Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Spring 2017

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

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Welcome to 2017 which will see us mark our 30th anniversary. The past three decades since we first appeared as a print semi-prozine at British SF national convention have simply flown by.  We are, and will, be marking this anniversary in a number of ways throughout the year.  The first of these is a re-design of this seasonal news page's layout into a hopefully cleaner and more easily navigable format.
          However, it has to be said that three decades is quite a stint, and given the effect of the ravages of time on our founding editors, so we are giving some thought as to how long we can, or should, keep going?  Much depends on our site's traffic this year as, while it has grown most years since we migrated online one and half decades ago, it seemed to have plateaued a little the past 18 months before returning (from August 2016) to its long-term upward trend: maybe the 2015/6 temporary stalling was a sign?  (FYI of idle interest: December 2016 saw some 24,000 unique visitors [accessing IP addresses] download over 130,000 whole pages that month [this is not 'hits' and excludes search and other bot visits].)
          In addition, the afore-mentioned ravages of time on us have been very real: we have not only had one of our founding co-editors suffer socio-economic dropout but a few years ago we had the sad loss of one of premiere (print) issue's producers and also, as some of you know, serious health problems have meant that another of our founding co-editors has very much had to take a back seat in recent years.  Indeed, time is also affecting those on the periphery of our group as exemplified this last season with the sad loss of one of our typesetters from our print edition days.  So, while next year we will be marking our 30th anniversary, it is with the knowledge that some of us and our partner associates might well not be around for our 40th anniversary: a thought that does focus the mind a tad as to how long we might be able to keep Concat' going? This is something which we will be contemplating the next couple of years.
          Enough of such maudlin musings and on with the last season's round-up of the SF as well as science scenes and also a forward look as to this season's forthcoming book and film SF offerings.  We hope that you enjoy the below and the other content in this first edition of 2017 and our 30th year.  +++ See also 2000AD to mark its 40th anniversary below.  +++ Other of the year's SF/science anniversaries as usual for our Spring news page below at the page's bottom.

Comment:  The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation convention has been held.  We have received some comment of appreciation for 'our' 'Science fact and science fiction Concatenation' convention held at Jackson College in the US in October (2016).  Just for the record, actually it was not organised by ourselves and neither has SF² Concatenation any connection with this venture, nor, courtesy lacking, were we informed that it was to take place.  Still, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and we do hope that it went well and that they do another. Indeed, should any other science group wishes to embark on a similar venture, using the same name as ourselves is not a problem: just talk to us in advance and give us a link. :-)

 

STAFF STUFF

The past season has seen Jonathan attend a number of publisher events including Orion/Gollancz's SF Gateway's fifth anniversary bash (and he has his own mini-report on his own satellite website) among a number of publisher gatherings.  Meanwhile Peter W. is starting a local SF group in Northumberland Heath.  There were a couple of significant staff gatherings with Jonathan, Roberto, Peter T. and, our regular Eurocon reviewer, Jim W. attending the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona, as well as Jonathan and Peter T. at Brian, Roger and Caroline's pre-Christmas bash which this year was to mark ½r and Wendy's wedding anniversary (we'll skate over the number of years decades this celebrated): a party that saw many of London and Home Counties Eastercon fandom in attendance.
          Finally, many happy returns to Graham who turns 60 the day after we post this seasonal news page.  Many happy returns.

Other staff stuff… While many SF publishers, PR folk, agents etc., do send us news and pointers, we do thank the few non-professionals (who do it purely for fandom and the love of the genre) who do the same unpaid at the bottom of the each of these seasonal news pages. What you may have missed is that the first of these each year also includes a list of all those who contributed to SF² Concatenation's manifestation the previous 12 months. This seasonal news page is just one of those occasions and you can see just how many, as well as who did what, in the 'thanks' section at the bottom and the second paragraph beginning The past year…, to bring this site to your good selves.

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol 27 (1) Spring 2017) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Tony Ballantyne
          27th Festival of Fantastic Films 2016 – Great Britain - Darrell Buxton
          British Fantasycon 2016 - Ian Hunter
          2017 Diary of Major SF Conventions & Forthcoming SF Films of the Year
          SF/F/H book reviewers wanted
Plus loads of standalone book reviews – see the What's New page.

 

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Key SF News and SF & Science Awards

 

Best SF/F books of 2016? 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 and Fantasy books of 2016:-
          Heart of Granite by James Barclay. A helter-skelter ride in the sky. Top Gun meets Dragonlance, with a little grisly organic biotech thrown in. Max Halloran is a drake rider, bonded to his mount, Martha. He flies as part of Inferno-X, the elite fighter wing of the titular, Heart of Granite – a living aircraft carrier that lumbers along the ground. We join him mid-flight, mid-mission, in an action packed aerial dogfight against a continental enemy over Africa...
          The Tourist by Robert Dickinson. It is the near future and we are getting time-travelling visitors from the 23rd century coming to see what life was like back in the 21st. Our protagonist is attached to 'Happiness' and is a rep for the Tri-Millennium tourism company – a cheap rate version of the more classier Heritage package holiday operation – that operates out of Resort 4, a huge domed complex somewhere presumably in the Home counties outside of London. We (the readers) soon learn that the locals (21st century natives) are very aware of their tourist visitors and that they are from the future (though a few still think that time travel is science fiction). We also soon learn (though the natives are unaware) that in the decades to come there will be a near extinction event (NEE)…
          Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Black Spring, a beautiful little place in the Hudson Valley. Stay, and you won’t want to leave, and you can’t anyway, not ever. Going away to college everyday and coming back at night is okay, but if you stay away longer you start to become suicidal. Why? Because you have seen Katherine van Wyler, the Black Rock Witch, the ghost of a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth have been sewn shut and body wrapped in chains. Who walks the town at will. She can appear anywhere. And the town Council have fixed things to keep matters wrapped. What we have is a combination of a haunted house story, widened to become a haunted town story – and there aren’t many of those, mashing up against something like a young adult dystopian novel where the adults have agreed that the existence of the Black Rock Witch must be kept a secret from the outside world…
          The Fireman by Joe Hill. A fungal disease is spreading fast wiping out humanity. Hill himself has said that it is "less like Matheson, more like Crichton. Less like Hell House, more like The Andromeda Strain". The novel has caused quite a stir with many people liking it. Having said that a few do hate it, in part due to its length (over 750 pages) and in part due to some parallel's with his father's (Stephen King's) The Stand.
          The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod. Set in the future, a bunch of dead dissidents led by Carlos the Terrorist are reawakened from stored memories into what they believe to be a virtual training simulation where they are prepped for battle against a group of consciousness-attaining robots who threaten the status quo. Everything in the new reality appears to be 'artificial intelligence' (AI) controlled, but the uppity robots refuse to do what they are supposed to, so Carlos and the rest of his disreputable group are sent into destroy them…
          After Atlas by Emma Newman. Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos's entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas's departure, it's got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room - and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation...
          The Gradual by Christopher Priest. Set in the Republic of Glaund, and analogue to many oppressive regimes of the 20th century. Alessandro Sussken is a composer of classical music. His career takes off after he writes a set of pieces about the islands he can see in the distance from his home. We follow his journey around the islands, and are introduced to the strange time zone differentials that affect Priest’s world… This is a time travel story with an original twist – fantasy rather than SF, with a strong first person voice and a compelling narrative.

Best SF/F films of 2016? Possibilities include:-
          Arrival. When spacecraft appear over many of the Earth's cities, a translator is sought to establish communication… This is a rather good first contact film.  Trailer here.
          Captain America: Civil War. After another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark's surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.  Trailer here.
          Deadpool. Based upon Marvel Comics most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humour, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.  Trailer here.
          Embers. This has not yet had a general release but has gained some traction at a number of film fests.  In a dystopian future, an unidentified virus of some kind has caused a neurological disease of global proportions and has infected the majority of the Earth's population with memory loss.  This is an art-house type offering.  Trailer here.
          The Girl with all the Gifts. SF horror based on the Mike Carey book. A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian, almost post-apocalyptic future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie. Though this borrows from the zombie trope (in the broadest sense), this is a sufficiently novel treatment to raise it markedly above many of its obvious rivals.  Trailer here.
          Star Trek Beyond. The third in the Star Trek re-boot sees the crew face a destructive new foe from deep space.  Trailer here.
          Suicide Squad concerns villains from the DC comics universe (The Joker, Harlequin, Panda Man, Deadshot etc) brought together by the US government to combat some great problem. And yes, if you are into DC it is rather fun.  Trailer here.
          Viral. SF horror.  Following the outbreak of a rage type virus that wipes out the majority of the human population, a young woman documents her family's new life in quarantine and tries to protect her infected sister.  This has had a release in the US but not over here in Europe.   Trailer here.

The 2016 Nobel Prizes for science have been announced. The science category wins were:-
          Physics: David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, all British born now working in the US. All three used maths to explain the physical effects in rare states of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films.
          Chemistry: Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France), Sir J. Fraser Stoddart (Britain currently working in the US) and Bernard L. Feringa (Netherlands) for the design and synthesis of machines on a molecular scale.
          Medicine: Yoshinori Ohsumi for his work on autophagy, the process by which cells self-destruct. His work in the 1990s was on yeasts but the mechanism has now been found in mammals and has implications for treating dementia and cancer.
          For last year's 2015 Nobel Prizes, see here.

Best SF/F related (non-fiction) book of 2016?  We do not usually cover best related (non-fiction) SF/F book of the year but with the recent loss of Peter Weston (Britain's longstanding leading SF fan) we should perhaps do a little more to value our heritage with those who were a part of it while we can. To this end you might want to consider checking out Rob Hanson's history of Brit SF fandom THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 (ISBN 978-1-326-75326-9 (hrdbk) and 978-1-326-36675-9 (trdpbk).) Rob Hansen is acknowledged in Brian Aldiss' autobiography The Twinkling of an Eye as 'the historian of fanzines'. Then is Rob's ground-breaking history of British science fiction fandom from its first stirrings in the early 1930s to 1980 and a little beyond. Includes over 300 photos of contemporary fans of all eras, dozens of scans of representative fanzine covers selected from each decade, detailed source notes and a full index. (Spot the reference to Hatfield PSIFA Shoestringcons. Whatever happened to the souls behind them…?)

The 2016 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: Volkswagen, for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.
          Medicine: Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Munte, Silke Anders, and Andreas Sprenger, for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa).
          Psychology: Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki, and Bruno Verschuere, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.
          Peace: Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'.
          Last year's winners here.

The British Fantasy Awards were presented at FantasyCon, Scarborough. The winners were:-
          Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): Uprooted by Naomi Novik
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award): Rawblood by Catriona Ward
          Best Novella: The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
          Best Anthology: The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow
          Best Artist: Julie Dillon
          Best Collection: Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due
          Best Comic/Graphic Novel: Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro,
                                                Robert Wilson IV and Cris Peter (Image Comics) (#2–5)
          Best Film/Television Production: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell dir. Peter Harness (BBC 1)
          Best Independent Press: Angry Robot and commissioning editor Marc Gascoigne
          Best Magazine/Periodical: Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
          Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award): Zen Cho, for Sorcerer to the Crown
          Best Non-Fiction: Letters to Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein
          Best Short Fiction: 'Fabulous Beasts' by Priya Sharma
          The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award): The FantasyCon redshirts (gophers)
          past and present.

The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016 has been presented. (This was originally the Royal Society's COPUS Book Award.)  The winner was The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf. The book concerns Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) who is arguably the great lost scientist. More things have been named after him than anyone who has ever lived – towns, rivers, mountain ranges, a penguin, a giant squid and even the mare Humboldtianum on the Moon. He inspired generations of thinkers and writers – Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt, Napoleon was jealous of him and Captain Nemo in Jules Verne’s famous Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea owned all of his books. Yet today he is almost forgotten.

The 2016 World Fantasy Awards have been presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus (US). The winners were:-
          Novel: The Chimes by Anna Smaill
          Novella: The Unlicensed Magician by Kelly Barnhill
          Short Fiction: 'Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers ' by Alyssa Wong
          Anthology: She Walks in Shadows by (eds) Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles
          Collection: Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney
          Artist: Galen Dara
          Special Award – Professional: Stephen Jones for The Art of Horror
          Special Award – Nonprofessional: John O’Neill for Black Gate
The World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards winners for 2016 were David Hartwell and Andrzej Sapkowski.
          +++ For last year's winners see here.

Spain's 2016 Ignotus Awards were presented at the Hispacon within this year's Eurocon in Bracelona. 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) which was this year subsumed into the Eurocon. The Award is voted on by association members, convention attendees and fans. The winners were:-
         Novel: Challenger [Challenger] by Guillem López
         Novella: 'Naturaleza Humana' ['Human Nature'] by César Mallorqu&iacure;
         Short Story: 'La Bestia Humana de Birkenau' ['The Human Beast of Birkenau'] by Sergio Mars
         Anthology: A la Deriva en el Mar de las Lluvias [Adrift in the Sea of Rains] edited by Mariano Villarreal
         Book Series: 'Yo soy Más de Series' ['I'm More Series'] commissioned by Fernando Moreno and Victor Miguel Angel Gallardo
         Article: 'Antologías de ciencia ficción en Espana' ['Spanish Science Fiction Anthologies'] by Cristina Jurado
         Illustration: Cover for Mariposas del Oeste [Butterflies of the West'] by Juan Miguel Aguilera
         Audiovisual production: El Ministerio del Tiempo by [The Ministry of Time] television series
         Comic / Graphic novel: Universo [Universe] by Albert Monteys
         Magazine: Delirio
         Foreign Novel: Las Primeras Quince vidas de Harry August [The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August] by Claire North
         Foreign Short Story: 'Algoritmos Para el Amor' ['Algorithms for Love'] by Ken Liu
         Website: Sentido de la Maravilla [Sense of Wonder]
Also presented was the Gabriel Award for significant and valuable contributions to the world of speculative fiction which this year went to Francisco Arellano the science fiction editor, translator and writer. In addition to translating over a hundred novels into Spanish, he has compiled a dozen long anthologies of stories by Spanish and foreign authors. He directed the important science fiction collections of Miraguano and La Biblioteca del Laberinto, where these days he selects work for the magazine Delirio.
         Notes: Mariano Villarreal also won an Ignotus for 'Best Anthology last year. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North was short-listed for the 2015 Clarke (Book) AwardEl Ministerio del Tiempo by [The Ministry of Time] television series also won a Eurocon Award at the same convention (see below) as this year's Ignotuses (Ignoti?) were presented.  +++ Last year's Ignotus Awards here.  +++ See also the Catalan Awards below.

The Ictineu Awards for Best Catalan SF were presented at this year's Hispacon dinner following the Ignotus Awards within this year's Eurocon. The Award is managed by the Catalan Society of Ciència-Ficció i Fantasia [Catalan SF & Fantasy Society]. The principal category wins were:-
         Novel: Michelíada by Antoni Munné-Jordà
         Foreign Novel: Medio Rey [The Half King] by Joe Abercrombie
The dinner was mid-level hotel food consisting of stuffed ravioli, followed by a somewhat indifferent salmon, all rounded off with a fresh fruit salad (which was good) supposedly covered with a Bergamota syrup (which it wasn't or at least did not seem to be). With regards to the award presentation, everything was in either Spanish or Catalan but the excellent company and enthusiastic atmosphere carried the few non-Iberians present from the Eurocon through an enjoyable evening.

The 2016 Eurocon Awards were presented at this year's Eurocon in Barcelona.   Award ceremonies – be they Hugo or the European SF Society's Eurocon Awards (ESFS) – can be lengthy drawn out affairs. This year it was the other extreme and almost a perfunctory add-on to the convention's closing ceremony rather than being its centrepiece; the list of winners was simply read out and we did not even get to see what this year's awards looked like.  This year there were quite a few ties due to there being a few hot runners and a small number of national delegates (two per European country) and those attending the ESFS business meetings. The winners were:-
European Grand Master: Herbert W. Franke (Germany)
Hall of Fame
          Best Author: Tom Croshill (Latvia)
          Best Artist: Stephan Martinère (France)
          Best Magazine: Bifrost (France)
          Best Publisher: Nova – Ediciones B (Spain)
          Best Promoter: James Bacon (Ireland) who tied with…
                                  Roberto Quaglia (Italy)
                                  and the Organisers of Archipelacon (Finland & Sweden)
          Best Translator: Andrew Bromfield (Great Britain)
          Spirit of Dedication Awards
          Best Author: Guillem López (Spain)
          Best Artist: Kristina Bilota Toxicpanda (Croatia)
          Best Fanzine: SuperSonic (Spain)
          Best Website: Risingshadow (Finland)
          Best Dramatic Presentation: El Ministerio Del Tiempo [The Ministry of Time] (Spain)
that tied with The Shaman (Austria)
          Best Creator of Children’s Science Fiction or Fantasy Books: Sofia Rhei (Spain)
And the there were a slew of Encouragement Awards. These go to young authors considered by one or both of the two Eurocon 'national delegates' for each country and are there to give them a little encouragement. After nomination they usually go though on the nod.
          Background Information: The European Grandmaster went to Herbert W. Franke who is very well known in Germany, his native Austria and by genre aficionados elsewhere in Europe. His novels include: Das Gedankennetz [The Mind Net] (1961), Der Orchideenkafig [The Orchid Cage], Schule fur Ubermenschen [School for Supermen] (1980 and Spiegel der Gedanken [Mirror of Thought]. This award win is both well deserved and an example of ESFS members at their best voting outside of the current year's host nation.    Tom Croshill is known in Latvia but also has achieved some SF attention in his adopted N. America with three Nebula nominations. His work has also been nominated for the Latvian Annual Literature Award. As few from the very small European nations win awards, this Eurocon recognition is particularly welcome.   James Bacon is not really well known in the ESFS Community outside of those that interact with Worldcons (and, of course, his home nation Ireland). However he has done much to raise Ireland's fan profile within the Worldcon community within which he is active.   Roberto Quaglia has been omnipresent within the ESFS community and, as a past ESFS Officer, was behind ESFS's most significant development in the 2000s with the upgrading and further development of its website including linking to many past Eurocon online reviews (now, after a few subsequent years of his being out of office, sadly dwindling due to net-rot which demonstrates that such need continual looking after). However he is better known within the ESFS community for having attended virtually every Eurocon from the mid-1990s to the present and beyond ESFS in European fandom specifically for attending non-Eurocon SF events beyond his native Italy in Romania and Russia as well as oiling the wheels between these fandoms and the European SF community as a whole. In addition he has written fiction both as a solo author and with others. He also previously garnered an Aelita Award (Russia), and of course he is known us at SF2 Concatenation mission control.    Archipelacon was arguably Scandinavia's first major, non-Eurocon, international convention and a sort of mini dry-run for the forthcoming Helsinki Worldcon in 2017.    Andrew Bromfield is a translator of Russian books for British imprints whose talents have steadily improved. As such he has played a pivotal role in bringing recent Russian SF/F books to the Anglophone readership especially Sergei Lukyanenko's 'Watch' series.   El Ministerio Del Tiempo [The Ministry of Time] is a hugely popular Spanish show (it won an Ignotus Award -- see above) that concerns a temporal secret service policing the integrity of the space time continuum: think, the background setting of Robert Silverberg's Up The Line (1969) and perhaps Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity (1955). This was a hosting nation win but a very worthy one in a recent Eurocon category that has had debatable past results. (Trailer 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): Le Vivant [The Living] by Anna Starobinets
          Prix Utopiales Européen Jeunesse (Juvenile SF): Empreinte Digitale [Digital Print] by Patrice Favaro
          Honorable Mention: Les Copies by Jesper Wung-Sung
          Prix Julia Verlanger: Le Club des Punk Contre l’Apocalypse Zombie [The Punk Club Versus the Zombie Apocalypse ] by Karim Berrouka
          Prix de la Meilleure Bande Dessinée de SF (Graphic Novel): Nefer: Chants et Contes des Premières Terres [Nefer: Songs and Tales from the First Lands ] by Arnaud Boutle
Cinéma
          International Competition of Feature Films - Juried: Realive by Mateo Gil (Trailer here)
          International Competition of Feature Films – Attendees Vote: Realive by Mateo Gil
          Special Mention International Competition of Feature Films – Juried: Sam Was Here by Christophe Deroo
          Prix du Jury Courts (Shorts) Métrages: Planemo by Veljko Popovic
          Honourable mention: Decorado by Alberto Vásquez
          Prix du Public Courts (Shorts) Métrages: Automatic Fitness by Alejandra Tomei

Jane Yolen becomes the 32nd SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master. The award is given by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for 'lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy'. She is the author of around 350 books.

