Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Spring 2012

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 2012

STAFF MATTERS

Alan and Karen's wedding went well.

Alan's wedding 2011
Jonathan, Karen, Alan and Dan at the reception.

Bill – the unsung hero who sorts our 'Futures' PDFs out – and his wife now have a baby son. Our congratulations to the couple.

Nadia – one of our book review team – has had a baby daughter. Our congratulations to her and husband Wayne.

Finally – Advance notice that we will have our 25th anniversary this Easter. A quarter of a century already. Shock, horror drama, probe to come.

 

Elsewhere this issue (vol 22 (1) Spring 2012) separate to this page we have:-
          an article on Films from the Mummy's Tomb
          a review of the 2011 SF Worldcon
          a review of the 2011 British Fantasycon
          a review of the 2011 Festival of Fantastic Films
          our annual look at the coming year's SF convention and film diary
          ...and many SF/F book reviews. See What's new page.

 

Fantasy and horror book reviewer wanted. SF2 Concatenation not only lists forthcoming British Isles books on its seasonal news pages (like this one) but posts between 50 and 70 stand-alone book reviews a year. Currently we have nearly a thousand stand-alone fiction reviews on the site and last year (2011) these were over 300,000 fiction review downloads by site visitors (a figure that has been growing year-on-year). Alas we do not have enough reviewers on our book review team to review all the titles sent us and so we are looking for an additional reviewer (or possibly two). Specifically we are looking for reviewers willing to review fantasy (both traditional and urban), horror, steam punk and related titles.
          Reviewers must be based in Britain (so as to keep our post costs down) and have been regular genre readers for a decade or longer.   Reviews should be typically between 500 and a thousand words and submitted as a MS Word.doc 2007 or earlier version (not .docx) with publication details as per house style accurately cited at the review's top line (check out a couple of recent reviews from our What's new page.   What we do is circulate a list of books (which has the aforesaid publication details) we have to review in January, April and September. Reviewers say how many titles they are prepared to review for the relevant review period and then list the titles they would like to review plus a couple of extra choices (as often some books get selected by more than one reviewer).   We then send the reviewers the books.   The one thing we are strict on are the seasonal deadlines (March 15th, August 15th and December 15th) as we have a really mad rush at the end of each season collating not just reviews but all the news sent us, coding the site, internal and external link checking and then posting seasonal editions.   Naturally book reviewers get to keep the books they review.   If you think you have what it takes and wish to share your critical enthusiasm for genre books then feel free to contact us about trial period.

 

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 2012

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

The Best SF books, SF films and genre television of 2011. Well, our choice for what it is worth as seen in the British Isles.

Major SF awards this season include: Britain's Fantasy Award, Canada's Auroras, France's Utopiales, Germany's Curt Siodomak and Phantastik Awards, Japan's Seiun [Nebula], Russia's Big Zilant, Spain's Ignotus, Stiges and Nocte Awards, and the World Fantasy Awards.

Book news – Includes : e-book news, SF market share, British library cuts and statistics of the year, Angry Robot news and the The Hobbit's 75th anniversary is celebrated.

Film news – Includes: that of SF/F books by noted genre authors Manuel Pedrolo, Charles Yu and Adam Nevill are to be films, among other news of box office takings and forthcoming releases, etc.

Television news – Includes: SF in the charts and Neil Gaimen's American Gods as well as Stephen King's Dark Tower and Under the Dome are to be television series.

News of SF and science personalities includes, among many, that of: Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, Frederik Pohl who has a birthday favour to ask of our US regulars, Terry Pratchett and Slaman Rushdie.

Other news includes: Russian fandom splits, European SF Society officers wanted and W Europe's Ireland and E. Europe's Romania head-to-head on 2014 Eurocon bid.

News of last season's SF events includes that of: the 2011 Worldcon and an awards ruckus at Britain's Fantasycon.

Major forthcoming SF events include: a run up of forthcoming Worldcons and bids and forthcoming Eurocons among others.

Calling Hugo Award 'Best Dramatic Presentation' voters. Not aware that there are films other than Hollywood kids' or comics related films?   Our short video clip links section this season includes, among others, links to a range of 2011 genre film trailers that you may just want to at least check out before you nominate for this year's Hugos. – See the section here and also we remind you that there is a separate short selection of best films below.

Science news of the past season included that: the space-time continuum is smooth (and not a foam); the space-time continuum is smooth (but still a foam); the stone-age began earlier than thought; Britain's politicians lied about UK science funding; there really is free water on Mars (note: free standing water); the Black Death genome has been sequenced revealing history; a new test for Downs syndrome; a quarter of World's farmland is now degraded; the current global amphibian extinction is set to increase; and why stop being lard-arses spurred our human evolution... and of course there is Higgs boson and exo-planet news that you will have already picked up on from the mainstream media.

Science-and-SF news of the past season included that: the Moon's inhabitants speak French said biologist Richard Dawkins; TV series Firefly quotes land university lecture in trouble with jobs-worth administration; spontaneous human combustion is now legal; and the Yanks are developing a tractor beam.

Notable SF books due out in the run up to Easter 2012 include: The Stainless Steel Rat Returns (reprint) by Harry Harrison, Demi Monde: Spring by Rod Rees, and Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. Plus lots of others listed.

Notable fantasy due out in the run up to Easter 2012 include: Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper and Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard. Plus lots of others listed.

The Spring saw us sadly lose many SF and science personalities. Among others these included: Scientists: Har Gobind Khorana, David Jack, Steve Jobs, Lyn Marguilis, Rudolf Mössbauer, Wangari Maathai, Norman Ramsey and Ralph Steinman.   SF personalities: Henri-Richard Bessiere, Russell Hoban, Anne McCaffrey and Louis Thirion. Scientist and SF personality: Thomas Bassler.

 

Jump to other specialist news using the section menu below or else scroll down to get everything…

 

[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 2012

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SF NEWS

Best SF books of 2011. Yes, it is the start of a new year and so time for an informal look back at the last one. Here are a few of the books that we rated published in the British Isles last year (obviously there are other worthy offerings as well as titles published elsewhere which also include some of these). We have a varied mix for you so there should be something for everyone. So if you are looking for something to read then why not check out these Science Fiction books of 2011:-
          Final Days by Gary Gibson.
          Pax Brittania: Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green.
          Embassytown by China Miéville
          The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
          The Islanders by Christopher Priest
          Quantum Gravity Book 5: Down to the Bone by Justina Robson
(and sadly not eligible, as it came out the previous year (2010), but rated by team members (until we checked the publication date) was Johannes Cabal The Detective by Jonathan L. Howard – which we mention in case you missed it the previous year.

On the fantasy and horror front in 2011 released in the British Isles (and possibly elsewhere) there was:-
          Rivers of London a.k.a. Midnight Riots (N. American title) by Ben Aaronvitch
          Vampire Empire: Book Two: The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
          Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley
          Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
          Black Halo by Sam Sykes

Best Science Fiction (and Sci Fi) films (movies) of 2011. Well, there has been the usual debate as to our informal consideration for better or worse. We have as customary a varied mix (sci fi, SF, space opera, fantasy and horror) for you so there should be something in this, best of science fiction films 2011 selection, for everyone:-
          Atlantis Down. An Italian-US co-production. A retired space shuttle is brought back into service and then in mid-mission the ship's crew is transported somewhere... See the trailer here.
          Beyond the Black Rainbow . This Italian/Canadian choice of ours may or may not be to your taste: most people either love it or hate it. The film is more a visual experience (think of Kubrick and Tarkovsky). A young woman is imprisoned in an experimental zone... See the trailer here.
          Contagion. A super-flu epidemic breaks out. As this is a Hollywood blockbuster it is likely to be a candidate for the Hugo short-list without further preamble.
          The Dark Fields a.k.a Limitless. Though Hollywood this one may have escaped your attention. A writer is given a drug that enables his brain to reach its full potential... But is this something you would really want? See the trailer here.
          The Gerber Syndrome. An Italian production following the outbreak of an epidemic that ultimately makes people mad. See the trailer here.
          Perfect Sense. A BBC production. A love story with an SFnal backdrop: across the world people are losing their senses (taste, balance, hearing, hunger, touch, sight...) one by one. See the trailer here.
          Rise of the Apes. Hollywood again. A worthy re-boot of the franchise.
          Source Code. An SF thriller and a Hollywood offering but from the director that brought us the independent and previous Hugo winner Moon.
+++ Also here below are more links to 2011 SF films trailers from around the world whose DVD, now a few months have passed, you may be able to pick up in your own country.

As for short-form media (effectively TV) SF and offerings under 90 minutes, the Hugo voters will no doubt go for Dr Who in what has in recent years effectively in all but name become the Dr Who Hugo category. This is not a function of the Hugo's purpose of reflecting SFnal excellence rather than the Hugo rules mean you vote for an episode (not the series) and so many Dr Who fans vote at the Worldcon for so many episodes that almost everything else gets squeezed out. (Would that the TV series only count for the Hugo nomination and then the episode that gets the most votes be the one put on the ballot. That way Hugo voters would be able to choose the best episode of the different series on the ballot.) So if recent year's Hugo-voting practice is anything to go by then a few Who episodes will be short-listed and here our betting is that Neil Gaiman's episode – 'The Doctor's Wife' – will be the one that wins.
          Anyway, if you do feel like voting for something different then the year's worthy-of-consideration productions (out of many offerings) include:-
          Big Bang Theory (Season 4). More science and SF comedy with this charming N. American series about researchers and their attractive non-science mundane neighbour. A safe bet for most of our regulars to be able to view this as this is shown on both sides of the Pond. If you have not seen it then here are some season 3 highlights (including how come they have always been unable to use the lift).
          Black Mirror. This was a short run of three SFnal films. The second in the series was called 15 Million Merits and could have been based on a Golden Age SF short story. It concerned a future in which most workers pedal-sports bikes to generate energy for their high-tech city. The only way for many to escape this life of drudgery is to enter a talent show... See the trailer here.   The final episode was called The Entire History Of You. What would happen if you had a perfect memory? See the trailer here.
          Misfits (Season 3) Is in effect the British take on the Heroes premise of individuals gaining super-powers but dark, gritty, sassy and street wise.   Seasons 1 and 2 (2009 and 2010) were stunningly brilliant and radically different to Heroes even though the theme explored is the same. See the first season introductory trailer here and the DVD is now out.

Nominations for 2012 Hugo Awards are now open. For details see our Eurocon/Worldcon news subsection below. Vote, and vote wisely.

The 2011 Nobel Prizes for science have been announced. The science category wins were:-
          Physics: Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess of the US and Brian Schmidt of Australia. For their work on Type 1a supernovae, determining that more distant objects seem to move faster, hence the Universe is expanding faster and faster.
          Chemistry: Dr Shechtman (Israel) for determining the structure of quasi-crystals.
          Medicine: Bruce Beutler (US), Jules Hoffmann (France) and the late Ralph Steinman. Profs Beutler and Hoffman discovered how the body's first line of defence was activated. Prof Steinman discovered the dendritic cell, which helps defeat infection.
See also last year's 2010 Nobel Prizes.

Nobel rule preventing award presentation posthumously is excepted for 2011. See the obituary comment for Ralph Steinman below.

The 2011 Royal Society Charles 2nd Award goes to China's premiere Wen Jiabao. Since taking office in 2003, Premier Wen has overseen one of the most ambitious programmes of national research investment. Science and technology have been placed at the heart of China's planning and national development and it is recognised as a common value through school and university education. The King Charles II medal is awarded to foreign Heads of State or Government who have made an outstanding contribution to furthering scientific research in their country. Wen has a professional background in geology and engineering.

The 2011 Royal Society Michael Faraday prize has been awarded to Colin Pillinger. Professor Pillinger is probably best-known for leading the Beagle 2 project to land a British-built spacecraft on Mars in 2003. What is less known is that, while Beagle 2 was a failure, some of the technological spin-offs have been promising. For example the miniaturisation of the mass spectrometer has diagnostic potential by doctors in their practices. (Currently doctors have to send off samples to a lab.) The Michael Faraday Prize is awarded annually a scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is judged exemplary.

The 2011 British Fantasy Awards were presented at Fantasycon. The winners were:-
          Best Novel (August Derleth Fantasy Award): Demon Dance by Sam Stone (The House Of Murky Depths) – Award subsequently declined
          Best Novella: 'Humpty's Bones' by Simon Clark (Telos)
          Best Short Story: 'Fool's Gold' by Sam Stone (in The Bitten Word edited by Ian Whates/ Newcon Press)
          Best Collection: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)
          Best Anthology: Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories edited by Johnny Mains (Noose & Gibbet)
          Best Non-Fiction: Altered Visions: The Art of Vincent Chong (Telos)
          Best Artist: Vincent Chong
          Best Small Press: Telos Publishing
          Best Magazine/Periodical: Black Static (Andy Cox (Ed.)/TTA Press)
          Best Comic/Graphic Novel: At the Mountains of Madness by Ian Culbard (Self Made Hero)
          Best Film: Inception (Christopher Nolan/Syncopy Films)
          Best Television: Sherlock (Steven Moffat/BBC)
          Karl Edward Wagner Special Award: Terry Pratchett
          Sydney J. Bounds Award For Best Newcomer: Robert Jackson Bennett, For Mr. Shivers (Orbit Books)
Comment: Well, this year's awards caused a little bit of a stir.

The World Fantasy Awards were presented at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego (US). The winners were:-
          Novel: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
          Novella: 'The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon' by Elizabeth Hand
          Short Fiction: 'Fossil—Figures' by Joyce Carol Oates
          Anthology: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer and Carmen Gimenez Smith
          Collection: What I Didn't See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler
          Artist: Kinuko Y. Craft
          Special Award Professional: Marc Gascoigne, for Angry Robot
          Special Award Non-Professional: Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press
The 2011 World Fantasy Awards Lifetime Achievement Winners 2011 (for the 2010 Award Year) were: Peter S. Beagle and Angélica Gorodischer.

The 2011 Seiun [Nebula] Awards, the Japanese SF/F awards were announced at Donbura Con L, the 50th Japanese Science Fiction Convention:-
          Best Novel: Kyonen wa Ii Toshi ni Narudarou [Last Year Was Probably a Good Year] by Yamamoto Hiroshi
          Best Short Story: 'Arisuma-oo no Aishita Mamono' ['King Arisuma’s Beloved Demon'] by Ogawa Issui
          Foreign Novel: Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
          Foreign Short Story: 'Carry the Moon in My Pocket' by James Lovegrove
          Media: District 9
          Comics: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi [Fullmetal Alchemist] by Arakawa Hiromu
          Art: Naoyuki Katou
          Non-fiction: Sa wa saiensu no sa [S is for Science] byTsukasa Shikano
          Open category: Hayabusa (MUSES-C) space probe

The English Aurora Awards for Canadian Science Fiction were presented in Toronto at SFContario 2. (The Francophone winners were previously announced in May in Montreal.) The principal category wins for the Anglophone Auroras were:-
          Best Novel: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer
          Best Graphic Novel: Goblins by Tarol Hunt
          Best Related Work: The Dragon and the Stars edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi
          Best Artist: Erik Mohr

Germany's Curt Siodmak Prize (visual) and the German SF Prize (written) were awarded at Buchmessecon (BuCon):-
          Curt Siodomak - Film: Inception (that also recently won Hugo and a Nebula)
          Curt Siodomak - TV: Battlestar Galactica
          German SF Club Prize - Novel: Orte der Erinnerung [Places of Memory] by Uwe Post
          German SF Club Prize - Short story: 'Walpar Tonnraffir und der Zeigefinger Gottes' ['Walpar Tonnraffir and God's finger'] by Wolfgang Jeschke
The German SF Club Prize is a juried award from the German SF Society (Club) SFCD. Conversely the Curt Siodmak Prize is fan voted. Curt Siodmak, after whom the prize is named, was a German writer and film director born in 1902.

Germany's Phantastik Prize (visual) was awarded at Buchmessecon (BuCon). The principal wins were:-
          Novel: Judastöchter by Markus Heitz
          Short story: 'Grim – Das Siegel des Feuers' by Gesa Schwartz
          Best Foreign Book (translated to German): Der lächelnde Odd und die Reise nach Asgard [American Heroes (we think)] by Neil Gaiman
          Best (book) Series: Perry Rhodan (again).

