Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Spring 2008

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 2008

EDITORIAL MATTERS

Nothing out of the ordinary for the Concat' team last season (autumn up to Christmas 2007). A number of those vaguely connected with the loose association that passes for Concat' attended various conventions including the Eurocon and British Fantasycon but sadly no Worldcon report as previously hoped. Any sorrow this might have engendered was quickly dispelled by the Christmas and New Year festivities that the core team held in various combinations of individuals across Britain's midlands. Then there was the rush to code-check and load this seasonal volume early in January. It's the same every year. Our best wishes to you all for 2008.

BREAKING NEWS. With sadness we relay the news that the partner of one of the Concat' team's core members has just died. There had been a long period of illness but past recovery has meant that this news still has come somewhat out of the blue. We are sure that you will understand that this may result in some hiccoughs in our activities and trust that you will bear with us. No e-mails please as we have enough to deal with and in any case only those close to the core team need know the details. Naturally our heartfelt condolences go to our colleague.

Concat' Site Update Alert Service: You can receive e-mail alerts (only every other month) letting you know when this site has an 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. SF to your computer at near the speed of light. :-)

Help support Concatenation: Get Essential Science Fiction which is also available from Amazon.co.uk. In addition to helping this site it makes a great present and helps you do your bit to spread the genre word. See also news of signed copies from Porcupine Books (who can send you copies cheaper than Amazon...).

 

[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 2008

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

Our autumn news saw the Hugo and Locus Award results, this season therefore must be a look back at the Nobel Prizes. This year's wins include a politician who made a film and an SF writer -- click here for Nobel details below.

Galaxies magazine in hiatus click here for details

The 2006 Blue Planet Prizes have been announced -- click here for Blue Planet details below.

SF awards last season included: the Canadian Prix Aurora Awards, the French Utopiales Awards, the German SF Awards, Germany's Fantastic Prize, Russia's Big Zilant and Spain's Ignotus. On the fantasy front the World Fantasy and International Horror Awards and the British Fantasy Awards have been presented.

Most anticipated films of 2008 revealed by survey of 2,000 -- click here for details

Top books and films of the past year (2007). click here for details

New SF on-line film and TV channel -- click here for details

A new exotic 'element' has been created out of both matter and anti-matter particles. click here for details

Holy confinement! -- Batman held in airtight bag in bank vault!!!! -- click here for details below.

NEW YEAR STOP PRESS: SF product of January 2008 -- Discworld Collector's Calendar and Discworld Diary alias Lu-Tze Yearbook of Enlightenment by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Paul Kidby. Apologies for the late notice but we got news of these after we posted last season's news. The good news is that if you are quick off the mark in the New Year you may well be able to pick these up. These are one-off collector's items so even if you don't need a diary or calendar they are still worth getting and can only accrue in value. Go on, you know it makes sense for Gollancz to have few stock returns.
          Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collector's Calendar 2008 £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8044-7.
          Lu-Tze's Yearbook of Enlightenment 2008 (a 2008 diary with many extra bits) by Terry Pratchett with Stephen Briggs and Paul Kidby, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7724-9.

Call the above a plug for the Lu-Tze Yearbook of Enlightenment? Balderdash! What is wanted is an excerpt of the sage advice given! Oh all right then, don't say we don't aim to please (please). Here goes...
Fasting ...Lu-Tze's considerable experience of human nature has led him to devise
the following rules:-
          When you decide you are going to fast, eat as much as
          you can first. This is vitally important for successful fasting.
          If you begin to feel peckish, the following things do not count as breaking the fast:-
                - Anything you didn't mean to eat
                - Food tasted while preparing food
                - Anything you don't like
                - Rice cakes
                - Slimming food (the more slimming food you eat, the
                  slimmer you will become and the less you will have eaten.
                  Homeopathic food works the other way.)

 

[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 2008

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SF NEWS

Galaxies, the French SF magazine, has (hopefully) temporarily ceased publication! The specialist French SF magazine has been providing independent reviews, news and fiction for over a decade now. As with many specialist SF publications that are not dominated by TV sci-fi, Galaxies is a small press production. It has suffered on three fronts: staff turnover, the failure of publishers to quote its independent reviews, and declining library subscriptions. The departure last year of the person who handled much of the magazine's supporting administration for several years was a particular blow. Then editor resigned in the autumn but the new editor who had been anticipated to takeover could not. Sadly publication has ceased. However interested parties associated with the magazine are considering ways it might live on, albeit in some new incarnation. An announcement is anticipated in the near future. +++ STOP PRESS: As we start coding this seasonal newscast page we have heard that Pierre Gévart may well be taking over the editorial reins and that Galaxies could be about to have an editorial makeover and be in all but name become a new publication with a new team though some of the old team may be onboard. We are told that Pierre Gévart has come to an amicable agreement with the former editor Stéphanie Nicot. Our best wishes for this latest incarnation. Pierre Gévart is known in French fandom for his fanzine Géante Rouge.

The 2007 Nobel wins were:-
          Peace Prize goes to Al Gore and the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their work on disseminating understanding on anthropogenic climate change concerns. Al Gore made the film An Inconvenient Truth while the IPCC co-ordinated hundreds of scientists to write its 'assessment reports' (sets of which came out in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007). Now, normally the Nobel accrues a cash windfall for the winners with a 10 million Swedish krona prize (£763,000, US$1,540,000). Half of this will go to the IPCC but as literally thousands of scientists were involved in writing and the extensive peer review of these reports then in theory, if divided equally they will each get a hundred or so pounds sterling. Meanwhile it should be noted that Al Gore's film is more a polemic on climate change and while its core message (humans are changing the global climate) is correct, some (just some) of its content is not backed by science.
          Literature Prize goes to British SF writer Doris Lessing. At 87 years and with a writing career so far of 57 years, Doris Lessing has written a body of science fiction and other works. She has, of course, been recognised for her genre work by fans and was one of the Guests of Honour at the 1987 Worldcon (Brighton, UK). Her genre works include: Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) which was short-listed for a Booker Award, The Summer Before the Dark (1973), The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) which became a film (1981), The Fifth Child (1988) and more recently The Cleft (2007) to which we gave a 'title alert'. On her SF, many mainstream commentators reporting the win have cited her -- what they call 'sci-fi' -- 'Canopus' series. These explore personal dramas in differing societies on different worlds that are loosely part of the Canopan Empire. The sequence begins with Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta (1979) and includes The Sirian Experiments (1981) which was also short-listed for a Booker Award. Meanwhile most news reports have cited her (non-SF) 'breakout work' (excuse the term) The Golden Notebook (1962) that has often been described as a feminist bible. Harper Collins will no doubt be blowing the dust off Lessing's backlist (though, as The Guardian pointed out, Harold Pinter's sales actually went down after his Nobel win). Harper is indeed to re-release The Memoirs of a Survivor through its perennial imprint. +++ Then in December Lessing blasted the internet society (oops -- is that us?), the possible decline of books (phew, we encourage novel and non-fiction reading), and Zimbabwe's regime. Details lower down here.
          Medicine Prize goes to Mario Capecchi (US), Martin Evans (UK) and Oliver Smithies (US citizen formerly UK subject), for their gene targeting and removal (knock out) technique that has enabled special strains of 'knock-out' animals (often mice are used) so that the function of individual genes can be elucidated. So far more than 10,000 mice genes -- that is about half -- have been knocked out and more than 500 different mouse models of human disorders have been developed. These last include cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases, as well as diabetes and cancer.
          Chemistry Prize goes to Gerhard Ertl (Germany) for solid surface chemistry. We tend to think of chemistry as mixing gas and liquids but many reactions take place on solid surfaces (for example rusting). His work has enhanced understanding of Haber nitrogen fixation (important for fertilizer production) and the oxidation of carbon monoxide on platinum surfaces (used in car catalytic converters).
          Physics Prize goes to Albert Fert (France) and Peter Grunberg (Germany) for their discovery of 'giant magnetoresistance' (GMR) in the late 1980s. Here weak magnetic changes give rise to big differences in electrical resistance. It has been fundamental in hugely increasing the sensitivity of hard-disc readers and so enabled the development of lap-top computers in the late 1990s and the continued development of smaller and more powerful home PCs to date.
          Biology Prize -- there is no Nobel Prize for biology so biologists have to make do with the Medicine or (if they are molecular biologists) chemistry, prizes. This has long been a bone of contention but you won't see it reported in Nobel win coverage.

What were the best books and SF films of the past year (2007)? With folk gearing up for the 2008 awards for what it is worth we cite our hot tips of offerings that caught our attention in the UK.
         Films:
                    Exitz (substantially for rarity of exposure)
                    I am Legend (for the vision of Matheson's empty future)
                    The Last Man (strictly for fantastic film die hards)
                    28 Weeks Later (brilliant sequel)
                    There seems to be some theme developing here. Cough, cough.
         Books - Science Fiction:
                    Divergence by Tony Ballantyne
                    Brasyl by Ian MacDonald
                    Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley
                    Black Man by Richard Morgan
                    The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
                    Interestingly apart from a Tor (UK) title the rest are Gollancz which might (or might not) say something about where SF is at in Brit Cit. Alternatively it might be the 'm' in the name gene.
         Books - Fantasy:
                    Fatal Revenant: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Book 2 by Stephen Donaldson
                    Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
                    Making Money by Terry Pratchett
          TV offerings, well when it comes to the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form from recent years alone Dr Who is likely to get a nomination or two (especially for The Master episodes). Heroes may well get a nomination for season one, though may suffer because of the season two downturn. If there is any justice then Jekyll should get a nomination but it may not have had the profile in North America.
          Non-fiction SF, no choice really, the essential non-fiction SF 'must buy' of the year has to be Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of SF by Jeff Prucher. Now this could be the kiss of death as Jonathan, who raved over this, totally slammed the The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction a few years ago and that went on to win a non-fiction Hugo! (Of course some Hugo wins have been decidedly surprising given the short-list titles they were up against.) Though in fairness to Jonathan he did check that review with our two main co-editors who declined to review the book themselves. In fairness to us collectively, with the benefit of hindsight nearly all our past recommendations of the year have gone to win one or more awards. So it will be interesting to see how this year's recommendations fare.

The 2007 Utopiales prizes have been awarded. Summary con report below. The principal category award wins were:-
Utopiales Prix Européen: La Zone du Dehors [Out of the Zone] by Alain Damasio. (Which comes with 3,000 Euros (£2,160, US$4,440).)
Best French Novel: Bloodsilver by Wayne Barrow.
Prize for Best Foreign Novel: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.
Prize for Best New (translated to French) Foreign Novel: Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula K. le Guin.
Prize for Best Francophone Novel: L'Immaculée Conception [The Immaculate Conception].
Prize BD Best Graphic Novel: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
Jury Grand Prix (film decided by jury panel): Gadkie Lebedi [Ugly Swans] by Russia's Konstantin Lopushanski.
SF Prix du Jury (film decided by vote): Black Sheep by New Zealand's Jonathan King.
A special film prize went to David Delrieux for his TV film Flowers for Algernon which is of course based on the Hugo-winning short story (1959) and expanded novel (1966) of the same name by Daniel Keyes.

The 2007 German SF Awards have been announced:-
Best Novel: Die fünf Seelen der Ahnen [The Five Souls of the Ancestors] by Ulrike Nolte.
Best Short Story: 'Canea Zero' ['Canis Zero'] by Marcus Hammerschmitt in Visionen 3 [Visions 3].
The German SF Award is given by the Science Fiction Club Deutschland [German SF Club] and this year was presented at the SFCD's Jahrescon in Dresden in September just as our last season's news was being coded. Both writers were present to accept their wins. The German SF Awards come with a 1,000 Euro (£670, US$1,300) cash prize. (This award is not to be confused with Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Prize (whose 2007 winners we announced last time) which is decided on by Germany's SF professionals.)

Germany's Fantastic Prizes for 2007 were awarded at the BuchmesseCon book fayre cum convention in October. The principal category wins were for:-
Best Novel: Die Mächte des Feuers [The Powers of the Fire] by Mark Heitz.
Best Translated Novel: Die Rebellin - Gilde der Schwarzen Magier [The Rebel - Guild of a Black Magician] by Trudi Canavan.
Best First Novel: Die Trolle [The Trolls] by Christoph Hardebusch.
Best Original Anthology: Der Dünne Mann - Edgar Allan Poes Phantastische [The Thin Man - Edgar Allan Poe's Fantasy] edited by Alisha Bionda.
          Interestingly the first two runners up to the Translated Novel category were for Stephen King's Love and Sergei Lukyanenko's Wächter des Tages [The Day Watch]. Stephen King is, of course well known in both North America and western Europe but, given that Sergei Lukyanenko's books are now beginning to make an impression in these countries and now Germany (so building on his considerable reputation in Russia, the Ukraine, and other countries were Russian is commonly spoken), perhaps we might see other of Lukyanenko's books translated into English?
          Germany's Fantastic Prizes are decided on by on-line poll of visitors to the German website Phantastik News in two rounds: a nomination one and the finals.

Canada's Prix Aurora awards were announced at Vcon 32 (the 27th Canvention) in British Columbia. The principal category winners were:-
Best Long-form Book in English: Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan.
Best Long-form Book in French: Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance [Memory Queen 4: The Princess of Vengeance] by Elisabeth Vonarburg.
Artistic Achievement: Martin Springett (see www.martinspringett.com).
Fan Achievement Organisational: Cathy Palmer-Lister for Con*Cept.
          The award comes under the aegis of the Canadian SF and F Association and has been presented each year since 1980. This year 175 fans voted in two (nominating and final) rounds with the greatest interest in the English fiction, artist and fan organisational categories.

Spain's Ignotus awards were announced at this year's Hispacon at a special dinner. The principal category winners were:-
Best Novel: Juglar [Jongleur] by Rafael Marín.
Best Non-fiction Book: El Universo de la Ciencia-Ficción [The Universe of Science Fiction] by Sergio Gaut vel Hartman.
Best audio-visual production: El Laberinto del Fauno [Pan's Labyrinth] directed by Guillermo del Toro.
For details of the other wins and Spain's national convention this year see the Hispacon review article.

Russia's 'Big Zilant' award in 2007 went to authors Yuri Braider and Nikolai Chadovich who worked together as a writing team. The award wins were announced at the 16th International Festival of Fantastic Fiction and Role Playing Games, Zilantkon. Sadly Yuri Braider died in 2006. (Brief con-report below here.) The Big Zilant goes to works of writers considered significant but which have not yet received Russia's other big awards.

The 2007 British Fantasy Awards were announced at Fantasycon back at the end of September. The principal winners were:-
Best Novel: Dusk by Tim Lebbon
Best Collection: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
The British Fantasy Society Special Award: 'The Karl Edward Wagner Award' went to Ellen Datlow.
Full details of the other categories are on the Fantasycon website www.fantasycon.org.uk.

The 2007 Blue Planet Prize has been awarded to Prof Joseph Sax (lawyer) and Dr Amory Lovins (energy strategist). The prize commends annually two achievements of individuals and organizations that have significantly contributed to the resolution of global environmental problems. Joseph Sax (US) for his contributions to environmental protection law and Amory Lovins (US) for his work on low (soft) energy strategies. Each gets a certificate and 50 million yen (about £223,700 or US$447,400). The winners gave commemorative lectures at the UN University, Tokyo (Japan), in October. The Award is sponsored by the Asahi Glass Foundation. +++ Last year's winners here.

Hollywood writers have been on strike. Studios are not paying them residuals (effectively royalties) on DVD and internet use of their material. The argument the studios use is that these are in the main not commercial and are used to promote films, hence of no commercial value. Meanwhile Viacom and other large studios are suing You Tube for using their material and estimate that their annual internet rights' value is around US$500 million (£245 million) a year. Go figure? +++ Also Harlan Ellison has a related comment -- see below. +++ Also the strike has caused a production gap at Britain's Pinewood studios which, though a key UK cinematic resource, has already been struggling. Apparently a £3 million (US$6m) shortfall could affect the end-of-year accounts. +++ Striking writers use Star Trek message. Their campaigning slogans include: 'Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few', and 'Beam us down some justice'. +++ George (Sulu) Takei is reported on Sci Fi Wire as saying, "This is really corporate greed vs. the creative people." +++ Fans4Writers have auctioned scripts from Battlestar Galactica, Smallville and Buffy with proceeds to the Writers Guild of America and the WGA Solidarity Fund.

BBC4 are to do a three-part documentary TV series on fantasy writing. This series is in effect the cousin to the recent BBC mini-documentary series on British science fiction that saw many contributions from Brian Aldiss and Christopher Priest among others. This new series on fantasy will see contributions from Joe Abercrombie, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Guillermo del Toro and China Mieville. It will be aired in February or March and -- if following the pattern with the SF series -- possibly repeated later in the year late at night on BBC2.

Sci-Fi-London.TV the on-line free TV channel launched with films old and new as well as author interviews. Last time we reported the imminent launch of Sci-Fi-London.TV but the content has been even better than we expected. The first visitors had a choice of several films to show from golden oldies to more recent independent works as well as an author interview (with more soon to follow). Among the golden oldies was the new extended version of Things To Come (1936) that had its premiere at the last Sci-Fi London film fest. First up on the author front was an interview with William Gibson. If you have the ability to watch online video then you may want to add www.sci-fi-london.tv to your favourites.

Early Batman found. A near-mint copy of Detective Comics no. 27 was recently found in a North American attic and sold to comic collector Todd McDevitt of Pittsburgh for an undisclosed sum. However it is estimated that it might be worth up to US$250,000 (£124,000). The discovered copy is now in an airtight bag in a bank vault.

 

[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 2008

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Brian Aldiss looked at global warming and SF in The Guardian. +++ There is some discussion as to a possible film adaptation of Brian's novel Non-Stop. Brian comments, 'Pretty quick off the mark, since it appeared only half a century ago'.

