Science Fiction News
& Recent Science Review for the
Spring 2020

(N.B. Our seasons relate to the northern hemisphere 'academic year'.)

This SF & science news page builds on the
seasonal science fiction news previously posted.

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 2020

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Nothing to see here this season.  Now move along.

 

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 30 (1) Spring 2020) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Ian Irvine (marine scientist)
          Dublin – The 2019 World SF Convention - Marcin “Alqua” Klak
          30th Festival of Fantastic Films 2019 - Great Britain – Darrel Buxton
          British Fantasycon 2019 – Ian Hunter
          SF Convention Listing & Film Diary for the current year
          Plus over thirty (30!) 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 3 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 2020

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

Best SF/F books of 2019? 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 (obviously there are other worthy offerings as well as titles published elsewhere which also include some of these). We have a deliberately varied mix for you (alphabetically by author) so there should be something for everyone. So if you are looking for something to read then why not check out these Science Fiction and Fantasy books of 2019:-
          The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (dystopic political intrigue)
          Timiat's Wrath by James S. A. Corey (space opera)
          The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (post-apocalyptic mundane SF)
          The Wall by John Lanchester (mundane climate fiction)
          A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (wide-screen space opera)
          Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju by Kim Newman (fantastical horror)
          Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky (wide-screen space opera)
          The Poison Song by Jen Williams (sword and sorcery)
Last year's Best SF/F novels here.  (One last year was short-listed for a Hugo Award, and three made Hugo long-lists, two were short-listed for a Locus Award for 'Best Novel and one for 'Best Novella', one was short-listed for the Nebula, and one short-listed for the 2019 Clarke (Book) Award.)

Best SF/F films of 2019? So if you are looking for something to watch then why not check out these Science Fiction and Fantasy films of 2019. Possibilities alphabetically include:-
          Avengers: Endgame (Trailer here)
          Black Flowers (Trailer here)
          I Am Mother (Trailer here)
          Joker (Trailer here)
          Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Trailer here)
          Us (Trailer here)
Last year's Best SF/F films here.  (Two last year were short-listed for a Hugo Award of which one went on to win and two more made the Hugo long-list, three made it into the Ray Bradbury Award for 'Dramatic Presentation short-list' (presented with the Nebula Awards) one of which went on to win the Bradbury, one won a BAFTA, and one won a Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for Best 'Animation' Film, and also was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award for 'Best Film / Television Production', another garnered a Rotten Tomatoes 'Critics' Award and yet another secured the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for Best 'Horror' Film.)

          For details of our past choices subsequent award success over the years, check out our Best Science Fiction of Past Years - Possibly? page – This is an archive page of our previous beginning-of-year choices of year's SF books an film.  We compiled it because, as per above, in recent years in our spring news each January, 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 later in the year 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.

 

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo share the 2019 Booker Prize.  The award has been shared twice before, in 1974 and 1992, but the rules were then changed to supposedly prevent ties.  However, such was the quality of the shortlist (that featured two genre titles), this year the judges refused to bow to the rules and put forward both Atwood and Evaristo for the award.
          Atwood is the winner of particular genre interest with her newly released novel The Testaments.

The British Fantasy Awards were presented at FantasyCon in Glasgow.  The winners were:-
          Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award): Little Eve by Catriona Ward
          Best Novella: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
          Best Anthology: Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5 edited by Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly
          Best Artist: Vince Haig
          Best Collection: All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
          Best Comic/Graphic Novel: Widdershins, Vol. 7 by Kate Ashwin
          Best Film/Television Production: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Trailer here)
          Best Audio: Breaking the Glass Slipper
          Best Independent Press: Unsung Stories
          Best Magazine/Periodical: Uncanny Magazine
          Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds Award): Tasha Suri for Empire of Sand
          Best Non-Fiction: Noises and Sparks edited by Ruth E. J. Booth
          Best Short Fiction: 'Down Where Sound Comes Blunt' by G. V. Anderson
          The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award): Ian Whates

Canada's Prix Aurora Awards have been announced at this year's Can-Con. The Prix Aurora Awards are voted on by members of Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) and presented at Can-Con.  The principal category winners were:-
          Best Novel: Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
          Best Juvenile Fiction Novel: Cross Fire: An Exo Novel by Fonda Lee
          Best Short Fiction: 'Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach' by Kelly Robson
          Best Visual Presentation: Deadpool 2

Denmark's Niels Klim Award for 2019 has been presented at the country's national SF convention.  Its 8th year award winners were:-
          Translated works: Bornehjemslederen Clockwork Fagin] by Cory Doctorow
          Novella: 'De ansatte' ['The Employees' by Olga Ravn
          Novellette: 'Krinoline og kedsomhed' [“Crinoline and Boredom'] by Gudrun Ostergaard
          Short story: 'Verdensherredomme' ['World Domination'] by Jakob Drud
          and
          'Sortskørt' [Black Skirt'] by Kenneth Krabat

The 'Tiptree Award' is becoming the 'Otherwise Award'.  The Award is given for exploring gender in SF as well as other underrepresented voices and was named after the pseudonym of US author Alice Sheldon (1915-'87). Alice Sheldon was for much of her career widely assumed by readers to be a man as she wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree.  However circumstances (too painful for many so we will not repeat them here) relating to the passing of her partner had raised ethical questions (debatable in the UK, more so in the US) hence the decision to change the award's title.

China's 10th Xingyun (Nebula (or Galaxy) Awards have been presented by the World Chinese Science Fiction Society.  This is a juried award. The principal category wins were:-
          Novel: The Azure Tragedy by Hui Hu
          Novella: Flowers on the Other Side by A Que
          Foreign translated: The Golden Man: Collection of Philip K. Dick vol. 3 by Philip K. Dick.
We presume The Golden Man: Collection of Philip K. Dick vol. 3 is in fact Volume III, The Father-Thing that features the short 'The Golden Man'.

Germany's Curt Siodmak Prize (visual) was awarded by the SF Club Deutschland (SFCD) at their annual convention, Pentacon in Dresden, this year. The wins were:-
          Curt Siodmak - Film: Ready Player One
          Curt Siodmak - TV: The Orville

The 2019 World Fantasy Awards have been presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel (US).  The winners were:-
          Novel: Witchmark by C. L. Polk
          Novella: 'The Privilege of the Happy Ending' by Kij Johnson
          Short Fiction: 'Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake' by Mel Kassel
          Which tied with…
              ‘Like a River Loves the Sky’ by Emma Torzs
          Anthology: Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction edited by Irene Gallo
          Collection: The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
          Artist: Rovina Cai
          Special Award – Professional: Huw Lewis-Jones for The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands
          Special Award – Non-professional: Scott H. Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
          +++ For last year's winners see here.