Spain's Ignotus Awards were presented at Hispacon 29, Spain's national convention. The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Crónicas del Multiverso [Chronicles from the Multiverse] by Victor Conde
          Best Novella: La Mirada de Pegaso' ['The Glance of the Pegasus'] by Sergio Mars
          Best Anthology: : La Mirada de Pegaso [The Glance of the Pegasus] by Sergio Mars
          Best Nonfiction Book: Teoría de la Literatura de Ciencia Ficción [The Theory and Literature of Science Fiction] by Fernando Ángel Moreno
          Best Audiovisual Production: A Través del Espejo [Through the Mirror] by Alfonso Merelo and Elia Hernández (radio)
          Best Magazine: Imaginarios [Imaginations] from the Federación Española de Fantasía Épica (Spanish Federation for Epic Fantasy)
          Best Foreign Novel: Nación [Nation] by Terry Practhett
          Best Website: La Tercera Fundación [The Third Foundation]
          Also presented was the...
          Domingo Santos Award: Astronauta en la Playa [Astronaut on the Beach] by Ramón San Miguel
Domingo Santos is a well known Spanish SF author who also co-founded the magazine Nueva Dimensión [New Dimensions].   The Ignotus is Spain's national SF Award (equivalent to the British SF Awards) and presented at Spain's annual natcon, Hispacon,which is sponsored by the Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror.

The 2011 Nocte Awards from the Spanish Association of Horror writers went to:
          Best Spanish Novel: Y Pese a Todo... [And whatsoever…] by Juande Garduño
          Best Foreign Novel: El Circo de la Familia Pilo [The Pilo Family Circus] by Will Elliot
          Best Spanish Short Story: 'El hombre revenido' ['The Restrained Man'] by Emilio Bueso
Comment: The Pilo Family Circus was Australian writer Will Elliot's debut novel in 2006. It won the ABC Fiction Award, an Aurealis Award and a Ditmar.

Films Attack the Block and Another Earth do well at the 45 STIGES Festival of Fantastic Films in Catalan in October. Attack the Block picked up the Special Jury Award, the Audience Award for Best Film, and the Jose Luis Guarner Critic Award as well as winning the best soundtrack category of the competition.   Another Earth saw Brit Marling get a 'Best Actress' award.

The Big Zilant was awarded at the 21st International Festival of Fantasy, Zilantkon, in Kazan in November. The Russian Federation's Worldcon-sized event but with a purely fantasy (non-SF) focus. This year's Big Zilant went to Maria Galina for her book Small Hamsters of Egladore.

The Utopiales and other Awards were presented at this year's Utopiales in Nantes, France. (an event that is a big as Worldcon):-
Literature
          Prix Utopiales Européen (Novel): Rêves de Gloire [Dreams of Glory] by Roland C. Wagner
          Prix Utopiales Européen Jeunesse (Juvenile SF): Terrienne [Land] by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
          Prix Julia Verlanger: Planète à louer [Planet for Hire] by Yoss
          Prix de la Meilleure Bande Dessinée de SF (Graphic Novel): Château de Sable [Sand Castle] by Frederik Peeters and Pierre-Oscar Levy
Cinéma
          Grand Prix du Jury: Eva directed by Kike Maillo
          Mention Spéciale: Extraterrestre by Nacho Villagondo
          Prix SYFY du Public: Endhiran - Robot, the Movie by S.Shankar
          Prix du Jury Courts (Shorts) Métrages: Blinky TM by Ruari Robinson
          Prix du Public Courts (Shorts) Métrages: Le Monstre de Nix [The Monster of Nix] by Rosto

Terry Pratchett and Transworld Publishers have announced the 2013 Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now Prize. This follows the 2011 prize that found not one, but two joint winners, Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan and Half Sick of Shadows by David Logan, both to be published by Doubleday in May 2012. The 2013 prize will be open for submissions from aspiring debut novelists from 1st January 2012. The award will be judged by Sir Terry Pratchett and a panel of experts. Transworld will offer the winning author a publishing contract with a £20,000 advance. Entrants must be over 18, have no previous published full-length works of fiction and live in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Submissions should be emailed to: pratchettprize[-at-]transworld-publishers.co.uk.

Philip K. Dick family suing makers of The Adjustment Bureau film. It is a complicated affair which, to cut very short, turns on the following.   Dick’s original story was published in a science fiction magazine in 1954. However, Dick’s estate claims that this was done without Dick’s knowledge or consent, making it invalid. The first official printing, the estate argues, of Dick’s material was in a 1973 short story collection.   The estate has already had a total of over US$1.5 million (£1 million) but, if it owns copyright, is owed a further US$500,000 (£330,000). The estate's lawyer is also reported as saying that up to the film's launch, the film makers (Media Rights Capital) accepted the estate's view of the story's copyright status as this was in the contracts and copyright reviews covered as part of the acquisition.

Asimov's The Caves of Steel being adapted for a film. 20th Century Fox is looking to make a film version of Isaac Asimov's 1953 classic novel. The story concerns the solving of a murder case of an off-world colony ambassador to the over crowded Earth. The detectives solving the crime are a human (Elijah Bailey) and a humanoid robot (R. Daneel Olivaw). Elijah is not too enamoured with robots let alone the idea of working with one.

More SF/F film news in the SF film news subsection lower down.

Asterix The Gaul's future assured says Albert Uderzo when accepting award. Uderzo took over the writing for the comic book after the death of Goscinny in 1977, even though many feel his stories were up to Goscinny's standard. He has now decided to pass on the baton. "I've decided there should be some continuity, and I want it [Asterix's saga] to carry on for generations and generations." To this end he announced that he has had an artist working with him for some time and that this new artist will produce more adventures. The first of this is slated to be released at the end of 2012. Meanwhile there will be a new live action Asterix film in 2012 starring Edouard Baer as Asterix and Gerard Depardieu as Obelix. It will be based on Asterix in Britain and is called Asterix and Obelix: On Her Majesty's Service (God Save Britannia).

Superman #1 comic sells for record-breaking US$2.2 million (£1.4m). The pristine copy of Action Comics no. 1 dates from June 1938 and was Superman's first outing. Two years ago, spring 2010, an issue sold for US$1m (£646,000).

New York Review of Science Fiction is to cease being a mainly-print magazine after July (2012). After then it will primarily be in PDF format that may be e-mailed to subscribers, or they may decide not to have subscribers and just make each issue available on-line, either for a nominal charge or for free. They also say that they will almost certainly also offer a print-on-demand option as well.   All this came about because their long-time printer, Odyssey Press, was sold in October (2010), after they had sent the November issue layouts to them. Odyssey did not print it, because by the time it was prepared they had run entirely out of paper, and so they sent the job to the new owner in Pennsylvania. They did ultimately print it, late in November, but did not mail it until 2nd December. Thus the New York Review of Science Fiction missed a calendar month for the first time in its 23-year history.

Murky depths, the British magazine of SF short stories, has closed. The last issue was no. 18. Despite having some critical acclaim (apart from a few rival small press deprecating comments), good production presentation, and some great artwork, circulation levels were never high enough to cover the magazine's production costs: starting in 2007 just before the recession did not help. According to its website, the newsagent chain W. H. Smiths refused to stock it in the UK because of its 'extreme explicit content'. This in itself is a sign of Murky depths' worthiness. Still, all is not lost as the publishers, 'the House of Murky Depths', will continue publishing graphic novels and paperbacks.   www.murkydepths.com.

Realms of Fantasy finally(?) closes. Despite repeated attempts to keep it going, the October 2011 issue was the last. The magazine has continually made a loss over the past year, and then previously under its original owners. The magazine was originally founded in 1994.

Bid to bring Amazing Stories back. Amazing Stories died back in 2006. By 2007, Hasbro had abandoned the trademark. Steve Davidson, who was managing the intellectual property department of an R&D firm at the time, routinely reviewed the status of some favourite marks. Noting the lapse for Amazing Stories, he filed an application for the Mark in 2008. Now Steve Davidson has acquired the trademarks for Amazing Stories and announced the creation of an Editorial Advisory Board to assist in the re-launch of the world's first dedicated science fiction magazine originally launched in 1926. Serving on the board in a voluntary capacity are four former editors of Amazing Stories - Barry Malzberg, Patrick L. Price, Robert Silverberg, Ted White and Joseph Wrzos (who edited under the pen name Joseph Ross). Their former tenures as editors of Amazing Stories spans nearly three decades. At its peak Amazing's circulation reached 100,000 but by the year 2000 had slumped to 10,000 when it first folded. See www.amazingstoriesmag.com.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe has been turned into a stage play. It saw an autumnal run in Columbus, Ohio, US, at the Available Light Theatre. The play was directed by Matt Slaybaugh and adapted him and Jennifer Fawcett.   Let's hope someone puts it on in BritCit.

2000AD's 35th anniversary. Yes, its 2012 and Britain's No. 1 SF comic – indeed some say 'the Galaxy's greatest comic', 2000AD is 35 years old this year. (Yup, 10 years older than SF2 Concatenation.) 2000AD was launched in 1977 by IPC along with another SFnal title, Star Lord. The premiere strip was Judge Dredd law enforcer of the future which quickly developed a rounded character who despite recognising the fundamental benefit of the law begun to question the wisdom of some laws. Then we had the long-running readers' debate as to who should star in the then forthcoming Judge Dredd film. We readers wanted Clint Eastwood: we got Sylvester Stallone. A couple of years after its launch 2000AD merged with Star Lord and so 2000AD got Ro-Busters (a kind of robotic Thunderbirds) which in turn subsequently begat The ABC Warriors, as well as Strontium Dog mutant interstellar bounty hunter of criminals, whose alien medic, the Gronk, that so captured readers affection that he became the official (authorised by Tharg) mascot of Hertfordshire University (formerly Hatfield Polytechnic) SF Society PSIFA and also Cambridge University SF Society.   Today 2000AD is now owned by Rebellion (a games firm who also recently acquired the SF book publisher Solaris) and is still going strong as a full colour weekly. There is also the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine that for the past couple of years comes bagged with a small graphic novel of compiled earlier 2000AD strips: so this is the place for newcomers to go and well worth the £72 a year Megazine subscription (that's about US$120 plus added overseas shipping if you are foreign) e-mail subscriptions[-at-]2000ADonline.com substituting [-at-] with @ for details. Splundig, and happy birthday Tharg.

 

[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 2012

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Neil Armstrong slams the US's current space programme. The now 81 year-old was testifying at a Congressional hearing that NASA is a national disgrace. His age means that he has no career to lose. The US space program is "embarrassing and unacceptable," he said. "We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," he said. "For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable." Armstrong reminded the House committee of Winston Churchill's famous saying that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after they have exhausted all the alternatives. "In space flight," Armstrong said, "we are in the process of exhausting alternatives. I am hopeful that, in the near future, we will be doing the right thing."

Margaret Atwood's non-fiction SF book, In Other Worlds, has a commemorative special edition of 300 copies printed on Second Harvest paper. This is a publishing-grade material manufactured from 36% straw and 64% recycled paper. The paper was developed by Canadian environmental group Canopy costing Can$100 (£62). +++ She was also on BBC's Radio 4's Open Book programme in which she talked of her defining 'speculative fiction' as fiction that may have exotic science but it could happen, whereas 'science fiction' was based on unrealistic fantastical science… Comment: would help if she used terms the way the rest of us do and checked Clute's SF Encyclopaedia or Jeff Prucher's Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. She not only has re-defined 'speculative fiction' listed on both those works, she uses it the way the term 'mundane SF' (or 'mundane science fiction') has been used in recent years.

Iain Banks was on BBC Radio 4's Book Club discussing his non-SF novel The Wasp Factory. One member of the audience asked whether the humour was meant to be laugh out loud? Iain said that he was surprised that when the book came out 27 years ago that some reviewers had not realised that the novel was intentionally in part a black comedy. The interviewer asked Iain whether he had ever been psychoanalysed. Iain replied that he did not think he needed it as he considered himself to be well balanced and a nice chap. He would never seek to be psychoanalysed in case he discovered that the well-spring of part of his creativity was due to part of his psyche and that discovering this might jinx his writing.

Greg Benford's website has had a makeover. See www.gregorybenford.com.

Bernard Cribbins has received an OBE for services to drama. His genre contributions have included providing the voices for Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Orinoco in the 1970s series The Wombles. He also played a policeman who accompanied Dr Who in the second Doctor Who film Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD and was Wilfred Mott in the Doctor Who Christmas television special, 'Voyage of the Damned'; he then reprised thee character throughout the 2008 series as the grandfather of companion Donna Noble.. He is the only actor to have faced the daleks in both television and cinema. He also appeared in two episodes of The Avengers as well as one of Space 1999. His non-genre contributions include roles in three 'Carry on…' films. There was an on-line campaign complaining that he should not have received the OBE but a Knighthood.

Richard Dawkins biologist, revealed that he had considered the Moon's inhabitants to speak French!   Richard Dawkins told Andrew Marr on BBC Radio 4's Start The Week that when a youngster he had written a book about a dog going to the Moon, but had the sense to realise that the Moon's inhabitants would not speak English, so he had them speak French!   Andrew Marr replied that you can't get more alien than that.   The programme's theme that week was on 'reality'. Dawkins' other SFnal contribution was that SF authors were often 'lazy' in their portrayal of aliens. This is a view with which SF2 Concatenation's two resident biologists have some sympathy. Nonetheless, that's Dawkins telling the likes of Ballantyne, Banks, Clement, Egan, Niven, Reynolds, and Sawyer… Or was Richard only referring to pulp as well as soft SF writers?

Harlan Ellison tried to sue the makers of In Time SF film starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, claiming it borrows from a prize-winning short story he published in 1965. Ellison argued that In Time, which is written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Truman Show and director of GATTACA, borrowed substantially from his story 'Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman'. Both stories feature control of the population's individuals' lifespans and both have enforcers called 'Timekeepers'. 'Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman' won both the 1966 Hugo and Nebula Awards for 'Best Short Story'. Harlan and the studios are covering their own costs.   Why did Harlan drop the case? Nobody is sure but maybe it is because that whilst the film has some common elements (and so could be said to have been loosely inspired by Harlan's story) it is substantively different.   +++ Harlan is known for vigorously protecting his rights and we last reported him suing to recover dues owed from the Star Trek TV series and earlier still for speaking out on film companies not paying authors for work on DVD extras. Among other litigious escapades and high jinks, Ellison sued regarding Cameron's The Terminator, citing that it was based on two episodes he wrote "The Outer Limits." Orion Pictures and the production company settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and added an 'acknowledgement' of Ellison's work at the film's end. Cameron opposed the whole settlement, stating that the author's claim was a "nuisance suit" and that Ellison was a "parasite who can kiss my a--."

Neil Gaiman was on Fox TV's The Late, Late Show Craig Ferguson (who is Scottish) with wife Amanda Palmer singing a song with her group. He revealed how when he has too much scotch in Scotland he slips into a Scottish accent. He was on the show in part due to his November appearance on The Simpsons.

George R. R. Martin has had sold over a million Kindle E-books according to Amazon. He is the eleventh author to sell over a million Kindle copies, joining writers including genre writer Charlaine Harris. Martin's most recent novel in his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series, A Dance with Dragons". He has recently reached an even wider audience with the TV series Game of Thrones (that Salman Rushdie hates).

Leonard Nimoy made his (apparently) final convention appearance at (controversially for some) Creation Star Trek con. A surprise video was screened. It had been assembled by Creation Entertainment (generally welcomed by all) featuring the seven of the main stars of Star Trek (2009) and director J. J. Abrams, sharing memories and good wishes to their co-star. Leonard Nimoy has been a regular guest on the ST con circuit... See links to related Nimoy vid clips below.

Frederik Pohl marked his 92nd birthday (many happy returns) with a call to arms to US fandom to write to everyone of their local Republican politicians informing them that if they do not cease their no-tax increase-pledge at stop blocking deficit reforms going through Congress and Senate that they'll never vote Republican again. Suggested wording is on the author's site at his

Terry Pratchett is suing Paul Bamborough and Camel Productions, who had an option on film rights for the novel Mort. Terry's case is that the rights ran out and is seeking a legal declaration to that effect so that another company can make the film. +++ Terry revealed, on BBC Radio 4, that the title of his latest book, Snuff, had nothing to do with his campaign over euthanasia rights. +++ Snuff sales' success reported in book sub-section below.

Hannu Rajaniemi dubut novel's success is on-going. In addition to previous foreign rights sales, he has had the rights to the Quantum Thief Trilogy sold to Japan.