The John Maddox prize for 2016 has gone to Elizabeth Loftus for her research on human memory despite harassment from those in the US legal system. The John Maddox prize is for researchers working in the face of hostility and repression. Elizabeth Loftus' work at California U. on false memories demonstrated that a number of legal prosecutions were based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. The award is sponsored by the British based Nature, the Kohn Foundation and Sense About Science.

The 2016 Eurocon was held in Barcelona. This year's event was called BCon and was Spain's first Eurocon (though no 'beacon' was lit to signal an impending armada). Cutting straight to the chase, many nations who have already had a number of Eurocons under their belts would have been proud to have put on this one.  We have previously covered a number of the 2016 Eurocon's developments in the run-up to the event:-
          (Spring 2014) Bids sought for the 2016 Eurocon
          (Summer 2014) Barcelona wins 2016 Eurocon bid
          (Autumn 2014) First Progress Report published and preliminary themes
          (Spring 2015) Second Progress Report published
          (Summer 2015) Hotel details and rates to be announced
          (Autumn 2015) Progress Report 3: local and hotel information
          (Spring 2016) Social activities around the Eurocon and extra GoH
          (Summer 2016) Activities for non-Eurocon members and travel details for arriving
          Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan part of Spain, has been developing a regional SF community and as such Barcelona's Eurocon was appropriately at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB). This itself was rather poignant as revealed by a local Barcelona Councillor and a senior CCCB secretariat member at the convention's opening ceremony: this Eurocon was a kind of Catalan SF breakout event into – as well as welcoming those from – the broader European SF community. The venue building itself was a tasteful mix of old and new and ideal for a Eurocon and the near 800 or so, plus some members of the public in the dealers hall and so open events, who attended with a variety of different sized halls for the programme. These ranged from a large theatre hall that could hold nearly all the convention through to smaller rooms for a hundred or so.
        A spacious, underground hall served as a dealers hall with a small café area and green room. It is impossible in the space available here to provide a full representation of all the treasures on offer as there were many. For example, the Polish were giving out copies of a special Eurocon edition in English of their semi-prozine Smokopolitan with its mix of fiction and articles: on-line version here. Here the latter were most interesting as they provided a profile of Poland's SF scene from genre writers to SF conventions and which included an article on Polish SF in the communist era.  Then there were those around the con with their own projects such as the Romulans from Bucharest with their Neverdie graphic novel (based on the Petre Ipirescu story) to pitch to European comic and graphic novel publishers. Such ventures provide added value and make Eurocons special. The convention also saw this year's ESFS Eurocon awards (not so much presented as) announced, as well as the Spanish Ignotus and Catalan Ictineu Awards that had a proper presentation dinner.
        There was a substantive programme pack which included a souvenir zine as well as many odd and ends including cards that had scan-codes for European e-books including for Sky City and Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep Danish and Swedish SF anthologies, in addition to the usual programme schedule. The gem in the convention package was a tri-lingual (hence it was large) copy of the Catalan SF classic novella Typescript of the Second Origin in Catalan, Spanish and, notably for the first time, English. This was a real coup for the convention!
        The programme had six streams with a 7th based in the main hotel just a block away for the business meetings of various SF groups including the European SF Society (ESFS). Additionally, elsewhere there were films and at the local (reportedly Europe's largest) SF bookshop, Gigamesh (itself a con sponsor), there were many author signing sessions.  The programme itself was largely split between items in English and Spanish with a few in Catalan: there was always something (if not a choice) of items on in both English and separately Spanish: the opening ceremony was in all three. Given the number of GoHs and that the programme aimed to cover the breadth of genre interests, there was little science (one of this website's principal SFnal foci); them's the breaks, Eurocons vary (and the better for it). But there was so much going on as well as a number of social café areas that there was plenty to keep everyone occupied. Now, many of you missed the Eurocon, nonetheless you can get still a flavour of the programme from where you are sitting as a number of the items were videoed for YouTube. Just type in "Eurocon 2016 –" (that's 'Eurocon 2016 [hyphen]') into the YouTube search box to get a list of videos on offer. (Nearly all the search results relate to the Barcelona Eurocon but a couple relate to a Christian festival that has hijacked the 'Eurocon' name, but these are obvious.) This vid recording was a brilliant move by the committee enabling not only others see programme items but for those who attended check out items they would not normally see in the course of a hectic con. Yes, convention YouTubing has been done before, but nobody has done it to this extent: clearly this is part of the future of SF cons.  So, you missed out on the socialising, the local architecture, the new personal encounters, the re-encountering of past acquaintances, the partying, but you can still get a flavour of the programme via the online vids. To get you started there are links to the GoH and science items below:-
      Interview with GoH Aliette de Bodard
      Interview with fan GoH Péter Michaleczky (what did Darth Vader do with fine wine?)
      Interview with GoH Richard Morgan
      Interview with GoH Rhianna Pratchett
      Interview with non-European GoH Brandon Sanderson
      Interview with GoH Andrzej Sapkowski
      Interview with GoH Johanna Sinisalo
      Beyond Jurassic Park (An introduction to genomics plus the latest - CRISPR-Cas9)
      How Your Brain Cheats You (Psychology with added fruity language)
      Is Venus Habitable? (Inhospitable certainly, but perhaps there's one place..?)
      Lovecraft: The Scientific Sources (Cthulhu et al were based upon 19th century science)
      Machines That Kill (Killer drones and robots are here. Skynet coming?)
      Surfing Space-Time (Science flaws in SF – School science level fun discussion)
      Verne Versus Wells (The two science predicting SF, founding grandmaster authors compared)
      Where are the Aliens? (Fermi discussion, including SF2 Concat's bioscience editor)
Also in the mix was…
      SF in Italy & Romania (Rome's lost legion, with an SF2 Concat' contributor)
      And a George Orwell walk around Barcelona's Ramblas.

The 2016 Eurocon: What others say. A brief surf of the blogs a month after the event reveals among others the following conreps and comments:-
      Sara Martin Alegre blogs.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/2016/11/10/after-eurocon-2016-barcelona
      Amazing Stories amazingstoriesmag.com/2016/11/eurocon-2016-part-1/
      Sara Martin blogs.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/2016/11/10/after-eurocon-2016-barcelona
      Julie Novakova julienovakova.com/eurocon-2016-watch-it-online
      Cheryl Morgan cheryl-morgan.com/?p=23605
      Sharon Reamer sharonreamer.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/back-from-eurocon.html
      Sweden's Euroconrunners eurocon2011.se/eurocon-2016-in-barcelona
      Ian Watson anwatson.info/did-the-barcelona-eurocon-really-happen
      Lars Ahn Pedersen (in Danish) arsahn.dk/berlin-barcelona-og-eurocon/
      SF Mandiner (in Hungarian) sci-fi.mandiner.hu/cikk/20161114_vyne_eurocon_2016_barcelona_1_resz
      SF Portal (in Hungarian) sfportal.hu/beszamolo-eurocon-2016-barcelona-1-resz-18940.scifi
      Cristina Alve (in Portuguese) osrascunhos.com/2016/11/09/assim-foi-portugal-na-eurocon/
      Fantastic Fiction (in Spanish) fantasticaficcion.com/index.php/una-mirada-a-la-eurocon-2016
      Letters Boy (in Spanish) /boywithletters.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/cronica-eurocon-2016.html
      Marta Medina (in Spanish) elconfidencial.com/cultura/2016-11-04/eurocon-2016-ciencia-ficcion-barcelona-bcon_1284942/
      Textosensolfa (in Spanish) textosensolfa.com/2016/11/08/eurocon-2016-barcelona-literatura-sin-genero-de-dudas-ii/
      Zena (in Spanish) zena.cat/resum-la-nostra-cobertura-de-leurocon-2016
SF² Concatenation will hopefully have its own standalone review of the 2016 Barcelona Eurocon in next season's (summer 2017) edition.

The 2016 European SF Society (ESFS) business meeting was held at the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona. The ESFS officers informed the meeting that they had Skype met between Eurocons to discuss changes to the awards, such consideration constitution by the officers as a group had not been undertaken by the previous administration the previous decade. Consequently, many of the changes that were proposed at the previous Eurocon (St Petersburg) were positive though a few may transpire to be problematic, time will tell. These were all ratified at this meeting subject to a couple of very minor changes arising from discussion at the meeting and the officers affirmed that they would continue to scrutinise the constitution and monitor matters.  There was one query about the current award nominations but after the officers had a two-minute huddle, it was decided that the objection was not valid under the current constitution but would have been valid under the new one: it’s a spirit of the constitution vs. letter of the constitution thing.  All in all the meeting was positive and ESFS, after its recent wilderness years, seems to be moving forward.  This year also saw the new officers complete their first term of three years. They were all re-elected. The one officer of old – Bridget Wilkinson – who has quietly provided a valuable heritage service across various officer regimens for a quarter of a century, decided to stand down. All were appreciative of her contributions. The site selection for 2018 was made.

The 2017 Eurocon (Dortmund, Germany) has released its Progress Report 3. One of the programme tracks will showcase the host nation's classic SF ranging from the film Metropolis through to Perry Rhodan. There will also be a number of items exploring the boundary between science fact and science fiction, which should appeal to this site's regulars. Helpfully for visiting Eurocon regulars (who need to plan the duration of their stay well in advance to book work leave and get the best travel details) the convention has confirmed that there will be both advance and post Eurocon social gatherings. The pre-con-party will be on the Thursday and the post-con-party on Sunday either side of the con. Both parties will start at 6 pm in Hövels-Brauhaus (Hoevels Brewery), Hoher Wall 5-7, 44137 Dortmund, where visitors can enjoy traditional German country style food, lots of German beer and other beverages! Plus there are tourist things visitors can do should they wish to arrive a day early for orientation or stay a day later. Many fans who followed their bid for Eurocon may already have planned a visit to the Dortmund Brewery Museum but there are other tourist attractions including a Natural History Museum that covers the past 55 million years (which one of our bioscientists says takes us back to the Earth's last major carbon isotope excursion to the current one and its climatic warm blip of over 100,000 years). At the German Health & Safety at Work Exhibition there is a simulator where you can test your ability to drive a heavy lorry. More news will be released with future Progress Reports.  +++ Previous Dortmund 2017 Eurocon news here.

The 2018 Eurocon will be held in Amiens, France. This will be France's fourth Eurocon: as the last one was Fayence in 1990, the country is undoubtedly overdue to host the event. Amiens was the home to Jules Verne so the locals can expect some house gawping. Indeed the Eurocon's name will be Nemo 2018 in honour of Verne's anti-hero. The French national convention will be held the day before the Eurocon so there may be the possibility for some informal or even organised social gatherings for visiting European fans from outside of France a full day before the actual Eurocon itself and a preliminary tourist cum orientation day for such visitors. The GoHs will be: Vladimir Arenev (Ukranian author), Pierre Bordage (French author), Philippe Curval (French author), Aliette de Bodard (fantasy writer of Franco-Vietnamese decent but born in the USA and currently domiciled in France who was also a GoH at last year's Eurocon), Laurent Genefort (French author) and Ian Watson (British writer now resident in Spain). Given it has been over a quarter of a century since the last French Eurocon one can forgive the GoH selection perhaps being a little heavy on host nationals and especially since it has been a few years since a French author other than Aliette has been a GoH at a Eurocon.  We can also expect good French wine and cuisine, so all in all lots to look forward to.

A 2019 Eurocon bid marker has been placed by and for Northern Ireland. The 2016 European SF Society's business meeting saw a bid marker presented by N. Ireland for the 2019 Eurocon. The bid group is for Titancon. The proposers are a seasoned convention running group who have run a number of Titancons over the years. These are small fantasy conventions (apparently ~200 strong) with a strong focus on the Game of Thrones television series. The thinking behind the bid is that they plan to hold it a few days after the proposed Dublin venued 2019 Worldcon.  This is an interesting idea, however the proposed bid raises a number of questions.  This bid marker is all well and rather good but why does this convention need to be a Eurocon?  The Eurocon is primarily an SF convention, albeit with fantasy included, also the Eurocon is a large, pan-European SF focussed event.  What the Eurocon most certainly is not is a small event with a primarily a fantasy focus, nor does it tend to concentrate on just one TV show.  True, there are many Game of Thrones (GoT) fans and a number will be at the Dublin Worldcon, but does this make for a sufficiently broad a foundation for a Eurocon?  The Titancon folk seem wedded to a GoT theme and indeed they plan a GoT scene tour the day after the convention.  If this bid is truly a serious one for a Eurocon then the proposers have a number of mountains to climb for their convention to be centred on European SF.  Alternatively, they could quite easily organise a post-Dublin Worldcon relaxacon perfectly successfully without it being a Eurocon, or if they really did want a European dimension they could request ESFS to grant them 'Euroconference' status (there is a provision in the European SF Society constitution for just such a circumstance).  Hopefully the Titancon representatives at the 2016 Barcelona Eurocon will have gained an idea as to how SFnal and how European the SF Eurocon really is and will convey that to their colleagues who can decide whether or not to go down the post-Dublin Game of Thrones relaxacon route, or alternatively the road to a proper SF Eurocon (albeit with some GoT on the side).  Equally hopefully there will be rival bids for the 2019 Eurocon as that might help focus minds and give Eurocon fans (who will vote on the 2019 site selection) a genuine choice.  Of course we could have our cake an eat it: we could have a proper Eurocon earlier in the year to the August Dublin Worldcon (or even a week before so people can hop to Dublin) as well as a post-Dublin (non-Eurocon) GoT Titancon relaxacon shortly after.  We will see, but it would be helpful if Titancon clarified their Euro thinking and proposals sooner rather than later so that we can consider matters properly.

A 2020 Eurocon bid marker has been placed for Croatia. The 2016 European SF Society's business meeting saw a bid marker presented by Croatia for the 2020 Eurocon.  The bidding team is a young band of convention organisers who have a number of conventions under their belts. Furthermore, Croatia held a Eurocon not long ago in 2012. This being only four years ago is short enough for experience to be handed on to the young team, yet by 2020 eight years will have passed so Croatia cannot be accused of hogging the Eurocon.  The bid's name is Futuricon and the venue city is Rijeka, a picturesque, seaside town that is a local tourist attraction.  The Croatian weather for early October, the bid's date, should be similar to that of Barcelona at last year's Eurocon.

Eurocons further in the future…? At Barcelona there were very tentative musings for 2021 by Italy and 2022 by Luxembourg.

A New Hugo Award category is to be trialled. Fans voted in August 2016 for a new Hugo award for 'Best Series', which could be added in 2018. This will now be trialled at the forthcoming 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki. Each Worldcon Committee has the authority to introduce a special category Hugo award, and Worldcon 75 has decided to test 'Best Series' in 2017. This follows the precedent of the 2009 Worldcon, which trialled 'Best Graphic Story' before it became a regular Hugo the following year. Fans at Worldcon 75 will be able to decide whether to ratify the 'Best Series' for future years and suggest revisions to the award definition at the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting held in Helsinki during the 2017 convention.

The Hugo Award season has opened for nominations. The nominating period for the 2017 Hugo Awards has begun.  All nomination ballots must be postmarked by 17th March 2017 or submitted by 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time on 17th March.  In order to participate, nominators must have purchased membership in Worldcon 75, MidAmericon II or Worldcon 76 in San José (the current members of the World Science Fiction Society, WSFS) by 31st January 2017.  WSFS members are encouraged to nominate up to five works/individuals in each category that they believe are worthy of a Hugo.  The final ballot will be announced in early April, and the awards will be presented on 11 August at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.  Only Worldcon 75 members will be able to vote on the final ballot and choose the winners.  The nominations will be subject to the new EPH ('E Pluribus Hugo') measures, which means that the more works one nominates within each category then the less strength those nominations receive.  So nominators should only vote for works they really want to see on the ballot. (We have covered all this before and so will not go into detail again. Next year might even see EPH+. There are other more sensible measures in place and also on track for potential future implementation.  The reason for all this is due to the Puppies affair previously covered.) All WSFS members are encouraged to nominate so as to capture the widest views as to the most significant SF works of 2016.  What will be particularly interesting will be to see whether this year's Worldcon – the first to be held on mainland continental Europe for over a quarter of a century (1990) – will see more European SF recognised.

The 2017 Worldcon to be held in Finland already has over 4,500 members from 45 countries. "The public interest for science fiction and fantasy is bigger than ever all over the world. This is an opportunity to reach out to new audiences and literally bring the world to Worldcon," said the convention's co-chair Jukka Halme. "We want to offer an interesting programme that reflects the latest trends, not just in literature, but also in comics, films, TV, music, and art. We’ll try some new things, but we will still respect the traditions of Worldcon, making sure that recurring members will feel at home. There will be something for everyone," he added. The 75th World Science Fiction Convention, Worldcon 75 will take place in Helsinki, Finland, 9th-13th August 2017.  +++ 'Strident' fandom troubles seem to have spread to Helsinki with the sacking of their 'Music' programme co-ordinator. Much of the on-line debate has gone off open access to private mode (for understandable reasons). See sections 8 – 11 plus bottom-of-page comments at File 770 here.

France's bid to host the Worldcon in 2023 has announced its intended venue. It will be held in Nice, on France's Mediterranean coast near the foothills to the Maritime Alps. So we can expect daytime temperatures in mid-20s°C.  The venue building will – if the bid wins – be the Acropolis conference centre which itself will by 2023 have a tram link to the airport. The team are accepting pre-supporting memberships.

Gollancz has celebrated SF Gateway's 5th anniversary and other achievements. Gollancz staff, together with a score of SF authors, some SF encyclopaedists and additional assorted SF personalities (including some associated with SF² Concatenation), author agents and so forth, gathered in Foyles Bookshop (London) to mark SF Gateway's 5th year and over one million e-books sold.  SF Gateway publishes in e-form many worthy SF titles no longer in paper print.  Gollancz is also responsible for the rolling on-line edition of the SF Encyclopaedia. The on-line edition began in 2011 with the 1.3 million words of the 2nd print edition of the SF Encyclopaedia as its starting point: last autumn it passed the 5.2 million words mark.  A great evening, good company and rather nifty nibbles.

The Galaxy's greatest comic, 2000AD, will be marking its 40th anniversary in February. 2000AD began in 1977. This puts our SF² Concatenation 30th into some sort of perspective especially as our founding editors have always had a connection with 2000AD not least through Hatfield PSIFA officially being granted permission in 1979 to adopt the Gronk as its mascot the same year that PSIFA's Shoestringcon 1: Polycon had the 2000AD team among its GoHs.  So it goes without saying that we wish 2000AD and the current team very many happy returns.  +++ This forthcoming celebration builds upon those in October (2016) held to mark 2000AD's 2000th edition. These included signings at specialist SF shops in: London, Edinburgh, Eastbourne, Shrewsbury, Cardiff, Manchester, Dublin and also outside the British Isles in Sydney Australia as well as Los Angeles in the USA.  Splundig.  +++ A 2000AD Anniversary event has been announced for 11th February 2017 at the Hammersmith Novotel, London, W6 8DR.  Hammersmith is well connected by underground/metro with Heathrow airport (Piccadilly line no changes) for visitors to Britain, and connections with London's mail rail stations are not difficult. Over a score of 2000AD former editors, writers and artists are slated to attend.  Registration is via 2000ADonline.com.

