change stages but does have a fact check and presentation editorial stage as well as an indexing stage.

J. R. R. Tolkien joins that small select band of authors who has a new book published for the first time many decades after their death. Begun in 1918, The Children of Húrin was one of three 'Great Tales' J.R.R. Tolkien worked on, though he never realised his ambition to see it published. Yet while familiar to many fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books, it has long been assumed that the story would remain an 'unfinished tale'. Now what passes as close as Tolkien's original vision, as may ever be expected, has been reconstructed by his son (Christopher Tolkien) from his many notes and drafts. The Children of Húrin will be published by HarperCollins in April, and on the same day in the United States by Houghton Mifflin. Needless to say this is very likely to be the fantasy event of the year.

Ian Watson, after a little while where it seemed you mainly saw him being published in the US and Japan, is now being published again in the UK with his collection The Butterflies of Memory that came out from PS Publishing last July. He was at the British Midlands convention Novacon (in November) for the re-launch of his 1977 novel Alien Embassy with a new edition from Immanion Press. He has also just completed a collection of shorts jointly with Roberto Quaglia.

Tad Williams may be visiting the UK on a promotional tour.

For SF author websites click SF author links.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

FILM NEWS

Film Alert!: The launch at the end of November of Witch or Viy:The Power of Fear based on Golgol's story may well have been the Russian genre film event of 2006! Nikolai (Mykola) Gogol (1809-52) was a Ukrainian-born writer who wrote in Russian (hence became widely known in the SovBloc), including the short story 'Viy' in 1835. In 1967 a groundbreaking Russian film version was made in colour and available with English subtitles. Arguably this was just about the only horror film made in the communist 1960s and has itself been acclaimed by fantastic film fans in the west. Now there is a 2006 version that, according to IMDB, has an English translation (but this might be just subtitles) that is released as The Power of Fear. The film itself concerns a young trainee priest who shelters in a barn for the night. He is attacked by an ugly old woman who takes him for a ride on a broomstick. He manages to kill her in the usual Christian tradition but she turns into a beautiful woman and all for a while is wel. It seems that the beautiful woman was possessed by a witch. However when the woman does in the end die, the woman's father instructs the trainee priest to pray for her each night before she can be buried. During the night she rises, but in the form of the witch, to try to get at the priest who is protected by a magic circle. During the last night the witch calls for creatures of the night to help her...

Lost returns to ABC in February. The second half of the series will then be run without repeats. +++ Meanwhile in the UK the terrestrial Channel 4 has lost Lost to satellite and cable Sky! Channel 4 had reportedly got the show some 4 million UK viewers!

Naomi Novik's Temeraire is to be made into a film by Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson. The news just missed our Autumnal update but we can say that the folk at Harper Collins were cock-a-hoop. Not surprising as Harper publishes The Lord of the Rings and its fantasy imprint 'Voyager' published Temeraire. Novik was reportedly, and equally understandably, quite excited. Jackson has not yet decided whether he will make one film or three (following the book trilogy) and he has a couple of projects already in train. What he has done is use his own money to option the books before involving a studio. Meanwhile the third part of the trilogy, Termeriare: Black Powder War, comes out just as we are posting this news page early in the New Year.

The Time Traveller's Wife is to be made into a film. New Line Cinema is to produce.

Peter Jackson will not be involved with the hobbit film as well as a Lord of the Rings prequel. Jackson had queried New Line's ways of accounting for the profits and has gone to court. He refused to be tied to a commitment to do the film as part of a proposed settlement but wanted a settlement to be separately reached before discussing possible future work. Jackson is not short of other future projects including a film version of Temeraire. Elijah Wood, who starred in Jackson's Lord of the Rings film, is reported as supporting Jackson saying that it would be foolish of New Line to assume that they can make as good a film without Jackson.

Sci-Fi London -- We could have put the news here in the film news section but did it later with fan events.

Festival of Fantastic Films 2007 -- News also given later.

Film site tip!: The Trailer Mash mixes up different soundtracks to film trailers. The results are very short films that are quirky takes on the familiar. For example you can mix the visuals from Star Wars with the sound from Brokeback Mountain. Regulars at the Festival of Fantastic Films, at least those early in the series, will know just how good such mini-mixes can be. Whereas the Fest's opening ceremony used to consist of a montage of film excerpts put to a carefully chosen music track, this is a little more constrained but no less fun. The site is worth revisiting to watch just one or two at a time. Delightful.

Film download tip!: This one comes from the SF Signal site (well credit due where credit due) who note that there is a 1967 Perry Rhodan film (95 minutes) available for download from You Tube.   They also later suggested...

A two-minute showcase of all of Ray Harryhausen's creatures is brought to our attention by the SF Signal site: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/004561.html. (Tell youngsters today that we had special effects before CGI and do they believe you..?)

Here is a delightful space probe short (around a minute). click here to see it. Thanks go to Steve Green (and in turn Chris O'Shea).

The Dark is an SF film serial on available on the web. The Dark follows the adventures of the crew of the Recluse as they fight to take a bit of the Galaxy from aliens and worse - designer humanity. -- Making and distributing The Dark follows a new business model. The first two 12-minute episodes are free to download and you pay a small sum for the rest. A colour comic by Alchemical Press is forthcoming. -- Some initial commentators say that the SF is particularly good.

There is to be a Hellboy follow-up. Called Hellboy 2: The Golden Army shooting begins after Easter in London and Bucharest.

Stephen King's 1985 short 'The Mist' is to be a film. Mist appears in a small US town and seems to kill those it engulfs. The surrounded locals make a stand in the supermarket. Frank (The Green Mile) Dabaront scripts and directs. An early 2008 launch is anticipated. +++ Stephen King's Cell is is coming out in paperback.

Iron Man is to star Robert Downey Jr and Terrence Howard. Robert Downey Jr., who will play Tony Stark, is already known to genre fans for his roles in Gothica (2003) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). terrence Howard will be the industrialist's close friend. In the film Iron Man will come up against the Mandarin. Iron Man is the first film based on a Marvel Comics' character to be financed by Marvel itself. Jon Favreau is directing and Paramount is hoping to launch in May 2008.

Babylon 5's last fling may well be on. Warner's Home Video and TV arms have announced the beginning of production of what may well be the last true Babylon V offering (unless they do a remake with a different cast in decades to come). Babylon 5: The Lost Tales will be a direct to DVD film that picks up the story some years after the original series (but prior to the setting of the last episode). Bruce Boxleitner (President John Sheridan), Tracy Scoggins (Capt. Elizabeth Lochley) and Peter Woodward (Galen) are all reported as being onboard. The film/DVD is due out later in the year.

New Stargate DVD films proposed. Further to last time's science fiction news, that a second Stargate film that will be more of a follow-up to the film than the TV series, it now appears that there may also be a couple of TV series spin-off straight-to-DVD films. The first could tie up the series' loose ends, while the second may involve time travel.

A brand new Stargate spin-off TV series has been announced. Reported by Gateworld the new series will probably launch in 2008 after the final episode of the original Stargate TV series.

The 4th series of Stargate Atlantis will commence later this year.

Mad Max 4 on again? Director George Miller is still up for another Mad Max though Gibson is unlikely to star he told In Focus magazine. Rumours have been flying around for years but this time it does seem more likely than not. The rumoured title is still Road to Fury. +++ Director George Miller blames Bushes invasion of Iraq on delay in getting Mad Max 4 on the road. He is reported as saying: "We actually were about to start filming when George Bush and Tony Blair decided to go into Iraq, and the American dollar began to slide against the Australian dollar, and we lost 25 percent of our budget."

Halo the film of the computer game, is on hold. Financers Universal and Fox both asked Microsoft and the film makers to cut their profit participation. Microsoft refused. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, among the creative team, are already in discussion with prospective new partners.

Rumours abound as to the 11th Star Trek film. The person behind the venture is said to be J. J. Abrams who was behind the TV series Lost and who directed Mission Impossible III. Matt Damon is rumoured to be a candidate to play James T. Kirk. The release date is said to be 2008. TrekMovie.com is taking it very seriously.

For a reminder of the top films in 2005/6 and earlier years then check out our top Science Fiction Films annual chart. This page is based on the weekly UK box office ratings over the past year up to Easter (which of course we will update next time, shortly after Easter, for 2006/7).

For a forward look as to film releases of 2007 see our film release diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Gollancz recharges its batteries. UK SF publisher Gollancz Orion held an autumnal beerfest for its stakeholders (authors, agents, cover designers, contract staff, book chain buyers etc.). Editor Jo Fletcher ensured that connections were made. Supremo Malcolm Edwards announced to the assembled that all was well with Gollancz. Its new authors were selling and attracting some critical praise (Joe Abercrombie was one of a few singled out). A number of authors in the Gollancz stable had also won awards and here Geoff Ryman shone having gathered (at least) three for Air. Gollancz's reprints of past classics in its SF Masterwork series are also doing well and each title has had an extra printing. This last is good news indeed as Gollancz is doing its bit to keep some of the key SF flames of yesteryear alive. Finally Malcolm encouraged folk to see the film A Scanner Darkly, the latest Philip K. Dick novel to be adapted to the big screen, and of course Gollancz recently re-released the novel.   The event was ably organised by Jonathan Weir and colleagues, and held in London's Theatre Museum, Covent Garden. The cunning ploy of the beerfest having wine instead, reduced glomeruli activity hence any queuing. Departing folk received a bag with a copy of Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan, one of Gollancz's recently published 10 greatest SF novels. (This edition comes with an introductory short article by Jasper Fforde while the series' books have simple covers with bevelled corners away from the spine.) Dead doggers continued at a local hostelry around the corner.

The new British SF/Fantasy imprint Solaris has its first book launch in February. Further to the earlier news of this imprint's creation, there is now a website www.solarisbooks.com. Their new releases are included in our new SF and new fantasy book listings. +++ According to Bent (Bookseller 8th Dec, p42), Solaris are already getting pressurised by authors' agents. Apparently Solaris decided to pass on an MS from a notable US agent because her sales history was not strong enough compared to the aspirations for her future prospects. Apparently came the reply, well in that case I am going to resubmit it to you under a pseudonym.

The British Bookseller Retailer Awards were announced at the Awards dinner in Kensington. Genre notables present included Terry Pratchett. The big prize went to Amazon.co.uk who narrowly beat Borders. Borders itself got the 'Retail Chain' award. Small bookshops got recognition with luminaries: Torbay Bookshop; Newham Bookshop; and Simply Books (Bramhall). The event was held at the Natural History Museum (always good for a corporate function) in the grand entrance hall under the shadow of casts of fossil dinosaur skeletons, which inevitably led to some unfavourable (and unimaginative) literary and trade comparisons.   This is only the second year that the awards have been given with each category getting its own commercial sponsor. The judging is done by a small panel of independent retailers (such as an exec' from a sweet shop chain) as opposed to being a vote of book consumers themselves: so the award's cred value is limited other than as a trade bash. The dinner format impeded networking though this was made up for by the setting and atmosphere. Amazon's win probably rightly reflects the significance of the rapidly growing internet sales sector, which itself does not bode well for high street bookshops, not to mention genre specialists. Indeed today some London boroughs no longer have a large, general bookshop (over 1,000 square yards/metres)! All of which raises the question of whether this award will have much meaningful longevity beyond a couple of decades or will the selling of physical books be largely the domain of newsagents and supermarkets?

Temeraire is to be made into a Jackson film -- details below.

The Odyssey Critique Service is the new resource from the Odyssey writer's workshop team. Workshop director Jeanne Cavelos says, "The mission of Odyssey is to help developing writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror improve their work. I've been searching for the best way to extend that help beyond the sixteen people who attend Odyssey each summer. To that end, we've created the Odyssey Critique Service." The service gives potentially commercial authors professional-level feedback to the standard with which Odyssey is associated.

The summer Odyssey workshop is to take place at Saint Anselm College in Manchester (that's New Hampshire, US, not England, UK) from 11th June and run to 20th July. Details www.sff.net/odyssey or www.odysseyworkshop.org.

The top UK popular science books of the autumn were:-
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins from Bantam (selling 21,207 UK copies in the month to October 7th) which Tony will hopefully review for next time
and
Darwin's Watch: The Science of Discworld III by Pratchett, Cohen & Stewart from Ebury (selling 10,809 copies over the same period).

The Royal Institution of Great Britain (that promotes science, not to be confused with the Royal Society that encourages excellence in science research) has listed the all time top popular science books. This was derived by a small panel of judges. They were:-
Primo Levi's The Periodic Table
Konrad Lorenz's King Solomon's Ring
Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene
Runners-up included James Watson's The Double Helix and Charles Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle.

The top genre writer according to US book sales around Christmas is Stephen King. Both his Lisey's Story and Cell were in each of the weekly Nielsen BookScan top 20 throughout December. Good to see an author like King spreading Christmas cheer.

The two top UK SF/fantasy books of the autumn were a close call:-
Dr Who: The Official Annual (Penguin) came 11th in the overall UK 'consumer market books chart' selling 15,785 copies in just one week in mid-October. It narrowly beat by just four copies...
Thud by Terry Pratchett (Corgi).

The top selling UK genre books of the 2006 year up to Christmas of all 'mass market' titles were:-
Dr Who: The Official Annual (Penguin) published in August and which came 31st in the UK top 100 listing with 271,551 copies sold.
The Time Traveller's Wife (paperback edition) by Audrey Niffenegger, from Vintage, which came 61st with 189,403 copies sold.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, paperback published in June from Bloomsbury, came 80th with 171,347 copies sold.
Thud by Terry Pratchett, Corgi's paperback edition published later in the year (so less time to accrue sales) in October came 84th with 164,037 copies sold.
On the non-fiction front there was the...
The Guinness Book of Records: 2007 only published at the end of September by Guinness, came 10th with 427,695 copies sold.
QI: The Book of General Ignorance published in October by Faber which came 67th in the UK 2006 top 100 mass market title listing with 182,087 copies sold in the year by Christmas.

Harry Potter books do not promote witchcraft. That's a relief then. The news comes from the insightful Georgia Board of Education (the US not the Sov Bloc one) who supported Gwinnett County school board's decision not to uphold Laura Mallory's request to remove Potter books. Laura Mallory apparently, according to scifi wire.com, feels that Potter promotes witchcraft. 'Harry Potter' books have reportedly had some 115 formal complaints since 2000, making them the most challenged works of the 21st century, says the American Library Association.

Dr Who cleans up on the UK audio front. In the half-yearly UK audio book chart (to October 7th) Dr Who titles came 3rd, 4th and 5th. +++ Who audio fans may also like to see below.

Ebury has commissioned three Torchwood novels. Torchwood's launch attracted an estimated 2.4 million viewers and the 12 new Dr Who novels so far published have sold over 390,000 copies with a value of more than £2 million (US$3.7).