Salman Rushdie, mainstream author popular with litcrits, has damned the TV series of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones. Rushdie was researching fantasy on TV for his own forthcoming project when he came across the HBO's Emmy-winning series Game of Thrones. he said on hareetz.com: "There was a series called Game of Thrones which was very popular here in the United States, a post-Tolkien kind of thing. It was garbage, yet very addictive garbage – because there's lots of violence, all the women take their clothes off all the time, and it's kind of fun. In the end, it's well-produced trash, but there's room for that, too."

Brent Spinner was interviewed by uktheatre.net at the October Star Trek con in Chicago (US) when he was interrupted by two teenagers who wanted to ask what would Data eat at McDonald's. Thrown by the combination of rudeness of an interruption of an interview recording and the inanity of the question, Brent spent part of the rest of the interview noting that Star Trek's future vision was over-idealised by the show's addicts. As to Brent's answer to the children's question: "This is the stupidest thing anyone has ever asked me. The single dumbest thing anyone’s ever said. Would Data eat at McDonalds? Data wouldn’t be so stupid to eat at McDonalds. Data would go, ''I want something nutritious. I don’t wanna kill myself, I wanna live, right?'" All of which goes to show that Brent has some knowledge of nutrition, and possibly reasonable taste...

Albert Uderzo, the artist behind the fantasy, juvenile graphic novel Asterix the Gaul, announces his retirement when receiving a trophy (along with daughter the former Asterix story writer Rene Goscinny) to mark the sale of 350 million copies of Asterix adventures worldwide. Uderzo is 84. But this is not the end for Asterix as there are plans for Asterix's future.

Vernor Vinge talks about SF, society and the singularity on YouTube here.

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 2012

FILM NEWS

Ridley Scott's Prometheus being part of Alien series is now confirmed. As we have previously reported, there has been speculation that Prometheus is an alien prequel. Well it was hinted in the Alien films that the Nostromo was set up to encounter the extraterrestrial SOS and to return a sample (hence the android Ash was onboard with a mission). Now, the trailer has been released. It features many ultra-short (1 to 2 second) clips including of the first extraterrestrial alien victim ship. There are shots of a female astronaut character who effectively fulfils the same role as Ripley and we get the character who played the android in the Alien series turning up. It looks good. The film will be out in August.

Ridley Scott says his new Blade Runner film will be a sequel. So, not going for the obvious option then you cunning fox Ridley. None of the original cast will be involved Scott added.

Major Spanish SF novel to be a film. Mecanoscrit del Segon Origen by Manuel de Pedrolo will be director Bigas Luna's next film. This important novel was first published in 1974, and became the most broadly disseminated Catalan fiction book. It is the story of two children from a little country village in Catalonia called Benaura. Alba, a fourteen-year-old girl, and Dídac, a black nine-year-old boy, become the only two remaining humans on Earth after they accidentally survive an alien holocaust that eradicates all mammal life on the planet. They decide to set about preserving human culture and repopulating the Earth.

Film option for Adam Nevill’s horror novel The Ritual. Stillking Films have optioned The Ritual which was published in Britain in 2011 by Macmillan, it will also be published in the U.S. by St Martin’s Press in 2012. The novel is a contemporary horror tale that follows four men hiking in the northern European forests and the hellish things they stumble across there… The deal was brokered by the Gotham Group in Los Angeles, representing the John Jarrold Literary Agency. Stillking Films have produced many major films including Casino Royale, The Illusionist, From Hell and The Bourne Identity.

Film option for Charles Yu's novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Chris Columbus has bought the rights along with Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliff. Furthermore it looks like they have signed on Brendan Bellomo to direct. The novel was a Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Books of 2010 and it also made the New York Time’s 100 Notable Books of 2010 list.

Dr Who film, BBC set to ruin it before production starts... but then came the cry 'what Dr Who film?' Apparently the BBC was meant to be looking to David Yates to direct a new Dr Who film. Fair enough (but note the 'apparently' which we will come back to later). What is not fair enough is that news in Variety magazine was that they were looking for writers... Which if it had been true meant that they are ignoring using either Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davies. According to this rumour-mongering source, Dr Who "needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena".   What!   Why?   If it ain't broke then don't fix it. Dr Who's latest venture to the big screen could well have ended up a flop as were other TV-to-big-screen adaptations, such as Thunderbirds and The Avengers films, that departed greatly from their British TV roots. Will they never learn?! (What would have been wrong with a Moffat and Neil Gaiman team up?)... Fortunately all this is 'apparently' as Steven Moffat has dismissed rumours of a Doctor Who film coming soon, despite Variety magazine reportage and comments from director David Yates, claims of him to be in the adaptation driving seat.

Star Wars Blu-ray sale make global record. One week following the box set launch Star Wars: The Complete Saga"on Blu-ray has already set global sales records. Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox have so far sold one million units of the Blu-ray box set, which launched on 16th September, including 515,000 units in North America alone. With that many unit sales, according to the film studios, Star Wars is now the "bestselling catalogue Blu-ray disc of all time." In addition, the Star Wars Blu-ray set generated US$84 million (£54m) in worldwide revenue in the past week, including US$38 million (£24.5) in North America. The box set comes with a load of extras including hard copy photographs.

Banned horror film gets reprieve but has to have cuts. Only 12 films have ever been banned by the British Board of Film Classification since it was set up in 1912. (The Japanese horror The Grotesque was the last in 2009.) The Human Centipede 2 had been denied a rating in the summer due to sexual violence and graphic gore, but then in October was rated 18 after its distributor agreed to 32 cuts. A sequel to 2009's The Human Centipede, the film concerns a man who, inspired by the first film, attempts to replicate its bizarre people-grafting experiments. Two minutes and 37 seconds have been removed ahead of its DVD release.

Contagion US box office hit in three days of its September US release. It took US$23.1m (£14.5m) in its first three days of release said Warner Brothers. The film concerns the outbreak of a global SARS-like pandemic.

Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn top of British Isles charts for two weeks. This despite the release of Justin Timberlake's In Time. On its second weekend of release, the Steven Spielberg Tintin CGI animation made £2.19m in UK and Ireland box offices. The previous week it topped the British Isles box office, debuting at number one with takings of £6.7 million.

Bollywood superhero film Ra One copyright tussle. Actor Shah Rukh Khan has been ordered to pay a deposit of US$200,000 (£125,686) to an Indian court in order to secure release of his latest film. The actor and his production company have been accused of breaching copyright by TV scriptwriter Yash Patnaik who says he came up with the concept, and should receive 10% of the film's profits.   The film, the most expensive Bollywood production to date, has already suffered delays due to its extensive special effects and 3D production.

Cowboys & Aliens sued by comic creator. Stephen Busti created the comic strip 'Cowboys and Aliens' in Bizarre Fantasy #1 in 1994. The following year Busti's story was highlighted in Comic Shop News and on the same page there was another story about Scott Mitchell Rosenberg of Platinum Studios. Another year passes and in 1997 Platinum Studios produced a Cowboys & Aliens poster in 1997 and sold the rights to the property to Universal and Dreamworks. The Cowboys & Aliens film came out last year and took over US$100 million at the box office before the DVD came out. And now Stephen Busti wants his share.

Ghost Rider writer loses case for rights and share of film revenue. The rights to Marvel Comics hero 'Ghost Rider' – created in 1972 but since played by Nicolas Cage in two films - belong to the firm and not the writer, Gary Friedrich, a New York judge has ruled. The case had been running for four years. Gary Friedrich had apparently signed an agreement with Marvel in 1978 relinquishing rights in exchange for more future freelance work. Gary Friedrich says he will appeal.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Calling Hugo Award 'Best Dramatic Presentation' nominators. Not entirely aware that there are films other than Hollywood kids- or comics-related films?   Further to our selection of 2011 best SF films, this season's short video clip links section (immediately below) includes, among others, links to a range of 2011 genre film trailers that you may just want to at least check out before you rush to nominate for this year's Hugos. The below are a varied selection from around the world so hopefully there will be at least something for everyone…

Film clip download tip!: Perfect Sense.   A love story set against an SFnal riff. A chef and a scientist become drawn together as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions. This BBC Film is a collaborative British, Swedish, German and Danish production starring Ewan McGregor, Eva Green and Connie Nielsen, and directed by David Mackenzie. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Rift.   The extraterrestrials were watching us. What are they? Nobody knows. Earlier a Russian physicist started to study a phenomenon of recent decades. Then in 1982 he found an answer but before he could tell anyone he vanished.  30 years on, in Newell Iowa, Dean Hollister seems to be a normal person until strange radar anomalies appear throughout the world. All of a sudden something starts to happen at the sky, black rifts appear. Behind those rifts something is moving... This is a Swiss–USA production that first came out in 2011 but is slated (hopefully) for a broader release this year. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Divide.   This German, Canadian and US production is an apocalyptic thriller that comes with the tag line 'To survive the end of the world you must first survive each other'.. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Phase 7.   This Argentinean production is set in the near future when the authorities have decided that drastic measures are needed to curb the population. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Another Earth.   This purely US production comes from 20th Century Fox, which shows that they still can make genre offerings a cut above average.   In the not too distant future a planet appears in the Earth's skies: it is another Earth. On Earth 2 events have taken a slightly different path to that on the (original) Earth and it is possible to visit those there… – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Thelomeris: City of Time.   As you know there has been a boom in steampunk novels of the three years. This is a rather neat Hungarian steam-punk offering whose only US influence seems to be Mark Hamill as one of the stars and the story's 'creative script consultant' (only) to director Hungarian Balázs Hatvani's story vision. Good photography. Also stars György Dörner, József Kerekes and Ottó Viczián. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Re-Kill. As you know the boom in post apocalyptic zombie novels of the past three years has translated into a similar boom of cinematic offerings: though, of course, this sub-genre is long-lived and never really died.   The twist (as such) with this 2011 US production is that it has the army involved. To match things up against the military, the zombies are more energetic than the usual Romero ones and the story picks up five years into the battle to save the planet. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Behemoth. Actually this is more standard fare, but if you like big monsters, or even really BIG monsters, and B-type films then this Canadian jobbie might just take your fancy?   Underneath some mountains there may lurk a sleeping giant creature of Mayan legend best not disturbed… – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Surya's 7am Arivu Official Trailer. This film is clearly Bollywood influenced but it is SF involving GM humans in an action romp. Its Bollywood influence is because this is a Tamil film. (Tamils being natives of Sri Lanka (Ceylon).) Its due out shortly. – See the trailer here.

And coming up in 2012...

Film clip download tip!: Darkest Hour.   This is a US and Russian action SF offering, though the film's perspective is refreshingly Russian (all too often the aliens seem bent on taking over the US). Life is normal in Moscow and then all over the world lights start dropping from the sky. It is an alien invasion. One problem! We have difficulty seeing them. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Chronicle.   This Anglo-American production concerns a group of teenagers who develop super powers. Alas the powers look like growing to become too much to handle. – See the trailer here.

Meanwhile here are some non-trailer links to short vids of SFnal interest…

Film clip download tip!: Nobody Watches the Watchmen -- Rorschach vs. Alan Moore!. This short video is a tribute to The Watchmen. So what did the young journalist read in Rorschach's journal. Could the mastermind behind the death of the director of the proposed Watchman film sequel be none other than Alan Moore! – See the five-and-a-half minute film video here.

Film clip download tip!: 'War of the Worlds' - Ray Harryhausen Martian test footage. Apparently Ray Harryhausen was up for doing some of the models and effects in the George Pal 1953 film of H. G. wells' novel. This is a short, silent, test footage clip. – See the clip here.

Film clip download tip!: Ray Bradbury interview, a half-hour interview from the Day at Night TV chat show archive. – See the clip here.

Film clip download tip!: Leonard Nimoy's and his welcome and initial words at his (apparently) last Trek convention appearance (click here) and one of his closing remarks as to who is Leonard Nimoy (click here). +++ And a clip from The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon gets a Leonard Nimoy related present from Penny.

Film clip download tip!: Daleks 'exterminate' across all Dr Who series to 2010 in 9 minutes of shouty threats. – See the clip here.

Want more? See last season's video clip recommendations here.

For a reminder of the top films in 2010/11 (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 2011 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 2012

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Terry Pratchett's Snuff tops the British Isles original fiction charts in November (2011). Snuff sold 31,904 copies in the first week of its launch. What's more its monthly total sales of 54,687 copies was a long way ahead of the month's number 2 which sold 11,104 copies.

E-books more than global depression slows British printed book sales by a fortnight in 2012. By late September British printed book sales in 2011 have passed the £1bn (US$1.55 billion) mark two weeks later than in 2010 and year sales down 5.3% on last year. However the decline is more to do with the growth of E-book sales than the global economic depression. E-book sales accounted for around 9-10% of overall British Isles book sales in September 2011 compared to 4-5% in September 2010.

E-books now over 10% sales. A quarter of British Isles publishers have seen E-book sales grow to over 10% of their market.   This news is a development of last year's (2010) E-book appraisal. Some in the British book industry thing that half British mass market book fiction will be E-books by 2020.

Speculative Fiction (SF/fantasy/horror) holds its own in market share. Note: You have to be wary of what it is being measured, so read the following carefully... Speculative fiction has consistently held between 7 – 10% of the British Isles share of mass market (excluding small press and academic publishing) sales over the years. For example, back in 2001, science fiction and fantasy accounted for 4.6% with horror a further 2.4% and so together accounted for 7% of the mass market in cash terms (paperbacks and hardbacks combined).   Now (2011) an analysis of mass market unit sales (that's numbers of copies sold) of British Isles paperbacks sold through Amazon reveals that SF and fantasy together have a market share of 9% of the mass 'fiction' market (obviously excluding non-fiction). However the picture is even better for Amazon's Kindle E-book sales as SF and fantasy together account for 14% of E-book copies sold and horror a further 4.7%, making the total British Isles speculative fiction (SF/fantasy/horror) E-book fiction genre E-book share a whopping 18.7% in terms of copies sold!   (Of course add in non-fiction and average it with hard copy book sales it brings this figure down towards the long-term 7-10% market and unit sales share average.) So it certainly looks like spec-fic is holding its own if not doing rather well.

Borders Group, the previously reported bankrupt US bookseller, resolved a dispute with Random House by giving the publisher the right to try to collect as much as US$36.4 million (£22.75m). Under the agreement, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, Random House has a non-priority claim worth about US$800,000 (£500,000) less than the publisher is owed for books it supplied to Borders prior to bankruptcy.

Finland's largest bookshop chain sold. The Suomalainen Kijakauppa bookshop chain has been sold to Otra, Finland's second largest publisher for £24.3 million (Euro 27.5m). The 59 shop strong chain celebrates its 100th anniversary this year (2012).

Six libraries close in Brent. Brent was one of a number of local government Councils taken to court by residents over library closures last summer (2011).This new news follows the High Court ruling that Brent Council's closure plans were not unlawful. But Brent residents had taken out an injunction preventing further closures unless a Court hearing is heard. However the Court has now ruled that the closures were lawful. Since the financial crisis some 33 local libraries have shut out of 4,612.

British library 2010-11 stats show that their annual budgets have declined by an average of 2.3%. Within the budgets the biggest decline was for buying new books and here budgets declined by an average of 8.6%. This was to protect library staff budgets. Even so paid library staff numbers are down and this year (2012) volunteers are set to outnumber 23,000 professional staff.   Not surprisingly with fewer new books book borrowing has also declined; what is surprising is that book borrowing has only declined by 2.9%.

Angry Robot boosts marketing strength. The SF/F crossover imprint Angry Robot has only been going a little over two years but has already shown that it punches above its weight including by publishing an Arthur C. Clarke award-winner despite a turbulent time moving to publishers Osprey. Now it is capitalising on its early successes by boosting its marketing and online profile. To do this it has recruited a marketing and digital manager, Darren Turpin.   Turpin had been at publishers Little, Brown for three and a half year, originally working for the company’s science fiction and fantasy list, Orbit. Before that he was manager of the SF department at Waterstone’s Bookstore Deansgate, Manchester, and editor of their in-house SF magazine The Alien Has Landed.   Angry Robot are planning new products and marketing initiatives further to recent ones such as Nano Editions.

Angry Robot have announced a sister imprint, Strange Chemistry, which will publish Young Adult genre fiction. The imprint launched in the autumn, with five titles appearing before the end of 2011.   2012 sees Strange Chemistry releases settle down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both E-book and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times.

