Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Spring 2016

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

EDITORIAL COMMENT

For those like us who regularly monitor SF output, the past year's SF developments most certainly include that, unlike much of the past decade, the likely contenders for the various SF and fantasy film fest awards, let alone the big SF genre prizes this year, are more likely to go to big studio productions – see the best SF/Films of 2015 below. The past decade has seen the best of SF cinema come from independent studios and low-budget but intellectually engaging offerings; conversely 2015 was very different! Could it be that this year's Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form will chime with those of genre film buffs at fantastic film fests?  We will undoubtedly find out in 2016.
          This edition also includes the usual SF people , film, SF book trade and TV news. Plus there is the usual season's forthcoming Science Fiction (and separately 'Fantasy') booklists. And then there is a good deal of science news all in the mix. As usual, to round things off we have several science & SF interface items.  Enjoy.

 

STAFF MATTERS

Staff gatherings over the autumn largely did not happen. Instead Jonathan and Y took in The Martian in 3-D and then nearly got run over by James Bond's car being taken out for the Spectre Leicester Square premiere. They then, the following month, did Spectre itself.   Graham's been hanging out on-line with some of the cast from Babylon VTony has launched a new website for his reprographic business www.ghcityprint.co.uk.  And Dan has spent a couple of weeks in S. Korea.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol 26 (1) Spring 2016) we have stand-alone items on:-
          the 2016 SF national convention and forthcoming films diary
          the The Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form: Is it really recognising the full breadth of SF achievement?
          the 2015 Swecon (Sweden)
          the 26th Festival of Fantastic Films (Great Britain)
          the 23rd Hispacon (Spain)
          and Britain's 2015 Fantasycon
And additionally we have:-
          … nearly 40 (yes, 40!) new, stand-alone, fiction book reviews,
          … as well as a few non-fiction book reviews.
See our What's New page for a full listing of articles and reviews recently posted.
          New Yeartabulus.

 

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

This first subsection quickly links you to the major items of news.  For more detailed coverage go direct to the principal subsections that interest you (see the blue subsection index above as well as between each subsection).

First up -- Our choice as to some of the Best SF/F Books of 2015 and some of the Best SF/Films of 2015 (and TV).  Plus, lest some non-scrots suggest we have Sad Puppy pretensions, we have links to what other websites consider the best SF of 2015.

SF/F and science news last season includes:  H. G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds to get sequel;  Britain sees another astronaut in space (and it's not Cavor); Judge Dredd Megazine sees 25th anniversary;  and the Museum of SF seeks submissions to Journal of SF.

SF/F & Science Awards presented over the autumn (2015) included:  the Nobel Prizes and IgNobel Awards;  the World Fantasy Awards; Canada's Aurora Awards; France's Utopiales; Germany's Phantastik Awards;' Spain's Ignotus; and Russia's Zilant Awards.

Book news of the season – Includes : some new author book titles to look forward to in 2016; the surprising growth of print books in 2015; thoughts from the Future Book conference; and something to look forward to in 2016, Loose Women.

Film news of the season – Includes: that of: seasonal box office highlights,  the possible contents of a likely extended version of The Martian;  news of Duncan (Moon & Source Code) Jones' next film;  Hollywood bringing back Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman.  Plus we have a number of links to short videos and film trailers.

Television news of the season – Includes:  that again Game of Thrones was the most pirated series of the yearDr Who gets surprising low ratings due to BBC;  there is to be a new Star Trek TV series;  Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series to be a TV seriesLost in Space to get a TV re-boot;  Pullman's His Dark Materials to come to TV;  and Romero is to get zombies on TV.

News of SF and science personalities includes that of: Stephen BaxterArthur C. ClarkeWilliam GibsonStan LeeGeorge Lucas;  and China Miéville among a number of people.

Last season's science news includes: the creation of new ultra-hard glass;  Britain's jet rocket;  Russia turning its back on science;  the latest ExoMars news;  the Earth's fate is glimpsed;  the earliest hominid or pre-hominid is discovered;  genomes reveal how the British Isles was first colonised;  the discovery of the likely very first Americans;  part of homosexuality's genetics elucidated;  and species' gender determining some genes being dominant/recessive.

Major last season SF events: standalone reviewed elsewhere on this site are:  the 2015 Swecon (Sweden);  the 26th Festival of Fantastic Films (Great Britain);  the 23rd Hispacon (Spain);  and Britain's 2015 Fantasycon.

Major forthcoming SF event news includes that of:   the 2016 Worldcon Mid-Americon II;  and the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland.  There's also news of various Worldcon bids including the 2019 Dublin bid and a 2024 bid for great BritainEurocon news includes that of the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona Spain and that 2019 is now a vacant year for a Eurocon, SF communities in all European nations please note.

Our short-video clip links section this season includes:  the trailers to Terminus, Synchronicity, and The 5th Wave.  See the section here.

Notable SF books due out over the Spring 2016 includes:  Christopher Golden's Tin Men;  Trevor Hoyle's Last Gasp;  Karen Lord's The Galaxy Game,  Paul McAuley's Into Everywhere, a reprint of the multi-award-winning Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre,  the conclusion of the late Sir Terry Pratchett's & Stephen Baxter's 'Long' series with The Long Cosmos,  and an Arthur C. Clarke sequel The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter.

Notable fantasy due out over the Spring 2016 includes: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie,  Fall of Life by Steven Erikson,  Wake by Elizabeth Knox,  This Census Taker by China Miéville, and Thirteen Minutes by Sarah Pinborough.

The Summer saw us sadly lose many SF and science personalities. These included… Scientists: Richard heckLisa Jardine,  and Maurice Strong.   And SF/F personalities: Dave GibsonLiviu RaduDavid Bowie and Terrence M. Wright.

 

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION NEWS

Best SF/F books of 2015? 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 deliberately varied mix for you (alphabetically by author) 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 2015:-
          The Fold by Peter Clines (Crown Publishing)
A team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to 'fold' dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveller can travel hundreds of feet with a single step. The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, travelling through the Door is completely safe. Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems—and that its creators are harbouring a dangerous secret.
          Luna by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
This is the first in a corporate thriller duology set on the Moon. If complex character interactions set against a rich cultural backdrop is your thing then this is a must read.
          Planetfall by Emma Newman (Roc)
A scientist who believes she received visions of a distant planet, inspires her followers and so manages to fund a deep space expedition to locate it. It turns out the planet does exist, but what awaited them on the surface was far more alien than anyone imagined. 20 years later, life in the colony has developed into something approaching routine – for everyone, that is, but Ren, one of only two people who knows what tragedy really occurred the day they made planetfall.
          The End of All Things by John Scalzi (Tor)
The latest in the Hugo-winning Old Man's War sequence. It came out in N. America last year and we'll get it over here in Blighty this summer. Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time—a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defence Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there’s another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other—and against their own kind —for their own unknown reasons
          Way Down Dark by J. P. Smythe (Hodder)
This is a tense, action-packed, character-rich, science fiction story set maybe a few hundred years in the future on what the inhabitants believe to be a colony ship, the Australia, among the stars. Seventeen year old Chan (female) killing her mother, who is dying of a terminal disease. She lives amongst the ‘Free People’ who keep the ship functional, tending the hydroponics area (the arboretum) and fixing the air filtration systems. Gangs and violence seem ever present, but the main threat comes from the ‘Lows’, a group who have already expanded to cover half the ship’s area who have designs on the rest. The Lows are feral, violent and conscienceless. They’ve let their part of the ship fall into disrepair, so when they start their attacks on the Free People they’re threatening the very survival of the ship itself… And then the plot twists start…. (Click on the title link for a standalone review.)
          Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (Borough Press)
A catastrophic event renders the Earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. Five thousand years later, humanity's progeny -- seven distinct races now three billion strong -- embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown ... to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
          We repeatedly (well, a few times over the latter half of the year) heard good things from those with whom we interact about Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, but alas promotion and publicity on these two never came our way.  Aurora is essentially a modern take on the generation ship story.  The Water Knife is a climate change, near-apocalyptic story in a future US where a swathe of the country is permanently drought-stricken.

On the firmly fantasy front there is:-
          Golden Son by Pierce Brown (Hodder).
Golden Son continues the saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game and Game of Thrones debut author Pierce Brown’s continues his genre-defying epic.
          Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson (Hodder).
Mixed feelings on this one.  Dea has been able to travel through other people's dreams since she was six. Her mother taught her three rules of walking: never Interfere. Never be seen. Never walk in the same person's dream more than once. Dea never questions her mother and her continual moving of them from town to town to stay ahead of the monsters. Years later Dea meets a mysterious new boy, Connor, and gradually opens up to him. But when Dea breaks the rules the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate and discerning what is real or not real becomes harder… This is a bold debut novel that could well appeal both to an adult as well as a juvenile readership. Having said that, our Arthur wasn't entirely convinced.
          The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow
Doll inspired fantasy horror anthology. Click on the title link for a standalone review.
          The Mechanical by Ian Tregilis
A steampunk fantasy set in an alternate 1926 where the Dutch Empire rules most of the world, the French are corralled near the St Lawrence river and the Pope is in exile in Quebec. There is no United States, no Great Britain and no serious threat to Dutch superiority. The reason is that Holland, centuries before, mixed alchemy with clockwork and produced sentient mechanical men, bound to obedience by pain-backed compulsions, or ‘geas’, weaved into their consciousnesses. Click on the title link for a standalone review.
+++ Last year's best books (covering 2014) here.

Best Science Fiction (and Sci Fi) films (and movies) of 2015 with a couple of television mini-series thrown in for good measure. Well, there has been the usual debate as to our informal consideration for better or worse and what follows is a very unscientific selection. We have as customary a varied mix (sci fi, SF, mundane SF, fantasy, juvenile SF and horror) for you, so there should be something in our, best of science fiction films 2015, selection for everyone seeking a DVD for the weekend. The below listing is in alphabetical order:-
          The Age of Adaline. A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into. This is our SFnal romance offering of the year. (Trailer here.)
          Advantageous. In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter Jules do all they can to hold on to their joy together, despite the instability surfacing in their world. (Trailer here.)
          Childhood's End. After peaceful aliens invade earth, humanity finds itself living in a utopia under the indirect rule of the aliens, but does this utopia come at a price? This is based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name.  This is actually a mini-series but as it is a single story based on a single novel, we're going to classify this as a long-form dramatic presentation film. (Trailer here.)
          Ex Machina . This came out at the beginning of the year and heralded a remarkable 12 months of record-breaking box office success for SFnal film. A young programmer is selected to participate in a groundbreaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.  (Trailer here.)
          51 Degrees North. When Damon Miller (Moritz von Zeddelmann), a talented, young London filmmaker becomes involved in the disturbing research surrounding Near-Earth Objects he stumbles onto the discovery that the Earth stands on the brink of an extraterrestrial disaster. Believing he's finally discovered the ideal subject for his next documentary, Damon gets caught up in a conspiracy. (Trailer here.)
          Hardcore. Henry, a newly resurrected cyborg who must save his wife/creator from the clutches of a psychotic tyrant with telekinetic powers, AKAN, and his army of mercenaries. Fighting alongside Henry. This is our violent action choice of the year but which may not be everyone's cup of tea. (Trailer here.)
          It Follows. This is our fantasy horror choice of the year, but do note that we go for fantastical horror and not slash and gore: this only has a 15 certificate. Following a liaison, a young woman finds that someone, or something is slowly walking towards her and if it gets her it will kill. The only option she has is to pass on the curse to someone else...  Now, our most dedicated site followers will realise that we recommended this as one of our best 'worthies that slipped through the net' of our 2014/5 box office chart back at Easter (2015), so apologies if this is old news. However we include it now because though the film first came out in 2014 and got a huge reception in the international fantastic film fest circuit (including Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Neuchâte, L'Étrange, Toronto, Deauville, Athens, Lund Fantastisk, London Film, Sitges, Chicago, Night Visions, Torino and Sundance), it only came out on general release in February 2015 in the British Isles and then in the US in March.  (Trailer here.)
          Jurassic World. A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park's newest attraction, a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine – non-spoiler alert – escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. If you liked the original films then you'll love this one. (Trailer here.)
          Mad Max: Fury Road. A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max. A good reboot of the old franchise that did very well at the box office. (Trailer here.)
          The Man in the High Castle. Based on Philip K. Dick's award-winning novel and adapted by Frank Spotniz, The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States using the device of a fiction within the fiction that is our reality… If you can follow that drift.  This is actually a mini-series but as it is a single story based on a single novel, we're going to classify this as a long-form dramatic presentation film. (Trailer here.)
          The Martian. During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Based on the stunningly brilliant novel, this is our best mundane SF choice of the year. Not really watchable on the small screen as so much of the spectacle is lost; this is best seen IMAX 3D but a normal cinema viewing suffices. Extended edition forthcoming. (Trailer here.)
          Predestination. This is based on a Robert Heinlein story 'All You Zombies' and the life of a time-travelling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. This simplistic description betrays a good time travel film. This came out in 2014 but only on the film fest circuit: its cinematic general release was 2015. (Trailer here.)
          Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A welcome re-boot that almost takes the taste away of the second (the prequel) muddled George Lucas trilogy. This J. J. Abrams film takes us back to the original trilogy's roots and features the original cast (Hamil, Ford and Fisher) and a return to more model based special effects rather than over-reliance on CGI computer graphics. All rather good with perhaps the exception of a new ridiculously ball-shaped droid and a nemesis wielding a light sabre with very unpragmatic (positively dangerous to the user) side-lasered light sabre; flaws that are easily overlooked by Abrams' vision. The film has broken opening weekend box office records in cash (not real) terms. (Trailer here.)
          Terminator Genisys. When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Despite the ageing Arnie (which has a logical rationale provided) this is an improvement of the last two Terminator offerings. (Trailer here.)
          Tripped is a four-part miniseries of 40-minute episodes that was first broadcast in Britain (on E4) in November/December (2015). It is a single story and concerns Rick and Morty, two young adults (in their 20s) who suddenly find themselves being chased by a killer when – having bumped into doubles of themselves – someone who could have been one of their twins is killed in front of them. It appears that reality is a multiverse of alternate realities and that someone (and all that someone's alternates) is after them and all their own alternates across the multiverse. They find themselves chased across parallel realities finding clues left by a couple of their alternates. In one reality one of them is a famous rock star, in another the world is on the brink of nuclear war, in another the world has slipped into a glacial… Played as a comedy, action SF thriller, it is very good (otherwise we would not include it here). Do try to track it down. (Trailer here which does not do the series full justice.)  A second season is indicated.
          What We Do In The Shadows is a New Zealand comedy horror that did a fairly extensive run around the international festival of fantastic films circuit. It follows the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) - three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles-like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that (beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection) modern society has them struggling with the mundane, like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts. Beyond limited film fest screenings, it had a Brit general release in 2014 (that we missed) but also had a general US release in 2015 and so should be eligible for things like Hugo and Ray Bradbury Award nomination if the SF community picks up on it (unlikely as this is an independent film and the major SF awards seem always to go to big Hollywood studio productions). (Trailer here.)
+++ Last year's best films (covering 2014) here.

The above are our choices of best books and visual SF of 2015, but what do others think?  Because 2015 saw much Sad Puppy controversy and unpleasantness we would not want you to think that we were dictating to you whom should get the major SF awards in 2016 (though in the past we have accrued somewhat of a record for predicting a number of nominations). Our choice is simply what we rate and we share with you in the hope that you may find a few of the offerings of interest, just as we like to see what others rate.  And so to that end, here are URLs of others' thoughts:-
          Best books of 2015.
          SF/F World www.sffworld.com/2015/12/sffworld-review-2015-part-2-sf
          SciFi Now www.scifinow.co.uk/top-tens/books-you-should-have-read-in-2015
          io9 io9.gizmodo.com/the-very-best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-books-of-2015-1748164151
          Book Smugglers thebooksmugglers.com/2015/12/smugglivus-2015-guest-blogger-jim-of-ya-yeah-yeah.html
          Good Reads www.goodreads.com/list/show/79659.Best_Picks_Science_Fiction_Fantasy_and_Horror_Novels_of_2015
          Waterstones www.waterstones.com/booklist/263374/waterstones-booksellers-best-s
          Barnes & Noble www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/our-bloggers-favorite-reads-of-2015/
          Omnivoracious www.omnivoracious.com/2015/12/the-best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-of-2015-amazon-book-review.html
          SF Signal www.sfsignal.com/archives/2015/12/the-absolute-best-sff-books-of-2015
          Nerds' Feather www.nerds-feather.com/2016/01/2016-hugo-award-longlist-part-1-fiction.html
          Best films worldwide (including movies from the US) of 2015.
          SF Signal sfsignal.com/archives/2016/01/watching-future-2015-debased-odyssey/
          SciFi Now www.scifinow.co.uk/news/20-best-films-of-2015
          Cinema Blend www.cinemablend.com/new/5-Best-Sci-Fi-Movies-2015-101977-p5.html
          Pop Matters www.popmatters.com/post/the-years-best-science-fiction-movie-wasnt-star-wars-the-force-awakens
          SF Com sciencefiction.com/2015/12/13/best-worst-sci-fi-films-of-2015
          Motherboard Vice motherboard.vice.com/read/11-best-sci-fi-movies-that-defined-2015
          Blastr (on film) www.blastr.com/2015-12-28/10-best-sci-fi-fantasy-and-horror-films-2015
          Blastr (on TV) www.blastr.com/2015-12-29/top-10-sci-fi-fantasy-and-horror-tv-shows-2015
          Nerds' Feather www.nerds-feather.com/2016/01/2016-hugo-award-longlist-part-2-visual.html

Tim Peake becomes Britain's first astronaut! Whaheyyy! (Shhh. Tim Peake becomes Britain's eighth astronaut.) Whaheyyy! As an ESA astronaut he was launched to the International Space Station (ISS), on 15th December (2015), for Expeditions 46 and 47 to (arguably a tad overly) huge media coverage here in Blighty that included main channel coverage for much of the morning of the launch and extensive evening news coverage that delayed the subsequent BBC 1 scheduling. Though he was not the first British astronaut he was the first funded by the British tax payer. (The media coverage was no doubt to help ensure we got our money's worth.)  Britain's first astronaut was Helen Sharman who was funded by Russia together with a group of British companies as part of Project Juno in 1991 to Russia's Mir space station. The other subsequent Britain-related astronauts were either British born or held dual nationality with Britain.

The 2015 Nobel Prizes for science have been announced. The science category wins were:-
          Physics:Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald (from Japan and Canada respectively) for discovering how neutrinos switch between different 'flavours'.
          Chemistry:Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for elucidating the mechanisms used by cells to repair damaged DNA.
          Medicine: William Campbell and Satoshi Omura together with Youyou Tu.  William Campbell and Satoshi Omura developed a new drug, Ivermectin, against infections caused by roundworm (nematode) parasites that include River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis. Youyou Tu worked on Artemisia annua (or sweet wormwood), malaria therapies; the mosquito-borne disease kills more than 450,000 people each year.
          See also last year's 2014 Nobel Prizes.

The 2015 IgNobel Awards have been announced and the awards presented at Harvard University (US). These are humorous science awards that – after pausing for initial consideration – make you think that they really do have a point. Among the category winners this year, the following caught our eye:-
          Chemistry: Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [Australia], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA], for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.
          Physics Prize: Patricia Yang [USA and Taiwan], David Hu [USA and Taiwan], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA], for determining that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).
          Medicine: Awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [Japan, China]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [Slovakia, US, UK], Peter Celec [Slovakia, Germany], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedlácková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviezená, and Gabriel Minárik [Slovakia], for determining some of the biomedical benefits, and/or biomedical consequences, of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).
          Biology: Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [Chile], José Iriarte-Díaz [Chile, USA], for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.
          Mathematics: Elisabeth Oberzaucher [Austria, Germany, UK] and Karl Grammer [Austria, Germany], for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children. (This is the second year in a row that the Maths prize has gone to work related to human reproduction activity.)
          Diagnostic Medicine: Diallah Karim [Canada, UK], Anthony Harnden [New Zealand, UK, US], Nigel D'Souza [Bahrain, Belgium, Dubai, India, South Africa, US, UK], Andrew Huang [China, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK], for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.
          Last year's winners here.

Museum of Science Fiction is calling for submissions for new triannual Journal of Science Fiction. The Museum of Science Fiction, N. America's first comprehensive science fiction museum, will publish an academic journal of science fiction through the University of Maryland. The first issue of the Museum’s Journal of Science Fiction is being launched this month (January 2016) and will serve as a forum for scientists and academics from around the world to discuss science fiction, including recent trends in the genre, its influence on the modern world, and possible implications for the future. See also: www.museumofsciencefiction.org

The World Fantasy Award results have been announced. The winners in all the categories were:-
          Novel: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
          Novella: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
          Short Fiction: 'Do You Like to Look at Monsters?' by Scott Nicolay
          Anthology: Monstrous Affections by (eds) Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant
          Collection (TIE): Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Helen Marshall
                              and The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter
          Artist: Samuel Araya
          Special Award – Professional: Sandra Kasturi & Brett Alexander Savory, for ChiZine Publications
          Special Award – Nonprofessional: Ray B. Russell & Rosalie Parker, for Tartarus Press
The World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards winners for 2015 are Ramsey Campbell and Sheri S. Tepper
+++ For list of all the 'Best Novel' nominations See immediately above.