Savoy Books marks its 30th anniversary with the publication of Sieg Heil Iconographers which provides an insight into one of Britain's delightfully nefarious publishing houses. Savoy Books has existed since 1976 to ensure the bridge between high literature and popular books with little regard for political correctness should it ever get in the way. Notably it has given more obscure works not considered commercial all be they by respected writers -- such as Samuel Delany, Harlan Ellison and Charles Platt -- their first UK publication. Many of the folk behind Savoy -- David Britton, Michael Butterworth, John Coulthart and Kris Guido -- also entwined with the MaD and BaD SF groups (Manchester and District, and Bolton and District). For example MaD's Charles Partington and David Britton enabled Savoy's first book. (Charles himself helped enable the first print edition of Concatenation so you can see how these connections can grow.) However it is the literary connections, rather than the fan ones, in which most people will be interested. Here Sieg Heil Iconographers features many such luminaries and especially there is a fair bit for fans of Michael Moorcock. It is over 600 pages and illustrated with plenty of photographs of said luminaries and costs £25 direct from Savoy (postage and packaging included for UK sales).

Brave New World is not an SF novel -- Shock, Horror, Drama, Probe! -- but the Booksellers Association's (UK) major report on digitization. "If industry ever needed a wake-up call it is ours," says David Roche, the current BA president as well as Chief Exec of Borders UK, at the report's Department of Trade and Industry (a UK ministry) venued launch. Citing that Google and publishers are doing electronic things, where are the book retailers in all this?

E-Books will become a fad in 2008 think publishing houses Pan, Macmillan, Faber and Dorling Kindersley. They are all gearing up for a big splash hoping to capture the moment. Other publishers are being a bit more cautious remembering that TV (let alone satellite/cable or video/DVDs home cinema) did not kill off the cinema and that CD 'book' expectations were not realised (dictionary/encyclopaedia uses excepted where the electronic search capabilities of the format lent it a real advantage).

Google is being sued over unlawful digitization. The French equivalent of the Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l'Edition) has joined with publisher La Martiniere in suing Google for digitizing copyrighted books without permission. Google has a dubious 'opt out' policy which means they will go ahead and digitise books unless a publisher actively states they are opting out of (as opposed to actively stating they will opt in to) the scheme.

Turkish book pirating rippled the Frankfurt Book Fayre. Though not exactly news to those in the trade, it was noted that book pirating is severely undermining the book industry. One publisher, Oxford University Press, reportedly claimed that about a third of its £247 million (US$470m) annual market is pirated. Turkey is probably the worst European offender whose government encourages schools to copy textbooks without a copying licence. Apparently one of the best places to buy pirated books in its capital Ankara is opposite the main police station. Turkey is hoping to join the European Community but legal discrepancies such as this, as well as human rights, is impeding its entry.

Rumours are circulating that Pearson may be wanting to sell off Penguin. Though Penguin's sales are up 2% on the year, its sister companies, the FT and educational textbooks are doing far better. However Penguin has in the past supported others formerly struggling in the Pearson group. Further, part of its infrastructure is physically entwined with that of some of its partners making a sell-off physically difficult.

Arts Council sees book changes. Its 'Popular Literature Director' and 'Literature Officer' have been made redundant so signalling likely cuts in this area. The Council's lead advisor for literature, Jackie Kay, has also resigned reportedly in protest to the restructuring. The Arts Council is the UK body distributing governmental grants in support of the arts. The impact specifically on SF is likely to be minimal, though the Council's work on promoting library reading is extremely worthy. More likely to feel the pain are small publishers of a 'literary' bent. Science Fiction is unlikely to feel effects as other than a few exceptions it receives little Arts Council support: after all SF is not proper literature nor is it relevant to our 21st century science and technology based culture, is it?

The inaugural International Publishers Association's Freedom Prize has gone to Shahla Lahiji's publishing house Roshangaran. Roshangaran is an Iranian publisher whose authors include many civil rights activist including ther Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi (whose Iran Awakening) is now out in English. Shahla Lahiji has been jailed (now out) and the Roshangaran premises have been fire bombed. Nonetheless Shahla Lahiji still publishes and she herself also write and is active in Tehran's women's movement.

Bloody Brits Press is a new publishing house that aims to sell Brit crime and thriller fiction to North America. Launched at the World Mystery Convention, Bouchercon in Wisconsin, the first titles will include Danuta Reah's Bleak Water and Chris Simms' Outside the White Lines. Whether the publishing house will extend to techno and/or SF thrillers remains to be seen.

Harmonising UK book launch dates plan scuppered a second time. Plans to get major publishers and booksellers to harmonise their book launches to the same day of the week so as to maximise media coverage, have once more been thwarted. This follows on from last autumn's attempt which failed because the newsagent chain W. H. Smiths broke ranks. This time it was a more fundamental failure between the two camps of book publishers and sellers with the Booksellers Association and the Publishers Association failing to agree. Had the scheme gone ahead then the thinking was that newspapers and the media might devote a news item to the launch of several books simultaneously of the same day of the week, whereas they would not for just a single book launch unless the title was a really major one. +++ The problem with all of this is not so much the scheme as such but that if the two big groups of players -- the producers and sellers -- cannot agree that their overall interests are mutually beneficial then what hope do we have as readers, or authors for that matter, to see the industry grow?

More book trade news early shortly after Easter. Meanwhile...

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

TV NEWS

More Dr Who spin-offs. The spin-off Torchwood has already been screened on the BBC in Britain that sees the agency (originally set up by Queen Victoria) in the present day protect Britain (and the World) from the exotic. The premiere on digital BBC3 got extremely high ratings (for a non-analogue channel) that are normally associated with sports events. (Later in the same week it was broadcast on terrestrial analogue BBC2.) However plot logicality (lack of in some episodes), and the writers 'deliberately' (so Russell said on BBC Radio 4) trying to cater to a non-SF audience, may mean that its SF audience is not as loyal as for Who.   Next up was a one-off special The Sarah Jane Adventures (based on the companion of Dr Who's 3rd and 4th incarnation in 1973). This was then followed by a series. In it Sarah Jane and her 13-year old niece defends Britain from aliens and the exotic. The series dovetails with Torchwood and there is some cross-over. However The Sarah Jane Adventures is for an even younger audience. Not appearing in the series (but in the introductory special) was K-9 who may be getting his own children's series. Confusing? Possibly, but Dr Who continuity is getting priority.

Torchwood has been renewed for a second series and transferred from BBC3 to the more prestigious BBC2. Filming begins shortly.

The Dead Zone gets a sixth season. USA Network has bought 13 episodes.

Heroes gets a second series. The NBC series about superheroes has received sufficient ratings.

Jericho gets a second series. The CBS series set in a post-apocalyptic world gets a chance to develop, again due to ratings.

The new Prisoner TV series will hopefully have its premiere broadcast in January 2008 (though there may be some slippage).

Blade series is cancelled. Blade is not being renewed for a second series. As usual poor ratings are blamed. However a DVD of series one is coming out from New Line.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer gets a comic incarnation. Dark Horse will publish a four-parter beginning around Easter. The story will be set shortly after the time depicted when the TV series ended. This will be the start of a series of tales. Joss Whedon is creatively involved.

The Bionic Woman may make a come-back. The 1976 spin-off series (from The Six Million Dollar Man) may make a come-back courtesy of NBC. Originally Jaimie Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner) appeared as Steve Austin's very early sweetheart and in a two part episode of $6m became his jogging partner after a sky-diving accident. She died at the end of the episode. Fan pressure brought her back to life. (Apparently she had been cryogenically frozen until bionic surgery was possible: possibly when US$6 million was raised knowing the US health system.) And so the 1970s spin-off series was born. Some of those behind the new Battlestar Galactica series are said to be taking this forward and a similar radical makeover is anticipated. Given Galactica's success Hollywood hopes for a good profit.

Sulu returns to the small PC screen. George Takei has agreed to appear in a 50 minute episode of the on-line Star Trek New Voyages.com in an episode entitled 'World Enough and Time'.

The Star Trek auction did rather well. A model of the Enterprise as used in the pilot and title sequences of Star Trek: The Next Generation sold for US $576,000 (£311,000). More than 1,000 items from the archives of all the CBS Paramount Trek series sold for a total of over US$7.1 million (£3.84m).

Russia's celebration of Star Trek's 40th anniversary was held in the open air in the countryside. Taking place last summer the news is only just came in of this event (sorry but sometimes we are told late but glad to be told at all). Around 100 gathered in the forests around Moscow for the 6th year in a row, but this time to celebrate Trek's 40th anniversary. A field kitchen helped sustain those attending a programme of talks and panels. +++ For information only... One of the other outdoor SF fan events regularly held is that of the Romanian Atlantykron summer SF camp. It has been held for the best part of two decades on an island in the Danube biosphere reserve and regularly has authors and scientists as guests.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The World Fantasy Convention was held in Austin, Texas, 2nd - 5th November. Some 900 professionals and fans gathered. Much of the programme was themed around the works of Robert E. Howard (most famous for his Conan stories) who was born 100 years ago and also lived in Texas. To mark the anniversary a special anthology was launched, Cross Plains Universe: A Texan Tribute to Robert E. Howard, edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Scott Cupp. Guests of honour included Glen Cook, Dave Duncan, and Robin Hobb, along with editor guest of honour Glen Lord, artist guest of honour John Jude Palencar and the "Robert E. Howard Artist Guest" Gary Gianni. The author Bradley Denton was the official Toastmaster. During the convention the World Fantasy Awards were announced.

The 16th International Fantasy and Role-Playing Games Convention, Zilantkon, was held in Kazan (Russia's 3rd city 450 east of Moscow and part of Tatarstan) on 3rd - 6th November. Some 2,500 were expected to attend but from reports it appears that attendance was higher, possibly nearer 3,000! Among the many authors and role-playing personalities present were the guests who this year included: Evgeniy Lukin, Svyatoslav Loginov, Elena Khaetskaya and Leonid Kudryavtsev. Aside from talks and panels, there were filk ('bard') sessions and a contest, films, dramatic presentations, fancy dress including a masquerade ball, and a fencing tournament. Role-playing outings were organized for children from orphanages in Kazan and Zelenodolsk.
        The name Zilantkon comes from the Zilant, a legendary beast, a sort of cross between a dragon and a wyvern.
        During the convention the Zilant Awards were presented as well as the Durandal. This year's 'big' Zilant went to Leonid Kudryavavtsev for his 'hunter' sequence of books. The 'small' Zilant went to Emma Mikheykina for her journalistic coverage of fantasy and fantasy gaming. The Durandal Award is for those who have contributed to the development and advance of fantasy and role playing fandom and culture. This year's Durandal went to the magazine MIR Fantastiki [Fantasy World], which you may recall won a Eurocon Award earlier in the year. (For a description of MIR Fantastiki see our article on the 2006 Eurocon.)

The 2006 Worldcon has raised US$8,463.75 (£4,455) for books. The money is split between the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) campaign and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

The 2007 Eurocon, Denmark (September), plans are coming along. Further to last time's details and the earlier weblink, the guests so far announced are authors Anne McCaffrey, Stephen Baxter, and Zoran Zivkovic as well as space artist Dave Hardy. All have affirmed they are go for the con and a new Ghost of Honour has been announced: Stanislaw Lem. The big news is that two books will be published. One will be an anthology of one of the guests' works and be in Danish Fantastiske Virkeligheder[Fantastic Realities].. The other will be in English and will be a collection of short stories originally published in 2006 from as many European countries as possible. The stories should have some claim to excellence, be it an award winner or passed some sort of jury scrutiny. This anthology will be a small press publication and so royalties uneconomical (the cost to administer will outweigh the payments per author) and the exercise should be viewed as one of promotion and the authors (having granted permission to publish) will retain copyright. The stories should be in good quality English (needing only the lightest of editorial touches). In the case of multiple submissions from one country, the anthology's editor's decision as to what is included is final. Interested parties should contact the editor at anthology AT eurocon2007 DOT dk. The deadline is 1st June 2007.   The Eurocon organizers also inform that in addition to the literary program that there will be a full film track with some material rarely seen! This includes Himmelskibet [The Sky Ship]from 1917, Danish, and is considered to be the World's first full-length sf-movie. It has only recently been restored and is currently being published on DVD. Other news is that the Eurocon will be launched at a reception by the Mayor of Copenhagen. +++ Do not forget, if you have not registered yet then there are new registration rates as of the New Year. Details on www.eurocon2007.dk.

The 2008 Eurocon will be held in Moscow, Russia. As per previous news, the Brit science fantasy author Neil Gaiman, US fantasy author G. R. R. Martin and Russian horror writer Sergei Lukyanenko are the Guests of Honour. (Sergei wrote the 'Nightwatch' sequence of books that are really BIG in Russia and the Russian-speaking Sov Block nations.) The main news this season is that there is a website up, now also in English, at www.eurocon2008.ru as well as another here convent.ru/euroscon. This last has an online membership form. The all-inclusive rate includes a bed in a twin room. You (assuming you are coming from the west) need to give your address so that they can write to you inviting you so that in turn you can go and get a visa. Hopefully ESFS will be advising them on things are needed like sorting out a couple of days tourist extensions either before and/or after the event, provision of student translators, and assistance getting to and from the airport. The 2008 Eurocon will also be a Roscon. Roscon being since 2001 one of the major book and film SF conventions. The 2006 event attracted over 600 from a number of (former) Sov Block nations. Don't forget that this is a Russian convention, so livers on standby everyone.

Far future Eurocons: Italy, Hungary and Spain have all put down markers for future Eurocons (that have yet to be voted on). A Bucharest fan put down a marker at one of the two European SF Society business meetings at the 2006 Ukraine Eurocon but apparently (so we are told by Timisoara fans) this was a spoof bid.   Of course it is way too early to say exactly how these bids will perform in the coming years when they are formally presented at the Eurocon business meeting. However at this early stage it is possible to say that the Hungarian bid is underpinned by a strong convention-running team. The Italians have in the past run some fine conventions and, of course, were intrinsically involved in the European SF Society's in the 1970s and early '80s, but they have not had a high profile at Eurocons in recent years. The Spanish have plenty of enthusiasm and some sponsorship support, but (as reported elsewhere) have had conrunning problems in recent years.   It is early days yet and there are enough wild cards to make for rather interesting and possibly dynamic bidding at forthcoming Eurocons.

Preparations for the 2007 Worldcon in Japan 9the first Asian Worldcon) progress. The latest membership details can be found on its website. Those going are advised to check out the discussions on their online community site. In the run-up to the new year there was concern that the official agents handling the accommodation were charging around 37% more for bookings staying in the Intercontinental Grand Yokohama than if you booked direct with the hotel itself! Meanwhile other fans were beginning to realise just how expensive Japan is! On the good news front, there are several groups of fans who will welcome others join them to site see before and/or after the Worldcon. +++ Appeal: If you fancy semi-immortalising your views of the Japanese Worldcon then we would welcome a convention report from someone as to what went on. Usual thing: numbers, programme highlights, films shown, anything occur that was news-worthy at the convention, and of course for us being the science fact and fiction Concatenation what were the science-related programme items and, as it is the first Japanese Worldcon, how was Japanese fandom presented and how did Australasians, Europeans and N. Americans cope? Anyone wishing to send a report to us can do so to news AT concatenation DOT org.