HarperCollins marks Hobbit anniversary. HarperCollins is celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit with the publication of a collection of Tolkien's artwork and a 'cute' pocket-sized edition of the novel. The Hobbit was first published in September 1937. J. R. R. Tolkien, a good amateur artist who illustrated The Hobbit as well as producing maps and letter forms for Elvish script, plus pencil sketches and watercolours. What no-one has yet done is pull together all the artwork and put it into one book. Now the Tolkien archives, held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, have been digitised, allowing HarperCollins to put all the illustrations in print for the first time, scanned at high resolution and with strong detail. The Art of the Hobbit, a slipcased volume, is edited by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull, and carries 110 pictures by the author. Also published is: a straight B-format reissue of the novel, as the 75th anniversary edition, (£7.99); a revised edition of The History of the Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and John Rateliff, published in a single volume for the first time (£35); and a 75th anniversary boxed set of the four novels, telling the complete story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum and the Ring, with a new jacket design.

Titan Books with the Estate of Philip Jose Farmer to bring his backlist titles back into print. Significantly, these include the 'Wold Newton Family' sequence and Time's Last Gift, a time travel novel featuring a well known Lord of the Jungle, whose initials, TLG, happen to match the abbreviation of the book's title. First published in 1972, and revised in 1977, Time's Last Gift serves as a prequel to his series of books featuring the land of Khokarsa in Ancient Africa (Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar and the forthcoming The Song of Kwasin.) Time's Last Gift is scheduled for release in June, 2012, in trade paperback and digital (Kindle & Nook) formats. Also coming in the same formats is The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, a 'secret history' novel revealing the hidden events behind Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. First published in 1973, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is one of the first examples of steampunk. The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is currently scheduled for release in May, 2012.

Reviver by Seth Patrick has been acquired by Tor UK for a six-figure sum. It is the first of three books in the 'Reviver' series, all of which have been acquired by Tor UK and Thomas Dunne Books in New York for World English Language rights. Comparable to Stephen King, Justin Cronin and Dean Koontz, this supernatural thriller has a lead character, Jonah Miller, who will feature in all three books. Reviver is set in the USA and introduces readers to Jonah Miller, one of the world’s most gifted revivers. Revivers are those who can make contact with the dead and bring them back for a short period of time to say goodbye to loved ones or, more importantly for the police, tell them who their killers were. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, Jonah discovers that a sinister presence is watching from the other side. When he starts to investigate, what he uncovers threatens everything he knows… Author Seth Patrick is in his late 30s and lives in West Sussex (Britain).He is computer games developer who works for Sega. Reviver is his first novel.

Bella Pagan has left Orbit to join Tor at Pan Macmillan as a senior commissioning editor. We wish her well at her new home.

The Bookseller Association campaigns for declining local bookshops. It has a poster thanking customers who use their local bookshop, pointing out to customers that:-
          1) You kept money in the local economy.
          2) You embraced what makes us [(bookshops)] unique.
          3) You created local jobs.
          4) You helped the environment.
          5) You nurtured the community.
          6) You helped keep the high street healthy.
          7) You created choice.
          8) You benefitted from our [(bookshop)] expertise.
          9) You invested in entrepreneurship.
          10) You made us [(bookshops)] a destination.

British book chain Waterstones doe not give pay rise to longstanding contract staff. Staff on the Waterstones long-term 'legacy contract' an inflation pay rise of 3% their other 4,000 staff get. 100 long-term staff are affected. They will not get the pay rise unless they sign a new contract to work Bank (public) holidays. Many staff also complained that the tone of the letter they received from management was insulting.

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in April 2012. 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 2012

TV NEWS

Proposed Dr Who film set to be ruined but now declared false. – See story in film subsection above.

Doctor Who's Amy Pond and Rory to leave during next series. Shock, Horror, Drama, Probe! According to Steven Moffat (Who's current lead writer) its going to be heartbreaking. Amy and Rory were with the Doctor from embryo Matt (the current Doctor) Smith's first appearance at Easter 2010. A shame as the series would really benefit from longer story arcs in addition to the shorter ones.

Germany airs Star Trek Nazi episode 43 years later. State broadcaster ZDFneo has decided that German viewers are now ready for the episode 'Patterns of Force', 43 years after it was first broadcast in Great Britain in 1968. In it the Enterprise finds that a star system has been culturally contaminated with one alien planet mimicking Nazi Germany and another being victimised. The episode was dubbed into German in 1995 for a restricted screening on German pay TV in 1996: the recent 2011 airing was free-view. Nonetheless, the episode screening was still subject to a German FSK-16 regulation which meant that nobody under the age of 16 was allowed to watch, and it was aired after 10 o'clock at night.

South Park running gag outed. There are loads of running gags in South Park since it began in August 1997, 'they killed Kenny' being one that ran for many seasons (until Kenny actually died), but now a new one has been discovered. Each episode features a grey alien. The alien can be human-sized or as small as appearing on a dollar bill, but they are secreted in each episode. +++ South Park gets three season renewal. The US cable network Comedy Central had until recently contracted the series until 2013, but it will now run until 2016. The programme has just ended its 15th series in the US. The show was recently voted the greatest animated TV series by Entertainment Weekly. It has been nominated for an Emmy almost every year since, in the animation category, and has won four times.

Walking Dead renewed for third series. The first episode of the 2nd series saw N. America viewing figures of 7.3 million so it was hardly surprising that they would renew. The series is based on the Eisner Award winning comic series about survivors immediately following a zombie apocalypse. It has to be said that the graphic novels are better as the series is a little drawn out: guess they want to milk it.

What's hot and what's not in the US TV charts are a guide to series renewals or axes. Given this then looking back at the autumn sees the following series doing well: The Big Bang Theory and Person of Interest respectively getting around 15 million and 12 million. A Person of Interest is getting around 11 million viewers.   Muddling along with around 7 million viewers is Terra Nova, The Walking Dead and A Gifted Man, though while the latter two are holding their own, the former has a distinctly downward trend and given its production costs it may be soon in trouble.   Bumping along the bottom, hence ripe for axing, are The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Clone Wars, Sanctuary and Chuck all with less than four million viewers.

Neil Gaiman's American Gods set for TV series. HBO want an episodic drama stretched over six seasons with a possible debut in 2013. Each season will be of 10-12, hour-long episodes with a budget of around US$35-40 million (£23m – £25m) per season with a slated launch in 2013 at the earliest. Neil Gaiman (the British-born, US-based novelist, short-story writer and screenwriter) is an executive producer and the writer for the series. He says that the series will also include the novel's sequel, which he is now starting to write.   American Gods won the 2002 Hugo and also the 2002 Bram Stoker Award (from the Horror Writers of America) for 'Best Novel'.   Robert Richardson (the double Oscar-winner who worked on the Quentin Tarantino films Kill Bill and Inglorious Bastards, and on Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island) will make his directorial debut with this series. Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, is to produce the show.   American Gods' plot centres on the idea that the gods of ancient mythology exist in present-day America and are kept alive by people's belief in them.

Stephen King's Dark Tower possibly to become an HBO series. This news has yet to be confirmed and as King fans will know, the novels were previously announced as being adapted for film and before that King turned down an even earlier offer. +++ Books in the The Dark Tower have won a number of prestigious awards including Germany's Deutscher Phantastik Preis for science fiction and the British Fantasy Award 'Best novel'

Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome to be a TV series from DreamWorks. That there was to be a series is old news we previously reported. The new news is DreamWorks and that the adaptation may well be done by the comic book and Lost (seasons 3 - 5) writer Brian K. Vaughan. The SFnal thriller concerns conflicting locals, at a Maine vacation spot, when a force field suddenly surrounds their town and cuts them off from the rest of the world. is best known for writing the comic book series Ex Machina and Pride Of Baghdad.

Syfy announces three scripted projects for development from Universal Cable Productions, CBS TV Studios and Fox Television Studios. The first is loosely a space opera: After decades of war, the newly formed Unity Democracy orders a volatile mix of humans and trans-humans to lead the Starship Defender on an expedition in search of lost worlds requiring law and order… The second is a loose variant on Randall & Hopkirk with the working title Seeing Things : A cop becomes a ghost after his violent death and the only person who can help close his last case is a socially awkward man who realizes that the hallucinations he has had all his life may not be a figment of his imagination… Finally there is Ghost Projekt. Based on the US comic series, a female KGB agent and male American weapons inspector form an unlikely partnership when a deadly force is unwittingly unleashed from a Siberian research facility.

 

[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 2012

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The 2011 Worldcon, Renovation, was held in Reno, Nevada, US. This was back at the end of August and we covered news in last season's news page but now with this Spring 2012 issue have here a stand-alone review of the Renovation 2011 Worldcon by Peter Tyers.

Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon, Chicago, US. Not much new news other than as you read this the Hugo Award base design competition has just closed. Progress Report 2 came out on-line in December (as an unnecessarily large, over 5MB, PDF and that did not even include the cover). The only item of note is a fascinating article on their astronaut GoH. Much of the rest concerns the (useful but mundane) usual domestics. The Hugo nominations now open (see next item below). Chicon 7's Guests of Honour are five-time Hugo winning author Mike Resnick, artist Rowena Morrill, art agent and collector Jane Frank, science fiction fan and former Worldcon chair Peggy Rae Sapienza, and – rather brilliantly – astronaut Story Musgrave. Chicon 7's Toastmaster is John Scalzi.

Hugo Award nominations for 2012 will shortly be open. Nominations are sought for a variety of categories of the Hugo 'SF achievement' Awards for novels, novellas, best film (dramatic presentation long form) and TV (short form) among other categories for works that came out in 2011. (Check out our above thoughts on the best science fiction books and best science fiction films to appear in the British Isles in 2011.)  The Hugo Awards are one of the major awards for (in practice) English-language science fiction. The Hugos were first awarded at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and they have continued to honour science fiction and fantasy notables for nearly 60 years since.   Nomination ballots are usually accepted through to around mid-March for the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Members of Chicon 7 – the 2012 Worldcon who join by 31st January 2012, and all members of Renovation, the prior year's Worldcon, are invited to submit nominating ballots before 11th March 2012. +++ Links to current Worldcon websites for more information can be found from the World SF Society on www.wsfs.org or on our diary page.

The 2013 SF Worldcon is, of course, Texas, US, as we reported last season. No further news other than the guests previously announced and the sad news just before Christmas that one, Darrell K. Sweet of these had passed away.

The 2013 World Fantasycon announces new GoH Richard Matheson! A popular choice well-known for I am Legend and The Shrinking Man.

London is the currently unopposed bit for the 2014 Worldcon. The autumn saw a site visit by the organisers and a number of interested fans of the Excel conference centre in London's docklands. Since we reported on the bid launch it is all looking rather positive. Plenty of hotels (albeit a tad expensive), excellent conference facilities, London's finance district five minutes away (boring but spectacular to look at) by local light rail and the London's west end (theatres, parliament etc) is 20 minutes away. Just across the river is the Greenwich Maritime Museum and across the small park and up the hill from that is Greenwich Observatory through which the zero longitude line runs (and another great view). For those into civil engineering then ten minutes by boat downstream there is the Thames barrage (with small exhibition centre).   However please do not treat this bid as a forgone conclusion. Worldcon regulars are most certainly encouraged to vote for the site at Chicon 7 future site selection tally. If a really large number do vote then it will signal likely attendance (hence help the organisers plan) as well as promote what could well be one of the most exciting Worldcons outside of N. America of the past decade. So if you are registered for Chicon then do vote, it costs nothing but will mean a lot.

The 2015 Worldcon sees two bids: Spokane and Orlando, both US. See last season's brief report. As both are N. American, N. Americans with a yen to travel might like to consider something different and go to a smaller Eurocon that year (in addition to the winning Worldcon bid.

Kansas City, US, bid for 2016 Worldcon. This is a new bid. There is also a light-hearted rival for Mariehamn, Finland, but this is not likely to develop into a serious bid unless Kansas really messes up. (There was much blogosphere debate in the last months of 2011 as to Mariehamn's seriousness.)

Japan has their bid for the 2017 Worldcon. We previously noted the Japan bid but this is now up against a rival bid for New York, US.

New Orleans, US, is bidding for the 2018 Worldcon. This bid is currently unopposed.

Montreal, Canada, is bidding for the 2019 Worldcon. This bid is also currently unopposed. As the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal was successful it is possible that no other bid will stand against this one.

New Zealand is bidding for the 2020 Worldcon. This builds upon the enthusiasm of the 2010 New Zealand national convention which was held the weekend before the 2010 Worldcon in Melbourne Australia and so saw an international dimension. Notwithstanding arguably the best Worldcon film programme for a decade, Melbourne Australia was an exemplary organisational cock-up rescued on the day by volunteers stepping up to the plate, an Australian bid this decade is not likely to attract much support.   And so we have New Zealand. Though its fandom is smaller, if it can recruit overseas committee members choosing carefully on those with a reputation for delivery (rather than just big name fans), then this could be a most interesting bid. The venue has yet to be determined (plenty of time for that) but if it is the capital then there is plenty for visitors to see in Wellington. Those who attend Worldcons are gently urged to consider supporting this bid right now. Though air prices are in real-terms likely to be much higher in 2020, the global human ecology of energy resources is such that this could be the last southern hemisphere Worldcon with affordable air travel for averagely wealthy fans. Another reason for supporting this bid. Check their website out

Links to Worldcon websites can be found from the World SF Society on www.wsfs.org.

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

 

Meanwhile over in Europe…

Croatia Eurocon 2012 in Zagreb is now entering its final preparations lap. So only timely, for those wanting an early summer holiday in central Europe with many on hand to do translating for you, to register for this end-of-April Eurocon. Meanwhile we have previously provided news of this convention here and here.

European SF Society (ESFS) business meeting at Zagreb might well see a change in the ESFS officer line-up. The terms of the current officers expire at this year's Eurocon. It is likely that a number of the officers will get re-elected in part because nobody else seems to want to do the jobs and also because ESFS aren't exactly good at posting minutes of their business meetings (unlike WSFS) or even the agendas of forthcoming meetings. (So many of you may not be aware of the opportunity, hence this notification to give you time to consider matters.)   Though many of the current officers have been good at keeping ESFS ticking over the past decade (a pat on the back here), change really is needed and ESFS requires re-invigorating (not least changing the Treasurer post to something meaningful as ESFS has no finance or financial obligations and we do not see the current Treasurer except at those Eurocons where the officers get re-elected). What is needed is for ESFS officers to gather views at the annual business meetings, distil them to action points and to recruit volunteers to take these forward between successive Eurocons, as well as to disseminate ESFS/Eurocon news to key European SF news websites/blogs in each member nation just four times a year or so.   So if you have been to several Eurocons (hence have a basic knowledge of European fandom), have conrunning experience (hence can appreciate the challenges individual Eurocon organisers face), and can commit to attending Eurocons in your three-year term, then why not put yourself forward for election? The officer posts are not challenging (the Eurocons themselves are organised by host nation teams and not the officers) but if you have organisational experience (especially with team-building across disparate groups) then there is considerable scope to develop ESFS, promote Eurocons and encourage Euroconferences should you wish to stand for office at Zagreb 2012. The rewarding upside is that officers get to meet and work with a diverse range of people and SF groups across Europe. So if you are European and a con-goer who would like to see a broader front of SF activity furthered, then why not give standing for an ESFS officer post consideration? This is a genuine opportunity to make a mark helping grow the pan-European SF community.

Kiev Eurocon, Ukraine, 2013. Not much news but none was really expected at this early stage. The Ukrainians did send a team to SMOFcon and sold several memberships. We covered the Kiev 2014 convention basics last time but expect to learn new news after this year's Zagreb Eurocon above. Of course the 2006 Eurocon in Kiev was successful and its the same venue this time. If the organisers can have a more integrated international programme and again can organise a post-convention trip to Chernobyl, then this could be the Eastern European Eurocon of the decade.