Isaac Asimov video clips posted on BBC's Horizon page. The 1965 mini interview clips last only around a minute. In one he discusses robotics and in another the drift towards each other of humans with more metal bits and machines with more organic components. Quick! Check out the site before it is taken down (and we remove this link in our next net-rot excision) see the page here.

Margaret Atwood extols Huxley's Brave New World (1932) in a major Guardian article (17.11.07). She says it stands up well after 75 years and is still 'vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as when [she] first read it'.... All this probably means, and we would certainly concur, that if you have not yet read this classic then you are in for a real treat. +++ The following week readers John Hoyles (Hull) and Alan Myers (Hitchin, Herts) commented that Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel My [English trans. We] (1924) was a seminal precursor to 1984 and Brave New World which Orwell acknowledged as an influence on his novel. Meanwhile David Tester from Somerset opined that Zamytin, Huxley and Orwell, as well as Fritz (Metropolis) Lang were influenced by H. G. Wells' The Sleeper Wakes (1897). +++ Meanwhile talking of SF trope inspiration, below we note that the film I am Legend was not only inspired by Matheson's novel and the film The Omega Man but that Mary Shelly explored the same plague-decimates-humanity theme much earlier.

J. G. Ballard is to have his autobiography published by Fourth Estate. It is to be called Miracles of Life.

Iain Banks gave a public interview at Imperial College (in the shadow of H. G. Wells' former stamping ground), London, at the end of November. Around 100 attended which was not bad for a stand-alone, mid-week event. Iain said that The Wasp Factory and Song of Stone were two of his most realistic (non-fantastical) novels. He also divided his books into 'Nice' (The Crow Road & Steep Approach to Garbadale) and 'Nasty' (Wasp Factory, Complicity and Song of Stone) He commented that writing SF at the moment means that when you open the book you have no idea who is going to survive, and that SF is the most important genre on the planet as it deals with change!   There then followed a reading from his forthcoming 'Culture' novel Matter and after that a book signing session. +++ Iain also has had a tumble from his motorbike. Unfortunate as he had not that long ago forsaken his cars for the more miles-per-fossil-gallon two-wheeled mode.

Greg Bear has a full-page piece on artificial intelligence in the multidisciplinary science journal Nature in the form of a review of books by Jessica Riskin (Genesis Redux) and Gregory Benford & Elizabeth Malartre (Beyond Human). Not only is AI considered but the potential for convergence with synthetic biology. Our initial dreams and nightmares may be behind us but the future is imminent.

David Brin was one of the many evacuated in the autumn fires in California. Fortunately when he returned he found that his house had escaped the flames.

Cory Doctorow says that the SFWA have mucked up legitimate SF criticism that promotes the genre on Scribd website. This happened just as we were link-checking and posting last time's seasonal news column in September (hence is the oldest news in this section). In case you missed it what happened was that the Science Fiction Writers of America complained that Scribd allowed postings of Silverberg's and Asimov's and other SF authors' works so breaking copyright. Scribd then did a search on the SF titles the SFWA gave and removed them. However the search accidentally caught SF comment and criticism articles that mentioned titles and these too were removed. While the SFWA is laudably addressing copyright piracy issues, and citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, they are being heavy handed in that not all SFWA members want to be so championed. Cory Doctorow is himself quite liberal about e-use in that free electronic access can promote hard-copy sales. He also says he has previously asked the SFWA not represent him in negotiating rights with electronic publishing venues. He also is reported of having the view that the collateral damage to SF reviewers and commentators has not only seen such folk maligned but it is not good for the genre. +++ Scribd has re-instated the critical works and the SFWA has disbanded its e-piracy committee pending a review of SFWA members' views on copyright. +++ We at Concatenation find this debate interesting and very relevant to the early 21st century. As it happens we ourselves post a free access selection of SF authors' works with the Nature 'SF Futures' short stories. However we do have a formal memorandum of understanding with the publishers of Nature and we also seek permission of each author before we post. (Fingers-crossed, as yet no author has said 'no' but if they do we will respect that.)

Arthur C. Clarke is 90. Well he made it (we were a tad lacking in the faith department hence our last season announcement). To mark the occasion, Arthur has posted a nine minute vid-cast on YouTube. Regrets: loss of his cohort over the years. Wishes: evidence of ETI; humanity kicking the fossil habit; and peace in Sri Lanka. We sincerely hope he gets at least one of these in his remaining years: all three might be pushing it.

Harlan Ellison speaks out on the need for writers to be paid. SF Signal notes a Harlan Ellison You Tube clip with the author speaking out specifically about Warner Brothers asking him to do a free interview for a Babylon 5 DVD but, as SF Signal notes, this is germane to the Hollywood writers strike -- see above. +++ Let's hope he gets his cut for the next Star Trek film should it use the elements he created in its plot -- see below.

Henry Gee, editor of Nature's 'Futures' series, is also now editing the Tolkien Society's journal.

Harry Harrison hints at film adaptation of one of his novels. See story in the film section.

Stephen King likes the latest cinematic adaptation of one of his stories. See the item in the film sub-section below.   He is also getting his second face lift in as many years with Hodder in the UK giving 40 novels on his backlist new style covers. The author's name will be large (taking up half the cover) in scrawly font and the King backlist republished in paperback.

Doris Lessing wins Nobel for literature (see above story) but is in ill-health. +++ Then in December for her Nobel acceptance speech she submitted a recording as her health prevented her attending the award ceremony. In it she spoke fearfully of the internet society and its 'fragmenting' culture. She pointed out that "writers do not come out of houses without books" and that today despite education some people have 'read' nothing (not books). The internet has seduced a whole generation. She contrasted her experiences with her former home Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa where people were clamouring for books. She was critical of President Mugabe's regime. "It is said that a people gets the Government it deserves, but I do not think it is true of Zimbabwe. She was also critical of the modern publishing industry and felt sorry for young writers who cannot get publish, cannot write what they want and who are disillusioned.

H. P. Lovecraft is to have another story turned to film.

Sergei Lukyanenko revealed to western fans at this year's Eurocon that his 'Night Watch' books, that have in Europe and N. America been marketed as a trilogy, actually have more than three in the series... There is a fourth volume and possibly a fifth to come. +++ The second 'Night Watch' film, Day Watch was released in western Europe in October. +++ His The Day Watch also runs up in Germany's Fantastic Prize. +++ Sergei's Knights of Forty Islands may become a film?

Paul McAuley champions science in SF (sort of) in his blog. Commenting on a Paul Kincaid (a British fan) piece that suggests that mainstream authors are doing a better job of portraying science and scientists than SF writers, Paul McAuley cites several examples of where science and scientists feature strongly in SF. (See his blog entry here.) +++ McAuley's latest SF novel is reviewed here.

Barry Malzberg has had a fall and fractured his pelvis. Fortunately he is reported as now being mobile again, albeit it restricted. Our wishes for a speedy full recovery.

Michael Moorcock says that Count Zenith, the antagonist of Sir Seaton Begg in his latest book, may well be a version of his old fantasy hero Elric! Having said that, the book is also a nod to Sexton Blake (a Brit fictional detective from the 1920s and '30s) one of whose foes was Zenith the Albino. Anyway, the book is called The Metatemporal Detective and is about Begg, the title's metatemporal detective who works for the British Home Office. It builds on Moorcock's long-standing multiverse theme of a number of his novels and indeed novel series. In fact the first metatemporal detective story, 'The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius', appeared in New Worlds. Currently The Metatemporal Detective is out from Pyr in North America. Pyr does have a UK distributor: even so let's hope there is shortly a European edition.

Larry Niven returns to 'Known Space' see story below. +++ We understand he has also recently had an eye operation to remove a cataract and that this has gone well. His other eye may need attendion.

Billie Piper, the former Dr Who companion, has married Laurence Fox.

Terry Pratchett tragically announces that he is ill! Calling it 'an embuggerance', unfortunately he appears to have a form of early onset Alzheimer's. He asks us to keep things cheerful and says that this is an early diagnosis so that he has some time left. He says that he would like to meet current and future commitments but obviously we all have to be understanding and we must respect it is his choice as to which events and conventions he would like to attend while he can. No offers of help. Let's try to keep it business as usual. More details here under 'December 2007': http://www.paulkidby.com/news/dec2007.html .

Philip Pullman has moved from Scholastic to Random House for the UK publication of Once Upon a Time in the North. It is part of the 'His Dark Materials' sequence. +++ Pullman story stirs religious fundamentalists - story below in 'Interface' section. +++ Before Christmas he was a principal guest on BBC Radio 4's Go For It programme in which he revealed: which he hates more -- in-growing toenails or people getting his characters' names wrong; that his animal demon would be a jackdaw as these birds always steal glittery things which is what writers do; that his next novel will be set in the universe of 'His Dark Materials' but will be a separate story to that trilogy, and that this novel is currently a third complete with the possibility of coming out in 2009/10.

Roberto Quaglia, it is reported, has had an enjoyable encounter with Dario Fo (a winner of the Nobel Prize for literature) in which the trials and tribulations of writing were probably discussed. It has been quite a year for Roberto as earlier he appeared in a vest in the Russian edition of Penthouse in which you can see an SF writer as you have never seen one before. (No elbowing now ladies (or gents).) +++ In December he was interviewed by Italy's new and first on-line TV channel to discuss 9/11 -- the subject of Roberto's last non-fiction book. +++ Also Roberto has this year completed a joint collection of themed short stories, The Beloved of My Beloved with the British writer Ian Watsonand this is currently seeking a publisher for the English-language edition. Five of the stories from this collection have been published separately elsewhere in both print and on-line publications to some critical acclaim...

Alastair Reynolds is interviewed in Physics World, the house magazine of the Institute of Physics (the UK professional body for physicists). In it he says: "I had always been interested in science, but the thing that pushed me into considering a career in it was seeing Carl Sagan's TV series Cosmos in the early 1980s. At this time I was also an avid reader of science fiction, and I had begun to read some of Isaac Asimov's and Arthur C Clarke's non-fiction books about science. Together with a deep fascination with the night sky that I had retained from an early age, this prompted me to do a degree in physics and astronomy at Newcastle University in the UK." He also said, "I noticed that many of the writers I enjoyed - Clarke, Gregory Benford, Joe Haldeman - were either practising scientists, or had studied physics and astronomy at some point. That galvanized me to take my studies even more seriously."   As such he is part of the cadre of modern scientists turned on to science by SF.

J. K. Rowling who, as is commonly known, has few public engagements, conducted a mini-tour of the US appearing in Hollywood, New Orleans and New York. This was her first US tour since 2000. During it, while at the Carnegie Hall in New York, she outed her Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore as gay. She said she regarded her Potter books as a 'prolonged argument for tolerance'. She also opined that it would give certain groups (possibly referring to Christians who do not turn the other cheek and who feel that the books promote witchcraft) one more reason not to like her books. There has, as one might suspect, been some comment on fan sites. SF Scope's [http://sfscope.com/2007/10/jk-rowling-says-albus-dumbledo.html] reaction was to say 'so what?' in a reasoned way. +++ A copy of Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard has sold for £2 million (US$4m) The book is just one of seven made. The book itself is referred to in the final Harry Potter novel as containing clues for Harry to defeat Voldemort. Six copies went to those close to Rowling and the HP books. The seventh was auctioned for charity. The £2m reached was 39 times its estimated pre-auction value. The seven copies are all hand written by Rowling.

Robert Sawyer does robotics in Science -- see story below in our science & SF interface section.

Ridley Scott turns to fantasy in a surprise move having earlier had harsh words about SF films. Story below in the film subsection. See also http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article2351086.ece.

Mary Shelley, most famous for Frankenstein, has her novel The Last Man (1826) turned into a film. Story below.

Ken Slater, the British, longstanding SF bookseller and manager of Operation Fantast, turned 90 a little after Christmas. Our congratulations. Some of us remember him from Hatfield PSIFA's first Shoestringcon (1979), which included (among much else) a mad dash in a lightless Fantastmobile on a mass fish & chips run. Those in Britain's SF book fandom who did not know him certainly did at the 1987 Worldcon at which Ken and Joyce were Fan Guests of Honour.

George Takei has an asteroid named after him -- see item in the Science & SF Interface subsection below.

Jeff and Ann VanderMeer to compile 8 multi-author anthologies in 2008. These build on the success of last year's Best American Fantasy. The titles will be published in the US and are: The New Weird; Steampunk; The Leonardo Variations; Best American Fantasy 2; Fast Ships, Black Sails; Mapping the Beast: The Best of Leviathan & Album Zutique and Last Drink Bird Head. Some of these are to come out through his resurrected Ministry of Whimsy Press as an imprint of Wyrm Publishing. +++ The Ministry of Whimsy Press went into hibernation at the beginning of 2005 as Jeff found it difficult to juggle his real job with both editing, publishing and writing.

Vladimir Vasilyev has been interviewed by Mobi.ru (a commercial mobile phone and gadget site) on the topic of... well, er... mobile phone technology. (Vladimir is a young but respected Russian SF and fantasy writer who has several stand-alone novels out as well as collaborations with other leading SovBlock nation writers. He also is a keen yachtsman.) In the interview he says he contemplated the idea of mobile phones while at school (with a friend who is also now also an SF writer) in the mid-1980s. He says that given the technology the explosion of mobile phone technology was inevitable as humans are essentially a social species. He views much of the plethora of mobile technology facilities as unnecessary using only the phone, text, alarm and clock functions. Use of mobiles to access the internet is largely trivial unless you are away from towns and cities. He was asked whether the GPS was useful considering his yachting but replied that the mobile GPS is not comparable to technology such as the Garmin 172C. As to the question of a direct neural mobile interface with the internet he noted that the 'biotechnology' is no where near and in any case there are safety and security concerns.

Sean Williams is to explain what happened in that gap between the two trilogies of Star Wars films. See report below.

Robert Charles Wilson sees his novel Blind Lake quarantined! This is not quite as bad as it sounds. What has happened is that it has just been translated and released in Germany by publishers Heyne. What they have done is change the title from Blind Lake to Quarantine [Quarantäne] (because in the novel the Blind Lake observatory gets quarantined). However this might cause some confusion with Greg Egan's novel of the same name. +++ Wilson's Spin recently won Germany's 2007 Kurd Lasswitz prize in the best translated novel category and one of France's Utopiales Prizes. Good to see Canadian Wilson get appreciated in other European languages (and of course it won a Hugo in 2006 for Best SF Novel of 2005). +++ In December Wilson commented about his latest novel Vortex. It is a sequel to Spin. This is his first follow-up book and is actually part of a trilogy. What it is not, Wilson said, is Spin redux. "Can consciousness arise in a medium other than the human brain? Can it be distributed over time and space? How big can a thought be? Can a 'mind' exist across vast spans of time?" he said. "Plus one of the biggest SF questions of all: Does the human race have a special status in the cosmos, or are we just one more short-lived terrestrial species enjoying our brief day in the sun?" He added: "I want each book in the trilogy to occupy its own narrative space."

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 2008

FILM NEWS

Mary Shelley's novel The Last Man has been turned into a film. Published in 1826, the novel is set at the end of the 21st century. In it Britain's population is decimated and the surviving Americans come over and invade Europe. Fortunately this war of survivors ends before humanity dies out. As such the novel hugely resonates today with Britain now a second rate power to US cultural and economic imperialism and, of course, the idea of a global pandemic given current avian flu and post-SARS concerns. The film is a low budget one by Hollywood standards and opinion so far on websites and blogs has been mixed with some saying that the film suffers because of this and others that it does not matter: so we guess you should make your own mind up. The film is out in the US but not, so far, in Europe. Let's hope that some film festivals show it and that we get a DVD over here. The film arguably owes a little to Matheson's I am Legend novel (1954) which itself is now a new film. (See immediately below.)

I am Legend has been released to a record ticket sale as well as discussion comparing novel and the ending. The film's December launch night saw US$76.5million (£38.25 m) taken at the box office: this is the biggest take for a December opening night in the US to date. (The previous December opening day record holder was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003 which took US$72m.) After 12 days of North American release it had taken well over US$150m (£75m). It opened in a number of continental European countries prior to Christmas and took US$25.3 (£12.65m). Then it opened in Britain on Boxing Day so that Worldwide by early New Year it had taken US$195m (£97.5m). Akiva Goldsman who co-wrote the screenplay of the latest version of Matheson's I am Legend novel (1954) has said that the film is in fact both an adaptation of the novel mixed together with a re-make of the Omega Man (1971) that starred Charlton Heston (who got to demonstrate his real-life love of guns). One of the most debated points has been the ending, not only with regards as to how Matheson's novel ends (which gives meaning to the title) but because the new I am Legend film makers (in true Hollywood style) at the very last minute decided to go back and re-shoot the ending. Of course what this means is that the DVD will now have as part of its extras an alternative ending. (No chance of having that as part of the main film as was done with the Brit film 28 Days Later: that would be too honest a directorial pitch to viewers.) +++ Other changes of lesser concern are the resetting of the action to the near-future (2012) New York rather than Los Angeles 1954. Part of the 2012 near-future trappings include a poster for the movie Batman vs. Superman (if ever made then that would be a world's finest film (ho, ho, comics buff joke)). Also the price of a gallon of oil is given as US$663: let's see how this stands the test of time with regards to 2001: A Space Odyssey's price of a satellite telephone call.
+++ We posted a link to the I am Legend trailer last time. +++ Gollancz has produced a 2007 printing of I am Legend Matheson's 1954 novella. +++ History note: I Am Legend is the 4th adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name. It follows 1964's The Last Man on Earth, 1971's The Omega Man, and the 2007 straight-to-DVD release I Am Omega.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is the runner up Christmas box office success. After I am Legend (above), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was the most successful genre film in North America over the five-day Christmas period (it did not come out in Europe until January). The previous AvP film (about a present day / near future Alien infested base in Antarctica) was not as successful as the Sigourney Weaver predecessors. Word soon got out that it was not that special. However the advance marketing of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem has intrigued its potential audience. At the moment none of the Concat team have seen it and so we cannot comment.