Need help with translating at the Japanese Worldcon? While there will be some dual language programming (including the Hugo ceremony), the convention itself will see just a few hundred Anglophones amidst a sea of Japanese. As such even getting by with basics such as ordering a beer could be problematic for those for whom Japanese is incomprehensible. Fortunately information technology is getting better and better (though according to on-line reviewers still not ideal). On the translation front there is a software package called the Sony Talkman for the Sony PSP. It contains around 3,000 standard phrases in Japanese, as well as Italian, French, German, Spanish and, of course, English. With voice recognition all you do is speak into it and out comes the translated phrase. Alternatively (if your diction is not good) you can select from a menu that is broken down by situations such as nightclub, hospital, restaurant and so forth.   In many countries using this could be embarrassing, but word has it that the techno-phile Japanese themselves find it useful.

World Horror Convention 2007 has announced its Special Media Guest of Honour. The screenwriter/author Peter Atkins will be the Special Media Guest of Honour. Born in Liverpool (1955), Peter Atkins has lived in Los Angeles (US) since 1992. He has published two novels, Morningstar and Big Thunder. He also wrote the screenplay for Hellraiser II and III. Other Guests include Michael Marshall, Nancy Kilpatrick, and Peter Crowther. For the first time in its seventeen-year history, The World Horror Convention will be held outside the United States. The convention already has more British and Canadian attendees than any previous World Horrorcon, making it more of an international event. It takes place 29th March -1st April.

2008 SF Worldcon PR1 out. Next year's Worldcon Progress Report 1 is due out this Spring. So any time now (if not already by the time you read this).

The bid to hold the 2010 SF Worldcon in Australia, if won, could see it being the last time the Worldcon is held in the southern hemisphere with comparatively cheap air fares. Don't ask how we know, just be advised.

The bid for the 2011 Worldcon to be held in Washington DC, US, has folded. Not only did they not have a desk at LAcon but their website domain name is now up for sale. This leaves Seatle (also US) as currently the only other rival bid in 2011.

For links to Worldcon bid websites check out the Worldcon bid page.

For a list of 2007 national and major conventions, check out our convention diary for 2007.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

One of the high points of this year's Novacon saw the launch of the new, SF collection Time Pieces.. Novacon is one of Britain's longer-standing (since 1971) SF conventions held in Britain's Midlands each November. Time Pieces has all-new original stories by Stephen Baxter, Steve Cockayne, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Mark Robson, Sarah Singleton, Ian Watson and Liz Williams. It is edited by Ian Whates of the Northampton SF Writers Group. It is perfect bound, on high quality paper with all stories donated by the authors to raise money for NewCon activities. Beautiful cover by Fangorn. Published by NewCon Press. There are not many copies so those interested should get it while they can. The launch party itself was conducted with amiable panache by Storm Constantine shortly after the convention's opening ceremony. +++ Novacon also saw mutterings about what to do with the cancelled Brit national convention

Area 51, the internet sci-fi 'radio' station has successfully completed its first year. It now has over 20,000 downloads (listen sessions?) every three months. To celebrate it had an on-line special on November 1st. It has also started an e-newsletter that can be e-mailed to you as an MS word.doc. Comments for the news letter can be sent to lea AT area51radiostation DOT com.

The 2006 Star Bridge convention has been one of the most successful on conventions among far eastern European nations in recent years. This Ukrainian convention held in September, which follows on from the also successful Ukrainian Eurocon earlier this year, saw around 360 attend. Held in Kharkov, this year's event was one of the best Star Bridges since the series of conventions began back in 1999. It covered both SF and fantasy books and films, had exhibitions as well as saw the presentation of this year's Star Bridge Awards. As in some of the past Star Bridges there was paintball challenge with 'SF vs. Fantasy' teams and a 'Roadside Picnic' that resulted in a number of 'empties' but fortunately not of the Strugatski kind. The convention's success is in no small part due to the combination of conrunner ability and state support. There was considerable local media coverage.

Icon, the Israeli national SF convention celebrated its 10th anniversary in Tel Aviv in October. Covering SF books, films, and role playing games, Icon's theme for the convention's four days was 'dreams'. Some 5,000 reportedly attended with the majority aged below their late 20s. The high attendance rate, given the country's comparatively small population has much to do with little non-Israeli SF getting translated into Hebrew and that TV shows commonly available in Central and Western Europe are not shown or if they are they struggle for ratings and rarely get the full run of seasons. Consequently Icon fills a gap in the SF market as opposed to being supplementary to it as cons are in other countries. The Geffen Awards were also presented and as the foreign Guest of Honour was Neil Gaiman, he was on hand to accept his win.

Spain's Hispacon a success despite being nearly cancelled. Spanish fandom has had it fair share of troubles in recent years with a number of grumbles on the convention-running front. This year's Hispacon nearly fell foul of the same. Originally Hispacon was to have been held in Córboda but with under two months to go the organisers informed the Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror that they couldn't do it. Fortunately Alfonso Merelo, one of the Association's officers, and others stepped in. With the help of Carmen Gómez Varela, the Director of the public library in Dos Hermanas, who provided a free venue, the new organizers ran a smaller but memorably successful event... And this year's Ignotus Awards were presented. See Sue Burke's separate convention report.

France's national convention to be held in Canada. French fans have decided to play away from home at this year's Congress Boreal. (For details of current conventions see our science fiction diary page.) +++ This is not an unique event that a national convention has been held outside its own nation. Technically the UK does not have a 'national' convention (even assuming the Acts of Union define the UK as a single nation). The British Eastercon has historic ties (all be they on and off) with the British Science Fiction Association and so is effectively 'Britain's' national convention. This in turn means that the Eastercons held in the Channel Isles of Jersey were technically outside of Britain albeit within the 'protectorate' borders of the UK. +++ There will also be a meeting called "Rencontres de SF" held in L'Isle Sur La Sorgue (near Avignon, south of France) the last week end in August, mainly for those who will not be able to make it to Montreal.

India's SF studies newsletter is free. Further to last time's news, you do not have to join India's SF studies to receive its newsletter. You can get a PDF free by asking nicely of Ms Remma Sarwal at reema DOT sarwal AT gmail DOT com.

Britain's Cult TV media convention series may not see its full run of 15. This series of conventions began 13 years ago that had a host of guests from popular TV series (mainly but not solely SF) and films has seen a slow decline in attendance. One of the most popular was its 1995 event that attracted some 750. However last October's only saw around 250 attend. The fact that guests cannot always commit due to filming commitments has meant that the busiest (invariably those currently most popular) tended to drop out. This in turn resulted in falling numbers hence reduced resources from which the organisers draw upon to secure guests and maintain standards. And so the 2006 event drew criticisms as to most of the guests being from yesteryear shows as well as a very poor disco and catering.   It was announced last October that the series would stop at 15 in 2008, however if this year's 2007 event fails to attract sufficient then instead it will be the last.

The 2007 UK national convention Eastercon, Convoy, has been cancelled! The reasons given are not enough registrations possibly due to concerns as to security concerns over its proposed venue, The Adelphi, Liverpool. +++ OK, we have kept quiet up till now so as our coverage could not be mistaken for muddying waters, but how come the con got cancelled? Unfortunately Convoy do not have an e-mail address and a query sent to their site bounced. However a number of reasons as to why insufficient signed up leading to the con's collapse have separately come our way. We have distilled these down and leave you to take your pick.   Theory 1 The two year lead time meant that the convention bid had to be presented around the time of the 2005 UK Eurocon cum Worldcon which itself was a hugely successful event but which involved nearly all British fan conrunners who might have contributed to running the 2007 Eastercon. In other words there was not enough conrunning resource available to make informed decisions.   Theory 2 The failure of the tacit Elydore-Eastercon unification agreement in the early 1990s has fragmented UK fandom so that today some Eastercons struggle to get the numbers they grew to in the 1980s (re: gathering of the Brit SF clans also see Eastercon 09). As Eastercons are highly variable in quality, those perceived (rightly or wrongly) as lacking lose support. This now smaller pool of potential registrants exposes Eastercons to a greater risk of failing to reach a critical mass.   Theory 3 The Adelphi -- despite having an excellent layout for an Eastercon, and Liverpool being midway between Aberdeen, Bristol, Glasgow and London -- has a poor track record for security. For example search for 'Adelphi' somewhere in here and here. Virtually every Eastercon and media convention held there since the 1980s has had reports of some not-insignificant security problem be it theft from hotel rooms and/or pick-pocketing. Rightly or wrongly it has acquired a dismal reputation in some quarters of fandom. In short not enough fans wanted to go there again.   Our suspicion is that the reality is possibly due to a combination of the above, also that the perceived weighting for each 'theory' varies by individual fan.

A replacement for the above cancelled Brit national convention, Convoy, is announced. Called Contemplation it will, of course, be held over Easter 2007 (April 6th to 9th). At the time of compiling this news page (in the run-up to Christmas/New Year) the venue has just been announced as Chester. The largely Sheffield-based organisers, understandably, only have the time to put together a light programme but will nonetheless try to make it as full as possible. Details will no doubt be presented on their website contemplation.conventions.org.uk in the fullness of time. Attending membership is currently £45 but will probably go up nearer Easter.

Plans for Orbital, the 2008 Brit Eastercon, are coming along. There is a strong SF author Guest of Honour list with Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, China Mieville, and Charles Stross and the Fan Guest is the longstanding SF book dealer Rog' Peyton. The venue is the Radisson Edwardian Hotel by London's Heathrow airport that has previously hosted a number of media related SF events and the 1996 Eastercon. There will be a fancy dress masquerade and a cabaret is planned for folk to present comedy skits, magic tricks and filk songs. One of its key themes will be 'orbits' covering 'the various subsets of fandom: books, television, movies, comics, writing, costuming, fliking, and so on'.

There are two bids for the 2009 British Eastercon: LXcon (no website yet as we post this page) and Concordia. LXcon is called such because it is the 60th Eastercon and is contemplating a Yorkshire (possibly Leeds) venue. If LXcon is hoping to celebrate the long run of the UK Eastercon then 2009 is a good year to do this.   Meanwhile Concordia is looking to the Birmingham Metropole by the NEC. This was where the 1987 BECCON Eastercon was held and has good conference facilities and a potential overflow hotel next door. Concordia has taken the rather unusual step for Eastercons of the past decade in returning to the Eastercon roots making the event the gathering of the British SF clans, indeed equally if there is a time to do this then an anniversary year, such as the 60th, is arguably appropriate. Of course there is no reason why the Eastercon should be the gathering of the British SF clans but clearly there is an important role for a recognised annual gathering of the Brit clans. If Concordia's organisers are to achieve this they will have to do two things. First, persuade the hard core of current Eastercon goers who will be attending this year's emergency Eastercon that theirs is the preferred bid.   Second, produce different sets of promotional literature aimed specifically attracting the SF constituencies they wish to see attend and ensuring that these are properly distributed amongst these groupings. Involving leading lights of these groupings in organising sections of the programme would also help. After all it is one thing to 'showcase' all the aspects of British fandom and quite another to get warm bodies from these constituencies to actually attend and so be a 'gathering' of the Brit SF clans. Concordia is also being ambitious and plans to tread into (UK) Fantasycon territory. Whether this will stretch matters too far remains to be seen.

Astounding Science Fiction magazine artwork from the 1930s-'40s exhibition held in Massachusetts, US. An exhibition of Canadian artist Hubert Rogers is to be held at the Amherst Library up to the end of January 2007. In addition to the artwork there will be vintage copies of Astounding on display.

The Masters of American Comics exhibitions will run at the Newark Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York, US, until January 28th.

Sci-Fi London - the SF film fest will be in May. Sci-Fi London (which covers all aspects of cinematic SF not just Sci Fi) confirmed the permanence of its calendar change late in the summer (see last time's news). News of anticipated programme highlights will be available in the Spring but after the posting of this season's news. So we will have coverage next time.

The 2007 Festival of Fantastic Films is to be held at the end of August and has announced some of its guests. Lamberto Bava - Director/Actor/Producer (Demons, Prince of Terror, The Torturer, Body Puzzle, and Dinner with a Vampire) and director Jean Rollin who will apparently be bringing his last two movies: The Two Orphaned Vampires and Fiancée of Dracula.  He may also be able to bring the currently-shooting Transfigurated Night if a copy is available from the cutting room.   Unfortunately the Fest sadly will not see William Franklyn.   The Fest's details are on fantastic-films.com/festival. There will of course be both SF and horror golden oldies and new independents and amateur films in parallel programme streams. See here for a review of the last 2006 Festival.

Australia's Friends of Science Fiction has a new venue. The move comes after 11 years and was prompted by room hire rates. Details on the http://fsf.net.au (Friends of SF) site.

Nominations for the 2007 FFANZ (Fan Fund for Australia and New Zealand) have now closed. Voting on these nominations is to last to 31st March. Details are on ffanz.sf.org.nz.

The Transatlantic Fan Fund nominations are finalised but the trip is cancelled. There were two candidates, Chris Garcia and Mary Kay Kare, for the trip from North America to the British Eastercon. The one problem was that the Brit Eastercon is cancelled and so therefore the TAFF organisers have suspended this year's trip.

JETS the one-off fan fund to sponsor a European fan to the Japanese Worldcon was keeping the nominations confidential. The Japanese Expeditionary Travel Scholarship (JETS) is a special fund created to assist a European SF fan, elected by vote of other "European fans", to travel to and attend Nippon 2007. One of the organisers told Concat that the number and names of the nominations are confidential. However a week later Ansible reports the status: presumably you're meant to go there for coverage, so see the link. Concatenation's offer to post the winner's convention trip report still stands.

Scientology, the pseudo-psycho-quasi-religion founded by SF author Ron Hubbard, has a new London mission control. The grandiose premises is in the City of London and joins other new centres in New York and Madrid. It has a well-stocked library of Hubbard's fiction but there is not much other fantasy or any science.

Gamma sighted! The erstwhile staff member of Forbidden Planet bookshop back in its early days (end 1970s to early 1980s) has been seen in London's West End. Though still with his chronic condition he was upbeat and spends much time in what he calls 'The Martian Embassy' in North London. Gamma was for a while known for his work on promotional events with SF authors and is still occasionally asked after, hence this item.

Our new listing of the planet's major SF cons for 2007 is now up -- see Science Fiction conventions diary.

Into TV related Sci-Fi memorabilia? Our other Tony is parting with a substantial chunk of his collection amassed over many years. Check out uk.geocities.com/captaincardigans. Probably only practical if you are London or home-county based (Tony goes to LOTNA), but if a serious collector and further a field you could arrange to do an international money transfer and add on the cost of shipping. (Concat team members are generally trustworthy types.)

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

NET WATCH

New Ceres is a new fictional universe webzine from Australia. Each issue contains stories from the 'New Ceres' universe which is about the planet New Ceres. This is the destiny for many who have fled the war that ruined the Earth. The problem for arrivals is that apart from a few items, technology is banned and so many of New Ceres' inhabitants are effectively living in an analogue 18th century. Writers can submit short stories firmly based on the 'New Ceres' universe, and will be paid, but are encouraged to read the first issue first. Issue 1 is out, issue 2 will be out in March 2007. There will be a submission period later in 2007.