Analog and Asimov's change publishing schedules to bi-monthly. Both publications have seen a slowly declining circulation year-on-year from peaks in the very early 1980s of 110,000 and 100,000 respectively, to today falling by over three-quarters.  This has put the publishers, Dell, on the spot. So, they have decided that they will not increase the publications' annual subscriptions but alter their publication pattern.  So from now on (January 2017) they are moving from ten issues a year (of eight regular-sized issues and two 'double' issues) to six 208-page double issues.  The total number of fiction pages remains the same.  The move to bi-monthly publication effectively reduces compilation/binding, packaging and distribution costs.  It also facilitates the magazines' capacities for more novella-length fiction if they want.

The Galaktika scandal: now the SF Writers of America (SFWA) speaks out. As we reported back in April last year (2016) the newly resurrected and Eurocon Award winning Hungarian magazine Galaktika seems to have been pirating nearly all of its recent foreign language content.  Subsequent statements from the editor and publisher finally confirmed that things were not right, albeit without full clarity.  Now the SFWA has formally recommended "that authors, editors, translators, and other publishing professionals avoid working with Galaktika until the magazine has demonstrated that existing issues have been addressed and that there will be no recurrence."

All the StarShip Sofa and the District of Wonders network suite of podcasts are now paying for short stories. From January (2017) for every story 2000 up to 16,000 words they play they will pay US$50 (about £35). (They don't accept flash fiction.)

Heath Robinson to get a museum. William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944) is known to older SF buffs as a cartoonist/artist who drew fantastical, often complex, almost steampunk, styled devices – think Wallace and Gromit. The museum will be located in Pinner, north-west London, and will feature the largest collection of his work.

The Odyssey SF Writers course will meet 5th June – 14th July (2017). Based at the campus of Saint Anselm College, it meets for over four hours each day, five days a week, for both workshops and lectures. Feedback reveals the strengths and weaknesses in students' manuscripts. An advanced curriculum provides the writing tools necessary to strengthen those weak areas. Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work. Tuition is US$2,025, and housing in campus apartments is US$870 for a double room and US$1,740 for a single. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, sponsored by Odyssey graduate Sara King, provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend. The awards provide three scholarships in the amounts of US$2,025 (full tuition), US$500, and US$300. Guest tutors this year will include Alex Jablokov; J. A. White, Michael J. Sullivan, Gemma Files, and E. C. Ambrose, and the SF literary agent Mark Gottlieb will also be present as will, by Skype, David Brin. See www.odysseyworkshop.org.

Best-selling historical novelist turns to fantasy with trilogy. Conn Iggulden historical fiction and his non-fiction has British sales alone of over 3 million: he has over seven million copies sold globally.  Now he is turning to fantasy and has sold a trilogy to Michael Joseph. The first book in the 'Empire of Salt' trilogy is set in a world where dying magic and new technology are weapons in an age-old struggle for power. With themes ripped straight from historical fiction – a city filled with treachery and violence, in which political freedoms and personal ambitions vie with family loyalty for dominance – Iggulden weaves a narrative peopled by warriors and spies, magicians and mercenaries. The book will be published in hardback on 27th July.

A copy of J. K. Rowlings' The Tales of Beedle the Bard has been auctioned for almost £370,000 (US$463,000). The bejewelled copy was sold by Barry Cunningham, the publisher who first signed the author. He had it auctioned with permission of J. K. Rowling and some of the proceeds went to one of her favourite charities.  The Tales of Beedle the Bard was one of the top selling books in 2008. Previously a copy of a limited edition – only seven made – was sold for £2,000,000 (US$4,000,000) in 2007 (the eagle-eyed among you will note that the US dollar was weak then due to the sub-prime mortgage financial crash).  The copy just auctioned was one of these.  +++ For comparison, in 2013 a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone fetched £150,000 (US$225,000) a first edition Hobbit (1937) sold for £137,000 in 2015.

A copy of Isaac Newton's Principia has sold for US$3.7 million (£2.6m). Auctioned at Christies in New York it fetched twice as much as expected. Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica contains Newton's laws of motion as well as universal gravitation.  Previously in 2013 a copy that had been given to James II of England (the Scottish numbers are different) sold for US$2.5 million (£1.6m).

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Film News

 

The autumn's SF/F/H films appearing within the top five of the weekly box office top ten charts (which of course also include other non-genre offerings which we ignore) were in the British Isles (Great Britain, NI and Irish Republic) in order of their appearance:-
          Blair Witch (Trailer here)
          The Girl With All the Gifts based on Mike Carey's novel (Trailer here)
          Trolls the children's family animation (Trailer here)
          Inferno the Dan Brown fantasy techno-thriller (Trailer here)
          Arrival a rather good first contact film (Trailer here)
          Doctor Strange the Marvel comic book superhero (Trailer here)
          Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them J. K. Rowling fantasy had over 3x the number 2 in chart's take (Trailer here)
          Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Trailer here)
And in the N. American (Canada and US) weekly charts there were the additional offerings:-
          Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children based on Ransom Riggs' juvenile fantasy novel (Trailer here)
          Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween the comedy horror (Trailer here)
          Ouija: Origin of Evil the prequel horror (Trailer here)
          Moana the Hawaiian family fantasy (Trailer here)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show re-make was broadcast on Fox over Halloween. This will not be news to absolute die hard fans but firm fans outside of N. America (and many Brit SF fan love it) might have missed it. There has been a Canadian-US remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. OK, so the cast is not largely Brit (some of the songs have a bit of a twang) but Tim Curry is there as the criminologist. The lead, Dr Frank N. Furter, is played by Laverne Cox who therefore brings a new dimension to being just a sweet trαnsvestιte. Lou Adler, who was an executive producer of the original film does the same for this remake.  OK, so the original remains the definitive version, but do consider this as the fan sing-along rendition.  Hold on to your fishnets. Opening ‘Science Fiction Double Feature’ song from the new re-make here.

Joe Hill's novella 'Snapshot 1988' may be a Neflix film. Netflix have snapped up the rights to the novella that concerns a 13-year-old boy who has to take care of his elderly former housekeeper. She is seemingly succumbing to dementia. However, her memories are actually being stolen by an evil man called 'The Phoenician', who uses a special camera that steals people’s memories.
          What? You haven't heard of 'Snapshot 1988'? Well, in truth that is not surprising as apparently it has not yet come out but will in a four-novella collection from William Morrow slated for early 2018.

Brandon Sanderson’s novels may become a series of films. DMG Entertainment has acquired film and licensing rights to 'The Cosmere', Brandon Sanderson’s acclaimed series of interconnected fantasy novels including 'The Mistborn' Series, The Stormlight Achieve' and standalone novels such as Warbreaker and Elantris. The entertainment and media company [DMG] has committed to spending US$270 million, which will cover half of the money needed to back the first three films made from Sanderson’s canon.

Albus Dumbledore is coming back, J. K. Rowling hints. J. K. Rowling has revealed that she has drafted the scripts for five films in the 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' series. Rowling said: "We do talk about Dumbledore and Grindelwald." Dumbledore's return was confirmed at the same time by the first film's director David Yates. J. K. Rowling has previously spoken about the pre-Potter-time (70 years earlier), close relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, adding Hogwarts' headmaster – who she confirmed is gay – was once had romantic feelings for the dark wizard.

New Predator film gets new lead in Boyd Holbrook. Boyd Holbrook is also to appear in the forthcoming Marvel Comics' film LoganThe Predator is currently slated for release in February 2018. Word had had it that it was to be a re-boot of the 1987 film but one of the makers has been cited as saying that it will build on the existing franchise.

Apparently Paramount is considering a Green Hornet re-boot. At the moment this is little more than gossip. Now, the Green Hornet is a much-loved hero albeit by a small cadre of somewhat older aficionados, and the 2011 film – as reasonable as it was – was not a huge box office success. Hollywood rarely gets re-boots right: cf. the Frakes' Thunderbirds film or The Avengers cinematic adaptation of the classic British TV show and the total disregard by the makers and their marketing of The John Carter of Mars of the original's book heritage.  Similarly, the 2011 Green Hornet film was not marketed, and did not feature, with the original's roots in mind and nor were their nods to its creator's oeuvre: where was the picture of the Lone Ranger on the Hornet's living room wall? Well, we can but hope that one day they will learn, but don't hold your breath. Anyway, the word has it that this version will be darker than the more camp version of the 2011 film, though one of the tricks would be to make it both dark but with the occasional camp dimension.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Catalan SF classic novel now out as Second Origin film. The Catalan Mecanoscrit del Segon Origen (1974) by Manuel de Pedrolo which until the recent Barcelona Eurocon had never been translated into English (until now), is now out as a film. The book is juvenile SF but it has an allegorical appeal for adults. It concerns a teenage girl who in rescuing a young person of colour underwater, escapes the instant devastation reaped by alien spaceships who destroy cities and wipe out all mammalian life: all this is in the book's opening chapters and films first few minutes. They then explore the devastated world and are our 'second origin'. The book's adult appeal is its subtext of rebuilding and need for tolerance and equality (gender and race). The author was caught up in the Spanish civil war that, fuelled by intolerance, divided a nation and destroyed communities. Unless you are aware of the novel's history, the film is likely to more appeal to youngsters but is worth seeing now you know the context.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: New Lost sequel film. This follows the 2014 French short film Lost Memories 1.0 that concerned a 2020 future web-dependent world. Now Francois Ferracci has produced a longer sequel. The 'Cloud' collapsed and destroyed all the digital data in the world a few years ago in an electromagnetic storm. Since that moment, the world has been slowly recovering. A.D. is now A.C. ('After Cloud'). In an ultra-connected world once more filled with hyper-connected people, how do you find your one true love who remains off-line (Note: due to some erotic clips mid-film you may need to adjust your YouTube censor settings to allow adult viewing).  You can see Lost Memories 2.0 here (14 minutes).

Film clip download tip!: New Thunderbirds are Go series has commenced on CITV. In case you are missing it, a the second season has started, but as of posting this spring news page there is still some of the season to go.  See the season trailer preview here.

Film clip download tip!: New Brit short SF film Darkwave: Edge of the Storm has just gone online. It co-stars Shane Rimmer (the voice of Thunderbirds Scott Tracy and script writer of a number of Gerry Anderson series episodes and voice extra). Note halfway through the film the ship’s mission ID: ‘THN/BD-001’ (in other words Thunderbird 1).  The film concerns a young family escaping capture by the Ministry on a distant colony planet, who stumble across a burning communications outpost, only to discover terrible secrets amongst the wreckage that could change the course of humanity…  The short 22 minute film looks like a teaser for something much longer.  You can see Darkwave: Edge of the Storm here (22 minutes).

Film clip download tip!: Angelfire is a new short amateur film shot on a budget of £0 in London. Apparently there will be more in this series hence the opening info-dump presents a more complex set-up that the 11 minutes of film warrant.  You can see it here (11 minutes).

Film clip download tip!: Passengers came out just before Christmas in Brit Cit as well as the former US, Mega Cities. A hibernation colony ship with thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It is a very watchable and visually spectacular film albeit some of the science is dodgy as are elements of the plot backdrop. In case you missed it, the trailer and clips are here.

Film clip download tip!: Domain came out in the US in December and hopefully will in other countries in 2017. It is a para-apocalyptic film After a deadly virus wipes out most of humanity, the survivors are forced to wait alone in self-sustaining bunkers while the viral threat runs its course. Able to communicate through a networked video interface, the survivors wait for years and slowly become a motley family of sorts. But their fragile social ecosystem is shattered when, one by one, they start mysteriously disappearing from their bunkers. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Attraction is a forthcoming Russian film coming out in Russia and China in February.  After an alien ship crash lands onto a Russian city, many who have saw the inside and the occupants start to question their own existence while there are those who demand the aliens to leave Earth… – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter picks up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, humanity is on its last legs in Washington D.C. As the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity's final stand against the undead hordes, Alice must return to where it all began, Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors.  Slated to be out in the British Isles in February (2017).  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Ghost in the Shell is a feature film coming out at the end of March (2017 concerning a cyborg policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) attempting to bring down a nefarious computer hacker.  – See the early teaser trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: KONG: Skull Island is present-day set re-imagining of King Kong. So as to 'up' the anti, a team including well-equipped, former soldiers is sent to a newly discovered island.  It is slated for a March (2017) release.  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Circle is a forthcoming film that concerns woman who lands a job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, that is developing a mass, personal surveillance system ostensibly to protect people's rights. Stars: Karen (Dr Who) Gillan, Emma (Harry Potter Watson and Tom (Ghostbusters) Hanks. It is slated for an April release.  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) is the follow-up to the Hugo Award-winning Guardians of the Galaxy.  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) is the latest in the re-boot Planet of the Apes series. This third chapter sees Caesar and his apes forced into a conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind…  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Station 88 is a forthcoming Russian post-apocalyptic film. Years after a nuclear war, the last vestiges of humanity, separated into warring factions, begin to collapse. One man stumbles upon never before seen technology that could be their last chance to find help, hope and a new home. He leads a small team on a do-or-die mission to the mythic Station 88, where they will have to survive a hazardous wasteland, radioactive creatures and each other.  It is currently slated for a 2019 release. – See the early teaser trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: White King is a forthcoming dystopic-politico-future European film made by Britain, Germany, Hungary and Sweden.  Djata is a care-free 12-year-old growing up in a brutal dictatorship shut off from the outside world. When the government imprisons his father, Peter, and Djata and his mother Hannah are labelled traitors, the boy will not rest until he sees his father again. – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Life is a forthcoming film concerning six astronauts aboard an orbiting isolation space station studying a sample of a Martian single-celled organism. But it multiplies to become… well, perhaps think along the lines of the vintage fantastic SF horror It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). It is out in May. By the way, this will be the second time Hiroyuki Sanada plays an astronaut; he also played one in 2007's Sunshine.  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Mindgamers is a forthcoming US film positing the question of what if technology could link and even transfer minds? It could be the ultimate mind fυcκ.  – See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, film based on the graphic novel, is due to hit the screens this July including in 3D! Its director is Luc (The Fifth Element) Besson, so combine that knowledge with it being based on the graphic novel and you can expect absolutely stunning visuals.  – And if you don’t believe that then check out the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Green Lantern Corps is currently slated for 2020 and yet three years out they already have some rough preliminaries presented as a 2-minute teaser trailer. – See it here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2015/16 (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 2017see our film release diary.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Television News

 

Game of Thrones remains the most pirated TV show of the year. Further to last year, in 2016 Game of Thrones remained the most pirated television show of the year, with The Walking Dead remaining in second place. But this is the fifth year that Game of Thrones has held the top slot.  A new show came in at third with Westworld but all the top pirated shows are SF/F/H genre. The only change in recent years is that pirates have moved to higher quality video from 480p to 720p and 1080p videos, in part thanks to better broadband and streaming services with the latter beginning to displace torrent sites.

Doctor Who all change after the current season: plot arc loose ends all to be tired up. Peter Capaldi is to leave Dr Who at the end of the 2017 season. The BBC are apparently keen to put the show's poor ratings of the past two years (they were far lower than the David Tennant and Matt Smith era ratings) behind them. What is happening is that apparently they have asked that all the show's story editor's (Stephen Moffett) plot arcs be resolved so that the show's new senior story writer – Chris Chibnall – starts with a clean story slate in 2018. So expect a number of plat arc issues to be sorted out in 2017.
          All well and good, but it seems that the BBC may possibly still be blaming the show's poor ratings in recent years on the wrong things.  The word has it that BBC may be holding Capaldi's interpretation of the Doctor to blame. If this is true then it really is out of touch with its viewers!  We have in the past been clear where the fault lies and here the show has two problems. The first is that the end-2015 season was scheduled in a ludicrous way with the first, main broadcast timed to clash against the BBC's principal rival ITV channel's biggest programme as part of a ratings war. This inevitably was going to lose Dr Who at least some viewers. The BBC then compounded this by showing the repeat episode the next day at a daft time in the small hours of the morning. This too was going inevitably lose the show viewers. Both these are no-brainers.  The second reason for the show's low ratings was the appalling stories Steven Moffat commissioned from other episode writers that turned Dr Who from being hard SF into science fantasy. Here Moffat, if online reports are to be believed, put the blame on the stories being too dark. What rot. All the BBC had to do was to check out the online comments on the many various SF blogs (or even little old us). A number of Capaldi season episode stories were so bad we even predicted (see beginning of second third of this paragraph) that the show would not have multiple episodes shortlisted for the Hugo Award that year (compared to many recent years in which many episodes were nominated for 'Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form'). How right we werein 2015 and also in 2016 when only one episode was Hugo nominated (see the Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form category).  If the BBC really wants the show's ratings to return closer to those of the Tennant and Smith eras then don't blame Capaldi, sort out the scheduling with a decently timed next-day repeat irrespective of whether the main screening is up against a big rival, and sort out the scripts bringing the show back to its SF roots, away from poorly thought-out fantasy.  Of course the BBC is free to continue to ignore online feeling, but then it should not be surprised with the resulting ratings.&nbs; +++ Dr Who 'Christmas episode' saw the show continue to be marginalised in the schedules. While the Christmas Day edition was shown in the late afternoon (at a time expected to be after many people's Christmas dinner), the repeat was shown a few days later at 2.30am in the small hours of the morning, as opposed to near viewer peak time as they were in the David Tennant and Matt Smith years.

Doctor Who Christmas episode is in top ten of Christmas chart but the number of viewers is down.  The Doctor Who Christmas episode, 'The Return Of Doctor Mysterio', secured an audience of 5.7 million viewers on BBC 1.  The dance show Strictly Come Dancing came top with 7.2 million (also on BBC1) with Dr Who coming in at number 7 in the top ten of British Christmas viewing. The position in the top ten was the same, and number similar – 5.77 million, to the 2015 Christmas edition 'The Husbands of River Song'. (All the numbers exclude gains from the subsequent repeat screening.)  Yet the viewing figures have been higher in the past. Some in the BBC blame competition from the growing number of channels and viewing platforms, others blame episode stories, others Capaldi, and others scheduling. But given the Christmas episode scheduling news in the previous item above, this year's stats do not at all seem that surprising: the BBC good do better.  +++ Over on the other side of the Pond in the US, the Christmas episode 'The Return Of Doctor Mysterio' garnered 1.7 million viewers. It was BBC America’s top telecast of the year. It was also the most discussed programme on Christmas night on Facebook and Twitter.

Doctor Who is to become Mr Men. Adam Hargreaves (son of Roger who created 'Mr Men) has written and illustrated a new Dr Who cartoon book series. The idea originally came from fans creating their own mash-ups. The first four books being released shortly will be Dr First, Dr Fourth, Dr Eleventh and Dr Twelfth respectively relating to the William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi Doctors. The Mr Men books have sold more than 120 million copies in 15 languages.

The Game of Thrones has swept the Emmy Awards to become the fictional series that has won the most. It has just picked up three new ones. The show's total number of Emmy awards now stands at 38.  +++ BBC 1's Sherlock was won an Emmy for the Best Made for TV Movie (sic) for its special episode 'The Abominable Bride'.

The 100 will have a season 4 launch on 1st February (2017).  The series follows the descendants of an orbiting space station whose parents out-rode a nuclear war, and who return to Earth.  See the trailer here.

The Walking Dead has been renewed for another season. The AMC (a US network) series based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman has been renewed for an 8th season for 2017/8.

Westworld has been renewed for another season.  The 2016 J. J. Abrams re-boot series of the 1973 film has been sufficiently successful as to be granted a second season. The second season will have 10 episodes.