H. G. Wellsian half-century marked.  In November (2019) the H. G. Wells Society in Timisoara, Romania, celebrated its 50 years of existence. Formed in 1969 as small literary circle, it originally came under the auspices of the Student's Cultural House (as it was named at that time and which in British Isles terms might be considered the students' union).  It began with just seven people.  The H. G. Wells literary circle was chaired by Ovidiu Surianu, one of the local branch members of the Writers' Association of Romania. In the 1970s the H. G. Wells Society attracted scores of students and young writers and artists, as well as published its own fanzine, Paradox.  As such it was one of the main engines of the Romanian Science Fiction the last fifty years. Indeed to some extent it still is. Someone recently suggested that it should celebrate its next big anniversary, its centenary, on Mars. Hope the Red Planet has Timisoreana beer.

Spain's national SF convention, Hispacon, marks 50th anniversary.  It comes under the auspices of the Spanish Association of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Terror (AEFCFT) and December saw its 50th anniversary iteration.  The first Hispacon was held in 1969 and has become almost annual since 1991. The 50th anniversary convention was held in the city of Valencia and as usual saw the presentation of the Ignotus Awards.

Ansible, the monthly British newssheet, had its 400th edition in November.  If one counts the early double number Ansible 2/3 as one issue and add in the thirteen extras that were given half numbers from 57½ to 362½, November's Ansible 388 was in fact the 400th issue of the Hugo Award-winning Ansible.  Editor, Dave Langford notes that his illustrious predecessor Peter Roberts’s 1979 announcement that ‘Checkpoint [an earlier newssheet] will be folding with the 100th issue, that being more than enough for any sane fan editor ...’  Happy birthday Ansible.

Free Bob Shaw collected speeches now available in the aid of TAFF.  This item deserves your attention, so stick with it.  Bob Shaw was a British SF author known for Orbitsville (concerning a Dyson sphere) and The Ragged Astronauts (Hugo short-listed, concerning a closely orbiting binary planetary system) and to whom – as one of three departed in 1996 – we dedicated our 1997 print edition of SF² Concatenation (see the bottom of p2 if you have a copy).
          In addition to being an author, he was also an SF fan and a regular at the British (national convention) Eastercons from the 1970s through to 1990s at which he gave humorous ('scientific') talks. (Note the quote marks.)
          His talks have been collected a number of times but with each successive iteration including more. Now, courtesy of Dave Langford's Ansible we now have the latest which has transcripts of all but his last.
          As an example of his humour, here is a short excerpt at the start of one of his talks when he explains that he will not be talking about Star Trek because he cannot think up any more Trek jokes. So he continues…:

It’s on the TV again, you know. “Space, the final frontier...” What’s final about it? – that’s what I’d like to know. It keeps coming back again and again – like a Brian Burgess pork pie – each time looking a little more plastic than the time before. Perhaps I’ve been mishearing that opening voice-over. Perhaps it says, “Space, the vinyl frontier...” My kids have watched some episodes so many times that they’re getting Spocks before their eyes. As I have said, as I have just demonstrated, I can’t think up any more good jokes about Star Trek, and I don’t want to descend to things like mentioning my favourite episode – the one in which Kirk loses his ship and is sacked for his lack of Enterprise.

          The book is freely available here taff.org.uk/ebooks.php?x=ShawTalks but you are encouraged to make a donation to TAFF.
          What is TAFF?  It is the Transatlantic Fan Fund to send either a fan from N. America to the British Eastercon, or a Brit fan to an American convention: the direction alternates each year and the TAFF delegate has to write a trip report.  See taff.org.uk.
          Similarly, for N.American fans, or non-N.American fans wanting to know the history of early N.American fandom there is also Rob Hansen’s anthology Challenging Moskowitz: 1930s Fandom Revisited. See taff.org.uk/ebooks.php?x=ChalMosk.
  ++++ The 2020 TAFF vote has taken place and Michael "Orange Mike" Lowrey has won.  He will attend Concentric, the 2020, UK Eastercon, in Birmingham. (www.concentric2020.uk) from 10th April to 13th April (2020).

Chizine, the Canadian horror small press accused of defaulting on authors' payments.  It has all been very messy and much reported across the genre community with many authors weighing in with accusations of harassment and bullying including serious swearing by the publishers.  You can easily search-engine more should you wish. A reasonably detailed appraisal can be heard on the Horror Show podcast here thehorrorshowbk.projectentertainment.libsynpro.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-chizine-the-horror-show-with-brian-keene-ep-244

SciFiPortal.EU announced its closure last month (December 2019).  For the past seven years, Sci Fi Portal irregularly posted links to, articles and con reps of items of, European SF interest and especially, non-Anglophone items, though the content was in English. Despite, we are told, it recently had changed its Internet Service Provider (ISP) from a US based one to a Romanian ISP that made things a little cheaper, the principal webmaster had other ventures to embark on and decided to step down. Providing an online resource year-after-year is draining (as we all too well know after 32 years).  There is some tentative talk of either a rescue or archiving by some volunteer fans.  We've been told the cousin site devoted to Romanian Science Fiction, SRSFF, is to continue.

Odyssey Summer 2020 Writing Workshop now open for applicants.  Over its 25-year history, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become known as one of the most effective programs in the world for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  Class meets for over 4 ½ hours, 5 days a week, and students use afternoons, evenings, and weekends to write, critique each other's work, and complete other class assignments.  Each year, writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror from all over the world apply to Odyssey. Fifteen are admitted. The application deadline is 1st April 2020. Those wanting early action on their application should apply by 31st January. All applicants receive feedback on their writing sample.  The 2020 workshop will be held from 1st June to 10th July 2020 on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.  The tuition, US$2,320, includes a textbook, weekly group dinners, and weekly snack breaks. Housing in campus apartments is US$892 for a double room and US$1,784 for a single.  Lecturers for the 2020 workshop include: Brandon Sanderson, Yoon Ha Lee, J. G. Faherty, Barbara Ashford and Scott H. Andrews, with participating via Skype: Carrie Vaughn, Sheila Williams (editor of Asimov’s) and John Joseph Adams (editor of Lightspeed).  See www.odysseyworkshop.org.

 

Other SF news includes:-

The Netherlands is bidding to host the 2024 Eurocon.  If the bid succeeds it will the first Dutch Eurocon and first major international SF convention held in the Netherlands since the 1990 Worldcon in the Hague.  The bid's venue city is Rotterdam and for the month of August.  This begs the question as to whether they plan to hold it a neighbouring weekend to the recently, officially launched British Worldcon bid for that year?  If it did then some folk going to one might go on to the other.  Here, if they go for a neighbouring-to-Worldcon weekend, the interesting question is whether they will go for the weekend?  If after, the smaller event makes for a relaxacon after the five hectic days of a Worldcon.  Having said that, both the Irish Eurocon's after the 2014 and 2019 Worldcons suffered from attendees taking with them cold/flu bugs (con-crud) contracted at those populous events.  Conversely, the weekend before might be an interesting warm-up prior to a possible British 2024 Worldcon (if it wins the bid) and if the Dutch Eurocon bidders have a range of European nationals among their Guests of Honour and on a full programme?  We will see how the bid shapes up.