The London Horror Comic ("http://www.londonhorrorcomic.com">) is a new free horror comic strip webzine. Seems to be a place to showcase talent. (Correction summer 2007 -- their website seems to have died: that was short-lived.)

The Alien Online has UK Book News.Net (www.uksfbooknews.net). The Alien Online folk, having done their introspection and found their true identity, have decided to be upfront about it: they are SF & fantasy book folk. It is early days yet for the new site and they are going to have to get a good few of specialist outlets to send in their news (other than FP London) if they are truly to do what it says on their tin. As Concatenation is seasonal (not bloggish) let alone has a quite different (albeit part overlapping) SF nuance, take this as not a criticism but us urging British specialist book outlets to let these folk know each month of anything special their shops have planned.

The 2nd issue ofHelix is out. Helix being the new quarterly webzine that aims to publish stories that are too risqué (in politically correct terms) to be accepted elsewhere. Issue two has an absolutely delightful comedy horror with a great 'churchianity' message by Melanie Fletcher called 'The Padre, the Rabbi, and the Devil His Own Self'. Meanwhile Doranna Durgin demonstrates that while a little learning can be a bad thing, none at all can be worse especially if trying to get a jump in time. There is also an intriguing tribute (sort of...) of the 'ufo-ologer' Adamski. Plus: a Terry Bisson story of inter-racial co-operative racism; a contribution on perception from Jay Lake; supernatural passion provided by Peg Robinson; and the intertwining of dependence and handicap explored by Jennifer Pelland.

Emerald City, the book review e-zine, continued with a couple of wind-up issues following its announcement to close. The September issue 133 features personal analyses of the Hugo Award vote and the 2006 Worldcon, and there were the usual reviews. Issue 134 was bilied as 'October/November' and was dominated by reviews to clear the EmCit desk. (We haven't linked directly to Emerald City this or last season as it was to close and we don't know yet where it will be archived. So you'll have to Google it for now.)

Starship Sofa is a new podcast site that's been going since the summer. Podcasts are added weekly and so far consist of the site's two creators chatting about their favourite SF authors: one author focussed on each week (well Dick took three). Chats usually last for under an hour. Ideal for downloading onto MP3 players for listening during the commuter run.

The Australian SF Bullsheet, Australia's e-newszine, is now back in the hands of Edwina Harvey. Ted Scribner who normally helps out with the coding, took over while Edwina who was away doing N. America (including a whale cruise off Alaska) and, of course, the Worldcon.

Specusphere has had a major update by Amanda Greenslade the Australian SF Bullsheet reports. Specusphere now features local and international speculative fiction links and is looking at publishing an e-journal or e-book in the near future. Check their website at www.specusphere.com for details.

Dr Who mixes. Rather fun especially (obviously) for Dr Who fans.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Sony's Playstation 3 is launched in Japan and N. America. With its extra processing power and improved graphics the new console appears a consumer hit. It also has blu-ray disc drives that Sony is keen to push as a successor to the DVD format. Costing around US$780 (£425), which some say is too high, they are still being snapped up. But Europeans are going to have to wait until March due to manufacturing difficulties.

Microsoft launches Internet Explorer 7 - but there are a lot of problems. MS Explorer 7 is now out. Aside from the 'new look' hassles (soon overcome) there are a lot of problems. Many are listed on MS's 'Release Notes', others are not. One of the main problems reported is difficulty in transporting (either by clicking and dragging) web addresses to and from the address bar to and from e-mails (by mouse without using cntrl-c and 'v') as well as from the address bar to and from MS Word documents, and text files (used for creating web page source codes). Hopefully these problems will be sorted out in the course of 2007.

In 2006 downloads represented 76% of British music single sales. This is a huge increase compared to just 2 years ago when the proportion was 23%. Up to the New Year downloads count to music singles' chart ratings only the week before a CD release and up to two weeks after CD production stops. But from 2007 all digital sales off the web will count. +++ Single vinyl sales make a comeback in the UK. Apparently it is a fashion thing? (Though some of the Concat team are making the most of it.)

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

British Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, resignation!!!! Sainsbury has resigned having been Science Minister since 1998 and as such is one of the longest post-WWII serving Ministers for science: so he has provided much needed continuity necessary for such a complex job. The post is a particularly difficult one as science (even in a pro-science nation like the UK) does not have a Ministry of its own. For a while, under the Thatcher (Conservative) regime of the 1980s and early 1990s, science came under the (more senior) Cabinet Office. However since the last years of Conservative government, and throughout the current Labour government, science responsibility has resided within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the DTI's Office for Science and Innovation (formerly the Office of Science & Technology (OST)) having responsibility for science across all government Departments (Ministries). This makes strategic control of UK science difficult as Departments have their own problems. Nonetheless Sainsbury has been successful in getting (or at least facilitating) Treasury support for 'fundamental' and 'blue sky' science research (through the OST/OSI). Furthermore civil (policy-driven) science research funded by individual Departments/Ministries has increased so eventually undoing the decline in real terms that took place in the Conservative years: though the scars of the lean period still show.
        Sainsbury also fairly successfully championed animal licence work and can take credit for not falling into potential ethical pitfalls associated with stem cell research. All in all he has had a very positive track record. Nonetheless there have been a few disappointments, notably GM research for which the Government turned (and still rely on) industry rather than the independent learned societies and professional bodies. Agricultural science has severely declined during his regime (Treasury loathing of -- the quite separate to science -- farming subsidies are also thought to be to blame) and there has been no big vision for ecological research and applying this to wildlife conservation and maintaining/enhancing environmental quality (for example see British conservation cuts below).
        The reasons for Sainsbury's resignation remain unclear though some commentators find it hard to resist connecting it with the current police enquiry into cash for peerages: though in Sainsbury's case (had this been true and it is rather unlikely) it would have been cash for a Ministerial post. (Sainsbury was a big donor to the Labour party, though his peerage was already in place (which qualifies him under the British system to be a Minister) and his interest in science already known.)
        Sainsbury's resignation hit the national news but very briefly. The science community, especially its science lobby, recognise more that it will now have to work far harder to promote its case with politicians. This may prove difficult. While the chemists through the Royal Society of Chemistry, and engineers through their various academies, have had some lobby success, biology has become more fragmented with the newly formed Bioscience Federation sharing similar goals to the long-standing Institute of Biology (IoB) and its Affiliated Biological Societies (formerly the even longer-standing Biological Council that established the IoB). The Science Council (the umbrella body for science professional bodies) is not known for either a loud voice or many collaborative projects and recently sacrificed being known for being a professional science body collective by allowing some small specialist learned societies into its fold. Much of the burden for effective lobbying therefore currently resides with the Campaign for Science & Engineering (formerly Save British Science), though this lobbies in an over-arching way only and does not champion specialist science disciplines. Whether all these bodies can work in a sufficiently co-ordinated way to effectively get Sainsbury's successor, the MP Malcolm Wicks, on side and delivering remains to be seen.

The Nobel and Ig Nobel Prizes announcements were covered at the top of this season's page, in case you missed them, in 'News in More Detail' beneath the 'Quick Headline Links' -- click here for the Nobel and Ig Nobel stories.

Debate over 2006 Nobel wins. Internationally there has been some discussion (which has been growing over the years) as to the Nobel prizes for medicine and (particularly) chemistry going to those making biological discoveries. There is a case for an extra Nobel category for biology. +++ Meanwhile in the UK there is increasing concern that the lack of a British win is indicative of poor science funding. The UK, in terms of £ (or $) spent per science paper published in a peer reviewed journal is less than that spent in the US and British impact factors (the number of times a paper is cited by another paper) are on average higher than the US. On the other hand the US has scale on its side publishing far more with its bigger economy supporting more scientists than Britain. So the UK punches above its weight yet is not nearly so good in recent years at getting Nobels. On the other hand, UK funding of science has recovered in real terms in the past three years to where it was a decade and a half ago when the Government's funding of science was in real decline. It could be that, though now the spending has returned, the effects of funding deficit of the late 1980s and 1990s still reverberate today: it takes many years to train a scientist, and then do the work and then get results. Alternatively, or even in addition, the problem might lie in the way UK science is assessed for funding? Currently the UK's Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is being reviewed.

More Nobel debate. Plant scientists have expressed disappointment for the Nobel lack of recognition for their discipline's contribution to the RNAi discoveries for which this year's Medicine Nobel was awarded (Nature v443 p906). They say that sequence specificity, RNA degradation and the post-transcriptional nature of gene silencing had all been revealed in plant studies. In addition the observation that gene silencing is non-cell-autonomous was first done in plants (Voinnet, O., & Baulcombe, D. C., Nature (1997) v389 p553). A Nobel may be shared by three people and David Baulcombe could readily be argued to have paved the way to the Nobel winner's work. +++ Comment - Science in the west, for all proclamations as to the value of interdisciplinary work, is dogged by a fierce undercurrent of territoriality that at times borders on the pathological. Examples are too numerous to cite in detail but they not only relate to impeding interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary work but also recognition of value and research assessment. Not only does this territoriality express itself in the afore plant science concern but also the lack of a Nobel for biology (see previous item). As for the causes, these remain elusive. It could be that humans are territorial creatures or equally it could be that science training tends to become more specialised into narrow specialisms as it becomes more advanced.

The 2006 Loebner Award for artificial intelligence went to 'Joan' designed by Rollo Carpenter. The Loebner (after Hugh Loebner) is judged through a Turing test; that is to say you chat to the artificial intelligence (AI) and it should, ideally, be indistinguishable from talking to a human. Clearly we have still a little way to go. Where does Joan stand on Iraq? "I prefer to sit when dealing with such questions." Nonetheless this was Rollo's second win and progress is being made. The Award was judged at University College London. The winner received a bronze medal as well as a £1,100 (US$2,000) prize. If ever When an AI's conversation actually becomes indistinguishable from a human, and so passes the Turing test, the winner will get a solid 18 carat medal (not, according to the Loebner website, a gold plated one Olympiads get) together with £55,000 (US$100,000). Up till then designers need to continue to take stress pills, and after then we all need to beware of AIs in charge of pod bay doors and Arnold Schwarzenegger (look-alikes).

The World's first mechanical analogue computer is recreated. The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in a wrecked ship off the Greek island of Antikythera and thought to have been made in the 2nd century BC. It has now been recreated and seems to be a sophisticated predictor of the Sun-Moon-Earth system hence a help with calculating the time of tides.

British youth turning away from studying science both at school and university! The report, A degree of concern? UK first degrees in science, technology and mathematics from the Royal Society, reveals that though overall the number of A-Levels (end-school exams taken at 18 years of age) have increased by 10% between 1992 and 2006, that there have been decreases in chemistry of 6% and physics of 34%. Only biology fared well going up 13%.
At university things superficially look better with figures broadly interpreted as science up from 31% in 1994/95 to 37% in 2004/05. Part of this increase is attributable to the categories of computer science (up from 3.7% of all degrees in 1994/95 to 6.3% in 2004/05, but now decreasing) and subjects allied to medicine (up from 4.9% to 9.8%). But the real growth has been in the biological sciences(5.7% to 9.5%). Yet herein lies the rub. Within the biological science grouping, psychology increased from 33% to 47% of the subject category and sports science from under 10% to 19%. This at the expense of those actually studying a more core biological science. Indeed, biology students now account for only 17% of the biological sciences category, down from 31% in 1994/95. Similarly, the drop in the physical sciences category from 6.2% to 4.4% of all first degrees has been accompanied by a drop in chemistry from 29% to 21% of the subject category and an increase in forensic & archaeological science from 2% to 8%.

Credit is not given for teaching hard science at British schools and universities, says former Governmental Chief Science Advisor and former President of the Royal Society. Giving the annual Campaign for Science and Engineering (formerly Save British Science) lecture, physicist turned ecologist, Bob May highlighted evidence that science is hard compared to other subjects and that credit is not given to students or teachers for this.
          An analysis of British school students comparing their A-level (18 year old exams) performance by subject with their O-level (16 year old exams) performance across subjects should if all things are equally give similar results: bright and/or hard-working students do well at O-levels and at A-levels compared to others. However looking at the results as analysed by A-level subject and those doing some subjects do not fare so well. Subjects like chemistry, physics, Latin, mathematics and French it appears are harder than other subjects such as media studies, art, and graphic design. Bob May said that this was because questions in hard subjects have distinctly 'right' or 'wrong' answers, whereas the 'easy' subjects have more opinion-based answers that are neither right or wrong. Pupils and students naturally gravitate to easier subjects.
          With regard to teaching, proper credit is not given for being professionally qualified in a hard subject and at the university level there is a myth that science lecturers must also be research active. This is ridiculous, says May, as we all know good university lecturers who have been not so research active, and excellent researchers who have been dreadful lecturers.
          The good news is that science graduates contribute more tax over their lifetime and that countries that invest more in science have better economies. Governments fund science for economic reasons, whereas scientists do science out of passion for their subject.

Students can now score their professors publicly on the site www.ratemyprofessors.com. Which begs the question as to whether this could ever become part of formal teaching assessment?

See science researchers in action with The Journal of Visual Experiments. The journal consists of videos. See www.myjove.com.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

ESA's Venus Express has been sending back fascinating data. Since entering Venusian orbit back in April, it has been sending back data that has then been analysed. There is something absorbing ultraviolet light that is not carbon dioxide. (This last has intrigued Concat's Jonathan as there needed to be a mystery natural ultraviolet absorbing component to the primordial anaerobic (lacking oxygen) early Earth atmosphere to help life get going.) Another peculiarity is that on Venus winds only blow in an eastwardly direction. As Venus Express continues to send data over the next few years, a new dynamic map of the planet's once impenetrable atmosphere will be created.

Free water on Mars? One of the NASA orbiters, Mars Global Surveyor, has detected a landslip in a crater and that has formed since the orbiter began surveying the planet. The only likely explanation is that it was caused by seasonal temperature change allowing free water to flow. As we post this page NASA is hedging its bets (due to past false alarms) but this time the scientists seem confident that it really is liquid water. As for the orbiter itself...

Mars loses its Global Surveyor but maintains its new-found probe presence. Hope for regaining contact with the Mars Global Surveyor ran out in November. It had been sending back data since 1999. However there is now a continued probe presence with NASA's Mars Odyssey (since 2002) and ESA's Mars Express (2004). This summer the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter joins them, with the Phoenix Lander expected in 2009 and the rover Mars Science Laboratory in 2011.

Anousheh Ansari, the World's first woman space tourist (and first Iranian tourist though she's lived in the US since aged 16), landed safely at the end of September. While in space her 'spaceblog.xprize.org' blog generated hundreds of responses including: "Pray for World peace while you are up there. It's probably a local call rather than a long-distance one."   Anousheh and Amir Ansari (founders of Prodea) are leading lights in the 'vision circle' behind the X-Prize that currently has new challenges.