Altered Carbon is to be a television series. Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon is to be a mini-series from NetFlicks and possibly due out this year (2017).

Stranger in a Strange Land is likely to be a television mini-series. Heinlein's novel (1961) sees a human raised by Martians on Mars returns to Earth as a stranger, and he also is different from Earth humans in having new powers. Now, Paramount TV is apparently working with SyFy to bring the novel to the small screen. Paramount Television and Universal Cable Productions are reportedly co-producing.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

Authors should be properly paid to attend events.  Joanne Harris has joined Philip Pullman in calling for event organisers to properly pay authors to attend events. Authors are commonly expected to attend literary events for free and often are even lucky to get their full expenses (travel, accommodation and food) covered. Added to these costs they have lost a day or two of their work time. Meanwhile venues make money, publishers get sales (covering a lot of authors), professional event organisers get paid, but the author at the centre of the event does not get proper remuneration if, that is, s/he even gets a fair proportion of expenses covered. There is a growing feeling among authors that proper remuneration is long overdue. The significance of this for SF conventions is potentially considerable. If cons expect expense-only attendance by authors to continue then they may have to start thinking about providing extras (such as an extra day's accommodation before the event and providing a local guide for tourism etc.).

Print books see continued growth. The early data for the 2016 calendar year (as opposed to financial year 12 months from the start of April to the end of March) suggests that sales of print books in the UK in 2016 grew by 9%. This continues recent trends of 2015 and the first half of 2016. It seems that the peak of e-book sales compared to books as passed and that possibly a new long-term equilibrium is being struck. It also puts paid to rest the ridiculous thought that some had that e-books would continue to grow and even overtake print book sales: yes, some said this very thing including some commentators in the financial sector: the expert folk who failed to foresee the global financial crash of 2007/8.

J. K. Rowling enjoys 6 weeks at the top of the UK book charts with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It is rare for a book, let alone a genre one, to stay so long at the top of the weekly (BookScan) bookselling charts. During this time 26,547 copies were sold for £328,753. During much of this period the number two slot was held by Paula Hawkins' thriller The Girl on the Train and the two swopped places in Mid-September. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left the top ten around the end of October but substantive mass market paperback sales are still expected in the run up to Christmas.  +++ Rowling launches a new Harry Potter e-book of shorts. Called Pottermore Presents it consists of three Potter shorts. The e-book is designed to be particularly favourable for reading on a mobile.

A new David Gemmell novel is being published posthumously. David Gemmell died a decade ago but a novel, Rhyming Rings, has been recovered from his archives. It tells the story of an ambidextrous killer who is murdering women in London, leaving virtually no evidence behind. Struggling local journalist Jeremy Miller wishes he was covering the case, but instead he’s stuck with heart-warming local stories about paraplegic teenagers and elderly, psychic ladies. When his news stories and the murder case start to converge no one is more surprised than Jeremy, or - it turns out - more at risk. Gollancz is publishing.

Gollancz acquires the latest instalment of George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series. Rights for High Stakes, book twenty-three in the Wild Cards series, co-edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass. High Stakes concludes the triad that comprises Fort Freak and Lowball; a novel of superheroes, villains and Lovecraftian horror. High Stakes features the writing of Melinda M. Snodgrass, John Jos. Miller, David Anthony Durham, Caroline Spector, Stephen Leigh and Ian Tregillis. It will be published in e-book form on February 28th and in paperback on May 4th 2017. Rights to develop Wild Cards for TV have been acquired by Universal Cable Productions.

Charles Stross is currently working on a new space opera novel. Given Brexit, Trump etc, '2016 is fried' he says, so Charles's next book will not be a near-future but a far future space opera set over 600,000 years hence. Before then we will have a new trilogy currently in pre-publication set in his 'Merchant Princess' universe but a generation later than the original sequence and with added state surveillance.

Phillip Pulman is supporting the European Commission's (EC) proposals on copyright. The EC wants to give authors the right to renegotiate remuneration where royalties are low or the author only received a one-off fee for e-book rights, compared to publisher income. Phillip Pullman is currently President of the Society of Authors. The Publishers Association also broadly welcomes the proposals.

Pottermore returns to growth. Sales of e-books through J. K. Rowling's Pottermore company had slumped since the end of the last Harry Potter novel but has seen a resurgence of sales following the release of the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay that came out in November.

The Bookseller has re-located. The Bookseller the quasi-weekly (there are gaps over Christmas/New Year and parts of the summer), magazine for the British Isles book trade has moved offices from Southwark Street (coincidentally down the road from genre publishers Titan) not far to: the 10th floor, Westminster Tower, 3 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SP.

29 publishing houses in Turkey have been closed by the government. President Tayyip Erdogan introduced state emergency regulations following a failed coup in the summer: it is under these regulations that the closures have been made. Many have raised concerns as to the closures impacting on lawful freedom of expression.

Europe's bookshop chains are doing well. Turnover has increased at a number of Europe's book chains: Norway's Ark is up 9.5%; The Netherlands Libris Biz is up 7.4%; Poland's Empik is up 6%; Sweden's Akademibokhandela is up 1.1%; Finland's Kirjakauppa is up 1.1%; and Denmark's Indeks Retail is up a whopping 17%. Even in Britain there are positive signs with the Waterstones book chain opening two new stores: one in Watford and one in Yarn (Teeside).

Sainsbury's has closed its e-book marketing operation. The food supermarket chain only started to sell e-books online four years ago.

Fears grow over the new European Union e-book public library lending rules. The new European Union (EU) rules have been challenged but have been affirmed by the EU Court of Justice. The rules say that libraries should be free to lend e-books just as they lend physical print books.  Superficially, this sounds reasonable. However many publishers and booksellers consider that there are fundamental differences. If a nation's public libraries wish to stock a reasonably popular print title then – for nations the size of Great Britain, France and Germany – the libraries may buy a hundred or more copies for their main libraries and smaller libraries will see these either through stock rotation between libraries or inter-library loans. But extending the rights of libraries to load e-books is not extending like-for-like lending rights: with e-books the current system is that just one needs to be purchased and the libraries effectively copy it; there is a fundamental difference some publishers and booksellers say. These publishers' and booksellers' argument is that it is difficult for them to compete in which a product that is virtually identical to print is available free in unlimited quantities.  Expect this issue to re-surface.

The autumnal Audio Book Download Charts see SF/F and science downloads dominate the top 20. October saw Britain's Audio Book Chart have half its titles be either SF/F or science related. Seven were Harry Potter titles, and there was Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes and Dawkins' The God Delusion in the mix.

The autumnal top ten for e-books has one main genre title: Ben Aaronovitch's The Hanging Tree. The title spent time in both the top ten and top 5 of Britain's e-book chart.

The 2016 FutureBook Digital Census confirms e-book growth slowing as well as a move to SmartPhone reading. The Booksellers' 7th annual census of publishers and those attending the 2016 Future Book conference, has confirmed that e-book growth is declining (something we reported in Spring 2014 and again in the summer of 2014).  40% of British Isles publishers surveyed say that digital now accounts for 20% or more of their sales, which is three times as many as five years ago. While 38% say that digital accounts for less than 10% of sales. (Past predictions by some that e-books will soon over take print have been proven false and in 2015 the big five British Isles publishers saw flat e-book sales.)  The survey also reveals a new trend in e-book reading. The past has seen e-book reading move from personal computers (PCs) to e-readers, and then to tablets and pads. Now the growth is in e-book reading by SmartPhone.  The survey also noted that self-publishing titles are booming in number but each on average earn little. This last and the e-book growth decline is a continuation of the trends identified in the 5th annual digital census.  Finally, this year's survey predicted that the near future trends will see libraries and bookshops continue to lose out while the digital winners will be large e-retailers such as Amazon and e-content publishers and managers such as Google.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Forthcoming SF Books

 

Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet by Douglas Adams & James Goss, BBC Books, £16.99 / Can$35.99 / US$19.99, hrdbk, 407pp, ISBN 978-1-849-90677-7
This novelisation is based on Douglas Adams' first draft script for the adventure 'The Pirate Planet' that featured the Tom Baker Doctor. The draft script was found in the Douglas Adams archive where it had lain unseen for 40 years and is substantially different from the episode aired in 1978. The Time Lords Doctor and Romana with K-9, searching for the second segment of the key of time, land on a hollow planet manned by a half-man/half machine called the Captain who population mines minerals. But when the minerals run out the Captain simply announces a new golden age and the mines miraculously fill up with fresh ore to mine. Something is clearly wrong… Douglas Adams you know. James Goss (former TV pop star) has written several Dr Who novels and novelisations. He also wrote the stage adaptation Dirk, of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. His own books Dead of Winter and First Born were apparently both nominated for the British Fantasy Award.

Winter Halo by Keri Arthur, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40700-5.
Central City's children are being kidnapped and operated on. Is a pharmaceutical company a key to matters?

Infinity Engine by Neal Asher, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-75075-3.
Space opera set in Asher's popular Polity universe. On the cusp of a black hole, the future of the Polity hangs in the balance. Several forces are now pursuing the rogue AI Penny Royal, and the Brockle is the most dangerous of all. This criminal swarm-robot AI has escaped its confinement and is upgrading itself, becoming ever more powerful in anticipation of a deadly showdown. Events escalate aboard Factory Station Room 101, the war factory that birthed Penny Royal. Here, humans, alien Prador, and an assassin drone struggle to survive amidst insane AIs and technology gone wild. This is the final in the trilogy that began with Dark Intelligence and this follows on from War Factory.

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20509-3.
This is the official sequel to H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds on following last year's (2016) 75th anniversary of his death and 150th his birth. Stephen previously authored the sequel toThe Time Machine which was a good follow-up and the H. G. Wells' estate must have been happy to give permission for this one.  The sequel sees the Martians spread to other parts of the Solar system and have another go at Earth. Bost sides have learned from the first War of the Worlds and the conflict is intense: it could be the massacre of mankind.

Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39241-5.
As the people of New Earth declare war on the people of Mainground, a dangerous era has dawned for Eden. It will alter their future and re-shape their past. It is both a beginning and an ending… A solid end to the trilogy that began with an Arthur C. Clarke (Book) Award-winning novel.  Click on the title link for a full standalone review.

Sockpuppet by Matthew Blaksted, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-62474-0.
A politician and a computer programmer's lives are being outed by an online personality called 'sic-girl'… This novel examines our internet addiction and how willingly we (unwittingly?) give up our privacy.

The Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel, Harper Voyager, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-13783-0.
Military SF.

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone, Gollancz, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21518-4.
A flesh-eating species is unleashed on the world… Click on the title link for Ian's review.

Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50749-1.
Space opera… And that's all we know.

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25627-4.
This is the third in the 'Invisible Library' series of forbidden societies and secret agents searching for stolen books.

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett, Macmillan, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-83352-8.
Actually this is not due out until the beginning of June but we think that this debut novel might accrue a bit of a following and now and then we like to give an extra puff to new hard-ish SF writers.  This is actually a romance tale set against a post-apocalyptic, widescreen space opera background. It is a novel of love, the choices we make, and what it means to be human. It's also a dramatic road-trip across the stars.  A woman journeys across a plague-ravaged universe to the place she once called home, and the man she once loved. After a virus wipes out most of humanity, Jamie leaves her isolated posting on the planet Solitaire and heads for Earth. She must reach the Northumberland coast, to see if her ex-partner Daniel is still alive. Joining a band of misfits and fellow survivors, each with their own agenda, she struggles to survive while wrestling with loss and heartache.  You may want to check this one out?

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Crag, Arrow, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59428-4.
This is the prequel to The Force Awakens.

Blackout by Marc Elsberg, Transworld, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-16189-7.
Tehnothriller. Civilisation falls apart when a terrorist group turns off the power all over Europe. A cold night in Milan, Piero Manzano wants to get home. Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse. Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The death toll soars. Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers. Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late..?  Apparently this has already sold over a million copies outside of the British Isles.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed, Century, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89478-2.
This is the official novelisation. Freed previously authored Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company.

The God Ware by Patrick Hemstreet, Harper Voyager, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-006-241952-1.
Debut novel and a science fantasy. A neuroscientists stimulates brains to enable god-like functions and powers…

’48 by James Herbert, Pan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-29461-0.
From the author of Others and The Secret of Crickley Hall. In 1945, Hitler unleashed the Blood Death on Britain as his final act of vengeance. Those who died at once were the lucky ones. The really unfortunate took years. The survivors - people like me, who had the blood group that kept us safe from the disease - were now targets for those who believed our blood could save them. I survived for three years. I lived alone, spending my days avoiding the fascist Blackshirts who wanted my blood for their dying leader. Then I met the others - and life got complicated all over again…  Make the most of this one as we sadly lost James a couple of years ago.

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52400-3.
Debut billed as One Day meets Gravity romance. Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen. But, perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end… Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return. For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

Nemesis by Alex Lamb, Orion, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20612-0.
Hard-ish SF space opera and the follow-up to Roboteer.

The Corporation Wars by Ken MacLeod, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0356-50501-5.
This is the sequel to Dissidence. We like MacLeod author of: Descent, The Restoration Game; The Sky Road and Dark Light.

Into Everywhere by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20399-0.
The standalone follow-up (you don't have to read the previous title) to Something Coming Through. The aliens have gifted Earth with limited access to the worlds colonised by their previous clients. Chloe works for an agency that examines the possible disrupting impact of alien technology. Meanwhile on a colony world a man is murdered… Check out the title link for Jonathan's review.

Void Star by Zachary Mason, Jonathan Cape, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-224-09824-3.
Artificial intelligences, memory, violence and mortality come together in thei SF thriller set in the not too distant future. The seas have risen but the poor have grown and fallen further than ever. The rich have their armed protected enclave in California. Three very different people begin to come together…. This is the author's second novel and the publisher must have some faith as they have produced a pre-production publicity edition for those in the SF/F media world.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Penguin, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-718-18407-0.
You know the future that people in the '50s imagined we'd have? Flying cars, food pills and moon bases? Well, it happened. And it's just as great as we hoped it would be. Except in this world, a series of heartbreaks leaves Tom alone. So he hijacks his father's time machine, and goes back to where it all began - the moment when the world as we know it, and the world as Tom lives it, parted ways, due to a groundbreaking experiment. Only, thanks to Tom's accidental intrusion, the experiment fails and he returns 'home' to find his world erased and replaced with our own 2016 - a comparable chaotic mess…  In our world, however, Tom discovers vastly improved versions of his family, his career, and-best of all-his soul-mate, Penny. So. Should he fix the flow of history, bringing back into existence his utopian reality, or to try to forge a new life in our messy one? A cracking tale already sold to over a score of countries and a Paramount film is in the offing.  Recommended.

Waking Gods: Themis Files Book 2 by Sylvain Neuvel, Penguin, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-718-18170-3.
As a child, Dr Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery. An enormous, ornate metal hand made of an impossibly rare metal, which predated all human civilisation. As an adult, she's dedicated her illustrious scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day. How did it get there - and what if we were meant to find it...? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers – and even more perplexing questions. But, now, the truth is closer now than ever before. And it could end life as we know it...

Sleeping Giants: Themis Files Book 1 by Sylvain Neuvel, Penguin, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-405-92188-6.

Frankenstein on Ice and Other Stories by Kim Newman, Titan Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-16570-6.
Collection of shorts from the author of Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard and An English Ghost Story.

South by Frank Owen, Corvus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39892-9.
Debut and ‘Frank Owen’ is a pseudonym for Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer. The USA has been ravaged by civil war and deathly wind-borne viruses. The few survivors live in constant fear… Vida, Garrett and Dyce, on the run from brutal law-enforcers, must journey into the dark heart of a country riven by warfare and disease. Publisher says Lauren Beukes loves it and the hardback has sold reasonably well. Click on the title link for Mark's standalone review.

Empire V by Victor Pevlin, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21308-1.
This has sold well in Russia.

Invisible Planets by Hannu Rajaniemi, Orion, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21022-3.
Collection of his short stories. If they are like his novels then they will be ultra hard SF – so hard that they are almost fantasy – and may be imbued with literary references.

The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21020-2.
Following an accident with a dirigible and astronaut goes to float in the clouds of Jupiter. This is the starting point for a series of events centring around the nature of intelligence: non-human uplift as well as artificial. This takes an Arthur C. Clarke short story as its starting point. Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-473-21842-0. A vast conflict between hundreds of worlds appears to be finally at an end. But even as the cease-fire takes effect, a conscripted soldier is captured by a renegade war criminal and left for dead. When Scur revives, she finds herself aboard a prison transport vessel where something has gone terribly wrong. The ship's dying computer his waking its passengers, combatants from both sides of the war forced into hibernation. Their memories embedded in 'bullets' are the only links to worlds they can't find and a planet they don't recognise…  This novella was published last year in the US by Tachyon but has only just now (Spring 2017) been published in the author's own British Isles. It won the 2016 Locus Award for 'Best Novella' and shortlisted for a Hugo.  Recommended.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50875-7.
Stan gives us his vision of a future New York. Though he has his feet firmly in SF, his writing considers present day issues of sustainability and environment. So this could go one of a number of ways, but whichever it is this latest offering from a Hugo-Award-winning author is bound to be interesting.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-83507-2.
Our universe is ruled by physics and faster-than-light travel is not possible – until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, other stars. Humanity moves away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world. It creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos ensures no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a safeguard against interstellar war – and a way of controlling the empire's rulers. This future of faster-than-light travel is possible due to the huge discovery of The Flow - the extra-dimensional field which can transport us to other worlds. And while it is eternal, like a river, it does change its course. It now seems The Flow is moving, which could isolate every human world in space forever.

Limit: Part 2 by Frank Schatzing, Jo Fletcher Books, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29420-5.
It is 2025 and China and the US are squaring off over a finite energy source while a billionaire builds a space elevator to an orbiting hotel… The author is very popular in Germany among those into techno-thrillers.

The Core of the Press by Johann Sinisalo, Grove Press, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-611-85537-1.
In an alternate world the country is an extreme welfare state where women are either breeders or outcasts.

The Beauty of Destruction by Gavin G. Smith, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12735-7.
Humanity is under attack from the past, present and future.

Empire Games by Charles Stross, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-81486-2.
After a few years, Charles Stross returns us to the parallel worlds of the 'Merchant Princes' series that included The Clan Corporate.  Rita Douglas is plucked from her dead-end job and trained as a reluctant US spy. All because she has the latent genetic talent to hop between alternate timelines – and infiltrate them. The United States is waging a high-tech war, targeting assassins who can move between worlds to deliver death on a mass scale. And Rita will be their secret weapon. Miriam Beckstein has her own mission, as a politician in an industrial revolution US. She must accelerate her world's technology before their paranoid American twin finds them. It would blow them to hell. After all, they've done it before… This can probably be read as quite standalone to the series as any back story will be explained as we go along: Charles Stross is usually very good this way.

The Liberation by Ian Tregilis, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50234-2.
This is the third in the steampunkish trilogy that began with The Mechanical.

After the Crown by K. B. Wagers, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50802-3.
Sci-fi space-opera.

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A clutch of H. G. Wells' SF novels from various publishers capitalising on last year (2016) being the 70th anniversary of H. G. Wells death, which means that this year his works are out of copyright…

The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-198-70504-8.
See Jonathan's review of Gollancz's 2013 SF Masterwork hardback edition.

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells, Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-198-70266-5.
With comments by university lecturer Darryl Jones.

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, Oxford University Press, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-198-70267-2.
With comments by university lecturer Simon James.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Macmillan, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-62153-4.
A reprint of the classic SF novel.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Oxford University Press, £5.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-198-70751-6.
OUP edition based on the 1895 edition but with an introduction by Victorian literature lecturer Roger (The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy Luckhurst. This edition comes at an unbelievably cheap price.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Macmillan, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-909-62154-1.
A reprint of the classic SF novel.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Vintage Classics, £5.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-87208-3.
With 3-D cover and 3D glasses.