The World Fantasy Award is to change its physical image. The Hugo Award for 'Science Fiction achievement' has a physical manifestation as a metal rocket, whereas the World Fantasy Award's physical representation is a bust of H. P. Lovecraft. There has been some debate about whether this is an appropriate manifestation of the award given that Lovecraft was publicly racist. This came to the fore when Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the 2011 Award for 'Best Novel', and she blogged her understandably mixed feelings. Since then there has been much discussion. This led to the announcement at this year's award ceremony, at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs (USA), that Lovecraft's image would no longer be used. The debate now regards what will be used for the awards' physical manifestation?

Germany's Phantastik Prize was awarded at Buchmessecon (BuCon) (or Book Fayre Con) in Dreieich near Frankfurt. The principal wins were:-
          Novel: Imperium der Drachen – Das Blut des Schwarzen Löwen [Empire of the Dragon - The Blood of the Black Lion] by Bernd Perplies
          Debut Novel: Lux & Umbra 1 – Der Pfad der Schwarzen Perle [Lux & Umbra 1 - The Path of the Black Pearl] by Silke M. Meyer
          Best Foreign Book (translated to German): Der Ozean am Ende der Straße
                                                            [published in Britain as The Ocean at the End of the Lane] by Neil Gaiman
          Best Anthology: Steampunk Akte Deutschland [ Steampunk Act Germany]
          Best (book) Series: DSA – Das Schwarze Auge (the second time in a row that a DSA novel has won)
          Short story: 'Der Letzte Gast' ['The Last Guest'] by Vanessa Kaiser and Thomas Lohwasser
          Non-Fiction: Geek, Pray, Love: Ein Praktischer Leitfaden für das Leben, das Fandom und den Ganzen Rest [ Geek, Pray, Love A Practical Guide Life in Fandom and all the Rest] by Christian Humberg & Andrea Bottlinger
The 2014 Phatastik Award winners here.

The Utopiales and other Awards were presented at this year's Utopiales in Nantes, France. (an event that is a big as Worldcon). The principal category wins were:-
Literature
          Prix Utopiales Européen (Novel): L’Autre Ville [The Other City ] by Michal Ajvaz
          Prix Utopiales Européen Jeunesse (Juvenile SF): Humains [Humans] by Matt Haig
          Prix Julia Verlanger: Lum’en [Lum’en] by Laurent Genefort
          Honourable mention: L’Adjacent [The Adjacent] by Christopher Priest
          Prix Extraordinaire: Manchu
          Prix de la Meilleure Bande Dessinée de SF (Graphic Novel): Les Ogres-Dieux [The Ogres – Gods] by Hubert and Bertrand Gatignol
Cinéma
          International Competition of Feature Films: Évolution by Lucile Hadzihalilovi
          Prix Syfy du Public: Moonwalkers by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
          Prix du Jury Courts (Shorts) Métrages: World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt
          Prix du Public Courts (Shorts) Métrages: Juliet by Marc-Henri Boulier
          Prix Canal – Compétition Internationale de Courts (shorts) Métrages: Portal to Hell!!! by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
+++ Last year's Utopiales winners can be found here.

Canada's Prix Aurora Awards have been announced. The principal category winners were:-
          Best English Novel: A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda
          Best English Juvenile Novel: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
                                                  that tied with
                                                  Out of This World by Charles de Lint
          Best Short Fiction: 'Crimson Sky' by Eric Choi
          Best Poem/Song: 'A Hex, With Bee' by Tony Pi.

Spain's 2015 Ignotus Awards were presented at the Hispacon in Granada on the 31st of October. The Ignotus has been Spain's national SF Award since 1991, equivalent to the British SF Awards, and is presented at Spain's annual national convention, Hispacon, sponsored by the Asociacion Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficcion y Terror (the Spanish Association of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror) and voted on by association members, convention attendees and fans. The winners were:-
         Novel: El Mapa del Caos [The Map of Chaos] by Félix J. Palma, the conclusion of his Victorian trilogy
         Novella: 'Los Centinelas del Tiempo' ['The Sentinels of Time'],by Javier Negrete
         Short Story: 'Casas Rojas' ['Red Houses'] by Nieves Delgado
         Anthology: Terra Nova 3 edited by Mariano Villarreal
         Article: '20 Autores de Relatos de Ciencia Ficción que Deberías estar Leyendo” ['20 Science Fiction Short-story Authors you Should be Reading'] by Elías F. Combarro
         Illustration: Cover for Retrofuturismos by Alejandro Colucci
         Audiovisual production: Los VerdHugos (podcast) by Miquel Codony, Elías Combarro, Josep María Oriol, Leticia Lara and Pedro Román
         Magazine: Scifiworld
         Foreign Novel: El Marciano [The Martian] by Andy Weir
         Foreign Short Story: 'El jugador' ['The Gambler'] by Paolo Bacigalupi
         Website: La Tercera Fundación (The Third Foundation)
Due to insufficient nominations, this year there were no awards presented for comics, poetry, or non-fiction.
         Domingo Santos Award, a juried prize for the best unpublished short story: 'El Otro Niño” (The Other Child), by Eduardo Delgado Zahino
         The executive board of Spain’s association also presented the Gabriel Award for significant and valuable contributions to the world of speculative fiction to Francisco Torres Oliver and his brother-in-law Rafael Llopis for their translations and other ventures that brought the Cthulhu mythos to Spain in 1969.

Russia's 2015 Big Zilant has been awarded at the 25th Festival of Fantasy and Role-Playing Games 'Zilantkon' in Kazan. Zilantkon is a large Fantasy convention regularly attracting a few thousand. The Zilant is a juried award. This year there was no Little Zilant awarded to a young author for a major SF/F work or person who has made a significant contribution to Russia's SF community. Instead this year the Big Zilant was awarded for significant SF books. This provides a kind of symmetry with last year in which no Little Zilant was awarded.
          Big Zilant: Salt of Saraksha by Andrey Lazarchuk and Mikhail Uspenskiy
                          and
                          Hundredfold by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
Regulars may remember, and fans from the Russian Federation will know, that Marina and Sergey Dyachenko are very popular writers in Russian speaking countries.

The newly revived The Clangers television series won the 'Best Animation' Children's BAFTA.  Waheyyy!

War of the Worlds sequel to be written! Gollancz has secured Stephen Baxter to write the sequel to H. G. Wells' classic 1897 novel that saw the Martians invade the Earth and Victorian England.  The sequel is to be called Massacre of Mankind. It is set in late 1920s London when the Martians return, and the war begins again. But the aliens do not repeat the mistakes of their last invasion. They know how they lost last time. They target Britain first, since we resisted them last time. The sequel is to be published in 2017 when the copyright on the original expires.  Stephen previously authored The Time Ships, a sequel to Wells' 1895 The Time Machine. This worthy follow-up saw the time traveller move into a parallel universe.  See also War of the Worlds to come to television below in the TV subsection.

Judge Dredd Megazine 25 years old The Megazine was launched 15th September 1990 as a monthly companion to the weekly 2000AD. Recent years have seen the Megazine settle into a routine format under the editorship of Matt Smith who also helms 2000AD. Typically these days there are just four strips but at a reasonable 9 to 13 page length of which at least two are set in the Dredd universe albeit some without Dredd himself even though the champion of Mega City One law always has at least one strip to himself. Other Dredd universe strips have focussed on: Psi (psionic) Division judges; judges in the Cursed Earth (the radioactive wasteland covering much of the former US outside the three megacities; wally squad (plain clothes undercover) judges; judge soldiers battling off world; and judges in other countries and notably BritCit (Britain) but also Murphyville (Ireland) and Cal Hab (Scotland).  Non-Dredd strips are usually SFnal but failing that fantasy or technothriller.
          The Megazine has had a regular following in recent years but one not without its controversies. In 2004 the zine’s production values went up market and most noticeably with the introduction of being perfect bound (flat spine as opposed to saddle stitch staples), but this did not attract sufficient new readers and, being too expensive, was dropped in 2006.  In 2008 low-cost added value was sought and so re-prints mini-comics of earlier 2000AD strips were introduced.  This annoyed some long-standing 2000AD readers who did not want to pay for material they already had in their collection. However complaints subsequently waned in the face of support for the policy as few actually had a reasonably complete run of 2000AD going back to 1977 and the early days of twin comics of Starlord (which only ran for a couple of years before merging with 2000AD) and 2000AD. Furthermore, even a number of those who did have such collections rarely delved into them and so the re-print mini-comics bagged with 2000AD were gradually appreciated as good past reminders to old subscribers and greatly welcomed by younger readers.  More controversial has been the editorial insistence of cheap (that is cheap-to-editorially produce compared to full-colour, art-worked comic strips) non-fiction articles, principally about those people writing and drawing comics. Reader support for these in the letter columns has typically come from those who cannot go to conventions, but the counter to this is that such material is best blogged: that is what the internet is for. Other debatable inclusions are the fiction (non-graphic) stories which are of dubious quality (and that is being generous). However, given that the quality of the strips has usually been on the high side, the zine’s following has held firm.  That in itself is a testimony of the Megazine’s contribution to the British comics’ scene.
          The 25th birthday issue came with a 10p price rise, the first price rise since the last 10p rise in April 2014. However this recent hike equates to a rise off 1.75% which is a little ahead of inflation, though broadly the past five years have seen real-term value maintained.
          Old stalwarts such as writers John Wagner and Alan Grant, and artists such as Colin MacNeil and Carlos Ezquerra among others still regularly contribute. True, we have sadly lost a few along the way (notably Tom Frame) but there is also much new talent. Let’s hope that the Dredd universe strips keep coming. Here’s to the future of the Big Meg.
          Splundig.

Old Judge Dredd strips uncensored. Way back when 2000AD was not even a couple of years old (and had yet to merge with Starlord so bringing onboard Strontium Dog and the ABC Warriors (née Robusters)), in 1978 Judge Dredd had his first saga comprising of 21 week’s worth of strips covering over 150 pages of artwork. This was ‘The Cursed Earth’ saga. The story was that Mega-City Two had largely succumbed to a crazies zombie plague and a vaccine had to be transported from Mega-City One. But with Mega-City Two’s airport and spaceport overrun by murderous crazies, the only option was to carry the vaccine over land, through the Cursed Earth: the radioactive wasteland covering much of the former America. Along the way Dredd’s team had several adventures… However two of them caused a stir in certain quarters. One of them featured Dredd being caught in the middle of a battle of the followers of two of the world’s largest hamburger chains. The other concerned Dredd being captured by a deranged scientist who bore a certain resemblance to the promotional/fictional manager of a well-known fried chicken franchise. Now, the real-life owners of these franchises complained to IPC (the then owners of 2000AD and the strips were never reprinted, even in the wonderful 2002 hardback compilation in the ‘Classic Dredd’ series or the 2002 pocket book collection…
          Last October, European copyright law changed. Artists are now able to parody copyright-protected works under European Copyright Directive, so long as it is fair and does not compete with the original version. Parodies can only be sued if it conveys a discriminatory message then a judge would have to decide if they are funny. (This stops a competitor to a product lampooning their rivals for marketing rather than purely comedic or fiction purposes.) As Judge Dredd is clearly a work of fiction, they should be allowed to run the formerly withdrawn strips. Rebellion – who now own and manage 2000AD -- have announced that they will include the formerly withdrawn strips in the next printing this July (2016) of Judge Dredd ‘The Cursed Earth’ saga. Horaaay.

2000AD is having a documentary being made about it called Future Shock. It tells the story of 2000 AD, the UK science-fiction comic that came to have a cult following. First published in 1977, it was violent, anti-authoritarian, blackly funny and above all, idiosyncratically British. The documentary offers a comprehensive overview of the magazine's history.  See the trailer here.

The 2016 US Odyssey Writers Workshop details have been announced. Odyssey is for writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. The six-week program combines an advanced curriculum with extensive writing and feedback. The director and primary instructor, Jeanne Cavelos, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award this year for her work teaching and running Odyssey. Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including: George R. R. Martin, Jane Yolen, Robert J. Sawyer, Nancy Kress, Ben Bova, Holly Black, Catherynne M. Valente, and Dan Simmons.  This summer's workshop is to run from 6th June to 15th July, 2016. Class meets for over four hours each morning, five days a week. That time is split between workshops and lectures.  The early action application deadline is 31st January, and the regular application deadline is 8th April, 2016. Further details and fees and scholarships see www.odysseyworkshop.org.

Microsoft have released an anthology of SF stories. The software producer has released the anthology Future Visions. Contributing authors include: Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire and Robert J. Sawyer. It is available via: Barnes and Nobile, Books-a-Million, Google Play, iBooks, and Kobo.

 

[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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Stephen Baxter, along with Astronomer Royal and Past President of the Royal Society Prof Sir Martin Rees, space medicine clinician and this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer Kevin Fong, and exoplanet astronomer Carol Haswell discussed deep space exploration with Andrew Marr on BBC Radio 4's Start The Week.  Carol pointed out that whereas just a few decades ago we had no idea as to whether there were any planets outside of the Solar System it now appears likely that there are more planets than stars in the Galaxy.   Martin Rees suggested that interstellar travel for intelligent biologicals may well be a post-human endeavour: if human life-spans became the order of thousands of years then interstellar travel would not be a problem.   Stephen Baxter opined that that such undertakings might be made as joint endeavours between humans and artificial intelligences (AIs).  Martin was supportive of the idea of silicon consciousness and that sentience may not be just the province of 'wet chemical' (biological) brains. Rees also wondered whether there may be AIs left behind by a now-extinct biological intelligence. There was also some discussion by panellists of the ideas presented in Stephen Baxter's novel Arc.  Finally, as to long-term prospects, Carol Hasswell noted that it is now thought that a planet could exist for billions of years in a habitable zone surrounding white dwarves (the final stage of main-sequence Sun-like stars that do not go supernova and so the implication – not discussed – is that such planets would have to be terraformed) – see also Earth's long-term fate in astronomy news below.

Peter Beagle, over in N. America, is reportedly suing his publisher Conlan Press and its owner Connor Cochran for fraud, defamation, elder abuse, and breach of contract among other things.  Apparently Conlan Press also has a good number of dissatisfied customers whom they clam have never received their paid-for goods.

Arthur C. Clarke’s papers have arrived at Washington DC’s National Air and Space Museum. Clarke died in 2008 and for the past years the museum has been working with the Colombo-based Clarke Trust on the legalities and getting Clarke’s archive shipped. This has now taken place and the museum is now going through a conservation process prior to being made available to researcher. This last will probably happen by the autumn (2016).

Eoin Colfer , the Irish children’s writer, has been commissioned to write an Iron Man juvenile fiction novel for Marvel. It is due to be published in the autumn (2016).

Roald Dahl has his 100th anniversary this year (2016). Celebrations to mark this include an exhibition on the Southbank in February, programme items at May’s Hay Book Fest, and June the publication of the Roald Dahl Dictionary from Oxford University Press.

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer have had a baby son born 16th September (2015) just the day after we posted last season's news. Anthony is doing very well. Our congratulations.

William Gibson has sold the rights to re-print his classic 'Sprawl' sequence to Gollancz (the SF/F imprint of Orion Publishing and in turn part of Hachette UK).  The 'Sprawl' sequence comprises of Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1986) and the collection of short fiction Burning Chrome (1986).  Gibson is one of the most important SF writer to scientists with an interest in the genre as the 'Sprawl' sequence of the 1980s was published before the Tim Berners-Lee inventing a network-based implementation of the hypertext concept in 1989, and the introduction of the Mosaic web browser in 1993, both of which enabled the world-wide web (www) as we know it today. The only other author with such relevant prescience was John Brunner with his The Shockwave Rider (1984) that implicitly had an internet and specifically had on-line ID theft together with the notion of computer viruses (which he called 'phages' which is the real-life term for viruses that infect bacteria).  Neuromancer was originally one of the first novels to be published by Ace as part of their then ‘new’ Ace SF Specials series and it won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick awards for 'Best Novel' in 1985, as well as coming joint 9th in the Concatenation All-Time Best SF Novel poll. It has gone on to sell more than 6 million copies worldwide.  Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and the Burning Chrome, all expand upon the Neuromancer universe, though are only loosely connected with each other.  The new Gollancz paperbacks will be published on 14th July 2016, priced at £8.99 / eBook £4.99. There will also be a hardback of Neuromancer published on 8th September 2016 as part of the 'SF Masterworks' series, priced at £12.99. This last we at SF2 Concatenation particularly recommend as these 'Masterwork' hardbacks are especially good value, more than ever for those SF readers/collectors who missed out on Neuromancer the first time around.

Stan Lee did not realise that Marvel had recently made Iceman gay: he found out when being interviewed by the BBC mid-November. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme, Today (18.11.205), he was asked what he thought of Marvel getting Iceman to come out as gay. Stan was surprised and he also surprised the interviewer by saying that he was unaware of this, at which the interviewer pointed out that the news was around and reported in places such as The New York Times. Stan said that he never went into his creations seΧual predilections.  Stan was also asked whether it was true he gets no share of the Marvel film franchise, especially given that it is bigger than some British franchises such as Harry Potter or James Bond. Stan replied that he tries not to think about it as back when he was working for Marvel he was just a comic's writer for hire.  He also talked about Spiderman's origins. He went to his boss with this idea about a superhero who could climb walls and throw webs, who was a teenager with teenage problems and so someone with whom comic readers could identify. His boss told him that nobody likes spiders, that teenagers could only be superhero sidekicks and that superheroes did not have problems. However a short while later in 1962 one of Marvel's comics, Amazing Fantasy, was to be closed yet they needed a story for the final edition. As nobody cared what went in it, Stan saw his chance and so inserted the first Spiderman story. A couple of months after it came out, his boss called him in saying that the last edition of Amazing Fantasy was their best selling comic that month and how about developing that character 'we both liked'.  Stan was also asked which of his achievements he was most proud? Stan replied that it was making comics acceptable for adults to read. When he started comics were only read by children and parents tended to frown on them. Now he gets bearded adults coming up to him asking for autographs for themselves and their grandchildren in tow.

George Lucas is a tad miffed about the public's reaction to the way he has taken the Star Wars franchise.  While the first trilogy – starting with the first film, the Hugo winning Star Wars (1977) – was warmly received, the second trilogy was panned albeit still a moderate success at the box office. In November (2015) George told the magazine Vanity Fair that he did not want to be a part of the long-awaited seventh episode of the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, because "it's not much fun" when you "go to make a movie and all you do is get criticised." Then he said to the television show CBS This Morning, "The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans." He added, "People don't actually realise it's actually a soap opera and it's all about family problems - it's not about spaceships. So they decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, 'fine.... I'll go my way and I let them go their way."  Lucas has also said of his selling the franchise in a taped interview for Charlie Rose's Hulu series: “I sold them to the white slavers that takes these things…" He added: "They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new." Lucas apparently wanted the third trilogy to go in a completely different direction to the Abrams' vision that has successfully grossed a billion (US) dollars at the box-office within a month of the film's release… 'Nuff said.

George R. R. Martin announced that he has not been able to keep up his Game of Thrones writing with the TV series. He had been given a deadline extension to the end of 2015, to complete the sixth A Song of Ice and Fire on which Game of Thrones is based, but he had not been able to meet it. This means that the television series' source material will come out after the adaptation is broadcast.  A couple of years ago George confessed to the difficulty in keeping ahead of the television series.  There has been much fan support given to the author on his blog with over a thousand comments within a few days of his admission.  Over a year ago George suggested that the 7th novel in the series might be the last.  +++ Game of Thrones gets a science analysis. See the story in our Science and SF Interface subsection below.  +++   Furthering George R. R. Martin's December (2015) Hugo request, here is an idea as to improving the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form: Is it really recognising the full breadth of SF achievement?

China Miéville appeared on BBC Radio 4's The Book Programme to discuss The City and The City. In the programme broadcast on 1st November (2015), he revealed that he had wanted to subtitle it 'The Last Case of Inspector Borlu' but his publishers would not allow it as they thought that readers would want to seek out the earlier works which do not exist. Nor would he write more Borlu stories: he notes that fiction is replete with repeat visits to a universe that only serves to undermine the creation, the second Star Wars trilogy being an obvious example.  He also said that he was gratified to have had letters from all over the world from readers who say that Beszel/UI Qoma describes where they live: he was hoping that he was touching upon a universal truth.  He also reflected back to when he was preparing to write The City and The City. He had noted that crime readers frequently asked authors whether they cheated (in developing the crime detecting plot), while SF readers asked whether or not a book was set in the same universe as others the author had written. China was determined that he would not cheat and considered very carefully the elements of the police procedural element to the plot (at what point should the murderer be introduced to the reader and so forth). Equally, he wanted the universe of The City and The City to be unique.