The space shuttle's September fight was extended. Bits were seen floating away and a vibration was detected in one wing.

NASA is to service the Hubble Space Telescope and so extend its life. Hooray!!! (Who says our reporting is biased? Step outside.)

NASA has affirmed its commitment to the Bush goal of returning to the Moon (on the way to Mars). In December their announcement gave little new but they did give a target date for a manned return by 2020 and then later the establishment for a base. They also said which pole was to be the base's likely site -- the southern one.

Pluto and beyond. More new planet nomenclature. Following on from last time's reclassification of Pluto as a 'dwarf planet', the 2003 discovered dwarf planet UB313 that had been nicknamed 'Xena' is now to be officially called 'Eris'. Rather appropriate, given the recent arguments and passion that raged (even at the 2006 Worldcon's business meeting!) over the Pluto classification debate, for Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife. However will this debate be remembered? If not Eris is appropriate for another reason. UB313 orbits beyond Pluto, far from the Sun and Eris, in Greek mythology, is the daughter of Nyx (Night).

A stunning picture from Saturn's far side -- See here. Taken by Cassini, the back-lighting of Saturn reveals new rings not previously detected.

The Ariane 5 heavy lifter has its 30th successful launch before Christmas. As ArianeSpace's 174th mission since its formation out of the European Space Agency in 1980, it released two satellites into Earth orbit. The first, Wildblue, will provide broadband internet access in remote areas of the US and Canada. The second, from SES Americom, will provide communications to the US and the western hemisphere.

The ESA planet-finder, Corot launched just after Christmas. The ESA mission is led by the French national space agency CNES and will be the first space observatory satellite able to detect rocky planets a few times the size of the Earth around some 60,000 nearby stars. The 650kg (1,400lb) satellite will be launched on the Soyuz-2-1b vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, into a polar orbit 827km (514 miles) above the Earth. Corot carries a 27cm (11in) telescope and a four-charge-coupled-device (CCD) camera, sensitive to tiny changes in the brightness of stars. Another aspect of the mission is to find out more about the stars themselves. The mission will last about 2.5 years. (Further details here.).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

NATURAL SCIENCE

The 2006 Blue Planet Prize is to go to Akira Miyawaki (Japan) and Emil Salim (Indonesia). The Blue Planet Prize annually goes to two individuals or organizations that have contributed to the resolution of global problems. These folk are not politicians but scientists. Miyawaki is known for establishing a theory to restore and reconstruct forests based on 'potential natural vegetation', while Salim has contributed to sustainable development through various UN committees. Previous winners have included: Charles Keeling (who has measured atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations since 1958); Wallace Broecker (elucidating the global oceanic current and its relevance to climate); James Lovelock (Gaia theory); Paul Ehrlich (human ecologist); Bob May (physicist turned theoretical ecologist); Norman Myers (biological conservationist); and Nick Shackleton (polar biologist). The prize comes with 50 million Yen (£236,967 / US$426,540). The Prize is run by Japan's Asahi Glass Foundation.

British conservation biologists are dealt yet another blow with major cuts to Natural England. Natural England is the new public body formed with the merger of English Nature and the Environment Agency, however its funding (from the Government's Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs - DEFRA) is less than that of the sum of its predecessors. The cut has been blamed on DEFRA's mismanagement of its finances and part of the burden to sort this out has fallen on the new Natural England.   Yet this is another body blow to conservation scientists (ecologists, environmental scientists, and allied biologists) for earlier in the year the research Centre of Ecology and Hydrology also saw major cuts which is including the shutdown of some of its institutes. Again this, in no small part, was because of DEFRA, this time it was not commissioning much research even though it had, and has, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity policy priorities.   What makes this even worse for the UK natural science community is that whole-organism biology has been in decline for the best part of a quarter of a century. Fieldwork has been greatly reduced in universities and schools, systematics (species' evolutionary relationships) and species identification skills no longer form a substantive part of many university courses. Agricultural (and horticultural) biology has been heavily eroded with the loss of a number of research institutes and university courses: in part because the Treasury thinks that farmers get enough European agricultural subsidy, though farming and science are two different occupations with separate funding streams even if one underpins the other.   Meanwhile the pressures on biodiversity, environmental quality, and the demand for food and biofuels, are all increasing and the Minister for Science (Lord Sainsbury) remains silent. Go figure.

The fossil of a three-year old Australopithecus has been discovered. The three million year old fossil infant helps with the understanding of hominid evolution: Australopithecus is an archaic hominin precursor. Being an infant helps with understanding of the species' development. Questions being addressed include how adapted Australopithecus was to upright locomotion and whether or not it retained pre-Archaic tree climbing abilities. A palaeoecological study of the area in which the fossil was found, and published alongside that of the discovery of the fossil, concludes that the area was far more like open grassland than patchy woodland though there were trees. Australopithecines existed before the cycle if Quaternary (past 2 million years) glacial-interglacials that spurred human evolution. (Obligatory plug: but you can read more about that in Jonathan's forthcoming book on biology and climate change from Cambridge University Press if you really want.) This is not the first time an Australopithecine child has been found: the first was 80 years ago. The current find is remarkable for its completeness, especially the skull.   +++ Neanderthals may have survived up to as recently as 24,000 years ago. The discovery arises from stone age tools found in Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar (Nature vol 443 p850-853). Outside of Portugal and southern Spain evidence so far found for Neanderthals is over 30,000 years. If this discovery is borne out then it confirms the idea that Neanderthals and modern humans may have more or less co-existed for a while. It also lends some credence to some sparse evidence of Neanderthal-modern human hybridization.

Europe-US stagnation on GM rice acceptability. US genetically modified (GM) rice ceased being imported to Europe by the World's biggest rice importer, Ebro Puleva, in September. There are two problems. The first, which has been dogging the GM debate for over half a decade, is that the US food system does not segregate GM and non-GM products so that 'contamination' is inevitable. EU tests of US rice imports currently suggest that 20% are contaminated. The second is that the rice strain currently at the centre of the debate, LLRICE 601 (modified to be resistant to the herbicide 'liberty'), has not gone through the standard toxicological testing for human suitability. The World Trade Organization has sat on the fence ruling on one hand that the EU is taking too long to sort its end out, while on the other upholding the EU's right to its own food standards. In the UK the Aldi and Morrison supermarket chains have withdrawn rice products that test positive for LLRICE 601.   +++ UK science view on GM from leading lights in science policy is that the GM industry has pushed through early GM products that are of little added-value. This has caused a back-lash that is impeding the development and acceptance of GM products that have meaningful benefits. However November saw permission for field trials of GM potatoes in the UK but no new independent watch dog. (There is an independent advisory committee (ACRE) but the regulation is only quasi-independent with strong industry links.)

Australia has lifted its ban on stem cell cloning. A bill lifting the ban passed Australia's second house on 12th December. 'Therapeutic cloning', as it is known, refers to the process whereby stem cells are extracted from embryos created by cloning. The new law is repeal of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002. Now Australia joins a few countries that allows for the creation of cloned embryos for research under certain condition (it must be stressed). These nations include Finland, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The US has no law in this area but State finance cannot be used to fund such work and the US has half the researchers in the World working in this area.

The World Health Organization has produced new air quality guidelines that for the first time address all regions of the World. Air pollution is already estimated globally to result in 2 million pre-mature deaths per year with over half in developing nations. The new guidelines include a reduction in what are considered safe concentrations of PM10 particulates (particles below 10 micrometres) from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre. This will, WHO estimate, reduce air-quality related mortality by around 15%. However already many 'western' cities have some areas with concentrations higher than this at some weekday times. The air quality of London's underground rail system has faced criticism in the past. Here such problems are (not so much for transient passengers but) for staff.

Time's up! 13 indicators predict when you'll die. A study of 1,189 old folk identified indicators such as heart disease, stress, high cholesterol levels. Together they can be used to determine how long you have left. Do we have time for another round then?

The pet cloning company Genetics Savings and Clone Company is closing. It seems that there is little demand for costly cats, this despite reducing the price in 2006 from US$50,000 (£27,000) to US$32,000 (£17,000). Apparently, according to the Mercury News (San Jose, 11th Oct' 2006), the company's website does not reflect the possibility that the firm has lived nearly all of its ninth life.

Rubbish number crunch
Key European Union nation household waste in kg per person:-
Greece just 433 kg but 92% landfill and just 8% recycled
Ireland 869 kg of which 69% landfill and 31% recycled
United Kingdom 600 kg of which 74% landfill, 18% recycled and 8% incinerated
Spain 662 kg of which 59% landfill, 35% recycled and 6% incinerated
Italy 538 kg of which 62% landfill, 29% recycled, 9% incinerated
Germany 600 kg of which 20% landfill, 58% recycled and 22% incinerated
Denmark 696 kg of which 5% landfill, 41% recycled, and 54% incinerated
Netherlands 624 kg of which just 3% landfill, a whopping 65% recycled and 32% incinerated.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

FORTHCOMING BOOK RELEASES

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07993-9.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz 25-year tribute to the SF master.

Doctor Blood Money by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07994-6.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz 25-year tribute to the SF master.

Flow My Tears the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07795-3.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz 25-year tribute to the SF master.

The Martian Timeslip by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07996-0.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz 25-year tribute to the SF master.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07997-7.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz 25-year tribute to the SF master.

The Very Best of Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £10.00. ISBN 979-0-575-07034-8.
This reprint of a Philip K. Dick classic is part of Gollancz's 25-year tribute to the SF master. Who know what short stories Gollancz has compiled. If you haven't much Dick on your shelves then it hardly matters as they will all be good. On the other hand, for readers with a fair bit of Dick in their collections, Gollancz may have pushed the boat out and researched recent collections so bringing in short stories not often seen in recent decades. If we get a copy then we will let you know.
Philip K. Dick reviews already on this site include: The Cosmic Puppets, The Father-Thing, Galactic Pot-Healer, Mary and the Giant, A Maze of Death,Minority Report, Now wait for last year, Second Variety, Solar Lottery, Three Early Novels, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, Valis and We can remember it for you wholesale.

Sagramanda: A Novel of Near-Future India by Alan Dean Foster, Pyr, hdbk, US$25. ISBN 13:978- 1-591-02488-9.
This is more of a thriller with elements of SF. Sagramanda is a megacity (population over 10 million) ten times over, in which a scientist is on the run having stolen a multinational's codes. Foster has a reputation as a steady SF author and young Pyr has been acquiring one as an innovative publisher of SF and fantasy. Now they seem to be branching into techno-thrillers. As mentioned before, we don't normally list US publications but Pyr does have UK distribution and Alan Dean Foster's novels have been published over here (not to mention his Alien film book adaptations and the Star Trek Logs).

The Hunters of Dune by Brian Hunter & Kevin J. Anderson, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-340-83749-8.
Another spin-off yarn loosely based on the brilliant Frank Herbert 'Dune' sequence.

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz, Harper Collins, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-007-22657-8.
The Odd Thomas sage continues apace. Here he retreats to a monastery for a bit of solace. However he ends up encountering one of the most powerful enemies he has yet faced not to mention the ghost of Elvis. Could it have something to do with the famous physicist conducting experiments in the catacombs...?

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction edited by George Mann, Solaris Books, £7.99/US$7.99, pbk. ISBN 13: 978-1-844-16448-6.
A collection of Sf shorts. We have not seen it but it contains authors we like including: Aldiss, Ings, Ballantyne, Baxter, Brown, and Watson.

Changelings by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Bantam Books, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-593-05612-7.
This science fantasy literally came out as we were posting last season's news page, so we list it now together with the next in the series below. The authors have previously introduced us to the sentient world of Petaybee with the trilogy Powers That be, Power Lines and Power Play. These saw the planet's inhabitants, led by Yana Maddock and Sean Shongili, defend the world from the intentions of a powerful interstellar corporation. In this new trilogy Yana and Sean's twins (who like their father can shape-change into a seal) take the lead in finding out why the planet is changing with the seas warming and new landmasses being created. That they can telepathically communicate with some of the planet's native fauna is a distinct advantage. Being the start of a new trilogy, new readers can begin here without having read the previous trilogy, though it may well be that McCaffrey aficionados new to this series will ultimately want to go back to the first.

Maelstrom by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Bantam Books, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-593-05613-2.
This is the second in the science fantasy series concerning the Petaybee twins (see above). This edition will also be available in Australasia, India and South Africa. Del Ray are publishing it in North America, ISBN 0-345-47004-4, priced US$22.95.

Albion by Alan Moore, Leah Moore, John Reppion and Shane Oakley, Titan Books, trdpbk, £9.99. ISBN 1-845-76351-3.
This is the first (there will no doubt be many future editions) compilation into a graphic novel of the comic Albion that was due to have seen a complete run in 2005 but in fact was only completed after much delay in the summer of 2006. Of interest to all who enjoyed British boys comics of the 1960's, it features many characters of that era now aged to the present day. For example there is Archie and the Steel Claw. If such characters had really existed, would the authorities today have allowed them to roam free in society, and what of some of the powers that they possessed? A great story in itself that is only rivalled in Albion's historical value. The low price only partly reflects that it is not very large but also that Titan probably achieved economies of scale with a respectable print-run and the current low-value of the US dollar. This is a strong contender for 'the' graphic novel of 2007. (Alan Moore titles with stand-alone reviews elsewhere on this site include: The Complete D.R. & Quinch, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 1), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 2), Promethea Book 1, Promethea Book 2, Promethea Book 4, Promethea Book 5, Skizz, Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows, Tomorrow Stories Book 2, Tom Strong Book 1 , Tom Strong Book 3, Tom Strong Book 4, Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales book 1, Top 10 book 1 and Terra Obscura vol. 2.)

All Star Superman by Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly, Titan Books, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76326-2.
Graphic novel. An unique interpretation of Supes. When Superman rescues some astronauts his body becomes so charged with solar radiation that it is likely to kill him.

Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Collins, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-007-14892-9.
This is the third, and presumably the last, in Kim Stanley Robinson global warming series taken from the perspective of those in the advisory policy circles to a politician who becomes President. The first two in the series, Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, gets the science largely right and, our Jonathan says that he has clearly read quite extensively and got some solid science advice. This book and series deserves to do very well if only because the subject matter -- human-induced climate change -- is so vitally important. Set in the very near future this book should appeal to both SF and mainstream readerships. Are the likes of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace recommending these titles to their members? They should! Robinson provides us with an all too rare example of SF with immediate and global relevance. With luck we will do a full review of this in time for the paperback release.

Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson, Pyr, trdpbk, US$15. ISBN 978-1-591-02491-0.
Late news from the autumn - so this is already out. This is a new edition from the US publisher Pyr of Robson's 2001 book published in Britain by Macmillan. Tony liked this lots. Brits should still be able to order the Macmillan edition but what with the current strength of the £ and that Pyr have a UK distributor you might get a better deal getting your bookshop to order this edition. Solid science fiction, recommended.