The 2019 SMOFcon organisers criticised.  SMOFcon is the convention for SF Worldcon organisers. At any one time there are two seated Worldcons (the current and next year's) plus several bids for future years and so there are a few hundred organising committee and bid committee as well as staff members active in the Worldcon organising scene.  SMOFcon is the annual convention that attracts a few score of these but their content also reaches out to some of the broader Worldcon community.  One of the regular features of these conventions is the reports from the various Worldcon bids as well as seated conventions and these respond to a standard set of questions.  However, this year the number of questions was increased from 21 questions to 71. This changed was announced just 13 days prior to this year's event that took place in December.  Furthermore it was only announced via Google Docs.  As Google Docs cannot be accessed by some schools and colleges (as Google Docs can be used to circumvent content control filters) as well as some nations such as China (one of the current Worldcon bidding nations), this too was criticised in addition to the short notice afforded.  Why any SF website uses Google Docs, or any third-party site (they invariably harvest data), is a mute point; haven't such folks read the likes of Brunner, Gibson and Orwell?  SMOFcon apologised.

The 2020 Wellington, New Zealand Worldcon is calling for folk planning to go to let them know their access requirements. If any planning on going have disability or accessibility requirement for accommodation, the NZ team are confirming hotel information to share with the conventions members later this year, and need to know accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15th October 2019.
          The attending adult membership rates for NZ 2020 went up from NZ$400 to NZ$425 on 1st October 2019. This gets you the remaining (roughly six-monthly) three Progress Reports, short-list nominating and then voting rights for the Hugo Award, and an attending pass for all five days of the convention as well as the souvenir book and programme booklet on the day. It also gives you the right to vote on the 2022 Worldcon site selection bids.  As the convention gets nearer the price will rise further.  So don't delay, book today.

The 2020 Worldcon set for Wellington New Zealand, has opened accommodation booking.  Details are on the conzealand.nz website and there is also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media @CoNZealand.  Other things to note, if you are bringing under 14 year-olds then you need to be aware that it is illegal to leave under 14s unattended.  Further, it maybe cold and wet in Wellington's winter for the 2020 Worldcon but there are still plenty of things to do beyond the Worldcon, from museums, coffee houses, real ale bars and cinematic exhibits.  CoNZealand Co-Chairs, Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates spill the (coffee) beans on why Wellington is a good host city for Worldcon 2020.  See their 4-minute video here.

The 2020 Worldcon Progress Report 2 now out.  It contains some details for the accommodation options (relating to the accommodation booking now being open as per the previous item above.  There is also a page on some tourist ideas given that this Worldcon will be held during southern hemisphere New Zealand's winter.  Also in the mix are the competition to design the base for the 2020 Hugo awards, a call for any other bids for the 2022 Worldcon site selection and the proposed changes to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) constitution under whose auspices the Worldcons are held.  Registered members will have received a paper copy but anyone can download a PDF from the convention website. (Plus point, the PDF has active links to hotel websites and other useful information sources. The down point is that the PDF is large for the size of the document. Someone seems to have forgotten to compress the images prior to making the PDF, or does not realise that storing and accessing the servers that take care of the exponentially growing internet traffic currently generates over 50 million tonnes of oil equivalent in carbon a year!  We all have a duty to make internet use as energy efficient as possible. Reducing the size of unnecessarily large files is but one very obvious and very easy way.)  CoNZealand Worldcon 2020 seeks programme ideas and specialist knowledge participants.

Hugo Awards 2020 – The nomination period for the 2019 works an people has begin.  The Hugo Awards for 'science fiction achievement' are presented each year at the annual Worldcon in various categories including: novel, novella, long-form dramatic presentation (film or TV mini-series) and short form dramatic presentation (TV episode).  Members of 2019 Dublin Worldcon and members of the 2019 Wellington Worldcon, CoNZealand can nominate works and people in the various Award categories.  Only those of CoNZealand who had registered by the end of 2019 will be able to nominate.  Simplifying matters somewhat (as there is a complicating E pluribus measure to prevent slate voting to counter past Sad Puppy Hugo rigging) the most nominated works and people will then make up a short list in April.  Only members of the 2019 Wellington Worldcon, CoNZealand will be eligible to rank vote on the final ballot consisting of short-listed works and people. This final round of voting will commence sometime in April.  The Awards will be announced and presented at CoNZealand later this summer (or southern hemisphere winter as it will be in Wellington and this year's SF Worldcon).

2020 GUFF Call for Nominations Europe to Australasia and the NZ Worldcon in Wellington.  GUFF is the Going Under (or Get Up-and-over) Fan Fund which transports SF fans from Europe to Australasia (and vice versa).  Nominations in the race to send a European fan to Worldcon in Wellington, New Zealand (29 July-2 August) are open to anyone who was active in fandom prior to January 2018.  Depending on the length of trip they’re able to make, the winner could also consider visiting other parts of New Zealand and Australia to visit fans. The winner will also be required to take over the administration of the fund for the next northbound and southbound races.  More information is available on the Oz Fan Funds GUFF page at http://ozfanfunds.com/?page_id=146.  Even if you don't wish to run for this yourself, give some thought to who might be a suitable candidate - perhaps you could offer to nominate them?

The 2021 Worldcon, Discon III, Washington DC, USA news is so far rather sparse given it is a seated bid less than two years away!  Since winning the bid, reported last season, they have recruited most of their staff.  They have two conference venues next to each other and the space they have booked can reportedly cater for 10,000 (though whether that excludes the main auditorium is not clear: it is the specialist programme space that is the bottleneck!). However, they have given assurance that, as they are only hiring half of one of the venues, they still have the option of hiring the other half.  Given London 2014, Helsinki 2017and Dublin 2019 Worldcons saw woefully overcrowded specialist programming (many simply missed out on a good number of programme items) Discon III will be expected to have learned and provide more than adequate specialist programme space.  They also plan to develop their website.
          Importantly for potential non-US registrants for 2021, given the recent, stricter US visitor regulations, the convention will provide an invitation letter to accompany visa applications. In the event a visa is refused to these people, their registration fee will be refunded to supporting (enabling them to Hugo vote and site select) or full refund as they request.

The sole bid for the 2022 Worldcon is for Chicago, US.  The venue will be the Hyatt.  The bid team say they have a good, almost fannish, relationship with the venue which can accommodate 6,000.  As the sole bid, and ahead of the site selection vote (to take place at the NZ 2020 Worldcon) they are assembling a provisional staff team.  A very good sign, as it tends to be the less well-organised Worldcons that sort out their staff and post-bid plans after the bid is won.