Steven Moffat revealed some of his actors' liaison he engaged in during the run up to the 50th anniversary Dr Who episode, 'The Name of the Doctor'. Talking to The Radio Times (the BBC schedule magazine). He said that wanted to use the previous Doctor actors who still looked like they did when they did the show, and that meant Ecclestone, Tennet and Smith: Baker came onboard for an end of episode cameo as he still has his Doctor Who voice.  Ecclestone apparently did meet with Moffat and is very fond of the show, but – even after some discussion – declined to take part. This meant that Steven needed another Doctor urgently as shooting was only weeks away. So they decided that there would be another Doctor that nobody (TV viewers) had not yet met. They then cast around for big-name actors. Fortunately the first they approached, John Hurt, quickly said yes… And the rest is history.

J. K. Rowling has said that she is currently working on a children's book. She made the revelation on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 2 Book Club.

John Scalzi has revealed that he will not have a book published in 2016. However, as he has had a substantive advance from his US publishers. According to his blog it is "a ton of money": so that must be a hundred quid then.  Anyway, he is taking his time and having two novels slated for 2017. One is juvenile fiction, and the other is an adult space opera, planned to be the first in a new series, the latter being the one that will likely be the 2017 release. However, the paperback release of The End of All Things (see our choice of the best books of 2016), currently scheduled for a May release in the US (which means if a simultaneous Brit publication then we should be listing it in next season's forthcoming books listing). But don't worry, this season will see the publication of The Human Division.

Simon Spanton has left Gollancz after 19 years. As recently as 2013, Simon had been promoted to Gollancz Associate Publisher. Gollancz was reported in The Bookseller that he had left "by mutual agreement", corporate speak normally associated with the financial and political sectors. It seems according to Simon's tweets regarding his body's reaction the day after, his farewell bash was a good one.

Victoria Strauss reports that the publisher Almond Press had rated all her books with one star on GoodReads. Apparently this is in revenge for her calling Almond to task for running a competition that essentially, Victoria says, was a way for Almond to gather free material for an anthology--the competition winner received a cash prize but none of the other entrants received any payment other than 'exposure'. This petty act of revenge, Victoria adds, is not that big of a deal, really: unless, of course, you think that publishers should respond to criticism in a forthright and professional manner.  Victoria contributes to the helpful WriterBeware site that outs publishers' poor and bad practice.

 

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

FILM NEWS

The autumn's SF/F box-office hits included, with their place in the all-film box-office charts, in order of release…:-
          November saw James Bond’s latest technothriller Spectre break the Monday release one-week record (previously held by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Records were also set in the Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark. It opened a week later in N. America entering the charts at number 1. (Spectre trailer here.) By November's third week Spectre fell to second place in the North American (Canada and US) charts with first place going to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Trailer here.)  This continued to top the N. American chart almost to the end of the month while Spectre fell to fourth place.
          December began with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 still at the top of the N. American charts.  But December's second weekend saw the Christmas fantastical horror Krampus enter the chart at number 5. (Trailer here.)  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 was still at the top of the N. American chart but taking only a tenth of the US$101m (£66.6m) it took two weekends previously.  And then mid-December was something many an SF fan, or 'Sci-Fi' fan, had been waiting: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (trailer here). Would the J. J. Abrams directed film be a hash, worse than the George Lucas balls up with the second (the prequel) trilogy? Or would it return to the heights of the Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand directed first trilogy offerings? Well, as we now all know, we need not have worried. The film broke box office records its opening weekend in both N. America (Canada & US) and the British Isles (Great Britain and Ireland and 28 times more than the next entry in the weekend chart) taking an estimated global total of £355m (US$529m). (The only film that was more popular in the British Isles weekend charts in December was the 2015 James Bond film Spectre.  By Christmas Star Wars had become the fastest film to gross a billion (US) dollars and early in January it had grossed a billion pounds. By early in January the film overtook Avatar to become North America's top-box office grossing film of all time. It was number one in the N. American box office chart for four weeks.  In the second week of January it topped the Chinese box-office chart with a record grossing take when it opened in China.

Was the above Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening-week record really a record?  To answer this bluntly, 'no'!  Jurassic World took nearly as much its opening weekend in the summer (2015). Furthermore, in real terms, adjusting for inflation to 2015 money, the all-time opening weekend global chart looks like this:-
          1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) US$554m
          2. Spider-Man 3 (2007) US$543m
          4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) US$529m
          3. Jurassic World (2015) US$524m
          5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) US$490m
          6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) US$486m
          7. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) US$484m
          8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) US$439m
          9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) US$436m
Again, it is interesting to note that these record-breakers are all SF/F genre related.  They are also all high action, special effects dominated eye-candy franchise films.  So now, dearly beloved, you know why each year we always have 'And other possibly more worthy SF & fantasy film releases' within each of our annual box-office SF/F top tens.

Star Wars -- Britain celebrates its filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens with mail stamps. The Royal Mail launched 18 Star Wars stamps at the end of October before  the film came out. The stamps were drawn by Malcolm Tween and depict nine characters from the first six films and three from the forthcoming one. If you missed out you might still be able to get the various collectors' sets www.royalmail.com/starwars. The new film was predominately shot at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire. The original films were largely shot at Elstree, Hertfordshire.

Extended edition of The Martian is highly likely as Ridley Scott talks about unseen footage. Ridley Scott has talked about the unseen footage. He says he still has half an hour of extra footage not in the original cinematic release. This includes how Watney got ill due to an inadequate diet, and how he cleaned himself with baby wipes after relieving himself while en route to the second launcher. Both scenes were probably too off-putting to include in a family rated film but could be in the extended edition. And, of course what we all hope for are extended song sequences.

Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman to be re-booted by Hollywood Universal Studios. With the success of the recent Marvel superhero blockbuster, Hollywood is keen to learn so as to cash in on old franchises. (Depressing isn't it: Hollywood prioritising cask over creativity, but then this does help define the difference between 'movies' and 'films'.) To this end Universal is to resurrect Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman. The first of these will be based on the Mummy with Dracula, Van Helsing, Bride of Frankenstein and the Wolfman following. Universal execs are not just looking at their old 1930s, '40s and '50s Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi films but also studying Britain's Hammer fantastic film offerings. The idea is that these characters will also interact between each other…

Duncan (Moon) Jones’ next film will be the long-awaited Mute. Mute has been in development hell for over a decade now. It is an SF thriller. Set in a not-too-distant future Europe at the crossroads of an overdeveloped Earth, a dumb bartender searches for his missing partner in a battered metropolis caught in the culture clash of globalization. As he sifts through the seamy underworld, he finds two American doctors who may hold the only clues to his vanished love. But are they trustworthy? (Our guessing is ‘not’.)  +++ Following Mute Duncan Jones will be working on Warcraft.

Alien Covenant will be the first film in a forthcoming prequel trilogy.  Alien: Covenant will not, as had previously been announced, be the second film in a prequel trilogy that began with Prometheus but will be the start of its own trilogy. This means that the Neill Blomkamp Aliens sequel film has been kicked into the long grass.  Regarding Alien: Covenant, Prometheus star Noomi (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 2009) Rapace will only make a brief appearance, although Michael (X-Men: First Class) Fassbender is set to play one of the leads.  Plot summary: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world -- whose sole inhabitant is the 'synthetic' David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

The new Gremlins film will be a sequel (not a re-make or re-boot). Apparently some of the characters from the original 1984 horror-comedy and its 1990 sequel will reappear. The film will be produced by the original film's writer Christopher Columbus, along with Steven Spielberg.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Russia's new Comic-Con gives US Comic-Con and Worldcon cosplayers a run for their money.  See the three-minute vid here.

Film clip download tip!: Back to the Future. What with October seeing 'Back to the Future day' (more of which in our Science & SF Interface section below), it begs the question as to how the first film should have ended and the second one begun? An alternate is presented in a two-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: Back to the Future II saw Marty engulfed by a holographic shark promoting the 3D film Jaws 19. Now that we are have just had 2015, if you have not seen Jaws 19 you can view the trailer here, made for Back to the Future day by Universal Studios.

Film clip download tip!: Terry Gilliam's deleted animations from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. To celebrate the 40th anniversary theatrical release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the release of the 40th anniversary Blu-Ray, DVD & limited edition castle gift set , here is avideo of Terry Gilliam's lost animations from the film.

Film clip download tip!: Terminus is an Australian made SF thriller due out this year. The world is on the brink of nuclear war with the (US) government seeking whatever advantage it can. Which is why when a sample of what seems extraterrestrial crash-lands there is a race to explore its potential.  The film has garnered much interest on the pre-general-release film fest circuit…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Synchronicity trailer now out.  This is a 'Sci-fi Noir' in the tradition of Dark City, Blade Runner, and Alphaville. When physicist Jim Beale invents a machine that can fold space-time, a rare Dahlia appears from the future. He must now find the flower's identical match in the present to prove his machine works.   You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Divergent Allegiant trailer now out.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The 5th Wave SF film launching January 2016. It is an American science fiction thriller directed by J. Blakeson, based on Rick Yancey's trilogy of novels.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: In case you missed it Childhood's End, based on the Arthur C. Clarke 1953 novel, was a three-part mini-series broadcast in December (2015)  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Uncanny Valley is a short (8-minute) film. In the slums of the future, virtual reality junkies satisfy their violent impulses in online entertainment. An expert player discovers that the line between games and reality is starting to fade away. It is rather good with a bit of a twist.   See the film here.

Film clip download tip!: Hybrid is a short (7-minute) film. In the wake of an alien infestation, an ex-special forces soldier's daughter is killed in an alien attack and she's not happy about that…   See the film here.

Film clip download tip!: Singularity is a short (8-minute) film. In the midst of a war between humans and sentient androids, a Delta Force team must battle to rescue the US President.  See the film here.

 

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2014/15 (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 2016 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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Books to look out for in 2016, that saw rights interest at last year’s Frankfurt book fayre, include:-
          Halcyon by Katie Kahn. SF. HAL·CY·ON is the story of Max and Carys’s entire relationship, told in real-time, as they fall through space with only 90 minutes of air remaining. Like Gravity crossed with One Day.
          The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer. Fantasy. Two from the 14th-century Devon, sell their souls in order to try and avoid the plague but who are sent back to live one day every ninety-nine years. Fantasy.
          The Morning Star by Karl Knausgaard. Horror supernatural. It sees the murder of three members of a heavy metal band and the story builds into an apocalyptic fantasy.
          The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost. New Weird.
          The Golden Woman: The Authorised Biography of Doris Lessing. Non-fiction.
          Thinking Machines: How Artificial Intelligence Will Change Our World by Luke Dormehl. Popular science.
          The Cosmic Menagerie by Fergus Simpson. Popular science relating to SETI.

Sales of printed books up in Britain. The first 2/3rds of 2015 saw real-term growth of sales of printed books. This has not been matched by sales of e-books and so might possibly mark the moment when e-books have found their place in the market.  According to BookScan data on British sales, the first 36 weeks of 2015 saw print sales up to £739·5m and so up 4·6% on the previous year. Fiction was the sector that saw the most growth of 6·3%. Specialist non-fiction (which includes professional science and textbooks) rose by only 0·5%.

Sales of printed books went up in the USA. Preliminary data in suggests that the numbers of copies of physical print books sold in the US was up by nearly 3% in 2015 over the previous year. In terms of total books sold (e-books and print together), e-books made up around a quarter of the market according to Nielsen BookScan preliminary data.

More e-books are being read on smartphones 2015 digital survey reveals. Last year's Digital Survey saw a shift in Britain's e-book readers from kindle to the iPad.  This year, the 6th Digital Survey reveals that 44·6% of e-book readers surveyed commonly read e-books on their smartphone. This makes smartphone reading the most popular e-book mode surpassing both iPad and kindle reading.
          Kindle use may be down, but Amazon is where most e-books are bought with 77·1% regularly buying their e-books from Amazon.
          Reflecting Britain's recent book market statistics the growth of e-book reading has slowed. Nonetheless, 41% of publishers say that digital accounts for more than 20% of their sales and 68·2% say it accounts for more than 10% of their sales.

Books have increased their page count by 25% the past 15 years. A study by James Finlayson from Vervesearch of more than 2,500 books appearing on New York Times bestseller and notable books lists and Google’s annual survey of the most discussed books reveals that the average length has increased from 320 pages in 1999 to 400 pages in 2014.

The Martian by Andy Weir becomes the first hard SF book to top Britain's weekly e-book chart.  Sales of The Martian first entered the top 50 chart at 44th position back in July when the trailer of the film was released. Then early in December it topped the weekly e-book chart with 61,690 e-books sold in just one week!

Loose Women start a book club. ITV's (Britain's main commercial channel) Loose Women (day-time, female panel chat show) will for 10 weeks from March (2016) have a section of the show devoted to books. In addition there will be an extended 10-part half-hour series on ITV3 called Loose Books.  (For several years up to its closure in 2009, the day-time TV chat show segment Richard & Judy's Book Club book choices had a very discernable effect on Britain's book market.)

Tor.com is no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Tor.com is the USA based site for the publisher Tor (not to be confused with Britain's Tor whose titles we include in our forthcoming book lists). Though they did find some material they considered worthy of commercially publishing, alas the number was too little for the volume of submissions: a signal-to-noise thing.

106 UK libraries closed in the financial year to April 2015. This represents a decline in the number of libraries of some 2·6% from 4,023 libraries. Visits were also down 3·9% from 276 million in no small part because there were fewer libraries to frequent. It has been three years since the Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into library closures and since then politicians have kicked the issue into the long grass. However, their decline has continued. Overall, since 2010 to April 2015 visits to libraries have declined by 14%, funding declined by £180 million, paid library staff by 21·7% and 549 public libraries have closed.

FutureBook Conference 2015 warns of cyber threats. Some 500 attended this year's FutureBook conference organised by the Booksellers' Association.  The conference saw the usual crystal ball gazing.  If there was one take-home message then it would probably relate to the need for preparedness against cyber attacks. Many bookshops now sell books on-line in addition to their physical presence on the high street: Amazon does not the only on-line bookseller even if it has the largest market share in N. America, the British Isles and much of the rest of western Europe. With cyber crime becoming more sophisticated as more goods are traded on-line, and with on-line retailers handling more customers with their personal ID data, on-line booksellers could well be a future target.  The FutureBook Awards were also presented. The only genre-relevant win was for the 'Best Adult Digital Book category which was won by The Game of Thrones digital edition from Harper Collins.

 

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in April 2016. 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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

TV NEWS

The Big Bang Theory is being sued by 'Soft Kitty' copyright holder. The show has used the children's song "soft kitty, small kitty" once per season but did not pay royalties or a permission fee to the authorial poet's Ellen Chase's estate and now her daughters, Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry, are suing the show. Mrs Newlin died in 2004, having worked as a nursery school teacher in Alstead, New Hants, US, for about 35 years and composing the poem in the 1930s; her daughters are still town residents. The show has also used the lyrics on its merchandise. In 2007, Warner Bros. Entertainment and the show's other producers decided they wanted to use the lyrics and sought permission from Willis Music Co., a Kentucky-based company that had published them in a book called Songs for the Nursery School. But apparently Willis Music gave permission to use the lyrics without consulting Mrs Newlin's estate even though the book's copyright masthead page makes clear that Mrs Newlin was the copyright owner.  +++ See also fan Star Trek film group are being sued by Paramount in the Fandom subsection below.

Pullman’s His Dark Materials to be an 8-part BBC drama. Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema will be producing the series that has been sold to the BBC. His Dark Materials is the first commission from Bad Wolf, a U.K./U.S. production company founded by former BBC executives and co-sited in South Wales and Los Angeles. Pullman said: “It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It has been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television.” He added: “In recent years we’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations (‘Game of Thrones’) or original (‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’), can reach depths of characterization and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel. And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable.”

Dr Who gets lowest ratings since show re-booted. Beeb Beeb Ceeb to blame! In October, Doctor Who got its lowest rating for a single episode since its 2005 re-boot, with 5·63million viewers for 'Under the Lake'.  Then in November, 'Sleep No More' saw a further marginal slump to 5·61million viewers.  But the problem is not with the show but the BBC which has been using the show in a ratings war with ITV (Independent Television – Britain's main commercial channel).  Furthermore, the following day's BBC3 repeat has this season been screened in the small hours of the morning so impeding catch-up viewers. The BBC is being a pain.
          Christmas Day and Dr Who came 7th in Britain's Christmas Day viewing chart with 5·8 million viewers.  The Queen's Christmas message to her subjects came first with 7·2 million viewers 6.1m on BBC One and 1·1m on ITV 1 [Independent TV]). The Dr Who figures exclude the repeat showing on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day in Britain) figures.  The Christmas edition of Dr Who saw the Doctor re-united (the first time for the Capaldi Doctor incarnation) with River Song when she was trying to steal and then sell a diamond, but she did not at first recognise the Doctor as she was not aware that he is now allowed more incarnations.  It was a great episode albeit with some logical inconsistencies (such as the spacecraft wreckage still smouldering a day after the crash, except that a day on that world – we learn later – is equivalent to over two decades on Earth. Ooops!)

Dr Who to stick with a dozen episodes a year due to quality fears. Though the BBC would like to do more episodes Peter Capaldi has said that: "the crew, who are wonderful, are exhausted. There reaches a point where you can’t drive people any harder; we do the best we can to produce our show to an immensely high quality. If you did it all year round there would be casualties; one of the casualties would be the quality of the show." Also crew members have other commitments: Steven Moffat for example has Sherlock. We can sympathise with Capapaldi given last year's news.  +++ Capaldi has also hinted that the 2016 season and Christmas episode may be his last: he is still thinking about it.

Sherlock topped the TV audience chart for the 2015 festive season (both Christmas and New Years). The episode, 'The Abominable Bride', attracted 8·4 million viewers, 34·7% of Britain's TV audience. It saw the early 21st century Conan Doyle detective re-boot re-set back in Doyle's original Victorian times and then meshed it back with the 21st century re-boot setting so establishing the initial plot premise for the show's next season: Moriaty's legacy.

Game of Thrones tops the list of 2015's most pirated shows. Further to last year's news, for the fourth year running, fantasy series Game of Thrones topped a list of the most pirated TV shows. According to Torrentfreak, the season five finale was illegally downloaded 14·4m times. More than half of those came in the week after its US premiere.  The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory were also in the top three, with 6·6m and 4·4m downloads respectively. +++ Game of Thrones was nominated for a Hugo last year but the category as a whole failed to get over 1,000 nominations that year to be considered by us to a be a principal Hugo category.

The Expanse gets green light for a second season. SyFy has approved a 13-episode second season, which is tentatively slated for early 2017. The Expanse is based on Corey's novels.

Jekyll and Hyde cancelled. The show has been cancelled by ITV after just one season following complaints as to too adult a content.

Star Trek is coming back to television with a new series. CBS. Producer Alex Kurtzman is said to be developing a ‘new take’ on the franchise. The new series is set to premiere on CBS in January 2017. The franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series of books to be a TV series. IM Global Television is behind the development. The 25 science fantasy book series is set on the planet of Darkover whose colonists have long been separated from the rest of humanity's galactic diaspora and who have developed psionic powers. The first novel was The Planet Savers (1962) that in turn was based on a 1958 short story. The series has been translated into 17 languages.

NOS4A2, Joe Hill's novel, is to have a TV adaptation. The US television company AMC is developing and it will be a joint production between Michael Eisner’s Tornante TV and AMC Studios.  David reviewed the 2013 novel here.

Stefan Petrucha's Dead Mann zombie novels to become a TV series. CBS in the US will be making this.  Dead Mann is not about hoards of gory zombies. The novels' protagonist is a zombie who is a detective. It is more a noir detective story that happens to star a zombie.  It follows a police officer who was framed and executed for murdering his wife. But he is innocent and as a new drug can bring the dead back to life, he is being given a second chance. So he sets about tracking those responsible for his wife’s murder when he gets leads. Meanwhile he has to continue t earn a living (so to speak) and so takes on various other cases.

George Romero‘s zombie films to come to television. Though there were zombies before George Romero is the person who arguably has most popularised the zombie trope beginning with his films beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968), and then there were a slew of films after before we got the zombie stampede of books, comics, films and television of the early 2010s.  Like Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Romero's zombies have been brought to comic strip form with the Empire of the Dead Marvel comics, and now – again as with Kirkman – they are going to come to television.  The surprising thing is the television network that is picking up Romero's franchise: it is AMC!   Surprising because AMC already do The Walking Dead, and its Fear the Walking Dead spin-off.

Lost in Space to be re-booted for television. Neflix is bringing the series back in an updated format. The original Lost In Space had its 50th anniversary in September (2015). More news shortly.

Snowpiercer to be a TV series. The 2013 film was based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. This has had a sufficient following that Tomorrow Studios is considering taking it forward as a TV series with Josh Friedman scripting. Nonetheless, despite securing the rights and assembling a team, the project is still in development hell and has not yet had a confirmed green light.  We previously cited the film as

Tremors to come to TV. The original 1990 film, concerned a small town under attack from giant underground creatures. It led to four straight-to-video sequels, and a 2003, short-lived television series. However, none had original star Kevin Bacon. Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions are behind the new series. It will feature the original star Kevin Bacon, who will reprise his role as Valentine McKee.

