Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Spring 2019

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 2019

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff



There is no way to sugar this but our co-founding editor, Graham, died on Boxing Day.  His obit is below in our R.I.P. section, as is a footnote as to how you can help us get news out to his old friends. (As our mini-obit explains, Graham dropped out of circulation a decade ago so we do have a bit of a problem getting the news to some of his old friends and acquaintances, convention bar buddies and so forth.) They say everyone is connected to everyone by 6 degrees. Well, we are putting that to the test. See the various social media links at the bottom of his obit below and like/share etc, whichever suits your online preferences the best.

Not quite sure what happens next.

Nearly all of what follows below was written prior to Christmas, and now seems trite…


The autumn was fairly quiet on the social front for us but much thanks to Tony for his continued support and the small get-together in our annual stationery run.
          The really big news is that Alan has stepped down from the day-to-day SF² Concatenation's web-mastering.  Alan took over from Matt way back in 2001. With 17 years under his belt – and given that we, SF² Concatenation, at best are unlikely to continue beyond our 40th anniversary in 2027 (we are all getting old) – Alan is most likely to be our longest standing webmaster!  Therefore huge thanks to Alan for his work for the best part of two decades.
          Meanwhile, we are now in 2019.  Some of us are looking forward to two SF reunions with SF bodies with which we have a connection. The first is the third annual BECCON 1987 Eastercon reunion which will be held on 11th May from midday.  Once again, this will be held in a rural pub next to a rail station south of Peterborough (45 train minutes north of London). As per last year, we are opening this gathering to local SF fans.  If you think you are such a local (Hitchin, Stevenage, Letchworth area) and would like to attend then get in touch.  Do include a couple of lines as to who you are (if we don't know you) and roughly where you live (your exact address is your affair) and if you really are local with an SF connection/genuine interest, then we'd be pleased to invite you.
          The second gathering being contemplated would be one of the 40th anniversary Hatfield PSIFA reunions.  This pub social -- if it goes ahead (which depends on whether we change it to a second wake for our recently lost co-editor) -- will be held on 15th June north of Hatfield and again near a rail station. Also again, if you are a former Hatfield PSIFA member then do get in touch.  Note: this pub social 40-year reunion is in addition to the 23rd February gathering on campus we understand is being organised by the current generation of PSIFAns (see next paragraph).
          Finally, while PSIFA the past couple of years has morphed from being an SF society to become a table gaming group, they have announced on the PSIFA alumni Facebook page their organising an on-campus 23rd February event for past PSIFA science fiction society members. So, in addition to contacting us (SF² Concatenation) for the June pub social event, Old Age PSIFAns separately need to contact the current PSIFA (at Herts U.) for the February campus do. As said, there is a mention of both these gatherings on the PSIFA alumni Facebook page (that's the 'alumni' page not the current PSIFA page we've been told to firmly point out). Having said that, as of the early New Year we have heard little from PSIFA of their February event at Hertforshire University (formerly Hatfield Polytechnic), but maybe that is because of the Christmas student holidays?
          Please note, our 15th June PSIFA pub afternoon, has yet to be confirmed.  This is for two reasons: 1) while there has been a fair bit of encouraging social media comment, less than half a dozen (other than the core group of first generationers) have confirmed a fairly solid intent to attend, and 2) our very recent loss.  If the 15th June afternoon pub gathering does go ahead, for some of us, it will be a chance to say a final goodbye to our colleague, friend, and first-generation PSIFAn.  Having said that, we are in the middle of funeral blues right now.  We are therefore unsure whether to go for a larger version of our first generation PSIFAn reunion, opening it up to other PSIFA generations (beyond those of us that founded the group), or whether to keep it small involving our late friend's family with just a few of us past regulars plus graham's professional colleagues, to this gathering?  So the advice for now is to only 'pencil' the June date in your diary, but to contact us if you wish to express an interest in attending (surety of likely numbers will affect our decision or perhaps -- if there is demand -- organise something for PSIFA next year when the dust from our recent loss has settled).  We will have more news in our next seasonal edition, mid-April.
          And that's that.

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 29 (1) Spring 2019) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Julie E. Czerneda (biologist and SF author)
          San Jose - The 2018 World SF Convention – Peter Tyers
          Windycon 45 - Chicago regional convention – Sue Burke
          28th Festival of Fantastic Films 2018 - Great Britain –Darrel Buxton
          British Fantasycon 2018 - Ian Hunter
          SF Convention Listing & Film Diary 2019 -'20
          Best Science Fiction of Past Years - Possibly? – Newly created archive page
          Plus thirty SF/F/H standalone fiction book reviews as well as an additional few non-fiction SF and popular science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 30th plus 2 year. For full details of the latest contents see our 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 2019

Key SF News & SF Awards


The past year's (2018) best SF, possibly?:-

Best SF/F books of 2018? Yes, it is the start of a new year and so once more 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. 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 2018:-
          Semiosis by Sue Burke (character-driven, exo-planet first contact)
          Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko (fantasy, first British pub' 2018)
          Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (futuristic, post climate-apocalyptic world building)
          Before Mars by Emma Newman (off world, mundane-ish, new wave SF)
          Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (third following the Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning Home)
          Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira (mundane SF, space operatic, thriller)
          Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds (hard-ish SF, space opera)
          The Book of M by Peng Shepherd (new wave, science fantasy)
          The Oracle Year by Charles Soule (present day set, science fantasy)
          The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts (hard SF, deep space thriller)
Last year's Best SF novels here (two of which were short-listed for the Hugo, one of which was shortlisted for and won a Nebula Award, and one shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke (book) Award).

Best SF/F films of 2018? Possibilities alphabetically include:-
          Ant-Man and the Wasp (Trailer here)
          Bumblebee (Trailer here)
          Hereditary (Trailer here)
          Incredibles 2 (Trailer here)
          A Quiet Place (Trailer here)
          Sorry to Bother You (Trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Trailer here)
          Upgrade (Trailer here)
Last year's Best SF/F Films here (one of which went on to win the Hugo and three of which were Hugo short-listed, three were also short-listed for the Nebula and again one was the winner).

          Also check out our new Best Science Fiction of Past Years - Possibly? page – This is a newly created archive page.  We compiled this because, as per above, in recent years in our spring news, for fun, we give our suggestions as to the best SF/F/H novels and films of the previous year. The thing is, invariably nearly every year we cite a work or two that goes on to be short-listed and/or win a major SF award.  Spooky, huh?  So we thought it about time we collected these in one place with a note as to which went on to garner a major award.


This season's major award news includes:-

The 2018 World Fantasy Awards have been presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland (US).  The winners were:-
          Novel: The Changeling by Victor LaValle
                    Jade City by Fonda Lee
          Novella: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
          Short Fiction: 'The Birding: A Fairy Tale' by Natalia Theodoridou
          Anthology: The New Voices of Fantasy by (eds) Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman
          Collection: The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen
          Artist: Gregory Manchess
          Special Award – Professional: Harry Brockway, Patrick McGrath, and Danel Olson for Writing Madness
          Special Award – Non-professional: Justina Ireland and Troy L. Wiggins for FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction
The World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards winners for 2017 were Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Wollheim.
          +++ For last year's winners see here.

The British Fantasy Awards were presented at FantasyCon, in The Queen Hotel, Chester.  The winners were:-
          Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award): The Changeling by Victor LaValle
          Best Novella: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
          Best Anthology: New Fears edited by Mark Morris
          Best Artist: Jeffrey Alan Love
          Best Collection: Strange Weather by Joe Hill
          Best Comic/Graphic Novel: Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
          Best Film/Television Production: Get Out dir. Jordan Peele (Trailer here)
          Best Audio: Anansi Boys BBC Radio 4 (based on the novel by Neil Gaiman)
          Best Independent Press: Unsung Stories
          Best Magazine/Periodical: Shoreline of Infinity edited by Noel Chidwick
          Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds Award): Jeanette Ng for Under the Pendulum Sun
          Best Non-Fiction: Gender Identity and Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by F. T. Barbini
          Best Short Fiction: 'Looking for Laika' by Laura Mauro
          The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award): N. K. Jemisin

The 2018 Roskon Awards, voted by participants of Russia's Roskon convention, were presented at this year's Roskon near Moscow:-
          Big Roskon: David Brin (who was a GoH at this year's event)
          Best Novel Gold: Screw by Vladimir Vasiliev
          Best Novel Silver: The Motherland of Elephants by Oleg Divov
          Best Novel Bronze: Meet Gagarin by Igor Shengalts
          Roskon Special Prize: Walks on the Moon by Sasha Krugosvetov
          Knight of the Fandom (equivalent to Britain's Knight of St Fanthony): Roman Zlotnikov.
Our apologies, we did not get this news timely; this should have been posted two seasonal editions ago (15th April 2018) as Roskon was held 29th March to Sun 1st April 2018.

Denmark's Niels Klim Awards were presented at Fantasticon. The award is presented annually after nomination and voting among Danish science fiction readers. This was the seventh time the prize were presented. Its four categories together cover shorter science fiction texts (less than 40,000 words) published in Danish for the first time the previous year. The winners were:-
          Translated Novel: No award
          Novella:-No award
          Novelette: 'Ogel i fare' ['Ogel in Danger'] by Carolineskolens (4. klasse [4th grade] 2016/17) Lurifaks
          Short story: 'Verdens rigeste mand og hans tro tjener Boris' ['The Richest Man in the World and his Faithful Servant Boris'] by C. Winther
Further details of the award can be found at  Last year's winners here.

Romania's third Sci-Fi Fest presents awards. This was part of a popular science event held at the National Library of Romania in Bucharest and sponsored by Stiinta &Tehnica [Science & Technology] magazine.  This year's award categories and winners were:-
          Best Debut: Adrian Mihaltianu author of Epoca Inocentei (Seria Terra XXI, partea I) [Age of Innocence (Terra 21, part 1)]
          Best SF Publisher: Pavcon (a relatively new publisher that has won other SF awards)
          Best Magazine: Zin (edited by Lucian Oancea)

Germany's principal SF awards were presented at Elstercon in Leipzig.
German Science Fiction Award DSFP
          Best Novel: Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling
          Best Story: 'Das Internet der Dinge' ['The Internet of Things'] by Uwe Hermann
Kurd-Laβwitz-Award (award of German SF professionals)
          Best German-language novel: Der Kanon Mechanischer Seelen (The Canon of Mechanical Souls) by Michael Marrak
          Best German-language short story:'Das Internet der Dinge' ['The Internet of Things'] by Uwe Hermann
          Best Foreign Publication: Das Buch des Phoenix [The Book of Phoenix] by Nnedi Okorafor
          Best Translator: Claudia Kern for Dunkelheit & Licht [Blackout & All Clear] by Connie Willis
          Best Illustrator: Lothar Bauer for his cover work of Luna Incognita by Axel Kruse
          Best Radio Play: Paradise Revisited by Bodo Traber
          Special Award: Thomas Le Blanc for the foundation and further development of the Phantastic Library in Wetzlar
          Best Film: Blade Runner 2049
          Best TV Series: The Expanse

Britain's new comics laureate is Hannah Berry.  She says that she wants to use the position to remove some of the 'stigma' that still surrounds graphic novels and comics, and harness their 'untapped' potential.  She takes over from last year's (2018) Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard.  The the UK's Comics Laureate is organised by the charity Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) is a national organization in the United Kingdom promoting literacy through comic books.  Its half dozen trustees include the SFnal graphics novelist Bryan Talbot who was a GoH at the 2014 Worldcon in London.

Nebula Award rule changes are announced.  The Nebula is oft billed as one of the two principal, western SF awards. The other is the Hugo, voted for by members of the World SF Convention – Worldcon. Conversely, the Nebula is voted for by members of the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America).  To be precise, the SFWA voters are 'Active' members of the SFWA and these are determined (in essence) to be those sufficiently professionally active with commercial publisher books released (not self-published or just short stories). The rule change allows 'Associate' members Nebula voting rights.  This new ruling acknowledges that those early in their career stages have something to contribute to the Nebulas.  The second change is that Game Writing has been added as a Nebula Award category. This recognises that, with new media, story telling is taking new forms.  There are a few other minor changes including that multi-author works will be awarded one Nebula trophy: co-authors and translators will receive certificates. (This is perhaps fair for when many contribute to a film or television series' story but perhaps a little harsh when just two authors collaborate on a single book.)  More info at .


Other SF news includes:-

Odyssey writers' workshop opens its summer registration. New and/or young writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror seeking to enhance their embryonic career attend Odyssey: Odyssey is for writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. It is run for six weeks each summer in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, for a class size restricted to 15. Authors, agents, and editors serve as guest lecturers. Advanced lectures, in-depth feedback, and one-on-one guidance help students make major improvements. From past years, some 59% of students go on to professional publication. This year's class runs from 3rd June to 12th July (2019). The workshop is held at Saint Anselm College, one of the top small liberal arts colleges in the northeast US, and students live in campus apartments. Odyssey is funded in part by donations from graduates, grantors and supporters, and in part by student tuition. Tuition is US$2,060, and housing in campus apartments is US$892 for a double room and US$1,784 for a single. All applicants receive feedback on their writing sample.
          Lecturers for the 2019 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field: authors Holly Black, Sara King, Nisi Shawl and Fran Wilde; the author/editor Paul Witcover, and editor/publisher Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine; plus the agent Joshua Bilmes who is president of the renowned JABberwocky Literary Agency; as well as the editor/publisher Scott H. Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies as virtual guests via Skype.
          Continuing for a second year, George R. R. Martin is funding a scholarship for an Odyssey student. The Miskatonic Scholarship will be awarded to a promising writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. It will cover full tuition, textbook, and housing. As Martin notes, "We are not looking for Lovecraft pastiches, nor even Cthulhu Mythos stories. References to Arkham, Azathoth, shoggoths, the Necronomicon, and the fungi from Yuggoth are by no means obligatory...though if some candidates choose to include them, that's fine as well. What we want is the sort of originality that H. P. Lovecraft displayed in his day…. What we want are nightmares new and resonant and profound, comic terrors that will haunt our dreams for years to come."  Further details can be found at

Worldcon 2018 San Jose: standalone report now out.  The standalone report is here.

The Dublin 2019 Worldcon - Afua Richardson joins its featured artists .  Afua Richardson, known for her work on Genius and World of Wakanda, will be joining Jim Fitzpatrick and Maeve Clancy a the featured artists at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon.  She has just created a variant cover for Shuri #2, the Wakanda-based series written by Nnedi Okorafor. Other stories she has drawn for include X-Men, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and the Mighty Avengers for Marvel Comics; Wonder Woman, Warbringer and All-Star Batman for DC Comics; as well as Mad Max.  Jim Fitzpatrick, one of the convention's other featured artists created the two-toned Che Guevara image copied on walls and T-shirts around the world.  Art tracks with featured artist talks and panels, the art show and the art auction have long been part of the programme for Worldcons.
          Hugos at Dublin 2019 to include 'Best Art Book' category.  The World SF Society (under whose auspices the Worldcon is held) constitution allows for individual Worldcons to add their own category of choice to that year's Hugo Awards.  Although fewer art books have appeared on the Hugo ballot in recent years, many genre art books of various types are published annually, and they continue to generate intense interest from both reviewers and the wider fan community.  The Hugo Category Study committee of the World SF Society is also considering Best Art Book as a potential permanent category.
          Why is the Dublin Worldcon having such an art focus?  Dublin 2019 is honouring the ongoing contributions made by artists to the field of science fiction and fantasy in what will be the 80th anniversary of the first SF Worldcon. Its sole Guest of Honour was artist Frank R. Paul.  So far over 4,300 people have registered for Dublin 2019.

The Hugo Award nomination period opens.  Worldcon members are encouraged to nominate up to five works/individuals that they believe are worthy of a Hugo in each category (novel, novella, best dramatic presentation - long form (film) etc).  Nominating is free to members of the Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon who joined by December 31, 2018, or have been a member of the previous, 2018, Worldcon in San Jose.  Those who are uncertain of their status should contact hugohelp[-at-]dublin2019[-dot-]com .  The nominating forms are either online at the Dublin Worldcon website, or in paper form in Progress Report 3, or downloadable from the Dublin site as a PDF. Nominations must be submitted either electronically by 16th March 2019 06:59 UTC (11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time on 15th March 2019) or, if paper, received by mail by 15th March 2019.  The shortlist will be announced in early April. Only Dublin 2019 members will be able to vote on the shortlist ballot to choose the winners.  All are encouraged to nominate in as many categories as nominators feel there are worthy works (books, stories, films etc), magazines (online as well as paper), and people (artists, editors etc) to make this as democratic as possible.

The 2020 Worldcon will be held in Wellington, New Zealand and called CoNZealand.  Despite eight years to prepare since the NZ bid launch and a third of a year since the bid win, there is no news yet (as we post early January 2019) as to how non-Australasians can register by either bank transfer or cheque: a non-trivial matter given that, for example, 30% of UK adults do not do online banking/finance (presumably it is roughly a similar proportion in N. America and the rest of western Europe) even if many SF fans are geeky enough to embrace such, others are not, so catering to diversity is arguably to be welcomed.  Also no news yet as to pre-supporters' conversion rates.  Come on NZ, there is a fair amount of goodwill within the SF community, including from us, for your first Worldcon.

And finally….

There's a bid to hold the 2020 British Eastercon in Birmingham.  The technically 'British', but in all but name 'UK' Eastercon, is the nation's national SF event and annual gathering of the SFnal clans. Normally, bids to hold future Eastercons are presented and voted on two years in advance. However, last year (2018) the sole bid for 2020 folded just prior to the Eastercon site selection session.  Stepping into the breach comes a bid for Birmingham in 10th to 13th April 2020 in the Hilton Metropole Hotel, next to the Exhibition Centre and Birmingham International Airport.  Called 'Concentric', it is hoped that this bid to hold the 2020 Eastercon will be ratified at the 2019 Eastercon, Ytterbium, (Heathrow, London).  (Given the Birmingham venue was where SF² Concatenation began in 1987, some of us have a certain nostalgia for this venue.)


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 2019

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:-
          The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Trailer here)
          Venom (Trailer here)
          Predator (Trailer here)
          First Man (Trailer here)
          Johnny English Strikes Again (Trailer here)
          Halloween (Trailer here)
          Suspiria (Trailer here)
          Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Trailer here)
          Mortal Engines (Trailer here)
          Aquaman (Trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Trailer here)

Science Fiction boosts US box office to record levels.  In 2017 the US cinema box office take for studios reached US$11 billion (£8.5 billion) on the 30th December.  This last year (2018) just passed the US$11 billion mark: it was reached just after December's first week.  Looking at which films earned what, it is clear that SF blockbuster films were the ones that made the difference.  Black Panther made over US$S700m for the domestic US studio take from box offices, Avengers: Infinity War US$679m, Incredibles 2 US$608m, and a further total of US$1 billion combined from A Quiet Place, Deadpool 2 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Meg.  And of course, by the end of the first week in December, the SFnal and fantasy offerings Into the Spider-Verse, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, and Bumblebee had yet to come out.  If there was any doubt from the past decade, that the once ghetto genre of SF/Fantasy is now all too clearly mainstream in terms of western cinema business.

Captain Marvel is set to become the first female, titular lead character in a Marvel Comics film.  The film, slated for 2019, is the first Marvel one to have a female star as its lead in a decade of its Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Captain Marvel was the person that Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) called for help at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Up to now Evangeline Lilly's – The Wasp in the title of Ant Man and The Wasp – is the closest we have had to a sole, titular, female lead. Captain Marvel is being played by Brie Larson.

Chris Evans stands down from Captain America causing massive online fan response.  On the final day of filming the follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War he affirmed he was standing down from playing Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.  Less than 12 hours later, his social media Tweet had more than 180,000 re-tweets, a 'reach' of millions, garnered over 700,000 favourites and a 35,000 replies.  The yet-to-be-titled fourth Avengers film is currently slated for Star Wars day, 4th May, 2019.

The forthcoming Blade Runner comics are to be written by Michael Green.  Last season we reported on the forthcoming comics. The latest news is that Michael Green, who co-wrote the screenplay for Blade Runner 2049 is set to write the comics along with Mike (Star Trek) Johnson.  The expectation is that the comics will relate closely to, or follow on, from the films.

Men in Black 4 to feature the MIB London HQ.  It stars Chris Hemsworth (Agent H), Tessa Thompson (Agent M), Rafe Spall, Kumail Najani, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson (Agent O) and Liam Neeson (and not Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones).  Though it is the fourth in the series, it would seem as if we are encouraged to think of this as something of a franchise re-boot.  its release is slated for June (2019).

The third Kingsman film is now in the works. This comedy technothriller, that riffs The Avengers (the British originals and not the Marvel superhero franchise), is based on the graphic novels by writer Mark (Wanted) Millar and artist Dave (co-creator of Watchmen) Gibbons. The former has confirmed that writer-director Matthew Vaughn had ideas for at least two more sequels.  This third film is currently slated for a November 2019 release.  You can see the original (the first) film's trailer here.

Confirmed – Mark Hamill will be in the forthcoming final in the third trilogy Star Wars film.  This was suspected when we reported last season Carrie Fisher's forthcoming appearance and the rumour of Hamill doing the same.  He will – as we mused last season -- be appearing as his spectral self having giving given up his mortal body to the Force and will probably be mentoring the next would-be Jedi champion...  The film is currently slated for a 20th December 2019 release.

The proposed Star Wars Boba Fett focus film has been cancelled.  Previously we reported in the autumn 2017 that a new Star Wars trilogy of films had been commissioned and then subsequently a second new trilogy was planned.  Now it seems as if Disney and Lucasfilm are dropping a Boba Fett focus but instead looking towards the Mandalorian aspect: both Boba Fett and his clone father Jango, belong to the Mandalorians. So even if Star Wars fans will not get an actual Fett film, they can look forward to The Mandalorian which will premiere on the Disney streaming service next year.

New Star Wars TV series. See the story in the television subsection below.

James Gunn to helm Suicide Squad 2.  James Gunn is to Gunn is write and direct Suicide Squad 2 (working title).  A happy ending for Gunn having been sacked by Disney from the Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel film franchise; not that a happy ending was in doubt given a number of studios were after him.  Suicide Squad is part of the DC Comics spin-off films whose recent cinematic offerings have not been nearly as successful as those from their Marvel counterparts.  Apparently David Ayer, who directed the first Suicide Squad, is happy with James Gunn taking over.

Guillermo del Toro to direct a new Pinocchio film.  Guillermo del Toro has been saying that he will direct a new version of Pinocchio for a few years now.  The latest news is that he is partnering with Netflix to do this.  As with Pan's Labyrinth, which was set in civil war Spain, this new version of Pinocchio will have an historical political setting, this time set in Mussolini's 1930s Italy. Work on the film is expected to begin towards the end of the year (2019) and tentatively due on Netflix in 2021.  It will be a stop-motion musical.  The Jim Henson Company is co-producing.

Doctor Sleep -- the sequel to The Shining -- will be faithful to the film.  While Kubrick's film The Shining (1980) may not have been faithful to the Stephen King novel, the sequel film Doctor Sleep, directed by Mike Flanagan, will attempt to broadly follow King's novel and reflect the heritage left behind by Kubrick's film The Shining.  The sequel focuses on an adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor), the son in The Shining. He is still recovering from his traumatic, childhood year at the Overlook Hotel. He wants leave his own father's history behind.  While working at a nursing home, he uses his psychic abilities (known as "the shining") to placate the mentally-declining inmates. However others are interested in his abilities and are coming for him.  The film Doctor Sleep is currently slated for a January 2020 release (though that may change).