There are two bids for Eurocon in 2014: Ireland and Romania.   Ireland will hold their national convention (Octocon) the weekend after the 2014 London Worldcon irrespective of whether or not they win the bid to be the Eurocon: so there will be a relaxacon after the Worldcon which many transatlantic visitors will enjoy and it could make for a fine Euroconference if Ireland does not win the Eurocon bid. The problem Ireland has is to convince the Eurocon business meeting at Zagreb (at which the vote will be made) that they are truly a serious Eurocon bid. The last Irish Eurocon (Dublin in 1997) was a Eurocon flop (albeit a worthy local convention) with next to zero European SF programming and no European mainland Guests of Honour. The current bid team still seem to be having difficulty in assuaging such Eurocon fears especially as their website has proclaimed the previous Irish Eurocon as successful. All this we covered in last season's news. Ireland, while no doubt able to attract a number of N. Americans wishing to extend their 2014 London Worldcon trip, also have the problem of attracting mainland continental European fans who may not have the budget to do both London and Dublin.   What we do know is that Dublin will be the venue city.   Meanwhile Romania also has much convincing to do at the 2012 Zagreb Eurocon business meeting. We understand that currently two options are being considered: one for an Eastern Romania convention, and the other for a Western Romanian con. Romania did run a hugely successful Eurocon in western Romania in 1994 (Timisoara) and also a bit of a flop in eastern Romania in 2001 (Capidava): hardly any non-Romanians attended. However the latter's failure was in no small part due to one of the leading organiser's sad demise while the former's success owed quite a bit to state sponsorship. The likely time of the bid is April/May 2014 to prevent any clash with the Worldcon and also to capitalise on the pre-London Worldcon European preparations as that would be the last major European event with significant international representation. The question is whether or not the Romanian team have the resources in place for a good bid or whether they will ask for a transfer of bid status to that of a smaller Euroconference (which if held in a Romanian city with an international airport that is not Bucharest could be very interesting in its own right).
          In short, both the Romanian and Irish bids have their work cut out and both bidding committees need to be clearly focussed on what it is they are exactly pitching in the context of a European Worldcon year. That then is the cold harsh look. Being positive, if both bids recognise and address their weaknesses as well as build on their respective strengths then the outcome, be it Eurocons and/or Euroconferences, for 2014 will be bright.

Will Eurocon 2015 be Finland? Well there are no formal bids announced but the Finns have been hankering to do a Eurocon for a while (2003 was the last time so they are arguably due) and Fincons are lively affairs.

Netherlands for Eurocon in 2016? Hmmm. The Dutch aren't exactly prominent on the Eurocon scene and are not noted for international conrunning. However at SMOFcon apparently some Dutch were testing the water with the idea of a bid for 2015. If there has been a new conrunning fan group established the past decade in the Netherlands and they start sending half a dozen of their team to both the 2012 and 2013 Eurocons then they might see enough of how things are done to put forward a meaningful bid in 2014 to run the Eurocon in 2016.

Considering putting forward a Eurocon bid? Then check out the guidance on the Eurocon ESFS website linked off the front page. Current and potential bidders might want to print this out and then formally work through check-listing the points.

Links to current/forthcoming Eurocon websites can be found from the European SF Society on www.esfs.info.

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 2012

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

British Fantasy Award storm at Fantasycon. The twittersphere was abound with grumbles, comment and query following the 2011 British Fantasy Award winners. At first glance the award winners seem all very worthy, and indeed as candidates for the award they truly are. However, when you realise that British Fantasy Society Chairman and the award administrator, David Howe, is also the person behind the small press company Telos whose books picked up a couple of awards and it itself won in the 'Best Small Press' category, you can see why some eyebrows were raised. And if in addition you happen to know that Sam Stone, the winner of two categories this year, is his life partner you will not be surprised that some eyebrow-raising achieved escape velocity.   It should be made clear that the Brit-based SF2 Concatenation has not been involved in this debate in any way. Nor are we aware of any deliberate rigging of the vote.   However it does seem to us that in the general case for any award that it is prudent of both award administrators and staff of sponsoring organizations (in this case the British Fantasy Society) should be ruled as ineligible for being nominated for the award they serve. There must be seen to be transparency and clear water between those administrating awards, responsible for their promotion and governance, and the masses of us that nominate and vote for the awards. Anything else just makes things murky, undermines credibility and provide openings for criticism be it justified or not…
          And so it was perhaps in this spirit that after a few days of controversy in the blogosphere that even spread over into the national press, Sam Stone returned her award and David Howe resigned as British Fantasy Society Chair. Author Ramsey Campbell, current President of the BSF, announced on the BSF's website that: "David has worked extremely hard for the society this past year and has, we believe, raised the profile of the BFS significantly with the changes he has instigated and the work he has put in. We are very sorry, therefore that this situation, and the words of members of the society aimed personally at David, have forced him into a position to tender his resignation. The Committee regretfully respects his decision to stand down."
          In December the preliminary results of a British Fantasy Society membership survey were announced. It appears there is some support for a move from the British Fantasy Award being membership voted to a jury decided award. Both options have their pros and cons: the former signals a popular choice, while the latter is based on the criteria and resulting opinion of a minority but less likely to be swayed by lobbying. However it may well be that the BFS will try to get the best of both worlds with its membership determining the short-list and a jury determining a final winner. +++ Comment: Of course all major awards have their problems. To take one obvious example, the Hugos. In recent years, the voting here moved from a first-past-the-post to the 'Australian voting' system of ranked preferences. One way of looking at the advantage of the latter is that the winner has the greatest across-the-board popularity. Conversely, the disadvantage is that the winner is the least objectionable to the majority. Neither option reflects the unrealisable ideal of selecting for SFnal excellence. (However the short-listed 'Best Novel' category usually throws up a couple of truly commendable works, and sometimes one of these even wins.) And then there is the Hugo 'Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form' category which counts TV episodes not series, and so recent years (much of this category's history) has see it become the Dr Who category, while the fanzine and fan writing Hugos are really a Worldcon fan personality popularity contest of little relevance to excellence in SF fanac. So all awards have their problems. The recent trials of the British Fantasy Award just demonstrate that it is difficult to run awards of genre-wide relevance (in theory to hundreds of thousands of British readers) by a small subset (a hundred or so). There is though one lesson from this sorry tale. Those involved in running and promoting awards should have no connection with any of that award's entries if the award's credibility is not to be undermined. +++ See also Ian's stand-alone review of the 2011 Fantasycon.

Russia's fandom splits with some slight silliness. The so-called end of the Communist era in 1990 saw the rise of Russian, and Russian federation nation, SF/F conventions and the emergence of Russian fandom. All well and good and despite ups and downs it has been largely good natured with minimal regional rivalry. Former Soviet nations have also enjoyed some fan success particularly the Ukraine. In Russia itself one of the largest conventions has been the International Festival of Fantasy and Role Games, Zilantkon, which has seen registrants in the thousands, sometimes rivalling Worldcon in size (though of course not France's Utopiales or the US Dragoncons): Zilantkon saw around 2,500 in 2007. Zilantkon is held each November in Kazan in central Russia. Meanwhile, earlier in the year in the Spring, near Moscow there have in recent years been the Roskons and these have attracted a respectable few hundred. Variable in size have been the Aelita conventions but which have regularly attracted international-standard Guests of Honour, and there are a few others such as run of St Petersburg venued cons. However this year there was unconstructive rumour-mongering that Zilantkon was on its uppers. Then there was a new convention, the Festival of Fantasy, in Kaluga. Completely unhelpfully this last was organised on the same weekend as Zilantkon is traditionally held. The good news is that those with strong tribal instincts could not attend their rivals' event, so both cons went off peaceably. Those that suffered were the few fans who would have gone to both events: Russian fandom needs to have regard for its nation's fan diversity and calendar. Having said that, both events have a markedly different take on speculative fiction and, contrary to a minority in Russian fandom, there is nothing at all wrong with that!

First inter-regional Festival of Fantasy held in Kaluga, Russia, in November. Kaluga is about 100 miles (160km) south-east of Moscow. The programme included science fiction writers Sergey Lukyanenko, Alexander Gromov, Alexander Zorich, Vladimir Vasilyev, Sergey Slyusarenko, Anton Pervushin, and local author Mikhail Tyrin, as well as film directors Alexander Mayorov and Vladimir Tarasov. Those attending from outside of the region there were tourist opportunities including a convention-organised the excursion through the city, as well as a visit to the city's planetarium and an outing to the space museum: indeed the programme saw an item by the space rocket designer Oleg Sokolov It should be noted that Festival of Fantasy related to as much SF as fantasy: Russians use the same word for 'SF' and/or 'fantasy', 'fantastika' the equivalent of which in English would be 'speculative fiction'.

The 21st International Festival of Fantasy and Role Games, Zilantkon, was held in Kazan. This year there were 1281 registrants plus 500 day registrants. This was not bad despite some rumours that few would attend. Indeed numbers have been higher in the past but we must remember that we are in the middle of a recession. There was a full programme of panels and much fancy dress with archery demonstrations and so forth, not to mention gala balls. The programme had nearly 250 items, roughly half as much again as the previous year. Traditionally Zilantkon is firmly what in the west would be considered fantasy whereas the Festival of Fantasy covered both SF and fantasy, and the two events were also nearly 500 miles (770km) apart. +++ And of course the 21st International Festival of Fantasy saw the Big Zilant awarded, see above awards section.

The 22nd Festival of Fantastic Films was held in Manchester. Elsewhere this Spring 2012 issue of SF2 Concatenation Darrell Buxton has a stand-alone review of the 2011 Festival.

Entries are now invited for the 2012 Delta Film Award, to be presented at the 23rd Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England, in October. The deadline is 1 September, 2012. The entry form and rules are available here: http://pics.livejournal.com/stevegreen/pic/000b6t08/. The Award's history is available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Film_Award.

Germany's Buchmessecon (BuCon) 2011 is the largest to date. Some 400 attended. As is usual with BuCons, it was very book orientated, though the Kurt Siodmak (film), along with SFCD and Phantastik (written SF) Prizes were awarded. There were many readings, an excellent atmosphere, but not very good catering. This year's event was more fantasy orientated and there were noticeably more women present (not that these two facts are to be connected by your PC; perish the thought). And, of course, there were plenty of authors and a dealers room.

Spain's national convention, Hispacon, had more than 150 attending. Noteworthy events included the panel with Laura Gallego, Anabel Botella, David Lozano, Susana Vallejo and Víctor Conde, on publishing speculative fiction in Spain, and the launch of Alejandro Colucci's new book of his artwork. The convention also saw the presentation of the Ignotus and other awards.

India's Science Teaching through Science Fiction media, Artificial Intelligence and Robots conference is being held in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu India at Bharatiar University, January 21 & 22, 2012, under the auspices of the Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies.

Odyssey writers class has online success. Two years ago, Odyssey expanded its mission, taking the teaching techniques that are so effective at the workshop and adapting them to create online classes. Last winter, Odyssey had a huge response to the three online courses offered. Writers from all over the world applied; only fourteen were admitted to each course. "Using the latest technology," Cavelos says, "we were able to interact with each other in live class meetings, in which students could participate in discussions and ask the instructor questions. In between class sessions, we exchanged homework and critiques. Students were committed and enthusiastic and worked hard, making major improvements in their writing." This year, Odyssey offered three different online courses covering some of the most critical issues for developing writers, but sadly the deadlines for these have passed: the announcement came after we posted last season's news. However in addition, the Odyssey Web site, www.odysseyworkshop.org offers many resources for writers, including free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, a weekly writing blog, a critique service, and information about the six-week in-person workshop.

Smofcon, the convention for (principally Worldcon) conrunners was held in December in the Netherlands. 110 attended, out of the 130 pre-registered. It was a mainly N. American affair but this year's European venue upped the numbers from this side of the Pond. those few items relating European business were attended by Europeans and only one European-oriented American. Generally, it was useful convention in case to get some important case-history information of things that have in the past been tried and succeeded or failed. Vince Docherty and co did a fine job in organising the event. Several memberships were sold for the Kiev 2013 Eurocon.

2012 Conclave abandoned. The Detroit, US convention cannot find an appropriate hotel. It is hoped that there will be a Conclave in 2013.

Phoenix in 2014 NASFiC bid. In years in which the Worldcon is held outside of North America, a NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) can be held. (Effectively it is the US natcon -- Canada notwithstanding -- but no one from N.America considers it as such.) Since London in 2014 is the current uncontested bid for Worldcon in 2014,this leaves an opportunity to have a NASFiC that year. Leprecon,Inc. has announced at Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, an intentioned bid for NASFiC in 2014, voting for which,provided London wins the 2014 Worldcon, will be held at Lone Star Con 3 in Austin,TX the 2013 Worldcon. They are planning to hold the convention early in August, which will not overlap with the planned dates of the London Worldcon or Eurocon. Their planned location is the Tempe Mission Palms in downtown Tempe, Arizona, US.

Drink Tank fanzine has 300th issue. To mark the occasion there are 300 contributors including hard SF author and physicist Gregory (Benford and comedian Rachel (F*ck me, Ray Bradbury homage) Bloom. There are also a few humorous science takes following a section with contributors commenting on their worst idea ever. The 272-page zine can be downloaded as a 12.3 MB PDF from e-fanzines.com.

For a list of national and major conventions and their web links 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 2012

NET WATCH

Dark Matter to go bi-monthly and is now in e-Pub and Mobi formats. The Australian genre news and reviews e-zine has completed its first year since its launch and aims for firmer bimonthly (every two months as opposed to twice a month) PDF publication schedule. It is also now available in e-Pub and Mobi formats. Together with the Australian Bullsheet, DM is one of the best ways to see what is happening down-under, and you won't have to stand on your head. . Issues 6 and 7 are now out. Issue 7 features interviews with Rob Lloyd (Who, Me from Armageddon), Tansy Rayner Roberts & Rhiannon Hart (authors) and Yunyu, a musician, plus many book reviews as well as sci-fi material in addition to broader SF content. Dark Matter now has Twitter as well as facebook: @darkmatterzine and www.facebook.com/darkmatterfanzine. Dark Matter can be found at efanzines.com (which itself is well worth checking out by those into the fanzine scene).

Demand crashes new Harry Potter studio website.The site offers tours of the Harry Potter film studios but it crashed on its launch day from the volume of visitors trying to book a tour. 'The Making of Harry Potter' attraction in Leavesden, near Watford, will be one of the largest studio tours in Europe. It will feature the Hogwarts Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room and Dumbledore's office, plus costumes, props and effects.

New Best SF Books.com site. It ranks books by SF/F Award citation. An approach we can only endorse given that a couple of us did something similar with Essential SF. Check it out at http://www.bestsfbooks.com.

Lightspeed and Fantasy webzines bought by editor and merged. John Joseph Adams bought both web magazines from Prime books. He becomes the official publisher this month (January 2012). He took over as editor for Fantasy magazine early in 2011, and has edited Lightspeed since its launch. Fantasy was launched in 2005. The merged publication will carry more stories with four fantasy and four SF. The purchased e-book version will have a unique novella story that will not be accessible via the website. There will be no non-fiction articles and just two interviews per issue.

The on-line game Star Wars Galaxies has ended. Sony pulled the plug just prior to Christmas. Sony said this was because its contract to run the game runs out in 2012, not because of declining player numbers. The game was originally launched in 2003 and so was one of the first on-line multi-player games. Over a million of the games were sold but numbers declined when updates necessitated buying upgrades and this alienated many original players. Sony has since reportedly described the upgrades a mistake.

Star Wars Old Republic on-line multiplayer game launched. Apparently it is meant to have cost £87 million (US$130m) to develop. It is set thousands of years before the events in the Star Wars films. The basic edition costs £45 (including the first month of online play) and a subsequent £8.99 monthly fee.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Blackberry's message service for many parts of the world (including Europe) shut down for a few days in the autumn. Users began to report loss of services mid-morning on 10 October and the problems spread around the world.   The attraction of Blackberry messaging is that it is secure with everything going through a central hub. The downside is if there is a problem with Blackberry's all-important hub, such as in this case a defective core switch. Although the system is designed when failing to switch over to a back-up, the failover switch did not function as previously tested. The failure came as unwelcome news to Blackberry (RIM), which has been losing market share to smartphone rivals and in particular Apple's iPhone.

 

[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 2012

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

Space time smooth and not a foam. Poor old Newton took a knocking with Einstein's curvature of space time and Einstein took a knocking with quantum mechanics. One prediction of quantum mechanics is that space-time is fuzzy, or like a space-time 'foam', made up of 'bumps' or 'bits' that are very, very small: of the order of Planck lengths of the order of 10-35 metres. Attempts have been made to detect these bumps. One of what was thought to be the best methods was to look at light from very, very distant objects as the light travelling over this long time/distance would get fuzzier due to the bumpy ride: some photons would make the object appear displaced. (Biologists: think of it a bit like genetic drift with a small population's genes drifting over time: the drift is not discernable over just one or two generations. However looking at many populations (many photons) a few would see some deviations cumulating in one direction compared to others.)   Now, in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, a study of 160 quasars all at red-shifts greater than 4 did not detect fuzziness. The failure to detect such fuzziness at this scale rules out a number of parameters predicted by quantum theory, though others remain to be tested and it may be that the Universe's space time really is foam-like, but that the head is not as big as might be thought.