The Swarm by Frank Schatzing, Hodder, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-340-89524-5.
Weighing in at 900 pages this is quite a tome. It is also a futuristic action-adventure eco thriller that has, apparently, sold very well in Germany. The science content was such that it had a fair-sized review in the multi-disciplinary science journal Nature. Consequently we have given this to the non-scientist, but science-phile, Tony in his batch of books to review (hopefully later in the year).

Glasshouse by Charles Stross, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49393-0.
We've no information other than apparently it concerns a future archaeological dig. (Other Stross titles with stand-alone reviews on this site include: Accelerando (hardback), Accelerando (paperback) and Singularity Sky )

Loop by Koji Suzuki, Harper Collins, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-007-17909-1.
This is the author behind The Ring which was made into a film in the US. He is BIG in Japan. We are not sure whether this is SF or a fantasy horror, but the advance publicity suggests the former. A mysterious cancerous-type disease has emerged. It also affects animals other than humans. Karou's father is infected and so Karou has to go to the Mojave dessert to find out what really is going on. If the author's reputation is anything to go by then this is recommended.

Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas, Solaris Books, pbk, £7.99/US$7.99. ISBN 1-844-16447-0.
In a city on a colony world a crime has been committed. With shape-shifting in the frame it could get a little complicated.

Alien Embassy by Ian Watson, Immanion Press, trdpbk, £13.99 / US$23.99. ISBN 978-1-904-85330-7.
Actually this was launched back in November at Novacon. This is a reprint of Ian Watson's 1977 novel in which a young African girl gets the honour of being one of the chosen as a candidate for starflight. However she discovers that galactic intercourse is not the sole purpose. Though 30 years old this novel still speaks in today's climate of political spin and international control. ( See also Oracle by Ian Watson.)

Time Pieces, original collection edited by Ian Whates, NewCon Press, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-953-81904-3.
Stories by Stephen Baxter, Steve Cockayne, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Mark Robson, Sarah Singleton, Ian Watson, Liz Williams, and Ian Whates with many, but not all, having some bearing on 'time'. This was another launched at Novacon. There is an original cover by Fangorn and all profits and royalties donated in aid of NewCon -- the series of weekend conventions run by the Northampton SF Writers Group. This is a limited edition, and many of the writers are rather accomplished, so order it now from your nearest specialist bookshop.

Darkland by Liz Williams, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-42691-6.
Billed as 'gothic SF' we know little about this title or its sequel, save that it has had some good reviews and done reasonably well in North America.

Bloodmind by Liz Williams, Tor, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-405-05549-9.
See immediately above, this is the sequel to Darkland. Yes, the ISBN coding confused us too, but one goes by the advance publicity.

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

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07787-4.
The second in the first law series that follows on from The Blade Itself. This last was a dark fantasy of which Sue (see afore linked review) was a little cautious but still recommended checking out this second offering to see how the series shapes up. This last was also Abercrombie's debut novel and it seems to have gone down reasonably well receiving a fair bit of critical praise so it is probably worth fantasy fans' while taking Sue's advice and checking this out. Doubly so because our monthly stats reveal that he was for December one of the most-searched for authors' names on this site! (Rivalling searches for Philip Dick and Iain Banks.)

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes, Gollancz, hbk, £16.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07941-0.
A detective cum stage magician attempts to foil a religious cult's attempt to undermine the British Empire. This is a debut novel that may appeal to Chris Priest, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman readers. Looks rather promising.

Conqueror: Times Tapestry Book 2. by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07673-0. Trd pbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07674-07.
Nominally a counterfactual alternative history tale, but this does have an SF riff. You know Baxter, not only does he do hard SF, he is quite good at historical fantasy too. (Stand alone reviews of Baxter's works on this site include: Coalescent, Origin, Moonseed, Space, Time, Titan, Traces, Transcendent, and Vacuum Diagrams.)

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Gollancz, £6.99, pbk, 262pp, ISBN 0-575-07874-X.
Another we should have listed last time, and Tony even reviewed it (click on the title link). Needless to say this is a fantasy classic from 1962 and rightly part of what Gollancz call their Fantasy Masterwork series. Those who are only just starting to collect fantasy might wish to seriously consider making a point of getting this one. (Other Bradbury stand-alone reviews on this site include: From The Dust Returned, The Illustrated Man and The Machineries of Joy..)

Last of the Wilds by Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £7.99. pbk. ISBN 1-841-4951-6.
The second in a quintilogy.

Mordant's Need by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07904-5.
A combined volume of The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through. A young woman reassures herself that she is alive by looking in mirriors and then one day there is the image of someone else with her who invites her into another world where mirrors are gateways. Donaldson's a longstanding writer with a solid following.

Ink by Hal Duncan, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-05209-0.
This is the second volume in the 'all hours' series that sees a battle rage across the space-time continuum in this grand set science fantasy. Remember, when reality is written on skin, only blood will do as ink. We hope to have a review of this one for next time.

Dark Prince by Christine Feeham, Piatkus, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-749-93747-8.
The first in the Carpathian series of vampire romances.

Into a Dark Realm by Raymond Feist, HarperColins, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-007-13378-9.
Pug and his friends travel into a 'dark realm' where live malevolent creatures. There they find a powerful enemy so great that their homeland could be threatened. This US author has a popular following and attracted a fair bit of attention when visiting BritCit in the autumn.

Forest Mage by Robin Hobb, Voyager, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-007-19616-6.
This is the 2nd in the 'Soldier son' trilogy and Hobb sells well.

For A Few Demons More by Kim Harrison, HarperCollins, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-24779-0.
The latest outing for the present-day, demon-kicking bounty hunter Rachael Morgan. The series has gone down very well in the US in the popular mass market and Harper Collins have been doing a run of her titles this side of the Pond.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, Gollancz, hdbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07912-0
Debut novel alert. When Judas buys a second hand suit. No problem, except that the previous owner is now dead and the suit is haunted but then that is why Judas wanted it in the first place. Keep an eye out for this one. Gollancz expects it to be well received and so has a large run enabling it to be competitively priced. It is expected to appeal to the literary end of the horror market as well as the more usual genre readership. Neil Gaiman is giving it a puff saying that this is 'the best debut novel since Barker's Damnation Game', and we hope to review this shortly. Meanwhile the publisher, and indeed the author, is to be commended from not revealing in their advance publicity that Joe Hill is in fact Joseph King, son of Stephen. (Unless, of course, this is part of what Gollancz calls its 'stealth campaign' for this title.) Those active in horror circles have been aware of this for some time and, in more recent months, so have a number of those in the SF book world. We mention it because it really isn't a secret any longer and because Joe undoubtedly had a few pointers from dad which itself might ensure that this debut novel rises above the pedestrian. That in the book trade the word is that this might be more literary than the usual horror will no doubt delight Stephen who is a little fed up with being pigeonholed as just a horror writer as he explained on his desert island. Meanwhile Joe's book is our 'must check out' horror title of the Spring, not just because of the above but also because Joe Hill won a couple of 2006 British Fantasy Society Awards for Best New Horror Short Fiction as well as Best Collection. So it is also worth checking out his collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Broken Kings: The Merlin Codex 3 by Robert Holdstock, Gollancz, £14.99, hdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-07930-4
Someone is raising the dead in King Urtha's realm. Merlin has to travel back in time to that of Jason and his ship the Argo.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, Gollancz, £9.99, trdpbk. ISBN 979-0-575-07970-0
Deep within the wood lies myth and mystery from which few return. A soldier returns from World War II to find his brother becoming enthralled with the wood... This is a welcome reprinting of Holdstock's classic work that was a World Fantasy Award winner. Recommended.

Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden, Harper Collins, £14.99, hdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-20174-7.
The first in an historical novel series on Genghis Khan and his descendents.

Ysabel by Guy Cavriel Kay, Simon & Schuster, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-743-25250-0.
A 15 year old is drawn into an age old Celtic-Roman conflict. Kay, of course, has a strong fantasy following.

The Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-749-93797-3.
A paranormal romance. Kinky.

Cell by Stephen King, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-34092153-6.
This is the paperback of the hardback previously reviewed. Though not his most favourite of King's books, Tony still called it a 'page turner' - click on the afore title link to see his review. This is the paperback release. (Stand-alone Stephen King reviews on this site include: 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, Lisa's Story, Song of Susannah, Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4, and Wolves of the Calla.)

Rudyard Kipling: The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales from Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07791-1.
Kipling (1865-1936) was the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature, which marks him out doubly (not only for Brits) as SF/fantasy writers tend not to get mainstream acclaim. This then is a real treat, his fantasy (from ghost stories to psychological horror) brought together in a collection. Wonderful. Hope it sells in skip loads.

Title Alert!: The Cleft by Doris Lessing, Fourth Estate, hdbk, £15.95. ISBN 0-007-23343-4.
This is being published by Fourth Estate probably because Lessing has more of a mainstream readership even though a number of her novels have a decided genre edge. It may therefore take a little while for some of the SF magazines to pick up on this book's relevance, hence our 'title alert'. The story concerns events at an ancient community of folk known as the Clefts. Their settlement, though somewhat idyllic, is surrounded by wilderness and so they are isolated. The thing about this community is that it is all women: not by choice but due to 'natural' forces as childbirth is controlled by lunar cycles and all the children are female. Then one day the inevitable happens and a strange child -- a boy -- is born, so upsetting the Cleft's equilibrium... Lessing has a reputation among seasoned members of the speculative fiction community for thoughtful, incisive writing. If you like Marge Piercy and Ursula Le Guin then this could very well be for you.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Perennial Original, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-24200-9.
A collection of nine stories.

The Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, William Heinemann, trdpbk, £11.99. ISBN 0-434-01443-5.
This is the second in the Nightwatch series that has taken Russia by storm and which Jonathan enjoyed. It concerns good and bad vampires and magicians maintaining the balance through a longstanding treaty that is policed by 'Day' and 'Night' watches. The original Russian books spawned a Russian film that broke box office records in Soviet related nations and which won a Eurocon Award in 2004. There will soon be a Hollywood version. This is The Day Watch's first English language edition and you do not need telling how rare it is for non-Anglophone SF to get translated. Recommended.

The Well of Shadows by Juliet Marillier, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-405-04109-9
The third of the Bridei Chronicles.

The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin, Solaris Books, pbk, £7.99/US$7.99. ISBN 1-844-16468-3.
Solaris' first fantasy.

The Vengence of Rome by Michael Moorcock, Vintage, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 0-009-948882-5.
This is an historical novel (as opposed to being firmly genre related) but Moorcock has a huge reputation for being both a varied and talented writer with a good number of SF and fantasy books to his name. Our Charles and Graham rate him very highly indeed. See our reviews of The Dreamthief's Daughter and Sailing to Utopia.

Burning Tower by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 1-841-49218-5.
This is the sequel to The Burning City (2001) and is part of a sequence spawned by The Magic Goes Away.

Temeraire: Black Powder War by Naomi Novik, Voyager, £12.99, hdbk. ISBN 0-007-21915-6.
This is the third in the series that mixes Napoleonic battle with dragons that is doing rather well and indeed our Simon raved over the first two (Temeraire and Throne of Jade). Indeed now Peter Jackson wants to take them to the big screen. Not surprisingly this is a no-question must for fantasy fans.

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-297-85136-3.
A literary fantasy chiller set in present day Cambridge but spanning 4000 years to a 17th century murder. Could Isaac Newton be a suspect?

The Modern World by Steph Swainston, Gollancz, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07007-3.
According to the advance publicity this is about the human cost of immortality, but is firmly billed as fantasy (not SF). Steph Swainston soon acquired a reputation in genre circles.

Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Cape, trdpbk, £14.99. ISBN 0-224-0-8076-8.
The city of Sunderland replaces 'Wonderland' in this graphic novel Lewis Carroll, 'Alice', parody. Bryan Talbot is of course well known for the Moorcockian The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. Other than Titan and perhaps Rebellion, Jonathan Cape is becoming a major force in the UK graphic novel scene.

Shriek by Jeff Vandermeer, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-44004-7.
At the time of posting no news has come our way and surprisingly none of our regular reviewers has read any of the author's works. 'Surprisingly' because he does have a reputation among some in cognoscenti circles.

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan, Gollancz, trdpbk, £9.99. ISBN 979-0-575-07962-5.
Xylara knows her duty to her country as a healer. But the kingdom is threatened by barbarians but her half-brother attempts to buy them off. Unfortunately the barbarians soon want more and their leader wants Xylara. This is a debut novel from a Canadian writer.

The Blood Debt: Books of the Cataclysm Two by Sean Williams, Pyr, hdbk, US$25 / £17 (approx). ISBN 13: 978 1-591-02493-4.
As you know we do not often list forthcoming or recent, non-European Anglophone titles but this Sean Williams series is a decided cut above average. A standard quest format yes, but the post apocalyptic world imagined, with its 'Divide' (a huge crack in the world, the floor of which is the home to exotic creatures), is both colourful and vividly portrayed. The book also boasts a reasonably non-standard take on magic. The story should score with both readers of standard fantasy adventures as well as those into more 'literary' offerings compared to the usual sword & sorcery. That an Australian author has been picked up by one of North America's (better) specialist genre publishers should in itself signal to European fantasy readers that Sean is up-and-coming.

Camelot's Sword by Sarah Zettel, Harper, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-007-15872-0.
Sarah Zettel is one of the new talents Harper/Voyager has launched in recent years (along with Novik mentioned above). Other books in this Arthurian series include Camelot's Honour and the Firebird's Vengeance.

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

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

The Never Ending Feeling of Being Dead: Dispatches from the Front Line of Science by Marcus Chown, Faber, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-571-22055-6.
Is Elvis alive? What's beyond the edge of the Universe? And will we ever find extra-terrestrial intelligence? Chown is a readable New Scientist journalist.

The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World's Greatest Challenge by Kirsten Dow & Thomas E. Downing, Earthscan, 12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 1-844-07376-9.
A nice, easy to read, simple coffee table book that does what it says for folk who don't usually read popular science and want a digestible briefing of the initial consequences of this issue.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Perennial, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 0-007-18313-5.
A review of the ways we might make ourselves if not happy at least content. (Make a free registration to be e-mail notified of the next Concatenation site update might be a start, dare we tentatively suggest?)

Dalek: I Loved You (A Memoir) by Nick Griffiths, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07940-3.
This is coming out in April, which is a little later than this forward look of British genre and popular science publishing usually encompasses. However we have just received an advance, unproofed copy and a first browse reveals this to be a fascinating take. Not only is this a review of the writer's appreciation of the Dalek, it is also a social commentary on the late 20th century life as lived and as perceived by an average middleclass citizen. Surprisingly this a work, though seemingly trivial, is maturely written and will probably be appreciated by future social historians. Because Dr Who has, appropriately for a Time Lord, spanned the decades, it is an appropriate vehicle for such an appraisal. Of interest to the SF fan, it also successfully captures the sense of fun the genre evokes. Easy to read and very entertaining, this book is a delight.

The Eye by Simon Ings, Bloomsbury, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-753-51235-7.
The anatomy and psychology of vision explained.

Destination Space: Making Science Fiction A Reality by Martin Kemp, Virgin, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-753-51235-7.
The Virgin story behind its attempt to develop the World's first commercial passenger sub-orbital space jaunt.