Indiana Jones 5 release postponed a year.  Spielberg is directing, George Lucas will not be contributing, Harrison Ford is onboard (though will turn 77 during filming), but Shia LaBeouf (who played Indy and Marion's son Mutt) will not be involved.  The release date from Disney is now slated for July 2021.

Avatar sequels: Sigourney Weaver speaks out.  In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter she affirmed that she will be appearing in the four sequels but not playing the character, Dr. Grace Augustine, in James Cameron's original film, Avatar, and nor is the new character a relation of Augustine's. Apparently it is all one story building on the anti-greed and conquest destroying nature theme of the original.  Having said that, apparently films 4 and 5 can be considered standalone.
          Sigourney Weaver also sadly said that the mooted Alien 5 film is on indefinite hold as director Neill (District 9) Blomkamp already has so many films on his books plus Ridley Scott is doing his own thing with his Prometheus-related Alien films.

Resident Evil films to be re-booted?  After six films from Paul W.S. Anderson, starring Milla Jovovich, the horror producer, James Wan, plans to re-boot the film franchise. Apparently, he too is going for six films but for more horror rather than action.

Ghostbuster III is still (yet again) possible!  Yes, we have been here before (a decade ago back in 2009, 2010 and 2012).  Dan Aykroyd has reportedly told Dan Rather (AXS TV) that a script for Ghostbusters 3, featuring the living members of the original cast is in the works (or 'development hell' as some might call it).  Dan Aykroyd seems confident that Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson would be up for it. (Harold Ramis sadly died in 2014.)  Apparently, the limp box office performance of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot (trailer here) has not dented possibilities. That film may not have been a huge commercial success but it did get a certain following and was even short-listed for a Hugo.  No word as yet from Sony.

Short video clips (short films, other vids and trailers) that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Unseen 1996 The Fantastic Four film has now been released on YouTube.  The reported story of how this film came about is not entirely substantiated. Apparently in 1986 the producer Eichinger's Neue acquired an option to make a film of The Fantastic Four. The film was not forthcoming, so with the option time running out Neue had to make a film so as to get an extension to the option rights. The story goes that 1996 The Fantastic Four low-budget film (reportedly US$1m) was made just to secure these rights: nobody said it had to be a good film.  SF B-movie specialist Roger Corman was brought onboard and the 1996 The Fantastic Four film was the result. It was never shown due to copyright legalities. (It is possible that those holding Marvel rights did not want a low-budget film out there and apparently, though the film had been made, it was never meant to be released.)  There is a 2015 documentary Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's "The Fantastic Four".  The film is now on YouTube in all its unglory here.  Enjoy (if that's the word?).

Film clip download tip!: Top Ten Moments in British SF History according to Mojo UK.  OK, so while you may not agree with this particular 'top ten' (no Gerry Anderson), but it is arguably a fair-ish stab.  Check the 10 minute video out here.

Film clip download tip!: Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End explored.  A six minute look at Clarke's classic Childhoods End.  Part of a YouTube autumnal series on SF.  Check the video out here.

Film clip download tip!: The True Frontier - Cordwainer Smith .  An 8 minute look at the well-known US Golden Age SF author who was also a psychologist and a spy whose real name was Paul Linebarger.  Part of a YouTube autumnal series on SF.  Check the video out here.

Film clip download tip!: The True Frontier - Alfred Bester.  An 7-minute look at the well-known US Golden Age SF author who is known for bridging the gap between science fiction and DC detective comics, creating villains like Solomon Grundy in the Green Lantern and Superman stories as well as his SF classic novels The Demolished Man (which won the first Hugo award) and The Stars My Destination which influenced later writers minute look at the well-known US Golden Age.  Check the video out here.

Film clip download tip!: Sci-Fi Hub is to be a forthcoming YouTube channel.  It is from the same people as 'History Time'.  It promises short stories, audio books, reviews and (being from History Time folk) items on the history of SF.

Film clip download tip!: Star Wars: Solo gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

Film clip download tip!: The old, classic Doctor Who gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

Film clip download tip!: The new, modern Doctor Who gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

Film clip download tip!: Doctor Puppet YouTube series comes to an end with episode 8 'The 12th Planet'.  The series of 10 minute episodes is rather fun and created by a very talented team spearheaded by the incredible Alisa Stern.  Do check out their YouTube channel.  You can see the final episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Miss your horror fix last Halloween season?  Much of Halloween is often missed what with it being in the run-up-to-Christmas period.  Now – with the Christmas and New Year period well and truly over – is a good time to check what scary media offerings you may have missed.  October, November and December saw a number of Netflix fantasy horror offerings and if you are not on Netflix many of these are now out on DVD.  If fantasy horror is you bag check out the season trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Hollow World is an SF or science fantasy horror that came out last season on Prime Video in the US.  This Brit offering sees International Space Station astronaut Xander returns to a looted Earth following what may have been an alien invasion.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Peripheral is a new SF horror film.  Bobbi Johnson is a young literary sensation facing her difficult second novel.  Already dealing with a crazed stalker and her junkie ex-boyfriend, Bobbi is convinced by her publisher to use new smart editing software and finds herself going head-to-head with an artificial intelligence determined to write her book for her. As the machine manipulates her work to suit its own nefarious ends, Bobbi begins to realise that she is being controlled in ways far more sinister than she suspected. She may, in fact, be a pawn in a conspiracy of social mind control…!  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Solis is an independent, British, mundane SF space opera film.  When Troy Holloway wakes up to find himself trapped aboard a drifting escape pod shooting towards the Sun, he quickly realises the true terror of his situation. With rapid oxygen depletion and a burn-up estimated for 90 minutes hence, Commander Roberts leads a rescue party to save Holloway before time runs out. Having recently lost his son and now confronted by his own immediate end, Holloway feels less enthusiastic about survival. But Roberts, speaking to him only through a weak radio transmission, is determined to save his life, and both soon learn that the lives they have both lived influence each other in unexpected ways.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Silencio is a US/Mexico independent SF film with a few Brits in the cast.  Set in the present day, In order to save her son's life, Ana embarks on a quest to find a powerful stone from the Zone of Silence, located in Mexico (an area where a magnetic meteorite fell that disrupts communication systems). Someone finds out the time-altering power the stone possesses and believes it is a power worth killing for… You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: In Control is a is a Canadian low-budget independent SF film .  Four university students hook up to a machine allowing them to become one of their fellow students - e.g. allowing them each to party as one of the rich and beautiful. It enables them to take control of others, and experience the world through someone else. However, the long hook-ups start seriously affecting their normal selves. As they push the machine's abilities to its limits, they begin to question the device itself…  The first half of the film is intriguing and while the second half arguably does not live up to this promise, it is worth a view.  It came out on the Fantastic and Horror film fest circuit in 2017 but now has a broader release.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: At First Light is an independent Canadian, alien close encounter film with teenage protagonists.  Shot in Nevada, US, it follows a high school senior, Alex Lainey, who has an encounter with mysterious lights that appear over her small town. She soon develops dangerous, supernatural abilities and turns to her childhood friend Sean Terrel. The authorities target them and a chase ensues as officials try to discover the truth behind Alex's transformation.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Jonathan, a.k.a. Duplicate is an independent US film that has been doing the fantastic film fest circuit.  It has had limited release (November, 2018) in the US but you may be able to pick up the DVD or stream it.  It concerns the titular 'Jonathan', a young man who leaves the office everyday at noon.  When he gets home, he goes to sleep. Every morning he wakes up and there is a breakfast prepared for him along with a video telling him about the second part of his day.  This is one of those low-budget independents that punches a little above its weight and which has arguably not had quite the attention it deserves.  A modern take on Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1886).  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Replicas is a new SF film that has been doing the fantastic film fest circuit.  After a car accident kills his family, a synthetic biologist stops at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force and science ethics…  Stars Alice Eve, Keanu Reeves and Emily Alyn Lind.  You can see the trailer for this Brit/US offering here.

Film clip download tip!: Overlord is now out.  Though out, we are not sure how much profile this has had on general release. It is essentially a war time zombie/monster film.  On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion's success. But as they approach their target, they begin to realize there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. They find themselves fighting against supernatural forces, part of a Nazi experiment.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Humanity Bureau is a forthcoming, near-future (2030), apocalyptic, climate change film.  Nicolas Cage as a case worker in a climate ravaged America, in an economically depressed, non-sustainable environmentally resourced, world, who learns that the resettlement programme may not be what it seems and that the climate change they are experiencing may only just be the start…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Dark Phoenix is a forthcoming X-Men movie.  It is slated for a mid-summer (2019) release.  During a rescue mission in space, Jean Grey is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiralling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite, not only to save Jean's soul but, to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponise this force and rule the Galaxy.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Artemis Fowl film based on Eoin Colfer's novel, has a teaser trailer release.  Artemis Fowl II, a young Irish criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short for ransom to fund the search for his missing father in order to restore the family fortune.  The film is due out August (2019).  Kenneth Branagh directs and it stars Miranda Raison, Hong Chau and Judi Dench.  You can see the trailer here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2017/8 (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 the year see 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 2019

Television News


Manifest premiere episode was screened shortly after we posted last season's news.   If you did not catch this, the premise is that plane somehow took 5 years, and not the few hours it was expected to, to reach its destination. Did they go through a time warp? So the passengers and crew discover that the world has seemingly aged five years as no time has passed for them.  You can see the series trailer here in case it is something you want to catch up on.

Gotham's premiere episode of season 5 was screened shortly before we posted this season's news.  Season 5 is the show's last season is roughly half the length of the previous seasons, each of which have had successively declining ratings from a strong first season.  There's still time to get into it.  In: N. America it is on Fox (catch-up Fox Now and Hulu); in the British Isles it is on E4; New Zealand TV2; and in Australia Nine Network.  Gotham season 5 introduction here.

Ukraine broadcasts its first, home grown, science fiction television series!  There has been home-grown SF before on Ukranian TV but not an SF series.  It is a comedy called Starnauts.  Made by the Kvartal 95 show company, Drive Production and the TV channel Kraina U, 8 episodes have been made and broadcast.  It is a comedy.  A top secret research base has developed a new high energy fuel and the Ukraine decides to develop a space mission in record time so as to politically impress the rest of the world.  A six-person crew is compiled of people with disparate expertise and so who are not known to know each other. (This is also a psychological experiment to see if deep space missions could be conducted by a crew of strangers.) However two of them are already romantically involved.  A further complication is that before the launch, the commander was stuck in a traffic jam and so an insecure deputy took his place. There is also a virtual, holographic assistant in the form of a beautiful girl. Finally, it appears that the cleaning lady was still onboard when the ship took off.  Our Ukrainian contact says that the quality of the script is not that good, but it is still an SF first for the Ukraine.  The first episode is here.

Origins is a new online series that premiered November (2018) on the new YouTube Premium.  The series follows a group of passengers as they wake up on a damaged spaceship abandoned in deep space. Each having left behind a dark past in search of a fresh start on a newly colonized planet, they are determined to survive at all costs. But as their terrifying situation spirals into paranoia, they come to realize that the greatest threat to their dream of starting over – and indeed their lives – is something far darker than the pasts they were so desperate to escape…  YouTube Premium and its original content are too new to be able to predict whether any of this content will make it to FreeView and other nations' open access broadcast.  However the series trailer is here.

New Doctor Who premiere gets high viewing numbers.  Jodie Whittaker really made her mark with the first episode, and it seems as if viewers tuned in in good numbers to check her out.  It attracted 8.2 million viewers in Britain.  This made it the most watched season premier for a decade since David Tennant's (2008) first episode with an audience of 8.4 million.  This compares with: the 2016 Christmas episode garnering 5.7 million in Britain;  5.77 million, for the 2015 Christmas edition 'The Husbands of River Song';  the show's earlier, single, lowest-rated episode since the show's reboot being 'Under the Lake' with 5.6 million viewers10.2 million for Matt Smith's final outing;   and another 10.2 million for the 50th anniversary three doctors episode.  Of course these figures are UK and not global. This last is important as Doctor Who is currently screened in over 280 territories.  Also the 8.2 million viewers in Britain were those that watch live. Add on catch-up views, tablet and PC views, and it attracted a total of 10.54 million!  Over in the rebel colonies, the first eight episodes of the recent season of Doctor Who on BBC America attracted 1.6 million viewers.
          All well and good: it is a solid start for Jodie Whittaker.  The one fly in the ointment, sparking some online criticism, is the new theme music. Oh dear…
          Following the first episode, the remaining nine of the season (which excludes the New Year day episode) received a consolidated (including catch-up) average of 7.38 million viewers in the UK.
          Jodie Whittaker is the first woman to play the Doctor from within the main body of the franchise.  However, she is not the first-ever female Doctor.  As a point of pedantry, the first 'ever' female Doctor was Joanna Lumley towards the end of the 1999 BBC Doctor Who special, 'The Curse of Fatal Death', written by Steven Moffat for Comic Relief. (Steven was later to become a Doctor Who senior writer.) The Doctor for much of the adventure was played by Rowan Atkinson with brief appearances of the regenerated Doctors Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Hugh Grant. The Doctor's companion (Emma) was played by Julia Sawalha and The Master was played by Jonathan Pryce. See it on YouTube.  +++ Doctor Who, sort of, on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.  Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton Tango to ‘Doctor Who Theme’.  See the Tango here.

Doctor Who will be back, but only in 2020. Jodie Whittaker is onboard.  Alas, no Who until the Christmas/New Year's Eve episode in 2019 which means it will not properly be back with season13 until 2020!  (We understand that the season will begin early – rather than late – in 2020.)  Jodie Whittaker has made a fair fist of the role and has attracted fans. Lead show-runner and overall story-arc writer Chris Chibnall has arguably caused more debate among fans: he does not seem to have much of an SF pedigree other than Torchwood.  Co-stars Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yasmin), and Tosin Cole (Ryan) are also onboard.

Doctor Who New Year special gets a low UK overnight rating of 5.15 million (22.4 percent share).  Note: this is not the consolidated figure, just the 24 hours since view figure, and so the full catch-up figure is greater.  Nonetheless, this is lower than David Tennant's first special that got 9.4 million overnight views, Matt Smith's 10.3 million and Peter Capaldi's 6.3 million.  'Voyage of the Damned' (2007), starring Tennant and Kylie Minogue, garnered 12.2 million UK overnight views.  Why this year's poor performance?  Well not Jodie Whittaker who has to put up with a lot of BBC nonsense.  Here are the reasons -- though do not expect the BBC to take any notice:-
          1) Very poor writing. (And we have been here before with Capaldi suffering under Moffat.) The bottom line is we have not had a good series writing since Russell T. Davies.
          2) Related to the above, while the episode had some neat ideas, things like getting rid of UNIT was just giving the finger to Who heritage.
          3) Scheduling. Yes, again, we have been here before.  Christmas day late afternoon and early evening is the one -- repeat ONE -- time in the year the whole family are together in the living room digesting a very large meal. Miss that and you get low ratings. And then there is the repeat, which should be shown again early evening between Christmas and New Year sometime on BBC1, 2 or 4. Showing the repeat at 3.00 in the morning is just plain daft.
The BBC only have themselves to blame.

New Doctor Who animation based on old soundtrack of lost episode is being made  An audio recording has been found of the 1967, four-part adventure The Macra Terror.  The BBC is creating an animated visual so that after half a century we will have a reincarnated version of the Patrick Troughton adventure.  The Macra are giant killer crabs that are brainwashing a future society into mining a toxic gas that is vital to the Macra’s survival. (Short, animation teaser trailer here.)  Two lost Troughton episodes have previously had the re-animation treatment: Power of the Daleks and The Wheel in Space.  +++ Past related story: Tom Baker has filmed a new scene for an unshot episode of an unreleased Dr Who episode in a replica of the 1970s' TARDIS set.

If the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood is going to happen then it will be commissioned soon.  John Barrowman, who starred in the original series, has been touting the possibility and claims that some US channels (including the CW) are interested if the BBC is not. Speaking in The Radio Times (the television programme guide magazine originally connected with the BBC) Barrowman said that former Torchwood script writer Chris Chibnall is in charge of Doctor Who it is down to him what happens.  Torchwood originally ran for four seasons between 2006 and 2011.  +++ Previous related news John Barrowman gets MBE.

New The Walking Dead gets low US viewing numbers resulting in news signalling the show is dying.  The opening episode of season 9 garnered only 6.08 million viewers, the smallest figure seen since the second half of the show's second season in 2012. For comparison, the Season 8 opener had over11 million viewers in the US.  Meanwhile, the show's mid-season break finale had lower US viewing figures at 5.1 million than last season's finale.
          All this does make it look as if the show is on the rocks and a number of online SF pundits were quick to point this out.  However, as will be shown, this take on the news story might be misleading.
          Yes, the show saw its public view opening night viewing figures drop by nearly 50% but the public opening night was not the night of the season premiere!  AMC, the channel in the US which broadcasts the show no has a subscription service called AMC Premiere it launched in the summer of 2017. Not only does this subscription service allow viewers to view content advert-break free but it streamed the season 9 The Walking Dead opening episode a day earlier than the public view opening night!  Apparently AMC Premiere had the best single day for new sign-ups since the service launched the day it premiered the episode which itself was a day before the public view broadcast on regular AMC. The AMC Premiere viewing figures were not included in the 6.08 million viewing figure the online SF pundits were so excited about. However it later transpired that with AMC Premiere and other services you can add a couple of million more viewers
          There is also another factor at play.  The past two years has seen internet streaming television take off and eat into traditional cable viewing. A number of viewers may well be content to wait for The Walking Dead season to appear on, say, Netflix.  Yes, looking at the US viewers per episode it does seem as if the show is in something of a decline from its peak with seasons 4 and 5 that saw every episode attract over 10 million viewers. And, yes, the overall story arc has become a little stale from then on. Yet season 9 has seen the show appear to shift into something of a new gear. If the writers can keep the show fresh, and given the change in viewing methods and habits, then there is little reason to feel that the show is on its last legs just yet.
          But show fans, don't breath easy. This does not mean that all is well with the show. Other episodes in the season have not had high viewing figures: even the Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) departure episode only attracted 5.4 million (6% up on the previous episode's figures).  The problem is that with more new shows and new streaming services, all cable drama series are suffering and here, by comparison, The Walking Dead is doing reasonably well.
          The second half of season nine resumes 10th February (2019).

The Walking Dead to a get new life.  Apparently AMC and The Walking Dead creative honchos have been talking.  The word is that they are going to take the series into a number of new directions including: episodes that look into the pat and bring back old characters; special episodes (possibly another Fear the Walking Dead crossover); standalone films (including three with Rick Grimes that will hopefully sort out the helicopter teasing that has occasionally popped up since episode one of season one); and glimpses of how the zombie pandemic manifested in other parts of the world…

The Walking Dead computer game The Final Season is to be completed despite firm closure.  A teaser has been released.  Telltale Games, who developed the game The Walking Dead has reportedly been laying off employees.  Telltale's The Walking Dead game has been with us for six years and given us three complete seasons. Alas Telltale seems to have gotten into trouble in the midst of The Final Season.  Robert Kirkman – whose original The Walking Dead comic series led to the TV series – has his own gaming company, Skybound Games.  Skybound Games has taken over production of The Walking Dead: The Final Season and will produceepisodes3 and 4.  Reportedly, all those who have purchased The Final Season from Telltale will not have to pay again. Eventually, once the legalities have been sorted, everyone will be able to buy all the seasons from Telltale Games.  Meanwhile there's a 15-minute game preview video on YouTube.

5 Year is to be a new, The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman TV series.  It is another apocalyptic show, but instead of post-apocalyptic, as is The Walking Dead, it is pre-apocalyptic.  The premise is this… An asteroid is detected heading for Earth and it is due to impact in five years…  The show is to have 5 seasons.  This makes it likely that each season will cover a year before the supposed impact.  The story arc has two likely/obvious possible story arc conclusions.  The first is that the asteroid is successfully deflected.  The second is that the asteroid is not (entirely?) successfully deflected and so the Earth is damaged. This last possibility lends itself to a follow-up series as to how the survivors cope.  Outside of the US, distribution deals have been done with some European countries (including Britain, Germany and Italy) among others (including Latin America, India, Russia and China).

Game of Thrones author reveals disagreement with television show's producers as to the number of seasons.  George R. R. Martin said he felt that the show could have gone on for 11, 12 or 13 seasons and had argued for 10. However, apparently, producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss wanted 7 but did move to 8.  George R. R. Martin's final novel in the series has yet to be written but he is releasing a two-part prequel and has a further three in development.

Game of Thrones is inspiring the naming of a generation of Brits.  A record 76 baby girls were called Khaleesi in 2017. Three more children were called Daenarys. The most popular character appears to be Arya, with 343 being given that name, up from 302 in 2016.  other genre offering also have an effect with 149 being called Leia from Star Wars. perhaps the strangest is that of 'Lucifer' from the series of the same name with 11 being given that name. Previously, 'Lucifer' has not been given as a Christian name in Britain.

Drones shot down over Game of Thrones sets.  Security is tight around the Northern Ireland outdoor sets for Game of Thrones. They now have a team that knocks out drones using 'guns' with a range of 800 yards that emit a radio multi-frequency beam that disrupts the drone receiving command and control signals.  HBO has also asked for the airspace around the sets to be no fly zones for helicopters and planes.

Game of Thrones season 8, the final season, is to air in April (2019).  Season 8 official tease here.

The original Game of Thrones story was meant to be short.  See in our Game of Thrones item in the Publishing and Book news subsection below.

The successor series to Game of Thrones is to be The Long Night.  Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world's descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros's history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend… Naomi Watts will be one of the leads.

George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards possibly to be two (not just one) TV series!  Three years ago we reported that Wild Cards was to be a TV series.  Well, apparently a production team now exists. It reportedly includes Andrew Miller (lead screen story writer and Executive Producer), Melinda Snodgrass, Vince Gerardis, and George R. R. Martin.  Martin himself will not be doing any writing as he's occupied with the Game of Thrones spin-off series and so is confined to just keeping a watchful eye.  By the end of 2016 there were 23 Wild Cards books and now there are 27: remember many of the stories set in Martin's universe are written by others.  So it seems that there maybe enough material for two series.  Hulu is behind both series.

Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Rogue trooper, among others, to come to the small screen with new Rebellion studio.  Rebellion, who own 2000AD ('the Galaxy's greatest comic'), have bought the old Daily Mail newspaper print building in Didcot, Oxfordshire.  Being ready-soundproofed, it needs little done to it to create a 25,000-square-foot sound stage (160 foot square or a 53 metre square) sound stage, and no new planning permission is required.  It is also mid-way between Pinewood and Bristol-based other studios.  In addition to 2000AD related projects, Rebellion could use it for creating footage for computer gaming (its founder business).  The Kingsley brothers who own Rebellion were producers on the Dredd (2012) film and Rebellion is co-producing the forthcoming TV series Judge Dredd: Mega-City One (as we reported over a years ago).  The new building covers a total area of 220,000 square feet and the studio may well employ up to 500 people.

Marvel's Iron Fist has been cancelled.  Marvel and Netflix have cancelled Iron Fist following its second season. The show's first season did not get a favourable viewer response (possibly because his origins story was not told as it was in the original comics), though it did pick up with the second season. However, this was not enough to save the show.  Apparently the declining interest on social media Twitter and Instagram was a trigger.  This is the first Marvel series Netflix has dropped.  (Trailer here.)