There were five bids to hold the 2023 Worldcon.  The site selection vote for 2023 will take place at the 2021 Worldcon.  Two US bids have dropped out: New Orleans and Spokane.  The three extant bids are:-
          Memphis, Tennessee, US The convention centre proposed venue is being rebuilt to accommodate larger events. The rebuild is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.  The Sheraton Hotel is attached.
          Chengdu, China.  Chengdu's GDP is apparently equivalent to that of Norway.  Currently the bid are looking at two venue options.  The bid is working with the Chinese government. They hope to have a special visa arrangements for those attending the Worldcon should they win the bid.  The bid team cannot control the data protection of registrants but as the bid has the support of both the local and central government the bid team hopes that something will be sorted. However, at the 2019 SMOFcon (the convention for Worldcon-runners) the bid team seemed to be unaware of data protection regulations in the west (such as GDPR in Europe).  What they did say was that they are active discussions with the authorities to ensure that there will be unrestricted internet access at the venue (normally the internet is restricted in China with some western sites blocked).  Specialist programme items will be mainly in English but there will also be Chinese and translated/bilingual items, much like the Japan Worldcon in 2007.
          Nice, France.  Their main proposed venue has a main auditorium holding 2,500 seats and two others holding 750 seats. There are 10 smaller rooms for specialist meetings.  If the Worldcon is small this should suffice, however if it is of the size of recent European venues Worldcons it will not be nearly large enough.  Most of the programme tracks will be in English.

The bid for the 204 Worldcon will be in Glasgow, Great Britain.  We reported on the Glasgow venue decision last year.  There is now more convention space, and hotel rooms actually on site compared to the previous Glasgow Worldcon in 2005.

Seattle, US, is currently the only extant bid for the 2025 Worldcon.  The Perth, Australia previously reported bid has withdrawn.  This is regrettable but possibly for the best given the problems with the previous Australian Worldcon in 2010.
          Seattle, US.  The Worldcon has previously been held before in Seattle back in 1961.  Since then there has been much change that will enable it to handle a modern Worldcon.  The proposed main venue has 45 rooms for specialist programme streams with a main auditorium across the street with a capacity of 2,800 people.

And finally….

What is a Worldcon?  If you are relatively new to this site, or are not aware of how Worldcons (and allied national cons listed on our diary page) differ from things like Comic-Cons then here is a short, two-minute, explanatory video here.

 

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 2020

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:-
          Ad Astra (Trailer here)
          Gemini Man (Trailer here)
          Joker (Trailer here)
          Zombieland: Double Tap (Trailer here)
          A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Trailer here)
          Terminator: Dark Fate (Trailer here)
          Addams Family (Trailer here)
          Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Trailer here)

DVD still king as Avengers: Endgame becomes second most digitally viewed at home film of 2019.  BASE (British Association for Screen Entertainment) figures for 2019 show that the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was the most digitally viewed film in UK homes in 2019 with 1.7 million copies sold.  The second most popular film was Avengers: Endgame, which sold just over 1.3 million copies.  However two thirds of these sales were as DVDs with the remaining third streaming downloads.  DVD is still king.  Or is it…
          The above picture is simplistic.  While DVDs, Blu-Ray and 4K UHD are still very popular for big hit films, they are less so as an overall medium, UK sales in 2019 decreased from £616.9m in 2018 to £477.2m last year, a drop of 22.6%.  Meanwhile streaming, grew.  Streaming grew by 21.5% to £2.11bn in 2019, boosted in part by increased take-up of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Nonetheless, regarding big films DVDs, Blu-Ray and 4K UHD are still king: every one of the year's Top 10 biggest films sold more on DVD and Blu-ray than they did through digital streaming.

Shooting hero becomes a Jedi Master.  There was a mass shooting incident at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA, on 30th April 2019.  There were five victims, two of whom were killed.  One of the latter was 21-year-old, environmental studies student, and Star Wars fan Riley Howell, who tackled the killer yelling to his classmates to go but was himself shot three times.  Riley Howell's actions impressed the hierarchy at LucasFilms who decided to re-imagine him as a Star Wars character, referenced as Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell in the visual dictionary companion books for The Rise of Skywalker film.

The 2020 London 48-hour SF film challenge to take place 17th April, budding film makers take note.  The 12th annual Sci-Fi-London 48hr Film Challenge is open to anyone, anywhere in the world.  On 17th April 2020, Sci-Fi-London will give registered teams four elements to use in their film. Registration opens early next year but you can start prepping now. Scout locations, talk to potential cast and start your kit list!  See http://48hour.sci-fi-london.com for the full rules etc.  ++++ Previous Sci-Fi London 48-HourFilm Challenge winner gains Hollywood contract and films Monsters and then Rogue One.

Arthur C. Clarke does well at Philip K. Dick Film Fest.  This was the 6th iteration of the film fest which was held in two parts: October 25-26 in Lille, France and October 31-November 1 in Cologne, Germany.  During which the Fest presented its Awards but the category of interest is arguably not the juried ones but the audience award with the broad tranche of the Fest's fantastic film buffs' views coming to the fore.  This year was a good one for Arthur C. Clarke and the short film director (that is a director of short films and not that the director is short of stature) Dominique Filhol.  His short, Nine Billion Names of God is based on the Clarke short story of the same name (note, short story and not 'novel' as is cited in the film's trailer).  It was voted by the audience as the best short of the film fest.  (The other Fest Award categories are juried.) See the trailer for it here.

The Terminator is facing the 'Termination law' in copyright dispute.  In the US, Congress passed a law in the late 1970s.  It allows authors to reclaim intellectual property (IP) rights from Hollywood studios 35 years after publication. The law's purpose was to give creators the chance, if they wished, to have their works adapted more than once.  In 2018 a judge upheld the termination notice filed by Victor Miller, screenwriter of the first Friday the 13th film, so other writers are now looking at their rights.  Here, enter Gale Anne Hurd (currently a producer of The Walking Dead) who co-wrote the original Terminator (1984) screenstory with James Cameron (who also directed it). (We'll skip over the similarity with the Harlan Ellison short story and its The Outer Limits adaptation that got Harlan's name on the credits.)  Currently Skydance owns the IP rights on The Terminator but 2019 was the 35th year since the The Terminator's release in 1984 and so from November 2020, under 'Termination law', the IP rights should revert to Cameron and Hurd.  The question is whether Skydance will contest this? Complicating matters include the province of trademarks and foreign distribution rights (you know how litigious the US society is) and so expect much court drama.

Disney is reportedly putting old 20th Century Fox films on ice.  20th Century Fox films became the property of the Walt Disney Corporation after its US$7.3 billion purchase of the studio’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.  Apparently, part of the 20th Century Fox back catalogue is no longer available for screening in cinemas, hence film fests.  This includes films like The Omen (1976) and The Fly (1986).

Disney looses Game of Thrones David Benioff and D. B. Weiss from helming new Star Wars trilogy.  With The Rise of Skywalker being the final in the reboot trilogy and also the final offering in the triplet of core Star Wars trilogies, Disney and Lucas Films had green-lit a new post-Skywalker trilogy and also a second new trilogy helmed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss who worked on the Game of Thrones television series. (It is likely that as each film will take a couple of years to come to screen, they will alternate the releases so that one film will come out each year to keep the franchise going.)  David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have now decided to drop their forthcoming Star Wars commitment so as to focus on their Netflix work as there are only so many hours in a day.