The Last Generation by Fred Pearce, Eden Project Books, £8.99, trdpbk. ISBN 1-903-91988-6.
This is all about how the environmental collapse will not be at all good for humanity's global population. Pearce is a readable New Scientist journalist who has regularly covered energy and the environment issues since acid rain in the 1970s.

A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut, Bloomsbury, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-747-58605-0.
This is a cross between SF author Vonnegut in soap-box mode getting some issues off his chest, part memoir, and laced with wit. He was last year in the UK promoting the hardback and last year Gollancz declared The Sirens of Titan as one of the 10 greatest SF novels of all time. Highly recommended for serious SF book aficionados.

Before Dawn by Nicholas Wade, Duckworth, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0715-63658-9.
OK, so what are we learning about ourselves as a species from the human genome project? This is its first UK publication and it has done well in the US.

MISS OUT ALERT AS THE REVIEWS CONTINUE -- Old and new review excerpts of this reference work can be found on the following link, meanwhile 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. Also now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). +++ Signed copies... Brian at Porcupine now has a score or so signed copies by the authors. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability (no extra price).

 

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

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - vol 1: Commencement by John Jackson Miller et al, Titan Books, trdpbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-845-76371-8.
Graphic novel.

Constellations (Star Trek), edited by Marco Palmieri, Pocket Books, trd pbk. ISBN 0-743-49254-4.
A collection of Trek shorts produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the series; though a lack of anniversaries never stopped them before.

Star Wars: Tag and Bink Were Here by Kevin Rubio et al, Titan Books, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-845-76370-X.
Graphic novel.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn, Arrow, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-099-49378-7
A story that springs from a brief mention in the other spin-off novel Heir to the Empire.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

SELECTED RECENT DVD RELEASES

Children of Men £19.99 from Universal.
Based on the P. D. James novel, the Earth is in quiet decline with no new humans being borne. Then one woman is found to be pregnant and suddenly she is the most wanted person on the planet. The film is set in Britain and stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, and is directed by Alfonso Cuaron. One of the better SF offerings of 2006.

Death Race 2000 £19.99 from Universal.
Directed by Paul Bartel and starring a young David Carradine and a very young Sylvester Stallone, this is the DVD of the 1975 film that is a fun parody that provided a near-simultaneous release counterpoint to the original Rollerball (which itself had its moments). Set in the future of a declining US Death Race 2000 concerns a 'bread and circuses', cross-America road race where the object is to win with as many kills (run-overs) as possible. (Now some Manchester-based fans with long-memories may recall Harry Nadler getting a Death Race 2000 type car made up and along to the first screening of the film at his cinema. (He was also involved in the stock car scene for a while...) Tell the young fans what we had to do for kicks in our day and they just don't believe you.)

Dr Who: The Sontaran Experiment from BBC DVD.
Tom Baker encounters a hardened, chinless alien. A Who adventure from Baker's reign, 1974-81, complete with audio commentary and a docu-extra.

Gerry Anderson: The Monochrome Years, £99.99 from Network.
Gerry Anderson's black and white days notably including Supercar and Fireball XL5. A generation of Brits in the 1960s grew up with Anderson shows that got a little more sophisticate each year along with their young audience. These are the early shows on 17 discs. All together now: I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest guy alive, I'd fly around the Universe in Fireball XL5...

James Bond Limited Edition Attache Case Ultimate Editions, £249.99, MGM.
Aside from the naff packaging (not really conducive to bookshelf storage) this brings together Bond's cinematic adventures in 40 discs. With SF tropes such as global domination and futuristic technology, Bond has some SFnal appeal.

King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition, £24.99 from Universal.
This is the Jackson effects-rich remake and includes a mass of extras plus bloopers.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend, £17.99 from Fox.
Uma Thurman demonstrates that there is nothing worse than a woman's love spurned, especially when the woman is a superheroine.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest from Walt Disney Pictures, with currently some good offers around the £14 mark.
Special effects rich comedy action that has been a huge box office success. +++ The DVD has sold 1.5 million copies in the first week of its UK release so breaking the previous first week sales of 1.4 million of Harry Potter's Goblet....

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy £22.99 each from Fox.
The good thing about this is that it is the original Star Wars trilogy before it all got very silly almost to the point of being unwatchable (unless you were a pre-teenager or were a parent of the same and so obliged to). The bad thing is that each features both the original and the re-mastered versions. Now a few on the team have seen both. Their word is that the re-mastered version gives you a little more with nothing lost. Overall the effects are occasionally highlighted and there are a few extra minutes of run time (for example the first film has a short scene with Jabba). Oldster purists will have already got the original on video of which youngsters just will not be interested. So why bother with the old version you are forced to get as well? Hence the high price is a rip off.   So cheer your self up. If you missed the following link tip on our science fiction news page last time why not go to it and watch one of the delightful Star Wars spoof shorts online.

Superman Returns, £17.99 from Warner.
Bryan Singer's development of the caped crusader is based largely on Richard Donner's 1978 interpretation but a little darker.

Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition, £69.99 from Warner...
is a must for collectors of ultimates, and die-hard Supes fans too. In addition to the four movies, and the 1959 TV-film, there are cartoons from the 1940s and extras.

Torchwood (Series 1: 1-5), £24.99, from BBC.
The first five episodes of the Dr Who spin-off series.

The Ultimate Hammer Collection, £149.99 from Optimum.
Golden oldies include: Kneale's Quatermas and the Pit, and the there is One Million Years BC, The Reptile and The Zombies plus more on 21 discs.

The Wicker Man the 1973 original re-released just prior to that of the (unnecessary) remake. This 3 disc set includes both the original version and the 'director's' cut (therein lies a tale). If you have not come across it, it concerns a small Scottish island experiencing failing crops. Its inhabitants are part of a tight community bound by quasi-pagan beliefs. The mainland police receive a report of a missing girl and so a constable is despatched who finds more than he reckons. The Wicker Man is a classic horror of its type in that -- aside from the implicit ending -- blood is not spilled and there is no violence. What there is, in buckets, is a well-realised vision and a growing sense that something is wrong, beginning with a niggle and ending with the actual realisation. Brilliant. You can see why they then made the 2006 remake (for the cash) but it was not artistically necessary. If you haven't, see this instead.

X-Men 3 £22.99 from Fox.
The final part of the trilogy that has rejuvenated interest in the Marvel superheroes. Yes, folk can be different but we can all live in harmony though there may be a battle or two along the way.

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect in 2007, check out our forthcoming film diary.

To see our chart ratings for last year's films, nearly all of which are now available for DVD hire, then check out our most recent annual film top ten.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

R.I.P.

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

Pierce Askegren the US author of Buffy and Spiderman novels, has died aged 51.

Jerry G. Bails US `father of comic book fandom' and the editor of the fanzine Alter-Ego, has died aged 73.

Joseph Barbera, the US cartoonist, has died aged 95. One half of the Hanna-Barbera Productions, his genre comedy offerings include The Flintstones and The Jetsons as well as the sceptical Scooby Doo.

Raymond Baxter died aged 84. Though neither a scientist nor an SF personality, he covered on television what amounts to the turning of science fiction into science fact as a co-presenter on the BBC's Tomorrow's World programme that ran for much of the 1960s and early '70s. A spitfire pilot in WWII, Raymond Baxter always had a fascination for technology and planes in particular: in addition to TW he covered many air shows.

Ron Bennett, the hugely active British SF fan and editor of the 1960's to early '70s zine Skyrack, has died aged 73.

Nelson Bond, the US book dealer and SF author, has died aged 97 shortly before his birthday.

Sydney J. Bounds, the British SF and horror author, has died aged 86.

Jack Burnley, the US comics artist, has died aged 95. He co-created Starman and was the second artist to draw Superman.

Dave Cockrum, US comics artist (noted for creating a number of X-Men characters) has died aged 63.

Michel Demuth, the French SF author has died aged 67. Born in Lyon he was mostly known for his short stories or novellas, that were mainly released by the specialist French F&SF publishing house often in 'Fiction' and republished through 'J'ai Lu' in the collections such as Galaxiales 1 & 2 [The Galactics 1 & 2] and Les Années Métalliques [The Metallic Years]. Alain le Bussy remembers that his stories had often very poetic titles. For example "Le Fief du Félon" ["The Fief of the Fiefdom"], "Les Grands Equipages de Lumière"["The Great Teams of Light"], and "La Course de l'Oiseau Boum-Boum" ["The Flight of the Boom-boom Bird"].

Don Dohler the US film writer and maker has died. he created the magazine Cinemagic and his films include The Alien Factor and The Vampire Sisters.

Dick Eney the US fan has died aged 69. He best known in fan circles for Fancyclopedia II. He was fan guest at the 1984 Worldcon.

John M. Ford the US author of mainly fantasy, died suddenly aged just 49. His works include the World Fantasy Award winning historical fantasy The Dragon Waiting (1983). His Growing Up Weightless (1993) was co-winner of the Philip K. Dick Award. Media fans may know of him for his Trek novels The Final Reflection (1984) and How Much for Just the Planet? (1987). John ('Mike') Ford suffered for many years from diabetes.

William Franklyn, the British actor, died aged 81. His appearances in fantastic films included The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) and Quatermass 2 (1957). His genre TV appearances included The Champions and both The Avengers and The New Avengers. He was also the voice of the book in the latter series of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy. He was scheduled to be one of the guests at the 2007 Festival of Fantastic Films (see also news below).

Charles L. Grant the US horror author and editor has died at home aged 62. Over his career he accumulated three World Fantasy Awards and two Nebulas as well as the British Fantasy Society's Special Award and the Horror Writers Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also named a Grand Master at the 2002 World Horror Con. Media fans know of him for his two X-Files novels.

Ken Ishikawa, of anime fame, has died aged 58.

Nigel Kneale, the British screenwriter who both thrilled and terrified a generation in the 1950s, has died aged 84. His writing began with some radio plays in the 1940s. However it was in the 1950s that his The Quatermass Experiment TV series that caught the public's imagination. (Quatermass being a science polymath brought in to solve X-File-type mysteries.) His third Quatermass TV serial (Quatermass and the Pit (1958/9)) is perhaps his most memorable and certainly affected the Christmas/New Year celebrations of many the year it was broadcast. Kneale's work also courted controversy with his The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968) and his TV adaptation (1954) of Orwell's 1984. This last caused questions to be asked in the Houses of Parliament due to its horrific (for the time) room 101 scene. He also adapted for film Well's The First Men in the Moon and his 'ghost story' TV play The Stone Tape (1972) -- past energies being recorded in the fabric of a building -- was another popular success. Today his work appears visually dated, but this is only because TV and film technology has made such tremendous strides, his writing nonetheless shines through. He was one of the first masters of visual SF and fantasy (as opposed to 'sci fi'), though he himself did not like to be too closely linked with the genre. Most of his work, in Britain anyway, is available on video and/or DVD (for example his Hammer Quatermas movies see here).

Margery Krueger the US author who wrote as Jayge Carr has died aged 66. She wrote over 40 short stories and several novels that were mainly hard SF and some noted for their feminist as well as sexual politics. On the science front she used to be a physicist who worked for NASA.

Peter Ling, British TV scriptwriter, died aged 80. His perhaps best-known work to genre enthusiasts was on The Avengers and Dr Who.

Patricia Matthews, the fantasy writer has died aged 79.

Stanley Meltzhoff, the US science artist and SF illustrator, has died aged 89. Authors of whose books he provided covers included Asimov, Heinlein and van Vogt. See the afore link for examples of his work.

Luciano Nardelli, the Italian SF and fantasy writer, has died aged 61. He was known for both his short stories and novels especially those written for teenagers. In addition to books he also wrote some radio plays.

Maggie Noach UK agent for many SF writers, has died unexpectedly aged 57. Born and brought up in London's Chelsea, she was a member of the Conservative Party and a fan of rock music. Aside from being an agent for notables such as Brian Aldiss, Colin Greenland, Garry Kilworth, Michael Scott Rohan and Geoff Ryman, she was also a writer. Her works include The Romantic Weekend Guide and The Dictionary of Disgusting Facts.

Martin Nodell, the US comics artist, has died aged 91. He most famously drew the original Green Lantern. In his time he worked for both DC and Marvel.

Basil Poledouris, the US film music composer of Greek heritage, has died aged 61. His genre contributions include scores for the Conan films (1982 and '84), RoboCop (1987), Cherry 2000 (1987), and Starship Troopers (1997). He also worked for TV including three Twilight Zone episodes (1986).

Sara Purdom US fan and wife of writer Tom, has died aged 96.

Darrell (Coleman) Richardson, US author, fan, publisher has died aged 88. His books span half a century and a number were under the name D. Coleman Rich. he received the Big Heart (fan) Award in 1982.

Jacques Sternberg, the Belgium born SF author, has died aged 83. He wrote mostly short stories (even short-shorts). Among his anthologies, of note is Univers Zero [Universe Zero]. He published some ten collections of short works from 1953 to 1995.

David Stewart, the Irish fan, died in October aged 46 from cancer of the oesophagus. He was active with Ireland's Octocon (its national convention) and ran a press operation for the 2005 Eurocon cum Worldcon.

Leon E. Stover, the US anthropologist and SF fan, has died aged 77. His SF activities went beyond fandom and he collaborated with Harry Harrison on anthology's and a novel. He also wrote non-fiction books on Harry, Heinlein and Wells.

Philip Strick, the British fantastic film critic, died in October aged 67. Aside from being known within fandom for his film expertise, he founded the Stanhope SF evening class. Later he was a tutor for the CityLit class that owed much of its momentum to the City Illiterates London fan group (a number of whom organised the BECCON series of conventions out of which one Concatenation as a print zine was born). He also contributed a number of programme items at conventions that were always best when he was able to illustrate them with actual celluloid clip screenings. His book Science Fiction Movies (1976) was an essential for fantastic film fans at the time. More recently is his The BFI Companion to Science Fiction (2004) part of the BFI Genre Companions series.

Wilson (Bob) Tucker the US author, who is cited as having been the person who coined the term 'space opera', died just a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday. His Year of the Quiet Sun, won him the J. W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1976. On the science front, he was awarded a Certificate of Merit from Pan American World Airways for launching a meteorological rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 15th March 1976. He was also well known in the US as a fan for his fanzines The Planetoid and Le Zombie, and at the 1970 Worldcon in Germany won a Hugo for 'fan writer'.

Shirley Walker US composer who scored many animated superhero tv series, has died aged 61.