Marvel's Luke Cage has been cancelled.  Marvel and Netflix have cancelled Luke Cage following its second season.  Apparently the declining interest on social media Twitter and Instagram was a trigger.  When Luke Cage was about to premiere there were 300,000 conversations, but season two's premiere only generated not even 50,000.  This is the second Marvel series Netflix has dropped.  (Trailer here.)

The Outcast series from Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman has been axed.  The series was first aired in 2016 and season two ended in the autumn (2018). Cinemax is not commissioning a third season.  Outcast concerns a small American town that sees demonic possession and one man standing against the forces of evil. In addition to Cinemax failing to see strong viewing figures for the show the company making it, Fox International Studios, no longer exists. Additionally, the renewal options for the cast's contracts, including star Patrick Fugit, have expired.  However there are two seasons of the show.  You can see the trailer here.

Star Trek: The Next Generation fan virtual reality is ordered to close by CBS.  Stage-9 was a two-year-old fan project that let users explore a virtual recreation (VR) of the Enterprise-D.  CBS has ordered Stage-9 to cease and desist.  Stage-9 did offer to change the name of the VR removing the term 'Enterprise' but CBS would not change its mind. CBS was also reportedly asked which elements of the VR were of concern but apparently CBS did not favour Stage-9 with the courtesy of a reply to this question, though we understand an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter was provided.  You can see a short YouTube video of how it used to look here.

Daredevil has been cancelled.  Season 3 will be the show's last.  The show has attracted a reasonable audience.  Netflix's decision to cancel is reportedly in part due to the show's rising costs and reduced New York tax credits and also the anticipated Disney+ with its marvel connections not to mention reported, proverbial, 'creative differences' (whatever they may be if they existed). However its viewing figures were comparatively healthy.  So many involved with the show are still perplexed. It was doubly annoying as season 4 was all planned and ready to go.  (You can see the season3 trailer here.

Star Wars live action television series forthcoming.  The series is due to be launched on Disney's streaming service, Disney+, later this year.  Apparently it will cost roughly US$100 million (£77m) for 10 episodes which makes it one of the more expensive series to date (excluding high viewer rated shows like The Big Bang Theory whose later seasons had high cast fees) but does put it on par with a season six episode of The Game of Thrones.  The budget for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was between US$200 to US$250 million (£154m - £192m) and that film to date has made more than US$1.3 billion (£1 bn) worldwide at the box office. 

New, 2nd Star Wars TV series coming.  The series will follow the adventures of rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This will also air on Disney+ .

Loki television series, spin-off from the Thor films, is forthcoming.  The new series will see Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the Norse god brother of Thor. It will also will also air on Disney+ .

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror to go quasi interactive.  The series that originated on Britain's Channel 4 back in 2011, which we cited in 2012 as one of the best televisual SF of the year and a number of whose episodes have gone on to be Hugo short-listed including last year, moved to Netflix in 2015 who afforded it bigger budgets.  Now the show is going quasi-interactive with its viewers choosing an adventure or possibly the ending of an adventure with the audience being given alternates from which to choose.

The Man in the High Castle has a fourth season green lit.  It is slated to be aired in the autumn (2019).

The Expanse returns with season 4.  We previously reported it being axed and then resurrected.  This space opera series is based on the two writer pseudonymous author James S. A. Corey series of novels.  The new season has some new sets and new spacecraft. Formerly on SyFy it is now on Amazon prime.  Season 4 production teaser trailer here.

The Good Place gets renewed for a fourth season.  NBC has renewed the show that recently won the Hugo for 'Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form'.  This despite the show's live viewing figures being low in the US at 1.6 million. However when 35 days of time-shifting and projected digital viewership is added, the show’s 18-49 rating grows to a 3.65 from 1.6 in adults from ages 18-49.  Perhaps the key reason might be that NBC's own detailed survey reveals that the shows audience is the 'most highly educated' among adults aged 18-49 with four or more years of college/university.  This is probably due to the shows philosophical and ethical themes that explore both classical and contemporary philosophical dilemmas.  Expect season 4 later this year.  meanwhile for those of us in Brit Cit, Cal Hab and the Emerald Isle, The Good Place is aired on the FreeView channel E4 so those in the British Isles can catch up on the early seasons.  +++ The Good Place season 3 trailer here.  +++ See also the Morals programmed into Artificial Intelligence in the Science & SF Interface subsection below.

Star Trek: The Next Generation spin-off/re-boot to air at the end of 2019.  The show, announced last season complete with Patrick Stewart, is currently slated to air on CBS All Access at the end of 2019.

Roswell is being rebooted as Roswell, New Mexico.  It premieres in the US on CW on 29th April (2019).  Teaser trailer here.

BBC to do Dracula mini-series.  The three, 90-minute episode mini-series comes from BBC Sherlock creative duo Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. Moffat, of course also worked on the Beebs Doctor Who but has said that Dracula will be more Sherlock than Doctor Who.  However, unlike Sherlock, the series will be set – as was the novel – in 1897.  For those not in BritCit, Emerald Isle and parts of western EuroCit, who get the BBC, the series will also be on Netflix.  It is to star Danish actor Claes (The Girl in the Spider's Web) Bang.  This should be worth checking out…

New animated Star Trek series, Lower Decks has been commissioned.  Star Trek: Lower Decks will be an adult comedy series consisting of half-hour episodes.  It concerns a diligent non-entity on a minor Federation craft.  (Sounds a bit Red Dwarfy?)  The US streaming service CBS All Access has ordered two seasons s they seem to have faith in the venture. We don't know yet which channels will be showing it elsewhere.

The graphic novel Strange Times to become a TV series.  TBS in the US arte apparently taking on the paranormal series.  It is being written and executive produced by Aaron Karo.

Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina taken to court for US$50 million, and then settles!  The Sataníc Temple – with its aim to promote the US's First Amendment values of separation of church and state and equal protection – has objected to the Warner Bros. & Netflix show's use of its version of the Baphomet figure. It is also seeking a ban on further distribution of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina episodes featuring the Sataníc Temple's version of the Baphomet.  The Sataníc Temple uses Sataníc imagery satire, theatrical ploys, humour and direct legal action in their public campaigns "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people". The idea among the organization's branding was that it "met all the Bush administration’s criteria for receiving funds, but was repugnant to them".  In adopting one of the Temple's icon Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not only breaching copyright, but misrepresenting a political organization.  Baphomets are depicted in many forms – and not just the one the Temple uses which Netflix took – and consists of a goat horned headed, often winged figure. It was first known to be referenced first appeared in trial transcripts for the Inquisition of the Knights Templar starting in 1307 when they were falsely accused and persecuted.  Warner Bros. has acknowledged the settlement without elaborating. The Temple will be acknowledged in the credits for episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that have already been filmed. Any financial settlement is not publicly known at this time.

And finally…

The Big Bang Theory 'Soft Kitty' court case resolved.  We hold our hands up; we should have told you this a year ago but the news slipped through our news-gathering filter.  Back at the start of 2016 we reported that The Big Bang Theory was being sued by 'Soft Kitty' copyright holder.  Well, last March (2017) the court ruled that as Warner Brothers Entertainment and the show's other producers sought and received permission in 2007 to use the lyrics from Willis Music Co - a Kentucky-based company that had published them in a book called Songs for the Nursery School, that Warners and the Big Bangers were innocent having acted in good faith. The court found that Willis Music's renewal in 1964 of its registration for Songs for the Nursery School, in which the poem was printed, did not also renew Newlin's copyright for "Warm Kitty".  Warner brothers and the makers of The Big Bang Theory are therefore innocent.


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 2019

Publishing & Book Trade News


Philip Pullman OBE receives a knighthood. Fantasy author Philip Pullman has received a knighthood in this year's Queen's New Year's Honours list for 'services to literature'.

Margaret Atwood becomes a Companion of Honour (CH) in this year's Queen's New Year's Honours list for 'services to literature'.  The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded on 4 June 1917 by King George V as a reward for outstanding achievements and is "conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition, constituting an honour disassociated either from the acceptance of title or the classification of merit".  Though first associated with military action, it is now described as "awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time".  The order consists of the Sovereign and a maximum 65 members.

EU allows member states to reduce e-book VAT.  The European Union (EU) now allows member states to reduce (even to zero) Value Added Tax (VAT) on e-books. Up to now, EU states were not allowed to do this. Some did, but they were fined by the EU (notably France and Luxembourg).  It would seem that the EU now recognises that a book is a book despite its format.  The biggest winner for this change is likely to be Amazon as it dominates e-book retail in the UK.  +++ Previous related news includes the new (2014) European VAT begins to make Amazon more equal.

Copyright fears as Brexit looms: authors rally.  Joanna Trollope, Linda Grant and Joanne Harris, have all expressed concern as to the need to protect UK copyright law following Brexit.  The fear is that it may become a bargaining chip when the UK seeks new overseas deals outside the European Union.  Meanwhile, along with similar copyright concerns, the Society of Authors has called upon the government to protect free movement and trade.

Publishers and authors' agents are being targeted by phishing scammers.  European and N. American publishers and authors agents have been targeted by scammers attempting to get hold of forthcoming book manuscripts (MSs). The scammers are using a variety of tricks including impersonating authors' agents to publishers, and vice-versa, in attempts to try to get hold of MSs.  It has been reported that Pan Macmillan have been targeted and Penguin Random in N. America have alerted all their staff to be 'extremely careful'.  Previous related news includes authors are being imposted on Amazon.

Gollancz launches 'Golden Age Masterworks' series!  This list consist of some of the popular SF books of the 1950s and 1960s.  The early days of SF produced many influential and much loved works which, by virtue of their length (they tended to be shorter than today's offerings) and pulpiness, have never quite been a perfect fit for the main Masterworks list. However, Gollancz believe – and the success of such titles as e-Books on the SF Gateway has shown – that there is a market for these fast, exciting reads.  (SF Gateway publishes ld SF titles in e-Book form and clearly some titles must have sold sufficiently well that Gollancz feels they can invest in a paper print run.)  So it is welcome to the ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction.  Those in their 40s or younger, and who consider themselves to have a serious interest in written SF, will really want to check these titles out.  The initial releases include: Arthur C. Clarke's The Sands of Mars, Earthlight and Against the Fall of Night, E. E. Doc Smith's widescreen Galactic Patrol and Grey Lensman; and C. L. Moore's Doomsday Morning and Northwest of Earth.  This news really is worth spreading by your social media – click on this item's opening paragraph for link.

The Handmaid's Tale is to get a sequel.  Margret Atwood's misogynistic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, the author revealed, is to have a sequel called The Testaments. Margret Atwood says that it will be set 15 years further on from the events of the original novel.  The novel is slated for a September (2019) release from Chatto & Windus.  +++ Previous related news: The 2017 Emmy Awards' genre wins dominated by The Handmaid's Tale;  and Margaret Atwood interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour.

Game of Thrones originally was only meant to be a short story.  Alison Flood interviewed George R. R. Martin in The Guardian.  The first chapter of A Game of Thrones came to him “out of nowhere” in 1991. He said: “When I began, I didn’t know what the hell I had. I thought it might be a short story; it was just this chapter, where they find these direwolf pups. Then I started exploring these families and the world started coming alive.”  From this short story idea, look what we now have!

The McCaffrey 'Pern' dragon novels are getting re-booted by daughter.  The new series will begin with Dragon's Code by Anne McCaffrey's daughter Gigi and out this October (2019) from Penguin Random House.  Anne sadly died back in 2011. Prior to then she had co-written a number of the later Pern novels with son Todd including 2011's Dragon's TimeDragon's Code takes place about a third to halfway through the White Dragon after hero Piemur has spent several years on the southern continent. He's finding himself as a young man and he's finding his feet on a new continent.

The non-fiction book that inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula has been found.  Philip Spedding of the London Library found the book that had been gifted by Bram Stoker's son to the library in 1935 and it contains Stoker's notes.  The book is called The Land Beyond the Forest by the Scotswoman Emily Gerard and it tells of Romania based the Aberdeenshire writer's two-year time there with her husband.  In it she writes: "More decidedly evil is the nosferatu, or vampire, in which every Romanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell.
          "Every person killed by a nosferatu becomes likewise a vampire after death, and will continue to suck the blood of other innocent persons till the spirit has been exorcised by opening the grave of the suspected person, and either driving a stake through the corpse or in very obstinate cases of vampirism it is recommended to cut off the head, and replace it in the coffin with the mouth filled with garlic.
          Bram Stoker later wrote Dracula (1897) having, it is thought, being inspired by Emily Gerard's The Land Beyond the Forest. The book was one the Stoker family had on a list which Bram said had helped him with his iconic novel. It is now clear that this is likely the key reference work behind the novel's inspiration.  +++ More at BBC news.

Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to become a table-top board game  Players take on the novel's four principal protagonists, including Norrell and Strange, as they travel around England and Europe. It launches in June (2019) from Osprey Games.

Foyles, London's most famous bookshop, has been sold.  Foyles, the independent, family owned bookshop of 115 years has been sold to Waterstones, Britain's largest independent book chain (note: W. H. Smiths is a newsagents chain).  Foyles also has six shops elsewhere including in Bristol, Birmingham, and Chelmsford that are also part of the deal.  Foyles’ Chief Executive, Paul Currie, and Finance Director, John Browne, will leave the company.  Foyles in London has a top floor meeting area that has seen a number of SF publisher events in recent years including on occasion the presentation of the Arthur C. Clarke (book) Award and the Gollancz SF Gateway 5th anniversary.  And it is Foyles' character and style of modus operandi that has for some caused concern over the merger.  Foyles has a reputation of supporting books from smaller publishers in their stock mix.  Also Foyles managers ensure that their floor staff know what titles are coming early on (apparently Waterstones floor staff tend to only have a couple of weeks notice).  At the end of the day the merger is necessary as bricks-and-mortar bookshops are struggling against Amazon. For example, Foyles shops together are economically 1% the size of Amazon yet last year paid the same corporation tax in the UK as Amazon: the online retailer has a number of economic advantages.  +++ See also previous news Amazon's UK tax paid substantially down despite a great profit increase.

J. K. Rowling is suing her assistant.  Allegedly Amanda Donaldson defrauded Rowling of £24,000 (US$31,000) in the form of expense fraud and the theft of some Harry Potter memorobelia.  Further info at the BBC

Pyr, the US science fiction imprint has been sold.  Pyr was founded only a little over a decade ago by, the publishing house and imprint in its own right, Prometheus.  Up t then Prometheus has been a non-fiction imprint and the sale of Pyr enables it to focus on that area.  Pyr has been sold to Start Publishing along with Prometheus' crime fiction imprint, Seventh Street.  The Pyr commissioning editor is to stay on.  +++ SF² Concatenation has reviewed a good number of Pyr titles including its annual Nebula Awards Showcase for example 2016 here and 2015 here.

Amazon in the US has increased its minimum wage to US$15 (~£11.50p).  Meanwhile Amazon are ending “stock and incentive bonuses”.  Amazon has been criticised before in the US and Britain for its low worker pay.  CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of over US$155 billion (£119 billion).  Amazon employment conditions is something we have noted before.  +++ Previous Amazon news includes: Amazon bullying small publishers; British book buyer backlash against Amazon that Christmas, the European Commission ruling Amazon contracts with publishers are anti-competitive and potentially illegal and, of course, Amazon tax concerns in the face of increased turnover and profits, more tax concerns and continued tax concerns despite another great profit increase.


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 2019

Forthcoming SF Books


Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen by Douglas Adams and James Goss, BBC Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94106-1.
A lost Doctor Who adventure by Douglas Adams, based on recently discovered material in the Adams archive - now in paperback. Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07742-9.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili (physicist) combines storytelling and mind-expanding high-concept science in his debut thriller.  2041, and for all the advances science and technology have brought, our world is under attack from rampant climate change, uncontrollable mass migration, cyber-terrorism, fragmenting societies and insidious governmental secrecy and paranoia. And then the unthinkable happens - the Earth, our planet, seems to be turning against itself – it would appear that the magnetic field, which protects life on Earth from deadly radiation from space, is failing . . .  Fearful of the mass hysteria that would follow if the truth were to become known, world governments have concealed this rapidly emerging Armageddon. But a young Iranian computer genius stumbles across what is really going on, the secret is out, and it's a race against time to put in place an outrageous, desperate last ditch plan to save the world: to reactivate the earth's core using beams of dark matter. As a small team of brave and brilliant scientists - each a maverick in his or her own way - battle to find a way of transforming the theory into practice, they face a fanatical group intent on pursuing their own endgame agenda: for they believe mankind to be a plague upon this earth and will do anything, commit any crime, to ensure that the project fails - and so bring about humanity's end...

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault, Jonathan Cape, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-224-10193-6.
The Arthur C. Clarke (book) Award winning, dystopic near-future tale of gender domination. But what's this -- Renée Nault?  Well, Atwood provides the story and Renée Nault the artwork as this is the graphic novel of the original book.  "Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us."  Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships. She serves in the household of the Commander and his wife, and under the new social order she has only one purpose: once a month, she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if they are fertile. But Offred remembers the years before Gilead, when she was an independent woman who had a job, a family, and a name of her own. Now, her memories and her will to survive are acts of rebellion.

Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker & James Goss, BBC Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94390-4.
This is the first Doctor Who book from the actor who played one of the Time Lord's incarnations. Jelly baby anyone?

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20874-2.
Haimey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law . . . usually. Theirs is a perilous and marginal existence as they pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human – and alien – vessels. When they discover a long-dead, hugely powerful alien species may still be around, this knowledge could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into war.  +++ Looking ahead, Elizabeth Bear begins a new space opera trilogy – Jacob’s Ladder – in May (2019).

Beneath the World, a Sea by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49155-8.
South America, 1990. Ben Ronson arrives in a mysterious forest to investigate a spate of killings of a local species called the Duendes. The crimes have taken place in the Delta and to reach it Ben has crossed the Zone, a territory which wipes the memories of all who pass through.  Ben is uneasy about what he may have done in the Zone and avoids opening the diaries he kept whilst there, busying himself with the investigation. He becomes fascinated by the Duendes, but the closer he gets, the more the secrets of the unopened diaries begin to haunt him . . .  From the A. C. Clarke (book) Award-winning author of Mother of Eden.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-848-87464-0.
John Redlantern lives in Eden, a valley illuminated by bioluminescence and warmed by trees drawing up geothermal energy. Surrounding Eden are mountains in the dark, covered by snow and ice. John Lantern's community has grown over the years and now numbers 532. Food is beginning to get scarce and this leads John to wonder if there is a way out of Eden and what lies beyond?  John's community is the 'Family', the descendents of Angela and Tommy who originally came to Eden in the 'Landing Veekle' from the starship Defiant. They are patiently awaiting rescue. Meanwhile, as the years pass, in-breeding is taking its toll on the Family with physical deformity and cloudy minds, so that only a few can begin to comprehend John's vision: most in the family want to stay near the circle of stones that mark the point where the 'Landing Veekle' had originally landed and where some of the crew departed to get help as it is to there that a rescue party will return.  This is the mass market paperback edition of the winner of the 2013 A. C. Clarke (book) Award.

The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolano, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-85192-8.
A literary novel that is a tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City from a master of contemporary fiction, and a sublime precursor to The Savage Detectives. Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift in Mexico City. Obsessed with poetry, and, above all, with science fiction, they are eager to forge a life in the literary world – or sacrifice themselves to it. Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction is a story of youth hungry for revolution, notoriety, and sexual adventure, as they work to construct a reality out of the fragments of their dreams. But as close as these friends are, the city tugs them in opposite directions. Jan withdraws from the world, shutting himself in their shared rooftop apartment where he feverishly composes fan letters to the stars of science fiction, and dreams of cosmonauts and Nazis. Meanwhile, Remo runs head-first into the future, spending his days and nights with a circle of wild young writers, seeking pleasure in the city’s labyrinthine streets, rundown cafes, and murky bathhouses. The Spirit of Science Fiction is a kaleidoscopic work of strange and tender beauty, and a fitting introduction for readers uninitiated into the thrills of Roberto Bolano’s fiction. It is an indispensable addition to an ecstatic and transgressive body of work.

Dark Age: Red Rising Book 5 by Pierce Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64676-6.
For a decade, Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt colour-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in the hope that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?  As alliances shift, break and re-form – and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed – every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

Splintered Suns by Michael Cobley, Orbit, £12.00, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51251-8.
Action-orientated space opera with a spaceship crewed with rogues and scoundrels, billed as perfect for fans of Star Wars, Firefly or Farscape.

Tiamat's Wrath by James S. A. Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51035-4.
This is the 8th in the 'Expanse' space opera series that includes Abaddon's Gate.  In Tiamat's Wrath, 1,300 gates have opened the galaxy to the Solar system.  But out there, among the ruins of alien civilizations, danger lurks.  The Expanse television series has been resurrected.

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-5-786-50963-7.
A meteor crashed, devastating a New England town in 1969.  This is the year of Woodstock and the Moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation. Then the Meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town – and changing their lives for ever. Molly, a nurse, caught up in the thick of the disaster, is given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage: a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother. And soon the whole world will be looking for him…  This is the author's debut novel.

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, Head of Zeus, £10, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54109-0.
Four dystopian novellas set in the near-future from award-winning author and activist Cory Doctorow. In Cory Doctorow’s new novellas, corporations provide welfare, but only if you use their DRM’d devices: toasters that won’t toast third-party bread, dishwashers that won’t wash third-party dishes.  Fresh out of a refugee detention centre, Salima is housed in the exclusive Dorchester Towers. For the first time in months, she has her own bedroom and a bathtub she can lie down in if she squinches her legs and tucks her chin. But it’s a tower block divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’:  elevators with a poor-door and a rich-person-door. Then one day Salima’s Boulangism toaster won’t accept her overpriced Boulangism-approved bread. So she hacks into the toaster – with its USB ports and Ethernet jacks – to re-programme and toast unauthorised bread. If she can hack a toaster, then maybe she can hack an elevator. Now it’s a tower block that has decided to fight back...

Death Knell by Hailey Edwards, Piatkus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41709-7.
The hunt is on for the origins and cure for the virus that caused a mass of bodies to be washed down the Mississippi…

A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher, Orbit, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51091-0.
Man stole my dog. I went after him.  Bad things happened. I can never go home. Griz is a boy who has never met enough people in his life to play a game of football.  He’s heard about football. And schools, and friends. His parents have told him what the world used to be like, before all the people went away. But Griz isn’t lonely – he’s got his family, and his beloved dog.  One day, a stranger visits, to trade with his father. But the man leaves in the middle of the night, taking the boy’s dog. As Griz chases the stranger out into a world devoid of people – a world without us, he discovers there may be more both to the history of how the world ended, and what his family’s real story is. He begins his hunt searching for a stolen dog, but finds himself on the trail of something bigger and more personally important – the truth…

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89988-6.
A new Star Wars novel, taking place before the events of The Phantom Menace, featuring legacy characters Qui- Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. From the author of Star Wars: Bloodline.

Breakthrough by Michael C. Grumley, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54881-6.
Deep in the Caribbean Sea, a small group of marine biologists are quietly on the verge of making history. Alison Shaw and her team are preparing to translate the first two-way conversation with the planet’s second smartest species.  But the team discovers much more from their dolphins than they ever expected when a secret object is revealed on the ocean floor – one that was never supposed to be found. Alison must quickly piece together a dangerous puzzle, but time is running out... and our understanding of the world is about to change forever.

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng, Sceptre, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-67295-6.
In the future, New York citizens can expect to live to around 300!  But some are fighting for the right to live and die as they choose… This is a debut novel.