Alien film future hinted. Further to last time's Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem news the film is now out. The film takes up the story arc not longer after the events of Alien vs. Predator and we will not spoil the plot for you here save to say that that report was not that far off the mark. The other thing we can say without spoiling the story, is that the soundtrack in the new film relates more closely to both the first Alien and the Predator films. It is also a bit of a romp. All well and good, but what of the future? Directors Colin and Greg Strause told reported following pre-launch showings (an oxymoronic term if ever there was one) that the next film to come may well be set in space. The Earthbound near-future storyline has run its course. The next film might perhaps be set at a time just before the events of the first Alien film. Whether or not it will set up the comics version of the alien and predator universe remains to be seen but the way things are panning out so far leaves that a very real option.

The most anticipated films of 2008 are revealed by movietickets.com's survey of 2,000 polled. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was identified as the most anticipated movie of 2008. It comes out in May. Meanwhile The Batman sequel The Dark Knight came second and it comes out in July. Of genre interest The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian came fifth. +++ Concat' has a list of forthcoming genre film releases here.

British films box office boom led by Potter. The boom has been exemplified by UK cinemas selling 22 million tickets in July alone. This is the biggest monthly sale since January 1970. Brit films have now grown to 27% of the UK market. The sales have been led by the fifth Harry Potter film which itself has taken over £49 million globally over the summer. (Other big Brit hits were Hot Fuzz and Mr Bean's Holiday.

Golden Compass' makers are suing the makers of a documentary. New Line is apparently suing Koch Entertainment for making a documentary called Beyond the Golden Compass: The Magic of Philip Pullman as allegedly it is... "a cynical and transparent effort to unfairly compete with (and) capitalize on the massive publicity and promotional effort attendant to the upcoming release of plaintiff's film, and in complete disregard of plaintiff's exclusive rights in the underlying materials, defendants have produced and are marketing and distributing the infringing video."   Right, and so this sort of thing has not been done before and New Line's film will not benefit from a free plug?   Notwithstanding this, the documentary's title suggests it is more about Philip Pullman's novel than the spin-off film. More info on Yahoo News. +++ Of course New Line is no stranger to legal disputes (see our report last year of the conflict with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson -- see also Jackson below). +++ Meanwhile The Golden Compass film attracts the attention of religious fundamentalists -- see story below in the Interface section.

If The Golden Compass is a financial success then two sequels will quickly follow. Apparently the film has to recoup some US$200 million (£100m) which even for Hollywood these days is a tad large. The surprise ('not!') announcement came that if the first films were a success the two other sequels in the trilogy would be quickly made back-to-back. Surely Hollywood does not work this way: you wait for a financial flop and then do the sequels...?

Peter Jackson to produce The Hobbit. Peter Jackson seems to have had, and accepted, an offer from NewLine over his profit share from The Lord of the Rings films. With the dispute now settled, Jackson has agreed to produce The Hobbit which will be directed by Sam Raimi. (Raimi is known for Spiderman and the forthcoming Drag Me To Hell.) There will also be a sequel to the forthcoming Hobbit.

Stephen King likes the new ending to the film Mist. The new film The Mist is based on King's novella of the same name. The film, like the novella, concerns a group of small-town residents trapped in a supermarket after a mysterious, creature-containing mist drifts into their Maine town. The novella's ending was ambiguous but the film has a certain ending. Apparently this was discussed with Stephen King who has publicly approved the film.

The next Star Trek film will be launched on Christmas day in the US Paramount has announced. (This begs the question as to when will Christmas Day be outside of the US?) It confirms our previous news last summer: you get stuff early from us. It will be the 11th Star Trek film to date and is directed by Lost creator J. J. Abrams and looks at Kirk and Spock's first meeting at the Starfleet Academy. Also Hot Fuzz star Simon Pegg is to play Scotty; so at least the accent should be OK, unlike the mangling from the person playing Scotty in the Star Trek New Voyages web episodes. Leonard Nimoy will have a cameo but William Shatner will not as the story focuses in the Enterprise's previous captain, Captain Pike. Nichelle Nichols says she is open to the idea of a cameo if she is asked. Zoe Saldana will play the young Uhura. +++ STOP PRESS: The film's makers are still trying to see if Shatner can do a cameo. One of the big hurdles is that Kirk died in the film Generations (1994). Another problem is the current Hollywood writers strike (see above) which currently precludes script re-writes.

The plot of the next Star Trek film is rumoured. The website Filmstalker reveals what may be the plot. Apparently it is a return to the world of the classic Trek season one episode 'The City on the Edge of Forever' written by Harlan Ellison. (Let's hope all the copyright payments have been paid -- see above.) You will recall that there there is a time portal that whisks one of the unwitting landing party back to early 20th century Earth and then history is changed preventing the Enterprise existing. Apparently, in the forthcoming film, the Romulans in the current Star Trek present (circa Deep Space Nine time) now discover the planet and go back in time to assassinate their Nemesis the young Captain Kirk before he can later thwart Romulan dastardly plans. Is there no end to Romulan cunning? Or just an attempt at a new beginning for the stalled ST franchise? IESB.net has more detail.

Star Wars plot gap. -- So what did happen between the films Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope? LucasArts is to bring out a computer game for the XBox 360 and Play Station while Titan is to publish the official tie-in novel that explains it all. Called Star Wars: The Force Unleashed it is by Sean Williams and the hardback will be £17.99. There will also be a parallel graphic novel with the same title (bound to cause confusion somewhere in shops).

Jane Fonda Barbarella safe from re-make for now. Universal Pictures has dropped Robert (Sin City) Rodriguez's proposed remake reportedly because he apparently insisted on casting his new fiancé, Rose McGowan in the star role. This reason, if true, seems a little odd given that Jane Fonda, who starred in the 1968 original, was directed by her (then) husband Roger Vadim.

The Birds, A new version of Hitchcock's film is proposed. The 1963 film was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier and scripted by Evan Hunter (real name S. A. Lombino, a detective (and some SF shorts) writer). The new version has entered its development hell phase. It looks like Naomi Watts will star and possibly Martin Campbell will direct. The venture is being handled by Universal studios. Platinum Dunes and Mandalay Pictures are currently involved in production.

Metropolis to be re-made. Producer Thomas (Alexander) Schuehly has bought the rights to remake Fritz Lang's iconic 1927 film. Now, given the original was set in the year 2026, there is still a little time...

Watchmen website really good! Further to last time's news of the Watchman film production blog, including parts of the original graphic novel there is now a top notch website worth checking out www.watchmencomicmovie.com.

Exitz has been made and shown, but not on general release or DVD. The cyberpunky film stars Malcolm McDowell and has good production values. Exitz had its World premiere at last year's Sci-Fi London and was also shown at the last Eurocon. However apparently the production company played fast and loose with the UK VAT (Value Added Tax) people. So it looks like only if the film is loaned to a convention or a film fest will you be able to see it until matters are resolved. So keep your eyes out as the comments we have received about this film are good.

Total Recall remake or sequel mooted. The gossip has it that the 1990 film Total Recall may either see a follow-up or a re-make. The Paul Verhoeven directed film was based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (1965).

Tron follow-up planned. Tron (1982) originally came out from Disney and was an early cyberspace film. Sean Bailey is to produce the follow-up along with Steven Lisberger who was also the person who co-authored the script of, and directed, the original film.

A Spoof of the Six Million Dollar Man is coming called the US$40,000 Man. Enough said.

Transformers 2 is on following the success of last year's film. Last year's film grossed US$700 million (£350 m) worldwide so a sequel was a bit of a no brainer. A 2009 summer release is expected. +++ In case you are contemplating whether or not to catch Transformers then it is a very reasonable film considering the constraints of the premise (cars transform into giant intelligent robots) and the age demographic at which it is aimed (young teenage). The back-story being unearthed sort of holds together but it is the effects and gung-ho action that carries the audience along. Given that Transformer toys have been around for so long, some parents may get caught up in their offsprings' excitement. This will undoubtedly help the films revenue.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is being remade. It will star Keanu Reeves. The original (1951) was directed by Robert Wise (who died in 2005) concerns an alien who visits Earth with a warning from the Galaxy underlined by a demonstration of power. It is a classic and an Essential SF film. The remake is coming from 20th Century Fox and was to come out in the summer but production was delayed. A tentative 2008 Christmas release is being contemplated but there are industrial problems in Hollywood generally that may push it further back.

Dune is again being made into a film. David Lynch did the last one and there was also a mini-TV series. This new adaptation of the Frank Herbert classic novel is to be directed by Peter Berg. By rights it should already be at the scripting stage but the Hollywood writers strike has halted work.

Underworld 3 underway. Underworld 3: The Rise of the Lycans follows on from Underworld Evolution. This prequel explores the origins of the ancient blood feud between the aristocratic vampires (or Death Dealers) and their onetime slaves, the werewolf Lycans. In the Dark Ages a young Lycan, Lucian (Michael Sheen), emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king. Lucian is aided by his lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in the battle against the Death Dealer army. Filming is just beginning in New Zealand.

Warner has got the distribution rights to Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins and two sequels. Production of Terminator Salvation is expected to commence imminently with screen launch in the summer of 2009. Apparently the idea is not to just continue the saga with John Connor battling the robots following the nuclear attack but also to re-invent the franchise. The The Halcyon Company (not to be confused with Halcyon Films Ltd) has announced that this fourth film will be the first in a new 'Terminator' trilogy. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines saw over $430 million in the international box office (i.e. excluding DVD and other income.)

H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness is to be a film. It is rumoured that Guillermo del Toro (of the Hugo winning Pan's Labyrinth fame) will direct after Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is completed. Universal is reportedly backing the project.

Guillermo del Toro to do film of Champions the British TV series. He will write, direct and produce a film version based on the 1968/9 TV series of enhanced humans. del Toro is of course well known for his fun adaptation to the big screen of the graphic novel Hell Boy and the visual and dark, Hugo-winning Pan's Labyrinth. This will follow Hellboy 2 which will hopefully be out later this year, and also 3993. So the Champions probably has a 2009/10 window. The original Champions TV series concerned a secret team of three agents who had enhanced powers (super hearing, speedy reactions, agility and strength) gained when rescued by Himalayan monks following an aircraft crash in the mountains. The original series was part of the second wave of British TV genre programmes and was created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman. (Spooner being a scriptwriter whose script credits also include Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds and Dr Who... Let's hope the theme music is based on the original series.

Hellboy 2 plot to allow the possibility of a linked Hellboy 3. In case Hellboy 2 is as financially successful as the first film, they are including in the plot of the sequel the possibility for a third in the series.

Ridley Scott turns to fantasy with next film Stones. Having reportedly (in The Times among other places) had harsh about SF as a genre one may have thought that that was it regarding fantastic films from the director of Alien and Blade Runner. But no, apparently according to the magazine Variety, his next film will be Stones and is a fantasy thriller. Ancient sites around the globe are destroyed and the link is Stonehenge which has primeval powers.   It is enough to make one opine about fantasy horror films: "There's nothing original. We've seen it all before. Been there. Done it." And asked for examples examples to say: "All of them. Yes, all of them."

Halcyon Company gets permission to do Philip Dick films. Electric Shepherd Productions -- the Dick estate's multimedia production company which has Dick's daughter Isa as principal -- has granted permission and reportedly says that the integrity of Dick's works will be a priority.

Harry Harrison hints at possible Deathworld film. Apparently a Russian/Ukrainian studio is very interested in adapting Deathworld to the big screen. Problems abound because the film option rights for the novel currently belong to a US studio and Hollywood apparently does not yet have rights-transfer agreements with Russia and so there is a bit of legal paperwork to be sorted out first but nothing critical as no party involved has any objection to the proposal. Given that Russian studios are beginning to make some more polished productions let's hope the venture comes off. The first of Harrison's 'deathworld' series came out in 1963. A gambler helps visitors from a planet raise funds. The planet itself is not only a volcanic nightmare but its wildlife seems to be at deliberate war with the human colony. It is literally a deathworld. +++ See also the next story below.

Sergei Lukyanenko's Knights of Forty Islands may be a film. The rumour is that this may be a joint Ukrainian-US production and this tentative news is all the more interesting given the possible Deathworld film (see previous story above). Word also has it that Marina and Sergei Dyachenko (who are very well known in Russian and Ukrainian SF circles) may be involved with the film's script. There is speculation as to big name Hollywood stars. However all this is, we stress, rumour, and we remember are talking Eastern Europe here so anything may, or may not, happen.

Serenity 2 increasingly likely. The DVD sales of Serenity (which won a Hugo in 2006) have done so well that Universal released a second edition of the DVD. Given this and the box office sales, Universal (who axed the original TV series (called Firefly), are now thinking that a second film may be profitable. Having said that apparently actress Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee, told fans on her Myspace site that the project as of the autumn had not been approved. All of which depressingly goes to show how much it takes for a penny to drop in Hollywood... However there is even talk of a plot and this suggests that if the film is made then it will be a prequel. So expect some dead characters. The first Serenity film and Firefly series was developed by Jos (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon.

Film download tip!: I Am Legend comic strip trailer. This is the spin-off from the most recent film adaptation of the classic SF novel. (The comics will most likely be compiled into a graphic novel in the future.) See the clip here.

Film download tip!: Star Trek does the Holy Grail! 'We're knights of the Round Table...' This amusing clip has been spotted by SF Signal. See the clip here.

Film download tip!: Max Headroom is back!!!! That pseudo-computer-generated character from just 20 minutes into the future (or alternatively from one of the 1980s most inventive SF television offerings that spawned what is arguably the first cyberpunk TV series) Max Headroom is back on Britain's Channel 4 (who did the original pilot TV film). This time he is promoting the UK analogue-to-digital switch. Beware, he has aged. The clip is here.

Film download tip!: Simpson's Star Wars parody. SF Signal points to The Simpson's opening re-done like Star Wars by Rich Cando. -- See here.

Talking of The Simpsons here's a micro-chortle:-
          Patient:   Doctor, doctor, I seem to be hard of hearing!
          Doctor:   Really? What are the symptoms?
          Patient:   They're yellow people off of the TV...

[Ed: Enough. Normal service resumes below...]

For a reminder of the top films in 2006/7 (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. You can use this page if you are stuck for ideas hiring a DVD for the weekend.

For a forward look as to film releases of 2008 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 2008

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Larry Niven's 'Known Space' makes a comeback. Larry Niven has teamed up with Edward M. Lerner to generate more 'Known Space' novels. Niven's 'Known Space' series of novels were a huge SF hit of the 1960s and 1970s and its 1970 novel Ringworld had both Locus and Hugo success (hence is cited as Essential SF). In subsequent decades much of Niven's SF became less hard but of greater appeal to a more fantasy orientated readership and there was little new in 'Known Space'. He has allowed others to write Man-Kzin War 'Known Space' stories that have been collected in the 1980s. First out of the new novels is Fleet of Worlds (sadly at the moment only in N. America). It sees the Puppeteers assemble a human exploration team while the Puppeteers themselves do a leisurely runner into the scary unknown (Puppeteers are cautious) away from 'Known Space' as they know the core of our Galaxy (tens of thousands of light years away) is exploding. Fleet of Worlds is billed as a prequel to Ringworld.   Meanwhile Niven and Lerner have also completed a second 'Known Space' novel Juggler of Worlds which sees the return of Sigmund Ausfaller, the ARM agent, as its protagonist.

First new Paddington Bear book for 30 years helps mark the bear's 50th anniversary. Paddington Here and Now will come out from HarperCollins and will see Paddington questioned by the police as to his immigration status. The 50th anniversary will also be marked by a new title, My Book of Marmalade (which Harper assure will be made of paper). This may redress the balance following Paddington's advertising flirtation with marmite last year.

Whimsy Press (US) is back. See Jeff VanderMeer news earlier.

UK authors and junior publishers pay rates in 2007... According to the Authors Licensing & Collecting Society the average income for a professional author in the UK is £14,000 (US$28,000). Meanwhile an analysis elsewhere of office juniors working in their mid-20s in London for the main publishing houses is £19K with fresh graduates (early 20s) earning £18K, and those for small publishing houses less. The argument goes that there are many applicants for posts and that publishing provides interesting jobs.

Following the English language launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (reported last time) its foreign language editions have been released overseas. In France Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort came out at the end of October and the French publishers, Gallimard, saw 1.5 million copies sold in the first two days: this was half their print run. In Germany Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes saw a million sold the first day of the launch and additionally half a million copies of the English edition..

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows mass market paperback edition launch date announced. It will be out on 5th July and priced £8.99. There will be both a children's and an adult edition. (Normally we would list this in our season's forthcoming publishing listing but these only go up to March and besides we thought you would appreciate the early heads up.)

Life moves on after Harry Potter for Bloomsbury Publishing. Having been boosted by sales of seven-figure print-runs of the 'Harry Potter' books and with the last one published in the summer, Bloomsbury seeks to develop. Announced at its 21st birthday bash at the beginning of October, Richard Charkin joins Bloomsbury as its Executive Director. This was a surprise as Charkin was up till then Chief Executive of the far bigger Macmillan! It is thought that he may spend some of Bloomsbury's Potter-inflated reserves on new companies in emerging markets such as South America and China.

PS Publishing has a new website, "http://store.pspublishing.co.uk". It is e-commerce enabled for paypal. They still accept cheques too. PS Publishing are noted for the quality of their book production and selection of titles. They are very much a publisher for SF book collectors. If you do not mind paying just a little over the odds for quality SF and fantasy and quality production then they really are worth checking out. We have listed below just a couple of their forthcoming titles of classic reprints from Arthur Clarke and Harlan Ellison in special limited editions. No rushing now...

One of Russia leading publishers of SF, Eskmo, has produced a 2008 calendar of SF art. Though such a venture is not new in the West, in Russia such a project is rare and Eskmo are waiting to see if it is profitable. +++ Western fans going to this year's Eurocon in Moscow may want to keep an eye out for this as it will be a rare opportunity to get hold of some contemporary Russian SF/fantasy art. What is more the months are depicted in both English as well as Russian.