Forthcoming Jurassic Park sees original cast.  Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in Jurassic World 3.  The original, Hugo and triple Oscar winning, Jurassic Park film (1993) was based on the 1990 Michael Crichton of the same name.  It has been reported that the three will appear alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the stars of 2015's Jurassic World and 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  The latter release saw Goldblum reprise his role as Dr Ian Malcolm, having previously done so in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Neill and Dern reprised their roles as Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler in 2001 film Jurassic Park III.  The forthcoming Jurassic World 3 is the sixth Jurassic film and is currently slated for 2021.
++++  Previous vaguely related news covered elsewhere by SF² Concatenation includes:-
  - Mammoth genome sequenced. - One small step to Jurassic Park
  - Dinosaur's genetic evolution outlined from modern descendent species' genomes

Stars call for the Justice League alternative cut to be released.  When Justice League came out in spring 2018 it only briefly appeared in the weekly cinematic box office top ten; it did so badly that it did not make our SF/F film top ten for that year, and we felt it not good enough to be included in that year's worthies that slipped through the net.  Time for a recap.  A few years ago the film's original director, Zack Snyder, had a family tragedy and had to drop out in post-production: that I to say, the film had been shot and they were in the adding of effects and edit stage. The film was then taken on by Joss Whedon and it was his cut, other material and edit that was released.  Following the film's release, there were a lot of unhappy fans some 180,000 of whom submitted a petition calling for the film to be re-released as it was before Joss Whedon go in on the act. But Warner Brothers did not respond releasing the alternate, Snyder version.  Then earlier last year (2019) Zack Snyder was filmed apparently telling a fan that a version of the film based on his original vision existed.  This was then reportedly confirmed in November (2019) by Jason Mamoa (Aquaman in the film) who said that the public should see this version.  Ben Affleck (Batman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Ray Fisher (Cyborg) all agree.  Apparently, Snyder would be happy for his version to be released…

The Joker was only just out and they started tentatively thinking about a sequel.  Though the film was pitched as a one-off, director Todd Phillips says a sequel is possible and he would be up for it.  Much depends on the film's box office take for Warner Brothers to green light a follow-up. Yet, as it accrued a record US$13.3 million (£10.5m) on its preview night, prior to general release, in North America the decision to at least consider a follow-up seemed inevitable.  Subsequently, within a month of its general release Joker earned US$258.6 million (£323.25m) in North America and US$529.5 million (£661.9m) globally.  Joker therefore has already passed Deadpool as the top-grossing R-rated film.  By mid-November (2019) Joker became the most profitable comic book film of all time, having made more than US$950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.  That month Joker took more than 15 times what it cost to make.  The film had a production budget of US$62.5m (£49m). This compares with the successful Avengers: Endgame the highest grossing film to date of all time, which earned nearly US$2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but it had a budget of US$356 million (£276m), not quite an eight-fold return on its production investment. So per dollar investment by mid-November Joker had given its producers nearly double the return.  Before that month ended, Joker became first R-rated film to make US$1billion (£772m) at the global box office.

The Invisible Man H. G. Wells 1897 novel has a new, loosely-based adaptation.  The latest take on the classic still has a deranged protagonist but this time he is stalking his wife.  When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see…  The new version is out in February (2020).  Trailer here.

Fantasy Island, the 1970s TV show, has a new cinematic horror take.  This take is a horror adaptation of the popular '70s TV show about a magical island resort.  The enigmatic Mr. Roarke, makes the secret dreams of his lucky guests come true at a luxurious but remote tropical resort. But when the fantasies turn into nightmares, the guests have to solve the island's mystery in order to escape with their lives.  It is out for Valentine's Day 2020.  Trailer here.

Venom 2 slated for an autumnal release, possibly October 2020.  The filming of the Marvel Comics anti-hero follow-up to the 2018 production (trailer here) started back in November at the Warner Brothers Studios Leavesden in Watford, Great Britain.  Tom Hardy is returning as Eddie Brock/Venom and Michelle Williams as Anne Weying.  With the first film’s director, Ruben Fleischer, occupied making the Zombieland sequel, actor-turned-director Andy Serkis will be taking over: Andy Serkis is no stranger to motion capture and animation effects.

Spider-Man (or Spiderman) is to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  As noted last season, Sony acquired the film rights for Spider-Man back in 1999 and Disney and Marvel studios own the rights to all the other Marvel Comics superheroes. In 2015 the Sony came to a deal with Disney and Marvel Studios to bring Peter Parker and his Spider-Man into the Disney/Marvel universe of films and five were made. And then they failed to come to an arrangement to continue…
          The good news this season is that fan pressure, Tom Holland (the current Spiderman star) and, not by any means least, the profit motive has seen a deal done.  Disney is to put up a quarter of the cost for the third Tom Holland Spider-Man film, currently slated to screen in 2012, by Sony and gets a quarter of the profits, returning Spider-Man to the MCU for Spider-Man 3 and one other MCU film by Disney featuring Spiderman.  So, all's well that ends well.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse to have a follow-up.  Sony have announced that the Hugo-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (which we also cited as one of the best films of 2018).  The film also took some US$370 million (£296m) at the global box office, and – if a Hugo and our citation was not enough for you – garnered an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.  It is currently slated for the northern hemisphere spring of 2022.  (Trailer for the original here

Ant-Man 3 has been green lit.  Peyton Reed, the director of both Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp will return to direct a third Ant-Man film.  Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and Hope Van Dyne (The Wasp) will reprise their roles.  Peyton Reed, the director of both previous films, will return to direct this one.

Doctor Strange 2 director fired.  Director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel reportedly over 'creative differences' with Marvel.  Scott Derrickson directed the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, co-starred Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams, and had been working on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that had been tentatively slated for 2021.  Apparently Scott Derrickson wanted a dark interpretation but apparently Marvel might have been concerned it would not get a PG-13 certificate in the US, though Scott thought it would.  He will, though, remain on as executive producer.  The first Doctor Strange film has made £519 million (US$678m) globally.

Star Trek 4 in the re-boot series is now still, surprisingly, on with Noah Hawley onboard!  The big problem is that a big studio owns the Star Trek franchise and they want and expect big money.  Yet while almost every Star Wars film since the first in the final trilogy has made over US$1 billion (£800m), aside from the first Star Trek re-boot (2009), none has so far made more than US$500m (£400m).  Arguably there is more pulling the franchise down other than director Abrams' lens flare problem (which he has continued to do despite toning it down a little after an apology) or that visually the new Star Trek space scenes are so crowded, or even the overly comic portrayal of Scotty by the otherwise brilliant Simon Pegg.  But the bottom line is that the last two Trek films -- Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) – have failed to perform.  Yet, as we reported last year Paramount have apparently two Star Trek films in pre-production.  The latest news is that Noah Hawley is onboard to write and direct the next one in the series.  Noah Hawley is best known for directing Legion and creating the TV series Fargo.  As for the possible Quentin Tarantino Trek film, well that is becoming less likely since Tarantino's announcement that he wants to retire. Though an 18 (R-rated) Tarantino Trek film would be something.