The Best of R. A Lafferty edited by Jonathan Strahan, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21344-9.
With an introduction by Neil Gaiman. This is the authoritative collection of short fiction by R. A. Lafferty.  This collection contains 22 unique tall tales, including: Hugo Award-winning ‘Eurema’s Dam’ – introduced by Robert Silverberg;  Hugo Award-nominated ‘Continued on the Next Rock’ – introduced by Nancy Kress;  ‘Sky’ – introduced by Gwenda Bond;  and the Nebula Award-nominated ‘In Our Block’ – introduced by Neil Gaiman.  Lafferty was awarded and nominated for a multitude of accolades over the span of his career, including the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Wall by John Lanchester, Faber & Faber, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-571-29870-9.
Following 'the change' the seas have risen drowning beaches all over the world.  In Britain there is the 6,250 mile long, and 5 yards high wall along its coastline.  Kavenagh is a 'defender' with a squad responsible for a section of the Wall…  This climate change related SF will not only appeal to mundane SF aficionados but also lit-crits. This looks like it's Lanchester's first foray into SF.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Ball Lightening by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69470-6.
Part of the award-winning, high concept – ram-packed with ideas – widescreen space opera, Three Body Problem.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Broken Stars edited by Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54810-6
Here are sixteen short stories from China’s groundbreaking SFF writers, edited and translated by award-winning author Ken Liu.  Including ‘Moonlight’ by Cixin Liu and ‘The New Year Train’ by Hao Jingfang – both Hugo award-winners – this anthology features stories firmly entrenched in subgenres familiar to western readers such as hard SF, cyberpunk and space opera, while also including stories that showcase deeper ties to Chinese culture: alternative Chinese history and chuanyue time travel. In addition, three essays explore the history and rise of Chinese SFF publishing, contemporary Chinese fandom, and how the growing interest in Chinese SFF has impacted writers who had long laboured in obscurity.

The Corporation Wars Omnibus by Ken MacLeod, Orbit, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51251-8.
The collection of the three 'Corporation Wars' space opera and military SF novels: Dissidence, Insurgence and Emergence.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Picador Classic, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87063-9.
The novel that turned on non-SF readers to post-apocalyptic fiction.  It is a father and son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and each other.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Memorial Black Prize for Fiction, The Road is for non-genre readers an American classic, and a masterpiece of dystopian fiction. Adapted into a film in 2009, starring Viggo Mortensen and directed by John Hillcoat.

Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21675-4.
Following on from Luna: New Moon and Luna: Wolf Moon, Ian McDonald’s SF trilogy of corporate greed and family betrayal in the lethal setting of the Moon, reaches its conclusion.  Akin to the mafia families of The Godfather, the families of the five Dragons who control the rich resources of the moon are locked in an endless and vicious struggle for supremacy, and now the peace that reigned while the moon was colonised is breaking down. Which of the scions of the Dragons will gain supremacy? Or will the moon, with its harsh vacuum, its freezing dark and blazing, irradiated light be the final winner?

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00157-0.
This is a fast-paced, character-led, space opera tale of empire and rebellion with a murder at its heart.  Mahit Dzmare, ambassador for her people, is thrilled to visit the City – capital of many worlds. But she’s unprepared for the chaos that awaits. Her predecessor has been murdered, but no one will admit it was not an accident. So she must navigate the capital’s deadly halls of power to hunt down the truth, discover what he gave up to save his people and also prevent the empire from forcibly annexing her home – while staying alive herself.

Blackfish City by Sam Miller, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51004-0
Killer whales and polar bears nano-bonded to angry outcasts, aiming to tear the city apart to get what they want. That’s basically the story here, set in some post climate-apocalypse Arctic circle floating city where things are slowly but inevitably falling apart and a new, probably genetically engineered disease is killing people in new and intriguing ways…  This is the paperback of the hardback that we cited as possibly one of the best SF books of 2018.  Click on the title link for the complete standalone review.

No Way by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22259-5.
Eight astronauts were sent to Mars to build NASA’s Mars base, and only one survived. Now all he needs to do is get home . . .  Frank Kitteridge is alone on Mars. But XO, the corporate architects of the first Mars base, made a costly mistake when they left him there: they left him alive. Using his skills and his wits, he’s going to find a way back home even if it kills him.  This is the follow-up to One Way. This follow-up is very good, even better than the first in the duology.

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22392-9.
Following Planetfall, After Atlas and Before Mars (this last we thought as one of the best SF books of 2018), a return to the 'Planetfall' universe with a novel about a woman deciding if she can become a murderer to save the future of humanity.  Having left Earth, and living on a vast spaceship, Dee spends her time playing video games.  When a character she kills resembles a man who dies suddenly in the real world – one of those responsible for the nuclear strike that destroyed Earth – she needs to know why. But she’s unprepared for the answers she finds.  What she learns will affect the colony, and she realises that, in order to save humanity, she might have to relinquish hers in the process.

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51222-8.
Sanda and Biran were siblings destined for greatness. Her: a hard-nosed marine with the skills to save the universe. Him: a savvy politician with ambitions for changing the course of intergalactic war.  However, on a routine manoeuvre, Sanda’s gunship gets blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later upon an empty enemy smartship who calls himself Bero. The war is lost. The star system and everyone in it is dead. Ada Prime and its rival Icarion have wiped each other from the universe.  Now, separated by space and time, Sanda and Biran will find a way to put things right.

Deep Blue by Jane O'Reilly, Piatkus, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41663-2.
This is the second book in the 'Second Species' trilogy.  Jinnifer Blue is being turned into a weapon by her worst enemy – her mother!  And yes, Jane O'Reilly is the Jane who is one of the band of SF² Concatenation  book reviewers. A new light in the SF firmament.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh, Simon & Schuster, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-471-17124-6.
Ten astronauts leave a dying Earth on a voyage that will take 23 years. There will be no rescue if something goes wrong. Something always goes wrong…

All The Lonely People by David Owen, Atom, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-00320-7.
Science fantasy. Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Delete, Disappear.  With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she? She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now.  As soon as Kat disappears from the online world, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her…

North by Frank Owen, Corvus, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-782-39900-1.
Two survivors, of the latest US civil war that was ended by a virus, plot to kill the northern dictator. This follows on from South.

From Distant Stars by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21479-8.
This is paperback release of the second in the off-world, noir-ish thriller that began with From Distant Stars.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.  See also below.

From Divergent Suns by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21481-1.
The conclusion to the SF-crime trilogy that began with From Darkest Skies and From Distant Stars.  It is set on a distant world, in which the nature of AI is questioned within a haunting story of love, loss and grand politics.  Inspector Keon’s life has flipped upside down once again. This time by the revelation that his wife is alive, and may be playing a part in the grand conspiracy involving the ancient Masters and the forces of Earth. While the AI construct of his wife he created searches for her own place in this world, Magenta faces an existential threat, and Keon is torn between the wife he loves and the AI who loves him.  The author, Sam Peters, recently gave SF² Concatenation his Top Ten Scientists.

Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97793-1.
Inspired by the author's early-life home town, this is Chinese SF billed as William Gibson meets a cyberpunk The Windup Girl.  Mimi is a ‘waste girl’, a member of the lowest caste on Silicon Isle. Located off China’s south-eastern coast, Silicon Isle is the global capital for electronic waste recycling, where thousands of people like Mimi toil day and night, hoping that one day they too will get to enjoy the wealth they’ve created for their employers, the three scrap families who have ruled the isle for generations.  Then a ship bearing a dangerous cargo arrives at Silicon Isle and unleashes a terrible, futuristic virus. In a gritty near-future Chinese landscape, in a world of body modifications and virtual reality, a war erupts – between the rich and the poor; between ancient traditions and modern ambition; between humanity’s past and its future.

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09063-7-7.
Pirate space opera me hearties…  This far future fable follows on from the rather fun Revenger and our two runaway sisters head for deep space and plunder…  Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking – and there’s hoards to loot and treasures to find in the darkest reaches of space. But the rules are also more relaxed out on the fringes, as they’re about to discover . . . This is sort of Hornblower in space but with a hard SF rationale underpinning the swash and buckle terminology.

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger, Zaffre, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-76401-1.
An archaeological discovery is made in the Grand Canyon. But the investigating team become trapped and their survival threatened…

The Bastard Legion: War Criminals by Gavin Smith, Gollancz, £10, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21729-4.
This builds on The Bastard Legion.  Our Seb says that if you’re looking for intense military SF action then The Bastard Legion delivers.   It was the kind of dirty, violent work the Bastards were made for. Protect a bunch of colonists in the Epsilon Eridani system, whose moon had become a war zone as megacorp-backed mercenaries fought a brutal proxy war. Just the kind of fight the penal mercenary legion liked. But a hundred headless corpses are hard to explain, even for the Bastard Legion, and soon they are on the run, abandoned by their allies, and hunted by their most dangerous foe yet . . .

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch, Headline, £8.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-21497-5.
Years after the brutal killings, while working undercover, Moss stumbles across a witness from the Mursult case who unwittingly tells her far more than she had at the time. Inspired by this retrospective progress, Moss gets the opportunity to travel through time – not to the past but – to a host of potential futures to track down the killer and close this cold case once and for all… From the author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Head of Zeus, £18.99, ISBN 978-1-788-54724-6.
Humanity clings to life on a dying Earth. Epic, far-future SF with a fantasy riff.  The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.  Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in the verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will meet with monsters, madmen and mutants.  The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson, Orbit, pbk, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-356-51137-5.
The year is 2067. The city of Rosewater is chaotic, vibrant and full of life – some of it extra-terrestrial. The charismatic mayor, Jack Jacques, has declared Rosewater a free state, independent of Nigeria. But the city’s alien dome is dying. Government forces await its demise, ready to destroy Rosewater’s independence before it has even begun. And in the city’s quiet suburbs, a woman wakes with no memory of who she is – with memories belonging to something much older and much more alien.

Hunted by G.H. Todd, Headline, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-472-23314-1.
Post-apocalyptic adventure that follows on from Defender. This is the paperback release. For a full, standalone review of the hardback, click on the title link.

The Malaise by David Turton, Cosmic Egg Books, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-35902-6. SF horror set in 2038, when everyone uses Razor technology… It wont end well…  This is the author's debut novel.

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas by Jules Verne, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-81864-9.
Verne’s classic, 1870 tale of Captain Nemo and the submarine the Nautilus has left a profound mark on the twentieth century. Its themes are universal, its style humorous and grandiose, its construction masterly.  William Butcher’s unabridged translation conveys the range of this seminal work; it has now been revised, and appears with an introduction and notes that discuss the very first study of the manuscripts, together with revelations about the artistic and scientific references.

Emily Eternal by M. G. Wheaton, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68195-8.
Meet Emily – she’s never met a problem she can’t solve, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.  She’s an artificial consciousness, designed to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die.  So, the human race is screwed, and so is Emily, until she finds a potential answer. But before her solution can be tested, her lab is attacked, and she’s forced to go on the run with two human companions. As the end draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. But it soon becomes clear that it’s not only the species at stake, but also that which makes us most human. (Standalone review to be posted next edition.)


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Spring 2019

Forthcoming Fantasy Books


The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03971-3.
The 'Winternight' trilogy concludes. Moscow is in flames, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to blame. Vasilisa, a girl with extraordinary gifts, must flee for her life, pursued by those who blame their misfortune on her magic. Then a vengeful demon returns, stronger than ever. Determined to engulf the world in chaos, he finds allies among men and spirits. Mankind and magical creatures alike find their fates resting on Vasya's shoulders. But she may not be able to save them all.

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51084-2.
This is the third in the series following Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx.  On the orders of the mysterious Sphinx, Thomas Senlin and his crew are dragged ever further into the Tower’s conspiracies. Meanwhile, the hods climb the Black Trail in darkness and whisper of their king.

Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley Beaulieu, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22360-8.
Fourth in this fantasy series of mystery, prophecy and death, set within the ancient walled city of sharakhai, home to the Twelve Kings.  Çeda was an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai.  She has been an assassin in dark places. A weapon poised to strike from the shadows. A voice from the darkness, striving to free her people.  No longer.  Now she’s going to lead.  The age of the Kings is coming to an end . . .

Burning Ashes by James Bennett, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50667-8.
The last extant dragon hides in human form…

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum illustrated by W. W. Denslow, Macmillan Collector's Library, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-88196-3.
Dorothy and Toto’s classic whirlwind adventure featuring the original illustrations by famous illustrator W. W. Denslow, coloured by Barbara Frith, and a new afterword by Professor Sarah Churchwell.  Regarded as a modern fairy tale, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz is one of America’s most cherished and enchanting children’s stories.  Follow Dorothy, and her loyal dog Toto, as they are carried away from Kansas by a cyclone to the wonderful world of Oz. Wandering down the yellow brick road Dorothy meets her three famous companions – a Scarecrow longing for a brain, a Tin Woodman wishing for a heart, a cowardly Lion yearning for some courage – and together they travel to the illustrious Emerald City where they hope all their dreams will come true…

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Budsky, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51260-0.
This portrays a young, Inuit woman, shaman's epic quest to survive in 9th century Scandinavia. It draws upon Norse mythology.

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22286-1.
The stunning coming-of-age adventure of fantasy’s most compelling anti-hero . . .  The Academy of Chaenbalu has stood against magic for centuries. Hidden from the world, acting from the shadows, it trains its students to detect and retrieve magic artefacts, which it jealously guards from the misuse of others. Because magic is dangerous: something that heals can also harm, and a power that aids one person may destroy another.  Of the Academy’s many students, only the most skilled can become Avatars – warrior thieves, capable of infiltrating the most heavily guarded vaults – and only the most determined can be trusted to resist the lure of magic. More than anything, Annev de Breth wants to become one of them.  This is a debut.

Dark Forge by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21771-3.
This is the second in the 'Masters & Mages' series and it follows on from Cold Iron.  Aranthur is a student. He showed a little magical talent, is studying at the local academy, and is nothing particularly special. Others are smarter. Others are more talented. Others are quicker to pick up techniques. But none of them are with him when he breaks his journey home for the holidays in an inn. None of them step in to help when a young woman is thrown off a passing stage coach into the deep snow at the side of the road. And none of them are drawn into a fight to protect her. One of the others might have realised she was manipulating him all along . . .

The True Queen by Zen Cho, Macmillan, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-80107-7.
A fresh, magical adventure set in Regency London, fairyland and an enchanted island: war looms in the lands of fairy as two sisters are separated, plots thicken and there are rumours of a new contender for the throne of fairy . . .  Fairyland’s future lies in doubt . . .  The island of Janda Baik, in the Malay archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Satki wake on its shores under a curse – which has quite stolen away their memories. Satki plots to banish it in London, as Britain’s Sorceress Royal dares to train female magicians. But the pair journey there via the Fairy Queen’s realm, where Satki disappears.  Distraught, Muna takes her sister’s place at the school, despite her troublesome lack of magic. Then the Sorceress receives an ambassador from the Fairy Court, which has incarcerated her friends – for supposedly stealing a powerful talisman. Their Queen is at her most dangerous, fearing for her throne. For the missing trinket contained the magic of her usurped sister, Fairyland’s rightful heir.  Zen Cho's debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, won the 2016 British Fantasy Society Award for Best Newcomer.

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22399-8.
Sequel to The Belles.  Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia’s Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider’s Web, Camille must use her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.

Soulkeeper by David Dalglish, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51158-0.
Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, travelling through remote villages as a preacher and healer. But when a dragon awakens – the size of a mountain and leaving great chasms in its wake – the veil is torn, flooding the land with ancient magic and forgotten races. Now Devin must set aside his words of peace and accept his new role: slayer of monsters and protector of the human race. But not all the creatures that have re-awakened mean humanity harm. And as Devin slowly befriends people of these new races, his discomfort in his role grows. But Soulkeepers must slay without mercy. And even sympathisers risk their wrath.

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-447-28884-8.
This is the third in the 'Witchlands' series.  The Raider King’s plans to claim the Witchlands are under way. Now, his forces sow terror in the mountains, slaughtering innocents. After finding the slain, Aeduan and Iseult race for safety. And despite differing goals, they’ve grown to trust one another in the fight to survive. Yet the Bloodwitch keeps a secret that could change everything . . .  War has come once more to the Witchlands. Perhaps if Safi and Iseult were united, their powers could bring peace. But chaos is not easily tamed.

The War Within by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22170-3.
The latest in the 'Great God’s War' sequence.  It has been twenty years since Prince Bifalt discovered the Last Repository and the sorcerous knowledge hidden there. In return for the restoration of sorcery to both kingdoms, the realms of Belleger and Amika ceased generations of war. Their alliance was sealed with the marriage of Bifalt to Estie, the crown princess of Amika. But the peace – and their marriage – has been uneasy.  Now, the terrible war that King Bifalt and Queen Estie feared is coming. An ancient enemy has discovered the location of the Last Repository, and a mighty horde of dark forces is massing to attack the library and take the magical knowledge it guards.

Kellanved's Reach: Path to Ascendancy Book 3 by Ian C. Esslemont, Transworld, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07475-6.
The story continues of the turbulent and troubled early history of what would become the Malazan Empire.  The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas. But some powers are alarmed And in the meantime, as Purge and Tali indulge in what seems like a their never-ending game of war, a mercenary caught up in the fight between the two states suddenly refuses to play along and causes all sorts of chaos. Simultaneously, a pair of escapees from Castle Gris make their way across this ravaged landscape of flame and butchery. Their intention to seek out the legendary Crimson Guard.

Vengeance Road by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41983-1.
This is the second in the 'Torpedo Ink' fantasy series.

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51044-6.
An irreverent urban fantasy from the pseudonymous Jackson Ford.  For Teagan frost, sh*t just got real.  Teagan Frost is having a hard time keeping it together. Sure, she's got telekinetic powers – a skill that the government is all too happy to make use of, sending her on secret break-in missions that no ordinary human could carry out. But all she really wants to do is kick back, have a beer, and pretend she’s normal for once.  But then a body turns up at the site of her last job – murdered in a way that only someone like Teagan could have pulled off. She’s got 24 hours to clear her name. And if she isn’t able to unravel the conspiracy, then the city of Los Angeles may be ripped apart . . .

The Girl in the Moon by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus,£8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54556-2.
Fantasy thriller. Angela's family bloodline allows her to recognise killers…

Siege of Stone by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69171-2.
Set in the world of the Sword of Truth saga, familiar allies and dangerous magic fight a legendary battle that may just destroy the ancient city of Ildakar.  The Sorceress Nicci, the Wizard Nathan Rahl, and the young swordsman Bannon remain in the legendary city of Ildakar after a great internal revolt brought down the powerful wizards council. But as he fled the city, capricious Wizard Commander Maxim dissolved the petrifaction spell that had turned the invading army of General Utros to stone fifteen centuries earlier. Now, hundreds of thousands of half-stone soldiers from the ancient past have awakened, led by one of the greatest enemy commanders in history.  The trio have to help Ildakar survive this unbreakable siege, using all the magical defences of the legendary city. But Nicci knows the battle won’t remain in Ildakar; if she can’t stop this threat, invincible armies will sweep across the Old World and destroy D’Hara itself.

Snow White and Other Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-83384-0.
Peopled by kings and princesses, witches and robbers, millers and golden birds, stepmothers and talking frogs, the tales gathered by the Grimm brothers are familiar, fantastic, and frightening. This selection, now in an attractive hardback edition, contains some seventy-nine stories, including all the best-known fairy tales, in sparkling translations by Joyce Crick.

Hearts of Ice by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29093-1.
A demon-infected cabal are plotting to remake the world for themselves . . . The fight for survival on Urte is reaching fever-pitch. Empress Lyra’s empire is spiralling into chaos and her only weapon is a magic she dare not use. Sultan Rashid is victorious on the battlefield, but now he faces a deadly enemy: winter. Unless he can shelter his armies, his plans face ruin in the snow.

The King by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-05363-5-3.
This is part of the 'Return of Ravana' series that re-tells India's Ramayana myth. In every life they’ve lived, Vikram, Amanjit, Rasita and Deepika have been persecuted by Ravindra on his quest to reincarnate as the Demon-King. Now Ravindra has captured Rasita. Demonic beings are rallying to his cause. His triumph is certain. Vikram must rescue Rasita – but in every past life, Vikram has died at Ravindra’s hands. This time, failure is not an option. If Ravindra wins, it will be for ever.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN978-0356-51152-8.
This is the author's debut novel.  In an ancient city an orphan, a ghoul and a cursed man are falsely accused of a crime. In attempting to try to clear their name a conspiracy is uncovered… A centuries-old magical war is on the verge of reigniting and in the tunnels deep below the city, a malevolent power stirs. Only by standing together can the three friends prevent a conflict that would bring total devastation to their city – and the world beyond.

Dragon Heart by Peter Higgins, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21216-9.
Post apocalyptic fantasy following a family's battle to survive in a world where evil has already triumphed.  As they fight their way across a dying land, Shay and Cass will do anything to keep their daughter, Hope, alive. The family faces unimaginable dangers as they try to stay together, and stay alive, long enough to reach safety. But when the heart of a dragon starts to beat in Hope’s chest, they fear they’ll lose her to a battle they can't possibly help her win...

Sanctuary by V. V. James, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22573-2.
Billed as Big Little Lies meets Practical Magic, Sanctuary is a biting cross-genre thriller about four women with a dark secret, who find themselves at the centre of a gripping murder investigation that sends shockwaves across the nation.  The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.  As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .  Strangely Gollancz's pre-publicity bills this as a debut novel. However V.V. James is the author (as Vic James) of a contemporary fantasy trilogy. Her debut, Gilded Cage, is a 2018 World Book Night pick and a BBC Radio 2 Book Club selection.

Tyrion & Teclis by William King, The Black Library, £15, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-96835-9.
An omnibus collection of the novels Blood of Aenarion, Sword of Caledor and Bane of Malekith.

Cala by Laura Legge, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54745-1.
A wondrous, incantatory debut novel about a coven of witches, set in the Outer Hebrides.  A coven of witches scrape out a pagan existence at a farmstead known as Cala. After ten years of relative harmony, fractures are starting to appear in the coven. Teenage Euna is beginning to hate its rigid hierarchy and its arbitrary rules.  Sick of scavenged seaweed and thin soup, Euna goes to beg food from Aram, a local fisherman and migrant. She finds herself easily seduced by the first man she’s ever seen, and entranced in turn by the power she holds over him. It’s the first in a series of transgressions that sees her flee the yoke of the sisterhood to venture into the modern world...  Cala mines the intense beauty of a shrinking language, and the haunting power that small communities hold over the imagination. It is a novel about the pains of not having a country, the creative force of language and tradition, and the way darkly beautiful things can grow in sunless places.

The Witch’s Kind by Louisa Morgan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51256-3.
From the pseudonymous Louisa Morgan.  Barrie Anne Blythe and her aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar – two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.  But two events threaten to upend their lives for ever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband – who is not quite the man she thought she married.  Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves – and the child they think of as their own – from suspicious neighbours, the government and even their own family . .

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50699-9.
Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods and a pretender must be cast down from the throne.  Listen. A god is speaking.  My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle. The castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne.  You want to help him.  You cannot.  You are the only one who can hear me.  You will change the world.

The Witch Who Courted Death by Maria Lewis, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42128-5.
Considering her status as the world’s most powerful medium, Casper von Klitzing and her twin brother Baristan have lived a pretty normal life – until now. After a horrific incident in her home city of Berlin, orchestrated by the mysterious Oct, Casper is consumed with vengeance towards an enemy she doesn’t understand. But the only other person ever to escape Oct was a witch – and so Casper is soon on her trail. But this witch does not want to be found. Diving headfirst into the supernaturally secretive world of spells, charms and covens, it’s not long before Casper is crossing more than just the line between the living and the dead . . .  Billed by the publishers as 'reinventing witches and ghosts with a much-needed feminist twist'.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87948-9.
A fantasy adventure. Here prophesy and magic combine in a powerful epic of imperial politics, dragons, gods and demons.  Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests – despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble’s mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees but he’s marked by a demon and his life will never be the same again.  That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince’s royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative’s dangerous schemes, but finds himself in far deeper waters.  He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land.

Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-978-1-788-54504-4.
A virus spreads through London, forcing those infected to commit horrific crimes. The first new horror novel from Graham Masterton in over three years.  Samira had been staring into her mirror all morning before she picked up the small bottle of sulphuric acid and poured it over her forehead.  She was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. What could have brought her to this?  DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting Police suspect it’s suicide.  But then a random outbreak of horrific crimes in London points to something more sinister.  A deadly virus is spreading: something is infecting ordinary Londoners with an insatiable lust to murder.  All of the killers were wearing second-hand clothes.  Could these garments be possessed by some supernatural force? The death count is multiplying rapidly. Now Jerry and Jamila must defeat the ghost virus, before they are all infected…

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore, Titan, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09062-8.
Film tie-in.

Mistborn: Secret Society by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22504-6.
This is a companion novella to the 'Mistborn' trilogy. Be warned, the publishers say, this contains spoilers and should be read after reading the trilogy. This novella previously appeared in the collection Arcanum Unbounded.  A must for Sanderson 'Mistborn' readers.

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21763-8.
Paranormal romance set ain a near-future. A security specialist gets himself entwined with a psy-changling.

The Glass Breaks by A.J. Smith, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69688-5.
An epic feat of world-building, The Glass Breaks is the first volume in a new trilogy from one of British fantasy’s most innovative voices.  Seventeen-year-old Duncan Greenfire is alive. Three hours ago, he was chained to the rocks and submerged as the incoming tide washed over his head. Now the waters are receding and Duncan’s continued survival has completed his initiation as a Sea Wolf.  It is the 167th year of the Dark Age. The Sea Wolves and their Eastron kin can break the glass and step into the void, slipping from the real world and reappearing wherever they wish. The Sea Wolves glorify in piracy and slaughter.  Their rule is absolute, but young Duncan Greenfire and duellist Adeline Brand will discover a conspiracy to end their dominion, a conspiracy to shatter the glass that separates the worlds of Form and Void and unleash a primeval chaos across the world.

Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhj&aacte;lmsson, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22410-0.
An Icelandic debut.  Saemundur the Mad, addict and sorcerer, has been expelled from the magical university, Svartiskóli. Obsessed with proving his peers wrong, he will stop at nothing to gain absolute power and knowledge. Garún is an outcast: a militant revolutionary and graffiti artist, recklessly dismissive of the status quo, she will do anything to achieve a just society, including spark a revolution. Even if she has to do it alone. This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavik fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, interdimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

A Bond Undone: Legends of the Condor Heroes Vol. 2 by Jin Yong, MacLeose Press, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-085-705461-6.
The Song Empire has been invaded by its neighbours to the north… This is billed as China's equivalent of The Lord of the Rings and apparently – reportedly according to the publishers says The Bookseller magazine – it has sold around 100 million copies, but actually Jin Yong has written over a dozen novels and all told these together have sold 100 million books.  Further, while the billing as being China's equivalent to The Lord of the Rings may have some cultural validity, potential readers should know that this is more a historical fiction with little discernable fantasy content.  Also, as biologists may have realised, the Condor is not native to Asia (but America). A more accurate translation of the original title might be 'Story of the Eagle-Shooting Hero'.  This edition marks its first English-language publication in Britain.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22311-0.
Debut novel.  Sisters Lu and Min become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor when their father declares their male cousin heir. Lu goes on the run to seek help from the last surviving wolf shape-shifter.


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 2019

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books


The Art and Making of Aquaman by Mike Avila, Titan, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09031-4.
This ties in with the new film.

Alita: Battle Angel – The Art and Making of the Movie Titan, £29.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65808-2.

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse – The Art of the Movie Titan, £29.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65946-1.

Making Eden: How Plants Transformed a Barren Planet by David Beerling, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-79830-9.
Over seven billion people depend on plants for healthy, productive, secure lives, but few of us stop to consider the origin of the plant kingdom that turned the world green and made life on Earth possible. As the human population continues to escalate, our survival depends on how we treat the plant kingdom and the soils that sustain it. Understanding the evolutionary history of our land floras, the story of how plant life emerged from water and conquered the continents to dominate the planet, is fundamental to our own existence. This book reveals the hidden history of Earth’s sun-shot greenery, and considers its future prospects as we farm the planet to feed the world. Describing the early plant pioneers and their close, symbiotic relationship with fungi, it examines the central role plants play in both ecosystems and the regulation of climate. As threats to plant biodiversity mount today, the resulting implications for food security and climate change, and how these can be avoided are discussed. Drawing on the latest scientific findings, this is a new take on how plants greened the continents.

There is no Plan(et) B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years by Mike Berners-Lee, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-108-43958-9.
Written by the brother of Tim (creator of the technology underpinning the world-wide-web), this charts the key things we need to do now if we are to achieve a sustainable, global future.

Universal Life: An Inside Look Behind the Race to Discover Life Beyond Earth by Alan Boss, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-10-86405-7.
Written by the Chair of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group this examines the Kepler space telescope mission that spent four years looking for Earth-like planets in our galaxy. A revolution in thinking about our place in the universe resulted. Are Earths commonplace, or rare? Are we likely to be alone in the universe? Only Kepler could answer these questions.

Earth from Space by Michael Bright & Chloe Sarosh, Ebury, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94353-9.
An astonishing view of our natural world as seen from space, accompanying a major 4-part BBC series with David Attenborough You don't know home until you leave it.  With over 200 spectacular images, including astonishing satellite images and stills from the BBC Natural History Unit’s footage, Earth from Space reveals our planet as you’ve never seen it before. For decades we competed to be the first to reach space, but it was when we looked back at Earth that we were truly awestruck. Now, for the first time, using advanced satellite images we can show the earth’s surface, its mega structures, weather patterns and natural wonders in breathtaking detail.

The Penguin Book of Hell by Scott G. Bruce, Penguin Classics, £11.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-143-13162-5.
Journey into the underworld through three thousand years of visions of hell, from the ancient Near East to modern America.  From the Hebrew Bible's shadowy realm of Sheol to twenty-first century visions of Hell on Earth, The Penguin Book of Hell takes us through three thousand years of eternal damnation. Along the way, you'll take a ferry ride with Aeneas to Hades, across the river Acheron; meet the Devil as imagined by a twelfth-century Irish monk - a monster with a thousand giant hands; wander the nine circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno; and witness the debates that raged in Victorian England when new scientific advances cast doubt on the idea of an eternal hereafter. Drawing upon religious poetry, epics, theological treatises, stories of miracles and accounts of saints' lives, this fascinating volume of hellscapes illuminates how Hell has long haunted us, in both life and death.

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins, Pan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89657-8.
The definitive classic account of the Apollo 11 trip to the Moon.  In July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the Moon.  Fifty years later, it is still one of the greatest achievements in human history.  In this remarkable memoir, a defining classic, Michael Collins conveys, in a very personal way, the drama, beauty and humour of that adventure. He also traces his development from his first flight experiences in the air force, through his days as a test pilot, to his involvement in Project Gemini and his first spaceflight on Gemini 10. He presents an evocative picture of the famous Apollo 11 spacewalk, detailing the joys of flight and a new perspective on time, light and movement from someone who has seen the fragile Earth from the other side of the Moon.

C. S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction by James Como, Oxford University Press, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-82824-2.
The writings of C. S. Lewis have a universal appeal. His 'Chronicles of Narnia' are by far the best known, but he was also a prolific literary scholar, essayist, broadcaster, novelist, poet, and Christian apologist. Following the chronology of Lewis’s life, James Como draws out the core themes of his writings, showing how his ideas evolved.

Origins: How the Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell, Bodley Head, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-847-92435-3.
How we evolved in our environment to become what we are.  This takes us far back in time to the point where history becomes science, and that unpeels the layers of this history to reveal not how we made the Earth, but how the earth made us. Why do so many of us eat cereal for breakfast? Is it because we like the taste? Or because 20 millions years ago, a certain species of plant colonised the same hospitable land that humanity did? Why is the world the way it is?  If we follow chains of explanation as far back as they go – and keep asking, like a curious child, ‘Why? Why? But WHY?’ – the answers become more and more amazing. We reach the point where history becomes science.  Plate tectonics and ancient climate change, atmospheric circulation and ocean currents – Origins unravels the human story by exposing vast webs of connections that stretch deep into the past, underwrite our modern world and help us face the challenges of the future.

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, Vintage Classics, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-87362-2.
When the eminent naturalist Charles Darwin returned from South America on board the HMS Beagle in 1836, he brought with him the notes and evidence that would form the basis of a world-changing theory: the evolution of species by a process of natural selection. This theory, published as On the Origin of Species in 1859, is the basis of modern biology and the concept of biodiversity. Its publication sparked a fierce scientific, religious and philosophical debate which continues to this day.  Important note: The advance publicity of this title makes no mention whether this is the first edition of On the Origin of Species or one of the several later editions.  You may want to check this out. If this is a first edition then this is the one that has the biology. The later editions get bogged down in rebuffing Christian fundamentalist arguments rallied against Darwin at the time.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, Vintage Classics, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-87363-9.
Reprint of something of a modern, popular science classic.  Why has human history unfolded so differently across the globe? In this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Jared Diamond puts the case that geography and biogeography, not race, moulded the contrasting fates of Europeans, Asians, Native Americans, sub-Saharan Africans, and aboriginal Australians. An ambitious synthesis of history, biology, ecology and linguistics, Guns, Germs and Steel remains a groundbreaking and humane work of popular science.

Our Universe An Astronomer's Guide by Jo Dunkley, Pelican, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-38539-5.
With clarity, warmth and humour, an astrophysicist walks us through the huge, unfolding history of the universe.  The night sky is an endless source of wonder and mystery. For thousands of years it has been at the heart of scientific and philosophical inquiry, from the first star catalogues etched into ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets to the metres-wide telescopes constructed in Chile's Atacama Desert today. On a clear night it is hard not to look up and pick out familiar constellations, and to think of the visionary minds who pioneered our understanding of what lies beyond. In this new guide to our Universe and how it works, Professor of Astrophysics Jo Dunkley reveals how it only becomes more beautiful and exciting the more we discover about it. Dunkley takes us from the very basics - why the Earth orbits the Sun, and how our Moon works - right up to massive, strange phenomena like superclusters, quasars, and the geometry of space-time. As she does so, Dunkley unfurls the history of humankind's heroic journey to understand the history and structure of the cosmos, revealing the extraordinary, little-known stories of astronomy pioneers including Williamina Fleming, Vera Rubin and Jocelyn Bell-Burnell.

The Naked Mind by Annie Grace, HQ, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-29346-8.
This explores alcohol and the biologically mediated pleasure it gives us.  It therefore provides insights for the reader to find freedom from drink.

How Population Change Will Transform Our World by Sarah Harper, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-78399-2.
Highlights the very different demographic trends in various regions of the world. Explains the implications of demographic changes for societies across the globe. This presents the sometimes surprising data about changing population age structures in different regions of the world. Against the backdrop of urbanization and climate change, drawing out the profound implications and challenges for societies, economies, and the environment in the decades to come.

You: A Natural History by William B. Irvine, Oxford University Press, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-190-869199.
This traces our species origin not only through biological evolution but the developing Universe from the Big Bang.

The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration: NASA and the Incredible Story of Human Spaceflight by John Logsdon, Penguin Classics, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-143-12995-0.
How NASA sent humans to explore outer space, told through the NASA archive documents. Among all the technological accomplishments of the last century, none has captured our imagination more deeply than the movement of humans into outer space. From Sputnik to SpaceX, the story of that journey is told as never before in The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration.

Climate Change and the Health of Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations by Anthony J. McMichael, Oxford University Press, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-190-93184-1.
A sweeping and authoritative analysis of how human societies have been shaped by climate events. He connects cases of natural climate change to plagues throughout history, issuing a warning about how climate has and will continue to determine our futures.

The Cosmic Mystery Tour: A High-Speed Journey Through Space and Time by J. Nicholas Mee, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-83186-0.
Dark matter, supermassive black holes, exoplanets – understanding the science of our universe can seem hopelessly out of reach to most of us. The Cosmic Mystery Tour changes all that. It is a brilliant and entertaining introduction to the discoveries of physics and astronomy with stories, explanations, and illustrations that open up the exciting frontiers of science. In 26 bite-size chapters, Nicholas Mee takes us on a lightning tour of the mysteries of the cosmos with stories about the characters who have made discoveries about it. It explores cosmology’s hottest topics and weighs up the possibilities that life might exist elsewhere in the universe. Illustrated in full colour and with chapter titles like Animated Atom Boy, Most of the Universe is Missing!, The Ultimate Heavy Metal Space Rock, and Life, But Not as We Know It!, this is the ultimate guide to the cosmos that presents all the latest information in a way that is genuinely accessible and fun for all.

Film Noir: A Very Short Introduction by James Naremore, Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-79174-4.
First associated with darkly seductive Hollywood thrillers of the 1940s and 50s, film noir has become fully international in its nature and appeal, attracting the interest of great directors right up to our present time. James Naremore introduces film noir, highlighting key themes, films, and styles, and exploring why the genre is so difficult to categorize.

Why Superman Doesn’t Take Over The World: What Superheroes Can Tell Us About Economics by J. Brian O’Roark, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-82947-8.
Why do some superheroes have day jobs? Why do villains keep trying even though they almost never win? Why don’t heroes simply take over the world? With deadpan humour, comic aficionado professor J. Brian O’Roark uses the tools of his day job -- economics -- to explain the angst of superheroes, and the world of superheroes to explain economics. Thanks to this unlikely alliance we discover that Spiderman’s existential doubts are all about opportunity cost; that game theory sheds light on the battle between Captain America and Iron Man; the Peltzmann effect makes sense of why heroes can go to the bad; sunk cost fallacy explains The Flash’s tragic dilemmas; and the utility curve helps us decide who is the greatest superhero of all.

Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker, Penguin, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-36023-1.
Matt Parker, the stand-up mathematician, shows us what happens when maths goes wrong in the real world.  Most of the time, the maths in our everyday lives works quietly behind the scenes. Until someone forgets to carry a '1' and a bridge collapses, a plane drops out of the sky or a building rocks when its resonant frequency matches a gym class leaping to Snap's 1990 hit 'I've Got The Power'. This book is all about what happens when maths goes wrong in the real world.  Exploring and explaining a litany of near-misses and mishaps involving the internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries and the Roman empire, Matt Parker shows us the bizarre ways maths trips us all up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world. Mathematics doesn't have good 'people skills', but we would all be better off, he argues, if we saw it as a practical ally. By making maths our friend, we can use it to our advantage and learn from its pitfalls.

American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology by D. W. Paskula, Oxford University Press, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-190-69288-9.
More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. In American Cosmic, D.W. Pasulka examines the mechanisms that foster a thriving belief in extraterrestrial life. Her work takes her from Silicon Valley to the Vatican Secret Archive and reveals how media has supplanted religion as a cultural authority that offers believers answers about non-human intelligent life.

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich, Oxford University Press, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-82126-7.
This tells the story of the breakthroughs in our ability to sequence ancient DNA, and as a result, how we can now use genes to identify population flows and interminglings throughout human history, and across the globe. These discoveries are truly revolutionising our understanding of who we are, and how we got here.

The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain by Gina Rippon, Bodley Head, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-847-92475-9.
An agenda-setting, myth-debunking book by neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon (Aston University) that demolishes the idea of biology as destiny and the myth of the male or female brain.  Reading maps or reading emotions? Barbie or Lego? We live in a gendered world where we are bombarded with messages about sex and gender. The belief that your gender determines your skills and preferences, and even if you’ve got what it takes to become a scientist, is deeply engrained. But what does this constant gendering mean for our thoughts, decisions and behaviour? And what does it mean for our brains?  Drawing on her life’s work as a Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging, Gina Rippon unpacks the stereotypes that bombard us from our earliest moments and shows how these messages mould our ideas of ourselves and even shape our brains.

The Moon: From Inner Worlds to Outer Space by Laerk Rydal Jorgensen & Marie Laurberg (eds), Thames & Hudson, £28, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-793-65906-7.
An illustrated exploration of the Moon tomark the50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Picador Classic, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87702-7.
The internationally bestselling story of a young woman whose death in 1951 changed medical science for ever . . .  Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences . . .  Rebecca Skloot’s account is the story of the life, and afterlife, of one woman who changed the medical world for ever. Balancing the beauty and drama of scientific discovery with dark questions about who owns the stuff our bodies are made of, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an journey in search of the soul and story of a real woman, whose cells live on today in all four corners of the world.  Now a HBO film starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.

Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin, Penguin, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-00448-7.
Quantum physics has been, ever since its inception, the golden child of science. It is the basis of our understanding of everything from elemental particles to the behaviour of materials. Yet is has also been a troubled child, beset by controversy and raging disagreement over which formulation best describes our world. It has helped physicists agree that atoms and radiation behave differently to rocks and cats, but often not on much else. The simple reason quantum physics is unsolvable, Lee Smolin argues, is that the theory is incomplete. In this radical new theory of reality, he aims to go beyond quantum mechanics to find a description of the world that makes sense to everyone: an alternative theory, based on the one that nature uses. In doing so, he takes away the mystery and confusion, and presents the quantum world in a way that is accessible to all - specialist and non-specialist alike. Einstein's Unfinished Revolution is a fresh take on the big questions of our universe.

The Royal Society by Adrian Tinniswood, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, 978-1-786-69189-7.
The story of a British scientific institution that has changed the way we look at the world.  The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge has been at the forefront of scientific endeavour for more than 350 years. Philosophical Transactions, published in 1665, established the concepts of scientific priority and peer review and is the oldest scientific journal in continuous publication. The 8,000 Fellows elected to the Society embrace the scientific leading lights of the last four centuries, including Newton, Darwin, Berners-Lee and Hawking.  The Society’s motto, Nullius in verba (‘on the word of no one’), is a reminder of its founders’ belief that hypotheses can never be taken for granted; that truths must be demonstrated or they are not truths at all. Adrian Tinniswood charts the fortunes of a remarkable organization and examines why the Royal Society has been a pivotal institution in the cultural life of Britain and the wider world.

Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A–Z of British and Irish Plants and their Folklore by Roy Vickery, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60462-8.
Written by a botanist who worked at the Natural History Museum, Kensington, London, from 1965 to 2007, this is a dictionary of the plants of Britain and Ireland: their common names and folk associations, from custom and superstition to medicinal.  Vickery’s Folk Flora is an encyclopaedic compilation of British and Irish plants and the folklore associated with them. It offers a unique wealth of previously unrecorded information, collected by the author over many decades. The result vividly demonstrates that plant folklore is not only surviving but flourishing; adapting and evolving as time goes by, in urban areas as well as rural areas. There is also fascinating new folklore resulting from Britain’s immigrant populations. The most common-or-garden plant can be newly appreciated in the most surprising of ways.

10 Women Who Changed Science, and the World by Catherine Whitlock & Rhodri Evans, Robinson, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-13743-2.
With a foreword by Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics, University of Cambridge and Master of Churchill College. 10 Women Who Changed Science tells the moving stories of the physicists, biologists, chemists, astronomers and doctors who helped to shape our world with their extraordinary breakthroughs and inventions, and outlines their remarkable achievements.  These scientists overcame significant obstacles, often simply because they were women, their science and their lives driven by personal tragedies and shaped by seismic world events. What drove these remarkable women to cure previously incurable diseases, disprove existing theories or discover new sources of energy? Some were rewarded with the Nobel Prize for their pioneering achievements – Madame Curie, twice – others were not and, even if they had, many are not household names.

Genesis: On the Deep Origin of Societies by Edward O. Wilson, Penguin, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-38859-4.
Forming a twenty-first-century statement on Darwinian evolution, the renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson offers a bold work of scientific thought and synthesis.  Asserting that religious creeds and philosophical questions can be reduced to purely genetic and evolutionary components, and that the human body and mind have a physical base obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry, Genesis demonstrates that the only way for us to understand human behaviour fully is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species. Of these, Wilson demonstrates that at least seventeen -- among them the African naked mole rat and the sponge-dwelling shrimp -- have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism and cooperation. Whether writing about midges who 'dance about like acrobats' or schools of anchovies who protectively huddle 'to appear like a gigantic fish, or proposing that human society owes a debt of gratitude to 'postmenopausal grandmothers' and 'childless homosexuals', Genesis is a pithy yet path-breaking work of evolutionary theory filled with the lyrical biological and humanistic observations for which Wilson is known.


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 2019

General Science News


The 2018 Nobel Prizes for science have been announced. The science category wins were:-
          Physics: Canadian Donna Strickland, France's Gerard Mourou and US American Arthur Ashkin for their work in laser physics.  Arthur Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers.  Whereas Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland paved the way for a technique to create very short and highly intense laser pulses called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA).  It should be noted that Donna Strickland is only the third woman winner of the award for physics, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.
          Chemistry: Brit Prof. Sir Gregory Winter, of Cambridge University, and US Americans, Prof.s Frances Arnold and George Smith for their work on enzyme synthesis.  Gregory Winter and George Smith developed the phage display of proteins and antibodies, while Frances Arnold developed a directed evolution of enzymes technique.  Together these works have made a considerable contribution in the biomedical sciences for protein synthesis.  Frances Arnold will take one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (£770,686; $998,618) prize, while George Smith and Gregory Winter will share the other half.
          Medicine: US American James P. Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo for their Immune checkpoint work on using the body's immune system against cancer.
          Economics: William Nordhaus (for work on the economics of climate change) and Paul Romer (economics of innovation – endogenous growth theory -- and sustainable growth).
          Literature: This prize was not presented this year, after the awarding body was affected by a seχual misconduct scandal.
          For last year's 2017 Nobel Prizes, see here.

This year's Royal Society Science Book Prize has been awarded.    Previously known as the COPUS Book Prize, the Rhône-Poulenc Prize, the Aventis Prize, the Winton Prize, and now the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize (it's a sponsor thing), this year's winner has been announced in this the awards' 31st year.  The winner is Inventing Ourselves by neurobiologist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.  The award is decided by a small jury panel.  +++ Last year's winner here.  +++ The 2018 Royal Society Young People's Book Prize has been awarded to Optical Illusions by Gianni A. Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber. This was decided on by 6,000 youngsters from over 350 schools and youth groups across the UK.

Science YouTube Channels you may like.  OK, so this is not strictly news, but as a couple of the SF² Concatenation team plus associated science friends have been enjoying these, we thought it high time we shared with fellow scientists into SF.
          First up, PBS Space Time.  This explores physics and astrophysics. Lots of quantum gravity, Hawking radiation, information loss (or not?) in the Universe etc, etc.  A number of episodes are at the proverbial New Scientist level of popular science but, be warned, many episodes are at the physics first-year-undergraduate level. Possibly to heady for some, but worth checking out.  And if your physics is not that strong then just check out the more astronomical episodes.  With nearly 1,500,000 followers, the PBS Space-Time Channel is here.  And a recent episode -- How to detect extra dimensions -- is fairly straightforward (though the Q&A on previous episodes at the end reveals the complexity of the channel's exploration of some topics).  Some episodes are of both science and SFnal interest for example ' Did Life on Earth Come from Space?' and 'The Origin of 'Oumuamua, Our First Interstellar Visitor'.
          Second, PBS Eon. The history of life on Earth. from the dawn of life in the Archaean Eon through the Mesozoic Era — the so-called “Age of Dinosaurs” — right up to the end of the most recent Ice Age. The evolutionary history of life including humans and other modern species is explored through the prisms of palaeontology, geology and Earth system science.  The PBS Eon channel is here.  And a sample episode, 'Can We Get DNA From Fossils?', is here.

Greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide reached new highs in 2017, with carbon dioxide at 405.5 ± 0.1 ppm (parts per million).  The World Meteorological Organization (the UN body that co-supervises the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin notes that the rate of annual increase for 2017 – though marginally down on 2016 – was higher than the average annual rate of increase for the decade 1985 – 1995.  The implication is that we are not beginning to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Accord.
          The Bulletin also notes that East Asia (likely China) has re-started production of the ozone depleting CFC-11 (chlorofluorocarbon-11).  This means that China is breaking the UN Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. (See World meteorological Organization (2018) WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, No. 14. WMO: Geneva.)  +++ Our Jonathan, wearing his climate science hat, warned back in 2009 our being unlikely to beat the climate change crunch. Since then, nearly a decade's worth of science developments support his – what increasingly, and unfortunately, seem to be – prescient conclusions!

Mining Bitcoin uses more energy than mining gold!  Researchers Max J. Krause & Thabet Tolaymat have calculated that the energy computers use to 'mine' cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is more than is needed to extract from the ground real rare metals like gold.  They say it takes about 17 megajoules of computer power to generate US$1 in Bitcoin, even when the energy used for peripheral activities, such as cooling computers, is not considered.  Conversely, it takes 5 megajoules to mine and refine US$1 in gold and 7 megajoules an equivalent value of platinum.  Over 30 months from 2016 to 2018, Bitcoin production incurred an estimated 3 million to 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is roughly equivalent to the r carbon dioxide produced by about 1 million cars, or 0.01% of global emissions.  (See Krause, M. J. & Tolaymat, T. (2018) Quantification of energy and carbon costs for mining cryptocurrencies. Nature Sustainability, vol. 1, p711–718.)

We need to de-carbonise global energy by mid-century if we are to keep global warming to below 2°C say IPCC.  The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, that says that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2040 if we are to stand a chance of keeping global warming below 1.5°C (above pre-industrial).  Even a short delay to achieving zero emissions by 2055 will see us overshoot 1.5°C but still gives us a chance to keep warming to below 2°C.  2°C is often seen as the safe warming limit but a 1.5°C warming limit is considered preferable.  Meanwhile 2017 saw a surge in carbon emissions.  +++ Our Jonathan has a comment on his satellite site.

The internet and IT communications (smart-phones) sector is set to consume 20% of the world's electricity by 2030.  Already the entire information technology (IT) sector - from powering internet servers to charging smartphones - is estimated to have the same carbon footprint as the aviation industry's fuel emissions.  Internet data centres alone are estimated to currently consume at least 1% of the world's electricity every year and account for about 0.3% of global CO2 emissions.  This is growing. The European Commission-funded Eureca project has found that data centres in EU countries consumed 25% more energy in 2017 compared with 2014.  With regards to internet traffic, streaming video accounts for the largest proportion of the world's internet traffic (that includes website access and email traffic. The trick will be to ensuring that the electricity used is non-fossil fuel generated.

Past Antarctic ice loss indicates future sea level rise.  We are currently in the warm part (an interglacial) of an ice age and human generation of greenhouse gas is set to make it warmer. We have had warm interglacials before interspersed with cold periods (glacials). The last interglacial took place 130,000 years ago and it briefly was a little warmer than today for a thousand years or so. This drove sea levels some 11 metres higher than today.  However, back then carbon dioxide levels were lower than today's levels so we can expect more warming but how much sea level rise? On this the IPCC (intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is silent as it (openly) ignores long-term feedbacks such as ice sheet response.  What we do know is that there is enough ice in the easy-to-melt West Antarctica to raise the sea level 3 – 5 metres, and enough in the East Antarctic for 53 metres rise. What we hoped was that the last interglacial's highest sea level was due to West Antarctica and Greenland melt and not East Antarctic which would ideally be stable.  What researchers (mainly from Britain and New Zealand) have now discovered is that sediments reveal that some of the melt came from the Wilkes Subglacial Basin in the East Antarctic. This confirms that if we enter a 2+°C warmer world (which is where we are heading unless we can cease emissions and then drawdown carbon dioxide) we will over a couple of thousand years see sea level rise of 11 metres and then more. (See Wilson, J. et al. (2018) Ice loss from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during late Pleistocene interglacials. Nature .


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Spring 2019

Natural Science News


Well done!  If you are reading this then evidently you have survived the Christmas / New Year festivities despite the odds, new research shows!  Two papers in the British Medical Journal tell of the risks of Christmas and festive holidays. First, Swedish researchers looking at 283,014 cases of myocardial infarction (heart attack) have found that there is an increase in the risk of having a heart attack of between over 10% and nearly 20% (95% confidence interval) on Christmas and festive holidays (such as New Year).  Meanwhile a second study in Canada of 217,305 patients shows that if you are a hospital patient but are discharged during the Christmas/New Year holiday period then they were more likely to be readmitted or, worse, die, than at other times of the year.  This is equivalent per 100,000 patients to 26 excess deaths.  For many the December holiday is filled with festive activities and potential physiological stressors (e.g., tense interpersonal exchanges, lack of sleep, increased intake of alcohol, sodium, and sugar). Secondly, decreased follow-up of those leaving hospital prior to the festivities (health workers have Christmas too) likely plays a part.  (See Mohammad M. A. et al, 2018, Christmas, national holidays, sport events, and time factors as triggers of acute myocardial infarction: SWEDEHEART observational study 1998-2013. BMJ, vol. 363, k4811,  and Lapointe-Shaw, L. et al, 2018, Death and readmissions after hospital discharge during the December holiday period: cohort study. BMJ, vol. 363, k4481.)

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a report on keeping warming to 1.5°C.  Its conclusions are that we can do this if we reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2040. However if we delay reductions even as little as a decade-and-a-half, to 2055, then we will see a temporary overshoot but still keep temperatures below 2°C.  Can we do this?  In theory yes! But do you really think our political leaders will deliver?  +++ Our tame Earth systems scientist (Jonathan) gives a view over on his own satellite site.  (See IPCC (2018) Global Warming of 1.5 °C. IPCC, Geneva.)

The population abundance of thousands of vertebrate species globally has seen a decline of 60% between 1970 and 2014.  The Living Planet Report 2018 comes from the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) and the Institute of Zoology of the Zoological Society of London.  As to the causes of the species decline, while climate change is a growing threat, the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the overexploitation of species, agriculture and land conversion.  A recent assessment found that only a quarter of land on Earth is substantively free of the impacts of human activities. This is projected to decline to just one-tenth by 2050.  We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the value of nature and the grave situation we are facing. We may also be the last generation that can do something about it.  ( See World Wildlife Fund & Zoological Society of London (2018) Living Planet Report 2018. Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Ed.s). WWF: Gland, Switzerland.)

First global state of fungi assessment published.  Despite early recognition of the importance of fungi for human well-being, and archaeological evidence for human uses of fungi in food, drinks and medicines going back at least 6,000 years, historically they have remained in the shadows when compared with research on plants and animals.  To begin to rectify this, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (the world's leading botanical research centre).Indeed, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has housed a Fungarium since 1879.  The report notes that while 68,054 animal species and 25,452 plant species have been assessed to ascertain whether or not they need conservation status, only 56 fungal species have been so assessed. It also revels that globally there is a trend for fungi moving polewards as the Earth warms. Indeed, it is predicted that in a warmer and overall wetter world fungi will play a greater role in ecosystem function. The report is titled State of the World's Fungi.

One of the first larger animals dated to 541 to 635 million years ago (mya).  This was the time of the Ediacaran. Microscopic animals (such as an early form related to Hydra) possibly evolved a hundred or more million years earlier, but being small and soft-bodied, the do not leave distinct remains. But others say that animals evolved later with the Cambrian boom that dates from after 541 mya.  What has happened now is that researchers have looked at the fossil remains of a larger species a couple of centimetres long called Dickinsonia that dates from the Ediacaran. They found traces of cholesterol compounds and these are anly associated with animals. (See Bobrovskiy, I. et al. (2018) Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals. Science, vol. 361, p1,246-1,249.)  +++ Further evidence to Earth's first life 3.95 billion years ago (bya) shortly after, if not during, the Late heavy Bombardment.

How old can humans live?  Re-visited.  Further to last season's report that beyond 105 years old, the annual chance of dying does not increase.  Up to then, it had been assumed that as you got older each year that your annual chance of dying increased; the research previously reported that this was not so and that the chance of dying each year remained the same. This meant that in theory you could – if you were lucky enough – live for a very long time: a bit like tossing a coin only with heads year after year.  As noted last time, some doubted the researchers conclusions which implied that in theory the most lucky could live for many, many years.
          What has happened now is that other researchers have poured cold water on this final conclusion (indefinite longevity for the very few) by using the original researchers' own data. They conclude that using the original researchers' model you would need a starting population four trillion aged 105 years old to get a 50:50 chance of someone reaching 150 years of age. Instead, the average maximum age expected in real life would be 120. To date, in real life, the oldest anyone has lived is Jeanne Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122 and this broadly ties in with the new researchers' conclusions. (See Beltran-Sanchez, H., Austad, H. N. & Finch, C. E., 2018, Comment on “The plateau of human mortality: Demography of longevity pioneers”. Science, vol. 361, 6,409.)

UK longevity has stagnated.  Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, for 2015-17, show that UK citizens' longevity has not increased as it has in the past.  Very roughly, UK longevity has tripled over the past two centuries. Since 1982 the ONS has been gathering data and the period of 2015-7 is the first time the ONS has not seen an increase in longevity.  The2015-7 period shows that UK women's life expectancy is 82.9 years and for men it is 79.2.  Further, it would appear that the UK is behind a number of other developed nations in longevity terms. These include Switzerland, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy: women in Japan are predicted to live to 87; men in Switzerland 81.5 years.  So what is going on?  Well, the number of centenarians decreased slightly between 2016 and 2017, reflecting low numbers of births during World War I, but this would also affect other European countries involved in that conflict. Teasing apart the data does reveal at least two key areas (among others) behind this stagnation. First, infant mortality is up, but this may be due to classification changes as child-birth survival is up and this may lead to early child death. Second, old age has seen a little earlier death. This could be because of UK austerity measures following the 2007/8 global economic crash: these have seen social care costs cut and health care budgets squeezed. Other factors include the decline in the immigration of young health people whose presence would reduce the average age at death per 1,000 people. And then there are the problems of increased obesity and related health issues such as diabetes.  jhat is known is that over the past decade the rate of increase in UK longevity has slowed; could we be at a tipping-point? It will be interesting to see how the US compares.  +++ Past related news includes: How old can humans live?  and  Future life expectancy in developed nations to continue to increase.

Daily aspirin for over 71s not recommended.  Regular readers of the British Medical Journal and the New England Journal of Medicine will be aware of the debate that has been raging for over two decades as to whether everyone who is healthy (such as those who have not already been diagnosed with hear problems) over, say, 50 years of age should receive a daily low-dose aspirin (single low-dose tablet) to ward off stroke and cardiovascular disease?  The evidence is debatable: some studies show a clear benefit and others less so; indeed aspirin itself can cause some problems such as reducing blood's clotting ability and colorectal cancer.  Australian and US researchers looked at over 19,000 in Australia and the US over 65 years of age in a study over nearly 5 years. Half the group were given low-dose aspirin and half a placebo.  As in other trials, the incidence of major haemorrhage (bleeding) was higher in the aspirin group than in the placebo group and amounted to an additional 2.4 serious bleeding events per 1,000 person-years of exposure. The conclusion of this ( McNeil, J. et al. (2018) Effect of Aspirin on Disability-free Survival in the Healthy Elderly. New England Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1800722.) and other recent research is that there is no benefit and possible harm to those over 71 years of age. This and other recent research does suggest that there is benefit for those in their 60s.   Editorial comment: To get a better understanding of the picture you need to read the academic literature.  To cut a long story short, the term 'low-dose aspirin' in many studies (including these recent ones) refers to between 80 and 120 mg aspirin: the Australian/US study looked at 100mg daily. However, even lower doses (say, around 50mg) seem confer much of the benefits with less of the problems. And, obviously if you have had a heart attack and have been prescribed aspirin then you should follow your clinician's advice.

Humans were not the cause of the extinction of large herbivores in Africa 4.6 million years ago (mya).  US researchers, led by Tyler Faith of the University of Utah, analysed large eastern African herbivore species extinction dates from 7 mya.  They found that between 7 and ~4.6 mya there was little decline in the number of large African herbivore species.  Megaherbivores (for example, elephants, rhinos, and hippos - species over 2,000 lbs.) began to decline about 4.6 million years ago, preceding evidence for hominin consumption of animal tissues by more than 1 million years. Also the evidence (from elsewhere) is that humans played a major role in the wave of megafaunal losses at the end of the Pleistocene, between about 10,000 and 50,000 years ago.  So why is there a marked rise in the African megaherbivore extinction rate rise, as the researchers detected, around 4.6 mya?  The researchers note that the rate of megaherbivore decline did not change following the appearance of Homo erectus ~3 mya. The researchers speculate that the extinctions between 4.6 mya and 0.3 mya were driven by climate cooling and their resulting environmental change (decline in tree cover and expansion of grasslands).  So, they argue, the climate change from before 4 mya onwards and the associated environmental/ecological change was the cause.(Of course, what we need is a similar study in America that had no human presence until 0.130 mya.) – See Faith J. T. et al (2018) Plio -Pleistocene decline of African megaherbivores: No evidence for ancient hominin impacts. Science, vol. 362, p938-941.

Humans ate chocolate over a thousand years earlier than previously thought.  Sonia Zarrillo and colleagues analysed the DNA from bottles and other items from the Santa Ana-La Florida archaeological site in Equador,S. America. This site was inhabited by the Mayo-Chinchipe culture 5,300 years ago.  The DNA came from Cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) from which chocolate is extracted.  Previously, the earliest known example of chocolate consumption was by pre-Columbians in Mexico 3,900 years ago. Though the genomic analysis of that sample suggests that the plants used to make the chocolate also came from somewhere in the eastern upper Amazon river region.  See Zarrillo, al (2018) he use and domestication of Theobroma cacao during the mid-Holocene in the upper Amazon. Nature Ecology & Evolution, doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0697-x.

Humans made booze – fermented vegetable matter – 13,000 years ago.  Could alcohol consumption have stimulated the domestication of crops hence settlements, civilization and ultimately space travel?  Israeli, Chinese Polish and US researchers have found a cave in Israel providing archaeological evidence for the earliest cereal-based beer brewing by a semi-sedentary, foraging people. The results of the analyses indicate that the Natufians exploited at least seven plant taxa, including wheat or barley, oat, legumes and bast fibres (including flax). They packed plant-foods, including malted wheat/barley, in fibre-made containers and stored them in boulder mortars. They used bedrock mortars for pounding and cooking plant-foods, including brewing wheat/barley-based beer likely served in ritual feasts ca. 13,000 years ago. These innovations predated the appearance of domesticated cereals by several millennia in the Near East.  Previously researchers, including one of those in this study, discovered that barley beer was made 5,000 years ago in N. Chuna. Conversely, this study (Liu, L., et al (2018) Fermented beverage and food storage in 13,000 year-old stone mortars at Raqefet Cave, Israel: Investigating Natufian ritual feasting. Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 21, p783-793.) shows that alcohol consumption took place not only earlier but before the domestication of crop species (such as rice).  It has long been speculated that the thirst for beer may have been the stimulus behind cereal domestication, which led to a major social-technological change in human history (permanent settlements and all that went with those); but this hypothesis has been highly controversial.

CRISPR tool developed to reveal gene activity or 'gene expression' over time. Some techniques already exist but these take snapshots of cell's gene activity and this is of little use if the cell only uses certain genes sporadically. What the Swiss-based researchers – Florian Schmidt, Mariia Cherepkova and Randall Platt – have done is to exploit the CRISPR-Cas system that bacteria use as a defence against viral DNA infection. The CRISPR-Cas system stores snippets of invading DNA so that the bacteria can recognise foreign (invading) DNA. The researcher have exploited understanding vaguely relating to a recent CRISPR RNA-editing development.  As RNA amount represents DNA activity and as CRISIPR 'spacers' increase in number with RNA amount, it is possible to use CRISPR-Cas based analysis to measure gene expression over time. This may not seem important, but it is. This technique does not tell us what genes are in a cell (we already have other ways of doing that) but what and, importantly, when they do. (See Schmidt, F., Cherepkova, M. I. & Platt, R. J., 2018, Transcriptional recording by CRISPR spacer acquisition from RNA. Nature, vol. 562, p380-385, and a review Beisel, C. L., 2018, CRISPR tool puts RNA on the record. Nature, vol. 562, p347-8.)

New Ebola outbreak is not an emergency says WHO.  The new outbreak in the summer of Ebola in the Congo is not a 'public health emergency' said the World Health Organization this autumn even if it is worrying. There has been good containment so far.

The Nigerian Lassa Fever outbreak is not one of a super virus.  Genomic analysis has revealed that while this outbreak's virus has mutated rapidly, transmission seems more to be rat-to-people rather than people-to-people. This last would be the hallmark of a super-virus.


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Spring 2019

Astronomy & Space Science News


Our Galaxy was hit by another galaxy 10 billion years ago.  European researchers working on the ESA Gaia observatory that determines the positions and movement of stars have analysed the motions of six million stars in the Milky Way disk.  Knowing where stars are today and their movements – including that some stars orbit the galaxy centre backwards – they infer that our present-day Milky Way galaxy must have been hit and ten merged with a galaxy a quarter the size of our original galaxy (i.e. a galaxy a fifth the size of our present-day one) some ten billion years ago.  This is long before our Solar system formed with the Earth itself forming some 4.6 billion years ago.  This small galaxy would have been a little larger than the Small Magellanic Cloud.  The researchers have called this small, impacting galaxy Gaia–Enceladus: in Greek mythology the giant Enceladus was the offspring of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (the sky), and Gaia–Enceladus was a giant compared with other past and present satellite galaxies of our Milky Way. (See Helmi, A. et al. (2018) The merger that led to the formation of the Milky Way’s inner stellar halo and thick disk. Nature, vol. 563, p85-8, and a review piece Venn, K. (2018) Evidence of ancient Milky Way merger. vol. 563, p43-4.)

Our Galaxy was perturbed between 300 million and 900 million years ago.  More from the European researchers working on the ESA Gaia observatory that determines the positions and movement of stars have analysed the motions of six million stars in the Milky Way disk.  They infer that the galactic disk must have been perturbed (as opposed to hit – see previous item) between 300 million and 900 million years ago, consistent with estimates of the previous passage of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy.  This means that the Galactic disk as we see it today is relatively young and took its present shape a little before our planet had a modern oxygenated (to around 20%) atmosphere. (See Antoja, T. et al. (2018) A dynamically young and perturbed Milky Way disk. Nature, vol. 561, p360-2.)

Low mass exo-planet found nearby only 1.8 parsecs (less than 6 light years).  It is orbiting Barnard's star.  Barnard’s star is a red dwarf and at a distance of 1.8 parsecs (under 6 light years), it is the closest single star to the Sun; only the three stars in the α-Centauri system are closer.  The deduced planet (confirmation is still required) is a cold super-Earth, with a minimum mass of 3.2 times that of Earth, orbiting near its snow line (the minimum distance from the star at which volatile compounds could condense). It orbits with a period of nearly 233 Earth days and is roughly the same distance from Barnard's star as Mercury is from Earth: it is because Barnard's star is itself a low mass star that makes the orbital period so long.. However it will be cold with a maximum surface temperature of just 105°K (-168°C) from incident sunlight alone; if the planet has a thick methane atmosphere it could be warmer.  also the suggestion of a planet further out with a period of 191 days.  (See Ribas, I. et al. (2018) A candidate super-Earth planet orbiting near the snow line of Barnard’s star. Nature, vol. 563, p365-8 and a review piece Díaz, R. (2018) A key piece in the exoplanet puzzle. Nature, vol. 563, p329-330.)

The detection of the first exo-moon may have been made.  Exo-moons are moons orbiting planets of other star systems beyond our own Solar system.  The detection has yet to be confirmed though the exo-moon hypothesis is the most likely one.  It was made by the NASA's Kepler satellite, and later the Hubble telescope.  These observations showed that the parent star's light dimmed first as the planet crossed in front of it and then as its moon did so.  The planet is likely several Jupiter masses but only roughly twice Jupiter's size, while the exo-moon has a mass and radius similar to Neptune.  However, caution is required. There have been a few other instances of potential exo-moon detection all of which turned out false on further examination.  (See Teachey, A. & Kipping, D. M., 2018, Evidence for a large exomoon orbiting Kepler-1625b. Science Advances, vol. 4, eaav1784).

Voyager 2 becomes the second human-made object to leave the Solar System!  Though launched only six months after Voyager 1, Voyager 2 has only now (November 2018) just left the Solar System: Voyager 1 left in 2013 having earlier crossed the terminal shock.  Voyagers 1 & 2 were launched 42 years ago way back in 1977, the probe is now 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth and its radio signal takes 17 hours to arrive here.  Voyager 1 will be the first of the two to reach another star which it will do in around 40,000 years time. It will move at such a speed that it will pass through that system and go into orbit about the Galactic centre along with the majority of the stars in our spiral arm.

Kuiper Belt object photographed by NASA New Horizon probe.  The object, Ultima Thule, is six light hours from Earth and bathed in light that is 1,900 times fainter than that of a sunny mid-day on Earth. This far out the temperature is just 30-40°K (Kelvin - degrees above absolute zero which in turn is -273°C). Ultima Thule is composed of two mountain-sizes boulders that together are 21 miles (33 km) in length.  Previosuly, New Horizons blasted off in 2006 and, having had a gravity assist from Jupiter, it reached Pluto in 2015.

Hayabusa-2 has reached asteroid Ryugu and deployed three rovers.  Launched by Japan's JAXA space agency in December 2014, Hayabusa-2 has reached the 900 metre wide 162173 Ryugu asteroid and deployed three rovers: two Japanese (Minerva-II A & B) and a German-French one.  162173 Ryugu is an asteroid that is thought formed at the very beginning of our Solar system's creation.

NASA's Osiris-Rex probe has arrived at asteroid Bennu.  Following a two-year journey, it will spend about two-and-a-half years at the asteroid. Following detailed mapping of the asteroid, in 2020 there will be an attempt to collect a 60 gram sample to be returned to Earth in 2023.  At 500m-wide Bennu is the smallest object, hence lowest gravity body, to be orbited by a probe. This means that even heat from the Sunward side of the probe will affect its orbit.