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Star Wars – Aftermath: Empire's End by Chuck Wendig, Century, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89263-4.
Set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Star Wars – Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig, Century, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-75075-3.
Set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, Century, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89484-3.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10469-3.
A collection of shorts from his 'First Law' universe.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66959-8.
The follow-up to A City of Stairs.

City of Marvels by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29108-2.
Conclusion of trilogy.

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop, ROC, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-451-47448-3.
This is the fourth in the series and a band of radical humans try to take power from 'the others'.

The Women of Baker Street by Michelle Birkby, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-80973-8.
While Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London..  When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all seem to have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very first night, Mrs Hudson believes she witnesses a murder. But was it real, or just smoke and mirrors? Mary Watson meanwhile has heard about young boys disappearing across London, and is determined to find them and reunite them with their families.

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, Piatkus, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41256-6.
Fantasy romance.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41252-8.
A circus performer and soothsayer is captured by a southern warlord who is not aware of the extent of her powers.

The Return of the Witch by Paula Brackston, Corsair, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-00260-6.
Sequel to The Witch's Daughter.

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50156-7.
A coyote shape-shifter sand her werewolf mate must stop a rampaging troll and in the course of events find a human child stolen by the fae.

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50592-3.
This is the 10th in the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. Having fought off a werewolf, Mercy tries to evade the most powerful of vampires…

Fierce Gods by Col Buchanan, Pan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-21121-1.
For ten years the Free Ports held their own against the despotic empire of Mann - but the empire is now poised to destroy them. The crucial fortress city of Bar-Khos is under attack and its freedom depends on a few unsteady hands. Betrayal could come from any side, at any moment. While chaos reigns, Nico will search for his captive mother and attempt to defend his people. And Shard the Dreamer will hunt for legendary charts, which could yet save the city. However, a Red Guard officer gone rogue could bring about the end, and a visitor from another world has a hidden agenda.

Poison City by Paul Criley, Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-63160-1.
Gideon works for the occult investigative unit of the South African police and is faced by having to chose between catching his daughter's killer and saving the world…

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28206-8.
Young witches must flee their home after falling foul of a powerful Guildmaster.

Windwitch by Susan Dennard, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28230-3.
Sequel to Truthwitch.  The Windwitch Prince Merik is presumed dead, following a lethal explosion. He's left scarred but alive and determined to expose his sister's treachery. Yet on reaching the royal capital, he's shocked to find it crowded with refugees fleeing conflict. Merik haunts the streets, fighting for the weak. This leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

Dancer's Lament by Ian C. Esslemont, Bantam, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857—50283-4.
A return to the Malazan universe with the first in a new series way back in the continent's early history.

Dark Promises by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40572-8.
The last in the Carpathian vampire series.

Idle Hands by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66256-8.
This is the 2nd in the 'Factory' trilogy.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-62914-1.
Literary fantasy.

The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell, Corgi, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-16897-7.
Sequel to The City.

Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-786-69163-7.
Sword and sorcery.

The Apartment by S. L. Grey, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-26656-3.
From the authors of The Underground, S. L. Grey are actually Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg.  Mark and Steph are struggling to move on with their lives after armed robbers broke into their home and brutalized them. Shaken, they decide to get away and leave their troubles behind. A house swap in Paris with a couple they meet online, the Petits, seems to provide the perfect escape. But upon arriving for a week's luxurious break, they find themselves in a festering, run-down apartment. And when Steph attempts to contact the Petits, she gets no answer. Mark and Steph try to make the most of the trip, but they are unable to relax. After a series of increasingly unsettling events, they decide to return home. Yet when they arrive, neither of them can shake the feeling that there's now something sinister about their own house…

The Mammoth Book of the Mummy by Paula Guran (ed.), Robinson, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-472-12029-8.
Horror anthology of 19 shorts.

Empress of the Fall by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £30 hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29101-3.
First in the 'Sunrise' quartet with politics, blood and power… A bit pricey but Jo Fletcher Books trilogies and quartets tend to be worth it.

The Turn by Kim Harrison, Piatkus, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41458-4.
This is a prequel to 'The Hollows' sequence.

Lord of the Darkwood by Lian Hearn, Picador, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-81281-3.
The second and final instalment of 'The Tale of Shikanoko': a bold new epic of a fantastical medieval Japan. Against a background of wild forest, elegant castles, hidden temples and savage battlefields, The rightful emperor is lost. Shikanoko is condemned to live, half-man and halfdeer, an outlaw in the Darkwood. Yet the mighty lords who now rule the Eight Islands are prey to suspicion and illness, and drought and famine choke the realm. Only Shikanoko can bring healing, by restoring the preordained ruler to the Lotus Throne. And only one person can bring him back from the Darkwood..

Freeks by Amanda Hocking, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-80765-9.
In the spring of 1982, the carnival comes to small-town Cauldry, Louisiana. Then events take a dangerous turn. For Mara Besnick, the carnival is home. It's also a place of secrets, hidden powers and a buried past - making it hard to connect with outsiders. However, sparks fly when she meets local boy Gabe Alvarado. As they become inseparable, Mara realizes Gabe is hiding his own secrets. And his family legacy could destroy Mara's world. They find the word 'freeks' sprayed on trailers, as carnival employees start disappearing. Then workers wind up dead, killed in disturbing ways by someone or something.  Since the launch of her first book in 2010 she has sold over a million copies.

The Summon Stone by Ian Irvine, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50522-0.
A new fantasy series. Click on the title link for Andrew's standalone review.

Gilded Cage by Vic James, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-82145-7.
This is a debut novel and the first in the 'Dark Gifts' trilogy. England's aristocracy uses magic to compel commoners to serve them for 10-year stints. Now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything. Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, Bantam, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-0-7313-1.
Conclusion of trilogy.

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-062-38955-8.
A thief expert in purloining magical objects obtains what is effectively a doomsday device…

Dragonmark by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-41325-9.
A dragon who has been tunred into a human for centuries at last has the chance to return to its true form… This novel is set in the 'Dark Hunter' universe.

Masquerade by Laura Lam, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-80778-9.
Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam's 'Micah Grey' trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay.

Shadowplay by Laura Lam, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-8078-0.
The second outing for the androgynous, youngster with magical powers.

The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97849-5.
A collection of 11 of his short stories from the Hugo-winning author of The Three-Body problem.

A Blade of Black Steel by Alex Marshall, Orbit, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50571-8.
The sequel to A Crown for Cold Silver.

The Last Days of Paris by China Miéville, Picador, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-29654-6.
Literary fantasy set in an alternate Paris.  1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer and occult disciple Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton.  1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts - and by the forces of Hell.

The Census-Taker by China Miéville, Picador, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-509-81213-4.
A novella concerning a boy dreaming of escaping his remote hill top home and his increasingly deranged parent.

Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill, Macmillan, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-82040-5.
A man is plagued by paranoia. Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn't know by whom. When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he'd left behind has far from forgotten him. What's more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia. To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment. Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims…  Horror from the author that gave us Apartment 16, House of Small Shadows, Lost Girl and The Ritual.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50455-1.
The story of Hope, the girl no-one remembers. This is from Claire North (a.k.a the Brit author Catherine Webb) who wrote The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

The End of the Day by Claire North, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, 407pp. ISBN 978-0-356-50734-7
Claire's latest book.  Charlie meets everyone once. You might meet him in a hospital, in a war zone, or at the scene of a terrific accident. Would you shake him by the hand and accept the gift he offers? Or would you pay no attention to a word he says? Sometimes he is sent as a warning, sometimes as a courtesy. He never knows which...  One of Claire's works, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, has just won an Ignotus and of course it was on the short-list for the 2015 Clarke (Book) Award.

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-85394-8.
Sequel to The Rook.

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-786-48092-7.
From the author of Charm and Murder.

Those Below by Daniel Polansky, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-77996-7.
Follows Those Above.

Keeping it Real by Justina Robson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-27145-9.
A welcome reprint of her 2006 novel concerning the consequences of the detonation of a 'quantum bomb' that shatters the fabric of reality and so breaking down the barriers between our reality and fantastical dimensions including of magic. This is science fantasy. Click on the title link for Tony's standalone review.

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50636-4.
A thief is forced into accepting a mission for his country…

Dead Man's Scull by Luke Scull, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-85159-3.
Conclusion of trilogy.

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-87785-2.
This is the third in the dystopic 'Bonne Season' series and a rebel has become London's criminal underqueen who has to deal with new technology that could doom the clairvoyant community…

Allegiance of Honour by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21755-3.
Psy-changling adventure.

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-82295-9.
A standalone novel set in the world of 'Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne' trilogy. Pyrre Lakatur doesn't like the description skullsworn. It doesn't capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. She is not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn't killing: Pyrre has spent her life training to kill where necessary. The problem is love. To pass the trial, a skullsworn must offer their partner to Ananshael - but Pyrre has never been in love, and time is short.

Stranger and the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-78898-3.
The first in a duology set in the aftermath of a war between gods and men.

The Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-83022-0.
This is the second book in the fantasy series, ‘Echoes of the Fall’, following The Tiger and the Wolf. Maniye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown of the World, does she represent an opportunity for the north - or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the southern prince, with her war band of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world. From the author of Guns of the Dawn and the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke (book) Award winning novel Children of Time.

Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor, Picador, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-82221-8.
Literary fantasy short stories. Including:- An interview with the last speaker of a language. A chronicle of the final seven days of a town that is about to be razed to the ground by an invading army. The lonely voyage of an elephant from Kerala to a princess's palace in Morocco. A fabled cook who flavours his food with precious stones. A coterie of international diplomats trapped in near-Earth orbit.

Defender by G. X. Todd, Headline, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-472-23308-0.
Fantasy thriller, a chilling vision of a world gone feral. Draws on influences from Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman to create a new world - where the biggest threat mankind faces is from the voices inside your own head.

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home by Catherine M. Valente, Atom, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-11284-2.
This is the 5th and final in the 'Fairyland' sequence.

Grimm Tidings by Nancy K. Wallace, Harper Voyager, £13.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-16023-4.
Book two of trilogy.

Blood Vow by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40928-3.
Paranormal romance.

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams, Headline, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-472-23517-6.
Epic fantasy. The great wall of Ebora is crumbling. Wolves walk streets that once shone with gold, and Ebora’s people - diseased and inhuman - are fading into nothing. Tormalin the Oathless, last son of Ebora, has had enough. Better to enjoy the pleasures of wine and coin, the pursuit of men and women, than to waste away under the blind gaze of a long-dead god. Talk about a guilt trip. When the eccentric explorer Lady de Grazon offers him employment, he foresees an easy life escorting a rich old woman from one side of Sarn to the other. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is still preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire fall… From the author of The Silver Tide.

The Heart of What was Lost by Tad Williams, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-64663-6.
After many years Tad Williams gives us another adventure set in his 'Memory, Sorry and Thorn' universe.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF
& Popular Science Books

 

Utopia for Realists: And how we can get there by Ruter Bregman, Bloomsbury, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-89026-4.
In the current climate of dissatisfaction with the political establishment (cf. Brexit and Trump) this is a timely exploration of some new ideas in the social sciences such as a guaranteed minimum income for all and alternatives to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an economic measure.

Are Numbers Real? The Uncanny Relationship Between Maths and the Physical Worlds by Brian Clegg, Robinson, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472—13976-4.

Stephen Hawking: His Life and Work by Kitty Ferguson, Transworld, £???, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-50367-1.
A newly revised, up-to-the-minute edition of this biography. In 1963 Stephen Hawking was given a couple of years to live. In January 2017 he celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday. This biography of the brilliant theoretical physicist and inspirational international celebrity, written with the help of Hawking himself and his close associates, now includes:· his leadership at the London Paralympic Games;  · the release of the film about his life The Theory of Everything;  · his BBC Reith Lectures in 2016; · His continuing work on black holes, gravitational waves, the new discovery of “supertranslations”;  · the launch of the astounding “Starshot” programme; and the first presentation of the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication in 2016.

The Atlas of Tolkien's Middle-Earth by Karen Wyn Fonstad, Harper Collins, £18.99, trdpbk. ISBH 978-0-008-19451-2.
A guide to the geography of Middle Earth packed with maps and diagrams.

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20802-6.
Draws together myriad non-fiction writing by international phenomenon and Sunday Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman. ‘Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation.’ Welcome to the conversation. Neil Gaiman fled the land of journalism to find truths through storytelling and sanctuary in not needing to get all the facts right. Of course, the real world continued to make up its own stories around him, and he has responded over the years with a wealth of ideas and introductions, dreams and speeches. Here ‘we can meet the writer full on’ (Stephen Fry) as he opens our minds to the people he admires and the things he believes might just mean something - and makes room for us to join the conversation too.

The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Hishins, Abrams, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-978-1497225-7.
A visual feast for Star Wars fans.

George Lucas by Brian Jay Jones, Headline, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-472-22432-3.
The latest biography of the Star Wars creator – the last being in 2000.

Twenty-First Century Horror Films by Douglas Keesey, Kamera Books, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-843-44905-8.
Covers a hundredd recent films in addition to looking at recent trends such as 3-D, body-horror, eco-horror and parodies.

The Aliens Are Coming by Ben Miller, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-751-54504-3.
An informative as well as humorous look at SETI, the Fermi Paradox and all things alien.

Assassin's Creed: Into the Animus by Ian Nathan, Titan, £35, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-785-65463-3.
Art companion to the film.

Merlin: Once a Future Wizard by Elen Sentier, Moon Books, £5.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-35453-3.
Explores Merlin in history and mythology.

The Glass Universe: The Hidden Story of the Women tha took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel, Fourth Estate, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-54818-7.
From the award-winning author of Longitude.

The Secret History of the Internet by Jonathan Taplin, Macmillan, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-84769-3.
Google. Amazon. Facebook. Apple. The modern world is defined by vast digital monopolies turning ever-larger profits. Those of us who consume the content that feeds them are farmed for the purposes of being sold ever more products and advertising. Those that create the content - the artists, writers and musicians – are finding they can no longer survive in this unforgiving economic landscape.  But it didn't have to be this way. This is the story of how a small number of ideologically driven libertarians took the utopian ideal of the internet and turned it into the copyright-mauling, competition-destroying, human-hating nightmare it has become… And if you think that's got nothing to do with you, their next move is to come after your job.

The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island by Simon Ward, Titan, £24.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-10785-65151-9.
This year's film of King Kong's origins looks from the trailers as if it will be spectacular and so there may be plenty of material for those into art and genre cinema. (The film's trailer is earlier in the vid-clip link section above.)

Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing by James Owen Weatherall, Yale, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-300-20998-3.
An exploration of the science of empty space. True vacuum has a structure and properties as every bit as complex as matter. Consequently, nothing really matters.

 

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Spring 2017

General Science News

 

The numbers behind the US election reveal why the reality TV personality and property dealer Donald Trump won the US Presidential election. Despite the polls days up to the election predicting a 3-4% win for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump won: Hillary still won the popular vote but by less than 1%; it was the US's electoral college (the number of constituency wins) that did it.  However just 119 million voted; that's 55.6% of registered voters. Also there were more undecided voters this election with just 53% of poll respondents declaring in advance for one side or the other: the previous election saw around 70% declare in advance of the election. The Association of Public Opinion Research in the US has assembled a team to dig deeper into the stats and they plan to report by May (2017).

Two mesons make new atoms. The DIRAC team at Europe's CERN have made over 350 atoms composed of just two mesons: normal atoms are composed mesons containing three quarks. The researchers have produced exotic atoms made from two mesons each made from just a quark and an antiquark. The exotic atoms were made by firing a proton beam at a thing sheet of platinum. (Physics Reviews Letters, 2016, vol 117, 112001.)

Southwest USA 70-99% chance of seeing the start of a megadrought before 2100 if current warming continues unabated. The N. American southwest – Nevada, Arizona, Utah etc – has over the past thousands of years experienced a number of severe, decades long periods of drought. Now, Toby Ault of Cornell U. in New York, and colleagues' have produced climate model scenarios. Under business as usual with temperatures rising to 5°C and more then the chance of this area experiencing a megadrought they estimate as between 70 – 99%. But if warming remains 2°C or less warmer than temperatures in the second half of the 20th century, then the risk becomes less than 66%. (See Science Advances e1600873 (2016).)

Carbon dioxide emissions stay roughly stable for a third year in a row. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion have stayed hovering around 35 – 37 billion tonnes for the past three years (2014-6). The halt in the previous growth is attributed largely to the decline in the use of coal in power stations and particularly that in the US and China. However, if warming is to be kept below 2°C this century emissions now need to start to decline by 3% a year. If we want to keep warming permanently below 2°C above pre-industrial times then a faster rate of reduction is required.

The Earth's long-term average global temperature stopped cooling 1.2 million years ago but it looks like current carbon emissions to date may have already committed the Earth to 5°C warming. Carolyn Snyder of Stanford U. has looked at 20,000 proxy-data (isotopes from the remains of species etc.) covering the past two million years. During that time every 100,000 years or so the Earth's temperature oscillated with the past million years or so seeing the cold parts of these oscillations being glacials (popularly called 'ice ages'), however within this there are long-term trends. She discovered that the Earth had been slowly cooling up to 1.2 million years ago after which in the long-term the temperature had stabilised (though shorter-term glacial-interglacial swings still took place). She also related temperature to reconstructed carbon dioxide concentrations (deduced from ice cores) hence the likely temperature impact from a doubling of carbon dioxide. The conclusion is that the carbon emissions humans have already made since the industrial revolution to date have already committed the Earth to around 5°C warming over the next few thousand years due to long-term feedbacks (which the IPCC have so far ignored in their estimates). (See Nature vol. 538, p226-8.)

The UK will almost certainly fail to meet its 2020AD target of getting 15% of its energy from renewables. The global implications are considerable!  Britain's all-party House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has concluded that though the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) will most likely be getting 30% of its electricity from renewables, failed goals for 12% of heat and 10% for transport will mean that it will almost certainly miss getting 15% of all its energy needs met by renewables.  The global implications are significant. If a country as so climate change aware as well as rich as the UK cannot meet its greenhouse ambitions, then what does this say about the prospects for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord to hold warming 'well below' 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures?

Wiring large numbers of qubits is now possible for quantum computing. Normal computers work using 'nibbles' of information that can either be zeros or ones. With quantum computers qubits are used that can be both zeros and ones at the same time (remember Schrodinger and his pussy cat). Now, researchers at Waterloo University in Canada have designed a 3-D arrangement of wiring of superconducting loops (necessary for quantum phenomena to emerge) that can interconnect as many as 100 qubits. The device also can have each qubit read and written on using microwave pulses. It looks like it will be possible to scale the device to 100,000 qubits at which point complex quantum computations should be possible. (See Béjanin et al (2016) Phys. Rev. Appl., 6, 044010.)

Photons all with two colours have been generated. A photon's colour is determined by its frequency, so having a photon with two colours means that it has two frequencies.  How come?  Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US, encouraged a beam of photons to merge with a beam of coherent (laser) photons in a cryogenically cooled optical fibre. The laser bumped the photons energy both up and down. This generated bichromatic photons.  With the two frequencies quantum entangled, it means that such a property of light could perhaps be used to transmit qubits between two quantum computers.(See Physics Reviews Letters, 117, 223601.)