Penguin staff move back into refurbished offices on the Strand (London). It is all open plan and even for the senior managers. Small reading rooms are available for editing and author meets, though some staff (inevitably?) are unsure whether this will work.

HarperCollins first major UK publishers to give it green. They are going for what is trendily called 'carbon-neutral' by offsetting their emissions through carbon trade and also using paper from young, sustainable forests. A most laudable aspiration which means that Harper will be ahead of the pack for when it is time to go low-fossil for real.

HarperCollins Children's books to do 2008 big genre film novelizations. The books will come out the month prior to the films' respective cinematic release dates namely: Indiana Jones (May); Prince Caspian (June); and Batman (July).

Separate hardback editions to end? Hardbacks are only regularly bought by a minority of the public: most regularly buy paperbacks. The main steady market for hardbacks is for libraries. Yet the common practice is to have a hardback edition first so encouraging sales of titles popular with usual paperback buyers who cannot wait for the paperback edition. Yet is this really economical? Picador have decided to end the separate hardback edition and will now release the paperback edition at the same time as a small (about 1,000) run of hardbacks. This will affect 'literary' titles. Most of the big UK publishers of SF and fantasy are likely to continue to publish a hardback edition first, perhaps combining it with a trade paperback (large format) edition, and then later releasing the mass market paperback (sometimes in the 2cm taller B-format paperback). However many other British publishers are reconsidering their hardback policy. The sole advantage of an early hardback is that it gives time for reviewers to read and have their reviews published in advance of the mass market editions. Meanwhile Picador's first simultaneous hardback / paperback release will be in April.

'Sale or return' policy curtailed by Hachette. Hachette owns Orion (who do the Gollancz SF imprint), Hodder Headline and Little Brown, among other publishing houses. Since the end of WWII booksellers can return books unsold and this policy encourages them to stock untested new authors. But some shops have been abusing the system and using the system to control cash flow. The problem gets absurd when one shop returns copies of a book ordered by other shops in the same chain. In these days of print on demand it can result in the absurd situation of returns being pulped while new books are printed. The new policy applies only to the backlist (so will not affect new titles) and booksellers can still return books but only after a year since the original date of order. Hachette estimate that this will save somewhere around a million books from unnecessary pulping. It also has environmental benefits. Authors too will benefit in that royalty statements sometimes show an allowance made for potential returns, and so matters will be clearer for them.

Book vid-trailers coming! The Bookseller magazine, Random House, Play.com, and the National Film & TV School (NFTS) have teamed up to develop three 90 second trailers of Random House books. The trailers will be made by students and graduates of the NFTS and will be put on Play.com in March. The project has been described as groundbreaking, but if you will recall that last April we reported a trailer for Greg Bear's SF novel Eon.

British romance publishers Mills & Boon to launch vampire and paranormal titles. March is to see M&B start to release one Nocturne title a month as part of its romantic suspense series 'Intrigue'. The Nocturne titles will all be dark and sensual tales of paranormal romance and marketed at £3.10 each.

Borders sold -- One of the big UK bookselling worries of 2007 resolved. The 42 Borders and 28 Books Etc shops in UK and Ireland have been bought at a cheap price (£10 million plus £10 million if sales targets are reached) by Luke Johnson the venture capitalist who has been involved in both a pizza chain and UK's Channel 4 TV national station. Worries were that W.H. Smiths (the newsagent chain that also sells a few popular books) might take it over. It looks like they stayed away from the deal in case they fell foul of Britain's monopolies guidelines (as in the past they took over Waterstones -- who are a proper bookshop chain -- and then closed some branches that were near Smiths shops). It looks as if Borders will expand their stock to include some computer games and educational toys but that books will remain central to the business. Luke Johnson likes the idea of real books.

Leading UK authors agency splits. Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) is one of the leading author, cinematic and theatre performer agencies and has many SF authors on the books of its individual agents. PFD's ownership was potentially up for grabs and the staff attempted a buyout but only offered £4 million -- barely the price of a property in central London -- this compares with £12m paid for PFD six years ago. Then early in the autumn agents started leaving with 18 departing. PFD is loosing investor status with its stock value falling, though it has advised that its income streams are in part safeguarded in that new (agent commission) income from past work handled by PFD agents will still go to the agency. (Though of course income from new works will not.)
          Then in October five more agents resigned. They had been serving their notice on what the trade magazine The Bookseller (2nd Nov p3) had described as 'gardening leave' but then received a letter saying that they were being fired due to gross misconduct. Apparently there have been some discrepancies in payments to the agents. The situation is not clear but the former PDF board may have been paying staff more rather than provide PDFs owners, CSS Stellar, with a bigger trading surplus.
          The leaving agents have set up their own agency called United Agents. In the meantime PFD say they are recruiting new staff but in a somewhat Machiavellian move have also set up (at least in name) another agency called the United Agents Group: not that this is an attempt to sow confusion with United Agents, perish the thought.
          Those really suffering in all this, as mentioned, have been the shareholders, plus also authors who have to decide whether to stick with their agent or with the agency.
          PFD has affirmed that they will not pass on to United Agents authors' backlists. This has caused the Society of Authors some concern. PFD could look after and promote the backlist or they could sit back and do nothing. A spokesperson for the Society of Authors suspected that they may do the latter.

Open access science continues to increase. In science publishing there has been a big debate as to whether published research should be free to access (as opposed to be paid for by subscribing to a journal). Pay supporters say that journal subscription income is needed to cover editorial and referee as well as publishing costs: true. Open access supporters say that science should be for everyone and that tax-payers have already paid for Government funded research institute and university research and so should get free access: also true. The result has been that there is a complete spectrum of response from only pay to completely free (the researcher covers publication costs) with hybrid compromises in between in which the research is only open access after a period of time (typically between six months to three years). Now the PubMed Publishers Panel has given open access its blessing provided the accessers do not use the science accessed commercially and that non-commercial use has proper citation of the source. (PubMed is a biomedical abstract search and archive service. The PubMed Publishers panel had on it representatives of Britain's Publishers Association (PA) and the Association of Learned and Professional Scientific Publishers (ALPSP).)

The 2012 Olympic games (UK) organising committee threatens authors over use of word 'Olympic'. They have reportedly threatened children's author Robert Ronson with legal action over the title of his book Olympic Mind Games (Pen Press). Such bullying is both silly and not becoming. Hopefully authors will ignore it: it appears that Ronson is.

No real genre interest in this year's Bookseller Awards. The bash was once again held in the Natural History Museum (Kensington) with the annual dinner. This year the Irish comedian Dara O'Briain compared and did well despite a microphone failure. Usual dinosaur references to publishing (ho, ho, yawn). Nothing really SFnal to report.

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in April after Easter. Meanwhile check out the forthcoming SF and forthcoming fantasy book lists sections (see the mini-index immediately below...).

 

[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 2008

TV NEWS

Heroes gets even bigger airing by BBC! Our last season' news column had literally just been handed over to our webmaster for link checking when the BBC held a catch-up Heroes weekend to show the first half of the series again from the season's begining. This means that the first half of the first season has seen episodes screened four times each on national terrestrial within three months! As it was, and as we reported the previous three showings per episode was a British TV first. +++ Meanwhile news is coming in, from those who attended the 2007 Worldcon in Japan, that a number of Heroes enthusiasts are wondering whether to submit the whole Heroes story arc (rather than individual episodes) for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation. Ahh, but would this nomination be for Dramatic Presentation Long Form or Short Form? +++ Also a Heroes DVD has recently come out.

Heroes season 2 sucks. As season 1 came to a close on the UK terrestrial channel BBC2 before Christmas, the word was not good from the blogs, and various places on the internet, as to season 2 being broadcast in the US. (For example see http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/005959.html.) Such criticism has led to Heroes creator Tim Kring apologise for the season 2 quality dip. Meanwhile the question of fannish interest is what will this do for the possibility of Heroes getting a 'Best Dramatic Presentation' Hugo at this year's Worldcon? There was talk among some at last year's Worldcon (2007, Japan) that the Heroes season 1 story arc might be nominated for a Hugo. Certainly Dr Who currently seems to have a strong hold over the 'Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form' Hugo Award suggesting that it might be difficult to oust. However other factors do come to play when folk vote for the Hugos. (It is not all about which is the best work, as you might think, and factors such as the number of previous nominations, fan profile, etc., do play a part.) Here, even though the Hugo is for previous year's works, Heroes season 2's quality dip may harm season 1's chances at either the Hugo nominating and/or final ballot stages of the Award.

The original Star Trek two-parter 'The Menagerie' has been re-mastered in high definition. The original being shot on film meant that re-mastering for high-definition was possible. While they were at it they added new special effects and a new orchestral version of the theme music. The new version has been on restricted release in North American cinemas. A half hour featurette has also been made so expect a high definition DVD to be available soon. +++ This story may also signal other of the original episodes being re-mastered in high definition so that when high definition really takes off over the next few years there are recordings to sell. Of course the original Trek episodes were largely shot on set designed with the knowledge that the TV of the 1960s was low definition so the high definition versions may well reveal the cardboard and polystyrene. +++ Some of the Star trek: Next Generation seasons were also shot on film and so may also be re-mastered. Their sets were better. Sadly some of the later Trek series were shot straight to video and these will gain nothing (other possibly than new added effects) from high definition.

Torchwood back in UK this Spring. The BBC Dr Who spin-off returns shortly for a second series straight to BBC2 (not BBC 3 as with the first series). Further to our autumnal Dr Who news that the Doctor's former companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) will feature in three of the new Torchwood episodes, there will also be a special guest appearance in the first episode by James Marsters (formerly 'Spike' in Buffy). Storylines include: include an encounter with a rogue Time Agent; a tragic time-slip from World War One; and a memory-thief who uncovers long-forgotten secrets among the entire team. +++ Meanwhile Torchwood series 1 aired in North America on BBC America back in September/November and series 2 will air later this year.

Dr Who returns to UK in Easter and has specials in 2009. Last time (autumn) we said that Dr Who will not have a new series broadcast in 2009 after the 2008 season and that the next new series would take place in 2010. This was correct. However we were wrong to say that there would be 'no new material' in 2009 as there will in fact be three Dr Who specials that year! Our apologies for the error. Sometimes we report plans that do not come to pass but this time (hands up) we reported the news we received incorrectly. Can you forgive us?

Billie Piper returns briefly to Dr Who. She returns for a three episode run in season 30 which itself will be broadcast starting Easter weekend 2008 (see above).

Rumour of Dr Who film. There is this rumour of a Dr Who film and that Billie Piper may return for it. The BBC are being coy and not giving anything away. The rumour also suggests that this could be the reason for the 2009 break in the seasons (see previous story). +++ Previously the two Peter Cushing Dr Who Dalek films of the 1960s were successful.

David Tennant may be leaving Dr Who hints Katharine Tate. She dropped the hint when being interviewed by Jonathan Ross on BBC Radio 2. She also said he may be in some of the forthcoming Dr Who specials (see above). Given that the next full season of Dr Who may not be until 2010 such discussion is all highly hypothetical; much could happen between now and then. The BBC has so far declined to comment.

Stargate: The Ark of Truth, the feature length straight-to-DVD film, is to be relaeased 11th March 2008. The film wraps up some of the loose ends from the Stargate TV series.

Eureka back this summer in the US. 13 new episodes will form the series third season. The second season saw three million viewers with the US branch of Sci-Fi Channel.

The new Bionic Woman attracts US viewers. Starring Michelle Ryan as Jaime Sommers, and on the US channel NBC in the autumn, it attracted 13.6 million viewers.

The Dead Zone has been cancelled. Based on the Stephen King book characters (and film adaptation), the series has run for six seasons.

Next Wallace & Gromit to be a half-hour TV short. Called Trouble at Mill it concerns our duo spotting a gap in the baking market and so they set up shop. They then discover that previously a dozen bakers have disappeared... The film is due out on BBC1 around the autumn (2008). Bob Baker, the co-writer of the two short films The Wrong Trousersand A Close Shave, returns to write Trouble at Mill with Nick Park.

Despite previous indications Lost is to drag on to 2010. So the producers have succumbed to cash and are going to milk the series for another three years! However they already have the ending roughed out (as they previously hinted). Season four is being aired this Spring and there are 48 episodes to go. This season will see flash forwards as well as flash backs. +++ Lost season three DVD set came out before Christmas.

Lost executive producer, Carlton Cuse, gives clues. The show is about 'redemption'. The next season will see flash-forwards in time in addition to those back in time. Some of the deaths seen in the last season came about due to focus group reaction. The fourth series of Lost starts on February 6th in North America.

Terry Nation's Survivors to return to BBC. The late Terry Nation (probably best known for creating Dr Who's Daleks) created Survivors for the Beeb which first broadcast it in three seasons between 1975 and 1977. It told the story of the aftermath of a highly infectious and lethal flu global pandemic that wipes out 99.99% of humanity (the wiping out takes place just in the first episode). Given current avian flu, post-SARS concerns it is arguably prescient but equally it is an SF theme that has been around since at least Mary Shelly's The Last Man (1826) which itself has been the loose basis for James Arnett's recent film. Now Terry Nation's estate have given permission for the BBC to re-make the series (lets hope they broadcast highlights of the old one first, though it is available on DVD). The re-make has probably been spurred by interest in the recent film I am Legend (current news above here and based on Matheson's novel (1954)): there is also of course The Last Man. BBC's Susan Hogg is to produce the new Survivors.

The Knight Rider may return in a new TV film. David Hasselfoff (the original star) is rumoured to want a cameo appearance. KITT has been upgraded. The IMDB listing is here. The new KITT car is now a Ford Shelby Cobra Mustang. Picture here.

Red Dwarf to your mobile phone. Smeg head news below 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 2008

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The 2007 Worldcon was held in Japan back at the beginning of September just before we posted last season's news which only has outline coverage.

The 16th International Festival of Fantastic Fiction and Role Playing Games, Zilantkon, took place in Kazan in November. Attracting some two and a half thousand, it saw the usual writers panels and workshops as well as role playing games and tournaments. Filk has been growing in Russia and was a feature at this year's international con. As usual there was a fancy dress as well as fencing and other practical displays. This year's historical ball had the theme of the Venitian Carnival circa 15th to 18th centuries. Some parts of the convention, and a few of the programme items, were not only enjoyed by convention registrants but open to the public. As happened last year some underprivileged children from Kazan had special access to the convention. Participating writers included: Loginov, Lukin, Skiryuk as well as Zlotnikov, and Kudryavtsev . The first day's launch event was particularly popular with an early evening rock concert by Sergei Kalugina and the group 'Orgy Pravednikov'. Also during the con there was a performance of the British rock opera 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. The con saw films and there was a fan/amateur film competition. The Big Zilant win was as usual announced.

The Word Fantasay Convention was held in Saratoga Springs, New York. Around 1,150 attended. During the convention the World Fantasy Awards were presented with the best novel category going to Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe. Details of other category wins on www.worldfantasy.org. Also presented at the convention were the International Guild of Horror Awards with the best novel category win going to Conrad Williams for The Unblemished. Britain's Ramsey Campbell was honoured as a 'living legend'. Full category win details on www.horroraward.org.

The 2007 Eurocon was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was another good Eurocon, arguably even a brilliant one, albeit a little ragged around the edges. Some 400 attended. Reportedly there were good guests, multi-track programme, functional (though sparse) venue, excellent programme, the usual European bonhomie, very good programme, easy access to airport and main station, fantastical programme, open-late café-bar plus alternate out-doors social area, and a stupendously crafted programme, all meant that despite frayed edges it went off particularly well. Oh, and -- if you are into that sort of thing -- the programme was OK too. New for a Eurocon there were a number of set parties by future Eurocons and bids. In addition to Guests of Honour authors Harry Harrison, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen Baxter, and Zoran Zivkovic as well as space artist Dave Hardy, there was also Stanislaw Lem as Ghost of Honour. In addition Brian Aldiss was virtually present at the banquet as a recording. A dozen authors from a range of European countries attended: perhaps the biggest name present, in terms of book sales, was Russia's Sergei (Night Watch) Lukyanenko. Full report here.

European SF Society (ESFS) business meeting shows wearing with time. The ESFS business meeting at this year's Eurocon in Copenhagen again demonstrated that ESFS as it is currently structured, hence serviced, is not up to today's challenges. With a wealthier continent, and one that is easier to cross between west and former east borders, plus not to mention an electronically linked Europe, ESFS is meeting new challenges. This is not to decry the current officers as they are simply undertaking roles established when ESFS was founded in 1972, but Europe and its SF fan community is in a very different place today. The business meeting (September) had agreed to create an advisory review group of Eurocon regulars, however as of Christmas its remit and appointees have yet to be announced. (This itself is symptomatic of ESFS problems as it only seems to function at its two business meetings at the now annual Eurocons with little happening in the intervening year.)
          Meanwhile some Bulgarians have formed a multinational complaint committee specifically regarding the way the nominations for this year's Eurocon awards were handled: apparently there has been some gamesmanship. (Concat would rather not go into all this as it is frightfully complicated.) General ESFS grumbles have spilled off of some of the related dialogue.
          Point of view: How serious is the ESFS problem? In one sense the problem is very serious as there is a clear question as to whether ESFS is fit for purpose for the 21st century. In another sense the problem is simply a natural one of evolution: the World has moved on while ESFS has not. ESFS is only in its third decade. Compare the situation with the World SF Society (WSFS) under whose auspices the Worldcon is nominally held. WSFS is now in its seventh decade, but Worldcon numbers only exceeded 1,000 at the start of its third decade, which is arguably when much of its present governance was embedded. ESFS is currently of a comparable age. Considered this way, there is no problem, just growing pains.