Launch of the 2nd ever probe to orbit Mercury has taken place (the first was NASA's Messenger.  Europe's (ESA) BepiColombo mission successfully launched on its 7-year journey to Mercury. It will take so long as it has to lose all the kinetic energy the probe has from Earth's orbit but not so much that it does not enter Mercury orbit: so much energy is involved that it is 8 times as much as it would to get the same mass-sized probe to Mars.  BepiColombo is named after the Italian scientist Giuseppe 'Bepi' Colombo who studied Mercury and calculated the orbit for NASA's Mariner 10's gravitational assist trajectory; Mariner 10 went into close orbit about the Sun making several fly-bys of Mercury in 1974.  ESA's BepiColombo mission features two orbiters: ESA's British built Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) that will map Mercury as well as its gravitational field (hence Mercury's iron core) and JAXA's (Japan's space agency) MagnItosphere Orbiter (MIO) that will measure particles hence Solar wind from the Sun.  The MPO will survey the planet in such details that it might even detect the 16 metre-wide crater that MESSENGER left when it crashed into the planet at the end of its mission. Meanwhile the MIO (Japan's largest contribution to date to an international space mission) will detect the very strong Solar winds around Mercury. This is of interest because exo-Earths orbiting long-lived but cool (so the exo-Earth's need to be close) red dwarf stars experience strong sun winds and this affects the likelihood of possible life on such worlds.  The BepiColombo mission around Mercury is expected to last two years (possibly a little longer) before conditions overwhelm it: temperatures will reach to around 400°C.

A past flood on Mars has been deduced from geology.  Ezat Heydari, of Jackson State University and speaking at a meeting of the Geological Society of America, has reported on his and his colleagues analysis of pictures taken by the Curiosity Rover. Curiosity has already discovered evidence for a lake in Gale Crater.  The rover has now examined about 400 meters of sedimentary rock that exists in the crater, including rocks thought to be 3.7 to 4.1 billion years old (in what is called the Noachian time). Back then Mars' atmosphere was thicker and there was free water on the planet.  The new analysis concerns structures that look like the Channelised Scablands in Washington State in the US. The Mars ridges are equally spaced but about twice the size of those in the Scablands. The Scabland landscape was formed on Earth more recently during the Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycle of 'ice ages' (though technically the entire cycles is an ice age with a series of warmer [interglacial]m and colder [glacial] times).  The notion being developed is that back in the Noachian, Mars had a largely ice covered southern hemisphere and a slightly warmer, largely sea covered northern hemisphere. The southern ice sheet would grow until bits melted sometimes generating floods. The 'Scablands' found on Mars look like they have been formed by floods about 10 to 20 meters deep.  Ancient Mars appears to be very similar to Pleistocene Earth, where liquid water is stable and able to support life. (GSA Press Release 2018 No. 18-37. Evidence of outburst flooding indicates plentiful water on early Mars.)

NASA's InSight probe has landed on Mars.  It was launched after Easter 2018.  This will be the first mission dedicated to understanding Mars' interior. How is the world is constructed from its core to its crust. InSight has three principal experiments to achieve this goal: Franco-British seismometers; a German-led 'mole' drill system to measure the temperature 5m down; and radio geo-positioning to ascertain Mars wobble.

China has landed a probe on the far side of the Moon.  The Chang'e-4 probe landed early in the New Year in the South Pole-Aitken Basin's Von Kármárn crater.  The crater is over 1,550 miles ( 2,500km) in diameter and 8 miles (13km) deep, one of the largest impact craters in the Solar System and the largest, deepest and oldest basin on the Moon.  It is possible that some of the Moon's mantle rocks will be exposed.  The probe also carries a German-built radiation experiment called LND as well as a spectrometer that will perform low-frequency radio astronomy observations.

And finally…

A Russian Soyuz malfunction caused an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.  90 seconds into the launch a problem occurred with the booster rocket between the first and second stages of separation. The capsule landed about 500km (310 miles) north-east of Baikonur, near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan. The two man crew were unharmed.


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Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
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Spring 2019

Science & Science Fiction Interface


The 2018 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:-
          Anthropology: Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.
          Medicine: Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.
          Biology: Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.

Genetically modified human twins have been created it is claimed, causing a science outcry.  Creating GM humans very much an SF trope, but is understandably deemed unethical by western science and is illegal beyond embryos of a few days old in some countries including Britain and, apparently, China.  The reasons for such ethical concerns are obvious and have been explored in SF from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) to The Boys From Brazil (1978).  What has happened is this. The Chinese biologist, He Jiankui, used the CRISPR-Cas system to disable the gene CCR5 which is implicated in HIV (the AIDS virus) infection; the idea being that the twins would be immune to AIDS.
          'It is claimed' because the work has not yet appeared in a peer-reviewed, primary research journal (hence we cannot provide an academic reference which we like to do to counter claims of 'fake news' as well as to provide our scientist-into-SF regulars with the starting point should they wish to delve further).
          There are multiple concerns with this claim beyond the purely ethical.  First up, the work was not necessary as the father (who has HIV) could have taken antivirals so that the HIV virus was not in his semen.  Second, some strains of HIV do not use CCR5 but CXCR4.  Third, we do not know how many cells of the embryo were gene-edited: if it was, say, just 80% then 20% would still be susceptible to CCR5 related strains of HIV.  Fourth, CCR5 are not just used by white blood cells: it is also implicated in brain physiology. So we do not know how the twins will develop.  Fifth, while CRISPR-Cas targets specific genes it also can hit similar sequence targets. Such off-target hits, if they occurred, would alter the twins genome in unforeseen ways.  But the ethical concern that is paramount is this: if the twins have offspring, then they will pass on this gene-edit to their offspring, and their offspring in turn to their offspring and so on. The human gene-line will be permanently altered.
          The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen at which He Jianku works says it was unaware that this research was taking place and has launched an inquiry.  At the very least, this is an oversight lapse by the university: how come it was not picked up by its ethics procedures?  He Jianku has bee on unpaid leave since February.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge may have real-life mathematical formula behind its cultural forgetfulness.  The 1984 SF novel Icehenge sees a Stonehenge-like structure made of ice discovered on Pluto.  The henge's origins are a mystery.  However it seems that the long-lived humans of the future have difficulty in retaining memories over a long period of time, and culturally things are forgotten including a number of details of a revolution on Mars in 2248.  Turning to real life, novels, songs, films, television series, sports people etc. fade from current cultural consciousness with time; name a top musical hall song from the 1890-1900 decade anyone?  Researchers have now had a paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour that describes how culturally memories fade. The researchers analysed online views of the Wikipedia profiles of around 1,700 sports stars, citations of almost 500,000 physics papers and 1.7 million patents, and online play counts of some 33,000 songs and 15,000 film trailers.  It had been assumed that our collective engagement with such things reduces fairly smoothly with time.  It now seems that our engagement with academic papers, films, pop songs and tennis players decays in two distinct stages.  However it appears that what happens follows more what is known as a biexponential function. This has two phases: a quick, fast falling initial one followed by a much slower decay path. Looking at the different categories studied, music it seems is the most transient with most songs having a sharp initial decline over six years.  Online biographies of the sports stars had the longest initial decline phase of about 20–30 years.  The researches hypothesise that this biexponential decline may be explained by the initial phase being due to person-to-person communication within society, and the later as to how well things are archived.  There are real life applications to this work. Safety failures due to low investment in measures against the ravages of storms (hurricane Katrina?) need us to subsequently remember the damage long after the incident leaves the news headlines if society is willing to pay for prevention measures against future calamities. The same goes for the need to regulate banks to prevent future financial crashes: have we really learned the lessons of the 2006/7 financial crash?  Lest we forget novels such as Icehenge, SF does feature stories and ideas of real-life relevance.  (See C. Candia et al, 2018, Nature Human Behaviour

New, non-moving-part airplane motor has been developed.  Apparently the Star Trek shuttle craft were an inspiration behind encouraging the elucidation of this new means of aircraft propulsion.  The key thing is that – unlike a jet engine or propeller – this new method of propulsion has no moving parts.  An electric field is applied to the region surrounding a fine wire called the emitter. The field induces electron cascades, whereby free electrons collide with air molecules and consequently free up more electrons.  This process produces charged air molecules in the vicinity of the emitter — a corona discharge.  These molecules collide with neutral air molecules, generating an ionic wind.  The physical mechanism behind the new plane's propulsion has been known for more than a century.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology research team have successfully demonstrated that an aeroplane with a 5-metre wingspan can sustain steady-level flight using this ionic-wind propulsion.  The test model plane had a mass of 2.5 kilograms, a flight velocity of 4.8 metres per second and a power requirement of 600 watts.  In the 1960s, various studies suggested that propulsion based on ionic wind was unpractical: only about 1% of the input electrical energy was used in propulsion.  The new prototype more than doubles this to 2.6%.  Three things make this possible.  First, it is now known that the energy efficiency improves substantially when the aircraft velocity is increased.  Second, many studies have shown that ionic wind can enhance the aerodynamics of plane wings.  Third, the technique could facilitate 'distributed propulsion' whereby an array of propulsion systems is spread along the length of the aircraft. This increases the total cross-sectional area and, in turn, the free stream mass-flow rate.  (See Xu, H. et al (2018) Flight of an aeroplane with solid-state propulsion. Nature, vol. 563, p532-5  and a review Plouraboué, F. (2018) Flying with ionic wind. Nature, vol. 563, p476-7.)

Star Trek Spock's planet Vulcan has been found.  Well, sort of… What has in fact been found is a planet orbiting 40 Eridani A, or Keid: Eridani A being the star around which Spock's home Vulcan orbits.  40 Eridani A, or Keid, is part of a triple star system that also comprises Eridani B and Eridani C.  Eridani B and C orbit each other with a period of 250 years, and these two in turn orbit Eridani C every 8,000 years or so.  The newly discovered exoplanet orbiting 40 Eridani A, or Keid, is the system Spock's Vulcan should be. However the planet detected is at least 8 times the mass of the Earth and mid-way in size between Earth and Neptune. While Vulcan is meant to be a high gravity planet – hence Spock's strength – it would not be that big.  40 Eridani A is an orange star, a little smaller than Earth's Sun and lies some 16.4 light years away.  The discovery was made by the Dharma Planet Survey that (unlike Kepler and TESS that looks for transits) looks for wobbles in the star's position. This is the first super-Earth detection from the survey.  Sadly, while the planet may have an atmosphere, it is too close to its sun for complex life to be logically likely, let alone live long or prosper. (Ma, B., Ge, J. & Muterspaugh, M, 2018, The first super-Earth detection from the high cadence and high radial velocity precision Dharma Planet Survey. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 480, p2,411–2,422.)

Taking a law module based on Harry Potter now possible in India.  The aim of the module, entitled 'An interface between Fantasy Fiction Literature and Law: Special focus on Rowling's Potterverse' is to 'encourage creative thinking'.  The module's lecturers note that, for example, social and class rights in India can be equated with the enslavement of house-elves and the marginalisation of werewolves…  The course is an experiment in pushing law students to "come out of their comfort zones" and to learn from a fantasy series that most of them grew up reading. Why Harry Potter and not some other genre phenomenon? Well apparently in India Harry Potter is more popular than Star Trek or Game of Thrones.  The module is offered at one of India's most respected law colleges: Kolkata's National University of Juridical Sciences.  The course's introductory section begins with two lines from Harry Poter: "Are you planning to follow a career in Magical Law, Miss Granger?" asked Scrimgeour.  "No, I'm not," retorted Hermione. "I'm hoping to do some good in the world!"

Millions of people go beyond Asimov's laws to help train artificial intelligence as to morals. In the course of this, they explore a dilemma that was central to this year's Short Dramatic presentation Hugo Award winner.  As artificial intelligence seems destined to make life-or-death decisions, it will need a moral compass.  Researchers are now beginning to work on this.  One international team has used millions of people making 39.6 million moral decisions in a citizen science experiment.  Referencing Asimov's I Robot (1950), they note that Asimov's laws, that entreat the paramount importance of human life, do not capture the complexities of many real-life situations.(This is one of those very rare examples of a primary research paper citing a work of SF.)  So they designed the Moral Machine: a multilingual online ‘serious game’ for collecting large-scale data on how citizens would want autonomous vehicles to solve moral dilemmas in the context of unavoidable accidents.  They then got millions of people to play the game.  The game involved variations of the trolley problem which itself achieved SFnal fame this year as the subject of the Hugo-winning short dramatic presentation winning episode of The Good Place 'The Trolley Problem'.  The player is the driver of a car with a family travelling towards a pedestrian crossing. A pedestrian steps out. Does the player swerve off the road into a wall so killing themselves and family, or run over the pedestrian?  What if there was no accompanying family in the car?  What if it was another family crossing the road?  What if the crossing was traffic-lighted and the lights were against the (therefore unlawful) crossing pedestrian(s)?  And so forth…  The citizen science moral machine's 39.6 million moral decisions were then mapped.  Interestingly, plotting the citizen science participants' locations onto responses saw roughly broad similarity in three distinct global regions (broad because NZ and Australia had similarity with UK, US and Canada): Western, Southern and Eastern.  Westerners tended to spare the young and more people. Eastern tended to spare more pedestrians and the lawful.  Southerners tended to spare more females, the young and higher status individuals.  This suggests that if such moral machines are used to program/train artificial intelligences, that their moral-based decisions might be different depending on which part of the world they were to operate!  (See Awad, E., et al (2018) The Moral Machine experiment. Nature, vol. 563, p59-64.)

Oumuamua could have had a Solar sail speculate US astrophysicists.  In 2017 Oumuamua became the first extra-Solar object detected.  The strange thing about this object was that it was eerily long and thin: in short somewhat 'rocket-shaped'.  Also it changed course slightly as it went around the Sun. As we previously reported, then teased, ' Perish the thought that the object was undergoing a minor course correction…'  It now seems that Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb have taken this idea seriously.  They explore the possibility that the excess acceleration results from Solar radiation pressure, including the possibility that it might be a lightsail of artificial origin.  They argue that a survey for lightsails as technosignatures in the Solar System is warranted, irrespective of whether Oumuamua is one of them.  Of course there are a number of problems with their light sail theory including that Oumuamua was tumbling.  See Bialy & Loeb (2018) Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?. Pre-print on arXiv.  +++ Meanwhile the interesting folk over at PBS Space Time have a comment on the likelihood of Oumuamua being alien technology.

Galileo found-letter was a justification to a friend against the Inquisition.  Science is science and science fiction is fiction, but there are instances when science fact is undermined by fictions; this includes for religious purposes.  Of these latter, perhaps one of the most famous examples is the Catholic church's opposition to Galileo's support for the Sun being the centre of the Solar System (the Copernican view) as opposed to the Earth being at the centre.  The story is reasonably well known but was coloured by Vatican politics, as opposed to it being a purely anti-science move by the Catholic church.  Nonetheless, Galileo had to face the Inquisition.  The 1613 letter by Galileo was found almost in plain site in the catalogue of the Royal Society (Britain's science academy representing research science interests). Essentially, it is Galileo's own defence and is a softer version of a letter that is already known. Galileo was formerly accused of heresy in 1633 and this letter was an early justification of his science view to a friend. The letter has been with the Royal Society for 250 years and was accidentally discovered Salvatore Ricciardo, a science historian at the University of Bergamo in Italy, who visited in August (2018) for another reason, and who browsed the online catalogue. A report on the incident in Nature notes that: "Galileo wrote the 1613 letter to Benedetto Castelli, a mathematician at the University of Pisa in Italy. In it, Galileo set out for the first time his arguments that scientific research should be free from theological doctrine. / He argued that the scant references in the Bible to astronomical events should not be taken literally, because scribes had simplified these descriptions so that they could be understood by common people. Religious authorities who argued otherwise, he wrote, didn’t have the competence to judge. Most crucially, he reasoned that the heliocentric model of Earth orbiting the Sun, proposed by Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus 70 years earlier, is not actually incompatible with the Bible." (Abbott, A. (2018) Lost Galileo letter reveals he tried to dodge Inquisition. Nature, vol. 561, p441-2.)

Quantum physics is often said to out-weird science fiction, but now it has become even weirder!  Assuming you know of Schrodinger's cat (if you don't then you may as well stop reading now) then a new take by Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich is causing a stir among quantum physicists.  In essence assume that there are two Schrodinger experiments taking place but instead of cats there are physicists each in their own box who have (for example an entangled) quantum communication between themselves.  The first physicist in the box tosses a coin which (let's say) comes up heads. The first physicist then relays this by quantum communication to the second physicist in anther box. This physicist uses quantum theory to determine the probability of the first physicist's answer. However (simplifying matters), this answer itself is a probability-dependent answer: it could be that the second physicist thinks the fist physicist tossed a 'heads' or it could be a 'tails'. The two physicists understanding could be different. This means that the standard interpretation of quantum theory gives an inconsistent description of reality and so cannot be used to determine what is real and what is a fiction as you'll never know whether you are probably detecting a reality or improbably detecting non-reality. (If you are a physicist you will want to check out Frauchiger, D. & Renner, R. (2018) Nature Communications, vol. 9, 3711.).

Uproar over publication of new homeopathy paper.  Homeopathy is supposed to work using dilute concentrations of a poison, immune reactive or inflammatory agent etc, but in such dilute concentrations that no molecule of the active ingredient may exist in the dose: water is said to have a 'memory' of this active ingredient.  Most scientists consider this no science fiction but utter fantasy.  To date, there has been no peer-reviewed publication of a paper that shows clear replication of randomised, controlled, double-blind trials of a successful homeopathic trial and many consider homeopathy at worst to be a multi-billion fraudulent industry or at best one that relies on the placebo principle (you can debate the ethics of that in your own time).  So the publication of a paper that supports homeopathy in a respected journal -- Scientific Reports -- has caused more than a little stir.
          The journal's editors have been slammed not only because of the paper's publication, but the paper itself admits that their research method had flaws that came to light in early peer-review.  (See Magar, S. et al, 2018, Ultra-diluted Toxicodendron pubescens attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and ROS mediated neuropathic pain in rats. Scientific Reports, 8 13562 and Guglielmi, G., 2018, Peer-reviewed homeopathy study sparks uproar in Italy. Nature, vol. 562 p173-2.)

And finally…

14 million people have had their Facebook account hacked.  The 21st century has seen new types of crime including cyber hacking and identity theft reminiscent of stories such as Shockwave Rider and Max Headroom.  The latest significant example has been that of Facebook having 14 million of its users hacked with data taken. This included people's: username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birth date, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches.  Facebook have declined to provide identity fraud protection for those affected.


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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 2019

Rest In Peace

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


Wendy Atkin OBE, the British epidemiologist, has died aged 71.  Much of her career was spent looking at cancer.  She worked with Jane Wardle on a trial of flexible sigmoidoscopy to use colonoscopy to detect the early, pre-cancerous signs of colon and bowel cancers.  she established the Cancer Screening and Prevention Research Group at St Mary's Hospital, London. That group looked at the screening of 400,000 adults. The results from this study encouraged the UK National Screening Committee to roll out a strategy in 2011 that is estimated to prevent 5,000 cancer diagnoses and 3,000 deaths a year.

John Allard, the British comics artist and writer, has died aged 91.  He is noted for his longstanding contribution to the Daily Mirror science fantasy strip Garth.

Paul Allen, the US computer technologist and entrepreneur, has died aged 65.  He encouraged Bill Gates to join him in co-founding the computer software firm Microsoft.  Among is business activities, of genre interest is his investment in aerospace and notably SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 to an altitude of 377,591 feet (115,090 m) -- around 70 miles. It therefore became the first privately funded effort to successfully put a civilian in suborbital space. It won the Ansari X Prize competition and received the US$10 million (£7m) prize.  His philanthropic science research activities include his creating the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the Allen Institute for Cell Science, and the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group for blue skies cutting edge bioscience research.  He also donated seed money to the SETI's Allen Telescope Array.  With regards to biological conservation, he contributed to Africa's Great Elephant Census, the University of British Columbia's Sea Around Us fisheries project, and was a founding member of the International Sea-Keepers Society. He also donated US$100 million toward the fight to end the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

Claire Anderson, the US fan, has died. She was on the committee of Norescon 3. She was a longstanding member of NESFA. She co-chaired Boskone 26 (1989) and Boskone 37 (2000) with her husband (Dave Anderson) among other contributions to the Boskone series of conventions.  She also contributed to APAs.

Paul Dale Anderson, the US SF/F/H author, has died aged 74.  His nearly 30 novels include: Claw Hammer, Daddy's Home, Winds, Abandoned, Icepick, Darkness, Light and Spilled Milk, in addition to hundreds of shorts.  He mainly wrote SF-horror that can be viewed as cautionary tales.  He served a term beginning in 1987 as Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association. And was Chair of the 2015 HWA Stoker Awards Long Fiction jury having served on Bram Stoker Awards juries for many years.  His writing pseudonyms included: Paul Dale, Dale Anderson, Dale Anderson, Dale Andrews, Paul Anders and Irwin Chapman, among others.

Anthea Bell OBE, the British translator, has died aged 82. She translated works from French, Danish and German winning several awards for her translation work.  Of science interest she re-translated Sigmund Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.  Of genre interest she translated the Asterix the Gaul graphic novels. Asterix had not been translated into English for a decade after it first appeared and became a hit in France because it was thought that the French word-play and puns could not be translated. However Anthea Bell was creative, to the point of even changing some of the support characters' names. Her changes met with approval of Asterix story writer Albert Uderzo who apparently once said that he wished he had thought of her quips for Asterix.  Anthea Bell was a proponent of 'invisible' translation whereby the illusion is created that readers are not reading a translation "but the real thing".

John Black, the US screenwriter, TV producer, and TV director, has died aged 85.  His best known genre contribution was his work on on the Star Trek (1966), and its sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Norman Breyfogle, the US comics artist, has died aged 58.  he is best known for his work on the DC Comics' Batman franchise between 1987 and 1995. He co-created the villains 'Ventriloquist' and 'Ratcatcher' with (2000AD) writers Alan Grant and John Wagner.  His other DC work, among much else, included that on Superman (1997–1998).  Sadly, the artist had a stroke in 2014 that put an end to his being able to draw.


Graham Connor     Graham Connor
Left: Graham 1982.                 Right: Jonathan & Graham 2017.

Graham Connor, the British physicist, SF fan and our founding co-editor, has died aged 61.  He graduated only with a 2:1 as – not only was this decades before university funding privatisation and its grade inflation – his lecturers said that they did not give firsts to students who never attended their lectures in the final year; though arguably this was another reason he should have received a first. As a result, he did not have the career he wanted researching gravity (his physics passion) in a top, international physics lab.  Instead, he had a career in aerospace building communication satellites: it was not rocket science (OK, well it was) and that got him to work with leading space technology companies including, among others: Marconi, British Aerospace, a two-year stint with the European Space Agency, and later with Astrium.  If ever you have made an international phone call in Europe, then most likely your signal will have gone through a microwave guide designed by Graham onboard the communications satellite.  Graham's work still orbits the Earth today!  But before his professional career, and subsequently, Graham was an SF enthusiast.  He entered fandom, while a student, in 1976.  Notably, in 1978 he edited Warwick University's SF society's fanzine Fusion.  He was a runner-up at the Keele University Unicon 1 (1979) short story competition (claiming he should have won) and then the following year won the short story competition at Unicon 2 (claiming he should have come second against what he considered was someone else's more worthy story).  He was on the committee of a couple of the Hatfield Polytechnic PSIFA Shoestringcons (now rebranded as Hertfordshire University PSIFA).  He was one of the film projectionists for the London area BECCONs of the 1980s as well as the BECCON Eastercon in 1987. That was the convention that SF² Concatenation was launched with Graham as co-editor. He was also the issue editor of its 1989 paper edition and has been with us throughout our history.  Though in recent years his mobility was greatly restricted, and even typing difficult, he could still cut and paste links to potential news items as well as come up with suggestions for site development. His last major contribution to SF² Concatenation was the recent creation of the series of articles (currently running) by scientists who are SF authors on their favourite scientists: the series was his idea.  He was a regular at Eastercons in the late 1970s though to the 1990s though only very rarely appeared on panels (he was one of the under-used fans of fandom). However, if space science buffs did chance upon him in the convention bar then they were guaranteed an interesting, highly informed conversation.  He, of course, attended other conventions than Eastercons, including the Novacons of the late 1970s through to mid-1980s, not to mention the 1979, 1987, 1990 and 1995 Worldcons and the non-British 1994 Eurocon (Timisoara): he attended the British-held Eurocons prior to that.  In the mid-1990s he began going to Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films (founded by a friend of SF² Concatenation, the late Harry Nadler) and went to the Fest most years through to the late 2000s: he considered the Manchester Fest the most convivial of conventions.  Following a major stroke in 2008, ill health prevented his travelling beyond his home's locale, let alone going to any more conventions: life became far more of a day-to-day struggle but, to those that knew him, the old Graham was still somewhere in there.  So for the past few years a few old PSIFAns met regularly near his home for a reunion, as did the past couple of years the former BECCON team.  These gatherings gave him a convention fan bar experience without the need to travel to a con.  We really had hoped for more time with him.  ++++ Stop Press: We have an illustrated article on Graham here.