The internet is 'at a defining moment' in its evolution says the Internet Society. The Internet Society – the member body of internet service providers (ISPs) – has produced its third report: Global Internet report 2016. Though 80% of households in both the US and European Union are on the internet, 20% are not and it is not just because they live in a remote area: there are growing data theft and privacy concerns. Both these account for 16% of the 20% of households not being online in the US with identity theft and credit card/financial transaction fraud being the two greatest fears. In the European Union 9% are not online for these reasons, which is growing as less than 5% gave these reasons for not being online eight years ago.
          The Internet Society note that data breaches by those many entrust with their data are growing with the biggest in the past year each affecting scores of millions of people (We have reported a few ourselves including by: O2, Vodaphone, CarPhone Warehouse, e-Bay and -- bigger than at first thoughYahoo (repeatedly), among others. We have even reported Hackers being hacked and opined – what with the growth in online registration for conventions and in-secure Worldcon membership databases – whether SF fandom itself is getting complacent?.
          The Internet Society says that it is customers who bear most of the costs and impacts of data breaches, not the data-holders who have been hacked. Meanwhile, those who hold people's data do not consider it worth their while spending more on data protection given that the majority find giving their data for online transactions is so easy and are happy to provide their details to those who have failed to invest in adequate protection. The Society calls for independent bodies to be created in each country responsible for transparently (with customer involvement) accrediting data handlers and meaningfully fining those who leak data. Given that a number of countries are already meant to have these, one can but wonder at such existing bodies' efficacy and so whether they are truly 'meaningful'? The Internet Society says that data-handlers are like the car industry in the last century who lobbied hard against the mandatory introduction of seat belts and air bags. The Internet Society is also of the view that governments need to get firmly involved.

 

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Spring 2017

Natural Science News

 

Life could have begun before 3.7 billion years ago (bya) geological strata suggests. Australian researchers led by Allen Nutman have found structures within 3.7 billion year old southwest Greenland strata that look like stromatolites (large bacterial colonies). This research is debatable: the conclusions are plausible but not definitive (though there is corroborating chemical evidence, the structure could simply coincidentally look like stromatolites). However, it does fit in with other carbon isotope evidence from the late 1970s and 1990s (biosynthesis preferentially sequesters carbon-12 compared to carbon-13). An early start for life, placing the Earth's first life 3.7 bya, would mean that life got going shortly after (within a hundred million years) the end of the Late Heavy Bombardment. (See Nature, 2016, vol. 537, p535-538 and a review p500-1.)  If true (though this is not discussed by the researchers) it does bode well for bacterial-like life having got going on an early, thicker atmosphered and warmer, Mars.  +++ Previous news includes indications that life started before 3.2 billion years ago and the nature of first life, the last universal ancestor.

Lucy, the precursor human Australopithecus afarensis, habitually lived in trees. A paper some months ago showed that the remains of one specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy, died falling from a tree.  Subsequent research by Christopher Ruff and colleagues at John Hopkins University (US) used x-ray computer tomography of Lucy's bones. They found that she could have put more weight on her arms than her legs despite being able to walk on the ground. This strongly suggests that Australopithecus lived in trees. (See PLoS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, e0166095.)

Modern humans originally left Africa thousands of years earlier than thought. One commonly held hypothesis is that anatomically modern humans left Africa in a single event (or a close cluster of events) somewhere between 40,000 – 80,000 years ago (40 – 80 kya). Now a clutch of papers in a single issue of Nature that together cover 787 individuals' human genomes from 270 populations suggests multiple dispersals from Africa with an initial migration beginning somewhere between 120 – 130 kya. Genes slowly mutate each generation hence with time and so comparative analysis of genomes can reveal when splits between populations took place. (See Nature 13th Oct 2016, vol. 538, p179, p201, p207 and p238.)

When did humans first eat cooked vegetables? We have found many examples of evidence of prehistoric cooked meat consumption as well as dairy processing, but few of cooking plants.  Now evidence has been found by Richard Evershed from Bristol University and colleagues, from analyzing pottery fragments that humans cooked plants some 8,2000 years ago.  The pottery comes from the Libyan Sahara which is dry desert today but was green back early in the Holocene (the current epoch, and current interglacial, that began 11,700 years ago as we left the last glacial).

Is human aggression natural (genetic) or environmental (due to circumstances)? The answer is a bit of both according to José Maria Gomez and colleagues working in Spain have looked at 1,024 mammal species and how some 4 million individuals within their populations (including past populations of humans) die while paying particular attention to the proportion that die from attacks by other members of their own species. They have found that the degree of violence has increased over the past 100 million years from the earliest mammals to present. Modern humans are predicted to have a death-rate by fellow humans of 2% and indeed the modern value is close to this. However between 500 and 3,000 years ago the rates among humans varied between 15% and 30% before declining to present levels mostly during the past 100 years. The peak violent period in human history is attributed to the development of human settlements, socio-political groups and the potential to create a defensive and/or offensive warrior class. (See Nature vol. 350, p233-237 and review p180-1.)

10% of the planet's terrestrial wilderness area has gone in just two decades. Using both satellite imagery and geo location land use data, James Watson at the University of Queensland and colleagues report in the journal Current Biology that 10% of areas previously free from human interference and which are largely ecologically intact have vanished over the past 20 years. The conclusion is that conservation policies are failing to protect such areas. Amazon and central African rain forests are the most vulnerable areas.

By 2030 a third of the population could be overweight or obese says the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition in a report to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. They estimate that the number of overweight and obese people will have grown from 1.3 billion in 2005, to 3.3 billion. Worse, under-nourishment is stunting the growth of nearly a quarter of children under five! 800 million globally are currently undernourished. The Panel predicts that over the next 20 years half the world will be malnourished due to growing population. This news echoes last summer's Global Nutrition Report 2016.

Life expectancy in the United States declined: the first time it has done so since 1993.  The US's National Center for Health Statistics reported that overall US life expectancy fell by nearly month, from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015.  In Great Britain we have in recent decades had a marginally greater life expectancy but then we have a National Health Service. Other Western nations, however, have not seen a similar decline in life expectancy as the US has. In the US fatality rates rose for eight of the top ten causes of death, including heart disease, diabetes, and suicide, but not cancer which has declined along with heavy smoking.

Mouse eggs made in a dish. Katsuhiko Hayashi of Fukuoka University (Japan) and colleagues have created a mouse egg from skin cells in a dish. These have been fertilised and given rise to viable offspring. This achievement is part of a series of developments beginning in 2012 when he was part of a group that reprogrammed skin cells to become embryonic stem cells.

Three parent humans are now possible with mitochondrial DNA transfer. This is not old news, even though US researchers developed this technique back in 2009 as their work was on other animal cells. Mitochondria (the parts of cells that breakdown sugar to generate energy) have DNA (which is quite separate to the DNA in cells' nuclei. However about 1 in 5,000 people have a problem with their mitochondrial DNA and women with such problems pass them on to their offspring. Those with mutations severe enough to cause a problem currently give birth to just under 800 affected children in the US alone each year. However you can take the nuclear DNA from a woman's egg and put it into the egg of a healthy woman (that has had its own nuclear DNA removed), or alternatively you can swop the mutated mitochondria with healthy mitochondria, and then you can fertilise the egg with a father's sperm. Both techniques work with animals and the resulting offspring have DNA from three parents. Now an international team has tested the technique and it seems to work (See Kang et al, 2016, Nature, vol. 540, p270-5.), though the fertilised eggs were not allowed to develop far for ethical and legal reasons. Ethical approval for such research in the US was only recently given. The only nation that legally can fully perform this treatment is the United Kingdom, but the first treatment has yet to be carried out here, though full approval for the method was granted in November (2016) by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Bird flu is back with H5N8. The last scare was three years ago with H7N9 that had begun to infect humans but fortunately without human-to-human transmission and that outbreak was contained.  Other bird flu strains do abound and one, H5N8 is making a comeback. Its last major outbreak was in Ireland back in 1983 and that took the slaughtering of 8,000 turkeys, 28,020 chickens, and 270,000 ducks to contain. But now its back, spreading from the bird-flu reservoir in China it has now reached Europe affecting birds in in the British Isles. Fortunately, although H5N8 is considered one of the less pathogenic subtypes for humans, it is beginning to become more serious. H5N8 can sometimes mutate into the highly pathogenic H1N1.  Then this month (January) nine swans died. These were further to 80 birds who earlier died in Dorset. Species affected across Britain this 2016-7 winter so far have included: wigeons, swans, pochards (a kind of duck), peregrine falcon, greylag goose, white fronted goose, Canada goose, mallard, black head gull, cormorant and teal. DEFRA (the governmental Department for Food/Farming and Rural Affairs) has taken measures to help ensure that chickens and other birds – whether kept for poultry, eggs or as pets – are kept from coming into contact with wild birds. Nonetheless, early in January chickens and ducks with avian flu have been found at a property in North Yorkshire and these were further to farm animal infections in Wales and Lincolnshire.  Since early November cases have been reported in Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

Ebola vaccine works. In 2015 the VSV-EBOV vaccine showed great promise. It was discovered by Canadians and developed with Britain involving Médecins sans Frontières and the pharmaceutical company Merck. Trials involving nearly 6,000 people have shown it to be 100% effective. It is now being fast-tracked for use. The last major outbreak of ebola ended in 2016.

Most Brazilian urban-dwelling women are avoiding having children because of the Zika virus.  The virus is most prevalent in Barazil and causes pregnant women's offspring to have smaller brains. A survey of over two thousand city dwelling women aged between 18 and 39 reveals that while 27% are not avoiding getting pregnant and 16% are avoiding pregnancy, and additional 56% are deliberately avoiding pregnancy because of the Zika virus (figures don't quite add due to rounding). Not all Brazillian women have easy access to contraception and abortion is illegal. (Diniz et al, 2017 Journ. Family Plann, Repro. Health vol 43. 80.)

Genetically modified viruses make for very effective vaccines. Researchers led by Demin Zho at Peking University have genetically modified (GM) a flu virus that can only replicate in transgenic (genetically modified) cells but not in normal cells. They created such a GM influenza virus and infected some mice. This virus elicited a stronger immune response than normal vaccines. Those infected mice not given any vaccine or GM virus all died. (See Science (2016) vol. 354, p1170-1173.)

CRISPR off-switch found. This is actually BIG news.  For the past couple of years CRISPR-Cas9 has dominated molecular and genetic biology: it enables precise gene-level editing of DNA and opening up numerous possibilities including altering the genetics of whole populations of animals and plants; it is so powerful it might even facilitate bioweapons!  The CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme is a bacteria defence mechanism that chops up invading viruses but lends itself to becoming precise DNA scissors in the hands of molecular biologists.  Now Alan Davidson from Toronto University and colleagues have found proteins that block the enzyme (a bit like leaving a key in a lock to prevent anyone else from inserting their own key).  This could stop the editing of entire gene populations, be important in turning off CRISPR gene therapy, and even in combating CRISPR based bioweapons.

 

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Spring 2017

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

Pluto may have a subterranean ocean. The hypothesised ocean may lie beneath the planet's ('planet',yes, we are old fashioned) most prominent surface feature, known as the 'heart' (Sputnik Planitia the heart's left ventricle). This hypothesis explains the Planitia's being in a tidally locked line with Pluto's moon, Charon. The ocean would be cold and hyper-saline. One of Concatenation's natural scientists muses that if it exists then the very early Pluto (with a molten core) could have allowed bacterial-like life to rise. These could have evolved into chemolithoautotrophs that may have survived today. If so then methane might arise from this ocean to freeze as ice. The ocean hypothesis arises from observations made by the New Horizons probe.

Ceres: further confirmation of water. The NASA space probe Dawn arrived at the asteroid Ceres early in 2015 and last year (2016) both infra red and gravimetric observations suggested the presence of water.  Now, the results of Dawn's neutron and gamma-ray spectroscopy that detects sub-surface compisition suggests sub-surface ice and there is more of it at Ceres' poles than its equator. (See Prettyman et al. 2017, Science vol. 355 p55-59. DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6765.)

NASA's new future missions announced.  It will send two missions to the asteroids.  Lucy will be launched in 2021 and will visit six Trojan asteroids that straddle Jupiter. These asteroids are thought to be remnants of the early Solar System.  Conversely Psyche is slated to launch in 2023 will visit the asteroid Psyche that is thought to be the metallic core of a failed planet.  But first there will be the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer slated for 2020 that will look for polarised light from black holes' horizons and neutron stars.

Saturn's moon Dione may have an ocean. Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, Mikael Beuthe of the Royal Observatory Belgium and colleagues have used gravity data from NASA's Cassini probe. Their conclusions are that Dione has a 65 km deep ocean beneath some 100 km deep ice. Dione does exhibit features of past cryo-volcanic eruptions. It is possible that this ocean might harbour simple life?  Dione is over twice the size of Enceladus which is thought to have an ocean beneath its ice.  Previously Cassini detected hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. (See Beuthe, M. et al (2016) Enceladus’ and Dione’s floating ice shells supported by minimum stress isostasy, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2016GL070650.)

Ninth planet, Phattie, still not found but evidence mounts. Early last year Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown proposed that the orbits of minor planets in the Oort Cloud beyond Kuiper bodies might infer the gravitational effects of a ninth plant. Since then astronomers have been looking for a Neptune-size world out in the darker reaches of the outer Solar System.  So far nothing has been found. However, an emerging population of small objects orbiting perpendicular to the Solar System-Earth (ecliptic) plane, and a slight tilt to the Sun are suggestive that planet nine really exists.

The top 2cm of the Moon's regolith is churned every 81,000 years. Emerson Speyerer from Arizona State U. and colleagues compared pictures from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Apollo missions to see how many new craters had formed. From this they were able to calculate how long it would take to cover the Earth's Moon with new small craters. A size distribution curve was created so enabling extrapolation down to very small sizes below camera resolution and the rates these occurred. From this they deduced that the top 2cm of the Moon's surface turned over every 81,000 years. (See Nature vol. 538, p215-218.)

The Universe may well have 10 times more galaxies than previously thought. Published in the Astrophysics Journal, Christopher Conselice of Britain's University of Nottingham and colleagues trawled through the data of galaxy surveys of when the Universe was just 600 million years old. This meant that their count from early Universe data included objects such small dwarf galaxies which today (in the present Universe) are too faint to be seen by current telescopes but which might in the future be revealed by the next generation of kit including ESA's forthcoming Euclid mission. Christopher Conselice and colleagues' estimate is that there could be as many as one and three trillion galaxies in the observable Universe, and this is ten times the current estimate of around a couple of hundred billion galaxies.

ESA's Gaia initial results confirm that our Galaxy is bigger than we thought. The first results from 14 months of data collection of the European Space Agency's, star mapping, Gaia mission show the positions of 1.1 billion stars, more observable stars than researchers thought. This builds on the 2015 Sloan survey that discovered that our Milky Way galaxy is around 150,000 light years across (not just 100,000 light years).  The Gaia mission has much more work to do in building a detailed map of our portion of the Galaxy (we cannot see across the galactic centre or easily through spiral arms).  +++ Gaia space telescope measures universe expansion to be faster.  Gaia's measurement of the distance of the Galaxy's Cephid variables is more accurate. Cephids in turn have a specific brightness-to-size relationship wherever they are, hence their distance can be discerned once this relationship has been established, which in turn means knowing the precise distances of some Cephids (the further away a candle is the dimmer it appears). The data from Gaia when related to more distant Cephids, suggests that the Universe is expanding at 73.0km/second for every 3.26 million light-years (a megaparsec). This compares with 66.9km/s for every megaparsec as calculated by ESA’s Planck space telescope that looks at the cosmic microwave background (the longer since it has been since the big bang the cooler the background). The Planck-derived estimate for the age of the Universe was a little higher than previously thought at 13.82 billion years.
          The new Gaia-derived calculation suggests that this Universe age estimate might have to be reduced by a few hundred million years: a fraction of 1%.  Gaia's distance uncertainty is around 1% and the Gaia-derived age of the Universe comes with 2% uncertainty as does the Planck derived estimates.  As both estimates have a larger uncertainty as they have a difference the debate will continue. However, some say it is possible to reconcile both: our 1-2% observable portion of the Universe could be low density and so expanding faster than the average rate elsewhere, or alternatively dark energy (that speeds up expansion) might evolve (change) with time.  In short the jury is still out and we need more evidence.

Europe's Rosetta probe has ended its mission to Comet 67P by crash-landing on to the icy object's surface. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is currently heading away from the sun, limiting the solar energy available to Rosetta to operate its systems. Rather than put the probe into hibernation or simply let it slowly fade into inactivity, the mission team determined that the venture should try to go out in style. ESA's Matt Taylor said that even if Rosetta was put to sleep with the intention of waking it up again when 67P next visited the inner Solar System there would be no guarantee it would work properly and so it was decided to gently crash the probe so as to get good close up pictures.  +++ Launched in 2004 the probe made a flyby of Stein's asteroid in 2008 and then Lutetia asteroid in 2010 before going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. Since then it has sent the Philae lander to its surface but contact was lost when it bounced into shade and lost its solar power. The orbiter continued to function. ESA has a short video here.  +++ In 2015 ESA's Rosetta Outreach team won an Arthur C. Clarke Award for education.  +++ See also Klim Churyumov below.

Europe's Schiaparelli lander has landed a tad fast. The 600 kg lander seems to have jettisoned its parachute too early and then fired its retrorockets for just a few seconds and not half a minute: it is likely to have crashed at over 200 miles per hour (over around 300 km/h). The crash site has been imaged by an orbiter with the parachute two-thirds of a mile (around 1 km) away.  ESA's Schiaparelli lander is the technology testing part of the Exo Mars programme with Russia's Roscosmos who are providing the launcher as NASA – ESA's original mission partner – dropped out due to budget constraints. The Schiaparelli lander with the Trace Gas Orbiter launched this spring. The Trace Gas Orbiter has successfully entered Martian orbit and will be sending information to Earth. The problems with the Schiaparelli lander are being identified and the lessons learned used in the next part of the Exo Mars programme which will include hopefully the landing of a rover in its 2020 mission due for touching down on Mars in 2021. The official investigation revealed that the probe misinterpreted sensor data, which made it think it was below ground level, when in reality the module was still at an altitude of around 3.7km. This triggered Schiaparelli to deploy its parachute early and to fire its landing rockets for just three seconds.

China has launched a second space station as the first is set to crash later this year. China has launched a second experimental space station, Tiangong 2 [Heavenly Palace 2]. The mission follows the launch of the Tiangong 1 prototype in 2011 which was meant to be part of a larger modular construction that would be permanently manned in 2022. Tiangong 1 provided room for some research experiments but it was decided to replace it and let its orbit to decay. It is expected to re-enter the atmosphere proper in the second half of 2017.  Meanwhile, Tiangong 2 will see work on Quantum communications and gamma ray burst research. China still intends to have a permanently crewed outpost in space hopefully by 2022 with Tiangong 3.  +++ Aspirationally, by 2024 China wants to have an astronaut on the Moon, and by around 2050 a manned mission to Mars.

A binary pair of stars seems to be developing three systems of planets. Christian Brinch of Copenhagen U. and colleagues have observed a binary pair of young stars 391 light years away each of which have a dust cloud around them out of which planets are likely to condense. What is unusual is that there is an outer third dust disk orbiting both the stars (Astrophysics Journal 830 L16 (2016).)

China's biggest rocket has successfully launched. The Long March 5 lifter has the same lift capacity as equivalent to the US's most powerful Delta IV Heavy. China will use it to start assembling a new space station from 2018.