War of the Worlds to come to TV. H. G. Wells' 1898 classic SF novel War of the Worlds is to come to television. British production company Mammoth Screen is proposing a mini-television series set, as was the novel, in Britain in Victorian times. (No contemporary Americanisation.) Having said that, while British funding has been secured, an American co-producer is sought to provide the other half of the funding. It is hoped that production will begin in the early part of 2017 after the novel enters the public domain at the end of 2016 and Paramount no longer has associated copyright privileges.  Britain's ITV Studios Global Entertainment will be responsible for international distribution.  +++ See also War of the Worlds sequel novel being written above.

 

[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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The 2016 Worldcon is MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City. Last time we carried news of this convention's Progress Report 1. This time there is news of the convention's new heritage venture.  Back at the first MidAmericon in 1976, the entire event was recorded through CCTV. Now, the MidAmeriCon II organisers have instigated a Video Archaeology Project to digitise this analogue content to make it available to today's SF community. There is much of historic interest. For example back in 1976 there was a 'women in SF panel' and this panel played a key part in developing the idea for what eventually became the first Wiscon.  Four decades is about long enough ago to void must data protection concerns in that everyone involved in 1976 is likely to have moved on and many, sadly, are no longer with us.  This project is one well worth keeping an eye on.
          The MidAmeriCon II team are also keen to involve as many of middle US local and regional SF groups as possible. Now, while nearly all Worldcon organising committees do involve their local communities this usually is because local SF groups have (happenstance) direct representation on the committee.  What MidAmeriCon II have done is to create the unique post on the committee of local liaison: there is a lot of different fandoms in Kansas city and the region and they hope to proactively reach out to all of them. This is a very positive move and both this, together with the afore Video Archaeology Project do signal that MidAmeriCon II may well be rather special.

The 2017 Worldcon is Helsinki, Finland whose bid win and initial key details we reported last time together with GoHs, is linking in with broader cultural celebrations.  The news is that the Helsinki Worldcon – as are many Finnish cultural ventures in 2017– is to include the marking of the 100th anniversary of Finland's independence from Russia. Nationwide, Finland are marking the anniversary in a number of ways under the branding slogan that translates as 'Finland 100 together' and the 2017 Worldcon has now been officially included in this celebration.  As of early December, the Worldcon had just over 2,000 supporting members and additionally just over a thousand attending members. Finally, further to last time's news regarding language, English is widely spoken in Finland and most of the programme will be in English with roughly 10% in other languages. There will be some translation available and the Worldcon has received a government grant for this, but what it does mean is that there is genuine meaning for the 'world' in 'Worldcon'. Regarding the programme itself, by the time you read this it is likely that they will have a programme suggestion form on-line on their website. Meanwhile, though the registration rates have just gone up, as is usual they are still low prior to the further, increased registration rates to come.

Future Worldcon bids. Worldcons are chosen two years in advance.  In addition to the news below, links to all Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.

The 2018 Worldcon has two US bids. The two bids are for New Orleans and San Jose.

The 2019 Worldcon bid for Dublin announcement we covered last spring.  The Dublin bid team have now negotiated a sliding deal with the convention centre venue in which the amount of space they will secure from the venue will vary depending on how pre-event registration goes, hence the likely numbers attending.  The bid team are now turning their attention to hotels. Here, there are a few new hotels being planned or are under renovation that will be available to the Dublin Worldcon in 2019 should it win the bid. The bid is currently unopposed and is likely to remain so as long as the bid team continue to satisfactorily progress.  Meanwhile, here is a link to a short visitors guide to the Dublin.  +++ See also Dublin and the 2019 Eurocon below.

The 2020 Worldcon bid for New Zealand has no new news since our report last season.  The bid team are focussing on securing a venue for a good price. The problem remains (as with a number of countries including Britain) that NZ has no single venue of the size that can accommodate a Worldcon.  However, if  the bid does proceed (and it is currently unopposed) then New Zealand is a wonderful place to visit and so a number of fans may well add on tourist activities before and/or after any Worldcon.

Other Worldcon bids include:-
          Boston (US) in 2021
          Dallas (US) in 2021
          Chicago (US ) and Doha (Qatar) in 2022
          France in 2023 (we previously reported last season)

Britain is considering a 2024 Worldcon bid. Several interested parties were discussing the idea at this year's Novacon (Britain's second longest-running, extant convention series). The parties are reaching out to Britain's (and indeed Europe's) various fandom communities and a plug has been given by Starburst magazine.  The idea is to build on the 2014 Worldcon – Loncon 3 – success.  The group, started by James Bacon, Emma England, Esther MacCallum-Stewart and Vanessa May, is now actively seeking and welcoming people to join and widen the discussion. The group is growing rapidly. Experienced fans who have worked on Worldcons, Eurocons and national conventions are already joining. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to bring fandoms together and build upon the great work done at Loncon 3. Those already part of the group encourage everyone interested - no matter their experience, location or fandom - to become part of the discussion group. If you are interested, please e-mail:  FutureUKworldcons[-at-]googlegroups[-dot-]com.

Australia is bidding for the 2025 Worldcon with a venue in Perth.

 

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

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

 

Meanwhile over in Europe… News of this year's Eurocon event plus the promise of further two good Eurocons

The 2016 Eurocon is to be in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona with its 1·7 million residents attracts 7·5 million tourists each year and as such is Europe's third most popular tourist destination. Do not be worried if you do not speak Spanish: the programme items will be divided between both English (one of the four official Eurocon languages) and Spanish. So if you want to experience a non-British Isles Eurocon this will be a good one for you with which to test the water.
          Further to its 2nd Progress Report (previously covered here), Progress Report 3 is now out.
          The important news first, the convention may well limit memberships to 800. This is sensible. The committee know the facilities they are to use and it is important that the main hall for things like the opening and closing ceremonies be able to seat between three-quarters and two-fifths of the membership, and that the other programme halls together cater to a similar proportion. (This was a problem that the 2014 London Worldcon ran into albeit through no fault of their own: Britain does not have a decent conference centre with break out rooms that can cater for the 6,000 or so needed for a convention with 8,000 attendees.)  For these big events the Barcelona Eurocon will use the Centre for Contemporary Culture (CCCB) just three blocks away from Plaça de Catalunya. Anyway, with the Barcelona Eurocon numbers likely to be limited we urge those fans outside of Spain to consider registering soon.  Barcelona is a great city and the Eurocon organising team is well connected within the European and Spanish SF communities, so this Eurocon should be one well worth attending.
          Since Progress Report #No. 2 the Barcelona Eurocon committee have added two more Guests of Honour, Spain’s Rosa Montero, and games designer Rhianna Pratchett, bringing their tally of guests to 8. However, as is usual with Eurocons a number of other authors will be present as well as a few publishers. There will also be a number of people from key European SF websites (and, not that it matters unduly, four or five SF2 Concatenation contributors) as well as representatives from the forthcoming seated European Worldcon as well as the only current European bid for a future Worldcon.  Barcelona will be the place to be to meet people.
          Progress Report 3 also contains hotel information. Three great hotels have been identified all within a few blocks of the venue for the main events (such as the aforementioned opening and closing ceremonies).  The 4 star Hotel Catalonia Ramblas will also see quite a few of the programme items as well as the pre-convention foreigner gathering the night before the convention. The rates are € 110 (around £82 or US$124) a night double room for single use and € 121 (around £91 or US$139) for double use. These prices include breakfast and VAT. Double room for two people.  One of the two 4 star overflows is a little more expensive and the other cheaper.  They way they do things in Spain is a little different from most British conventions where you simply register your intent to attend with the hotel and if you don't turn up by midday or soon after you lose your registration. In Spain you will have to provide both your passport name and passport number as well as a credit card number (not having the latter will be a little problematic but the convention may perhaps be able to guide you). The hotel will note your passport number and credit card after which they will confirm your registration. Of course, if the hotel is full they should let you know straight away, so if you do not hear from them within a few days then this is one of those occasions where no news is good news.  With regards to small print, should your year's plans fail to pan out, you will be free to cancel your hotel booking up to the end of March 2016 at zero cost, after which the hotel will charge a cancelation fee starting at 50% of the first night only up to the end of May (2016), after which this cancellation fee will increase in increments. (Details in PR3 at www.eurocon2016.org.)
          All the hotels are a couple of blocks from the Plaça de Catalunya, which is where the aero-bus shuttle from the airport terminates. (There's one of these every 10 minutes and the journey of around eight miles takes around half an hour with air-con and free wi-fi.) In short, within an hour of passing through Barcelona's airport arrivals, you should be at your hotel.
          Aside from all the SF reasons as to why you may want to consider the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona as your foreign convention of the year, Barcelona is the third most tourist-visited city in Europe.  Now, as Europeans ourselves, it is not for us to extol the virtues of this marvellous city, so check out this non-European-made short tourist video on Barcelona.

The 2017 Eurocon will be in Dortmund, Germany as we reported last season.  Further details are expected by our next seasonal edition.

France remains the sole bid for the 2018 Eurocon. This is a strong bid with many positive aspects to it as we reported last time. We expect more details to emerge in the run up to the 2016 Eurocon, Barcelona at which the site selection vote for 2018 will take place.

The 2019 Eurocon is now open to a range of bids. In the past, due to the 1995 and 2005 British Worldcons also being a Eurocon, there has been an expectation that European Worldcons might also be a joint Eurocon. There have been exceptions. In 2011 the then bid for what was to become the 2014 Worldcon in London helpfully made an announcement on their website that they would not seek to be a Eurocon and would work with the European SF community. This freed others to bid for 2014 and so Dublin, Ireland, became the 2014 Eurocon.  This brings us up to the present.
          Currently, as most of you know, Dublin is now bidding to be the 2019 Worldcon; indeed, it is currently the sole Worldcon bid for that year.   We have now heard from a Dublin Worldcon bid representative that the Dublin Worldcon bid does "not intend to combine [its] Worldcon bid with a bid to be the Eurocon in 2019". Also adding that "The previous UK Worldcon in 2014 worked closely in support and partnership with the Eurocon that year and we aspire to likewise work with the Eurocon in 2019."
          This statement is most helpful and timely if some European nations wish to consider placing, and to the groundwork to prepare, a marker for the 2019 Eurocon at this year's Eurocon before the site selection vote next year. Indeed, this notification is sufficiently early that it might encourage more than one bid as there are different possibilities each with their own distinct Eurocon advantages. Not least among others these include:-
          – A mainland continental Eurocon bid for earlier (before August) in 2019. This would enable the European community to interact with the Dublin Worldcon team (presuming it wins) for programme, party and other participation at the Dublin Worldcon, and for Dublin to attract participants and firm up European programme and other ideas.
          – A British Isles joint Eurocon Eastercon for much the same reasons. (And here a tried and tested Heathrow venue would seem particularly conducive to international participation.)
          – Finally, a British Isles post-Worldcon relaxacon Eurocon pretty much as Dublin provided the weekend after the 2014 Worldcon in London. (And here a tried and tested Heathrow venue would seem particularly conducive to international participation.)
          Whatever the various conrunning groups within Europe's nations decide, it is hoped that Dublin's clarification of their 2019 intentions will encourage Eurocon bids for that year. It would be great to have some choice and end up with a strong Eurocon for 2019.

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.

 

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Spring 2016

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

Star Trek fan film group Axanar is being sued by Paramount. Paramount Pictures and CBS are suing Axanar Productions for copyright infringement. Axanar are the makers of the Star Trek fan film, Star Trek: Axanar. A short teaser film 'Prelude to Axanar' is already on YouTube. The fan film has professional standards and the makers have apparently previously undertaken Star Trek fan ventures with Paramount approval.  Fans have been integral to keeping Star Trek alive ever since the original show was cancelled, and many staff working at Paramount recognise this, which is why Axanar are disappointed that Paramount simply did not discuss the issue with Axanar first before resorting to legislation. Indeed, one does wonder whether Paramount appreciate the promotional benefit in such fan ventures in keeping fans engaged with the franchise and that Paramount run the risk of alienating fans from the studio as this action will foster a them-and-us relationship.  +++ See also The Big Bang Theory being sued, see the Television subsection above.

Fox News contributor receives death threats from Star Wars fans. Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf began receiving death threats from fans after, among other things, she said on air, "I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space-nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now." That prompted the threats. The next day she said that: "all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive — people threatened my life." She added: "Obviously, the totally insane whackjobs who have been attacking me don’t represent most Star Wars fans." Too true. (And Fox News doesn't represent most television journalism.)

 

For a list of current national and major conventions and their web links check out our convention diary.

 

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Spring 2016

NET WATCH

Pottormore, the website that markets J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, has been re-vamped. Having been established in 2012, it has now been up a few years and the online world has moved on, as has Harry Potter now that the last of the original films has come out. When the site was originally set up, things like the i-Pad did not exist and nor was there such extensive use of smartphones: Pottormore was very much a desktop and lap top experience. Other changes will include a change from introducing new readers to the Harry Potter books to facilitating existing readers explore more of the Harry Potter universe. The revamp comes in anticipation of this year’s launch of the first of three spin-off films: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Pottermore employs 35 staff. It has had notoriety in the trade for refusing to accept Amazon’s dictatorial discount terms.

The Old Timey Hedgehog short fiction website has reportedly received vitriolic hate correspondence from one of its prospective contributors. John Skylar, who is on the editorial staff of the Old Timey Hedgehog short fiction website has reported the correspondence on his blog (www.johnskylar.com).  It seems that a short story was contracted from Robin Wyatt Dunn but the editors wanted an explanation as to why some controversial imagery (namely a Etruscan Swastika, as later used by the Nazis) was included in the story as the editors felt that they may be questioned on this point by some of their site’s visitors.  In case an explanation was not forthcoming, they also offered Robin Wyatt Dunn two other alternatives: either to have the story edited to remove this imagery, or for Robin Wyatt Dunn to return the US$25 he had been paid in advance for him to seek publication elsewhere. This correspondence – it is reported in detail but is so offensive that we will not reproduce it here – it largely consisted of a tirade of abuse including that of racial, religious and seχual nature.  Apparently, and this is conjecture, Robin Wyatt Dunn appears to feel that his artistic integrity has somehow been compromised by an understandable editorial request.

Dridex malware enables £20m (US$31m) be stolen from British citizens. Britain's National Crime Agency is working with the FBI to track down the thieves. The Dridex Trojan infected computers through a malicious Microsoft Office document (.docx [which is why you should get into the habit of using .doc earlier versions]), typically disguised as an invoice and emailed to victims. It would then monitor people entering their bank account details and send the information back to the thieves. With thousands of computers infected, they only needed to take a small amount from each bank account and soon they had millions. Britain's online-banking citizens are urged to check their bank accounts for any analogous small withdrawals.

Sony to pay US$8m (£5m) for its staff following ID theft by N. Korea. Back in 2014, hackers got into Sony computers in an attempt to halt the release of North Korean-focused comedy The Interview and in the process stole Sony staff personal details data. Employees affected by the cyber attack sued Sony in December last year, alleging the company failed to protect the personal information of its workforce. The ruling also calls for a further US$3.5m (£2.3m) for legal fees and for Sony to provide identity protection to former employees for two years.

Anonymous undertakes a further campaign against ISIS. The hacker, anarchist group 'Anonymous' has declared war on ISIS, the Islamic terror state following terrorist attacks on Paris. Anonymous, whose public face is that of a Guy Fawkes mask image taken from the Alan Moore graphic novel (which was further popularised by the film), claims to have taken down 20,000 IS-related Twitter accounts. Anonymous "declared war" on jihadist websites last year after an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine's offices in Paris.  However some wonder whether cyber attacking ISIS is the best plan. A few have left Anonymous to form the Ghost Security Group. Instead of cyber attacking ISIS sites and social media accounts, the Ghost Security Group monitor ISIS social media and infiltrate militant message boards to find information which they say they then pass along to the authorities. As Anonymous has a fractious relationship with the authorities, the break-away group is free to determine its own connections albeit through third parties such as independent security consultancies used by the authorities.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Europe's Network and Information Security directive gets initial draft approved. Banks, technology/internet firms (such as Amazon, Google, e-Bay) and critical service providers (electricity, gas, water etc) will have to report all cyber-breaches. The rules will also establish minimum standards of cybersecurity. The outline proposals, having been approved, now have to get detail and substance before going into law. The European Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) estimates that cyber attacks result in annual losses in the range of 260 billion to 340 billion euros. The directive will then need approval from the European Parliament next spring and national governments over the subsequent two years.

Some 2,000 Vodaphone users have had their details hacked. The company said 1,827 customers had their accounts accessed, with criminals potentially gaining their names and some bank details.

The new Blackberry Priv smartphone may be Blackberry’s last if it does not capture public’s imagination. Barely a decade ago, Blackberry arguably kicked off the smartphone revolution. Today though, without the huge app store such as Apple, or big screens, it is seen as a boring business phone and has less than 1% of the global smartphone market share. The new Priv Blackberry has al the privacy and confidentiality of Blackberry but also has a big touch screen as well as a slide-out keyboard which also doubles as a trackpad. And, as the Priv is an Android device, it means all the popular apps will be available. The cost of Blackberry Priv is competitive with new iPhones and other top-end Android phones at £580 (and US$700 other side of Pond). If Blackberry priv does not take off then it may possibly be Blackberry’s last smartphone as Blackberry currently only gets 10% of its revenue from smartphone sales. On the other hand with an estimated £2 billion in reserves in the bank, Blackberry has enough wriggle room for at least another try or two.

Glitches in the Arkham Knight video game via the Steam gaming service necessitate refunds. Batman: Arkham Knight was released in the summer, and the PC version was pulled soon after because technical faults made it unplayable for many people. The problems arose because the game was originally made for consoles and later ported to run on PCs. Apparently, depending on the player’s PC, they cannot be fixed hence the necessary refunds.

Yahoo has stopped its e-mail account holders from accessing their e-mail if they use ad-blockers. Some users in the US reported that Yahoo Mail was displaying a message asking them to disable their ad-blocker before they could access their inbox. Yahoo says it was testing a 'new product experience' in the US.  Getting rid of adverts is obviously getting rid of a nuisance but also disabling advertisements can improve smartphone battery life and reduce mobile data usage. Finally, Yahoo adverts have been implicated in malware distribution and last season we reported Yahoo customers details being hacked.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
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Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
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Spring 2016

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

Leap second decision delayed again. We covered this story back in 2006 (check that out for the details) following yet another meeting no decision has been reached. China, the US and some European nations want to scrap leap seconds that necessitate changing atomic clocks by a second every couple of years: this means it would take several thousand year for a one-hour deviation. However other nations, including Britain and Russia, want to keep leap seconds for GPS navigational and astronomical science reasons. The decision has now been deferred to 2023 when it is hoped more information as to the costs and benefits of either option will be known.  But a decision has been made to move to convert Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to an SI unit (International System of Units) probably in 2018. The international treaty that defines UTC expires in 2023.

Ultra-hard glass developed. Japanese researchers have developed a glass with alumina (an aluminium oxide). It has a Young’s Modulus (stress divided by strain) of 158.3 GP which is the same as some metals and getting on for the value of steel. Its Vickers hardness is also up there with the toughest of glass at 9.1 GPa. It is also transparent to lower energy ultraviolet and near infra red. (See Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 15233 (2015) doi:10.1038/srep15233.)

Britain’s Skylon, the rocket/jet hybrid, gets new lease of life. British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) is paying £20.6m for a 20% stake in Reaction Engines, which is developing a hybrid rocket/jet engine called Sabre which it will used in the proposed Skylon plane. The firm hopes to have a ground-based test engine working by the end of this decade and begin unmanned test flights by 2025.

Europe's failed satellites to be re-purposed to check Einstein time dilation. Europe has been building satellites as part of its own Galileo navigation/geo-positioning system. However two satellites ESA were mis-launched by Russia's Soyuz rocket last year and so, instead of going into a nice circular orbit about the Earth, they went into a highly elliptical orbit. This makes them useless for geo-positioning.  However, the satellites have atomic clocks onboard. It has therefore been deciced to use these to test Einstein's relativity which predicts that time should slow near heavy masses (such as the planet Earth).  Now, such an experiment has been done before ands in 1976 NASA launched Gravity Probe A but that only remained in orbit for two hours. Conversely, the two European Space agency (ESA) satellites will enable a far longer test and they plan to run an experiment for a year. Furthermore, because their orbits are highly elliptical, they can test time dilation at a range of distances from the Earth. ESA expects their results to be four times more accurate than those from Gravity A and so will test Einstein's predictions to within an error of just 0·004%.  Meanwhile, in 2017ESA experiment onboard the International Space Station – the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES) will test time dilation with an error of just 0·0002%.

LISA Pathfinder launched – Gravity waves to hopefully be detected and Newton's gravitational constant (or Big 'G') to be determined by European Space agency (ESA).  LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder was launched by ESA in December (2015).  Gravity waves are predicted by relativity to be generated when two (heavy) bodies orbit one another. However so far Earth-bound efforts to detect them have failed. A gravity wave passing through two points should slightly affect the space-time curvature hence the perceived distance between the two points. The effect is sleight. LISA Pathfinder will therefore go to a flat area of space-time at the L-1 Lagrange point between Earth and Sun. Their the probe will 'hover' around two internal, heavy metal cubes that has a laser interferometer between them measuring distance. This experiment should take about a year.
          Meanwhile, the exact value of Big 'G' is disputed. The strength of the force of gravity between two bodies is proportional to the sum of the two bodies' mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the two bodies. That is to say, the larger the bodies the stronger the force of gravity, and the further away the bodies are the weaker the force.  Here, the constant of proportionality is the gravitational constant (or Big 'G'). Alas we do not have a precise value for this, and it has never been measured in flat space-time.