Deadpool 3 has been green lit.  Production is under way by Disney at Marvel Studios Ryan Reynolds is reported as saying.  The word also is that it will remain an R-rated (almost equivalent to 18 in British Isles and R18 in Australasia).

The Rise of Skywalker: Deathbed fan gets early screening.  Rowans Hospice in Waterlooville, Hampshire, Tweeted the concern of SF fan and terminal patient who was worried that he might not see the final in the trilogy of trilogies he had been waiting to see for 40 years since the original film.  Long story short. Disney chief executive Bob Iger arranged for a screening at the hospital nearly a month ahead of the film's official release.  It was delivered to the hospice after they had signed many disclaimers and much paperwork and imposed a lockdown for the screening, so only the family could see it.  More on this at the BBC.

And finally…

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

Film clip download tip!: King's Man is out next month (February).  This is the third in the Kingsman series based on the graphic novels (Icon Comics) by Mark (Kick Ass &Judge Dredd: Frankenstein Division) Millar and Dave Watchmen) Gibbons.  It is a prequel set early in the 20th century.  As a collection of history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Stephen Colbert tries to convince Peter Jackson to direct a new trilogy centred around his character from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  (Stephen Colbert is the N. American equivalent of Jonathan Ross/Graham Norton.)  Watch as the two debut the trailer for Stephen Colbert presents Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings series' The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug's The Laketown Spy is Darrylgorn in Darrylgorn Rising: The Rise of Darrylgorn The Prequel to Part One: Chapter One. You can see the 20-minute exploration here.

Film clip download tip!: E.T. from home!  E.T. mini-sequel as a Christmas telecoms advert in the US.  A US telecoms firm Xfinity has reprised the Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1990) for its Christmas advert, E.T. A Holiday Reunion.  ET returns to pay Eliot a visit nearly 30 years on.  You can see the 5-minute exploration here.

Film clip download tip!: Black Widow trailer out.  The film is slated for a May release.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Ghostbusters trailer out.  The film is slated for a July release.  When a single mum and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.  You can see the trailer here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2018/9 (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 2020 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 2020

Television News

 

This spring edition's television recommendation is Raising Dion.  It is a nine episode mini-series and those of the SF² Concatenation team that have seen it highly recommend it saying, "We have been glued to this beautifully written and acted series - absolutely must see!".  A young boy struggling to control his newfound powers.  A single mother fighting the odds to keep her son safe. Secrets, conspiracies, mysteries, all dangerously swarming around one family...  This mini-series is based on the on the 2015 comic book of the same name by Dennis Liu.  Liu then did a video trailer for the comic (here) and this caught the attention of Netflix.  Carol Barbee adapted a screenplay from the short film and comic and is the showrunner for the series with Liu as one of the executive producers.  The series is available on Netflix and as a box set DVD.  The response to the first season has been so positive that it is likely that there will be a season 2 (possibly focussing on the conflict between the good Dion and one using their powers for their own ends).  If there is a season 2 it is likely to be out towards the end of 2020 at the earliest.  See the season one trailer here.  Enjoy.

BritBox streaming service launched by UK terrestrial channels.  The BritBox streaming service (different to that already in the US) features a substantive archive of shows made for the original UK terrestrial (non-cable) channels: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.  While for many, this will mean a second or third streaming service subscription, it is hoped that it will rival Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Its SF content includes over 600 classic episodes of Doctor Who that were originally broadcast between 1963 and 1989.  Shows are not expected to appear on BritBox until they have dropped off their free access period on BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4.  BritBox costs Brits £5.99 (US$7.40) a month which is the same as for Netflix.  However, there has been some criticism that Brits are being asked to pay twice for this content.  Brits pay an annual licence fee £145.50 (US$180) per household to receive television broadcasts (via any medium including the internet) and the licence revenue pays for all of the BBC (which is largely – except for part of the BBC World Service – advert free) and provides a subsidy for Channels 4 and 5.)  The counter to this is that a BritBox subscription is like paying for a DVD. (A single DVD in Britain currently typically costs £7 (US$8.50).)  Revenues from BritBox will go to the channels for programme making.  BritBox has already been in the US for two years, with currently some 650,000 subscribers, but has a different catalogue of content.

BBC's The War of the Worlds is a big disappointment.  It was something to which many SF fans had been looking forward.  It promised to be a real treat and be the first reasonably budgeted adaptation of 1898 novel to be set a few years ahead (in what was to be Edwardian times) of when it was written in late Victorian times.  Indeed, the trailers seemed promising.  The three-parter got off to a reasonable start with the first episode seeing the cylinders from Mars land despite their being some key changes to the story including change of protagonists and the Martians apparently having some anti-gravity involved in their machines first emergence.  However, the initial tripod scenes were faithful and convincing.  Sadly, episodes two and three saw more plot divergence which combined with the pace of the story slowing drastically and splitting in two between flash-forwards to a future (not in the book) a few years hence.  Why, oh why..?  It was a huge waste of budget and an opportunity for a much-wanted faithful adaptation of the book.
          Among much online criticism was NewsThump.com's:- Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.
          Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.
          “There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

Harley Quinn new series has recently started on Netflix, in case you might be missing it  The animation is The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco's first post-Big Bang ventureHarley Quinn, very much in line with the DC comic's original, follows the title character (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) as she comes to a challenging realisation: The Joker (Alan Tudyk) will never love her as much as he loves Batman (Diedrich Bader).  After Mr. J leaves her to be cannon fodder for The Dark Knight, Harley finally decides she has done with him, and instead goes to live with her best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), who's all about empowering Harley to succeed on her own terms. With nothing to lose and a spiffy new outfit (complete with a baseball bat that she's very good with), Harley sets out to recruit her own team of supervillains and earn enough of a reputation to gain entry into the prestigious Legion of Doom.  It is more adult than the original: Big Bang's Penny was never this sweary…  Trailer here.

Witcher, based on the Andrzej Sapkowski novels, has been renewed for a second series.  The 'Witcher' series of novels includes Blood of Elves and season 1 of the Netflix adaptation series only came out last month (December 2019).  However, so favourable was the reaction to the trailer and social-media feedback, that Netflix renewed the series for a second season before the first episode of the first was aired!  First season trailer here.

Red Dwarf is coming back as a two-hour film and as a documentary series.  The show will returns to the FreeView Dave channel in Great Britain with a two-hour, feature-length film next year (and presumably will be available in many other countries too).  Red Dwarf first aired on BBC2 in 1988 and ran for eight series until 1999.  It then re-launched on Dave in 1999.  There were a further three series on Dave in 2012, 2016 and 2017.  In addition to the feature film, there will be three one-hour programmes recounting the story of the Dwarfers with cast interviews and out-takes.  A screening date for the film has yet to be announced.