Four Galileo satellites have been launched by an Ariane 5 rocket, which means Europe now has a preliminary geo-positioning service. Galileo is ESA's precision geo-positioning system that will be based on two dozen satellites orbiting in three orbital planes about the Earth. The first satellite was launched over a decade ago. Along the way there have been problems including, in 2015, two satellites going into a wrong (highly elliptical) orbit (and so were re-purposed to test Einsteinian time-dilation. The four satellites just launched bring the total of Galileo functioning satellites in orbit to 18, which is enough to start providing a preliminary service. It is hoped that by 2020 a full complement of 24 plus 6 (two per plane) back-up satellites will be operational.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Science & Science Fiction Interface

 

Science and SF come together in a series of short films collectively called 'Quantum Shorts'. The Centre for Quantum Technologies (at Singapore U.) and Nature sponsored the competition. The winners will be screened at a variety of venues:
          23rd February, University of Waterloo, Canada.
          25th – 28th February, Arts – Science Museum, Singapore.
          17th March, Science Centre, Glasgow, Great Britain.
          24th March, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
          24th March, Science World, Vancouver, Canada.
(And we [SF² Concatenation] have tipped the wink to a British SF film event to see if another screening to fans might be appropriate. Well, we are not just a website but a way of thinking and acting.)

A reactionless drive may be possible, preliminary results from NASA sponsored research suggests. The EM drive works by bouncing microwaves (electromagnetic radiation – EM) inside a cone of a size to allow resonance (it’s a wavelength thing) which distributes the group velocity (hence momentum) asymmetrically and so 'generates' momentum, or is it that the microwaves are pushing against the Casimir quantum foam…?  No-one knows.   The thing is the researchers from Eagleworks Laboratories, with the sponsorship of the NASA Johnson Space Center, built a test EM drive and managed to generate small but detectable force around a hundred times greater than if a comparable photon drive was used. Importantly, they cannot discern any source of errors in their experiment.   The reason for the fuss is that the paper has been peer-reviewed and the researchers have included a number of possible sources of error that they have managed to address and rule out. So the paper and the experiment seem sound… Except that this overturns our understanding of physics.  The chances are that both the researchers and the peer-reviewers missed something, or that the researchers made a Sheldon Cooper type boo-boo.   Meanwhile it is a curiosity, and curiosities are worth further exploration.   The paper should, you wish to search engine it, is: White, H., March P., Lawrence, J. et al (2016) Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum. Journal of Propulsion and Power. DOI: 10.2514/1.B36120.

H. G. Wells' revenge!  Earth bug contamination of Mars could halt Curiosity rover's exploration. H. G. Wells classic novel War of the Worlds saw the heat-ray wielding Martians halted, succumbing to Earth's microbes to which they had no resistance.  In something of a reverse, today there are strict international agreements that (in theory) protect any hypothetical Martian microbes from contamination by their Earthlet counterparts. NASA's Curiosity rover is climbing the mountain of Aeolis Mons but a number of photographs taken over the past couple of years have revealed dynamic (moving) lines that could be caused by running water (albeit at only 3% concentration of the sediment) hence harbour Martian microbial life. The rover is having to alter its route to steer clear of these areas.  +++ Previously, Curiosity discovered the remains of ancient lakes but these remains were of geological age and long since dry.  +++ SF² Concatenation staff member has had a letter published in the science journal Nature noting symmetry of NASA not wanting to contaminate possible Martian life with Earth microbes symmetry with H. G. Wells… Nature letter only news also here.

Artificial intelligence (AI) speaks for itself: it creates its own words!  Google's Deep Mind AI uses a new system called WaveNet to speak. Current text-to-voice systems uses pre-recoded words and/or fragments of words and then pieces them together to generate speech. Conversely, WaveNet is a simulated neural net that learns from raw sound and then uses a statistical analysis to piece these 'learned' fragments together.

Mystery Go player revealed as A.I.  Starting before Christmas (2016) a mystery player going by the handle 'Master(P)' appeared on Tygem and FoxGo playing Go games and seemingly having a winning streak for over 50 games. Then, in the first days of 2017, Master(P) was revealed to be a new prototype version of AlphaGo that Google artificial intelligence (A.I.) was beta testing.  +++ Earlier last year Google's DeepMind AlphaGo beat the Go World Champion.

The UK all-party Parliamentary enquiry into Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has published its report. The report, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence acknowledges the enquiry's establishment statement that 'the global market for the A.I. sector is expected to grow to US$2-6 trillion by 2025'. It noted a divergence of opinion as to the impact of A.I. and robotics: some say that it will lead to a loss of jobs, others that it will enhance human productivity and create new jobs. However, it concluded that despite the UK potentially being set to be a global leader in this sector, there was no Government strategy for developing the skills, and securing the critical investment, that is needed to create future growth in robotics and A.I. Furthermore, there was no sign of the Government delivering on its promise, made in March 2015, to provide much needed coordination and direction.  +++ A White House Report on A.I. has been published. It concludes that both government and private investment is needed if the US is to have a significant stake in this sector. It also calls for regulations and standards to keep pace with development and likely progress.  +++ Concerns are raised by Stephen Hawking who once more wonders whether A. I. will kill or save humankind? His past and present views have been echoed by the likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak. Stephen Hawking was speaking at the opening of Cambridge's Centre for the Future of Intelligence. 'I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence — and exceed it," he said. It might also lead us to things we didn't like such as autonomous weapons, economic disruption and machines that developed a will of their own, in conflict with humanity. "In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which."  +++ Others are concerned by the possible unforeseen adverse effects by non-sentient A.I.

Europe considering robotic A.I. regulations.  The European Union is considering a report on the 'Civil Law Rules on Robotics'.  The report from the off draws on SF noting that 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster to the classical myth of Pygmalion, through the story of Prague's Golem to the robot of Karel Capek, who coined the word [robot], people have fantasised about the possibility of building intelligent machines, more often than not androids with human features'.  It states that 'humankind stands on the threshold of an era when ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence (A.I.) seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched, it is vitally important for the legislature to consider all its implications'. Noting that 'between 2010 and 2014 the average increase in sales of robots stood at 17% per year and in 2014 sales rose by 29%, the highest year-on-year increase ever, with automotive parts suppliers and the electrical/electronics industry being the main drivers of the growth; whereas annual patent filings for robotics technology have tripled over the last decade'. And it adopts the general principle that 'until such time, if ever, that robots become or are made self-aware, Asimov's Laws must be regarded as being directed at the designers, producers and operators of robots, since those laws cannot be converted into machine code'.  It calls upon the European Commission to propose a common European definition of smart autonomous robots and their subcategories.  And it 'strongly encourages international cooperation in setting regulatory standards under the auspices of the United Nations'.

Kuwait's proposal to DNA scan all within its borders has been reduced. Kuwait was to introduce a law for the compulsory scanning the DNA of all its residents and visitors so as to 'combat terrorism'. Following a backlash, the Emir has now requested a review and the law is likely to be amended so as only to apply to convicted criminals and (still worryingly) the 'accused'. Something perhaps to ponder when next considering where to have your next overseas holiday.

Britain is to develop a military laser. A £30 million (US$37m) contract has been awarded to develop a system called LaWS. A prototype should be tested in 2019 and if successful weapons could be with the army in the mid-2020s.  +++ The US has already tested military and in 2014 mounted a laser weapon on a ship.

The first driverless truck delivery has been made. Otto, the self-driving truck company acquired by Uber, has made the first driverless delivery (well, there was someone in the cab's sleeping berth to keep an eye on things during the journey).  51,744 cans of Budweiser 'beer' were trucked across 120 miles from Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado Springs in the US.

Teenager gets Judge's permission to be cryogenically preserved after death as a corpsicle for later revival. The British 14-year old terminal patent had the support of her mother for the £37,000 procedure for her body to be frozen after death so that it could be revived in the future when the science may exist to cure her cancer. However her divorced father stood in the way, hence a judicial ruling was required.  +++ The idea of cryogenics (using cold to preserve a body in a pristine state for later revival) comes from the SF short story 'The Jameson Satellite' by Neil Ronald Jones that appeared in the July 1931 edition of Analog which inspired Robert Ettinger to write his own SF story, 'The Penultimate Trump' (1948) and then a non-fiction book on the topic in 1962 and re-published by a major publisher (after science advice from Isaac Asimov) in 1964 as The Prospect of Immortality. Robert Ettinger is now known as the father of cryogenics. Back to SF, in 1969 Frederik Pohl's novel The Age of the Pussyfoot embodied the concept of a frozen body in the term 'corpsicle'. Then Larry Niven popularised the termin SF circles in 'Rammer' (1971), a short story in his collection A Hole in Space. Of course being frozen per se and revived for non-medical reasons has abounded elsewhere previously in SF. Here one famous example is the revived alien frozen in ice in John Campbell jnr.'s story 'Who Goes There' (1938) which became the film The Thing (1951) and a remake (1982).

Bones 3-D printed. Researchers from Illinois (US) have used a 3-D printer to create hyperelastic bone made from hydroxypatite – a calcium mineral not too dissimilar to one found in bone. Grafts in mice and rats integrated with tissue and stimulated surrounding bone growth. There appeared to be no adverse effects. The technique can be used to create bones and bone fragments of different shapes (Sci. Trans. Med vol. 8, 358ra127).

Bots were employed to boost Twitter likes following Trump-Clinton Presidential election debates. Both sides have been 'favoured' by the use of bots to 'like' the respective candidates. The suspected bot accounts tweeted more than 1.7 million times on the days of the debates and the next three days.

Caesarean section births are influencing human evolution postulate biologists and clinicians. Now, if you have been following the news in the commercial media you will have heard the story as 'Caesarean section births are influencing human evolution', which is not the same as hypothesising a postulate. The researchers do note that the proportion (percentage) of Caesarean sections required by women giving birth in Africa is lower than in developed nations but the stats are not robust (it’s a meta analysis and the data was gathered differently and the health economics are different in less developed compared to developed nations) and researchers mention this by way of casual corroboration. What the researchers have actually done is to create an evolutionary mathematical model to explain these very rough statistics. The idea is that women with narrow pelvic girdles, who would normally die in childbirth along with their offspring, now survive. In this way the (formerly lethal) genes for too narrow pelvic girdles accumulate in the population. The hypothesis is certainly credible in the Matthew-Wallace-Darwin 'survival of the fittest', 'natural selection' sense, and the researchers' mathematical model no doubt has its merit, but you can't simply leap from model to reality let alone via weak statistics as many science journalists have. Nonetheless, this is an interesting hypothesis (see Mitteroecker et al (2017) Cliff-edge model of obstetric selection in humans. PNAS doi/10.1073/pnas.1612410113.) As technological humans we are undoubtedly affecting our own evolution and it is not hard to think of likely examples: glasses and modern life enables those with poor eyesight to survive, and insulin keeps diabetics alive.

Wonder Woman becomes a United Nations Ambassador for Women and Girls and then gets dropped. Using SF/F's popularity for serious purposes can backfire, and it looks like it has for the UN adopting DC Comics' Wonder Woman as its Ambassador for Women and Girls to mark the launch of a year-long social media campaign to promote women's empowerment and gender equality.  At the UN year inaugural, that coincided with Wonder Woman's 75th anniversary of her first appearance, women in the gallery turned their backs. Furthermore, over a 1,000 of anonymous and 'concerned' UN staff members have signed an online petition arguing that Wonder Woman was not an appropriate choice, noting the character's physique as 'a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots -the epitome of a "pin-up" girl'. Not something that empowers the average woman.
          Two months later in the run-up to Christmas the UN ended its campaign having Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador from the UN to promote messages about women's empowerment and gender-based violence. A UN spokesman said that such campaigns using fictional characters only last a few months. DC Comics was reportedly pleased with the campaign, but a petition against Wonder Woman's selection gathered nearly 45,000 signatures. Ironically the announcement came as the UN itself was under criticism for having a lack of gender parity in senior roles.

The 2014 Yahoo hack was far bigger than thought and may have been a state-sponsored cyber attack. Yahoo announced in September (2016) that 'state-sponsored' hackers stole 500 million users data in what could be the largest publicly-disclosed cyber-hack. It took place in 2014 but was not reported. What was reported was that there had been a 2014 hack of Yahoo but its extent was not revealed. Last season it was reported that some 200 million Yahoo user account details were being marketed: names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords.  There were further big company hacks in 2014.  However in December (2016) it was revealed that the scale of the attack exceeded a billion users' passwords and details stolen. This makes it the biggest hack of users' details from a single source in history (though Russian hackers have previously hacked more than this from many PC and servers). Yahoo has for some years lacked data security credibility by some into e-technology.  +++ In case you did not know it, Yahoo owns Flickr and Tumblr.

'Big Brother' and Yahoo may have been scanning millions of its users' email accounts on behalf of the US government, according to Reuters. Apparently the scans were for certain key words for either the National Security Agency (NSA) or the FBI.

Visa card fraud via online payment is too easy say European researchers. They investigated the Alexa top-400 online merchants’ payment sites, and realised that the current landscape facilitates a distributed guessing attack. This is a Monte Carlo style attack whereby the attackers guess some of the security details and when they get those right move on to guess others. Too many sites, the researchers say, do not require the full security details and many do not block cards even if they block their own site to attackers, so that attackers can simply try again at another online vendor's site. An attacker can exploit these differences to build a distributed guessing attack which generates usable card payment details (card number, expiry date, card verification value, and postal address) one field at a time. Each generated field can be used in succession to generate the next field by using a different merchant’s website. Moreover, if individual merchants were trying to improve their security by adding more payment fields to be verified on their site, they potentially inadvertently weaken the whole system by creating an opportunity to guess the value of another field.  Visa have responded by saying that they have their own secret layers of protection in addition to those on vendor's sites, so not to worry. (See Ali et al (2017) Does The Online Card Payment Landscape Unwittingly Facilitate Fraud? IEEE Security & Privacy.)

Big Brother would watch you properly if it had the right software. And so people have been arrested in California (US) due to the state's courts rolling out new software. The new software costs US$5m (£4m) but has seen people's records altered. This has resulted in people wrongfully arrested, held in prison longer than required and in several cases mistakenly told they must register as seχ offenders.

Britain's 'snoopers charter' is illegal says European Union. The European Court of Justice said the 'indiscriminate' collection of data was against EU law. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act – branded the "'snoopers charter' by critics – requires communications companies to retain customers' e-mail and browsing history data for 12 months. The Court said that said communications data could only be retained if it was used to fight serious crime: in other words non-suspects should not routinely have their data stored. Orwell safe for now.

LiveJournal appears to have relocated its servers from the US to Russia. LiveJournal was originally a US company but was bought by a Russian firm, SUP, in 2007 but announced that it would keep the servers in the US: there are a substantial number of Russian Federation citizens using LiveJournal and a number are dissidents. Then just before Christmas there was an outage and then LiveJournal's IP address pointed to a Moscow location and the firm Rambler Internet Holding which owns SUP.  Given Russia has been implicated in cyber shenanigans including recently trying to impact the US election campaign, this is a worrying development. One question (of many) is whether LiveJournal will now enforce Russian anti-gay legislation on LiveJournal users? Many are now considering leaving Live Journal. Others are surprised at the fuss when such concerns should have been acted upon when LiveJournal was sold to a Russian firm a decade ago, or even in 2009 when some of the US staff were laid off and product development shifted to Russia.

Russian TV to embark on a real-life style Hunger Games series. Game2: Winter will see a score of contestants having to survive for 8 months in a Siberian forest including through winter. Reportedly, the rules of the game could include "fights, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything at all" but contestants must "obey the laws of the Russian Federation". Contestants must sign a waver absolving the television company of any responsibility for the contestants' wellbeing. Apparently, anyone who wants to take part has to be over 18 and 'sane'; a condition it would appear that does not apply to the series' producers.

New technology can be science fictional, or are they just science fiction? Here is a short video of three examples. Note especially the Circet bracelet and you decide: see the short video here.

Jedism is not a religion, Charity Commission rules. Britain's official whole-population surveys have seen a sizeable number answer Jedism to the question of their religion. Jedism pertaining to the Star Wars films. However Britain's charity watchdog and registry, the Charity Commission (which also covers religious groups seeking charitable financial status), has declared that Jedism is not a real religion but the product of fiction.  Nothing gets by these folk.

A new species has been named after a Star Wars character. The new species is a type of gibbon living in the tropical forests of southwest China.  It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon - partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean "Heaven's movement" but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars. Actor Mark Hamill has tweeted his delight.

Europe has had a largely successful year in space treading boldly. See the European Space Agency's 2016 review video.  ESA has also been looking forward to 2017 with two astronauts to the international space station and ten satellite launches.  Meanwhile, over in the rebel colonies, NASA plans to build the future in 2017 with TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) among other things.  Rocket science this ain't: oh well, actually it is…

And finally, to continue to tread boldly…

William Shatner talks about his meet with Prof Stephen Hawking at Comicon. And it was caught on video: enjoy.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

Rest In Peace

The last season saw the science and science fiction communities sadly lose…

 

Richard Adams, the British author, has died aged 96 on Christmas Eve. He is noted for his books Plague Dogs (1977) and especially Watership Down (1972). The latter was a fantasy about the lives of rabbits and which became even more popular with a feature film animation (1978) of the same title. The book sold tens of millions of copies globally. The film's theme song, 'Bright Eyes' sung by Art Garfunkel, spent a month and half in Britain's top ten. He spent a year as President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals but left the post as he felt aspects of organisation was becoming too radical. A new animated mini-series of Watership Down will be aired by the BBC this year (2017).

Lon Atkins, the US fanzine fan, has died. He also chaired DeepSouthCon 4 in the US in 1966. He was Fan GoH at Westercon 20 (1967).

Bernard Bergonzi, the British SF academic, has died aged 87. He was a professor of English at Warwick U. Among a number of publications, he co-authored The Fantasy Poets: Number 34 (1957) and authored The Early H. G. Wells: A Study of The Scientific Romances (1961) and edited H. G. Wells - A Collection of Critical Essays (1976).

Paul Brazier, the British SF fan and editor, has died aged 66.  This is a particularly sad obit notice for us as Paul was with us way back when we started with our print editions.  Paul was a member of the London SF group the City Illiterates which in term time met as an evening class on SF at the City of London's Institute for Literature (the City Lit), and on other Fridays as a social group (some members still meet up today). Paul was a typesetter and magazine graphics editor and he typeset a number of our print editions including our 1994 tri-lingual edition for which he created special characters to accommodate the extended Romanian alphabet: Paul kept typesetting for SF² Concatenation to the end of its run of print editions.  It was in 1990 that Paul moved from London to Brighton with his partner Juliet, and it was in Brighton that they married.  Paul also produced his own semi-prozine, Nexus that after a few editions merged into Interzone (which is still going today) for whom Paul was its graphic designer until it itself was taken over by TTA Press in 2004. He also edited the anthology Anthology Quercus One: The West Pier Gazette and Other Stories (2008) that had for many of its stories the loose theme of Brighton's west pier. His most recent venture was to contribute to The Folk Diary.  Paul had not been well for a number of years and he died of cancer after a short final illness. Had Paul's health and drive from earlier times held then there is little doubt that he would have continued to make significant contributions to Britain's SF publication scene. He was taken from us much to soon.

Klim Churyumov, the Ukranian astronomer, has died aged 79. He was co-discoverer in 1969 with Svetlana Gerasimenko the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko which was the target of ESA's Rosetta mission that has just concluded and which Klim witnessed. Klim Churyumov was also a populariser of science and has had a number of children's poetry books published.

Ralph Cicerone, the US atmospheric chemist, has died aged 73. He was man expert on the atmospheric chemistry of ozone depletion. He was recognised on the citation for the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to his colleague Sherwood Rowland. He developed his interest in Earth system science especially with regards to climate change.  In 2001, while chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, he led an academic panel, commissioned by President George W. Bush, tasked with reporting on climate change. The panel concluded unequivocally that "greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." In 2005 he became president of the National Academy of Sciences (the US equivalent to the Royal Society). During his term the NAS produced a set of America's Climate Choices reports and in 2014 helped steer the NAS's joint publication with the Royal Society Climate Change: Evidence and Causes. He was keen on public understanding and appreciation of science an instigated the NAS programme 'Science and Entertainment Exchange' whereby scientists could advise those in the entertainment industry to portray science more accurately and facilitated the publication of an NAS book Science, Evolution and Creationism. He also served as president of the American Geophysical Union. He retired as President of the NAS in the summer of last year (2016) and died in November (2016) suddenly.