Russia turns back on international science. In May, President Vladimir Putin used a security decree (originally intended to protect military and security related secrets) to include science that can be used to develop ‘new products’. This was part of a restriction on news coverage of deaths of Russian soldiers in the Ukraine war. The rules have been interpreted by bureaucrats to apply to Russian scientists submitting papers to international publications or participating in foreign symposia. Scientists wishing to do so must seek permission from a branch of the FSB that covers university matters.  +++ This follows last season’s news concerning Russia's first private science funding body closing having been finedfor being a 'foreign agent'.  +++ STOP PRESS: Russia's plans to build a Moon base have been put on hold. The Roscosmos Agency's Moon mission budget is being cut by some 20% (88.5 billion roubles [£800 million, US$1.2 billion]).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
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Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
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Spring 2016

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

Geological evidence has been found for an ancient lake on Mars. Since 2012, the Curiosity rover has been studying rocky outcrops on Mars, looking for clues about past water, climate, and habitability. Now, an analysis of a huge section of sedimentary rocks near Gale crater, where Mount Sharp now stands The features within these sediments are reminiscent of delta, stream, and lake deposits on Earth. Although individual lakes were probably transient, it is likely that there was enough water to fill in low-lying depressions such as impact craters for up to 10,000 years and for there to be a common water table. The lake deposits found are erosional remnants of superimposed depositional sequences that once extended at least 75 m, and perhaps several hundreds of meters, above the current elevation of the crater floor. Wind-driven erosion then removed many of these deposits, creating Mount Sharp but leaving behind sediments that tell this story. (Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7575)

The ExoMars preferred landing site has been announced. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia's space agency (Roscosmos) aim to launch ExoMars in 2018 for a 2019 Mars touchdown. The mission is to look for evidence of life and their preferred landing site is Oxia Planum, a large, clay-rich plain. (Having clay suggests that there was once water.) The decision will be confirmed in 2017/8.  This is the lander mission as part of a series of missions as part of ESA's ExoMars programme.  The first mission, the 3.7-tonne Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), will involve placing a satellite in Martian orbit to study trace gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere and will launch in March (2016). The TGO will have a stereo camera, so expect some great pictures (some of which might well influence future science fiction film imagery).  The second mission, Schiaparelli is the entry, the 600kg descent and landing demonstrator, will be a Meridiani plain lander to test some of the technologies for the 2019 Oxia Planum lander.  Russia came aboard ExoMars when the US's NASA dropped it as one of its priority missions. Russia is providing some of the science instruments as well as the Proton rocket to get ExoMars to the Red Planet.

Halloween asteroid skirts Earth-Moon system. On 31st October (2015), asteroid 2015 TB145 tumbled past the Earth at a 0.0032 AU, or 1.3 lunar distances (297,000 miles or 479,000 km). This was the closest object to flyby Earth of this size since 2006 when NEO 2004 XP14 flew past at 1.1 lunar distances. The object measured about 920 to 2,034 feet (280 to 620 metres) in diameter, or about the size of a skyscraper. It flew past at 35 km/s (78,830 mph or 12,600 km/h) which is high but then its orbit took it close to, and around the Sun within the orbit of Mercury. After the Halloween flyby, no object of this size will come as close again until August 2027 when NEO 1999 AN10 will approach within 1.0 lunar distance.

Earth's fate glimpsed. Analysis of data from the Kepler space observatory and ground-based telescopes has led to the detection of one, and possibly several, minor planets that are in a state of disintegration in orbit around a white dwarf star. The vast majority of exoplanets discovered up to now orbit main-sequence stars, which, like our Sun, are in the lengthy, middle age, adulthood stage of their life. Conversely, white dwarves are the final stage of many main sequence stars and follows the old-age, red giant, stage. So in billions of years time the Sun will expand and become a red-giant that will engulf the inner planets Mercury and Venus. Whether the Earth will also be swallowed is still a matter of debate; however, even if the Earth survives, its surface will be baked. The Sun will then lose much of its original mass and become a white dwarf. The new observations are of the white dwarf star WD 1145+017 (also designated EPIC 201563164). A possible explanation of the unusual transit events seen is one or several minor planets in orbit around WD 1145+017 that are losing material into space as they break into pieces. The evaporated material is expelled in a wind, forming a cloud of molecules that condenses behind the disintegrating body in the shape of a cometary tail. This could well be the kind of fate in store for the Earth billions of years in the future. (See Nature(2015) vol. 526, p546–549 and a review piece B>vol. 526, p515-6.).  +++ In 2012 we reported two planets observed surviving a star's red giant phase but had lost their atmospheres.

 

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Spring 2016

NATURAL SCIENCE

Earliest pre-hominid discovered. The fossil record of human evolution after we diverged from apes is rich, but much less is known about the evolutionary history of modern apes.  The Hominidae include, apes chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang-utans and humans. They (hominoids) split off from the Catarrhina (catarrhines – which include Old World monkeys).  This split took place sometime within the Miocene (a geological epoch between 5.3 million years ago and 23 mya).  Now a team of Spanish anthropologists have looked at small-bodied anthropoid primates from Africa and Eurasia are generally considered to precede the divergence between the two groups of extant catarrhines. They have examined a small-bodied (4 to 5 kilograms) primate, Pliobates cataloniae from the Iberian Miocene (11.6 million years ago) that displays a mosaic of primitive characteristics coupled with multiple cranial and postcranial shared derived features of extant hominoids.  Their analysis analyses suggest that Pliobates is actually a stem hominoid.  This means that biologists will need to re-evaluate the role played by small-bodied catarrhines in ape evolution and the work provides key insight into the last common ancestor of hylobatids (gibbons) and hominids (great apes and humans). (See Science vol. 350, DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2625.) +++ SF² Concatenation comment: This means that the evolutionary split may well have taken place around the time when East Antarctica was first accumulating ice as the Earth cooled, to what eventually ended up being into our current (Quaternary) ice age, but before West Antarctica acquired much ice.

A prehistoric genome that was hoped to provide a pristine (pre-modern) genome yielded a surprise: a prehistoric (Neolithic) backflow from Europe and Asia to Africa! An international team of geneticists, led by Britain's University of Cambridge, have sequenced the first prehistoric (Mesolithic) genome from Africa: that of Mota, a hunter-gatherer man who lived 4,500 years ago in the highlands of Ethiopia. It had been hoped that the genome would provide a benchmark for the African prehistoric genome before modern times and the gene mixing that took place with post-industrial revolution travel. However, the genome revealed a surprise: there were genes usually associated with prehistoric Europeans who themselves had left Africa 9,500 years ago in Neolithic times. In short, there must have been a backflow from prehistoric Europe into Africa. The genome suggests a major migration back into Africa by farmers from the Middle East. (Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2879)

First whole-genome data from prehistoric Irish individuals shows genetic links to cultural change. Work by researchers from the Republic of and Northern Ireland on the remains of a Neolithic woman (3343–3020 BC), and three Bronze Age individuals from Rathlin Island (2026–1534 cal BC), compared with the genomes of modern British Isles and mainland Europeans, reveals two waves of (Celt) migration from the Eurasian steppes to the British Isles with cultural change accompanied by the arrival of agriculture (~3750 BC) followed by the onset of (bronze) metallurgy (~2300 BC). There is greater genetic commonality with the Scottish and Irish who also have Celt origins and less with the English: the Briton Celt (not to be confused with the modern term British) genetic population being diluted by subsequent immigrations many centuries later such as by the Romans, Angles and French. (See PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1518445113.)

Humans have lived with the Black Death for millennia, genomic study of Bubonic Plague reveals. An international team has looked at the genomes of Yersinia pestis (the bacterium that causes bubonic plague) from teeth samples from European archaeological sites dating back up to two and a half thousand years. By comparing the genes, looking for gene mutations, they could deduce molecular clocks and infer earlier evolution. Their conclusions were that the plague-causing bacteria infected humans in Bronze Age Eurasia, three millennia earlier than any historical records of plague, but only acquired the genetic changes making it a highly virulent, flea-borne bubonic strain 3,000 years ago early in the Bronze Age. Yersinia pestis was common across Eurasia in the Bronze Age. The most recent common ancestor of all Y. pestis was 5,783 years ago. The ymt gene was acquired before 951 cal BC, giving rise to transmission via  fleas but that Bronze Age Y. pestis was not capable of causing bubonic plague but would still have had a discernable impact on early populations. (See Rasmussen et al, (2015) Cell vol. 163, p571–582.)

Humans reached South America between 14,500 and 18,500 years ago. A research team largely based in Chile have discovered signs of human activity in the Monte Verde area of Chile dating from between 14,500 and 18,500 years ago.  In recent years, there has been an emerging consensus that people arrived in North America at or before 15,000 years ago with pre-Clovis culture in Texas discovered in Texas 15,000 years ago. It is also known that the Clovis culture reached South America ~13,000 years ago.  Meanwhile genome analysis reveals that humans were in Siberia 24,000 years ago, the last Eurasian point before entry to the Americas across an end glacial (ice age) land bridge to Alaska.  The emerging view from this and other recent evidence is that humans arrived in the Americas probably sometime between 20,000 and 15,000 years ago. (See Dillehay et al (2015) New Archaeological Evidence for an Early Human Presence at Monte Verde, Chile. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141923. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141923.)

Homosexuality may have an epigenetic component. A new study suggests that epigenetic effects – chemical modifications of the human genome that alter gene activity without changing the DNA sequence – may sometimes influence sexual orientation. Researchers studied methylation, the attachment of a methyl group to specific regions of DNA, in 37 pairs of male identical twins who were discordant – meaning that one was gay and the other straight – and 10 pairs who were both gay. Their search yielded five genome regions where the methylation pattern appears very closely linked to sexual orientation. A model that predicted sexual orientation based on these patterns was almost 70% accurate within this group of 37 pairs of twins although that predictive ability does not necessarily apply to the general population. What this means is that the 'switching on', or 'off' of genes through methylation, and not just the presence of genes, can affect sexual orientation. (Reported in Science vol. 350, p148.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Two new cases of ebola had prevented Guinea being declared ebola-free in the autumn. The two new cases reported on 16th October (2015) ended a two-week period in which no new cases had been reported in West Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not declare a region ebola-free until 42 days have passed without no new cases: once two 21-day incubation periods have passed. However, by the end of December WHO declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia throughout 2016.  +++ Last season we reported that the Pandemic had ended in Liberia. Among the victims of this W. African outbreak more than 100 health workers also lost their lives.

Totally antibiotic resistant bacteria arrive in Britain. Bacteria are killed by antibiotics but some bacteria are resistant to some antibiotics. However nearly all antibiotic resistant bacteria are susceptible to some antibiotics even if they are resistant to others.  Colistin is currently the antibiotic of last resort and used when all other anti-infective treatments have failed. However Colistin-resistant bacteria have been found in China. It had been thought that we might have three more years before Colistin-resistant reached Britain. Nonetheless, Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have been testing for it. Now Colistin-resistance has been discovered in fifteen samples of Salmonella and Escherichia Coli. Frighteningly, colistin has been used on farms: a sure-fire way to encourage resistance. And the Animal and Plant Health Agency has also discovered colistin-resistant bacteria on three pig farms. This means that it is only a matter of time before people start getting untreatable infections… +++ One of the SF2 Concatenation  team working in science policy was part of an initiative over a decade ago to highlight antibiotic resistant concerns to politicians.

The risks of altering the genetics of whole animal populations have been reduced by a new technique. Increasingly there is interest in altering the genetics of whole populations of animals so as, for example, reduce their propensity to carry disease. One way to do this is to is the new CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system inserting it, along with the change to be made, into animals in the wild in a process called a 'gene drive'. However, this could cause ecological damage and so a way is needed to control them. A new control is to use guide RNA's separate to Cas-9 and only if both were present would the system continue to work and a second gene drive can be used to target the first one. (See Nature Biotechnology doi.org/89h (2015).)

Genes can change from being dominant to recessive in different sexes. The gender gap has just got wider thanks to work by Scandinavian and British researchers. Whether or not the gene VGLL3 is dominant or recessive depends on whether or not the individual is male or female, work on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) has revealed. The gene determines the age of maturity in salmon, and in salmon males mature faster. The gene is also found in humans to control adipose tissue associated with size and age at maturity (but no work has been done on its dominance and recessive nature in humans). +++ It is 25 years since the discovery of the sex-determination gene in mammals. See more anniversaries 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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

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.

 

Belt Three by Jon Ayliff, Voyager, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12646-7.
The crew of a ship flees an alien world only to be kidnapped and mind-wiped…

Walcot by Brian Aldiss, Voyager, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-48226-9.
The story of the 20th century told through the goings on of the Fielding family… Aldiss has an established reputation and has much appeal to SF litcrits.

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard, Fourth Estate, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-018-3491-1.
This is a reprint of the 1975 novel and comes out in time for the new feature film adaptation to the big screen.

Starbound by Dave Bara, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95642-4.
This is the second in ‘The Lightship Chronicles’ that follows on from Impulse. The Lightship Impulse is gone, sacrificed while defeating First Empire ships the fragile new galactic alliance hoped it would never see again. For Peter Cochrane, serving as third officer on the Starbound and tasked with investigating a mysterious space station in a newly rediscovered system, the wounds of battle may have healed, but the battle is far from over.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61981-4.
Widescreen space opera. A young clerk, seeking to escape something in her past, takes a job on a working ship that punches holes through space time to create wormhole gates. Then the crew get a rare opportunity to punch a tunnel from near the galactic core from which humans have previously been excluded… This is a debut novel, rather well written, that – a little surprising for a non-British author – does wide-screen space opera rather well focussing in the camaraderie of the crew. This is the paperback edition of last year’s hardback and trade paperback, and is arguably one of the better debut novels of last year. Keep an eye on Chambers: given the dearth of quality space opera, if she keeps this up she could potentially end up having quite a career. Click on the title link for a review.

Armada by Ernst Cline, Arrow, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-58674-6.
Zack spots a UFO, like the ones he knows well from computer games. So he and other gamers find themselves saving the world from an alien onslaught.

Patience by Daniel Clowes, Jonathan Cape, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-910-70245-1.
Graphic novel. Jack Barlow returns to find Patience, his pregnant girlfriend murdered in 2012. By 2029 he time travels back to track her killer.

The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan, Harper Voyager, £13.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12074-0.
The people of the Overland have used an omnipotent machine to choose their leaders for some ten millennia…. But there is a prophecy that predicts that it will malfunction in its 10,000th year….!

Nova by Samuel R. Delany, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21191-9.
This novel won the Hugo Award in 1969. Space opera set in the 31st century. Released as part of Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series.

The Stars Askew by Rjurik Davidson, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25242-9.
With the seditionists in power, Caeli-Amur has begun a new age. Or has it? The escaped House officials no longer send food, and the city is starving. When the moderate leader, Aceline, is murdered, the trail leads the philosopher assassin Kata to a mysterious book that explains how to control the fabled Prism of Alerion. But when the last person to possess the book is found dead, it becomes clear that a conspiracy is afoot. At its centre is former House Officiate Armand, who has hidden the Prism. Armand is vying for control of the Directorate, the highest political position in the city, until he is betrayed and sent to a prison camp to mine deadly bloodstone. Meanwhile, seditionist Maximilian is sharing his mind with another being: the joker god Aya. Aya leads Max to the realm of the Elo-Talern to seek a power source to remove Aya from Max's brain. But when Max and Aya return, they find the vigilantes destroying the last remnants of House power.

Tin Men by Christopher Golden, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20966-5.
In a troubled near-future, elite soldiers inhabit robot frames. But an electromagnetic pulse traps Danny in his…  Apparently Warner Brothers have acquired the film rights.

Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28439-0.
Reprint of his 1997 novel. Click on title link for a standalone review. It is 2040 and, after decades of research, the gift of eternal youth has finally been mastered. Even better, seventy-eight-year-old, internationally-renowned inventor Jeff Baker is going to be the recipient of it. At first, rejuvenation feels like a miracle. Until the glow starts to fade, and Jeff becomes increasingly aware that great gifts come with even greater costs… Set in our near-future, over three hundred years before Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, Misspent Youth is an introduction to the world of the Commonwealth Saga.

Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28599-1.
Reprint.  Born in a colony world in 2310, Lawrence Newton hankered after the golden era of starships exploring the galaxy. But the age of human starflight was drawing to a close, so this hot-headed teenager ran away from home in search of adventure. Twenty years later, he's the sergeant of a washed-out platoon taking part in the bungled invasion of another world. The giant corporations call such campaigns 'asset realization', but in practice it's simple piracy. While he's on the ground, being shot at and firebombed by local resistance forces, Lawrence hears stories about the Temple of the Fallen Dragon - and a sect devoted to the worship of a mythical creature that fell to the ground millennia ago. More importantly, its priests are said to guard a hoard of treasure large enough to buy lifelong happiness - which information prompts him to mount a private-enterprise operation of his own… And this novel is of typical Hamilton size at some 700 pages.

Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66455-5.
No oxygen, no life. Scientists have been warning for decades that we are poisoning the Earth. Now their prophecy is coming true. The oceans have become polluted, destroying a crucial link in the planet’s life-support system. While corrupt superpowers plot to secure the last remaining clean air for the privileged few, one team of maverick scientists from across the globe are the planet’s only hope.

The Capture by Tom Isbell, Harper Voyager, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-52822-6.
The second in a juvenile SF series. Set in a dystopian future, orphaned teens are hunted for sport…

The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sëx Machine by Krissy Keen, Text Publishing Company, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-922-07938-1.

Roboteer by Alex Lamb, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20609-0.
Widescreen space opera. In the far future humanity has fractured. On Earth and most of the colonies, the Prophet rules a theocracy that holds the people together. But the Prophet is getting old. On some of the colony worlds humans have genetically tweaked themselves for enhanced performance, a gross sin according to Earth's religion. But the Prophet's own scientists have discovered alien technology. The only trouble is is that humans are meant to be God's children and intelligent aliens should not exist…  This debut novel is packed with a wide range of tropes and should appeal to fans of Gary Gibson's space operas and might be considered as Alastair Reynolds light. The writing and the story both become more sure-footed as the novel progresses but most readers of light wide-screen space opera will be hooked by a third of the way in. Lamb does not seem to have a core science background (though does code software) and he is N. American, both somewhat rarities in good quality early 21st century widescreen space opera. It will be interesting to see where his new SF writing career takes him (see immediately below). Meanwhile click on the title link for a standalone review of Roboteer.

Nemesis by Alex Lamb, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20611-3.
This follows on (same universe) from Roboteer above. Years ago, one starship and its crew discovered an alien entity which changed everything. Its discovery finally brought an end to the interstellar war being fought between the masses of humanity and the few pockets of genetically engineered colonists. An uneasy peace was negotiated as the human race realised there was something else sharing our universe. Something that had plans for us…

Unexpected Ruin by Jason Lapier, Voyager, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12071-9.
Set in a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star, Jax is falsely accused of mass murder… This is a debut novel.

The Grace Keepers by Kirsty Logan, Vintage, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-70013-3.
Set in a flooded world, those on a circus boat trade tricks for food. This is a debut novel and the early word is favourable.

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29042-9.
Sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds that Mark liked.  Space-opera-ish with something of a fantasy motif.

Good House by Peyton Marshall, Black Swan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-77943-2.
In a dystopian future, genetic analysis can reveal a person's character and whether or not they are likely to commit crime. Those whose genes condemn them are locked up from childhood in 'good house' campuses… This is a debut novel and will appeal to both juvenile and adult readers.

Something Coming Through by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20395-2.
The aliens came and gave us a pass to other worlds littered with the remains of other cultures the aliens had previously 'helped'. On one of these worlds a body turns up and it looks like the murderer had come from Earth…  This is the first mass market paperback release of this novel. Jonathan liked the hardback – see the title link. (See also below book.)

Into Everywhere by Paul McAuley, Gollancz £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20398-5.
This is the next novel that we think follows on from Something Coming Through (see above). The Jackaroo gave humanity access to alien worlds and technologies, yet we still know nothing about them. As humanity spreads wider into the universe, will we discover what secrets they are hiding? And will we discover if the aliens really are here to help us?  Recommended.