 

2008 Worldcon, Devention, news. Progress Report 2 and the Hugo nomination ballot are now out, and the competition for design of the Hugo Award base has closed. Kathy Mar is the special music guest. The membership rates went up in the New Year and of course they will go up on the door. Progress Report 3 is due out early in March. -- Web link on our diary page (only to the end of 2008).

 

The 2008 Eurocon is in Moscow. Its organisation has been a bit of a roller-coaster (see last time's Eurocon coverage). Some lessons have been learned and things are looking better. It could well be a very good convention and a different experience for western fans. However if you are going to do some additional tourism then you are strongly advised to ensure that your ancillary visa documentation is 100% correct. (This is separate to the ancillary paperwork needed for the convention with which the convention organisers can help: they cannot help with other tourist paperwork for beyond the specific period of the convention in a different hotel actually in Moscow (which you will undoubtedly require).) In addition to this year's Eurocon guests there will be some big name Russian authors present and possibly a cosmonaut. Still time for you to book. Web link on our diary page (only to the end of 2008).

2008 Moscow Eurocon change of dates! The new dates are 15th - 18th May (from 3rd - 7th May). The change has come about due to the Russian calendar and its public holidays. This meant that the old dates would have both been inconvenient to Russian fans and also the hotel owners (understandably catering to their regular trade) would not have had as many hote rooms available for the Eurocon. Hopefully this change of date will have happened before anyone actually booked their flights and accommodation and also hopefully will not result in a clash in anyone's work commitments. In case you are Googling -- searching on Moscow Eurocon and change of dates -- you need to know that this is the second change of dates. The dates were first moved back shortly after Russia won the bid and this was welcome as it made tourist activities more feasible than in the depth of the Russian winter. (It was originally to have been held in February not May but there was some discussion about this at the bidding session.)

The 2009 Eurocon is in Italy. It is early days yet and the organisers are a little behind (with one apparently having a separate personal problem in their life). This means that if you are not Italian-speaking and have tried to e-mail prior to Christmas you may not have had a reply. Hopefully early in the New Year (that is around when this page is posted) matters will have been resolved. If they have, then the convention is likely to be a good one and the Italian team certainly have a good spread of quality guests covering SF in both its written and visual forms. If the communication is still out then matters will obviously not look so good, but there is still time for everything to fall into place. At the time of drafting this news page (prior to Christmas) Concatenation has been told that the web site is being created. (Remember Eurocon websites have to be both in the native European language and English so it is not unreasonable to allow three or four months following a Eurocon winning the vote to create their site and this year's vote took place in Copenhagen at the end of September.) -- Web link on our diary page (only to the end of 2008).

 

The 2009 Montreal Worldcon will be called 'Anticipation' and the web link is on our diary page (only to the end of 2008). As with Italy (above) this one also has its communication problems. For some reason having found they won, they did not seem to have a sufficiently strong core committee in place and key posts are only now being filled. There also appears to be a lack of Canadian conrunners onboard and a number from other countries (including Great Britain) seem to have been drafted in. The last Canadian Worldcon was Torcon 3 in 2003 (Toronto). This one appeared to get some criticism for the way aspects of it were run. Certainly the film programme was decidedly limp, and there were problems with one or two of the extravaganza's, but Torcon III's science programme ran very much as the pre-convention draft programme had billed items with a good spread of topics running to schedule. How Anticipation will fare in 2009 is likely to fix how North American fandom views the prospect of Canadian Worldcons for some years.

Irish Eurocon for 2010 almost proposed. Ansible reports in its 'Rumblings' col' a proposal for Ireland to bid for the 2010 Eurocon. Eurocon regulars may recall that an Irish bid had been previously presented at the 2005 European SF Society (ESFS) business meeting at that year's Eurocon in Glasgow. However back then the (presumed?) humour of Ireland's pitch -- that the convention will have some European programming 'for those that want it' -- was lost on the assembled Eurocon fans. Now Ansible reports that at this year's Octocon (the Irish national convention) there was a move to present a bid at next year's ESFS business meeting in Moscow for Ireland to host the 2010 Eurocon. Despite the presence of an ESFS officer, Ansible reports that elements of the proposal were viewed as controversial and the bid folded. December's Ansible noted that no Irish conrunning team is currently planning a Eurocon bid.

Countries that may possibly bid or put down a marker for future Eurocons at the ESFS business meeting in Moscow (2008) include: Germany, Finland and Hungary. Countries who have presented bids or put down markers at ESFS business meetings in recent years but are unlikely to do so this year include: Spain and Ireland. The 2009 Eurocon is Italy (see above) which is, of course, a Western European country. If ESFS tradition holds, then 2010 may see an Eastern (or Central) European nation host the Eurocon.

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

For a list of national and major conventions, check out our convention 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 2008

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

SF Utopiales continues to grow. France's four-day SF Utopiales festival in Nantes in November saw many thousands attend. Exact numbers are unclear but we are certainly talking five figures if only because some come for just one or two items such as a film and also some double counting probably took place, however a figure of 40,000 has been cited. As such it certainly exceeds Dragoncon (US) and is fairly international which means there is an argument that we should be reporting it in the above Eurocon / Worldcon section. Its success is that it really is the European equivalent of a very broad Worldcon (it covers fantastic film cinema as much as it does SF literature) or an upmarket Dragoncon without the latter's domination of TV sci-fi. Like both Dragoncon and the Worldcon there is even science programming. Its international appeal has been facilitated by some programme items having simultaneous translation. This 2007 Utopiales' theme was 'climates'. Authors participating included: Claire and Robert Paule Belmas, Francis Berthelot, Pierre Bordage, Pierre Bottero, Lucie Chenu, Daniel Fondaneche, Simon Green, Denis Guiot, Patrick Gyger, Peter F. Hamilton, Gerard Klein, Nathalie Legendre, Adriana Lorusso, Marc Ligny, Eric L'homme, Louise Marley, Jerome Noirez, Richard Paul Russo, John Scalzi, Luc Schuiten, Gilles Servat, Elisabeth Vonarburg and Robert Charles Wilson. N. American SF writer and astrophysicist Gregory Benford was also one of the scientists on the programme. One of the more topical panels relating to the current French scene was on the 12 years of the quarterly Galaxies (see the earlier Galaxies headline story). Other scientists on the programme included: Jean Beurier, Pierre Lagrange, Elizabeth Malartre, Denis Mercier, Christian Ngô, Raphael Romi, Martine Staebler, Hervé Thiellement, and Pierre Vacher. They explored issues relating to climate change. Numerous films (including 24 features) were also screened including many continental European ones and there were also attractions you would expect at a typical Worldcon and Eurocon with dealers rooms and art exhibition, not to mention some fancy dress. The Utopiales Prizes were also awarded see earlier.

The 2007 Fantasycon showed evolution. Held at the end of September in Nottingham (for the second year in a row), the 2007 Fantasycon was tremendously successful. In addition to the four main guests -- Terry Brooks (author), Michael Marshall Smith (novelist & screenwriter), Stephen Jones (editor) and Pete Crowther (writer & publisher) -- there were numerous SF/fantasy professionals (mainly writers and editors) present including: Sarah Ash, Paul Barnett, Chaz Brenchley, Ramsey Campbell, Mike Carey, Mark Chadbourn, Vincent Chong, Simon Clark, Les Edwards, Christopher Fowler, Jo Fletcher, Stephen Gallagher, Nancy Kilpatrick, Joel Lane, Juliet Mckenna, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Sarah Pinborough, Andrew Porter, Anne Sudworth, David A. Sutton, Stephen Volk, and Ian Watson. Highlights included a book launch of James Cooper's debut collection (showing that new blood was around) and there was an evening of independent films. New for Fantasycon this year was an art show. Announced at the convention were the British Fantasy Award 2007 winners.

SF reaches across the Alps. Early in the autumn (just as we posted last season's news) SF fans from either side of the Alps met for a small quasi-relaxacon in Lyon. The event is worthy of note being international in nature. It was organised by the Lioness SF group (France) together with another from the Piedmont region (Italy). (The Lioness SF group's name is a pun as Lioness in French is the same as the name of the town, Lyon, from which the group hails.)

Germany holds another BuchmesseCon and so this may become a regular feature of the German fan landscape? There have been a number of BuchmesseCons though this is the second to be held in the Dreieich venue just to the south of Frankfurt. BuchmesseCon is a cross between a convention and a book fayre and is loosely associated with the autumnal Frankfurt Book Fayre. In addition to a twin track book orientated programme, of mainly author interviews and readings, there were many book-dealer and SF group stalls. A good number of writers were also present including a few of the winners of the 2007 Fantastic Prizes who were therefore able to accept their awards in person.

The status of the French Infinite SF short story competition is not clear. With the 2007 story win published in the French SF magazine Galaxies, the 2008 competition should by now be open: there were originally plans for it this year. If it is to run as it did last year (2007) then there would be a first prize of 150 Euros (approximately £100) and two runner-up prizes of 75 Euros (roughly £50). The 2008 winner would have been announced in the summer and the winning story again published in Galaxies towards the end of the year. It is hoped that magazine's current hiatus (see earlier) will be resolved by then and that there will be some news shortly. +++ STOP PRESS: As we understand it -- and we may be in error -- the competition may go ahead with the winner being published but any prize money or payment has yet to be decided. +++ The 2007 competition winners were announced by Alain le Bussy at the l'Isle Sur la Sorgue mini-con mid-August, along with the 3 prize cheques The winners were: 'Nadia' by Emmanuelle Maia and the runners-up: 'Video & Juliette' by Patrice Barbot, 'Nul Homme N'est Une Isle, Dit Le Poète' ['No Man Is an Island Says The Poet'] by Philippe Guillot.

Octocon, the Irish national SF convention, considers a change of venue. This year's event was held as usual in October. However only 80 apparently attended (compared to the more usual two or three hundred a few years ago when it was held in Dublin). For the past few years Octocon has been held in Maynooth, 12 miles (19 km) west northwest of the capital Dublin but now some say a return to Dublin is in order. Matters were not resolved by the convention's end and so no venue has yet (Christmas) been announced for next year's event, nor a GoH. However thinking ahead, fantasy writer George R. R. Martin is slated to be the GoH for 2010 and it is expected that there will as usual be other SF guests. Amidst all this there was another tentative proposal for Ireland to host a Eurocon. - Octocon web link on our diary page.

Australia held another Conflux. In the run-up to the 2010 vote for the Worldcon which sees an Australian bid, it is good to know that in addition to its national convention Australia has other conventions too. Last autumn's Conflux saw a couple of hundred attend. The Regency Ball was particularly popular as was the mass book signing. Many of the panels held at the convention have now been put on the Conflux website - follow the links to the Conflux Blog. The organisers are planning another Conflux this October.

UK Birmingham International Comics Show - Numbers up for 2007. Over 2,000 attended this year's event attracted by personalities such as Simon Bisley, Mark Buckingham, Mike Carey, Paul Cornell, Alan Davis, Duncan Fegredo, and Dave Gibbons. Dealers stalls dominated but there were also twin programme streams.

The UK 2008 Eastercon has Progress Report 2 out with 3 on the way (out March). Called Orbital the 2008 UK Eastercon is held over (obviously) Easter long (4-day) weekend. This year it is in London next to Heathrow International airport. There are good guests that cover both written and visual SF (plus fantasy too).
          For scientists who enjoy SF (or even SF enthusiasts who enjoy science) there are some rather good attractions. First up a science programme that will have the convention programme theme of orbits. Second, there will be a number of biosphere science related items, including climate change and possibilities for life on other worlds. Third, there will be some items that explore the relationship between science and SF. Fourth, Prof David Southwood, of the European Space Agency, will be giving a lecture: this was popular at the 2005 Eurocon / Worldcon in Glasgow but since then ESA has done quite a bit.
          There will also be TV and film related panels and quizzes in addition to some screenings. For book readers there will be four set discussions on specific books one for each of the author guests. Should you wish to attend one of these then you may want to bone up, so here are the titles: American Gods (Gaiman); Drinking Saphire Wine (Lee), Perdido Street Station (Mieville), and Accelerando (Stross). As these cover science fantasy, fantasy, new wave and hard SF there is surely at least one title to cater for ever SF book reader's tastes. Then there will be a fancy dress parade one evening: if not participating, always enjoyable to watch. (Some recent UK Eastercons have not had fancy dress and so some costumers are bound to make the most of this year's opportunity, but there will also be a chaos costume workshop for those wishing help to create something instantaneous or witty on the day.) One anticipated high spot will be a play (or a series of sketches) by David Wake. Naturally there will also be the usual art show and dealers rooms. Finally, a blessing for parents (and non-parents too), there will be a separate children's programme and a child minding service.
          Orbital tell us that evening entertainment will be strong. The current plan (not completely set in stone) as of Christmas is to have a Ceilidh on Friday night after a pub quiz, discos on both Saturday and Sunday nights, and the Masquerade/Cabaret will be a combined event on Saturday evening. Monday will have the usual dead dog party.
          At 800 just prior to Christmas, registration numbers look good for this year's event (possibly reflecting the organisers catering to a spectrum of SF buff desires in a thoughtful way), and an overflow hotel has been secured -- the Heathrow Marriott (approximately 250 yards/metres, 8 minutes walk away): the single rooms here are pricey but the double and family rooms are very good value for London (and breakfast is included). Of course with Heathrow (and Hatton Gardens) being on the London underground many in the greater London area can commute. Day memberships are available on the door but it will be cheaper to book a full ticket well in advance (if before mid-February this means progress report 3 will be mailed to you). The intervening Eurocon Eastercon excepted, could this convention see a return to 1,000-strong Eastercons not seen since the run of several at the end of the 1980s? - The convention's web link is on our diary page.

Sci-Fi London 2008 SF film fest gearing up for 30th April to 4th May. This central London film fest is now firmly established within Europe's SF calendar and features many UK, European and even a few World premieres! They are now booking films and among the first confirmed are two recent Russian ones with Paragraph 78 and Wolfhound. (You may recall we covered news of Paragraph 78 last summer.) Also planned this year is a film challenge whereby budding filmmakers are tasked to make a film (max length 5 minutes) in just two days from 5th April. Teams' efforts may be caught by a Sci-Fi Channel documentary crew covering this year's goings on. There will be more news nearer the time and details on the Sci-Fi London website -- see our SF convention listing page for the link. A review of last year's event is here.

Germany's Elstercon first guests have been announced as Sergei Lukjanenko (Russia) and Dan Simmons (US). Last year was an odd-numbered year and so it was a Dortcon in Dortmund (West Germany) while this year is an even-numbered year and so it must be Elstercon in Leipzig (East Germany). The convention will be held 29th - 31st August. Details on the Friends of Science Fiction Leipzig site. For scientists who enjoy SF, Elstercon 9's theme in 2008 will be particularly appealing as it will look at hard SF and take a scientific approach to hazards likely to affect our species in the future. As for the guests, Sergei (as a qualified psychologist) may have some comment on the perception of danger. Dan on the other hand will be a most welcome guest when he finally makes it: he had previously been invited back in 2000 but a health problem kept him away.

Odyssey SF writers workshop. The 2008 workshop will be held from 9th June to 18th July at the Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire (US). Odyssey is an opportunity to improve writing and meet editors and authors. For 2008 the principal writer in residence will be Nancy Kress. Other writers providing guidance will be: Barry B. Longyear, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and James Maxey, Craig Shaw Gardner, and Jenny Rappaport. There will also be literary agent related advice from staff from the L. Perkins Agency. Details are available from www.odysseyworkshop.org.

'Teaching, Reading and Creating SF' is the theme of the 2008 SFRA conference. It will be held in conjunction with the Campbell conference 10th - 13th July at the University of Kansas. Abstracts for consideration for papers should be sent to karenhellekson [at] karenhellekson [dot] com before Monday 31st March.

Spain's Hispacon national SF convention for 2007 is reviewed here.

For a list of national and major conventions, check out our convention 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 2008

NET WATCH

Nossa Morte is a new horror webzine. Launched in November it is a quarterly zine of horror short stories. Commissioning editors will no doubt be checking out to see if there is new talent bubbling.

Serendipity is a new UK monthly fantasy webzine. It aims to publishing magical realist stories that use ideas and conventions from other genres and a new on-line issue will come out mid-month each month.

Books reviewed by video clips A new site facility enables you to see video clips of individuals reviewing books they have just read. This includes some SF and fantasy. Check out Bluerectangle.com.

UK broadband users at a peak? UK broadband use only rose by 0.2% in the three months to last September to a peak of 88.4% of internet users (the rest use dial up modem). This small increase suggests that the market is largely stable. However the year to last June saw an increase of 26% say the UK Office of National Statistics. This is worrying some policy analysts. Modem dial-up combined with 10 million households not on the internet at all account for an amazing 40% of British households who seem reluctant to hook up to the net with broadband. Conversely some are less worried. With cybercafes, internet access available at many public libraries, and workplaces with internet access, why should some households expose themselves to computer viruses, hacking etc., when web pages can viewed and even simply be downloaded from a secure terminal onto a memory stick?

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Red Dwarf mini episodes and other stuff for your mobile phone. These and other Red Dwarf goodies are now available from www.red-dwarf.mobi.

New Ghostbusters computer game coming and Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson have agreed to provide voices and allow their images to be used. The game is set following the events of the second film. Aykroyd and Ramis, who wrote the original films, will also script the game's story. Vivendi Games is producing and it is hoped it will be ready for release in time for Christmas 2008.

Teenage accused of leading £12.5 (US$25m) cybercrime. A New Zealand 18 year old, with an online ID of AKILL, is accused of using botnets accessing personal computers via the net.

 

[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 2008

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

A new exotic 'element' has been created out of both matter and anti-matter particles. What do you get if you take two positrons and two electrons? Answer: a new exotic element called positronium (Ps) which like hydrogen can form a 'molecule' (sort of) called dipositronium. However it does not hang around for long. The possibility theoretically does exist to cool dipositronium and make it a Bose-Einstein condensate. Do this and you could theoretically make a high-gamma ray laser that (due to their very short wavelength) be used to image atoms. (See Nature vol 449, pp 195-197) Story summary here. +++ Meanwhile Concat's two biologists could well be challenging its research physicist to point the way to some sort of star drive... Well one can dream.