James Cronin, the US physicist, has died aged 85. He played a pivotal role in determining charge-parity (CP) violation which explains why the Universe consists of matter (as opposed to nothing with equal matter and anti-matter destroying one another). His contribution (including his expertise with spark chambers) to neutrinos and muon decay went unrecognised by the Nobel committee who gave a prize to others leading the team in 1988. He went on as one of those who created the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina, the largest cosmic ray detector so far built.

Steve Dillon, the British comics artist, has died aged 54 from a ruptured appendix. He began his professional work at the tender age of 16 providing artwork for Marvel's British Hulk magazine. His early career included work for Doctor Who Magazine. He was co-creator/artist of Preacher (which became a US television series where he was also executive producer for 10 episodes), co-founder/editor of Deadline and artist on Judge Dredd (on and off from 1981 – 1992) as well as Rogue Trooper among other work for the weekly 2000AD – the Galaxy's greatest – comic. In recent years his work included that for Marvel Comics  Another taken from us much too soon.

Carrie Fisher, the US actress, has died aged 60 of a heart attack that began at the end of an air flight. She became famous and is most noted, for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Born in the US she was educated in the US and later in London's Central School of Speech and Drama. her big screen debut was in Shampoo (1975). She also appeared in The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The Time Guardian (1987) and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), but her big break came with Star Wars (1977). She also did script work including tidying up scripts for the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In 2014 she briefly appeared as herself in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. But her fame and personal history resulted in drug, alcohol and mental problems which she eventually largely overcame. Her novel Postcards from the Edge drew upon her life experiences and has been called by some almost autobiographical: she the adapted it for the screen and it appeared as a film in 1990. She had a brief cameo in Rogue One (2016), where she appears as a young Leia thanks to CGI animation. She had been working on the new Star Wars film slated for later this year (2017) and the day before Christmas Eve had a heart attack on a flight from London to LA just before landing. She died the day after Boxing Day. Tragically, her mother, the actress Debbie Reynolds (Singing in the Rain), died the following day, aged 84, saying that she wanted to join her daughter.

Douglas Fratz, the US fan, zine editor and book reviewer, has died aged 63. He was the founding editor of the SF news and reviews zine Thrust produced by the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society. Thrust was renamed Quantum in 1990 which he continued to edit until it merged with Science Fiction Eye in 1993. This garnered him five Hugo nominations in the Fanzine and Semiprozine categories between 1980 and 1991. He also reviewed books for the Washington Post Book World, Fantasy Review and Science Fiction Eye as well as for the websites Sci-Fi Wire and its re-branded successor Blastr.

John Glen, the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth, has died age 96.  He was originally a fighter pilot in both WWII and Korea, that saw him receive five Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen clusters, before he joined NASA.  As part of the Mercury programme he flew Friendship 7 to become the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth: in fact his flight orbited our planet three times.  He resigned from NASA in 1964 a to run for the US Senate for the Democratic Party and won a seat in 1974.  At the Senate his achievements included being a principal author of the chief author of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act (1978).  In 1998, while still a senator, he became the oldest person in space when he was a payload specialist in the Discovery space shuttle aged 77. During the flight he was a test subject for geriatric studies participating in sleep and protein metabolism experiments. of relevance to those into science fact and science fiction, he said that he saw no contradiction between believing in God and the knowledge that evolution is 'a fact', and that he believed evolution should be taught in schools.

Ed Gorman a.k.a. Daniel Ransom, the US author, has died aged 74. His novels include Daddy’s Little Girl (1985), The Babysitter (1989), Nightmare Child (1990), The Fugitive Stars (1995), and Zone Soldiers (1996). As Richard Driscoll, he and Kevin Randle co-authored the 'Star Precinct' trilogy. His collection The Dark Fantastic (2002) was short-listed for a Stoker Award.

Henry Judah Heimlich, the US thoracic surgeon, has died aged 96.  He is particularly noted for being widely credited as the inventor of the Heimlich manoeuvre, a technique of abdominal thrusts for stopping choking. (It was originally rejected by the clinical community.) He also invented the Micro Trach portable oxygen system for moving patients and the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve, or 'flutter valve' that drains blood and air out of the chest cavity. Contentiously, he spent a time considering the benefits of deliberate infection of benign malaria on Lyme disease and cancer patients (the treatment has no proven efficacy).  It is thought that during the course of his lifetime, the Heimlich Manoeuvre may have saved the lives of conservatively 100,000 people in the USA alone.

Deborah Jin, the US physicist, has died of cancer aged 47. She worked on ultra cold gases which exhibit quantum phenomena. She developed measurement techniques that are used in such studies.

David Kyle, the longstanding SF fan, has died aged 97. He was a member of 'first fandom' having been active in the community since 1933 and was one of just a couple of hundred who attended the first Worldcon in 1939 (which originally marked the city hosting the World Fayre). He chaired the 1956 Worldcon (NyCon II) in New York (US) and was fan Guest of Honour at the 1983 Worldcon (ConStellation) in Baltimore (US). With Martin Greenberg he co-founded Gnome Press in 1948, reprinting old SF worthies.  He spent much of the 1970s in Britain where he was a regular at the annual British natcon Eastercon and the Birmingham Novacon. It was in Britain that he was made a Knight of The Order of Saint Fantony in 1961.  He was awarded the Worldcon's Big Heart Award in 1973. He wrote A Pictorial History of Science Fiction (1976) and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams (1977) but much to his annoyance (and a little confusion among some potential purchasers browsing bookshops as you could not check things online in those days) the publisher used the same illustration and style for both their covers. Both books are well worth seeking out especially of you like your SF more on the hard side (as opposed to fantasy) and have an interest in the genre's 'Golden Age'.  Dave was friendly and approachable, and in later life never shied from chatting to youngsters and first-time convention goers so keeping up with his St Fantony duties to the end.

Richard Kyle, the US comic's dealer and publisher, has died aged 87. He is particularly noted for coining the term 'graphic novel' in the November 1964 issue of the comics newszine fanzine Capa-Alpha.

Barry R. Levin, the US science fiction book dealer, has died of depression aged 70. He is especially known for presenting the Collectors Awards for authors, books, and publishers who were considered to be the most collectible.

Susan Lindquist, the US molecular biologist, has died aged 67. She worked on the 3-dimensional structure of proteins – protein folding – and the way prions relate to genes. Her work therefore has relevance to so-called mad cow disease and Creutzfeld–Jacob Disease in humans as well as Alzheimer's Disease. She garnered a number of awards including Britain's Mendel Medal from the Genetics Society and was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.

Bill Mollison, the Australian biologist, has died aged 88. He is associated with developing a variation of agroforestry and as such known as 'the father of permaculture'. 'Permaculture' a sustainable agricultural system based on a multi-crop of perennial trees, shrubs, herbs (vegetables and weeds), fungi, and root systems.

Massimo Mongai, the Italian SF writer, has died aged 65. He is arguably most noted for his Memorie di un Cuoco d'Astronave [An Astronaut Chef's Memoire] (1997) is a mix of space opera and cooking manual that won Italy's Urania Award. It concerns a young chef on a spaceship whose culinary skills end up helping save the Galaxy from destruction. It features workable recipes providing one substitutes Earth ingredients for the occasional 'alien' ones.  A number of his short stories appear in the collection Psicopatologia Sessual di una Prostituta cyborg, e Altre Storie [Seχυal Psychotherapy of a Cyborg Prοstitυte and Other Stories] (2013).

John D. Roberts, the US chemist, has died aged 98. He did much to help the huge growth in organic chemistry in the 1950s. He also popularised the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to elucidate chemical structures and reaction mechanisms as well as the use of isotopes to track atoms in reactions. His work garnered him the Priestley Medal in 1987 and the National Medal of Science in 1990. He also was at the front of a campaign in the 1950s to get CalTech (California Institute of Technology) to admit women to the academic staff.

Cornel Robu, the Romanian SF critic, has died aged 78 just prior to a Bucharest SF convention. His books include: Milestones of Romanian Post-War Science-Fiction [Jaloane ale Literaturii Române de Science-Fiction Postbelice] (1990), Doisprezece dintre cele mai bune Povestiri Romînesti Sci-Fi [Twelve of the Best Romanian Sci-Fi Stories] anthology editor (1995), O Cheie Pentru Science-Fiction [A Key to Science Fiction] (2004), Paradoxurile Timpului in Science Fiction [Time Paradoxes in Science Fiction] (2006), Teoria Pierde Omenia [Theory Kills Sympathy] (2008) editor of anthology, and Mortua Est [It is Dead] (2015). His one work published in English is the anthology Time is Our Shadow: Romanian Science-Fiction 1969-1989 (1990). He also wrote the entry for Romania in the online edition of the SF Encyclopaedia.

Vera Rubin, the US astronomer, has died aged 88.  She was the second female astronomer to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences. In 1974 she noticed that the stars at the edges of galaxies were moving faster than their estimated mass would suggest. This led to the question of what was the missing galactic mass. From the 1990s the 'missing mass' became known as 'dark matter'. Though she garnered a number of awards, including the US National Medal of Science (1993), there have been questions as to why she never received a Nobel.

André Ruellan, the French SF writer. Of note to science and SF concateneers, he was also a clinician: indeed, his Brebis Galeuses [Black Sheep] (1974) is a medical dystopia. He wote mainly under the name of Kurt Steiner and also Kurt Wargar and André Louvigny. His first novel (written under the pen name of Kurt Wargar) was Alerte aux Monstres [Alert, Monsters] (1953). He went on to write – mainly as Kurt Steiner – over a score of other novels including Le Disque Rayé [The Scratched Record] (1970) that concerns a complex time loop. His Le Seuil du Vide [The Threshold of the Void] (1956) was turned into a film of the same name (1971). Pierre Gevart (France's Galaxies editor) writes that Ruellan was quite forgotten by younger fans, but the older ones do remember him as one of the greatest of French SF authors. He is up there with the French grandmasters.

Piers Sellers, the British born astronaut, has died aged 61. He graduated with a degree in ecology (University of Edinburgh) and a doctorate in biometeorology (University of Leeds) before moving to the US. He and his wife (Amanda née Lomas) left Britain in 1982 and he became a naturalised US citizen in 1991, and this made him eligible for the space programme. He completed over 559 hours in space, including almost 41 EVA hours in 6 spacewalks. He flew STS-112 Space Shuttle Atlantis (2002), STS-121 Space Shuttle Discovery (2006) and STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis (2010) missions. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from the Queen in the 2011 for services to science, and in June 2016 received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He died of pancreatic cancer.

Norman F. Stanley, the US fan, has died aged 100. From Maine, he was a member of first fandom and into both science as well as SF.

Sheri Tepper, the US writer, has died aged 87. She is known for her horror as well as mystery detective novels, but in science fiction it is here books that have a feminist riff for which she has become associated. These included The Gate to Women's Country (1988) and the 'Marjorie West Riding' (or Arbai) trilogy that began with Grass (1989) set in a galaxy of human greed, fundamentalism and self-delusion. Grass was nominated for both the Hugo and Locus Awards. Beauty (1991) – the British edition of which has the author's preferred text – could be considered as inspired by 'The Sleeping Beauty' in which a women awakes to a dystopic future: it won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy. The Margarets was a John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee as well as shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (book).  In 2015 she co-won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Robert Vaughn, the US actor, has died aged 83. He is best known for playing the lead – Napoleon Solo – in the US techno-thriller series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (principal run 1964 - 1968) and various spin-off feature films. He also co-starred in the British thriller series The Protectors (a mundane series, 1972-4, from the sci-fi series producer Gerry Anderson). His genre work included: Teenage Caveman (1958), Men Into Space (TV series 1960), Starship Invasions (1977), Demon Seed (voice only, 1977), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Hanger 18 (1980) and Superman III (1983).  Time to close channel D.

William (Bill) Warren, the US science fiction historian and fantastic film critic, has died aged 73. He was a regular contributor to the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and then later the book series Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. He spent some time as an assistant to Forrest Ackerman and was an active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  He assisted Walt Lee on the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films three volumes: Volume 1 A-F (1972), Volume 2 G-O (1973) and Volume 3 P-Z (1974), He is perhaps most noted for his Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties (1982) and its second volume (1986) with a revised three-part edition in 2009. In the 1990s he was a film critic for the newspaper Simi Valley, California. He also wrote The Evil Dead Companion (2000).

Robert E 'Bob' Weinberg, the US author, book dealer and small press publisher, has died aged 70. He was also an SF/F/H art enthusiast. He also wrote for Marvel Comics; his first job was on the series Cable, and he later created the series Nightside with its protagonist Sydney Taine a character who had previously appeared in one of his short stories. He also edited over a score of anthologies and co-wrote some non-fiction SF in addition to nine novels.

Peter Weston, the British SF fan and Knight of St Fantony, has died aged 72.  Pete was both a tru-fan and sercon (serious and conscientious/constructive).  He edited the zine Zenith that became Zenith Speculation and finally Speculation (1963-1973) which garnered four Hugo nominations and a Nova award, and had a regular column in the British SF Association's Vector (1966-1968) under the pseudonym 'Malcolm Edwards'. (This last became a little confusing when the real Malcolm Edwards came along in 1969.)  Speculation provided a springboard for him to organise three SF Speculation Conferences in Birmingham (1970-1972). At which point he had done enough to be supported by fans to become the 1974 Worldcon delegate as the TransAtlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) winner. This in turn spurred him to become chair of a bid, and then the convention, for the 1979 Worldcon called Seacon in Brighton, England (which happened to be the first Worldcon for a number of the SF² Concatenation core team).  As a grass roots fan he co-founded the Birmingham Science Fiction Group (BSFG) in 1971 (arguably the oldest and still extant British local SF group outside of the London SF Circle) and helped start the 'Novacon' series of conventions run by the BSFG and which still continue today (held, obviously, each November).  On the professional SF front he edited three editions of the annual anthology Andromeda (1976-8).  On the international SF scene (aside from his chairing the 1979 Worldcon) he was perhaps best known for implementing in the physical sense the current design of the Hugo Award as he used to work for, and then owned, and iron foundry: he had been making the Hugo Awards since 1984. This service to the SF community was recognised in 2008 with the recognition being enshrined in the World SF Association constitution.  In 2004 he was fan GoH at the Boston Worldcon where he interviewed one of that convention's pro-GoHs, Terry Pratchett. This featured the exchange, when Terry mused with mild regret that he had never won a Hugo, with Pete replying that as Terry had a pile of cash while he had a load of Hugo Awards, that they might perhaps come to some arrangement…  His fan autobiographical book With Stars In My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom (2004) which in 2005 was nominated for a Hugo for best SF 'Related Book'.  Some of us occasionally bumped into Pete who in recent years always seemed to have a generous word for Concatenation, so not surprisingly we will miss him. But perhaps the biggest loss will be to British fandom to which he contributed so much; contributions which at least through Novacon will continue to reverberate down the years into the future.

Ewan Whitaker , the British born and later US resident astronomer, has died aged 94. After WWII he worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory examining the UV spectra of stars, but became interested in lunar studies. As a sideline, Whitaker drew and published in 1954 the first accurate chart of the South Polar area of the Moon and served as director of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association. In 1955 he joined a team working on producing a high-quality photographic atlas of the Moon. In 1960 he moved to the US and as part of a ~300 strong team produced a high quality atlas of the Moon. He then worked with NASA identifying likely landing sites for a number of the Apollo missions. In 1969 he received a personal letter of commendation from President Nixon for finding landed position of Surveyor 3, enabling the Apollo 12 astronauts to land nearby and retrieve parts for laboratory examination.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
Film News Television News Publishing News
Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
General Science News Natural Science News Astronomy & Space News
Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2017

End Bits & Thanks

 

Well, that is 2016 done and dusted.  2016 was..:-
          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.
          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 saw the 50th anniversary of (the aforementioned Star Trek), Fantastic Voyage, Batman, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD, One Million Years BC and Fahrenheit 451.
          the 70th anniversary of H. G. Wells' death.
          the 90th anniversary of Winnie the Pooh.
          the 150th anniversary of H. G. Wells' birth.
          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.
          the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore's Utopia, a political philosophy novel concerning an 'ideal' island.

And the Earth continued to roll in its orbit as one year turned into another.  Of course over time – due to lunar and other tidal drag – the Earth is slowing and so midnight December 31st 2016 saw the addition of an extra second.  We hope that you spent this extra time well: most of us at SF² Concat' mission control had the extra time in bed; slovenly, slumbering shower that we are.

And now we are firmly into 2017.  2017 will..:-
          see the 10th anniversary of Captain America's assassination, and the reincarnation of the French SF magazine Galaxies.
          see the 10th anniversary of the publication of the following SF novels: Divergence by Tony Ballantyne; Brasyl by Ian MacDonald; Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley; Black Man by Richard Morgan; and The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds.
          see the 10th anniversary of the publication of the following fantasy novels: Fatal Revenant: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Book 2 by Stephen Donaldson; Black Powder War by Naomi Novik; and Making Money by Terry Pratchett.
          see the 10th anniversary of the general release of the following SF films: Exitz, I am Legend, The Last Man and 28 Weeks Later.
          see the 10th anniversary of our losing the following:  Patrice Duvic, Leslie Flood, Freddie Francis, Verity Lambert, Kurt Vonnegut jr., Marion Van Der Voort, and Robert Anton Wilson.
          see the 20th anniversary of the publication of the following novelsSlant by Greg Bear; 3001 by Arthur C. Clarke; Diaspora by Greg Egan; Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman; The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons; and Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut.
          see the 20th anniversary of the following filmsContact and Starship Troopers and of our losing Bob Shaw.
          see the 30th anniversary of the first edition of the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation (which we might have mentioned earlier).
          see the 40th anniversary of 2000AD.
          see the 50th anniversary of:  BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute (and over 900 episodes of often surreal comedy); the films  Barbarella, Quatermass and the Pit and The Power; and books The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany, The Last Castle by Jack Vance, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, and The Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.
          see the 60th anniversary of:  the books They'd Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, The Cosmic Puppets and The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick, Doomsday Morning by C. L. Moore, Slave Ship by Frederik Pohl, On the Beach by Nevil Shute and Big Planet by Jack Vance;  the films  The Incredible Shrinking Man and Quatermass II; and the BBC's The Sky At Night.
          see the 80th anniversary of the first SF convention which was held in Leeds, Great Britain (in a public venue as opposed to a small gathering in someone's private home as took place in the US the previous year).
          see the 100th anniversary of the films  Himmelskibet and the novel  A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is also the 100 anniversary of Tolkien first putting pen to paper to draft what would become his Middle Earth sequence.
          see the 100th anniversary of the births of Arthur C. Clarke, Will Eisner and Andrew Huxley.

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2017 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: Angel Carralero, Pierre Gevart, Silviu Genescu, Dan Heidel, David Langford, Roberto Quaglia and Jenifer Steele and not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.  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 (2016) also saw articles from: Sue Burke, Darrell Buxton, Ian Hunter, Alejandro Mohorte Medina & José Nieto Karl-Johan Norén, Maree Pavletich, Peter Tyers, and Dirk van den Boom.  Stand-alone book reviews over the year were provided by: David Allkins, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, Karen Fishwick, Susan Griffiths, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Andrew Musk, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers and Peter Young.  'Futures stories' in 2016 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories from: S. R. Algernon (which was Hugo nominated), Lynette Mejía, Alex Shvartsman and William R. D. Wood.  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 co-editor).

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Summer 2017 period – needs to be in before the 2nd week in March. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

To contact us see here and try to put something clearly science fictional in the subject line in case your message ends up being spam-filtered and needs rescuing.

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