Thunderbird by Jack McDevitt, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-472-23432-2.
The lightweight space opera stories of McDevitt are invariably reasonably good, quick reads and it is hard not to become a little addicted to them. Here a stargate is found on Earth that leads to just three destinations: a deserted paradise world, a deserted space station just outside (our?) galaxy, and a subterranean network of corridors.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-05426-5.
The publisher promo goes like this: "Snake travels the land with her serpents, the rattlesnake Sand, the cobra Mist and the rare alien dreamsnake called Grass, whose bite can ease the fear and pain of death. But the blasted landscape of a far-future post-holocaust Earth is a dangerous place, even for such a highly regarded elite healer… especially when an unexpected death sends her on a desperate quest to reclaim her healing powers."
          Conversely our promo goes like this: "A very welcome reprint of a 1978 classic. Linked to her healer snake through genetic imprinting, the female protagonist struggles through a destructively superstitious post-holocaust world. When her snake is lost amid the primitive desolation, she must search for a replacement. McIntyre, a geneticist, began Dreamsnake as a short story in 1973, 'Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,' which won a Nebula, and the city in the latter stages of the novel featured in her first book, The Exile Waiting (1975). In 1979 Dreamsnake won McIntyre another Nebula, as well as a Hugo for Best Novel, and came top of the annual Locus readers' poll.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-59313-2.
In a war-torn and ravaged world The Vagrant is trying to reach the last bastion of humanity to deliver a weapon which might just defeat the usurper…  This is the author's debut novel.

Box Nine by Jack O’Connell, No Exit Press, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-843-44647-7.
A factory town is taken over by those using the factory’s product. The product is a super-smart drug called ‘Lingo’ but chronic users become prone to murderous rages.

S.N.U.F.F. by Victor Pelevin, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21304-3.
Post-apocalyptic world in which a man makes Special Newsreel Universal Feature Films of newsworthy events.

Dirty in Cashmere by Peter Plate, Seven Stories Press, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-609-80617-0.
Set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, a man emerges from a coma with the ability to see into the future…

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, Transworld, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52178-1.
This is not out until June (so should be in next season's forthcoming books) but we thought that you'd like an early heads up on this one. This follows on from The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars and The Long Utopia.  Completed by the authors some eighteen months before Terry Pratchett's untimely death The Long Cosmos the grand climax of the 'Long Earth' series. Terry had always wanted to explore the question ‘what’s it all for?’ - and in this novel, we find an answer… 2070-71.N early six decades after Step Day and in the Long Earth, the new Next post-human society continues to evolve. For Joshua Valienté, now in his late sixties, it is time to take one last solo journey into the High Meggers: an adventure that turns into a disaster. Alone and facing death, his only hope of salvation lies with a group of trolls. But as Joshua confronts his mortality, the Long Earth receives a signal from the stars. A signal that is picked up by radio astronomers but also in more abstract ways – by the trolls and by the Great Traversers. Its message is simple but its implications are enormous: 'JOIN US'.  The super-smart Next realise that the Message contains instructions on how to develop an immense artificial intelligence but to build it they have to seek help from throughout the industrious worlds of mankind. Bit by bit, byte by byte, they assemble a computer the size of a continent – a device that will alter the Long Earth’s place within the cosmos and reveal the ultimate, life-affirming goal of those who sent the Message. Its impact will be felt by and resonate with all – mankind and other species, young and old, communities and individuals – who inhabit the Long Earths…

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly, Orion, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-409-15558-4.
The Chinese have discovered that dragons really do exist and they are going to show them to the world.

Monté by Robert Repino, Soho Press, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-616-95621-9.
This is billed as being Disney's Homeward Bound meets A Canticle for Leibowitz. A cat war hero, in a universe run by ant overlords, searches for his long lost dog friend Sheba. Sounds intriguing. Could this do well?

The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, Orion, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21018-9.
This is loose sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's 'A Meeting With Medusa' has been much publicised and the trade (rightly) expects it to acquire a strong reader base.  Following an accident that almost cost him his life, Howard Falcon was not so much saved as he was converted, through the use of prosthetics, into something faster, stronger and smarter. And with this change came an opportunity. That of piloting a mission into Jupiter’s atmosphere, and ultimately of making first contact with the Jovian life-forms.

The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12772-2.
Two people are care-taking an Antarctic research station over the winter and pass the time discussing Kant and the love letter that one of them has received.

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollin, William Morrow, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-062-40950-8.
Military SF space opera and the 11th in the Sigma Force series that is selling reasonably well.

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson, Orion, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-575-10466-2.
The final in the 'Reckoner' series that has attracted a respectable following. When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying. Previous titles in the series have included Steelheart and Firefight.

Sunfail by Steven Savile, Akashik Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-617-75406-7.
How can Quinn and Sandra stay alive?

The Human Division by John Scalzi, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-29047-6.
Following the events of The Last Colony, the pressure is on - for the very unity of the human race is at stake. Lieutenant Harry Wilson has an impossible mission. He must help preserve the union of humanity's colonies, in the wake of a terrible revelation. For years the Colonial Union has protected its citizens from the dangerous universe around them. But the people of Earth now know the ugly truth. The Union deliberately kept Earth as an ignorant backwater - and as a source of recruits for its war against hostile aliens. Now, other alien races have formed a new alliance against the Union. And they've invited the incensed people of Earth to join them.

Nostrilia by Cordwainer Smith, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21253-4.
This is a reprint as part of Gollancz's rather useful SF Masterwork series (helps one plug the gaps in the book collection). Cordwainer Smith had a firm following among SF cognoscente of the 1960s and '70s. This is a 1975 novel. On the Australian colony planet of Nostrillia an immortality drug is discovered. This makes Nostrillia wealthy, but nobody except the Nostrillians themselves (and members of the Instrumality) are allowed to live beyond 400 years.

The Beauty of Destruction by Gavin G. Smith, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12721-0.
Past, present and future threaten humanity. Part three of a trilogy and it follows on from A Quantum Mythology. See also Allen's review of Smith's A Quantum Mythology

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21296-1.
Apparently this is a manhunt thriller. We don’t seem to have heard much from this author in recent years. She has a small following in certain SF litcrit circles; others less sure of her fiction, so check out previous books' reviews and decide for yourselves whether this is likely for you.  Teaser: A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to other dimensions. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world.

Stealing Into Winter by Graeme K. Talboys, Harper Voyager, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-008-12044-3.
In a post-apocalyptic world, a man agrees to guide monks and nuns home through the desert.

What Could Possible Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor, Accent Press, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-75839-5.
The 6th in the numerous time-travelling series about historians on field trips. The previous books are also being re-issued.

Arcadia by James Treadwell, Hodder Paperbacks, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-72859-0.
This is the third offering in the 'Advent' trilogy, that follows on from Anarchy, set on an archipelago where a handful of survivors cling to memories of a time before magic.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente, Corsair, £16.99, hrdbk. 978-1-472-11514-0.
This is billed as an alternate history, space opera mystery. The early trade word has it that this should sell reasonably well.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03274-5.
Things I will never forget: my name, my made-up birthday…The dark of the Hospital at night. My mother’s face, when she was young. Things other people will forget: where they come from, how old they are, the faces of the people they love. The right words for bowl and sunshine…What is a beginning and what is an end. Joy spends her days working the graveyard shift at a store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with silver blisters and memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune.

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21195-7.
Widescreen space opera reprinted as part of Gollancz's nifty SF Masterworks series. Also, the prequel will be reprinted in June. Set in a well-populated galaxy of the far future, two human children, Johanna and Jefri, become the key to defeating The Blight, a powerful force imprisoned by the older races who have gone to the Transcend. Using the intelligent races’ own galactic-scale ‘InterNet’ against them, The Blight is enslaving whole civilisations and seems utterly unstoppable. An alliance of species attempt to combat this ancient menace, but the galaxy seems doomed to enter a new Dark Age... A Fire Upon the Deep won the 1993 Hugo for Best Novel.

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21196-4.
Although billed as a ‘prequel’ to the 1994 Hugo Award-winning A Fire Upon the Deep (1993), this is in fact merely set in the same ‘universe’. The Qeng Ho trading fleet pick up radio transmissions from a planet thought uninhabited (since its On/Off sun is dim for 235 years and ‘alight’ for only 15 years at a time), and decide to go there to trade with whomever they find. However, the Emergents (an independent ‘hard’ technology alliance) have the same idea. Both expeditions arrive together and initially agree to co-operate to exploit the planet which appears deserted, although it has many traces of civilization. The inhabitants, known as Spiders, hibernate in underground ‘deepnesses’ during their sun’s dim phase and are only now awakening, but are in the midst of a war of their own… A Deepness in the Sky won the Best Novel Hugo in 2000.

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03264-6.
Edgar runs the length of post-apocalyptic Britain in search of his family. Edgar Hill is 35 and caught in his own headlock. Overweight slob, under-performing husband and reluctant father – for Ed, the world may as well have already ended. So when it does end in a catastrophic asteroid strike and Edgar and his family find refuge in an Edinburgh army barracks, it comes as something of a relief. But nothing's ever that simple. Returning from a salvage run in the city, Edgar finds his family gone, taken to the south coast for evacuation by an international task force. Suddenly he finds himself facing a gruelling journey on foot across a devastated United Kingdom. Edgar must race against time and overcome his own short-comings, not to mention 100 mile canyons and a heavily flooded west coast, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever...

Steeple by Jon Wallace, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11858-4.
Post-apocalyptic SFnal thriller which sees replicant Kestinbec help his human comrades find supposed treasure in a former, high-tech skyscraper. Surrounding the sky scrapper is a camp of nuclear-war-surviving humans following a religious leader. Inside, there is the unknown, but some people are known to live on the mid-floors but nobody has ever come out of the building alive… This is a cracking read. Click on the title link for Jonathan's review.

Rig by Jon Wallace, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11889-8.
The follow on to Steeple. A final mission for replicant Kenstibec – a quest to meet his maker and discover why we lost the world to war. Gung ho SFnal adventure.

Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Gollancz, £9.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21267-1.
This is a re-print as part of the very helpful Gollancz SF Masterwork series. It's a genuine classic. This one is particularly welcome as it is a hardback. Click on title link for standalone review.

 

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.

 

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Spring 2016

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10467-9.
A collection of short stories from the world of The First Law. A must-have for readers, this collection combines a mix of original and award-winning short stories collected together for the first time, including the Locus Award-winning ‘Tough Times All Over’. The brand-new shorts will feature some of the most popular characters from the First Law world, including Glokta, Jezal, Logen Ninefingers, Bethod and Monza Murcatto.

The Secrets of Time and Fate by Rebecca Alexander, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95326-3.
A blend of historical and contemporary supernatural thriller. 16th Century John Dee and Edward Kelley are once again on the trail of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, but how can they hope to stop a creature that cannot die? 21st Century Life and death are things Jackdaw Hammond knows more about than most, but the cost by which she clings to life has finally caught up with her. Possessed by the being known as Saraquel, Jack is losing herself day by day, living rough on the streets of London with long periods of lost time. Can magic set you free?

The Pagan Night by Tim Akers, Titan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29737-5.
From the author of The Horns of Ruin, this is the first in ‘The Hallowed War’ trilogy and set in a land split apart by its own gods.

All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-65055-0.
A witch and a scientist are reunited in a near-future San Francisco.

City of Light by Keri Arthur, Piatkus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40698-5.
Love across worlds. The first in a new fantasy romance series.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66958-1.
A return to the world of City of Stairs and a secret agent goes missing… Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death, or do they have plans of their own? A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death. Now the city’s god is dead and the city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is just a wasteland of sectarian violence. So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh – foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumoured war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister – has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten. At least, it makes the perfect cover story. The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world

2666 by Roberto Bolaño, Picador Classic, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28959-3.
Santa Teresa, on the Mexico-US border: an urban sprawl, a vortex for lost souls. Convicts and academics find themselves here, as does an American sportswriter, a teenage student with her widowed father, and a reclusive, 'missing' author. But there is a darker side to the town: girls and women are disappearing at an alarming rate and it is fast becoming the scene of a series of horrifying crimes. As 2666 progresses, the sense of conspiracy grows, and the shadow of the apocalypse is drawing closer.

The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel, Harper Voyager, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-13780-9.
A young officer and her lover are falsely accused of murdering their crewmate.

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston, Corsair, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-15065-3.
The third in ‘The Shadow Chronicles’.

The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome by Serge Brussolo, Melville House, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-612-19468-4.
Mediums dive into dreams to harvest ectoplasm…

Salomis by Christian Cameron, Orion, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-409-11813-8.
Climax to the 'Long War' series set in 480 BC.

The Masked City by Geneviere Cogman, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25625-0.

Saints Blood by Sebastien de Castell, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-78-206680-4.
How do you kill a saint? Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they’ve started with a friend. The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors – a move that could turn the country into a theocracy.

Judged by Liz de Jager, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-24770-8.
The conclusion to the juvenile fiction urban fantasy trilogy, 'The Blackhart Legacy'.  Kit's job description includes solving crimes - the supernatural kind…  Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they're trying to stop…  In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands. Thorn turns to the only person he knows who'll be able to help him: Kit. Torn between working the Glow case and her loyalty for the young prince, Kit is propelled headlong into a world of danger…

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Tor, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28204-4.
The first in the Witchlands series, Truthwitch is a coming-of-age story billed as suitable for for fans of Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas and Trudi Canavan.  In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands. Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

Realm of Darkness by C. F. Dunn, Lion, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-64196-4.
Paranormal romance.

Fall of Light by Steven Erikson, Bantam Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-06219-7.
The second in a trilogy that is set in a world that predates the Mazalan Empire. It is a bitter winter and civil war is ravaging Kurald Galain. Urusander’s Legion prepares to march on the city of Kharkanas. The rebels’ only opposition lies scattered and weakened - bereft of a leader since Anomander’s departure in search of his estranged brother. The remaining brother, Silchas Ruin, rules in his stead. He seeks to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him and resurrect the Hust Legion in the southlands, but he is fast running out of time.

Dancer's Lament: by Ian C. Esslemont, Transworld, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07434-3.
Path to Ascendancy Book 1. Taking Malazan fans back to that troubled continent's turbulent early history. It was once a land ravaged by war, minor city states, baronies and principates fight for supremacy, and then the rival cities of Tali and Quon formed an alliance and so Quon Tali came into being. However that was generations ago, that dynasty has collapsed and the regional powers are now clawing at each others throats once more. But at the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city state of Li Heng which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the “Protectress”. She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men in her domain: one is determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age; the other is his quarry - a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill.

Spider Game by Christie Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41034-0.
The latest in the ‘Ghostwalker’ series.

Dark Promises by Christie Feehan, Piatkus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40569-8.
Paranormal romance and 29th in the 'Dark Carpathian' series.

Idle Hands by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66256-8.
Can Wild Alan unite the Discard against the tyranny of the Pyramid? Idle Hands is an ancient disease that once tore through the Discard, and if Wild Alan doesn’t find a way into the Black Pyramid and administer the cure to his son, Billy, it will soon be stalking Gleam once again.

The Blood of the Hoopoe by Naomi Foyle, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06922-5.
The third in the Gaia Chronicles. Astra is the prophesied icon of unification for the peoples of Non-Land, but is she ready to accept her destiny? War is breaking out in Kadingir. Still struggling to accept her role as a long-prophesied icon of unification between Is-Land and Non-Land, Astra Ordott is on a journey across the windsands to join her father in Shiimti, where powerful mystics claim to be truly healing the damaged relationship between human beings and the Earth. Astra is desperate to get there quickly, but when her guide and companion, the shepherd Muzi, leads her off course into the path of a vicious sandstorm, she is forced to confront what the gods of their devastated world might be telling her: that there will be no refuge from her destiny.

Rook Song by Naomi Foyle, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06921-8.
An ancient fortress in Non-land provides humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of a toxic refugee camp. It also provides employment for Astra Ordott who has escaped from Is-land.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03095-6.
A werewolf tale from the author also known as Alden (The Reapers are the Angels) Bell.

The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell, Bantam Press, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07148-9.
Epic fantasy and a second outing for Gemmell (David Gemmell's wife). This is the sequel to The City. The emperor is dead…long live the emperor! The fervent hope of the victorious rebels and the survivors of the uprising that liberated the City from tyranny is that the accession of Archange to the imperial throne will usher in a new era of freedom, peace and stability. If only that were so...

The Mammoth Book of the Mummy edited by Paula Guran, Robinson, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-421-2029-8.
Horror anthology.

Elanor by Jason Gurley, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-008-13291-0.
This is being billed as a 'literary' fantasy about three generations of Oregon women. The last finds herself able to slip through time to a strange land…

Ruin by John Gwynne, Pan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25964-0.
The third in the 'Legend of the Faithful and the Fallen' sequence.

The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-56309-8.
The second in the 'Fire Sermon' series set in a world of alpha elites and their weaker omega twins.

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09290-7.
Standalone novel from the author known for her small-town America novels with werewolves and vampires. See also below.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09292-1.
This is early notice for you (it's not out until May but we like to look after you). This follows on from Day Shift above. Death seems to be plaguing the residents of Midnight, Texas – and there’s no rest for the wicked. There’s a small town in Texas called Midnight. It stands at a crossroads, where pawnbrokers rub shoulders with vampires, bounty hunters with shopkeepers, and a brand new mystery is waiting to be solved.

Oneiros by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66529-3.
An undertaker in Leipzig, a scientist in Minsk and the sole survivor of a plane crash are linked by a curse that makes them a danger to those around them…First and Last Sorcerer by Bob Hendee & J. C. hendee, Roc, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-451-46931-1
Follows Wind in the Night.

Radient State by Peter Higgins, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13065-4.
The conclusion of the 'Wolfhound century' trilogy.

Starborn by Lucy Hounsom, Pan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-26855-0.
Kyndra flees her village having witnessed an ancient ceremony. But she has visions of the past and has her magic to unlock.

Foul Tide's Turning by Stephen Hunt, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09211-2.
Jacob and Carter have escaped the Vandian slavers… But their knowledge could still spark a civil war.

The Stealer's War by Stephen Hunt, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09214-3.
The war is heading for peace . . .  unless Jacob Carnehan, still focused on seizing his revenge can stop it. And he plans to. If he succeeds, there will never be peace again. If he fails, peace will only be temporary. And they are all pawns in a larger game...  In addition to the above title, Stephen's books have included Secrets of the Fire Sea, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves and Jack Cloudie.

The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Daryda Jones, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41141-5.
A man from a far part of the universe is sent to kill Charley Davidson.

Wake by Elizabeth Knox, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-15183-4.
A small town is surrounded by a force-field and inside some of the inhabitants start to develop a murderous rage. Our Mark really rates this one.

Valkyrie's Song by M. D. Lachlan, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12965-8.
In Norman England an immortal wolf and a woman are on the run.

The Hunter's Kind by Rebecca Levine, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-75374-5.
Book 2 of 'The Hollow Gods'.

Who’s Afraid by Maria Lewis, Piatkus, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41114-9.
A young woman discovers that she is a werewolf. This is a debut novel for the author, and the first in a paranormal romance series.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97321-6.
This is a debut novel and the first in the Dandelion Dynasty series.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97567-8.
This collection's title story is the only short story to have won both a Hugo and a Nebula as well as a World Fantasy Award. It also won a Seiun Award and an Ignotus Award.

Hero Born by Andrew Livingstone, Voyager, £17.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12067-2.
Brann is thrust into a life of slavery and becomes a tool for a ruthless emperor.

Strife's Bane by Evie Manieri, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-857-38950-3.
The third in the 'Shattered Kingdom' series. Shadari rebels have thrown off their Norlander conquerors, but forces undermine their new King. And treachery is on the horizon . . . A mercenary army is marching towards the Shadar, threatening everything King Daryan has done to rebuild the region. Meanwhile, Lahlil Eotan is returning south, where she must choose between the fate of her love and the fate of her sister, Isa. With Daryan bracing for attack and Lahlil’s attention divided, no one but Isa knows the lengths to which her tormenter will go to achieve ultimate power.

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-12009-0.
Someone is stealing children. This is the third in the Toby Daye series.

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-12010-6.
Toby Daye must confront an old enemy in the fourth in the series.

A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50411-7.
The second in the Toby Daye series about a changeling who can tell what has happened to someone by tasting their blood…

This Census-Taker by China Miéville, Picador, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-509-81214-1.
In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a traumatic event. He tries - and fails - to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape. When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over. But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

Graynelore by Stephen Moore, Harper Voyager, £13.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12047-4.
Roderig is a killer and a thief and a liar, who discovers he has faerie blood.

Down Station by Simon Morden, Orion, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21145-2.
Escaping the apocalypse, some commuters go through a portal and into a mythical London.

Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20851-3.
Merit is one of Chicago’s most skilled vampire warriors – these days, she doesn’t scare easily. But she and Master vampire Ethan have made a new and powerful enemy, and he won't give up until he owns the Windy City.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi, Picador, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-29936-3.
The stories collected in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are linked by more than the winding prose of their creator: Helen Oyeyemi's ensemble cast of characters slip from the pages of their own stories only to surface in another. The reader is invited into a world of lost libraries and locked gardens, of marshlands where the drowned dead live and a city where all the clocks have stopped; students hone their skills at puppet school, the Homely Wench Society commits a guerrilla book-swap, and lovers exchange books and roses on St Jordi's Day.

The Girl on the Liar's Throne by Den Patrick, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20004-3.
The lastest in the Erebus sequence of standalones. A new queen is struggling to bring democracy to the castle of Demesne and the kingdom it rules. But there are old powers seeking to reinstate the old order. And secrets that go back a long way could change everything.