Space-time smooth but still a foam. As far as we can detect, space time may seem to be smooth (see above) but there are still particles popping into and out of existence. Quantum theory predicts that the vacuum of space is a seething sea of virtual particles that continuously appear and disappear. These vacuum fluctuations produce measurable phenomena, such as the Casimir effect, which arises from the pressure that virtual photons exert on stationary bodies. In 1970, Gerald Moore theorized that bodies in accelerated motion would produce real photons out of quantum vacuum fluctuations — the dynamical Casimir effect. The first experimental demonstration of the dynamical Casimir effect, using a superconducting circuit that simulates an oscillating mirror, has now been achieved (Nature, 2011, 479, 376-9). They cooled their apparatus to near zero (less than about 50 millikelvin) so as to remove thermal photons. The results are such that they should soon enable table-top demonstrations of particle creation in an expanding Universe and of black-hole evaporation, among others.

CERN muon neutrinos faster than light? neutrinos travelling 450 miles (730km) from Europe's CERN straddling the French-Swiss border near Geneva to the OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Racking Apparatus) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, seem to be travelling faster than the speed of light. The journey would take a beam of light around 2.4 milliseconds to complete, but after running the OPERA experiment for three years and timing the arrival of 15,000 neutrinos, the scientists have calculated the particles arrived at Gran Sasso 60 billionths of a second earlier, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 billionths of a second. The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 metres per second, so the neutrinos were apparently travelling at 299,798,454 metres per second: a 0.002% difference. This may not seem much but it does undermine Albert Einstein. Researchers are struggling to find out where they went wrong otherwise 20th century physics will have to be rewritten.   +++ We, SF2 Concatenation folk, have for many years in our occasional New Year predictions predicted that there was something wrong with the 'standard model'. Nonetheless, in this instance our physicist feels that it is experimental error in matching the attributing the time of the receiving neutrino wave form especially as one possibility is that a proportion are somehow affected by their journey through the Earth's crust: only a tiny fraction of the neutrinos sent are picked up by the receiver and these are mixed in with natural background neutrinos. Mis-attributing these might well result in the small deviation from the speed of light detected. However there is now doubt as to this explanation as at the end of last year experiments with tighter pulses gave the same faster-than-light result. One of our biologists' off-the-wall thought is that we are doing the experiment in a gravity well: the order of magnitude of the discrepancy is similar to Earth gravity-well time dilation. But heck, what does one of our biologists know.

Europe's CERN detects hints of Higgs boson. The current big goal of CERN is to find the Higgs boson. The recent results are very suggestive, but such is the methodology of the CERN team that they want to conduct many more runs and get repeat results before they declare the search conclusive. The preliminary results suggest that the Higgs boson has a mass of about 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) or 130 times heavier than protons. The results tentatively suggest that the supersymmetry extension of the 'standard model' may be correct (as opposed to just the standard model) and possibly M-theory. If this last were so then our space-time continuum may have 10 or 11 dimensions with 6 or 7 small and curled up.

CERN detects new particle. The new particle is one that was theoretically predicted 25 years ago. It consists of a beauty-quark and anti-beauty-quark. It is involved in holding the nucleus of atoms together.

New name for new-ish elements Element 114 will become Flerovium (Fl) in honour of the physicist Georgiy Flerov. Element 116 will become Livermorium (Lv), after the Californian laboratory where it was discovered. Both elements were first discovered a decade ago. The names are due to be endorsed after we post the summer issue around Easter. Both elements are unstable, hence radioactive, and decay quickly.

Stone Age earlier than thought. The Acheulian is one of the first defined prehistoric technocomplexes (their was a simpler technocomplex beforehand) and is characterized by shaped bifacial stone tools and thought to have closely coincided with major changes in human brain evolution. Yet, the emergence of the Acheulian remains unclear because well-dated sites older than 1.4 million years ago (mya) are scarce. Now a discovery in West Turkana, Kenya, bears characteristic early Acheulian tools and pushes the first appearance datum for this stone-age technology back to 1.76 mya ago. However the Acheulian did not accompany the first human dispersal from Africa despite being in Africa at the time. The conclusion of all of this is that it may indicate that multiple groups of hominins, distinguished by separate stone-tool-making behaviours and dispersal strategies, coexisted in Africa at 1.76 mya ago.

Arctic ozone hole now comparable to Antarctica's The harsh northern hemisphere 2010/11 winter caused the Arctic ozone hole to be bigger than usual and comparable to Antarctica's. Latitudes nearly as low as that of Stockholm saw stratospheric ozone down to 1.2 parts per million by volume and even lower further north (which compares with up to around 2.6 ppmv at lower latitudes).

Fossil looters vandalised Isles of Skye dinosaur 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'. Tonnes of rock have been disturbed at the Jurassic site at Bearreraig Bay. Scottish Natural Heritage (the semi-independent Government agency) is working with the police to bring the culprits to justice. Skye is the only place in Scotland with dinosaur fossils. While fossil collecting is educational, only fossils already eroded from cliffs should be taken (better that than washed out to sea) but actually digging into the cliffs is a wanton act of vandalism by the uncaringly ignorant.

Q: When is a science budget increase actually a decrease?   A: When a politician tells you it is.   This year has seen a boost of £100m for British (UK) science capital expenditure and this is in addition to £50m for a graphene research centre and £150m for a computer hub and also an end-November announcement of an extra £200m for science. That's a total extra of £500 million (~US$800m)!   Wow, great news.   So what's the problem?   Well, in 2010 the British Chancellor of the Exchequer was to have protected British science funding so that it could spearhead innovation for future economic growth. Actually what he did was to freeze it so that in real terms it would decline with time, and then on top of that he cut science's capital expenditure (for the up-keep of labs and purchasing of new equipment) by 41%, or £1.6bn (US£2.5 billion) in 2010 money or £1.7 billion in 2011 money. So British science is down £1.2 billion.   All of which is a little ironic as the Government recently commissioned an analysis of British science international competitiveness: International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base – 2011. It concluded that of the top five research nations (based on article output in 2010: US, China, UK, Japan, Germany), UK researchers generate more articles per researcher, more citations per researcher, and more usage per article authored as measured by global downloads of UK articles.   The UK is also the clear leader among all eight comparator countries (Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US) on citations per unit spend on Gross Expenditure on Research & Development (GERD).   So what can we conclude from all this? Well it seems that either the British Chancellor is not numerate, or that the Government is not interested in supporting excellence in an area fundamental to future innovation, added-value economic growth. (Or even both?) As to which it is, answers on a postcard to: 11 Downing Street, London. Or join www.sciencecampaign.org.uk. If you are a British-based research scientist it could be the best investment you'll make.

 

[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 2012

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

NEAR EARTH…

Future of man in space charted by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group with a roadmap report. The Group is made up of ESA, NASA UK-Space, Canadian Space Agency, RosCosmos (Russia), as well as Indian, French, German, S. Korean, Japanese, India's and the Ukraine's space agencies.   50 years on from Gagarin's flight, the Group's roadmap report's goals include: a deep space habitat (probably high orbit) by the mid-2020s, two human missions to near Earth asteroids as well as robotic explorations of the Moon and Mars including sample return missions by the early 2030s. It is hoped that the preparatory work will be sufficiently complete by the early 2040s to begin considering a manned Mars mission.

China launches first space station module. The 10.5m module is the first of four which together with a junction module will make up China's Tiangong ['heavenly palace'] space station. The first module is unmanned but two manned missions (Shenzhou 9 and 10) of two or three people a time should follow in 2012. The yuhangyuans ['astronauts'] are expected to live aboard the embryonic space station for up to two weeks. When completed around 2020 the space station will be roughly 60-tonnes; by comparison the International Space Station is 400 tonnes.

SOLAR SYSTEM…

Venus has an ozone layer. It was discovered by the European Space Agency's Venus Express. Hints that something was absorbing ultraviolet light in the atmosphere were reported five years ago Yes, this ozone layer is smaller than the Earth's and is at 100 km three time higher than Earth's. Up to now if any one had said that there was free oxygen in the atmosphere (thought to be necessary for ozone formation) along with carbon dioxide and methane, then life would be present. The new results change all that as Venus has no detectable oxygen (yet). So how did the ozone get there? Cracking one of the atmospheres other gaseous constituents (such as carbon dioxide) might produce oxygen radicals, but this is sheer speculation. Clearly we need to know a lot more about Venus' atmospheric chemistry.

Free water on Mars: Shock, Horror, Drama, Probe! Martian water ice has been suspected since the Viking missions of the 1970s and known since the probes of the 1990s. The seasonal waxing and waning of the poles was originally thought to be frozen carbon dioxide accumulating and then vaporising, but with the evidence mounting for subterranean ice the suspicion was that water ice could also be melting at the poles. More recent evidence of very recent (and then current) crater wall subsidence suggested that this ice was close to the surface and that it occasionally melted as well as the poles containing more water than previously thought. Yet evidence of water vapour in the Martian sufficient to produce rain or snow in the atmosphere has proven elusive.   Theoretical water vapour in the atmosphere has been explored mainly through Martian-global climate models because of a lack of direct measurements. However, these models assumed the absence of supersaturation in the atmosphere of Mars. Now, observations made using the SPICAM (Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) instrument onboard ESA's Mars Express probe has provided evidence of the frequent presence of water vapour in excess of saturation, by an amount (proportionally speaking) far surpassing that encountered in Earth’s atmosphere. This result contradicts the widespread assumption that atmospheric water on Mars cannot exist in a supersaturated state, directly affecting our long-term representation of water transport, accumulation, escape, and chemistry on a global scale. (See Science, vol 333, p1868-1871). +++ Europe's Mars Express has already made a number of discoveries including: recent geological activity, and methane plumes on Mars, as well as the de-bunking of the so-called 'Face on Mars'.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) was successfully launched in November for Mars. It will arrive at a deep depression, south of the equator, called Gale Crater, that contains a central mountain that rises some 3 miles (5km) above the plain below in August 2012. The crater may have been benign enough to sustain micro-organisms early in Mars history (those of us into exobiology on the SF2 Concatenation team think that there may still be life on Mars). The near one-tonne rover is the largest to be sent to Mars.

Eris, the Kuiper belt dwarf planet, even smaller still! Formerly known as UB313 it was originally thought in 2006 to have a diameter of 3,100 km and then in 2007 when Pluto's diameter was re-valued. Now Eris' own size has been re-assessed. Eris is some 9 billion miles (14.5 billion km) from the Sun, has a 560-year year (if you follow our drift...) and a surface temperature of -250 degrees C (23 Kelvin) and a moon, Dysnomia. Eris' size re-assessment came about because it passed in front of a distant star. When this 'occultation' was viewed by telescopes on different latitudes of the Earth, the occultation took different times to complete due to the different length's of the different occultation lines across the circle of Eris' round profile. Assuming Eris's profile to be a near-perfect circle, and having a number of lengths of different chords of this circle, it was possible to work out Eris' diameter. (Previous diameter estimates were based on Eris's brightness.)   The new estimate is 723 plus or minus 3.7 miles (or 1,163 plus or minus 6 kilometres). Good news for Pluto dominance as Eris is now estimated to be smaller than Pluto but still to have a similar frozen atmosphere.

GALAXY…

Planet with two suns found. A frozen planet orbiting two suns - the first confirmed world of its kind - has been found by NASA's Kepler telescope 200 light years away. 'Circumbinary planets' have long been theorised but this is the first found. The planet in this system is called Kepler-16b. The planet orbits its two suns every 229 days at a distance of 65m miles (104m km) - about the same distance out as Venus is from the Sun.

Bumper exoplanet haul with 50 discovered. They were found using the HARPS instrument in La Silla in Chile. Among them are 16 super-Earths. Many of the new Exoplanets are orbiting main sequence stars not too dissimilar to the Sun. Of the new finds, a total of five planets have masses that are less than five times that of Earth. One of the worlds, called HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times the mass of the Earth and is located at the edge of its system's habitable zone. HARPS (the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) is a precision spectrograph.

First Earth-sized planets spotted by Kepler satellite. The two planets (Kepler 20e and 20f) orbit a hot B sub-dwarf (KIC 05807616) closer than the Earth and Venus (at around 1% the distance of the Earth from the Sun) and so are too hot for life. Indeed it is likely that the planets have no atmosphere as that would have been stripped off during the star's earlier red giant phase. The star is a thousand light years away. The good news is that if Kepler can detect Earth-sized planets this far away then there may be a good chance of it detecting an Earth twin as some stage in its mission (assuming Earth twins are sufficiently common for one of them to be in Kepler's line of sight.

 

[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 2012

NATURAL SCIENCE

Black death pathogen genome sequenced. Researchers extracted 14th century DNA fragments of the ancient bacterium from the teeth of medieval corpses found in London (Smithfields under what is now the Royal Mint). Humans have rarely encountered a disease as devastating as the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Between 1347 and 1351 it sparked the Black Death, an infection carried by fleas that spread rapidly across Eurasia and Western Europe killing around 50 million people in W. Europe alone, around a third the population of western Europe at that time. Globally the infection still kills 2,000 people a year, but it presents much less of a threat now than in the 14th century.
          By comparing the 14th century London Y. pestis genome with Y. pestis today in various parts of Europe, a number of conclusions can be drawn from this research: 1) The European Black Death was caused by Y. pestis bacterium and not some Embola virus as was mooted at the turn of the millennium; 2) The European Black was a newly evolved strain of Y. pestis that has not evolved as much since and it was the founder of all modern strains of Y. pestis; 3) from this it seems that either we humans have gained more immunity or that factors other than virulence against humans (such as hygiene?) facilitated the spread of the Black Death; 4) greatest diversity of modern Y. pestis is found in China which suggests that that is where it first evolved; and finally, (5) the 14th century European Black Death outbreak entered southern and western Europe through the port of Caffa (now in Ukraine), travelling via Constantinople, though the Italian port Genoa, and then through France and Spain to Britain. (The northern central European route is less clear from the genetics alone.)

Europe bans embryonic stem cell patents… but it is not all bad news. Normally it is the US that curtails embryonic stem cell research and it had been thought that this October's European Court of Justice ruling to ban the patenting of embryonic stem cell procedures.   Initially European cell biologists were very concerned that if patents arising from such stem cell research cannot be granted then industry would not fund this area of research. However, now that everyone has had time to think, industry realises that it can still patent things like the growth media used to grow such stem cells or even the techniques to actual deploy the therapy (such as place cells – which could be any old cells – behind retinas) even if the actual embryonic stem cell procedure itself cannot be patented.

Test for Down's syndrome using mother's blood (not amniotic fluid) developed. US company Sequenom has developed the technique which detects fetal blood in the mother's own blood stream. Being a non-invasive test has medical advantages. There is a false-positive test result of just 0.2% according to a paper in the journal Genetic Medicine.   Sequenom hope to develop other mother's blood tests for possible fetal genetic disorders.

Global population passes 7 billion mark. This means that our population has doubled since 1967! The UN arbitrarily marked 7 billion mark at the end of October/start of November (around tea time) but, assuming a 1% error, the reality might not be until early in 2012. The World population passed: 3 billion in 1960; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in (twice, first in 1997 and then due to a recount) 1988; 6 billion (twice, first in 1998 and then due to a recount – stand still now) in 1999; and finally 7 billion in 2011.   World population is set to continue to grow through to the middle of this century where it is expected to be somewhere over 9 billion (possibly around 10 billion in 2050).   It is possible in a low-estimate scenario that it will stabilise around 10 billion by the end of the century but could be as high as 15 (or even 20) billion, or alternatively, assuming we get a serious grip on it, decline back to over 6 billion by 2100. Much depends on what we in the developed world think the lives of our children will be like at the end of the 21st century and, in the light of this, decide to help educate and empower the women of the world so that they can have informed control of our fecundity.   Meanwhile, biodiversity is declining, fossil fuel consumption is increasing, greenhouse gas emissions are going up, freshwater availability is declining, seas' fishery stocks are declining, the climate is warming…   Still, we can all make room, make room there… and the sheep… Yes, the sheep looked up…!