 

[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 |
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Spring 2008

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

China has launches its first lunar orbiter. The satellite, named Chang'e 1, named after a Chinese goddess who flew to the Moon, took off from the Xichang Centre in south-west China's Sichuan province at the end of October. It is a key step towards China's aim of putting a man on the Moon by 2020. As such it is effectively part of an Asian space race with Japan and India.

Britain's Jodrell Bank, the first radio telescope, is 50. Originally built to take care of all of astronomy's radio telescope needs, it was meant to have a 15 year life! Its construction budget was £1 million (in 1957 money) and it over-ran this by a quarter. Its future was very much in the doubt when the Russians came to the rescue by launching Sputnik which caused a stir in the West as this demonstrated that those pesky reds had intercontinental missile capability. Jodrell Bank was able to detect and track Sputnik and so, amid cold war fears, its future was assured. Its future was further assured when the radio astronomical sky was found to be more interesting than at first assumed. Among the discoveries that Jodrell helped other observatories elucidate was that of pulsars: these were discovered 40 years ago. Jodrell was also available to Russian scientists who used it to receive pictures from the Russian probe Lunar III which sent back the first view of the far side of the Moon. Today Jodrell Bank is still at the forefront of radio astronomy and has recently been chosen to be the global headquarters of the Euro Square Kilometre array.

Russia's Sputnik is 50 years old. All we said last time was "enjoy 4th October... as it's the 50th anniversary since Man put a lump of metal into orbit" and the "birthday for one of us", and look what happened: TV documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles among a deluge of autumnal media coverage. Congratulations to Russia who appropriately enough this spring will be hosting this year's Eurocon.

 

[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 2008

NATURAL SCIENCE

UN report charts continual decline of global environment's ability to sustain modern human society. The UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook 5 affirms UN studies from UNEP and UN Food and Agricultural Organization reports as well as documents associated with UN conferences on environment and development over the past four decades... So nothing new other than humanity's modern global society still has not learnt anything. News story summarised by BBC.

Craig Venter announces first human-made life from raw chemicals is imminent. For bioscientists this was an announcement long in the coming. Craig Venter was, of course, the person who led the commercial half of the scientists who sequenced the human genome back in 2001 (the other half was conducted by scientists funded by the charitable Wellcome Trust). The artificial life form is based on a stripped-down version of the bacterium Mycoplasma genetalium and has been (currently unofficially) dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium. Unlike its natural counterpart M. laboratorium has 20% less genes having only 381 coded by 580,000 base pairs that were added together in the lab. The new, artificial chromosome was then inserted into a bacterium that had its natural chromosome removed.  +++ Comment: this is a major step in the process that could lead to being able to edit the genomes of all living species so as to remove genetic disease or even enhance aspects of the genome to improve a particular phenotypic expression. (cf.Beggars in Spain.) Venter's announcement came with the publication of his biography: what a coincidence.

Craig Venter gives the 2007 Richard Dimbleby Lecture -- Genetic science can help solve global problems. December's 2007 Dimbleby lecturer saw Venter (who led the private team of the public-private partnership that sequenced the human genome) say that the future of our global society will never return to as it was. Issues such as eliminating poverty through knowledge-based economies, improved health care, and climate change all require good science education for the next generation and that a disturbing proportion of US citizens were unaware of basic facts such as the Earth going around the Sun. Healthcare needs to become more preventive if life extension is to be achieved at low cost. Here genomics can help through revealing what an individual is more likely to be prone to compared to others. Artificial life forms, or genetically modified species, can make biofuels from organic waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide. This can help with climate change.

Sea scorpion larger than human - fossil found. A fossil claw of a sea scorpion has been found that makes its size larger than that of a human. The discovery was made in a German quarry. 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 2008

FORTHCOMING BOOK RELEASES

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

The following 'forthcoming' listings (SF, fantasy/horror, and popular science/non-fiction SF/fantasy)
relate to UK releases (with just a few exceptions).
It aims to let you know the main English language genre and popular science books currently coming out for the European market.
It is not a complete listing and depends on us being given details.
We only occasionally include titles from N. American major publishers and only where we know there is European distribution.
If you wish for a more complete listing then Locus publishes occasional British listings in its magazine.

Matter by Iain Banks, Orbit, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-1-841-4-9417-3.
This is the new 'Culture' novel we advance reported last time and from which he gave a reading in November (reported above. See our reviews of: Against a Dark Background, The Algebraist , The Business, Dead Air, Excession, Inversions, Look to Windward and Whit.

Divergence by Tony Ballantyne, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-4651-8.
The robot Constantine notices an Artificial Intelligence spontaneously coming into being on a distant planet... and watches helplessly as it is destroyed... Our Tony raved over Capacity. Click on the Divergence title link for his take on this one.

Navigator by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8154-8.
This is the third in the parallel/alternate history series in which time meddlers are mucking things up for mysterious, and no doubt nefarious, purposes. It is an alternate history with an SFnal riff in the background. Ironically it will probably appeal more to pure fantasy fans than pure SF readers, while those whose reading comfortably straddles both camps will enjoy this hugely. Emperor and Conqueror are the first two in the series. The hardback and trade paperback came out last year: this is the mass market paperback edition. See our reviews of:

Captain America: Death of Captain America - vol. 1, Marvel (graphic novel), hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-785-1-2849-6.
Captain America died last Spring but now you can have the shield wielding hero's last adventure collected in a hardback graphic novel edition. This is being distributed in the UK by Diamond book distributors.

Tales From the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke, PS Publishing, slipcased hrdbk £50 (US$100) / normal hardback £25 (US$50). ISBN 978-1-905-8-3478-5 / 978-1-905-8-3477-8.
This seminal Clarke collection of short stories was first published 50 years ago. It concerns tall tales told by characters at the White Hart pub: silence machines, enjoyment recording and transmission, control of giant squid, and time acceleration, are all here. Aside from being a brilliant collection from a great SF writer, Tales From the White Hart is extra special in that its backdrop pub theme was inspired by the London SF Circle's monthly pub meetings (which continue today after a fashion and over half a century later). Many SF readers will already have this cherished collection on their shelves. Now those terrible tempters at PS Publishing, not content with keeping this collection alive for a new generation, have gone and commissioned a new White Hart story from Stephen Baxter and Arthur Clarke so now all old timers have to decide whether or not to get this new edition too! Copies of the hardback are limited to 500. Decisions, decisions...

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison, PS Publishing, slipcased hrdbk £50 (US$100) / normal hardback £25 (US$50). ISBN 978- 1-906-3-0104-0 / 978-1-906-3-0103-3.
This is a reprint of the genre master's debut collection of SF and fantasy short stories. This edition comes with an introduction from Robert Silverberg and there is a new story from Harlan as well as added notes. A real must for serious genre book readers and collectors.

Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson, Hodder, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-340-8-3752-8.
Could it be that the follow-up 'Dune' saga is coming to an end?.

The Cleft by Doris Lessing, Perennial, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-3344-1
This is the paperback release of last Spring's hardback. It is bound to do well now that Lessing has won a Nobel for literature.

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Volume 2 edited by George Mann, Solaris, pbk, £7.99/US$7.99. ISBN 978-1-844-1-6374-1.
Collection of SF short stories. Includes award winning authors as Chris Roberson, Robert Reed, Karl Schroeder and Eric Brown.

Dreamsongs 1 by George R. R. Martin, Gollancz, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-552-1-5541-3.
Fan fiction and other offering from Martin's early days. A mix of SF together with fantasy and horror. A real must for fantasy fans.

Players by Paul McAuley, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-416-5-1140-3.
McAuley is known for his SF. This is the paperback release of players, which is really a thriller albeit with a tehno riff. A psychotic killer parallels his real life actions with on-line goings on. See our reviews of: Mind's Eye, Pasquale's Angel, Red Dust, The Secret of Life and White Devils.

Maelstrom by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Corgi, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-552-1-5441-3.
This is the second in the science fantasy series concerning the Petaybee twins and the paperback edition of last Spring's hardback.

Dragon Harper by Anne and Todd McCaffrey, Bantam Press, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-593-0-5528-1.
The year kicks off January 1st with this new novel, the latest Pern novel (science fantasy) and the intergenerational handover from Anne to son Todd continues. The novel came out last year in the North America but this is its first UK outing. It is a tale of love hindered romance mixed with SF as a plague starts to spread across Pern.

The Dragon's Nine Songs by Chris Roberson, Solaris, trdpbk, £10.99 / US$ 15 / Can$17.99. ISBN 978-1-844-1-6524-7 / US 978-0-684-0-6115-5.
No, despite the title this is not a fantasy but a rollicking space opera set in a future where the ancient empires of China and Mexica have taken their rivalry to the stars. This is the first in what will be the 'Celestial Empire' sequence. See our reviews of: Paragaea, Set the Seas on Fire, Here, There & Everywhere and another of Here, There & Everywhere.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN978-0-330-4-5710-1.
This is the sequel to the brilliant and Hugo-nominated Old Man's War. The ghost brigade is the special wing of the Colonial Defence Forces, elite troops created from DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the toughest operations. The Universe is a dangerous place for humanity, as three hostile races combine to halt our further expansion into space.

Halting State by Charles Stross, Orbit, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-1-841-4-9694-8.
Electronic heist, apparently.

Blue War by Jeffrey Thomas, Solaris, pbk, £7.99 / US$7.99. ISBN: 978-1-844-16532-2
On a world in another dimension, there is a deserted city lying amidst a blue jungle. Could this be connected to a possible, second interdimensional war? Private investigator Jeremy Stake needs to find out when, in this otherwise empty city, the bodies of clones are found. Solaris describe this as a 'punktown' novel. +++ To promote Blue War Solaris will be offering a free electronic download of its first punktown novel, Deadstock, which is also by Jeffrey Thomas. See the Solaris website for details www.solarisbooks.com.

Settling Accounts: In at the Death by Harry Turtledove, Hodder, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-340-9-2180.
This alternate, parallel world history series now takes us to the end of World War II.

Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-5218-2.
BIG space opera. Let's tread boldly...

Bloodmind by Liz Williams, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-4206-0.
This is the mass paperback edition release and the sequel to Darkland.

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author 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 2008

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £9.99 / £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7789-8 / 978-0-575-0-7790-4
This is book 3 of the 'First Law' trilogy. At 512 pages for a large format book this is a good-sized story. Given that the earlier books seem to have established a certain niche, Gollancz can probably be quietly confident that this one will do reasonably well. See our reviews of The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged.

The Wanderer's Tale by David Bilsborough, Tor (UK), pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-230-0-1450-3.
A fantasy somewhat reminiscent of Tolkien type.

White Night by Jim Butcher, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-841-4-9687-0.
Present day ghost and vampire romp as part of the Harry Dresden series.

The Unquiet by John Connolly, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-340-9-2051-0.
A fast thriller that mixes religion with the paranormal.

The Glass Book of the Dream Eaters by G. W. Dahlquist, Penguin, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-141-0-2730-2.
Now you may have heard of this before as it has already come out in weekly instalments and then in hardback. Appealing to fans of 'Jonathan Strange' this is a Dickensian mix of magic, mysticism and murder.

Ink by Hal Duncan, Pan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-099-4-8993-1.
This is the sequel to Vellum and picks up the story a couple of decades on.

Wrath of a Mad God by Raymond Feist, Voyager, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-4429-4.
This is the third in the 'Dark War' sequence.

The Ninth Stone by Kylie Fitzpatrick, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-297-8-5276-6.
A Victorian ghost cum mystery novel.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King, Marvel Comics, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-0-785-1-2144-2.
This is a graphic novel spin-off from King's 'Dark Tower' series of novels (see reviews of Song of Susannah, Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4, and Wolves of the Calla). It is distributed in the UK by Diamond Comics.

Duma Key by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, hrdbk, £??.??. ISBN 978-0-340-9-5219-1.
Following an accident Edgar looses his arm. He goes to Duma Key -- a beautiful coastal part of Florida -- where he discovers a talent for painting. The area has history and in the past the local landowner lost her sisters. Then his paintings start to come true...   Does King's stamina for turning out thumping good horror yarns know no end? Seems not. Our Tony will hopefully be doing a more thorough review shortly.

The Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, Arrow, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-009-4-8993-1.
This is the standard format paperback release of the modern Russian fantasy horror classic that has taken Soviet nations by storm. This link is to the full review of The Day Watch. Though not hugely necessary, you may want to read The Night Watch (the first in the 'Watch' series) beforehand to get the background.

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy edited by George Mann, Solaris, £7.99/US$7.99. ISBN: 978-1-8441-6523-0.
A collection of new fantasy short stories.

The Well of Shades by Juliet Mariller, Tor (UK), pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-2671-8.
Third book in the Bridie Chronicles.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-5674-7.
More tales on Napoleonic times adventure with dragons as (not so) secret weapons. Our fantasy reviewers like this series lots: Temeraire and Throne of Jade.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick, Gollancz, hdbk / trd pbk, £18.99 / £12.99. ISBNs 978-0575-0-8176-5 / 978-0575-0-8177-2.
The Imperial Merchant ship Chathrand has vanished. At her last port of call all was well and the voyage so far had been uneventful. The problem is that no wreckage and no survivors have been found. This is Robert V. S. Reddick's debut novel of corruption, politics and magic on the high seas. Though this book's first UK outing is in February 2008 the copyright date is 2007 and the rights have already been sold to Germany, France, Russia and Spain. According to the promotional literature this may appeal to fans of Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies. It is the first of a trilogy. +++ STOP PRESS: The John Jarrold Agency has announced that the UK book chain Waterstones has The Red Wolf Conspiracy as its book of the month for February.

Swiftly: A Novel by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, hrdbk / trdpbk, £18.99 / £10.99. ISBNs 978-0575-0-7589-4 / 978-0575-0-8232-8.
It is 122 years following Gulliver's travels and Britain is in crisis. In 1848 France is confronting its European neighbours. However in this reality Britain has used the tiny Lilliputians Gulliver discovered, enslaving them, to construct miniature mechanical devices. Imagine if Babbage's computer had been miniaturised. Meanwhile the giants of Brobdingnagian can pull France's fleets of ships against the prevailing winds and currents. Another in the recent trend of alternate fantasy history (cf. Temeraire) and revisiting past iconic genre characters (cf. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). The protagonists in this tale are new, though thematic players are from history and Gulliver. Abraham Bates is repulsed by Britain's enslavement of the Lilliputians but to campaign against this slavery is treason. He is also in love with the wife of the person responsible for the enslavement. Meanwhile the giants have landed, laid waste to London, and are pushing north to York. If this title speaks to those not just in but also beyond the heartland of genre readers -- and the classic literary connection may enable it to do just that -- then Swiftly could well become very big indeed. Though we haven't had time to do a full review, a couple of quick dips reveals that the story moves on at a page-turning, fair pace and contains a good number of brief asides arising from implications of the plot's premise.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Gollancz, trdpbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8139-0.
This is the trade paperback of the hardback that came out in September (the hardback we forgot to include in last season's listings (oops) and so this deserves a bit of a mention, doubly so as you may not have heard of Rothfuss). This is a debut fantasy by a lover of Narnia, Pern and Middle Earth. It concerns a bit of a rogue character called Rothe who was expelled from university at a younger age than few actually commence their studies. He burned down a town, he captured a princess and he has talked to gods. Rothfuss is billed as an author who will appeal to readers of George R. R. Martin, Trudi Canavan and Robin Hobb.

The Terror by Dan Simmons, Bantam, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-553-8-1820-8.
Note: this is not really SF/fantasy but the author is well known for such works. There is though a vague fantasy element. This is the story of a polar expedition but it does have a mysterious conclusion. More for historical adventure fiction folk. A good read though.

The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien, hrdbk, £350. ISBN: 978-0-007-2-5224-4.
This is a limited hardback, leather-bound edition, individually numbered (only 500 copies will be made) and autographed by Christopher Tolkien and Alan Lee (the books illustrator). If £350 is too much, we are told that the unlimited paperback edition will be out in April.

Shadowplay by Tad Williams, Orbit, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-1-841-4-9294-0.
Second in the Shadowmarch sequence.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn, Gollancz, pbk, £5.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8243-4.
Kitty Norville is a radio DJ. She is also a werewolf. This is the start of a new series.

The Diamond Warriors by David Zindell, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. 978-0-006-4-8623-7. This is the fourth and apparently final story in the Ea cycle.

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author 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 2008

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Different Engines: How Science Drives Fiction by Mark L. Brake & Neil Hook, Macmillan, hdbk, £16.99 / US$24.95. ISBN 978-0-230-0-1980-5.
This actually came out before Christmas, but we did not get news of it in time for last season's forthcoming books. Still, this does mean we can provide a full review here.

Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects by Jonathan Cowie, Cambridge University Press, trd pbk / hdbk, c. £ 27.99 / £65.00 (prices to be confirmed). ISBN 13-978-0-521-6-9619-7 / 978-0-521-8-7399-4.
Yes we mentioned this last time but some have had difficulty getting copies. This then is to say that there is new stock following a second printing. OK, so this is written by one of the team. At 500 pages it is quite big. Although it is an introductory text for university students on biology, geology, geography and human ecology courses, anyone with a school-level knowledge of science can find out the key evidence behind whether or not global warming is happening and what has happened in the past (both in human history and over geological time). The future longevity of fossil fuels (irrespective of climate) is also discussed. (It should be noted that the author's 1998 book, Climate and Human Change: Disaster or Opportunity?, had the same thesis as the conclusion to last year's (2006) Stern Report commissioned by the UK Treasury.)   The author was for many years responsible for science policy at the Institute of Biology (UK). Spectacular cover photo by SF fan Pete Tyers. Camb' U. Press have distribution operations in N. America and Australasia as well as Europe -- each linked off their main website. +++ Advance copies of the book came out before Britain's July floods (and the manuscript handed in to CUP earlier still) yet the book does predict such events -- see text-only extract! It was also before the Channel 4 Dispatches programme 'The Great Green Smoke Screen' that blew the lid on current carbon-offsetting businesses -- see another extract.