Leviathan's Blood by Ben Peek, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25131-6.
The second novel in the Children trilogy, continuing from The Godless. In the aftermath of Mireea's destruction, Zaifyr and other survivors arrive at the gates of the Keeper's city of Yeflam seeking asylum. But there is a greater threat still facing them. A new child god has emerged and will do anything to destroy those she feels threaten her power. Zaifyr has warned the head of the Keeper's conclave about the danger she poses. But while the survivor's argue about the risks ahead, priests of the new god have already begun to enter Yeflam... Meanwhile, Ayae finds herself entangled in the plots of Muriel Wagan. The newly titled Lady of the Ghosts has important goals. She wants to gain enough leverage to both keep her people safe and prepare for the war she knows is coming. Ayae finds that politics can be even more dangerous than the sword. Then, on the other side of the world, Baron Bueralan Le returns home. Around his neck he carries a terrible cargo: the soul of a dead man. In the company of the duplicitous cartographer - Samuel Orlan - the two are forced to confront the truth about the path the new god has set them upon. For they are not the only newcomers on the continent of Ooila. The man of innocence has arrived - and this will change everything.

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21403-3.
Dead for 13 minutes the victim has memory loss and does not know what caused what happened, but the evidence suggests that it was neither suicide nor accident. Natasha is smart, attractive and surrounded by close friends. She seems happy. She’s living a normal life. . . right up until a dog walker finds her body in a river one morning and saves her life. Paramedics say she was dead for 13 minutes. Now the police would like to know why. . .

Those Below by Daniel Polansky, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-77994-3.
This is the conclusion to the 'Empty Thrones' series and the sequel to Those Above.

Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers, Corvus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39182-1.
In the Hollywood Hills a rundown mansion harbours a conduit for the supernatural… When their aunt takes her own life, the Madden siblings Scott and Madeline are summoned to Caveat, the childhood home they once shared with their malicious cousins. The dwelling hides a dark family secret, and Scott desperately wants to leave, but cannot pry his sister away from the old house. When the Maddens discover a collection of papers inked with abstract images, they are able to transport themselves into the past and future, in visions that are both puzzling and terrifying. As Madeline falls completely under Caveat’s spell, Scott must fight to protect her. Will he unravel the mysteries of the family’s past… or be pulled deeper into their deadly web?

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price, Michael Joseph, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-405-91168-9.
Fourth in the Alex raft series about a witch who can talk to the dead.

Glorious Angels by Justina Robson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13403-4.
A mix of science and fantasy and politics. Click on the title link for David's standalone review.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21264-0.
The empire’s survival depends on a skilful thief recreating the emperor’s soul. A sword and sorcery from the author who is separately giving us the science fantasy ‘Reckoners’ series of which Firefight was the latest.

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £13.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20826-1.
The latest ‘Mistborn’ novel. The further adventures of Wax take us deeper into that rare thing – a fantasy realm that has been allowed to develop in time. A world where the passing of years has brought new technologies and wonders but kept old hatreds and rivalries. A world where Wax must find a device that carries the powers of a god.

Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20504-8.
The latest entry in the sizzling paranormal vampire series featuring the Argeneau family. The publicity says no one does wickedly funny and irresistibly steamy like Lynsay!

Spinning Thomas by Anna Sheenan, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10481-5.
A fairy tale inspired by The Sleeping Beauty in a kingdom divided between those who have magical powers and those who are governed by them.

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11195-0.

Darkhaven by A. F. E. Smith, Harper Voyager, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12073-3.
The shapeshifter Ayla reluctantly becomes heir of Darkhave.

Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier, Harper, £17.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-732-29253-9.
This is the first in a fantasy series about a sorcerer who gains her power from the suffering of others, and is Spurrier’s debut novel.

The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBn 978-0-230-77045-4.
This is the conclusion of the 'Unknown Throne Chronicles'. In a previous age, an ancient race attempted to purge the world of humanity. Now their agents have once more appeared within Annur's borders - and it seems their masters want to finish what they started. But the true goals of their immortal general, Ran il Tornja, appear more nuanced and more terrifying than anyone imagined. Meanwhile, humans with special abilities use their powers to influence the building conflict. And the Kettral, the empire's hawk-riding stealth soldiers, are in disarray. Their last remaining fighters attempt to learn the fate of their shattered order, but their days of glory seem to be over. Most disturbingly of all, capricious gods walk the Earth in human guise, with sinister agendas of their own.

The Mortal Tally by Sam Sykes, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13221-4.
Lenk and his companions are fighting to get paid, fighting each other, fighting for love and fighting for the future of humanity as the city of Cier’Djaal is overrun by demons and gods and greed. Sword and sorcery from the author of Black Halo.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, Corvus, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39776-2.
On a day in late June, Simon Watson receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name of his grandmother. The book tells the story of two doomed lovers who were part of a travelling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages. He is fascinated, yet as he reads Simon becomes increasingly unnerved. Why do so many women in his family drown on 24 July? And could his sister Enola risk the same terrible fate?

The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-77006-5.
The first book in a brand new fantasy series - a coming-of-age tale as a young girl must find her place in a dangerous world on the brink of war. She is estranged from her tribe, as her mother was from a despised rival clan. This is despite the fact that her father is chieftain. And her greatest secret is that she's gained powers from both factions. A child of two worlds, she must escape to survive. But even as her actions trigger war, a greater threat appears on the horizon – and this will signal a battle to the death for all the tribes.

Cursed by Sue Tingey, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-78429078-8.
The second on the Soulseer Chronicles trilogy. Lucky is being hunted by the executioner of the demon court. Able to see ghosts in both the human and daemon worlds, Lucky de Salle is a commodity . . . and a liability. When her best friend Kayla mysteriously disappears, she and her daemon guard stumble onto a secret that makes her even more of a danger to her enemies. Now, hunted by Henri le Dent, the daemon who tried to see her dead, and Amaliel Cheriour, the sinister executioner of the daemon court, Lucky has to rely on her wits, her inner strength, her friends and the emerging talents that make her more than she thinks she is.

The Rising by Ian Tregillis, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50233-5.
Book 2 of the ‘Alchemy Wars set in the steampunk world of mechanical men. This follows on from the rather remarkable The Mechanical.

The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06961-4.
A private investigator is called in to find a missing girl. Dark forces are at work. Lisa Tuttle has a longstanding reputation as a fantasy writer.

The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95652-3.
A Dantean spin on the police procedural.

Blood Kiss by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40924-5.
This is the latest in the ‘Black dagger’ series and the daughter of the king’s first advisor tries to escape her confining aristocratic life…

Elleander Morning by Jeremy Yulsam, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21169-8.
Elleander travels to 1913 Vienna to kill Hitler. This is a reprint with an introduction by Lisa Tuttle.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-15079-0.
The man-god Apollo is struck by tragedy. This is the sequel to The Just City.

The Silver Tide by Jen Williams, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21115-6.
The third in the 'Copper Chalice' series. The Black feather three join forces with Wydrin's mother, a notorious pirate.

Broken Hero by Jonathan Wood, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29452-7.
Arthur Wallace returns for another case in this supernatural police procedural.

 

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Curvology by David Bainbridge, Portobello Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-846-27552-4.
This veterinary anatomist looks at human women's bodies through the lens of evolutionary biology. Why are human females the only female animas to have curves?

Playing by the Rules by Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, Sphere, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-751-55351-2.
In the more developed nations we are increasingly obliged to follow health and safety regulations. But are they effective? Hanlon has written somewhat climate sceptic pieces for the Daily Mall, but on the other hand he did write a rather nifty science and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book.

The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett, Faber, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-783-35081-0.
How and why the human brain sabotages our behaviour. Why tall people are more intelligent. How a single glass of wine affects the brain… and other related science.

The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr, Vintage, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59745-2.
How machines and decision-making software are beginning to run our lives and also affecting our own ability to think.

Legal Highs by Wensley Clarkson, Quercus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66716-7.

Science For Life by Brian Clegg, icon Books, £9.99., pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-78025-7.
From the shortcomings of the 5-second rule to the failure of playing Mozart to stimulate babies' development, Clegg separates myth from science.

The Quantum Moment by Robert P. Crease & Schanff Goldhaber, W. W. Norton, £11.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-393-35192-7.
How quantum mechanics has gone from theory to become mainstream science.

The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme that holds the key to human aging… and will soon lead to longer, healthier lives by Michael Fossil, Atlantic, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39909-4.
Telomeres are part of the chromosome and they get a bit shorter with each cell division and so the length of a person's telomeres is an indication of the number of times their cells can divide. There have been many competing theories about the nature of human ageing, but scientific consensus is forming around the telomere theory, which argues that human ageing is the result of cellular ageing. Telomerase re-lengthens the telomeres, keeping these cells young. In The Telomerase Revolution, Michael Fossel describes how telomerase will soon be used as a powerful therapeutic tool, with the potential to dramatically extend lifespans, and provides startling and powerful insights into the nature of human ageing.

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, Penguin, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-141-98176-5.
How to live 'greener', and cheaper, through reducing waste.

Fat Planet by Dr David Lewis & Dr Margret Leitch, Arrow, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59412-3.
Clinicians (not scientists) Lewis and Leitch examine the global obesity pandemic and how it can be combated.

The Aliens Are Coming by Ben Miller, Sphere, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-847-44502-5.
Exobiology science.

Flashpoints in Science by Anne Rooney, Bounty, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-783-72985-4.

I, Superorganism by Jon Turney, Icon Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-78624-0.
Micro-organsims and the human microbiome: the total of the microbial communities that live in and on humans.

To Explain the World by Steven Weinberg, Penguin, £9..99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-141-98087-4.
The Nobel prize-winner explains the history of science.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by David Whitehouse, W&N, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-22870-9.
Over 150 year's after Jule's Verne's novel (1863), Whitehouse looks at the history of exploration beneath the Earth's surface. We have never been more than 10 km down.

 

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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

The Art of the Strain by Robert Abele & Gullermo del Toro, Titan £29.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29964-5.
In Britain The Strain airs on Watch.

World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 1 by Blizzard Entertainment, £29.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-616-55845-1.
This is the first in a series that parallels the film due in June 2016.

Robert Kirkman’s – The Walking Dead: Invasion by Jay Bonasinga, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-27576-3.
The 6th in the Walking Dead TV and graphic novel tie-ins. Previous novels have included The Rise of the Governor and The Fall of the Governor. From the ashes of a devastated Woodbury, Georgia, come two opposing camps of ragtag survivors. Underground, in the labyrinth of ancient tunnels and mine shafts, Lilly Caul and her motley crew of senior citizens, misfits, and children struggle to build a new life. But a secret ambition still burns inside her: she wants her beloved town of Woodbury back from the plague of walkers, and now the only thing that stands in her way currently roams the wasted backwaters of Georgia . . . Way out in the hinterlands, amidst the rising tide of walkers pushing in from all directions, the psychotic Reverend Jeremiah Garlitz rebuilds his army of followers with a diabolical secret weapon. Intending to destroy Lilly and her crew - the very people who vanquished his cultish church - he now has the means to bring a special brand of hell down upon the tunnel dwellers.

High Rise by J. G. Ballard, Fourth Estate, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-018-3491-1.
This is a reprint of the 1975 novel and comes out in time for the new feature film adaptation to the big screen.

Peter Davidson: The Forgotten Doctor by Peter Davidson, Arum Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-31516-3.
Peter has been grumbling (arguably milking it a bit but who can blame him) that he is the least favourite Doctor. Actually his tenure did have its moments but his producer’s design ideas were decidedly quirky in a non-Doctor-ish way. Anyway, this helps redress the balance. A must for fans of classic Who.

Alex Cox's Introduction to Film: A Director's Perspective by Alex Cox, Kamera Books, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-843-44746-7.
Alex's films have included the cult SFnal repo Man.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster, Century, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-9476-8.
The official novelisation of the film. The book also contains a full colour section of stills from the movie. Alan Dean Foster is the author of sixteen New York Times bestsellers, including Warner's Alien (1979), Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), which sold a combined 830,000 copies, as well as the 'Spellsinger' novels.

Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden, Arrow, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-58013-3.
This is a new story from the 'Clone Wars' period. Apparently it is based on scripts written by George Lucas' daughter Katie. Whether or not this is a genuine plus point individual readers will decide.

Doctor Who: The Legends of Ashildr by James Goss et al, BBC Books, £9.99 / Can$16.99 / US$12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-785-94057-6.
Ashildr was the Viking woman the (Capaldi) Doctor made immortal in the 2015 season of Dr Who. This anthology consists of four stories, by four writers, of episodes in her long, long life.

Dr Who: The Drosten's Curse by Al Kennedy, BBC Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-90827-6.
Something ancient and alien lies beneath Arbroath…

Nymphs by Sari Luhtanen & Miiko Okkoney, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21228-0.
The novel of the TV series about the seductive, young-looking immortals who live among us.

Gene Rodenberry: The Man Who Created Star Trek by Lance Parkin, Arum Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-31446-3.
Speaks for itself really. A must for serious Trekies.

Whoniverse: An Unofficial planet-by-planet guide to the worlds of the Doctor by Lance Parkin, Arum Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-31514-9.
From Gallifrey to Skaro, this is an excellent reference work to the places the Doctor has visited. A must for Dr Who fans.

Leonard: A Life by William Shatner, Sidgewick & Jackson, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-283-07252-9.
As we know Leonard Nimoy died last year. This is an unofficial biography from his co-star on the original (‘classic’) Start Trek series.

Into the Black by Rowland White, Transworld, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-06436-8.
An account of the first flight of the Space Shuttle, one of the great technological developments of the late 20th century. On 12th April 1981 a revolutionary new spacecraft blasted off from Florida on her maiden flight. NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia was the most advanced flying machine ever built.

 

[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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

SELECTED FORTHCOMING DVD RELEASES

Air £9.99 DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
In a post-apocalyptic near future, breathable air is nonexistent. Virtually all of humanity has disappeared, and those chosen to re-establish society reside in a controlled state of suspended animation. Two engineers tasked with guarding the last hope for mankind struggle to preserve their own sanity and lives while administering to the vital task at hand. Starring Norman Reedus and two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou. (Trailer here.)

Doctor Who - The Complete Ninth Series £49.99 DVD from 2entertain.
Seven disc set. The second Capaldi season (which was better than the first one). It also contains the 2014 and 2015 Christmas Specials. Plus there's more than four hours’ worth of extras.

The Encounter £12.99 DVD from 101 Films.
A classification 15 horror (suitable for children of 15). What started as a simple camping trip in the mountains of Northern Arizona quickly descended into an amazing and terrifying story that is truly out of this world. As the sole survivor of this deadly close encounter Collin must try and explain the unexplainable… This is a close encounter of the third kind type offering. The word from the film fest circuit is mixed. (Trailer here.)

Firequake £5.99 DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment.
Promethean Kinetics has created Helios, a revolutionary clean coal energy source so powerful it rivals the force of the sun and will solve the energy crisis. But when certain governments start cutting safety measures required by Helios, the highly-explosive product begins to seep deep below the Earth's crust… To be honest, unless you have a firm penchant for modern 'B' films, you might want to give this straight-to-DVD a miss. (Trailer here.)

The Martian £9.99 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
This was arguably the best SF film of 2015 and certainly the best mundane SF film of that year… BUT we advise you NOT to get this! First of all, get the Blu Ray high-definition version. Second, director Ridley Scott is almost certainly going to release an extended version and that's the version you'll want. (It's bound to be out before Christmas.)

Quantum Voyage £12.99 DVD from Lightning Pictures.
A high school musician experiences visual and auditory hallucinations as she starts to witness the collapse of space and time, leading her through a portal to another universe… Now we know next to nothing about this one, however it stars Malcolm McDowell, Dean Cain, Izzie Steele and Natalie Distler.

Timeslip: The Complete Series £49.99 from Network.
This is a nostalgia feast for those older fans and alternatively a welcome collection for those seriously into historic SF television. Timeslip was made by the independent British television company ATV in 1970 and '71 with the first series in black and white. This groundbreaking children's drama memorably blends hard science and fantasy in its tale of two teenagers who discover the existence of a 'time barrier' around a deserted military base enabling them to travel to different periods and locations from World War Two to the Antarctica of the future. Devised by The Tomorrow People's Ruth Boswell, Timeslip was unabashedly intelligent and often prescient in its theme of the use and abuse of science. Well remembered to this day as a benchmark of 1970s drama, this set contains all 26 episodes. (Trailer here.)

 

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect this year, 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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

R.I.P.

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

Hazel Adair, the British screenwriter, has died aged 95. Her most famous work by the public was the creation of the television soap Crossroads. In SF terms, she is noted for creating with her second husband, Ronald Marriott, the BBC children's television serial Stranger from Space (1952). It concerned a Martian boy whose 'space boat' had crashed on Earth. It was one of the first (if not the first?) BBC SF television serials; previously the BBC's SF focussed on one-off plays for adults.  In the 1970s she formed Pyramid Films with the sports broadcaster Kent Walton. There her genre-related work included producing the erotic film Virgin Witch (1971).

Murphy Anderson, the US comics artist, has died aged 89. He is best known for his work on a range of DC characters including Superman.

Tom Arden, the Australian author has died aged 54. His books include the five part 'Orokon' series and the Doctor Who novella 'Nightdreamers'.

Jon Arfstrom, the US artist, has died aged 87. He is especially noted on having provided covers for the original run of Weird Tales.

George Barris, the US custom car builder, has died aged 89. He famously created the Batmobile for the 1966 Batman TV series. Barris and his firm Barris Kustom created vehicles for films such as North by Northwest, The Time Machine , The Munsters (with the Munster Koach and Grandpa's DRAG-U-LA) and The Beverly Hillbillies. He was also involved in a lesser extent in designing Kitt from Knight Rider and The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Kathleen A. Bellamy, the US fan, has died aged 58. She served as staff on Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show including a term as managing editor.

David Bowie, the British artiste, has died of cancer aged 69 just two days after his birthday and the release of his last album (much of which he made available as free downloads). Between 'Space Oddity' (1969) and 'Let's Dance' (1983) he created an oeuvre of excellence. Much of his work had an SFnal riff from the aforementioned 'Space Oddity' ('Major Tom'), through the alien rock star 'Ziggy Stardust' (1972) and his cinematic portrayal of Walter Tevis' novel's extraterrestrial in the 1976 film of the same title, The Man who Fell to Earth, to 'Life on Mars' (1973).  He also worked with other giants of contemporary music including Queen with 'Under Pressure' (1981) and Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger with a cover of 'Dancing in the Street' (1985) for the Band Aid charirty.  He declined the royal honour of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000, and turned down a knighthood in 2003.  He leaves his son, the film director Duncan (Moon and Source Code) Jones.

Peter Dickinson OBE, the Rhodesia (now Zambia) born British author, has died aged 88 on his birthday. Sadly now largely out of print, he was the first author to win two Carnegie Medals (to date seven others have achieved this and nobody has three). He is best known for his many juvenile SF/F stories but did write one adult SF novel Green Gene (1973) concerning racism in which in an alternate world Celts all had a gene that gave them green skin. This novel was a runner-up for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  He did write other alternate world or alternate timeline stories such as King and Joker (1976) in which George Vth's elder brother did not die of pneumonia but lived to become King Victor I.  Other adult thriller novels with some genre elements include Sleep and His Brother (1971), The Poison Oracle (1974), and Walking Dead (1977). But his main reputation lies with his genre books for youngsters and teenagers. In all he wrote nearly 50 titles.

Anthony di Fabio a.k.a Perry A. Chapdelaine, the US author, has died aged 90. Perry A. Chapdelaine was the author pseudonym used by the mathematician and research psychologist Anthony di Fabio. His novels include Swampworld West (1974) and The Laughing Terran (1977). H e began with George Hay The John W. Campbell Letters venture. The first two volumes of which have appeared as The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1 (1986) edited with George Hay and Tony Chapdelaine, and The John W. Campbell Letters with Isaac Asimov and A.E. Van Vogt (1993).  He wrote under his own name, Anthony di Fabio, some texts on alternative therapies.

Kent (Goofy) Farris, the US fan, has died close to being 60 in a car crash. He was based in the Chicago area and regularly attended regional conventions.

Johan Frick, the Swedish SF fan writer, filker, bookseller, translator and finally author, has died of cancer just four days shy of his 50th birthday. The authors he translated included: Katharine Kerr, Patricia McKillip, and Philip K. Dick.  Philip Dick was an author that particularly interested him. He established (with Glenn Petersen) the Gothenburg branch of the SF bookstore Science Fiction-Bokhandeln. In fandom he was noted for his calm balanced views whenever there were fan feuds. Just before he died he completed his first adult SF novel: a loose collection of four noir-ish stories.

Dave Gibson, the British book dealer, has died aged 76. He was co-proprietor of the Fantasy Centre bookshop from its 1969 founding until 1991when he retired back to Scotland.

Alfred Gilman, the US molecular biologist, has died aged 74. His discovery of G proteins that attach to the internal surface of a cell's membrane and involved in cell signalling to the cell's exterior, garnered him a share in the 1994 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Daniel T. Grotta, a.k.a. Daniel Grotta-Kurska, the US journalist, has died aged 72. He was the author of J. R. R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth, the first Tolkein biography and continuously in print for over three decades. He is also a fiction writer whose oeuvre includes gentle ghost stories as well as much non-fiction on photography.