Forthcoming Game of Thrones series killed. Long live House of the Dragon.  The Long Night was to be a prequel Game of Thrones series and was only announced in 2018 but has been cancelled.  However another prequel Game of Thrones series, House of the Dragon, is being co-created by George R. R. Martin and Ryan Condal for HBO.  Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik will helm the series' production.  The series is to be based on Martin's Fire and Blood novel.

Dracula mini feature series was aired in the New Year from the BBC.  Bram Stoker classic horror character, the vampire Dracula, was resurrected in a new BBC mini-series of three feature-length instalments.  The creative team behind the venture was BBC's Sherlock duo Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat: Sherlock we previously cited as one of the best short-form offerings of 2010.  In the new series, Dracula was played by Claes Bang.  Dolly Wells played Sister Agatha and Joanna Scanlan played Mother Superior.  The series was being made in partnership with Netflix who will stream it outside the British Isles.  Teaser trailer here.  Available for streaming/downloading from the BBC for the remainder of January (2020) in the UK. Soon to be available as a DVD box set.

Doctor Who's New Year season opener gets poor audience.  Re-boot season 12's first episode saw a UK audience of just 4.88 million viewers, 21.6% of the total TV audience at the time, down three million from the season 11 opening episode, Jodie Foster's first appearance as the Doctor in 2017, when the debut episode of series 11 pulled in 8.2 million.  This compares with Who's peak, the 2007 Christmas Day episode which saw 13 million viewers.
          While the above may be the headline numbers, it does not tell the whole story.
          First up, the above 2020 figures are the preliminary ones that only include live viewers: they do not include catch-up streaming.  The data for the latter are not due to be released until just after we post this season's news page.
          Second, back in 2007 there were two peak-time broadcasts over the Christmas period of the Christmas edition. (In recent years the repeat has been relegated to a post-midnight slot.)
          Third, the past three years have seen the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime which means there are more rival viewing options for today's audience.
          Fourth, the New Year slot sees fewer viewers overall watching television than the late afternoon / early evening, post-Christmas dinner slot.
          Fifth, this year's 4.88 million audience was only slightly lower than last year's New Year Special which had an overnight figure of 5.15 million watching.

Titans will be back for season 3 this (northern hemisphere) autumn.  Based on the DC Comics Teen Titans, Titans follows the crime-fighting adventures of Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Raven (Teagan Croft), Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), and Starfire (Anna Diop), Hawk (Alan Ritchson), Dove (Minka Kelly), follow-up Robin Jason Todd (Curran Walters), and Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie).  It streams on DC Universe but dare say you can get a DVD box set.  Season 2 trailer here.

Star Wars Resistance season 2 will premiere in October.  Season2 of the animatec series will commence Sunday, 6th October, 2020 on Disney and DisneyNow before appearing on Disney XD.  The first season was a companion story to the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It followed Kazuda Xiono, a New Republic pilot who is recruited by the Resistance to spy on the growing threat of the First Order.  The second season parallels the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  The first season was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Programme and won the Saturn Award for Best Animated Series On Television in 2019.

The Expanse season 4 now out on Amazon Prime.  In case you've missed it, this rollicking space opera is based on the James S. A. Corey series of novels.  A year ago we reported on its production with link to a teaser trailer.  Season 4 of The Expanse, its first as a global Amazon Original, sees the crew of the Rocinante on a mission from the U.N. to explore new worlds beyond the Ring Gate.  Humanity has been given access to thousands of Earth-like planets which has created a land rush and furthered tensions between the opposing nations of Earth, Mars and the Belt. Ilus is the first of these planets, one rich with natural resources but also marked by the ruins of a long dead alien civilization.  While Earthers, Martians and Belters manoeuvre to colonize Ilus and its natural resources, these early explorers don’t understand this new world and are unaware of the larger dangers that await them…  Trailer here.

DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths is just airing on CW in the US (thought DC Comics fans might want a reminder in case they're missing it).  We reported on this last season. 'Infinite Crisis' was a big deal in DC comics a few decades ago when DC tried to rationalise the multiverse they had created that began with a two universe explanation for their being two versions of The Flash.  The British Isles is getting this on Sky One. Dare say that a DVD box set will be available.  Extended trailer here.

The Handmaid's Tale season 4 delayed but follow-up The Testaments is likely.  Hulu's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has had its season 4 launch pushed back to the autumn (northern hemisphere).  There is also talk of a follow-up series based on Atwood's The Testaments.  There are no further details but IMDB has a stub entry on the series.

Stranger Things is to have a fourth season on Netflix.  Not surprising really given its season 3 debut audience size.  Season four is reportedly said to resolve some of the third season's cliffhangers.  The young cast members – Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp – secured roughly 12 times their previous deals and earn US$250,000 (£200,000) per episode. Adult stars Winona Ryder and David Harbour saw their salaries climb to US$350,000 (275,000) per episode.  The show's creators -- brothers Matt and Ross Duffer – have said over the years that they see it running anywhere between four and six seasons.

New Zealand is to provide the setting for the forthcoming Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series! Shock, drama, probe!  Who would have thunk it?  In a decision that prompted much conventional media coverage, Amazon Studios picked the country as the location for its much-anticipated Lord of the Rings television series.  Meanwhile we at SF² Concatenation reported that Amazon was to make the series two years ago with nary a thought about the shooting location: NZ seemed so obvious with perhaps Ireland as a very much second place back-up.!  Previous related news elsewhere on this site includes:  Star Trek 4 writers to oversee new Lord of the Rings series  and  The Lord of the Rings TV series director revealed.

Netflix has started production on a new SF comedy -- Space Force.  The premise is that the White House decides to create a new branch of the Armed Forces with the goal of putting American ‘Boots on the Moon’ by 2024.  The cast apparently includes Steve Carell, John Malkovich Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, and Jessica St. Clair.

Netflix is to adapt Clifford D. Simak's novel Way Station (1963).  It concerns the rural recluse, Enoch Wallace, who puzzles the authorities. There appeared to be few records of him, and the picture they had pieced together – if it was to be believed – was that he was well over 100 years old, although he only looked 30. He lived alone in a farm in a secluded part of the countryside. His only source of income seemed to be gems which his postman sold for him.  At the back of his home was a small graveyard that contained the remains of his parents and, Government agents discover, those of a ‘monster’.  The authorities did not know it, but Enoch manned a ‘Way Station’ for the interstellar community as aliens teleport across the Galaxy: the station was a kind of staging post.  As such, Enoch was the nearest thing the otherwise unwitting humanity and Earth had to an ambassador to the wider Galaxy.  But disturbing – as the government agents covertly did – the graves of another intelligent species is considered a major offence and Earth comes under the close scrutiny of off-world powers.  The novel won a Hugo Award.