The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing edited by Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £20. ISBN 978-0-199-2-1680-2.
Contains short pieces and extracts from the likes of Jared Diamond but also (apparently) Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin which kind of dents the 'modern' in the title. Nonetheless this looks like a fine collection.

Too Far From Home by Chris Jones, Vintage, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-009-5-1324-7.
There were 10 astronauts orbiting the Earth in February 2003. 7 died when Columbia blew up. There then followed frantic decision taking to sort out how the remaining 3 would get back.

The Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett by Andrew Butler, Greenwood, pbk, £13.99. ISBN 978-1-846-4-5043-3.
The hardback is already out. Anything with Pratchett's name is bound to do well. This guide has sections on plot-lines and characters plus much more. It covers not just the novels but also the graphic novels and short stories and is written by a well-known fan.

Sex, Science & Profits by Terrence Kealey, Heinemann, hrdbk, £20. ISBN 978-0-434-0-0824-7.
An understanding of evolutionary biology can provide business with a useful perspective. (Yes TK, and an understanding of ecology can help with the appreciation of the relationship between government and industrially funded science.)

Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice by George Monibot, Atlantic, pbk, £11.99. ISBN 978-1-843-5-4656-6.
A rather sensible environmental analysis of some of the key challenges facing our global society.

The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body by Desmond Morris, Cape, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-224-0-8042-2.
A very readable, zoologist's perspective on the male of our species from the acclaimed science writer and broadcaster.

Confessions of an Eco-sinner: Travels to Find Where My Stuff Came From by Fred Pearce, Eden, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-905-8-1110-6.
Pearce writes well for New Scientist and this time he is out to find where exactly his shirt, beer and take-away curry came from. He is going to ascertain their carbon-footprint. This takes him to Alaska, India and Dubai.

Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World by Sidney Perkowitz, Columbia University Press...
This came out before Christmas in North America, hence our missing it for last season's forthcoming books. As you know we don't usually list non-British publications, however the subject matter is so germane to those interested in both science and SF that we thought you would want to know. Written in an easy to read style this book relates Hollywood films (or movies as is said over there) to various areas of science.

Counter Knowledge by Damien Thompson, Atlantic, hdbk, £15.99. ISBN 978-1-843-5-4675-7.
From holocaust denial to creationism is counter knowledge commerce so dangerous that it causes sickness and even encourages disasters?

Brian now has autographed copies of -- 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... E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. If you enjoy Concat then you can support us by getting this book either for yourself or a friend and there are postage discounts for getting more than one copy and a further discount is available if buying several for an SF group or SF class.

 

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent non-fiction SF and popular science books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of many 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 2008

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles & Ben Temple, IDW Publishing, trdpbk, £11.99. ISBN 978-0-971-9-7755-6.
This is the graphic novel of the vampire film concerning the town of Barrow in Alaska in the winter where just inside the Arctic Circle there is a month of night. This graphic novel is being distributed in the UK by Diamond book distributors.

The Colour of Magic Omnibus by Terry Pratchett, Corgi, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-552-1-5727-8.
Following on from the successful Hog Father TV film, another two Discworld books are to come to the small screen. These will be the first two Discworld novels, The Colour of Mgic and Light Fantastic. This omnibus is the tie-in book re-release.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams, Titan, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-845-7-6756-3.
The official bridging story between the two sets of Star Wars trilogy films.

Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn, Arrow, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-009-4-9197-2.
Forces combine...

 

[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 2008

SELECTED RECENT DVD RELEASES

Battlestar Galactica: Razor £19.99 from Universal.
This is the TV-film of the Battlestar Pegasus several months before it found the Galactica. The DVD contains extra footage to the version already screened on TV.

The Black Cat £15.99 from Second Sight.
The 1930s adaptation to the big screen of Edgar Allan Poe's poem. An ideal accompaniment to The Raven below.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut £15.99 from Warner.
This is it, nothing penultimate about this one: it's final. (Well, so they say.) We advance reported on this news and the big mega-set last season and that it was voted by the Visual Effects Society the 2nd best SFX film. If the mega set with all the versions is too much, then this stand-alone new version will be easier on your pocket. There is a very short introduction from Scott saying that this is the final and his preferred version.

The Brides of Dracula £12.99 from Showbox.
A mild saucy Dracula outing from Hammer and with the legendary Peter Cushing. This time the vamps have taken over a girls school. Oooh, saucy matron.

Creepshow £19.99 from Warner.
A surprisingly late first outing on DVD for the film that links a number of Steven King, specially written, short stories. The film also is a tribute to EC horror comics. Enough said.

The Evil of Frankenstein £12.99 from Showbox.
This is a Hammer classic directed by the late great Freddie Francis. It is Hammer. It is Frankenstein. It is Francis!

Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer £19.99 from Fox.
The second in what will no doubt be a series. Purists who were riled by the way the first film mauled the original comic strip version of the Fantastic Four's genesis, may well shudder at the prospect of this follow-up but at least the Silver Surfer did himself (unlike Dr Doom from the first film) originate in the Fantastic Four comics. Though undemanding, this is an enjoyable action-packed lightweight romp.

Heroes -- Part One, Season One £34.50 from Universal.
Given the huge popularity, and multiple screenings on the Beeb Beeb C, need any more be said? This is the first half of season one. Save the cheer leader. +++ Or alternatively save her immediately below.

Heroes: The Complete Series 1 £54.99 from Universal.
Yes, not just series 1 but the 'complete' series 1! Nuff said. Heroes news above.

The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Edition £21.99 from Buena Vista.
Is it really 40 years? Apparently this is a limited two-disc special edition but bet you they release a single disc version soon. The film has been restored and re-mastered. The extras even include deleted scenes, which for such an old film is quite something.

1408 £19.99 from Paramount.
Don't check in to hotel room 1408. It's haunted you know as John Cussack finds out. Also stars Samuel L. Jackson. It is based on a Stephen King story.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix £25.99 from Warner.
This is a two-disc release. You may want to wait until the single disc version comes out at a lower price as apparently the extras are nothing to write home about.

The Poltergeist £16.99 from Warner.
It is surprising that, though directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, it has been a quarter of a century since Poltergeist came to the big screen and has not appeared in DVD format. OK so it has been out on VHS, but then we have had widespread use of DVD for over half a decade now! Anyway, this is the film's first outing in DVD and it is a two discer with the second containing extras including a dubiously entitled one called 'Science of the Spirits'. This is a horror supernatural story with good effects especially from over two decades ago.

The Prisoner £54.99 from Network.
Last season Network released a special collectors set on Danger Man and now it is the turn of the cult series The Prisoner also starring Patrick McGoohan. If you are already a Prisoner fan then you will automatically want to get this such are the extras including a nifty booklet. If you are not but are into SF then you should really think about this one! The series concerns a spy who tries to resign but who, when packing his bags, is knocked out at home. He awakens apparently in his room but when he draws back the window curtains he sees he is somewhere else: a village in which everyone is a number and could either be a fellow prisoner or a warder. This was one of the first series made in colour. Though the near half-century since this was made has dated it a little, its concept, scripts and acting still make it compelling viewing. Hugely recommended for younger surfers (under 30 years) visiting this site to check out. Oldies will not need telling. Be seeing you.

The Raven £15.99 from Second Sight.
The 1930s film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem. An ideal accompaniment to The Black Cat above.

The Simpsons Movie £19.99 from Fox.
Well it is (very) vaguely SFnal. The cartoon capers of an average family man who happens to be a nuclear power technician in a plant run by a monetary megalomaniac.

Transformers £19.99.from Dreamworks.
Alien robots come to Earth and hide within the population as road vehicles to Transform to battle between themselves. Human protagonists get caught up in the conflict. Though aimed for the younger, border teenage market, this offering has sufficient entertainment value to allow parent SF or fantastic film buffs not to get too bored by it all.

28 Weeks Later £19.99 from Fox.
The fantastic sequel to the brilliant 28 Days Later. This is an SF horror and while horror may not be every SF buff's cup of tea, this is as worthy as any SF horror classic such as Alien. Zombie movies have a fairly implausible basis and 28 Days could easily have been classed as such but two things make it stand out. First off it concerns a genetically modified plague that causes those infected to go into an uncontrollable rage against anyone not infected and then the infected -- unable to care for themselves -- over many days starve to death. In this sense it is decidedly SF and not science fantasy as zombie flicks are. Second, this is produced and directed by Europeans: The Spanish Juan Carlos Fresnadillo directed and Brit Danny Boyle (director of 28 Days Later) was the producer. In this follow-up we see those who were away from Britain as the time of the first infection return. A safe zone has been set up in the Isles of Dogs (part of London within a horseshoe shaped area bordered by the River Thames). However things go horribly wrong... As with the first film there is a hint of a political edge to its message: actually perhaps more so. The DVD's extras include a reasonable director commentary, out take scenes and bits from the graphic novel back-story. If twenty quid (the pre-Christmas price) is a little expensive for you then wait for a few months for the price to come down. Such has been the success of this film (and the first one) that the rumour is that there may be a 28 Months Later. Whether this will stretch things too far remains to be seen but quite frankly the series is developing very nicely so bring it on. +++ Two different two-and-a-half minute trailers for the film can be seen here and here. Could this film be in next year's annual top ten? Find out with our next season's posting!

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect in 2008, 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 2008

R.I.P.

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

Bert Bolin, the Swedish climatologist, died 30th December aged 82. He was for a while the scientific director of the European Space Agency. He will be remembered for leading the then newly formed International Panel on Climate Change (1998-'97) that advised the UN and World politicians as to the threat of climate change.

Christian Bourgois, the French SF commissioning editor, has died aged 74. The publishing house he founded recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Robert Bussard the physicist has died aged 79. He is famous for the Bussard Ramjet idea whereby a ship travelling at a reasonable fraction of the speed of light can use a magnetic field to scoop up tenuous interstellar hydrogen for use as fuel so negating the need for the craft to carry its own reserves and lug these up to near light speed. This notion has been used in many SF novels.

Frank Capra, Jr, the US film producer and director, has died aged 73. His SFnal works included three Planets of the Apes sequels and Marooned.

J. Lawrence 'Larry' Cassingham, the US inventor, journalist and actor, has died aged 89 (by one day). He is noted for developingthe first portable Geiger counter.

Constantin ('Coco') Cozmiuc, the Romanian SF fan, and occasional writer, has died aged 55. A long-standing member of Timisoara's H. G. Wells SF Society, Coco was well known for his partying and, to western fan visitors to Timisoara, for being a guide to the city. Less well known outside of Romania were his SF short stories and that a few of these -- back in the 1980s before the fall of the former political regime -- won recognition at Romania's national convention. His chemistry interest was in organic polymers, though he had a passing curiosity in the effect of metabolites as soil supplements on plant growth. Academically, like many of his generation, his career was caught between the communist times and post revolution upheavals. He died following a fall in the stairwell of his block of flats. It is thought a blood clot resulted in a fatal stroke. Western Romania's SF community has lost a decided character.

Calvin Demmon, the US fan, has died aged 65. He became interested in fanzines while a teenager and went on to become a fan writer. He has also written some fiction and had half a dozen short stories professionally published. Outside of fandom he was a journalist. His fan writing was noted for its humour.

Ernst Otto Fischer, the German chemist, died in the summer aged 81. Despite being sent in his mid-20s to the Russian front he managed to create a career researching into organometallic chemistry. In 1973 his work (independently along with that of Britain's Geoffrey Wilkinson) won him a share of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Leslie Flood, the British fan, book dealer and authors' agent, died aged 85. He was also central to the creation of the International Fantasy Award, was a reader for Gollancz, and reviewed books for New Worlds. His contributions were such that he received a special British Fantasy Award. Some of the Concat' team remember him from way back in PSIFA's early days of the late 1970s as a helpful soul willing to encourage youngsters. Folk tend to remember authors and publishing houses but, when it comes to those who have helped shape British SF in the latter half of the 20th century, Les Flood is up there with the best of them.

Bill Idelson, the US screenwriter and actor, has died aged 87. He worked on episodes of The Flintosones, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched and The Ghost and Mrs Muir.

Robert Jordan (real name James Oliver Rigney jnr.) the US fantasy author, died aged 58 following a couple of years battling the blood disease amyloidosis. He is perhaps best known for his 'Wheel of Time' sequence. He was also the author of seven Conan novels among many other books. Brandon Sanderson has been tipped to pull together the notes and drafts of the final 'Wheel of Time' novel.

Madeleine L'Engle, the US fantasy author, has died aged 88. Of around 60 books she is perhaps best known for A Wrinkle in Time (1982) and its sequels.

Joeseph (Joey) Grillot, the US fan, has died. A victim of hurricane Katrina -- he lost his home -- he had been in poor health the past few years.

Colin Kapp, the British SF writer, has died aged 79. He was perhaps best known for the 'Cageworld' series of space opera novels about a Dyson sphere.

Arthur Kornberg, the US Biochemist, has died aged 89. He won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1959, with Severo Ochoa, for elucidating how cells synthesise RNA and DNA.

Verity Lambert, the BBC producer, has died aged 71. She was an early producer on Dr Who including the episodes that introduced the daleks: indeed her death in November was to the month 40 years on from this episode. She said she enjoyed the experimental production aspects of the show which at the time broke new ground from its electronic theme tune through to set design. Also of SFnal relevance she was the producer of the 1966 series Adam Adamant Lives. She was among the first cohort of staff to work on the channel BBC2 having worked her way up through the BBC from being a shorthand typist. +++ The 2007 Christmas special episode of Dr Who was dedicated to Verity.

Ira Levin, the US author, has died aged 78. Famously his novels Rosemary's Baby (1967), The Stepford Wives (1972), and The Boys from Brazil (1976) were all subsequently turned into major films. He received a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1992 and a Bram Stoker Life Achievement Award in 1997. In addition to novels he was also a well-known playwright and his Deathtrap holds the record as the longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway and got him his second Edgar Award. In 1982 this too was made into a film that starred Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine. +++ Currently a new version of The Boys From Brazil is being made and a 2009 release of this is anticipated.

Leslie Eleazer Orgel, the British chemist, has died aged 80. He famously elucidated an economical way of synthesising the anti-cancer drug cytarabine. He also was a promoter of the idea of panspermia (that life spreads throughout space and not arise repeatedly on individual planets). He worked on NASA's Mars Viking lander missions. He also made a significant contribution to scientific discussion of early life on Earth: the idea of RNA world and RNA precursors.

Hiroshi Osaka, the Japanese anime director of mainly SF, has died aged only 44.

Hank Reinhardt, the US fantasy fan, has died aged 73. He was a regular reviewer of fantasy and was also an armour expert.

Pierre K. Rey the French author and editor, has died aged 60. He worked on a number of magazines and his novels include La Femme Infinie [The Infinite Woman] and L'Assassin Habite au XXIème Siècle [The Assassin Lives in the 21st Century] Since 1974, and starting with work for Horizons du Fantastique [Fantastic Horizons], he translated a considerable body of SF as well as wrote reviews and non-fiction SF articles . For the past decade he lived in Montreal and was Deputy Editor of Galaxies the French SF magazine from 1996 to 2001. His sudden death is a great loss to the Francophone SF community.

Anita Rowland, the US fan has died aged 51. She was based in Seattle and was a convention organiser.

Emilio Ruiz del Rio, the Spanish set decorator, model maker, matte painter etc. whose contribution to genre films included Dune (1984) and the 2007 Hugo-winning fantasy Pan's Labyrinth (2006) has died aged 84.

Tony Tensor the British film producer, has died aged 87. He produced a score of mainly horror-related, but also some SF, films throughout the 1960s through to the mid-1970s. Notable titles include Witchfinder General (1968), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Doomwatch (1972), The Body Stealers (1969), and The Projected Man (1967). It also has to be said he did a few saucy films such as Naked as Nature Intended (1961).

Marion Van Der Voort, the UK SF bookdealer has died. Marion, with husband Richard, were well-known on the UK SF bookdealing scene and especially at media and fantasy conventions as well as SF ones. Throughout the 1970s they ran the Bookshop East Sheen and then in the early 1980s moved literally around the corner to a shop with living accomodation above and re-branded to become 'At the Sign of the Dragon'. They even ran two or three one-day 'Dragoncon' conventions in the hall above the pub accross from their shop. Then a few years ago, with conventions and mail-order compromising much of their business, they moved to Scotland. They were well known to a number on the Concatenation team having helped with, and provided part of the bookroom for, the early PSIFA Shoestringcons in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Our condolences to Richard.

 

[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 2008

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

George Takei, the Star Trek actor, has an asteroid named after him. The Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union has approved the designation '7307 Takei' for the asteroid formerly known as '1994 GT9'. Around 400,000 asteroids have been detected and named but only 14,000 (3.5%) have been named after people. Asteroid 7307 Takei is approximately 5 miles in diameter. Appropriately it was discovered in 1994 by two Japanese astronomers. Takei's involvement with the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign as well as his starring role have been given as reasons for the honour. Takei is best known for playing Star Trek's helmsman Hikaru Sulu and more recently playing Masi Oka, the father of Hiro in Heroes. +++ Previously ST creator Gene Roddenberry had an asteroid named after him,'4659 Roddenberry', as has ST actress Nichelle Nichols, '68410 Nichols'.