25% of planet's agricultural land has become degraded, yet a massive productivity increase is needed to feed the growing population. These are among the key conclusions of a UN Food and Agricultural Organization report. Global food production needs to rise by 70% by 2050 and more than 80% of this gain has to be made on existing agricultural land. This means that crop productivity (production per unit area) has to increase... And the sheep made room standing on Zanzibar...!

Western black rhino declared extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List now has declared the subspecies extinct. The western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) may be gone but three other subspecies of Diceros bicornis (in SW, E., and south central Africa) remain though their numbers are low. Back in 2002 there were only 10 West African Black Rhinos. The species is threatened by poaching for their horns that are used in herbal medicine.

Amphibian extinctions likely to increase. Amphibians (that include frog species) have been dying off in many parts of the world since the last quarter of the last century. The causes are climate change, a chytrid fungal disease (caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), and land use change (which when involving deforestation and/or drainage also causes climate change). Currently 37% of amphibian species are considered threatened. Using the known distribution of 5,527 species researchers estimate that 25% of places that are most affected by one factor are also 25% of places affected by one of the other factors. Furthermore, the areas of greatest amphibian risk are the areas of highest amphibian species diversity. The conclusion is that amphibian extinctions will increase as the 21st century progresses (Nature, vol 480, p516-519.)

Stop being a lard-arse and locomotion enabled the evolution of intelligence. The story used to go that the human brain (with 20-25% energy consumption yet 2% of adult body mass) was paid for by having a shorter gut (facilitated by cooking/processing food). But among other things this presents us with a chicken and egg problem: you need to evolve the brain to then get to cook to then lose gut length. Now, Ana Navarrete, Carel van Schaik and Karin Isler from the Anthropological Institute at the University of Zurich, Switzerland) have dissected animals from 100 species measuring brain, visceral organ, gut and body fat (Nature, vol. 480, p91-93). They found that brain size did not inversely correlate with either visceral organ or gut, but did with body fat mass: less fat, bigger brains. They propose that improved locomotion and lower body fat facilitated brain evolution, and that moving into seasonal (temperate) environments necessitated improved cognitive function. Homo sapiens sapiens (who are so wise that they named the species twice) is unusual in not just a large brain but the potential for hefty fat deposits: a dual strategy for combating periods of starvation in the variable habitats in which H. Sapiens evolved. Conversely most animals employ just one or the other strategy. Here, our upright, low-energy, mode of locomotion was key. The attraction of the new fat/brain-size theory is that it does not just apply to humans alone (as with the old gut reduction theory) but across many species. This is not to say that gut reduction did not play a part in human evolution: it could have been another factor in just human evolution in addition to fat reduction.   Then, as others discuss, there is the possibility of this theory contributing to our understanding of the obesity epidemic we now face due to declining locomotion but maintaining dietary intake, not to mention the 21st century prevalence of high sugar, high fat (high calorie) fast food. Diet, brain size, fat and locomotion are all interrelated in nit just the obvious way but are evolutionary connected. (See also Nature, vol. 480, p43-44 for review.)

 

[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 2012

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.

 

Halo: Primordium by Greg Bear, Tor, trdpbk, £14.99. 978-0-230-75829-2.
More Halo franchise adventures from the author who also can write some nifty hard SF. (See reviews of City at the End of Time, Blood Music and Hull, Zero, Three.)

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, Corvus, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-848-87463-3.
The family are 532 descendents of two explorers marooned on an alien world but inbreeding means that the population is dying with increased mental health and other problems. Our protagonists have know clear knowledge of their circumstances, just distorted legends handed down the generations. Can one of the new generation ascertain the truth?

Ubik by Phillip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-780-22037-6.
A team sent to protect a lunar base from telepathic attack are themselves attacked... One of Dick's mind-boggling novels. Brilliant. A welcome reprint of this 1969 offering.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-780-22038-3.
This is the book on which the film Blade Runner was based. A hunter of renegade android robots questions what it is to be human. Brilliant.

The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow, P M Press, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-1-604-86404-5.
A new novella and also a transcript of Cory's Aussiecon 4 Worldcon programme item.

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-09134-4.
Penultimate in the Thomas Covenant sequence.

The Stainless Steel Rat Returns by Harry Harrison, Gollancz, trd, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-10103-6.
The Stainless Steel Rat is a classic SF, comedy thriller, character and it is good to see him once more out of retirement. And, yes, there was a 2000AD comic strip based on this character back in the late 1970s...   See also The Stainless Steel Rat.

From the Deep of the Dark by Stephen Hunt, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-007-289714.
Steampunk. Hunt does not write much, but what he does goes down well: don't be put off by Stephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest as he has nothing to do with its day-to-day operation. Check out instead our reviews of The Kingdom Beyond the Waves and Secrets of the Fire Sea.

Where There Is Life by Ken MacLeod, Orbit, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49939-0.
We think this is Ken's latest (sorry, the publisher's spread sheet we received had no other info) and many of our reviewers love his hard-ish, space opera type, wide screen SF.

In the Mouth of the Whale by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, trdpbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-575-10074-9.
It is a couple of centuries hence, and with the Solar system now largely colonised, humans and post-humans vie for power. A stand-alone novel but set in The Quiet War Universe.

Exogene by T. C. McCarthy, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-356-50042-3.

Transmission by John Meaney, Gollancz, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08536-7.
This is the second in the Ragnarok space opera trilogy involving Norse gods, the Third Reich, and the far future. The first book, Absorption Pete enjoyed.

Embassytown by China Miéville, Pan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-330-53307-2.
This is the mass market paperback release of last year's hardback. See Ian's review of Embassytown.

Autumn: Disintegration by David Moody, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-041344-7.
It's the 4th in the zombie series and now 40 days since the apocalypse and the zombies are in an advanced state of decay. Yet they still threaten a group of survivors holding out in a flat.

Zombies: A Compendium edited by Otto Penzler, Corvus, trdpbk, £19.99. ISBN 978-0-875-84027-6.
Zombie stories (not surprisingly) from over two centuries (surprisingly) including by Stephen King, Clive Barker and H. P. Lovecraft.

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi, Gollancz, hrdbk, £20. ISBN 978-0-575-08891-7.
This is the next (set in the same universe) on from last year's The Quantum Thief, debut sensation. As hard as hard SF as Greg Egan. As eloquent as Iain Banks. As widescreen as Charles Stross.

The Demi-Monde: Spring by Rod Rees Quercus, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 987-1-849-16502-0.
This is the follow-up to stunning Demi-Monde: Winter. Demi-Monde is an ultra-realistic virtual reality developed by the military for training purposes. The thing is that once plugged in, unless you leave via a programmed way, you are stuck inside: unplugging is not an option as the trauma will kill. This is fine for training the military who need to experience danger.... But someone has kidnapped the US President's daughter inside Demi-Monde. The plot sounds fairly basic but the Demi-Monde World is brilliantly conceived. Hugely recommended. Get Demi-Monde: Winter in paperback now as the paperback of this sequel's hardback will be out later this year. Has both hard SF and steampunk appeal. Litcrits should like it too especially as the first book has had some excellent reviews in the mundane press.

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08827-6.
This is the latest from the author of some staggeringly dazzling hard SF space opera of which Tony and Jonathan rave. This one is the first in a trilogy that follows the Akinya family over some 10,000 years.   Reviews of other Alastair Reynolds' novels elsewhere on this site include: Century Rain, Chasm City, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, Galactic North, Pushing Ice (hardback), Pushing Ice (paperback), Redemption Ark, Terminal World and Revelation Space.

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-409-13845-7.
An archaeological dig on a distant colony world a discovery is made. Meanwhile a starship approaches... This is a welcome reprint of this modern classic originally published in 2000.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-1-84149997-0.
The latest from the US master of literary SF and past Hugo Award winner.

Odd John by Olaf Stapledon, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-072244.
This is a welcome reprint of the 1935 classic from the SF grandmaster. It is the SF novel that gave us the term Homo superior. The plot concerns someone growing up who is exceptionally bright. If you are unaware of this book but are a Brit of a certain age then you may remember the TV series The Tomorrow People. This novel was where that concept was first explored.

Blackout by Connie Willis, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-09928-9.
A time travel team gets caught up in World War II. This novel won the Hugo last year.

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 2012

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

The Legend of Eli Monpress: Part 1 by Rachel Aaron, Orbit, trdpbk, £11.99. ISBN 978-0-356-50086-7.
This is an omnibus edition.

Juggernaut by Adam Baker, Hodder, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-444-70907-0.
Seven mercenaries hunt for Sadam Hussein's lost gold, but in addition to having to cope with desert heat they have to deal with an army whose soldiers just won't stay dead!

Elves: Rise of the Taigethen by James Barclay, Gollancz, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08520-6.

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49796-9.

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams China, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-007-45914-8.
Third in the series. Follows on from The Demon King and The Exiled Queen.

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-57509616-5.
A debut novel. Gollancz tends to have a good hit rate with their debuts and Gollancz here are on form. Click on the title link for Ian's review of the hardback.

The Order of the Scales by Stephen Deas, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08382-0.
Dragon drama. Deas' books come into the SF2 Concatenation office and they seem fine. So it is a little disappointing that over the years none of our review panel have chosen to cover one of his novels. Don't let our silence stop you from checking him out.

Kingdoms of Dust by Amanda Downum, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49816-4.

The Crippled God by Steven Erikson, Bantam, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-553-81318-0.
The 848-page conclusion to the Malazan 'Book of the Fallen'.

Orb Sceptre Throne by Ian C Esslemont, Bantam Press, hrdbk, £20. ISNB 975-0-593-06450-4.
A Malazan tale.

A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-00-007-45473-0.
Stars Pug, the original magician.

A Crown Imperilled by Raymond E. Feist, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-007-26482-7.

Legacy of Kings by Celia Friedman, Orbit, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49535-4.
Final in Magister trilogy.

Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper vol. 1 by John R. Fultz, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-336-50081-2.
The children of giants battle ancient sorcerers.

The Necklace of the Gods by Alison Goodman, Bantam, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-553-81989-2.
Final in the series.

The Minority Council by Kate Griffin, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-356-50063-8.

The Outcast Blade by Jon Courteny Grimwood, Orbit, trdpbk, £11.99.ISBN 978-1-841-49847-8.

Switched A teenage school girl has special powers and access to another dimensional world.

The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman, Penguin, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-141-04239-8.
Penguin don't send us news so all we know are the afore publication details.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49508-8.

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard, Headline, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-755-34800-8.
Both Pete and Rob raved over the first Johannes Cabal story. See Johannes Cabal the Detective.

The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-356-50001-0.
New Zealand writer who burst onto the scene in 2010. Recommend trying out.

The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe, Orbit, trdpbk, £11.99. ISBN 978-0-356-50002-7.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, Gollancz, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-575-077010.
More from the Gentlemen Bastards and Locke Lamomra. Good stuff.

The Dread by Gail Z. Martin, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49914-7.

Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead, Bantam, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-553-82609-8.
Final in the 'Dark Swan' sequence.

Orcs Bad Blood III: Inferno by Stan Nicholls, Gollancz, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07808-6.
Second in the Orcs trilogy.

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper, Orion, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-409-12078-0.
From the author of Lost Girls.

Vampires are Forever by Lynsey Sands, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0575-11073-1.
be careful of choosing your boyfriend. Not much appetite, and aversion to sunlight are just two of the warning signs you might want to be on the lookout for...

Black Halo by Sam Sykes, Gollancz, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-575-09034-7.
Robert liked the hardback. Click on the title for his review.

The Shifting Price of Prey by Suzanne McLeod, Gollancz, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-09837-4.
A unicorn is found mutilated in London's Regent's Park. Worse, garden fairies start dying... Susanna liked The Sweet Scent of Blood.

The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49825-6.

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson, Hodder, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-444-72112-6.
Fantasy set in 1852 India.

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 2012

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

The Book of Universes by John D. Barrow, Vintage, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-009-53986-5.

Monsters in the Movies: 100 years of cinematic nightmares by John Landis, Dorling Kindersley, hrdbk, £25. ISBN 978-1-405-33697-7.

Children from the Sky by Duncan Lunan, Mutus Liber, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-1-908-09705-7.
In the late 12th century, two very strange children came out of an ancient earthworks in East Anglia (Britain). The incident is recorded, from different viewpoints, by two . The children wore clothing of a colour and material never before seen, spoke a language nobody recognised, and were coloured green all over. Later, they gave an account of their homeland which definitely was no place on Earth. Most historians since have regarded the incident as a fairy story, but in the 17th century Robert Burton included it in the astronomy section of The Anatomy of Melancholy, suggesting that the children came from another world. Could it be true? After years of research, Duncan Lunan tackles the question. (With illustrations including sixteen original drawings and paintings by Sydney (Jeff Hawke) Jordan.)

Survival of the Beautiful: Art, science and evolution by David Rothenburg, Bloomsbury, pbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-1-408-82882-3.

Seventeen Equations That Changed the World by Ian Stewart, Profile, pbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-1-846-155310.
Includes Newton's laws of motion and covers imaginary numbers. And, of course, an is well known within the SF community.

Star Trek Vault: 40 years from the archive by Scott Tipton, Arum Press, hrdbk, £35. ISBN 978-1-845-13678-9.

How To Think Like a Neanderthal by Thomas Wyn, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £16.99.. 978-0-199-74282-0.
It's cognitive archaeology.

Brian now has autographed copies of -- Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. Also Essential is now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). 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 2012

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, Century, hrdbk, £18.99.. ISBN 978-1-846-0567-9.
The Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, can manipulate the Dark Side for his own nefarious purposes...

 

[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 2012

SELECTED RECENT DVD RELEASES

Apollo 18 £10.99 from Entertainment in Video.
Why did the Apollo Moonshots stop? This horror film provides the answer.

Contagion £11.99 from Warner Home Video.
This global pandemic film was the box office hit of the summer and now on DVD.

Cowboys & Aliens £12.99 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
The wild west gets alien invaded and so it is up to the cowboys and redskins to save the Earth from alien domination. A great romp but sadly lacking in substance. Good cast: Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, and Keith Carradine, and vaguely respectable director Jon Favreau who certainly knows how to point a camera and edit film (though can't recognise a good script).

Doctor Who - Complete Series 6 £36.99 from 2entertain.
As noted earlier episodes from the 2011 Dr Who season are bound to get nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award's short form dramatic presentation.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2011 - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe £6.99 from 2entertain.
Its World War II and a family evacuees from London gets a Christmas to remember. (Not nearly as good as the 2010 Christmas edition).

Game of Thrones - Season 1 £27.99 from Warner Home Video.
The TV adaptation of the George R. R. Martin sword and sorcery books.

In Time £11.99 20th Century Fox Entertainment.
In the future you purchase units of time to live before you die. (Harlan Ellison recently sued due to similarity with Repent Harlequin Said the Tick-Tock Man.)

John Carter of Mars £11.99 from Metrodome.
The recent film based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs 'John Carter of Mars' 'Barsoom' books.

Misfits - Series 3 £11.99 from Channel 4 DVD.
Britain's answer to the US series Heroes. A group of juvenile delinquents gain super powers. Gritty, dark humour, SFnal riffs abound. One of our Best SF short form dramatic presentations of 2011.

Misfits - Series 1-3 £27.99 from Channel 4 DVD.
See the previous DVD above.

Perfect Sense £9.49 from Entertainment One.
A love story as an epidemic slowly robs people of their senses (taste, smell, etc) one by one. Stars Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Ewan Bremner, Connie Nielsen, Denis Lawson. One of our recommended films of 2011. One of our Best SF Films of 2011.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes £11.99 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The latest re-boot of the franchise that has had quite a bit of attention. One of our Best SF Films of 2011.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Series 1-5 Box Set £51.99 from 2entertain.
The Dr Who spin-off series for younger children starring the Late Elisabeth Sladen.

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect in 2012, 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 2012

R.I.P.

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

Gilbert Adair, the Scottish critic and translator, has died aged 66. he also wrote some fantasy with Alice Through the Needle’s Eye (1984) and Peter Pan and the Only Children (1987) as sequels to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan respectively.

Jack Adler, artist turned manager, has died aged 93. He worked at DC Comics for 35 years up to 1981. He was a Shazam Award winner for his colouring.

Mick Anglo , the UK comics writer, has died aged 95. He ois most famous for creating the British superhero Marvelman (later called Miracleman) in 1954.