Göran Hägg the Swedish novelist and SF academic has died aged 68. He was also a poet, biographer, critic, literary historian, famous for his erudition and intellectual curiosity. One of his more noted works was Anders och Dafne [Anders and Dafne] (1987), an SF novel about the development of a Database For the National Encyclopaedia (DAFNE), where the database system (computer) is depicted as an AI that started to take over.

Richard Heck, the US chemist, has died aged 84. He is best known for discovering a way to join two carbon atoms together in a single process using palladium catalysis. This garnered him and his co-discovers the 2010 Nobel Prize for chemistry. The process is used to create carbon molecules used in smartphone displays, pharmaceuticals (such as the anti-inflammatory naproxen) and inserting fluorescing dyes into DNA.

Lisa Jardine, the British science historian turned ethicist, has died from cancer aged 71. She was Professor of Renaissance Studies at University College, London, where she was Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities and Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters whose interests included the eighteenth century scientist Robert Hooke. She also had an interest in the arts and her varied background suited her occasional appearances on BBC Radio 4. This background straddling science and the arts with some public communication in the mix made her an excellent choice to become Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – the UK government regulator for assisted reproduction – from 2008 to Jan 2014. Over the course of her life she escaped from the shadow of her being the daughter of the leading biologist and science communicator Jacob Bronowski and earned her own respect from the biological and political communities.

George Clayton Johnson, the US scriptwriter and screenstory writer, has died aged 86. He is noted for helping inspiring and writing for the series The Twilight Zone. These appeared in Scripts and Stories Written for The Twilight Zone (1977). He also edited the script anthology Writing for the Twilight Zone (1981). He is thought perhaps best known for co-authoring the novel Logan's Run(1967) with William F. Nolan that was then turned into a film (1976) and inspired the TV series (1977) with which he fortunately had no connection as it neither built on the novel or had an overall plot arc. He also wrote the script for the first-aired episode of the original Star Trek – 'The Man Trap' (1966), that had the first use of Doctor McCoy's line that became the catchphrase 'He's dead, Jim'.

Florin Manolescu, the Romanian SF academic, has died aged 73. He was one of the most important literary critics in Romania and a university based academic. He was the author of Literatura SF [SF Literature] (1980) which is used by every self-respecting SF book fan in Romania; it was also his university doctoral thesis. He taught at the University of Bucharest and then in 1992 , following the 1990 revolution, Ruhr University until 2010 when he retired to Romania. His own principal contributions of fiction can be found in two collections: Misterul Camerei Inchise: Noua povestiri incredibile [Mystery of the Closed Room: Nine incredible stories] (2002), and Mentalitii. Alte noua Povestiri Incredibile [The Mentalists: Other incredible stories] (2009). For those whose Romanian is not quite up to it he also edited the anthology The Phantom Church and Other Stories from Romania (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996). Given that sadly anthologies of Romanian SF and fantasy almost invariably have very poor translations to English, this is just about the only readable, translated anthology of Romanian short SF/F, and this venture alone is one for which Anglophone readers of foreign language SF should be grateful to Florin.

Robert Margroff, the US author, has died aged 85. He is arguably best known for his collaborations with Piers Anthony, beginning with The Ring (1968) and The E.S.P. Worm (1970), and then the Dragon series: Dragon's Gold (1987), Serpent's Silver (1988), Chimaera's Copper (1990),Orc's Opal (1990), Mouvar's Magic (1992) and Final Magic (1992). He also wrote some solo short fiction.

Felice Maxam , the US fan, has died aged 81. She co-edited the fanzine Niekas with Ed Meskys that won a Hugo in 1967.

Shigeru Mizuki, the Japanese manga artist, has died aged 93. He is a household name in Japan and arguably best known for his 'Gegege no Kitaro' series which helped to bring anime global recognition. The series, about a young boy fighting monsters based on Japanese folklore, was made into an animated television series that ran for several years. He also wrote manga comics based on his experiences of war. His work covered US wartime bombing, the abuse he suffered under commanders, and a biography of Adolf Hitler. He was cited as a 'Person of Cultural Merit' by the Japanese government in 2010.

George Mueller, the US space engineer, has died aged 97. Following wartime his work focused on airborne radar, he played a key role getting the first men on the Moon. He joined NASA in 1963 as an associate administrator for manned space flight and set about an assessment of the prospects of fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal to land an American on the moon and get the astronaut safely back “before this decade is out”. He rationalised the Apollo development structure, brought schedules and costs under control, and introduced “all-up testing”, which was crucial for the speedier development of Saturn V (the Apollo launch vehicle). Subsequently he would become a major inspiration behind Skylab (the first US space station) – having set up a programme to investigate other uses for the Saturn rockets – and then the space shuttle programme. In 2011 he was given the lifetime achievement award of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Humanity would colonise the moon and Mars, he said at the award ceremony, as “citizens of the solar system. I believe we will be building a better life for all men, and, at the same time, building the capability required for men to go to the stars.”

William Paul, the US immunologist, has died aged 79. He is arguably best known for discovering, with Maureen Howard, cytokine interleukin-4 and how it helps mobilise the body's defence mechanisms. From 1994-7 he was also director of the NIH Office of AIDS Research. His work helped the emergence of the antiretroviral therapy now used by over 15 million people. Aside from his official job he was for 31 years editor of the journal the Annual Review of Immunology.

Gerard Quinn, the British SF artist, has died aged 88. He was one of the first professional SF artists of the post WWII period and did covers of novels by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke and John Carnell and New Worlds Science Fiction.

Liviu Radu, the Romanian SF author based in Bucharest, has died aged 66. He began his writing career in 1993 after his story, ‘The unseen side of Mars’, was published in the SF magazine Quasar. Since then, he has published a number of novels and collections of short stories. His fiction has also been published in a number anthologies and magazines. Liviu was one of the most important Romanian new SF writers following the 90’s (and the 1990 revolution) with his works being largely appreciated and awarded. He was a member of Romanian Writers’ Association (that involves mostly mainstream literature authors) as well as of Romanian Association of Science-Fiction and Fantasy. He received a Eurocon Encouragement Award for fiction in 2010. His first novel was Trip-Tic (1999), followed by Constanza 1919 one of the novels for which he is well known. Constanza 1919 actually refers to the city and Black Sea Port Constanta in Romania – and not Constanza, The Dominican Republic, nor The Crown against Gaetano Constanza, an English legal case in 1997. Constanza 1919 is a dystopic novel that has Adolf Hitler as one of its protagonists, fighting as an officer in the German army that invaded Romania in WWI. The novel has a plot that relies on an alternate history and some steampunkish trappings. It has a modular structure, offering three alternatives for the end of Romania’s involvement into WWI: a German one, a Russian and Turkish one.  Most of his works were published by Nemira Publishing House (Bucharest), one of the main Romanian SF and Fantasy publishers, and Palladin, where Liviu worked as a translator of genre works from English to Romanian. He translated more than 40 books including books by Isaac Asimov, George R. R. Martin, China Miéville, Abraham Merritt and Dean Koontz. It seems that Liviu was very fond of Neil Gaiman’s works and they certainly influenced him. He also translated Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and American Gods. Unfortunately Liviu passed away having lost his battle with cancer.

Hans Rancke-Madsen , the Danish fan, has died aged 58. Known as 'His', he was very active (and creative) in role-playing games fandom.

White Rhino, one of the last four alive in the World, has died in a US zoo. Last season we reported the demise of the 5th last. The remaining three northern white rhinos are all old and kept guarded at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The northern white rhino population was all but wiped out by poachers after their horns for alternative medicine. They were declared extinct in the wild in 2008. San Diego zoo has recently brought in six southern white rhinos, hoping to use them as surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos.

Lennart Sörensen, the Swedish critic has died. Reported in Ansible (in turn from J-H. Holmberg), he was a translator, academic and editor active in SF from 1956 to 1963 (especially in the magazine Häpna!) and helping to establish the genre's importance in Sweden.

Maurice Strong, the Canadian environmental scientist, has died aged 86. To say that his life story was remarkable is a gross understatement. He grew up during the great depression amidst poverty and personally knowing hunger. He read that Churchill and Roosevelt decided that after the war they would work to unite nations. Maurice Strong decided to joint that venture. Over the next two decades he became a businessman in the oil industry and built up a personal fortune. This got him the attention of Canadian politicians and so he entered public service. When running Canada's aid programme, Sweden sought his advice to rescue a planned international conference – the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment: many nations were thinking of not attending due to a varying mix of local, regional and international politics. He employed a Soviet scientist to his staff and that got him a line to Moscow, and then he asked the developing nations to set the agenda. He also got India's Prime Minister to open the conference. Naturally, Canada was onboard and now there was no way the US would miss out. The conference was a success in that it brought the environment on to the international political agenda. It got the UN to establish the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which Strong himself led until 1975. Two decades later the UN called him back to help with the 1992 UN Environment and Development (UNCED) conference in Rio and there he played a part in the creation of its Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). It left behind a clear legacy in that they directly resulted in the COP climate conferences that led to the Kyoto (climate) Protocol and the most recent COP, the 2015 Paris Summit. If you doubt Strong's legacy then consider this, the fact that all nations have a governmental department responsible for the environment is due to that 1972 conference. Truly, few have had as great a beneficial impact on the global environment.

Terrance Michael Wright, known as T. M. Wright, the US writer, has died aged 68.  He is known for his horror novels, such as A Manhattan Ghost Story (1984) which had 14 foreign editions, and SF, including Strange Seed (1978, revised 2005).  He also wrote the Fortean fictional science The Intelligent Man's Guide to Flying Saucers (1968).

 

[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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Spring 2016

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Ray Bradbury's 451 now formally to be used as an HTTP error code. It was first proposed when we lost Ray in 1992 that when a server denies a browser access due to legal takedown (most frequently for copyright breach) that the error code be '451' after Ray's classic novel Fahrenheit 451. The proposal has now been formally approved by the IETF HTTP Working Group.

Game of Thrones gets a humorous science analysis. Coronet, part of Hodder & Stoughton, is to publish Helen Keen's The Science of Game of Thrones. Helen Keen is an -award-winning writer, comedian and science enthusiast. She won Channel 4’s coveted New Comedy Writing Award and in 2015 was awarded the Royal Society Radio Prize by the Association of British Science Writers for here work on BBC Radio 4. In The Science of Game of Thrones she sifts fact from fantasy. Containing over 150 entries, and answering questions such as ‘Could dragons actually exist?’ and ‘How does wildfire win wars?’ This is a myth-busting, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping and fun-filled expedition through Westeros and beyond. Game of Thrones fandom knows no boundaries and this unofficial companion is the ultimate guide to the epic series. German and Russian deals have also been made and Little, Brown will publish in the US.

Back To The Future II saw Marty and Doc Brown travel forward from the 1980s to 21st October 2015. And so that date became dubbed 'Back to the Future day' with much media coverage.  OK, so we did not, in the real 2015, get fusion power nor flying cars, but we do have video communication with skype, thumb print and other biometrics of ID recognition, and we even have – courtesy of Lexus and Hendo – a kind of hoverboard and, of course, facial rejuvenation with chemical peels and botox.  Perhaps the highlight of the day was the appearance of Marty and Doc Brown on the US Jimmy Kimmel chat show.  You can see the appearance here.

Mini-space-elevator gets patent. The Canada-based Thoth Technology company has been granted U.S. and U.K. patents for a space elevator 12.5 miles tall. It will be freestanding and pneumatically pressurized that will hopefully get astronauts into the stratosphere. The tower would also likely be used to harness wind energy, host communications technology and will be open to space tourists. The notion of a space elevator was first popularised by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1980 novel The Fountains of Paradise. However the Clarke version was 22,500 miles (36,000 km) tall, reaching to geostationary orbit.

A sonic ‘tractor beam’ has been developed by Bristol researchers. The research team, from Bristol University and a Bristol company called Ultrahaptics, has developed a sonic beam that can move small pea-sized objects, which they can manipulate from 30-40cm away. The researchers programmed a matrix of small speakers to emit ultrasound in complex, shifting patterns, crafting shapes from the interacting waves that resembled tweezers, bottles, and small tornado-like twisters. Importantly, the design works from just one side - including above or below the beads - instead of requiring the object to be surrounded by loudspeakers. (See Marzo et al. (2015) Nature Communications 6:8661. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9661.)

A Star Trek: Next Gen' communicator badge created by Google. The 'com-badge' is a lapel pin that is activated with a tap to place calls or do voice searches. The prototype pin is a simple Bluetooth device that tethers to a phone. A tap wakes it up so you can issue voice commands using the built-in microphone and a small speaker. In real life, you can use a Bluetooth headset to issue commands to the Google app on an Android phone.

Google translates 'Russian Federation' to 'Mordor'. 'Mordor' is the name of a fictional region nicknamed 'Land of Shadow" in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Middle Earth books.  Actually, Google had been translating this but you'd have only noticed if you were using Google to translate from Ukrainian to Russian. Google has now fixed the bug. The reason why Google Translate had been doing this is because Russia has been known colloquially as Mordor by many Ukrainians since Russia invaded the Ukraine in 2014. Google translate had also being translating 'Sergey Lavrov', the Russia's Foreign Minister, as 'sad little horse'. The 'error' arose because Google Translate works by looking for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents and it picked up on these colloquialisms.

Covert ‘Big Brother’ type apps on Apple and Android smartphones informs of user’s details to third parties. That these apps leak information Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, and Carnegie-Mellon universities studied 110 apps available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. They found 73% of the Android apps shared users' email addresses, and 47% of the iOS apps shared location data. The Android apps were more likely to share personal information such as name (49% of the apps) and address (25%) than the iOS apps, where 18% shared names and 16% shared email addresses. Three out of the 30 medical, health and fitness apps the researchers studied shared search terms and user inputs with third parties. Android health app Drugs.com shared medical information - including words such as ‘herpes’ - with five third-party domains, including doubleclick.net and googlesyndication.com. The Android apps were most likely to leak data to Google and Facebook, with the most leaky being Text Free, which offers free calls and text over wi-fi and sent data to 11 third-party domains. The most leaky iOS app was Localscope, a location browser, which sent data to 17 third-party domains. 93% of the Android apps tested connected to the domain safemovedm.com.

A new way of imaging brain activity in real-time has been developed. Stanford University (US) researchers have dev eloped a new way of high-speed recording neural spikes with a fluorescent voltage sensor. Their work has so far been done on flies and mice.  All brain activity—thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and memories—are rapid surges of electrical activity. Capturing this activity across a large numbers of neurons is essential to understanding thinking, but existing techniques are too slow, or their scope too limited, for us to really see the brain at work.  What the team have done is to breed mice and flies with the genes to fluoresce when an electrical pulse passes by. This fluorescence happens really fast with a precision of just 0·.2-milliseconds.  At this speed, researchers will be able to observe aspects of neural code that they have never had experimental access to before. (See Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0810 and also for a summary explanation Science vol. 350, p. 895 DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6263.895).

New York censored pro-free speech NAZI imagery from its subway. Had Hitler won WWII there would have been many casualties including free speech, and the allied nations would have been a very different place under dictatorship.  This was the theme of the Hugo Award-winning Philip Dick novel The Man in the High Castle (1962) which was turned into a mini-television series broadcast on Amazon in December (2015).  The book, and series, concerns a contentious story written in a German and Japanese dominated US following the Axis powers winning WWII. The contentious story was of a fiction (our real world) in which the Allied nations won WWII.  To promote the series Amazon added modernised NAZI propaganda imagery – an American flag with a German eagle and cross in place of the stars and an Imperial Japanese flag – to seats on the shuttle line that connects Times Square and Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan.  New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo called for it to be taken down. However posters for the TV show, which is based on the Philip K Dick novel, were still allowed in the subway. One of the show's producers is reported as saying: "It's very difficult with a show with subject matter like this to market it tastefully, so I understand they're [Amazon are] walking a very difficult line." He added: "Within the show, there is a context where you see why [the images are used], but [Amazon] just to put them out like that without the context was unfortunate."

Discovery furthers Moore's Law life. Moore's law is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits (effectively computer chip processing power) doubles approximately every two years (see also 2015 anniversaries below). This is something we will need to see continue if we are to have ever more sophisticated and compact computer technology perhaps even leading to true artificial intelligence. However, clearly the on-going increase in computer chip power cannot continue forever: there are limits. Now, a research team from California and Rice Universities (US) have developed a highly doped germanium together with atomically thin molybdenum disulphide to produce an atomically thin, layered semiconducting channel tunnel field effect transistor chip: the world's thinnest. And it works at 0·1 volts. The discovery will play a key part in the development of the next generation of ultra-low-power integrated electronics. (Sarker et al, 2015, Nature vol. 526, p91-95.) +++ See also below.

Another development also furthers Moore's Law life. Further to the above, US researchers have now managed to combine photonics and silicon processing onto a single chip. This reduces the need for wires in circuitry: wires reduce bandwidth and contribute to heating. This demonstration could represent the beginning of an era of chip-scale electronic-photonic systems with the potential to transform computing systems to give more powerful computers in big servers and supercomputers. (See Sun et al (2015) Nature vol 528, p534-8.).

 

 

[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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

End Bits

 

Well, that is 2015 done and dusted.  Meanwhile 2015 was..:-
          The 20th anniversary of the detection of the first exo-planet (it was 51 Pegasi b) orbiting a main sequence star. The total number of confirmed exo-planets now discovered exceeds 1,978 (and counting) with some 4,700 candidates waiting to be confirmed.
          The 25th anniversary of the Hubble space telescope's launch, and the discovery by Andrew Sinclair and colleagues of the SRY gene on the Y chromosome that determines sex in mammals.
          2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the publication of David Brin's The Postman and Greg Bear's Blood Music together with the conclusion of Brian Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy.
          The 40th anniversary of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
          The 50th anniversary of the publication of Frank Herbert's Dune, Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House 5, the first appearance of The Trigan Empire and first broadcast of Thunderbirds and The Magic Roundabout.  On the science front it saw the 50th anniversary of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which disperses British government's investment in primary environmental and natural science research and the establishment of The Met Office (Meteorological office).  The publication of the Bullard, Everett and Smith's paper that revigorated the idea of continental drift. The publication of the paper presenting Moore's Law that the number of transistors (processing power) in (of) a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years (originally he said doubling every year but revised this in 1975). (See also (news item earlier)
          The 60th anniversary of the German SF Club (SFCD).
          The 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb that killed some 20,000, and the end of World War II.
          The 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's presentation to the Prussian Academy of Science on field equations (that underpin General Relativity) and the publication of Alfred Wegener's paper on, the then hypothesis of, continental drift.
          The 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
          The 200th anniversary of the first geological map of Great Britain by William Smith, the birth of George Boole whose approach to mathematical logic (giving us the AND, OR and NOT operators) provided the basis of computer programming, and the writing of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.
          The 350th anniversary of the first science journal with the publication of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions.

And now we are firmly into 2016.  2016 will..:-
          See the 30th anniversary of Vernor Vinge's' Marooned in Realtime, Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead and Bob Shaw's The Ragged Astronauts.
          See the 50th anniversary of Star Trek's first broadcast, the publication of J. G. Ballard's The Crystal World, Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Roger Zelazny's This Immortal (a.k.a. And Call Me Conrad), Daniel Keyes Flowers For Algernon and Larry Niven's The World of Ptavvs.  On the cinematic and TV front 2016 sees the 50th anniversary of (the afrementioned Star Trek), Fantastic Voyage, Batman, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD, One Million Years BC and Fahrenheit 451.
          See the 70th anniversary of H. G. Wells' death.
          See the 150th anniversary of H. G. Wells' birth.
          See the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Dalton who went on to formulate an atomic theory deducing the existence of elements and compound molecules.
          See the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore's Utopia, a political philosophy novel concerning an 'ideal' island.

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 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: Ansible, Lise Andreasen, Sue Burke, Silviu Genescu, Marcin 'Alqua' Klak, and thanks also goes to Caroline Mullan for spreading the word to the Brit SF community on-line.  Additional thanks go to the veritable legion of others, including some Brits and other Europeans, quietly sending in views, pointers and unofficial personal comment and views who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and finally thanks not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news and product (book, film, DVD and convention) information; these last get their thanks in having their own ventures promoted on this page.  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). :-)

The past year (2015) also saw articles from: Sue Burke, Darrell Buxton, Tony Chester, Ian Hunter, Karl-Johan Norén, Dave Rowe, Peter Tyers and Jim Walker.  Stand-alone book reviews over the year were provided by: David Allkins, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, João H. Duarte, Susan Griffiths, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers and Peter Young.  'Futures stories' in 2015 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories from: J. W. Armstrong, Philip Ball, Paul Currion, and Simon Kewin.  Additional site contributions came from: Alan Boakes (webmaster), Jonathan Cowie (news, reviews and team coordinator plus semi-somnolent co-founding editor), Dan Heidel (additional IT and site back-up), Boris Sidyuk (sponsorship coordinator, web space and ISP liaison), Tony Bailey (stationery) and Graham Connor (ex officio editor).

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Summer 2016 period – needs to be in before mid-March 2016. 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.

Feel free to browse the rest of the site: key links below.


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