Jack Williamson, the American SF grandmaster author, has died aged 98. His first story was published back in 1928, and so in a very real sense Jack Williamson's stories appeared contemporary with the bulk of SF works in the genre's history to date. Much of his writing was space opera, though some equally was steeped in fantasy. He was particularly noted for a sequence of time stories. The earliest of these were first collected in The Legion of Time (1952) and had the thoughtful concept, for the 1950s, of two alternate futures battling each other in time to ensure that one would ultimately exist. He became an SF Writers of America 'Grand Master' twice with the only other person then to having done so being Robert Heinlein, and of course had a host of other accolades. The Jack Williamson SF Library was formed in 1982 at the Eastern New Mexico University who also host an annual lecture in Williamson's name. Jack Williamson's last novel was The Stonehenge Gate (2005). His werewolf/shape-shifter story Darker Than You Think (1948) was recently re-published by Gollancz as part of its Fantasy Masterwork series. His death in a very real sense marks the end of pre-millennial SF far better than New Year 2001 and many genre fans and professionals, though saddened by this loss, will have been pleased that they shared with Jack the first few years of the 21st century.
          In June, four months before he died Jack Williamson wrote: "I have had a rewarding life, enjoying many friends, doing work I nearly always loved, and learning all I could about our planet and our fascinating Universe. I realise that death is the natural end of life, and I face it with no irrational fear. I expect neither punishment nor reward in the hereafter. My only chief regret is all the writing I can never finish. I am trying to be as ready as I can before the event when it comes, and I beg my relatives and friends to accept the fact as cheerfully as I hope to."

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Fictionalising science can be deadly as the Libyan six health workers have found out when accused of deliberately infecting children with the HIV AIDS virus. The authorities appear to be wanting to be seen to be dealing with the matter so as to appease hundreds of (understandably) outraged parents. Yet the scientific evidence shows that it was not the foreign health workers who were to blame but the hospital's poor cleanliness regime that allowed the children to become infected. Already the Libyan six have been in prison since 1999 and, allegedly, tortured. December saw their appeal fail and the death sentence affirmed (see here). The science community has expressed its outrage at the way clear science evidence has been sidelined while other evidence fabricated. Concatenation has joined with hundreds of other science-related websites and bloggers in expressing concern (see here for the back story.) Meanwhile pressure also continues from leading politicians but Libya so far will not change its position (see here). As for Libyan patients, unless this matter is properly dealt with then the likelihood is that such infections may again take place.

The British Government and its Civil Servants stand accused of fictionalising science. A report from the independent all-party House of Commons Select Committee for Science & Technology says that the Government's use phrases such as 'evidence-based policy' are often fraudulent when in fact no relevant research exists. Nearly all the cases for concern came from either the Government or Government Departments/Ministries other than the Department of Trade and Industry's Office of Science and Innovation (which is actually responsible for science. For example the Home Office cherry picked research results on crime to be in line with its own policy stance. Another example it cited was the Government 2005 anti-obesity drive. The Chair of the Select Committee, Phil Willis, is reported as saying, "There is not the culture of using scientific evidence [by politicians and civil servants] and research in the way that the scientific community would understand it. The report calls for each Government Department to have its own chief science advisor and that civil servants who work with scientists and science evidence should have science qualifications. Yet this recommendation has been previously made by a Select report at the end of the 1990s. Having said all of this, Phil Willis says that other science-based nations have it far worse, for example the US where the actual censorship of science is not unknown.

The 2006 Alfred Sloane Foundation's Prize for a feature film dealing with science and technology has gone to The Fountain. The film concerns a character addressing issues of death and longevity and features episodes from the past, present and future.

Planet Earth magazine wins External Magazine of the Year prize. Further to last time's news of the short-listing, Planet Earth magazine beat non-science in-house publications from commercial and industrial bodies. The prize is organised by the Chartered Institute for Public Relations. UK citizens (tax payers who ultimately fund NERC) can order Planet Earth for free from the NERC website (see last time's link or our link page). If you are a geographer, or bioscience graduate who continues to be an avid science-phile then you will enjoy this seasonal snapshot of UK research in these areas.

Let's spew boldly. William Shatner has turned down Virgin's offer of a free ticket to space: the usual price is apparently to be £114,000 (US$211,000). Throwing up weightless is not his idea of having a good time. Understandable that. But Kirk-like?

The 'Face on Mars' hill has been revealed by Europe's Mars Express pictures taken during 2005 and up to 22nd July 2006. The original 'Face on Mars' picture was taken on 25th July 1976 by the US Viking 1 Orbiter. A few days later, on 31st July '76, a NASA press release said the formation "resembles a human head" and the rest, as they say, is history. Now ESA's Mars Express has far clear pictures. Some 'perspective' views' have also been generated from multiple pictures. A few pictures also re-capture the human face illusion. However it is, what all sober speculators had thought, just a hill. Many of the more fanciful who thought it might be a marker or some such left by sentients have gone silent, though a few have accused NASA of a cover-up. Had the Face on Mars been a giant perfect circle about a perfect square then it might have been another matter.

MMR vaccine controversy clinician drops Brit television channel libel action and his insurance company faces an estimated £500,000 (US$925,000) legal bill. Medical doctor Andrew Wakefield sued Channel 4, 20-20 Productions and reporter Brian Deer regarding a November 2004 Dispatches programme on the MMR fear. Wakefield's 'research' was published in The Lancet that suggested there was a link between the triple vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)) and autism. The result was a national scare and many parents refusing their children to have the vaccine. Reportedly (Guardian 6.1.07 p9) Brian Deer discovered that there was a connection with a separate study with which Wakefield was connected and that he had received tens of thousands of pounds for this. Further that he was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds as an expert consultant on related compensation case. Wakefield then took out his libel case but now a high court judge has ruled that confidential papers must be disclosed to his opponents. Two weeks later and Wakefield abandons his case. He currently faces a disciplinary hearing from the General Medical Council (the official UK clinician watchdog). There may, if such allegations are true, be big money in fictional science but good to see that the UK system seems to be working. Shame about the health scare and costs.

Hoyle's novel The Black Cloud (1957) has had more of an impact on science than many think. The importance of, and interest in, interstellar clouds in astronomy has grown considerably since then: though it should be remembered that Hoyle popularized as opposed to predicted astronomical clouds. However a letter in Nature (v443, p506), from psychologists Simon K Rushton and Rob Gray, notes that the way the astronomers in Hoyle's novel calculated 'if' and 'when' the black cloud would hit the Earth is exactly the same way the neurophysiologists and computer modellers think the brain works. They point to a review article (D. Regan and R. Gray Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4, 99-107; 2000) in case anyone is interested.

'Extraterrestrials could also be creatures of God' so Father Jose Funes, the new director of the Vatican Observatory, is reported as saying (Nature v433, p11). This is probably a relief to Christians that God is the creator of all. More seriously, it reflects a possibly greater appreciation of science by the Vatican in which a debate is currently taking place (also reported in the same issue of Nature).

You can now get Dracula's dad's phone number. www.ancestry.co.uk has teamed up with British telecom to put on the web all UK phone books from 1880 to 1984. They show that until recently everyone was in the book (and hardly anyone ex-directory compared to today). So in the past you could have looked up the number for, and then called say, Dracula author Bram Stoker or a young Winston Churchill. Indeed the rich and famous actually wanted their names in the phone book as a status symbol; besides which early on only the rich had phones. It was only in the 1940s that phones became comparatively common.

The Royal Society of Arts run 'Arts & Ecology' '2-day international enquiry' adopts radical approach. The very worthy theme does not appear to be soundly underpinned by science: there being somewhat of as dearth of ecologists be they research or monitoring or ecosystem management professionals. At first this might not unduly detract from any interest expressed by members of the SF community. Alas, though, there is also a decided absence of discernable SF content. This is very much a par for the course as far as the UK arts establishment is concerned. +++ See also above Arts Council news.

Ben Goldacre's 'bad science' autumnal coverage in the Saturday Guardian has included Darwin@LSEresearch centre news that we (humans) are speciating into a tall, thin, bright as well as a short, fat, dim-witted species. The 'research' (ahem) was paid for by a TV channel and it was then featured in many newspapers. What Goldacre does not say is that it would have been cheaper (and more scientifically fun) if the Channel bought a copy of H. G. Wells The Time Machine but then that would not have generated new press coverage especially as Wells was clearly writing fiction and not pretending it was verifiable science.   Goldacre also covered the Roy Meadow General Medical Council (GMC) appeal court ruling. You may recall that Meadows was a clinician who gave ill-considered court evidence resulting in parental anguish and he was subsequently disciplined by the GMC: He originally said that a mother had killed two of her children. (The GMC has just had its right restored to discipline clinicians who give courts ill-founded testimony.) Goldacre notes that not only had Meadow presented a scientifically specious line of reasoning but no one else, at the time of the mother's original trial, had the nous to challenge it.

Physicist Stephen Hawking reiterates his concern that humanity needs to journey to another star system if it is to survive extinction threats. His latest citation of this concern was when he was receiving the Royal Society's Copley medal for his contributions to science. He suggests that antimatter drive is the way forward: tricky stuff though that antimatter, so best not tell George and Tony what's being contemplated.

Leaving 2006 and there was no space shuttle mission over the New Year period. 'Why?' you ask. Did the astronauts want to get sozzled, seeing the New Year in with their friends? Well you could hardly blame them if that were the case... but no. Apparently the shuttle Discovery was grounded over the New Year because some of the shuttle's software cannot reset itself from 365 to 1 and rebooting in orbit is not recommended. This problem, Concat hopes, will be sorted before NASA's first starship treads boldly.

So we are now in 2007...

And not quite finally, to mark the passing of 2006, a reminder that last year was:-
- the 25th anniversary of the discovery of stem cells.
It was in 1981 that two papers first reported the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines from cultured mouse embryos. A quarter of a century on these are now more commonly known as embryonic stem cells.
- the 50th anniversary of Britain's first nuclear power station when her Majesty's Royal finger pressed the button allowing electricity to flow in November 1956.
- the 50th anniversary of the first trans-atlantic telephone cable of which Sir Gordon Radley (then President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers) felt that it would likely more than meet existing demand. The same year a new 'trunk' telephone system was planned for the UK allowing direct dialling but which necessitated a new telephone numbering system.
- the 100th anniversary of the SOS distress message adopted at the 1906 International Conference on Wireless Communication at Sea (Berlin). See www.snopes.com/history/titanic/sos.asp for the early history and urban myths.

2007 is International Polar Year don't you know? Yes from March 2007 to March 2008, it will be International Polar Year and 60 countries are giving their polar science research a little boost with over 200 special projects planned involving 50,000 researchers and technicians.   This is in fact the 4th International Polar Year. The first, in 1882/3, saw 12 countries mount 15 expeditions to the poles. The second, in 1932/3, led to 40 permanent observation stations in the Arctic. The third, 1957/8, resulted in the first measurements of the thickness of the Antarctic ice (so we got our first idea as to how much sea level would rise if it all melted; which over several thousand years much of it will do with global warming). Work was also done on the Antarctic Treaty (ratified 1961).   This 4th International Polar Year is 50 years on from this last one. (It will also lead neatly into the UN themed year for 2008 on Planet Earth, but more of that in 12 months time.) The International Polar Year is supported by the World Meteorological Organization (a UN agency) and the International Union of Sciences. (Next year's (2008) Planet Earth theme is designated so by the UN itself.)

Finally our New Year predictions for 2007... This is the post-festive season round-up made by a number of the team's members. A bit of fun...
        Brian - His last year prediction of a monofilament wire has not come to pass but he was near a score in that in 2006 nanotechnolgy became less a public concern and saw more new science especially in the area of nano-surface coatings both for catalysis and nano-velcro. So a decided hit with this last.
        Graham (who has been right on this one so far.) further to last year's prediction, is still holding on for even more evidence that physics' 'standard model' is wrong. Will it continue to crumble?   But he has another and that is science fiction, in its book form, may be dying out. What prompted this has been the dearth in his local bookshops of any SF... It's all fantasy and horror. However he admits that this is a bit whimsical and there's plenty of new stuff as this column itself is a testimony.
        Jonathan - did not make a prediction last year (wimp) but now says the big news on the global warming science front will be with the UN (UNEP and WMO) sponsored IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) due out in 2007. This will be its first major report since 2001. Jonathan says it is likely, at long last, that they may up their predictions for the rate of sea level rise. This should be due to palaeoenvironmental evidence (geological evidence of past climatic change) but is more likely to be because there is evidence of greater Greenland and West Antarctic (non-marine) ice shelf melt. Still they are bound to be slowly getting there.   Less certain is whether they will slightly up the estimates of their predictions for 21st century warming but don't be surprised if they do (but do then be surprised if they lower them!).
        Simon wonders whether by the end of this 2007 the fashionable hysteria will be over 'peak oil' as we are almost certainly on the downward slope where demand is in excess of available supply of oil now. Could there be lots of beautifully crafted bell (Gaussian) curve graphics, which should be log-normal curves, on news programmes and will 'Hubbert's peak' become a household term? The 'Stop Climate Chaos' brigade might wear 'Peak Oil Aware' T shirts made in China on Monday, printed in India on Wednesday and sold on Amazon for next-day delivery anywhere in the World!   Will there be hysteria that the 2012 Olympics be conducted in a candle-lit, and flooded ,east London?
        Tony so far has been right as for his no new Earth-sized planet beyond Neptune, but then dwarf planets have been on minds since 2003 so hardly a real prediction.   He did better with his other prediction for 2006, though too early to say properly whether anticipated improvements in prosthetic limbs will be fully realised, but there have already the past year been some remarkable developments in amputee bionics including using realigned neural body imaging for bionic limb control purposes. So a score here. Indeed Tony himself says: "I was spot on with last year's prosthetics prediction -- there've been loads of news items on 'smart' prosthetics, including a bloke that climbed Everest with two prosthetic lower legs, and a bloke with an arm and hand where all the digits can be moved separately using impulses from wires embedded in his shoulder and chest! --I am so cool..."   This year Tony says he was going to go with the discovery of water on Mars but it looks like reality overtook him.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2007

End Bits

More science and SF news will be reviewed in our post-Easter 2007 upload plus there will also be 'forthcoming' book releases for the summer.   Meanwhile ensure you've added the Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation to your site favourites list. Also you can be alerted via e-mail when our next major update takes place. See below...

Ensure You Get the Season's News: New free site update alert service. It works well! We only update the Concatenation with news and reviews seasonally, at the most every fourth month. Additionally there are short stories in between. This means that regular visitors continually have to remember to check this site out after a few of months of inactivity. However we have noticed that our site visits rise by a few thousand in the weeks before likely seasonal postings! Consequently our IT guy, Dan, has instigated a free site-update alert service to which you can sign up! Be assured that we will not pass on your details to anyone else.   To see how you can register click here. So far we have survived two seasonal uploads without any problem so it seems to work well. Who says we don't look after you.

Thanks for information, pointers and news goes to: Alain le Bussy, (our occasional stationery provider) Tony Bailey, Sue Burke, Ángel Carralero, Dave Clements, Steve Green (and in turn Chris O'Shea), Roberto Quaglia, (our (web) spaceman) Boris Sidyuk, Susan Sielinski, Ian Watson and the many representatives of groups and professional companies who sent news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.

News for the next upload that covers the summer period needs to be in before around mid-April. News especially sought concerns that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings. To contact us see here and try to put something clearly science fictional in the subject line in case it ends up being spam filtered and needs rescuing.

And when you see next season's big upload, shortly after Easter, we will be 20 years old!!!


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