Thomas J. Bassler a.k.a. the American author T.J. Bass has died aged 79. His novels Half Past Human (1970) and The Godwhale (1974) were nominated for a nebula. The loosely connected novels concern a far future hive human city struggling to feed itself. Bassler himself was a qualified clinician specialising in nutrition.

John Berry, the Irish SF fan, has died. He was active in Irish fandom of the 1950s and early '60s. He gafiated in the mid-'60s but contributed occasional articles for fanzines in the 80s.

Henri-Richard Bessière, the French SF author, has died aged 88. One of France's most prolific SF authors in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and early '80s.

Cheeta, the African born and US resident chimpanzee, has died aged 80. Most famous for starring in the Tarzan films of the 1950s and '60s, and recently having his biography published.

Chris (Keris) Croughton , the British filk fan, sadly died in a head-on car crash. He was active in filk fandom from the early 1990s.

Les Daniels, the US author, has died aged 68. His best known genre contribution has been five novels featuring the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. He was also the author of the non-fiction Comix: A History of the Comic Book in America (1971),Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media (1975) and Superman, the Complete History: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel (1998).

Sara Douglass [Sara Warneke], the Australian fantasy author, has died aged 54. her first novel was BattleAxe (1995). She wrote more than 20 books, including the Aurealis Award winners Starman (1996), Enchanter (1996), and The Wounded Hawk (2001), not to mention the Wayfarer Redemption series. She sadly succumbed to ovarian cancer.

Har Gobind Khorana, the Indian-born American biochemist, has died aged 89. He is most famous for helping discern how nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell's synthesis of proteins. As such he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968.

Richard Gordon, the British film producer, has died aged 85. His SFnal offerings include First Man into Space (1959), and Inseminoid (1981). He was always welcome when he could attend Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films.

Mark Hall, the British animator, has died aged 75. He was the co-founder of Cosgrove Hall (with Brian Cosgrove). His genre contributions famously include Danger Mouse and the spin-off Count Duckula. Danger Mouse attracted an average audience of 3.5 million when it was first shown in Great Britain. It has since been seen in more than 80 countries.

Frank Harwood, the US fan, had died aged 59. He was a founding member of Las Vegas fandom in 1990.

James [Rusty] Hevelin, the US fan, has died aged 89 after a short illness. He entered fandom in the 1930s and became a well-known dealer and SF book collector. A frequent con-goer, he was also one of those who began Pulpcon.

Russell Hoban the US-born but UK resident author, has died aged 86. He is best known for the SF classic Ridley Walker set many years after a nuclear holocaust.

Sir David Jack, the Scottish pharmaceutical researcher, has died aged 87. he spent much of his career with Glaxo and ended up as its Director of R&D. His successes included the bronchiodilator salbutamol (Ventolin) (which still has annual sales of nearly US$1 billion), the anti-ulcer drugs cimetidine and ranitidine (Zantac), and salmeterol (a version of salbutamol with a longer duration of action) that was launched as Serevent. He won several Queen's Awards for Industry and numerous scientific prizes, including the Royal Society's Mullard Medal.

Steve Jobs, the US industrialist, Steve Jobs, has died aged 56. He was the co-founder, and later chief executive, of Apple, makers of the Macintosh computer, the iMac, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone, and the man behind the computer animation firm Pixar (who did Toy Story and Finding Nemo). Some say he did more to shape films we watch, how we listen to music, and how we work and play in the early 21st century than anyone else.

John McCarthy, the US computer scientist, has died aged 84. He credited with coining the term 'artificial intelligence' in 1955 when he detailed plans for the first Dartmouth discussion meeting conference. He invented the AI programming language LISP. He won the Turing Award in 1971 and the National Medal of Science in 1991.

Aden B. Meinel, the astronomer and astronomical instrument maker, has died aged 88. His science interest was in spectral analysis. During his career he was involved in the design and construction of a number of major telescopes including a 48 inch at Osmania in India, the 94 inch at Steward Observatory, and the 186 inch Multiple Mirror Telescope.

Michelle Muijsert, the New Zealand-born and Australian living fan, died suddenly unexpectedly aged just 49. Her fanzine was The Space Wastrel and she was also a conrunner.

Susan Palermo-Piscitello, the US fan, died aged just 59. She worked in fantastic film distribution.

Rudolf Mössbauer, the German physicist, has died aged 82. In 1957 when just 32, he discovered that gamma rays of the frequency from decaying iridium-191 could also be absorbed by iridium-191 in another sample and indeed applies to a number of radionuclides. Nuclei bound into a solid or a viscous liquid recoil when they absorb or emit gamma radiation and so do not gain or lose energy (energy is conserved). So if any change in energy is found then it must relate to the atomic environment (the neighbours of) the nucleus: hence magnetism or flexibility of bonds (in proteins for example). This led to a new form of spectroscopy. It is ideal for very fine resolution work from proteins to shifts in the Earth's gravitational field and even the structure of Martian rocks. Rudolf Mössbauer was awarded the Nobel prize for physics just four years after his discovery at the young age of 36. He was also when young a talented piano player.

Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental biologist, has died aged 61. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 'her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace'. Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. In 2011, Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.

Lyn Margulis, the US biologist, has died aged 73. Lyn is renowned for helping develop the theory of endosymbiosis as a means for eukaryotic cell evolution: the idea that some cell organelles' (such as mitochondria and chloroplasts) evolutionary history was one of free-living (prokaryotic) bacteria. In 1999 she was awarded the US National Medal of Science. (Her husband was astrophysicist the late Carl Sagan who also was the SF author of the novel Contact.)

Anne McCaffrey, the US-born fantasy author living in Ireland, has died aged 85 at home of a stroke with her family. The Grand Dame of dragon science-fantasy, was the first woman to win both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, with the novella 'Weyr Search' (1967) and Dragonrider (1968) respectively as part of her Pern sequence. She is also noted for her 'Ship Who Sang' (1969) sequence. Over the years she secured a huge following and much affection from fandom. She was a regular at the London 'Dragoncons' of the 1980s (not to be confused with the subsequent US convention of the same name) that were organised by Richard and Marion van der Voort of the Bookshop East Sheen, that itself was re-branded, to 'At the Sign of the Dragon' in part in tribute to Anne's work. Anne's last major convention GoH appearance was at the 2007 Eurocon in Denmark where, despite being frail, following a full first day her arrival at the con building the middle of the second day cause a spontaneous ovation from fans who happened to be on the entrance terrace: such was the affection with which she was held.   Recently Annie's son, Todd, has joined with her in writing Pern dragon novels and he has even started writing them by himself (cf. Dragonsblood).

Amy Paul, the US fan, has died aged 54. Amy (Revered Blessing Bird) was active in Balticon conrunning assisting with their amateur short film contest.

Norman Ramsey, the US physicist, has died aged 96. He specialised on radar and how electromagnetic radiation can be used to study atomic nuclei. This last got him a Nobel Prize and led to the development of the caesium atomic clock and hydrogen maser.

Jerry Robinson, the US comics artist, has died aged 89. He worked at DC comics. His perhaps more noted contributions were to create the look for Batman's nemesis 'the Joker', to name Batman's side-kick 'Robin', and to help develop the character of Alfred.

Dennis Ritchie, the computer scientist, has died aged 70. He was one of the creators of the Unix operating system and the C program language. Unix's established many software engineering principles used today: it was the OS of choice for the internet; it helped spark the open source movement and has been translated to run on many different types of hardware. Meanwhile C is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world. In 1999, Dennis Ritchie's won the US National Medal of Technology - the highest honour America can award a technologist.

Ken Russell, the British film director, has died aged 84. His genre-related films include Billion Dollar Brain, Altered States (1980), Faust (1985), Gothic (1986), and The Lair of the White Worm (1988).

Alvin Schwartz, the US comics writer, has died aged 95. He worked for DC on many titles and is credited with creating the Bizarros.

Ralph Steinman, the Canadian immunologist, has died aged 68. He shared this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine and this itself sparked controversy. Nobel rules do not allow the prize to be awarded posthumously unless the announcement is made before a person’s death. Yet tragically, Steinman died just before the Nobel announcement was made and before the Nobel administrators heard of Steinman's demise. But given that the mistake was made in good faith it has been decided that the award will stand. Steinman and his mentor, Zanvil Cohn, discovered dendritic cells in 1972, and it was another six years before the cells’ role in initiating the immune response was more fully understood; and nearly another 20 years before it was generally accepted in wider scientific circles. However for much of that time, Steinman’s dendritic cell theory was met with scepticism verging on hostility. Ralph Steinman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and then prolonged his life using dendritic cell-based immunotherapy based on his own research. But he was unable keep going long enough to learn that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize: his family discovered he was to be given the award only when they checked his mobile telephone and discovered a message from the Nobel committee.

Darrell K. Sweet, the US fantasy artist, has died aged 77. He is noted for his book cover art including that for the Robert Jordon 'Wheel of Time' sequence. Sadly he was working on a picture for the cover of the final one of that sequence when he died. He was due to be one of the GoHs at the 2013 Worldcon in Texas, US.

Louis Thirion, the French SF author, has died aged 88. Noted for his global catastrophe and dystopian novels.

Mark Worthen, the US horror writer, has tragically died at just 49 years of age. He was primarily a short story writer and was a Stoker Award nominee in 2010 for 'Final Draft'. He also edited the online horror magazine Blood Rose from 1998 to 2005.

 

[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 2012

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Conference on Science and Science Fiction 12th & 13th April, 2012 , Oral Roberts University, US. This two-day interdisciplinary conference - sponsored by the colleges of Arts and Cultural Studies and Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University - will examine the relationships between science and science fiction, social science and science fiction, and theology and science fiction in all forms of science and science fiction, including science fiction stories, film, television, radio, graphic novels, and theoretical physics. keynote speakers: Paul Davies (astrophysicist) and Joan Slonczewski (biologist and SF author -- Campbell Award winner no less). Details http://lxsrv7.oru.edu/~alang/sciencefiction/.

US aims for stars in 100 years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA are sponsoring a project called the 100-Year Starship. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go into space, is to lead it.

The White House has no evidence that extraterrestrials exist. Barack Obama's administration made the declaration in response to feedback on its website, which allows people to submit petitions to which officials must respond if enough. More than 5,000 signed a petition calling for the White House disclose the US government's knowledge of extraterrestrials. More than 12,000 signed another seeking a formal acknowledgment of extraterrestrials engaging with the humans. However the White House noted that many scientists and mathematicians believe the chances are high that there is life somewhere among the "trillions and trillions of stars in the universe".

The Moon's inhabitants speak French said leading biologist Richard Dawkins. OK, Richard was not a leading biologist when he said that as a youngster… But he did have this notion. In case you missed it, we covered this in our SF and scientist personality section above.

Tolkien estate sues West Midlands cafe owners.. News nicked slower than the speed of light from Ansible is that the Tolkien estate and The Saul Zaentz Company (t/a Middle-Earth Enterprises) have told the small Birmingham cafe, 'The Hungry Hobbit', to drop the trademarked word 'Hobbit' – though it had just been named as 'official cafe' of the authorized Tolkien tourist attraction across the road at Sarehole Mill. As Ansible asks: "Would 'Hungry Halfling' be OK?"

Use of SF quote lands university professor with management trouble. In the US, University of Wisconsin-Stout's theater (sic) professor James Miller posted this tribute to the captain of Serenity, Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds, from the SF series Firefly, on his office door: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed". This simply tells the professor's students that he will always be open with them and play fair (not to metaphorically shoot them in the back). However Charles W. Sorensen, chancellor of the University took exception to the notice and called in the campus police stepped. And so Professor Miller was contacted by Lisa A. Walter, the Chief of Police and Director of Parking Services, after she removed the poster. She then told him that: "it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing." She also warned that any future such posts would be removed and would cause him to be charged with "disorderly conduct." Clearly this is an overreaction by a petty authority figure whose overseeing of university car parking is clearly not occupying her, let alone an over-reaction in a democratic land of free speech.   So the good professor put up a new poster that said: "Fascism can cause blunt trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets". The police tore down this poster, too and the Professor he had been reported to the "threat assessment team".   See the Huffington Post for more.

Irish coroner rules death by spontaneous human combustion (SHC). Michael Faherty, 76, died at his home in Galway on 22 December 2010. West Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin said it was the first time in 25 years of investigating deaths that he had recorded such a verdict.   Spontaneous human combustion has been a modern folklore for some centuries: a character in Charles Dickens' Bleak House burns to death without any apparent reason. In 1982, SHC was offered as a cause of death at the inquest into the death of Jean Saffin, 62. Relatives said they saw her burst into flames in her north London home but coroner Dr John Burton said there was "no such thing" as SHC and recorded an open verdict. Human bodies are known to burn using the wick effect that burns the body's fat much like a candle's wick. However what causes the initial ignition remains a mystery.

NASA hopes to develop a tractor beam. Tractor beams were SFnal technology largely popularised by Star Trek. It is exploring three laser-based approaches to develop a technique for capturing small samples either in zero g (most likely as its easier) or for use on planetary rovers. One idea is an adaptation of 'optical tweezers' in which objects can be trapped in the focus of one or two laser beams. This version of the approach requires an atmosphere. The other two methods rely on specially shaped laser beams such as solenoid beams and Bessel beams. The latter we have previously reported in this column.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian has last season coverage that included:-
  - the lack of experimental rigour on studies as to whether coffee counters depression, influences stroke rate etc., stories that populated the press in September.
  - on nobody reading former journal (now magazine) The Biologist, or its press release, could possibly have known that the evidence presented in its Aric Sigman article was deliberately incomplete. That is, in Goldacre's opinion, an act of deceit by the journal. The story was picked up by that bastion of science reporting The Daily Mail which said "Sending babies and toddlers to daycare could do untold damage to the development of their brains and their future health."   This was only a slightly embarrassing Goldacre report for one of us who used to be the Biologist's publication manager, but that was back in the 1980s and early '90s. The journal has since been re-branded following its owner's, the Institute of Biology's, own name-change to the 'Society of Biology' in 2010 (our man left in 2003 in case you wondered so is not to blame).
  - on the British Government's consultation to allow public access to mail post code and ordinance survey map data. The benefits could be huge but the Government would like you to pay.
  - Baroness Susan Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford reportedly announcing that computer games could cause dementia in children. Previously she linked internet use with rising autism diagnoses. But has Prof. Greenfield of Oxford University never simply published the claims in a peer-reviewed academic journal?   - on how a blogger, Paul Barden, followed up a BBC story that different parts of Britain have a threefold variation in bowel cancer. Paul analysed the raw data himself and found larger variation in small cities compared to large. This is what you would expect with random variation. (To put it simply, throw a coin once and the result will not indicate a 50:50 heads:tails chance. Throw it 100 times and you will get close to a 0.5 (50:50) chance value, and throw it a thousand times closer still.) Paul Barden then got in touch with Cambridge University professor David Spiegelhalter, who confirmed that Barden was right and that the BBC had found a non-story.
          Ben is having a break to write a book but should be back shortly.
          The first collected Goldacre 'Bad Science' articles are available in book form. You can see all the examples of Goldacre's Bad Science for free at www.badscience.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 2012

End Bits

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2012 upload in April
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' Summer book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews.

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Darrel Buxton, Angel Carralero, Steve Green, Ian Hunter, Boris Sidyuk, Peter Tyers and not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.   The past year's (2011) stand-alone book reviewers were: David Alkins, Tony Chester, Jonathan Cowie, Robert Grant, Susan Griffiths, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Nadia Mook, Peter Stockwell and Peter Tyers.   The past year's stand-alone convention reports and articles were by: Darrell Buxton, Tony Chester, Jonathan Cowie, Dorin Davideanu, Antuza Genescu, Silviu Genescu, Laurentiu Nistorescu, Peter Tyers, Jim Walker, and June Young.   Finally, once again, thanks during the past year to Tony Bailey for stationery, to Bill Parry for 'Futures' PDF editing and to Henry Gee for Nature 'Futures' liaison. Site registration and other internet activity was done by Dan Heidel and web space was provided by Boris Sidyuk.   The past year's news and reviews coordination was by Jonathan Cowie and web-mastering by Alan Boakes. Co-founder Graham Connor hosted the core SF2 Concatenation get-together together with Donna providing hospitaility. And that is largely who did what the past year.   If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told). :-)

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Summer 2012 period – needs to be in before mid-March 2012. News is 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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