British courts say that Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth is fine for schools though some of its science is wrong!. The documentary provides a simple summary of the global warming issue. Yet there are those who do not believe that it is happening. Apparently helped by a sponsor, a lorry-driver parent, who is also a school board member, objected to the British Government providing free copies of the film to UK schools as he considered it politically partisan and sentimental. He wanted his children to have the best education possible, free from bias and political spin. The judge ruled that Government is not public misusing money to make the film available to schools providing that it is part of a package of balanced material. The judge found nine major errors of science. +++ Our own biosphere science bod, Jonathan, who had last summer a hefty climate change science book out, is currently working on a popular science book that examines both sides of the argument. He says he has mixed feelings about this story. What the judge has done is to: 1) take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's view as gospel. True, it is the nearest thing we have to a climate consensus but its view on things like the slowing down of the global oceanic current conveyor needs to be taken carefully and even the IPCC says we need to be wary of climate 'surprises'; 2) the judge's view on carbon dioxide as the driver of glacial-to-interglacial warming is semantic pedantry - strictly Milankovitch orbital variations are the pacemaker of glacials (ice ages) but carbon dioxide is the driver of the degree of warming, therefore the judge is right in the strict use of words but completely wrong in the spirit of Gore's point; 3) the judge is being somewhat pedantic about the snows of Kilimanjaro being lost to global warming as in nearly all locations across the globe snow-lines are rising and where they are not it is likely that the delay is due to extra snowfall arising from greater ocean evaporation due to warming. True, as the judge is reported as saying, regional climate change may be a factor but regional climate change is hugely affected by, and often and expression of, global climate change; 4) Lake Chad drying up, the judge is right in that Gore was making a claim he could not substantiate; 5) Ditto Gore blaming Katrina's strength on global warming, though there is genuine scientific debate on this; 6) Polar bears drowning because of diminished ice floes and here again the judge is right as this has yet to happen and Gore was wrong to claim it was, but this will be a problem for polar bears; 7) The judge reportedly criticised Gore from saying that coral bleaching was due to climate change and other causes as, the judge is reported as saying, it is difficult to disentangle climate change from these. Again this is a little unfair because Gore was correct in saying that warming was a factor and just because it is difficult to disentangle the various factors does not mean that you should not cite one of them in a film about that factor. +++ Meanwhile Al Gore and the IPCC have won a Nobel.

An Australian Star Trek website rallies Trekies to fight new whaling. The film Star Trek: The Voyage Home had an anti-whaling message. So when a so-called scientific expedition from Japan was to set out to hunt 1,000 Humpback Whales. www.starshipmawson.com Starship Mawson.com urged Trek sites to use an anti-whaling banner to highlight concerns. This added to considerable pressure from the traditional conservation lobby. +++ A few weeks later, on 20th December, Japan called a halt to the anticipated humpback hunt. However the hunt for 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales was set to continue.

God sued again! This time it is not Billy Connoly (as per the film in which an insurance firm refuses to pay up due to an 'act of God') but a Nebraskan (US) State Senator, Ernie Chambers. He is seeking an injunction against God for causing his constituents 'fearsome floods, horrendous hurricanes and terrifying tornadoes'. The 70 year old politician added that he had tried to contact God but without success. The court case is not entirely without merit as it has a logical purpose. Ernie Chambers is tired of frivolous law suits clogging up the US legal system and so is demonstrating with one of his own.

Religious fundamentalists are still actively challenging fantasy. The autumn saw two campaigns against fantasy. In the Sudan British school teacher Gillian Gibbons was arrested, tried and sentenced to two weeks in prison (potentially it could have been worse with a flogging) for allowing her class to decide to call their teddy bear 'Mohammad' -- apparently the name of a popular boy in the class and indeed Mohammed is quite a common name in that part of the World (as is 'Jesus' in other parts). The fundamentalists allege that this is an insult to Islam. However apparently in Sudan it is allowed to name a place after the prophet, cf. ' Muhammad Qol'. Yet there were a couple of demonstrations with a mob calling for a harsher sentence. After a week, and a delegation to Sudan from British Muslims, she received a Presidential pardon.
          Meanwhile, falling short of demonstrating being equally up to a challenge (no public flogging yet called), Christian fundamentalists have expressed their objections to the film The Golden Compass based on Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' book trilogy. Director Chris Weitz is reported as saying: 'I always knew I'd kind of be stuck between a rock and a hard place, between fans worried about the books being watered down and religious people worried that the books are sort of a recruiting poster for atheism, which I don't think that they are.' Meanwhile star Nicole Kidman, who is reported as being a Catholic says that she does not consider the film to be anti-Catholic... Absolutely right Nicole, the film just has a sensible sub-text. Of course if some of the film's US Catholic viewers consider the film anti-religious then they might wish to read the book Northern Lights on which it is based. +++ Concat had wondered to ask Philip Pullman whether he might in future name a bear character 'Mohammad'? Well, maybe not.
+++ Elsewhere, makers of The Golden Compass film sue Pullman documentary makers -- see the story in our above film section. All now pray for a Catholic judge. +++ STOP PRESS: The Vatican has criticised The Golden Compass. The Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, has made the strongest criticism of a film since it commented on The Da Vinci Code.

Islamic rules made for first Muslim in space. Muszaphar Shukor becomes the first Muslim (and the first Malaysian) in space. He was launched by a Russian Soyuz for a 6-month tour on the International Space Station. Malaysian Muslim clerics have prepared special guidelines for him on religious rules. He will use a wet towel rather than water to clean himself before praying, and is not obliged to kneel in zero gravity or face Mecca while praying. To avoid confusion about when to pray, Mr Shukor will follow the time at the launch site in Kazakhstan.

Does the Universe have a purpose? The US-based philanthropic John Templeton Foundation has asked a dozen academics: nine scientists and three from the arts and theology. The latter said yes or, as one said, hoped so. Of the former the two chemists were negative, two astrophysicists were unsure and one said 'unlikely', an astronomer and a further astrophysicist said yes and very likely, and a computer scientist and a biologist both said yes. Looking at these we can discount the artists and theologist whose work depends on accepting perceptions (as opposed to quantitatively analysing them as in psychology). This leaves the scientists. It is interesting to note that the scientists whose discipline was one that most depends on the statistical outcome of a large population of events (chemical reactions) both were negative, whereas the scientists whose disciplines relied on successive orders of organization (physics, biology and computer science) felt that the Universe did have, or was likely to have, a purpose. Make of that what you will.

Russian biomedical scientist on bioweapons charge is latest scientist to fall foul of FSB. Oleg Mediannikov, who works at the Gamelaya Institute of Epidemiology was arrested January last year (2007) on his return from a scientific trip to Marseilles (France) meeting scientists with whom his Institute has had a longstanding relationship that is even officially recognised by the World Health Organization. It all began when customs removed 20 phials of non-pathogenic typhus vaccine and his USB memory sticks on the outward trip. He thought there had been a paperwork mix-up as the strains were approved for export to France by the Russian health ministry. However customs sent the phials to a lab, code-named the 47th military research institute, for assessment. Since then he has not been allowed to leave the country and in June the FSB (the successor to the KGB) initiated criminal proceedings against him. He possibly faces seven years in prison. Then in September the Gamelaya Institute of Epidemiology was allegedly approached by the FSB and now Oleg Mediannikov has been asked to resign or be sacked. The date for his trial has not been set. +++ Worrying trend against Russian scientists collaborating with foreign colleagues. This is not the first time this has happened as we have previously reported. Apparently President Vladimir Putin has restored some of the former KGB organization's powers and there some extreme nationalistic views are being fostered that undermine the hard-won freedoms of the early 1990s. That fictions are again (as with the Libya six) being fabricated against scientists is worrying in itself but of arguably greater concern for scientists genuinely into SF. Concatenation therefore feels it important to keep an ear to the ground for such news. We will keep you posted.

When is science fiction not science fiction - never says letter to Guardian. Richard Cooper writes in The Guardian's Review supplement (29.9.07) that Jeanette Winterson's characters in The Stone Gods hating science fiction is trying to distance her clearly SF work from the genre so as to preserve her 'literary' credentials.   (Author Jeanette Winterson comments about SF have appeared in a number of places and Paul McAuley's blog has a quote.)   Richard Cooper notes that Margaret Atwood insists that Oryx and Crake was not SF... Of course this SF-denying trend with 'literary' authors -- saying their stories are not really SF but proper writing -- is something that many within SF have long noted. (For example it quite frequently pops up in Ansible's 'As they see us' column, and recently Paul McAuley's blog also has an interesting but convoluted comment.) All of which begs either the question of whether these SF-denying mainstream authors are really so insecure, or whether 'literary critics' are really so bigoted against SF that authors fear them? (Hmmm. Tricky one that.)

Scientists call for halt to Britain's proposed compulsory DNA identity screen. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has said that proposals to keep people on the national DNA data base as 'unjustified' when they have not been convicted of any offence: it should only apply to convicted criminals. The move against Big Brother is not just a question of civil rights (not to be monitored, filed, indexed, stamped etc.) but is practical as those with previous convictions do the vast majority of crime. The Council would like to see more resources put into collecting DNA from criminal sites rather than from innocent individuals. Also there have been miscarriages of justice with DNA. DNA is not infallible (there are duplicates due to the restricted number of DNA markers used) and DNA can be transferred with surprising ease. So the Council also want more technical advice given to juries so that they are aware of the limitations of inferences from DNA connections.

Canadian SF writer Robert Sawyer does guest editorial in the journal Science. Science is the leading multidisciplinary journal in North America that rivals Britain's Nature. Last autumn an edition of Science has a number of articles on robotics. Robert Sawyer takes the opportunity to highlight the popularisation of robotics by writers Isaac Asimov and Jack Williamson. +++ Nature has in recent years increased its references to SF and has the 'Futures' one-page, inside back page, SF short stories, seasonal exemplars of which are on Concat. Now that Science looks like it is starting to join in the fun, could scientists enjoying SF become a more open activity? +++ Greg Bear appears in Nature on artificial intelligence (see earlier).

Journal Nature has wrong species on cover! To illustrate the Spiderman type stickability geckos use they put a picture of a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) on the cover. However not all geckos have the microscopic hairs that confer this stickability and the Eublepharidae do not. +++ Note: In the past 15 years there have been two House of Lords Select Committee reports on the decline of systematics (the science of species identification and evolutionary relationships) in the UK, whose state the Institute of Biology (the professional body for British bioscientists) in the past has said is parlous.

Conservationists breed wrong species of trout. Attempts were made by US conservationists to repopulate the endangered greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii stomias) but in fact in fact some Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus) were bred instead. +++ Note: In the past 15 years there have been two House of Lords Select Committee reports on the decline of systematics (the science of species identification and evolutionary relationships) in the UK, whose state the Institute of Biology in the past has said is parlous. Could this apply in the US too?

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster antithesis created! Instead of being like hit with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. it is more a drink wrapped around small slivers of gold. Created in London's Movida nightclub, the cocktail is called 'flawless' and consists of half a bottle of Cristal Rose champagne, some brown sugar, angostura bitters and a few flakes of 24-carat gold leaf with an 11-carat diamond ring at the bottom of the glass. It costs £35,000 (US$70,000). Only a quarter of British job-holders earn more than £35k.

TV giant Sky goes 1984 giving customer details to commercial interests. Sky have reportedly asked their customers to ring an expensive 0870 number if they wish to stop Sky from selling their personal details to commercial interests. Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (the successor to the Data Protection Ombudsman) have been on the case as 'best practice' is for customers to actively opt-in to allow release of their details to third parties. Sky has more than 8 million customers. Apparently Sky are not obliged to follow best practice. However if Sky customers have previously asked for their details not to be passed on then Sky say that they do not need to do this again. There has been quite a bit of customer uproar on the net.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian has this last season covered::
  - the (UK) Society of Homeopaths' promotion of homeopathy and one 'Peter Chappell'' and his treatments in treating HIV/AIDS... There should be criminal law against this quack medicine. Goldacre says: 'Peddling fiction is the homeopath's trade. Attacking medicine is their market device.' Fortunately Goldacre keeps SF out of the loop.
  - research purportedly demonstrating that acupuncture works (its lack of qualitative assessment leaves it open to the results merely being the placebo effect).
  - herbal medicines and their lack of standardised clinical efficacy compared to medicines with synthetic compounds of their active ingredients.
  - Danie Krugel's reported claim that he has technology that can pinpoint a person anywhere in the World with a sample of their DNA. Apparently this is "science, science, science..." and it is not even 1st April yet.
  - the attempt by the Society of Homeopaths to get the clinician Andrew Lewis' delightfully sane site, www.quackometer.net, banned. Needless to say the site exposes fraudulent medical science unlike the Society of Homeopaths. The funny thing was that in this instance, Goldacre says, Lewis was pointing out that the SoH was apparently not implementing its own code of practice whereby homeopaths should not imply they can cure a named disease (in this case malaria). The good news is that this story, much to the Society of Homeopaths' annoyance, has been reported widely across the web. Whoops, it has just happened again!
  - the coy nature of some giving evidence to a science Parliamentarian Select enquiry on abortion as to their religious affiliations.
  - the assessment of a 'more energy out than in' machine by someone from the University of York... Except that Goldacre reveals that the independent assessor was not a scientist but someone who works in business and enterprise whose separate 'science' hobby relates him to the British Society of Dowsers. On proper assessment it turns out the trick relates to measurement of ac compared to dc. Still, Goldacre reports, this did not stop The Mail on Sunday from a great -- it violates every known law of physics -- story.
  - how -- in the wake of the UK Government losing confidential bank, national insurance and other details of 25 million of its citizens -- it is possible to use another person's stolen biometric data to fool scanners. Goldacre even runs through a step-by-step guide as to how to alter your fingerprints. (Concat's biologists say it is also possible to fool retina scans and DNA mouth swabs to corroborate stolen biometric ID data. Concat's own science policy analyst notes that in 2006 the House of Commons (all-party) Select Committee for Science and Technology noted that there were gaps in the science needed to underpin ID card proposals and that the Government was not seeking the necessary science. Our policy analyst also comments that the UK Government is often reluctant to meaningfully accept science advice and reported that in 2007 it scrapped the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. The replacement Committee is more focussed on the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills and not on science across all Government Departments).
  - the way South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki continues in his belief that herbal remedies can cure AIDS and how he is joined by Gambia's President Yahya Jemmeh. Meanwhile in Nigeria Jeremiah Abalaka is suing Nigeria's Academy of Science as the Academy has (arguably rightly) claimed that the efficacy of Abalaka's AIDS remedy could not be verified. Ben Goldacre goes on to note that in London the Society of Homeopaths is holding a meeting at which one speaker will apparently claim that an impact on the AIDS epidemic can be made by broadcasting music encoded with AIDS remedies... All very depressing. Meanwhile in 2006 three million people died of AIDS.
  - the Daily Mail (UK lightweight, right wing newspaper) for calling for a ban on cancer causing phthalates in cosmetic. It points to a study that shows that butyl benzyl phthalate causes cancer... But, notes Goldacre, butyl benzyl phthalate is already banned from use in cosmetics in the UK indeed across all the European Union. Indeed it has been banned for quite a while.
  - the nonsense nutrition advice given out at Christmas such as a few glasses of wine is good for you for its antioxidants, or equally a few glasses are bad for you. (If you only drink a little the rest of the year then two or three glasses on Christmas day will not matter.) Hope you were not bothered by the crap science and had an enjoyable festive day, suspended disbelief and raised a glass to Santa.

 

[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 2008

End Bits

Well that was it for 2007 and welcome 2008. Last year was, as we mentioned in the year's previous seasonal newscasts, our 20th anniversary. This year, this Easter to be exact, we will be 21. We will therefore get the key to science fiction. But what other anniversaries does 2008 have to offer? Here are a few:-
          50 years ago the EU was established under the Treaty of Rome in 1958
          80 years ago the first chip shop opened in 1928
          100 years ago the birth of the US author and SF grandmaster Jack Williamson in 1908
          100 years ago the first issue of Hugo Gernsback's Modern Electrics appeared in 1908
          100 years ago the first Model T Ford went on sale in the US in 1908
          110 years ago Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium in 1898
          120 years ago John Dunlop applies to patent the pneumatic tyre in1888
          150 years ago fingerprints were first used for ID purposes in 1858
          190 years ago Frankenstein was published in 1818
          240 years ago the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was published in 1768

All that remains is for the core team presenting Concatenation to thank the broader grouping of individuals who each do their bit helping out throughout last year. In addition there are those who did reviews and articles not cited on the aforementioned team listing. For the past year these have included: Janus Andersen, Kawthar Ayed, Alex Boniwell, Tim Broadribb, Sue Burke, Anne Clothier, Simon Geikie, Ian Hocking, Kaz Makin, Alain le Bussy, Kin-Ming Looi, Caz Rudd, Peter Thorley, Gail Tomlinson, and Vicki Bailey-Whatson. Also there are the following writers who gave permission to post their stories: David Brin, Ian Hocking and Bruce Sterling.   Our appreciation to them as well all those who have been in touch submitting news and including those unsung PR folk in the SF industry. Thank you, and thank you dear site visitor for making it this far which may mean that you are one of our regulars, in which case 'be seeing you'.

More science and SF news will be reviewed in our Summer 2008 upload after Easter in April 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 From Concat': We only update the Concatenation with news and reviews seasonally, with a three or four month gap in between. (There is occasionally just one update (such as a one-page Future's story) in between.) This means that regular visitors continually have to remember to check this site out after a few of months of inactivity.   To see how you can register click here

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Brian Ameringen, Sue Burke, Angel Carralero, Henry Gee, Ulrik Kristiansen, Henrik Løyche, Alain le Bussy, Steve Green, Nicole Murphy, Nikolai Pegasoff, Roberto Quaglia, Roger Robinson, Louis Savy, Robert Sawyer and the many representatives of groups and professional companies' PR folk who sent news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.

News for the next upload that covers the summer 2008 period needs to be in before the end of March. News (of the past spring period or of forthcoming summer events) especially sought concerns SF author news as well as 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 your message ends up being spam filtered and needs rescuing.


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