We at SF² Concatenation really hope that you, our regulars, can help spread the word to those fans who may have known Graham before his stroke. (Graham subsequently had a low profile, not least because his mobility was so restricted and even typing was somewhat difficult.)  The Facebook link to 'like' as well as, importantly, copy-and-paste so as to 'share' is (Thank you Caroline at the BSFA for this.)  For those who are not on Facebook, the US-based File770  has a post at which comments can be left. (Again, thank you Mike.)  Finally, if you are on Twitter, then there's a post on our @SF2Concat post alerts feed you can like and/or re-Tweet should you wish – it links in turn specifically to this mini-obituary within this large news page.  In short, there are a number of ways in which you can help promulgate the social ripple: it may be unbeknownst you (as an SF buff) have (SF) social media followers, or even followers of followers, who knew Graham.  We really would like those who knew Graham in past years/decades to get a chance to say their goodbyes irrespective of wherever they are on the planet today.
          Finally, we are touched by those who have made contact and are truly sorry that we have not been able to give you individually as full a response as we'd have liked – consider this in part 'it' – but, as you may have guessed, things have been a tad frenetic this end: not least Graham's funeral is taking place around the time this edition goes on line.  All those who have helped spread the word in various ways are appreciated and we particularly value the support and kindness some of Graham's former professional colleagues have given Donna.
          We hope to have a more detailed In memoriam page, with photos, later in the year.  There is also the possible likelihood of a first generation PSIFA pub gathering in June but even if that PSIFA at 40 event does not happen, it may morph into a second wake for Graham. Either way, Graham's friends and past acquaintances would be most welcome, just get in touch.

April 2019 update: In memoriam article of Graham's life in space communications and SF here.


George A. Cooper, the British actor, has died aged 93.  He genre contributions include the films Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) and The Light Princess (1978). His television work includes episodes of: Doctor Who, Doomwatch, The Avengers, The New Avengers, and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

Maureen Dorris, the US fan, has died aged 78. With her longstanding friend, JoAnn Parsons, she founded the World Horror Convention.  She was active in Worldcon fandom and ran a number of their SWFA and ASFA suites.  She was fan GoH at ConStellation III (1984) and Chattacon XIII (1988).  She was also a Rebel Award winner in 1989.

Dave Duncan, the Scottish born Canadian SF/F writer, has died aged 85. He was a geoscientist by training and profession up to the age of 53 before becoming a full-time writer. He penned sixty books both SF and fantasy but mainly fantasy, though apparently he enjoyed writing SF and was disappointed that his SF did not have the following his fantast engendered.  He was a founder and then a life member of SF Canada, Canada's body for SF/F writers. His West of January (1990) and Children of Chaos (2007) were Aurora Award-winning novels.

John M. Dwyer, the US television and film set dresser, has died aged 83.  He is best know for his work on 38 episodes of the original Star Trek set starting with the episode 'Trouble with Tribbles and he was short-listed for an Emmy for the episode 'All our Yesterdays'.  Reportedly, his budget per episode in the mid-1960s was US$500 (£300) or in today's money US$4,500 (£2,700).  He also worked on one season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as all the Trek films from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) to Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).  The other genre films on which he worked included Terminator 2 and Alien: Resurrection.

Carlos Ezquerra, the Spanish comics artist, has died aged 70.  He is noted for co-creating with John Wagner the character Strontium Dog for Starlord (which then merged with 200AD and Judge Dredd for 2000AD. (Here see Judge Dredd: The Carlos Ezquerra Collection.)  He also drew the 2000AD vampire WII strip Fiends of the Eastern Front and strip adaptations of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat novels among other.  The character of Stogie from the long running 2000AD strip Robo-Hunter was given the full name Carlos Sanchez Robo-Stogie in tribute to Ezquerra, whose full name is Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra.  Ezquerra provided 2000AD strips with one of its distinctive looks. He announced he had lung cancer back in 2010 and had one removed, apparently saying who needs two to draw.  Longstanding squaxx dek Thargo miss him terribly.

Wendy Freeman, the British SF fan, has died aged 79.  She was inducted into the Knights of St. Fanthony at Briscon, the 1967 British Eastercon.

Ruth Gates, the Cyprus born marine biologist, has died aged 56.  She took her BSc and PhD at Newcastle University (UK) specialising early in coral bleaching. This led her onto breeding new strains of temperature and acid resistant coral.  She spent her life working on corals and became the Director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.  the first woman to be President of the International Society for Reef Studies.  She died tragically early of brain cancer.

William Goldman, the US novelist and screenwriter, has died aged 87.  Though he wrote much worthy mundane fiction, his genre contributions include:  the 1973 novel The Princess Bride (under the name Simon Morgenstern as a literary device which he built on beyond the book) and the screenplay for its 1987 Hugo Award-winning film adaptation;  the screenplay for The Stepford Wives (1975) – based on the novel by Ira Levin;  the early drafts of the screenplay for Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992); an unproduced screenplay for what would have been Good Old Charley Gordon (1964) based on the novel (1966) and Hugo winning short story (1959) Flowers for Algernon – another writer took over to write what became Charly (1968); and the screenplay for The Year of the Comet (1992).  He also wrote non-fiction including The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? and Other Essays (2001).

J. R. Hammond, the British academic, has died aged 85.  He is best known for having founded the H. G. Wells Society (the principal, British one; not the Timisoara, Romanian fan group).  His books include An H. G. Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances and Short Stories (1979).

Prof. Sir Charles Kao FRS KBE, the Chinese-born, British and US physicist, has died aged 84.  Having studied for BSc at Woolwich Polytechnic (now University of Greenwich) he took his PhD at University College London while also working at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories. He then returned to Hong Kong (where he had had his school education). He is best known for pioneering the development of fibre optics. As such he is also known as the "Godfather of Broadband", the "Father of Fibre Optics", and the "Father of Fibre Optic Communications".  The resulting technology was developed in parallel in both Britain and the US.  For this work, in 2009, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. Today, fibre-optic cables carry more than 95% of all digital data around the world.

Sir Aaron Klug OM FRS, the Lithuanian-born, South African-educated, British biophysicist, has died aged 92.  He won a scholarship that allowed him to complete his PhD degree at Cambridge, Great Britain. He was broad minded and was once deemed too radical to be granted entry to the US. The US's loss was Britain's gain. He moved to the University of London where he worked with Rosalind Franklin(of DNA structure fame) in the laboratory of crystallographer John Bernal.  he then moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge.  There, using methods from X-ray diffraction, microscopy and structural modelling to develop crystallographic electron microscopy in which a sequence of two-dimensional images of crystals taken from different angles are combined to produce three-dimensional images of the target. He studied the structure of transfer RNA, and found what is known as zinc fingers (the discovery that led to the development of zinc finger probes for targeting specific DNA sequences, before the more modern CRISPR methods) as well as the neurofibrils in Alzheimer's disease.  In 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural discoveries of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes. He was a past President of the Royal Sociey.

Gary Kurtz, the US film producer, has died aged 78.  His films include: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Dark Crystal (1982), Return to Oz (1985) and Slipstream (1989).

John Large C. Eng., the British nuclear engineer, has died aged 75. He was in his time arguably the most expert and respected independent consultant on nuclear safety. When he, having worked in the industry, went freelance his clients not only included industry, but government departments and agencies as well as environmental lobby groups.  He was in 2001,overseeing nuclear safety for the successful raising of the Russian nuclear-powered K-141 submarine, the Kursk. At the time of his death he was working on a report calling for the permanent closure of Britain's Hunterston B nuclear plant, which is currently offline due to cracks in its reactor's graphite bricks.

Leon Lederman, the US chemist turned physicist, has died aged 96.  In the 1950s he worked on parity violation in weak interactions. In the 1960s he discovered the muon neutrino, and in the 1970s the bottom quark.  The former affirmed that there was more than one type of neutrino. His work on muon decay showing a break in symmetry was paradigm shifting.  In 1988, Lederman received the Nobel Prize for Physics along with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino".  He also contributed to the founding of what would become Fermi Lab and became its second director.  With regards to his reach to the general public he wrote a number of books including, famously, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? (1993). This title was later used (by others) to describe the Higgs boson as 'the God particle'; something some physicists decry.

Stan Lee, the US comics super-hero creator and publisher, has died aged 95.  Born of Romanian Jewish immigrants to the US, in 1939 Stan Lee became an assistant at Timely Comics (part of the Martin Goodman publishers company). This later became Marvel.  There, Stan Lee created a number of comic characters with Jack Kirby, the first being the Fantastic Four (loosely based on a previous Kirby superhero team, 'Challengers of the Unknown', for DC).  Again with Kirby, he co-created 'the Hulk', 'Thor', 'Iron Man, the 'X-Men' and the 'Silver Surfer'. Jack did not get the recognition he sought and deserved from the company and so left (though recognition did come posthumously).  With Bill Everett he created 'Daredevil'.  With Steve Ditko he co-created 'Doctor Strange' and 'Spiderman'.  In 1969 Lee and Gene Colan created the Falcon, comics' first African-American superhero in Captain America (#117). All lived in a shared universe (as did Marvel's rival DC's characters).  As such Lee was one of the most significant contributors to the US Silver Age of Comics whose influence reached into its Bronze Age and then the early 21st century boom of Marvel superhero cinematic re-boots.  In many of these films Lee made a short cameo appearance. He also had a cameo on The Big Bang Theory.  Earlier in the year (2018) Lee had suffered from pneumonia though by the summer seemed to be over it. In November he was rushed to hospital and died later that day.  His achievements throughout his life ensured Lee had become a US popular cultural icon.

Giuseppe Lippi, the Italian SF/F editor, has died aged 65.  He entered Italian fandom when a student in Trieste. He later joined the staff of Robot in Milan, and more recently wrote columns in its newly resurrected incarnation.  In 1990 he was hired as editor of Urania, one of Italy's leading monthly literary SF magazines and a monthly digest. In recent years he was Urania's editorial consultant and well as Urnaia's publishers (Mondadori) paperback division.  He was friendly though could apparently be imperious in his dealings with professionals. He also translated a number of SF/F/H works from English into Italian including nearly all of H. P. Lovecraft oeuvre.

Pat Lupoff, the US fan has died aged 81.  She is noted for being the first woman to win a Hugo Award.  She and Dick Lupoff, her husband since1957, and Bhob Stewart co-edited the 1963 Best Fanzine Hugo winner Xero. The zines contributors included Anthony Boucher, Harlan Ellison, Ethel Lindsay and Fred Pohl. Many articles from the zine relating to comics were collected in the books All in Color for a Dime (1970) and The Comic-Book Book (1973).  Their collection, The Best of Xero (2004), was short-listed for the Best Related Book Hugo.  With her husband she also took part in cosplay at conventions.

Roger Mainwood, the British animator and film director, has died aged 65.  His genre contributions include work on: the film version of the US-French SF/fantasy comic Heavy Metal: The Movie (1981) trailer here;  the Christmas fantasy The Snowman (1982), the charming Walking in the air' clip here;  the nuclear apocalyptic When the Wind Blows (1986) trailer here;  a number of episodes of the children's fantasy TV series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends (1992-4);  The Wind in the Willows (1995) clip here.

Aubrey Manning OBE CBiol FIBiol, the British zoologist and broadcaster, has died aged 88. He wrote An Introduction to Animal Behaviour (1967) published by Cambridge University Press which ran to six subsequent editions. His television broadcasts included: BBC Two's Earth Story. He also presented biology series for BBC Radio 4.

Sue Martin-Smith, the Brit-born, New Zealand fan, has died aged 57.  She moved to New Zealand (NZ) with her parents as a toddler.  At college, she was the founding treasurer of the Auckland University Science Fiction Society.  Then in 1980 joined NZ fandom and the following year was on the committee of 1981 Norcon (Auckland).  She and her husband (Vince) co-founded the Phoenix SF Society (Wellington), She also was the NZ end of the group that established the Fan Fund of Australia and New Zealand, which is used to fund fan trips between the two countries.

Donald Moffat, the British actor, has died aged 87.  His genre contributions have included him playing: polar researcher Gary in The Thing (1982); President Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff (1983); and Dr. Arthur McPherson in The Terminal Man (1974). He co-starred as Rem in the TV series Logan's Run (1978).  He appeared in the episode 'The Star' of the The Twilight Zone series (1985). He appeared twice in the Six Million Dollar Man but, strangely, as two different characters – Lester Burstyn and Dr. Martin Davis (1975/6 respectively).  He and Kurt Russell are the only stars of The Thing to have worked with James Arness, who played the original monster in The Thing from Another World (1951): they both worked with him on episodes of the non-genre series Gunsmoke (1955).

Fred Patten, the US fan has died aged 78.  He was particularly interested in anime and comic fandom but also contributed to convention fandom.  He chaired Loscon XIV and Westercon 27 as well as working on numerous other conventions.  He edited Shangri L'Affaires when it was nominated for the 1963 Best Fanzine Hugo. His other fanzines include: Vukat, Foofaraw, Salamander and Selake.  In 1972, he and Richard Kyle started the Graphic Story Bookshop in Long Beach, California.  In 1977 he was one of the founders of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, the first anime fan club.

Douglas Rain, the Canadian actor, has died aged 90.  Training in both Canada and England, he became a Shakespearian actor.  However is genre contribution was to be the menacingly, beguilingly calm voice of HAL 9000 in the Stanley Kubric directed film of Arthur C. Clarke's screenstory, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  Here HAL's betrayal is a key moment in SF cinema.  It begins with HAL refusing to let Bowman back into the spaceship Discovery and Bowman having re-entered, HAL's deactivation.  Douglas Rain reprised the role in 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984): this film was based on the Clarke novel of the same title.

Lawrence Roberts, the US electrical eneineer, has died aged 81.  He is noted for taking a suggestion that the concept of packet switching and apply it to Apranet, an early version of the internet.  Roberts then developed the plan for Apranet. As such he is one of the internet pioneers.

Nicolas Roeg, the British film photographer turned director, has died aged 90.  His genre contributions include directing: Don't Look Now, 1973, based on the Daphne Du Maurierstory (trailer here); The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976, based on Walter Tevis' 1963 novel (trailer here), and The Witches,1990, and adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's novel (trailer here).

Nancy Roman, the US astronomer, has died aged 93.  An astronomer and NASA executive, she is known by many as the "Mother of Hubble" due to her work on the original planning of the Hubble Space telescope. She was the first Chief of Astronomy in NASA's Office of Space Science among other posts the held at NASA.  Academically, her work included that on the velocity of stars – especially high-velocity stars – and she discovered that that stars made of hydrogen and helium move faster than stars that included other, heavier, elements.  She also discovered that stars closer to the centre of the Galaxy tended to have more heavier elements.

Osamu Shimomura, the US-living, Japanese ex-pat, organic chemist, has died aged 90.  Aged just shy of his 17th birthday on the 9th August, 1945, he was walking home from the munitions factory – to which he had been mobilised – in Isahaya when there was a blinding flash of light.  He continued to walk home in a shower of black rain.  Once home, his grandmother put him straight into the bath and this – he later reflected – saved him from the long-term effects of fallout radiation from the Nagasaki blast 16 miles away.  On graduating from pharmacy college, he joined the lab of organic chemist Yoshimasa Hirata who asked him to extract and purify luciferin, the compound that enables the small marine crustacean Cypridina to glow.  He was successful in making very pure crystals. This work got him an invite to the US aged 32, paid for by a Fulbright scholarship.  There he isolated the luminescent compound from jellyfish and determined that it was a protein which he called aequorin.  This work eventually led to the discovery of the 'green fluorescent protein' (GFP). Others would develop the GFP gene as a marker for gene expression. For his discovery Osamu Shimomura co-won the Nobel for Chemistry in 2008.  He is the author of Bioluminescence: Chemical Principles and Methods (2006) and his autobiography Luminous Pursuit: Jellyfish GFP, and the Unforeseen Path to the Nobel Prize (2017).

Thomas Steitz, the US crystallographer, has died aged 78. He helped (with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Ada E. Yonath) elucidate the structure of ribosomes (structures within cells that read RNA to generate proteins). This knowledge helped us understand that a number of antibiotics work by disrupting bacterial ribosome function.  Thomas Steitz co-won the Novel for Chemistry in 2009.  His surviving wife, Joan, also worked on RNA and won the 2018 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science.

David Willoughby, the US fan, has died aged 67.  Active in US fandom for half a century, he was an aficionado of written SF accruing a large personal library of books, many of which were signed by the authors.

Scott Wilson, the US actor, has died aged 76.  His genre films include: The Right Stuff (1983), The Exorcist III (1990), Judge Dredd (1995) playing 'a Angel', and Radio Free Albemuth (2010).  His genre television work includes: The Twilight Zone 'Quarantine' (1986); The X-Files 'Orison' (2000); and five episodes of Damien (2016). However he will probably be best remembered for playing Hershel Greene in over 30 episodes of The Walking Dead (2011 – 4 & 2018).

Celeste Yarnall , the US actress, has died aged 74.  She played a lead role in Beast of Blood (1971). Her other appearances included The Velvet Vampire (1971) and Around the World Under the Sea (1966).  On television she appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966), Land of the Giants (1968) and twice on Star Trek 'The Apple' (1967) and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (2006).


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 2019

End Bits & Thanks


Locus magazine is 50 years old.  Locus is effectively the literary SF trade magazine for N. America but does touch upon written SF elsewhere. It can also be found in a more limited form online at (the online film reviews are particularly good).  Our best wishes for Locus' second half-century.

Well, that is 2018 done and dusted.  2018 was..:-

          the 10th anniversary of the publication of: The Quiet War by Paul McAuley;  Incandescence by Greg Egan;  and House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

          the 10th anniversary of our losing the following:  Forrest J. AckermanBarrington J. BayleyKen CampbellArthur C. ClarkeChris CooperMichael CrichtonThomas Disch,  and Ken Slater

          the 40th anniversary of the first radio broadcast of Douglas Adams' The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

          the 50th anniversary of the publication of Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, PhilipK. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Final Programme by Michael Moorcock.

          the 50th anniversary of the films: 2001: A Space OdysseyThe Planet of the ApesCharly (based on Flowers for Algernon);  and The Night of the Living Dead.

          the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8's voyage to and around the Moon.

          the 60th anniversary of the USA's space administration NASA.

          the 80th anniversary of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds that scared the US.

          the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Hampson the artist behind Dan Dare, as well as the SF authors Philip José Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon.  And 2018 was the centenary of women having the vote in Great Britain.

          the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the British Isles.

          and notably the 200th year since the publication of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. As Shelly's Frankenstein is often considered the first work of modern SF (before that there was proto-SF), 2018 can be seen to be the 200th anniversary of Science Fiction!



And now we are firmly into 2019 and a number of other anniversaries.  2019 will be..:-

          the 10th anniversary of the publication of:-
                              The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (co-Hugo winner)
                              Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
                              The City and the City by China Miéville (co-Hugo winner)
                              Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds (co-Hugo winner)
                              The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
                              Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (Hugo short-listed)

          the 10th anniversary of the following Hugo short-listed films:-
                              District 9
                              Star Trek

SF2 Concatenation staff 2010
And here's how some of us looked nearly 10 years ago in 2010.
(From the back: Graham & Donna Connor, Antuza Genescu and Jonathan Cowie.
Then front left Simon Geikie & Elaine Sparkes.
Front right: Laurentiu Demetrovivi, Dan Heidel and Alan Boakes.)

Frightening, huh?!


          the 20th anniversary of the publication of:-
                    White Mars by Brian Aldiss & Roger Penrose
                    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Hugo winner)
                    Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
                    A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
                    Forever Free by Joe Haldeman
                    Stardust by Niel Gaiman
                    Bios by Robert Charles Wilson

          the 20th anniversary of the first screening of the following media offerings:-
                    The Matrix
                    X-Files: Fight the Future
                    The Truman Show (Hugo Winner)
                    Ultraviolet (the British TV series)

          the 30th anniversary of Sir Tim Berners-Lee's proposal at CERN for the creation of what would become the World-Wide Web.

          the 50th anniversary of the publication of:-
                    Macroscope by Piers Anthony
                    The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner
                    The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
                    Ubik by Philip K. Dick
                    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (Hugo winner)
                    Behold The Man by Michael Moorcock
                    Up The Line by Robert Silverberg
                    Bug Jack Baron by Norman Spinrad (Hugo & Nebula short-listed)
                    Roadside Picnic by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky (short-listed for the John W. Campbell memorial Award)
                    Slaughter House-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

          the 50th anniversary of the first screening of the following media offerings:-
                    Beneath the Planet of the Apes
                    Colossus: The Forbin Project

2019 is also the 50th anniversary of the first person landing on the Moon (without the use of Cavorite).  The Lunar landing coverage also won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

          the 80th anniversary of Marvel Comics.

          the 100th anniversary of Doris Lessing's birth.

          the 150th anniversary of the first issue of the science journal Nature as well as the publication of Alfred Russel Walace's (who was effectively the co-elucidator of Darwinian evolution) The Malay Archipelago that noted the marked difference of species on either side of the 'Wallace' line (which we now know was due to continental drift).

What 2019 will be is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements  The United Nations General Assembly 72nd Session has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.  In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements and its applications, the United Nations has recognised the importance of raising global awareness of how chemistry promotes sustainable development and provides solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.  The International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements in 2019 will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Periodic System by Dmitry Mendeleev in 1869.


More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2019 upload in April
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' summer book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews.

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible, Arno Behrend, Jan Butterworth channelling Simon Litton, Fancyclopedia, Anthony Heathcote, Roberto Quaglia, Boris Sidyuk, Kel Sweeny, Peter Tyers and Peter Wyndham.  Additional thanks for news coverage goes not least to 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 (2018) also saw articles and convention reports from: Andrew Bannister, Darrell Buxton, Arthur Chappell, Ian Hunter, Cristina Jurado, Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten), Sam Peters, Roberto Quaglia, Peter Tyers, and Peter Watts.  Stand-alone book reviews over the year were provided by: David Allkins, Roland Amos, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, Connor Eddles, Karen Fishwick, Susan Griffiths, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Andrew Musk, Sebastian Phillips, Jane O'Reilly, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers and Peter Young.  'Futures stories' in 2018 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories by: Bo Balder, Hugh Cartwright, Krystal Claxton and Robert Dawson.  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-founding editor).  (See also our regular team members list page for further detail.)  Last but not least, thanks to Ansible, e-Fanzines, File770, SF Signal and Caroline Mullan for helping with promoting our year's three seasonal editions.  All genuinely and greatly appreciated.

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Summer 2019 period – needs to be in before the 3rd 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.

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