The Big Bang Theory's US$600 million (£500m) deal for streaming rights.  Separate from broadcast re-run rights, Warner Media has committed about US$600 million over five years for The Big Bang Theory streaming rights across HBO Max and TBS. (That works out as over US$100m a year or US$2m a week!)  This ends TBS’ exclusivity window that had been set at 2024 but does give it cable rights through to 2028.

The forthcoming Asimov Foundaton TV series to see Lee Pace and Jared Harris cast as Brother Day and Hari Seldon, respectively.  Skydance Television is adapting Isaac Asimov's epic space opera 'Foundation' series that began with the novel Foundation (1951) which itself was compiled from earlier short stories.  The series of novels won a special Hugo Award in 1965.  The plot concerns a galactic empire that is predicted to crumble by Hari Seldon's mathematical forecasts.  To preserve civilisation through the coming dark ages a 'Foundation' is covertly established on a far-off world…  The story is loosely based/inspired by Gibbons The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Apple is producing the series and the first season reportedly will consist of 10 episodes. David S. Goyer is screen writing and Troy Studios in Limerick, Ireland, is slated to undertake the shooting.

The forthcoming Sandman to be set in the early 2020s but otherwise will be faithful to the original comic series.  As previously reported, Netflix and Warner Brothers are bringing the Neil Gaiman comics to the small screen.  The comic books were first released in 1988 with the run continuing into the 1990s and the story was set in that time.  Neil Gaiman has revealed that the new series, while faithful to the comics, will be set in the early 2020s.  The Sandman follows the angst-ridden exploits of Dream along with his siblings — called The Endless — who represent a different tenet of reality, from Death to Destiny.

Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash to come to the small screen.  HBO is developing and the Brit director Joe Cornish is producing.  The novel postulates that the Sumerian language is the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus. The god Enki created a counter-program which he called a nam-shub that caused all of humanity to speak different languages as a protection against Asherah (a re-interpretation of the ancient Near Eastern story of the Tower of Babel). The title 'Snowcrash' comes from the static from the appearance – similar to an old-fashioned VHF television set's picture of static – of the screen of a crashed early Apple Mac.  Snow Crash was short-listed for both the British Science Fiction Award in 1993, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1994.

Arrow spin-off confirmed.  As we previously reported Arrow – based on the DC Comics The Green arrow – is due to end.  The US channel The CW has confirmed a forthcoming spin-off series, to be called Green Arrow and the Canaries – and the penultimate episode of Arrow will serve as the pilot due to be aired a week following our posting this seasonal news page.

It’s the year 2040 in Star City and Mia Queen [Katherine McNamara] has everything she could have ever wanted. However, when Laurel [Katie Cassidy] and Dinah [Juliana Harkavy] suddenly show up in her life again, things take a shocking turn and her perfect world is upended. Laurel and Dinah are tracking a kidnapping victim with direct ties to Mia and they need her help. Knowing it will change everything, Mia can’t help but be a hero and she, Laurel and Dinah suit up once again to save the city…

 

And finally, some TV related vids…

If you are still hankering after a Christmas moment then the BBC has compiled Doctor Who Christmas scenes.  From facing off against killer robot Santas, to riding in the sleigh with the real thing - enjoy some of Doctor Who's most Christmassy moments 2005 to 2017!  You can the half-hour video here.

All the Doctor Who regenerations.  The BBC have recently updated their YouTube compilation.  You can see it here.

Just a quick reminder that Picard premieres 23rd January (2020) on CBS All Access.  This is the latest Star Trek spin-off with the Next Generation Captain in retirement.  Apparently the series will connect to J. J. Abrams‘ 2009 Star Trek reboot, which introduced an alternate timeline in which the Romulan home world was destroyed, making it the first series to address that event. Picard’s life was radically altered by the dissolution of the Romulan Empire.  It has already been renewed for a second season. Trailer here.

 

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 2020

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

Media adaptations of SF/F/H genre books help shape the UK's autumnal book and e-book charts.  Stephen King's It returns to the top 100 book chart following the release of the film It Chapter Two.  The film adaptation of It in 2017 saw King sell 1,000 hardback copies in Britain that year.
          But it was Margaret Atwood's The Testaments, the follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale, that did the best over the autumn.  The free audio adaptation of the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime available for download from BBC Sounds did not stop folk buying the e-book where it topped the chart its first week of sale and then remained their for 8 weeks and in the top 20 charts for much of the autumn. Meanwhile the original Handmaid's Tale also returned to the UK top 100 book charts and became the longest number one since Dan Brown's Origins last year.

Audio books have boomed in recent years.  British Isles audio book sales have doubled in 2019 and audio now makes up 5.5% of the UK all-format book market.  Over the decade the growth has been even more dramatic.  In 2018/9 UK sales of audio books amounted to £106 million (US$129m) whereas back in 2010 they amounted to just £7 million (US$8.5m).
          The top audio book genres of 2019 were led by crime/thriller/adventure (taking an estimated 27% of market share) with SF/F/H coming second (taking an estimated 22% of market share), all other fiction lumped together came third (taking 21% of the market share).
          The top audio SF/F/H book individual titles of the autumn were:-
          - The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
          - The Testaments by Margret Atwood
          - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling
          - Sherlock Holmes Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle
          Forthcoming 2020 audio book titles include:-
          - False Valueby Ben Aaronovich
          - The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie
          - The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde
          - Tower of Fools by Adrian Sapkowski
          - The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The US book charts seasonal SF/F leaders include:-
          - The Testaments by Margret Atwood
          - The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood
          - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
          - Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
          - The Institute by Stephen King
          - It by Stephen King
          - The Book of Dust, Vol. 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman
          - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Illustrated Edition by J. K. Rowling

Philip Pullman gets book chart boost.  The BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials into an 8-partmini-series has given Pullman's work a chance to breath as well as to include some of the anti-Church dimensions that, due to US Bible Belt concerns, were not included in the Golden Compass film.  This in turn saw Philip Pullman's books have another surge in both the British Isles autumnal (print) book charts and well as e-book and audio-book charts.

Who are the most prolific, living, genre authors?  Currently, of the top ten most prolific authors, two are genre writers.  According to UK BookScan at number '5' there is Stephen King with 449 ISBN titles/editions under his belt, and at '7' there is Neal Gaiman with 351 ISBNs.

The number of independent UK bookshops continues to rise.  The 21st century has seen the decline of bricks and mortar bookshops (as opposed to online retailers).  As recently as 2014 there was a 5% annual decline in UK independents.  However, the trend in the past three years has reversed.  In 2019 there were 890independentUK bookshops, up nearly 1% from 883 in 2018, which in turn was up from 868 in 2017: the 2017 to 2019 growth was 2.5%.  It will be interesting to see if this growth continues.

Author Lois McMaster Bujold is to be awarded the 36th Damon Knight Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  The Damon Knight Grand Master is awarded under the auspices of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).  Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning 'Chalion' series and the 'Sharing Knife' tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books includes the Hugo-winning Vorkosigan Saga. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages and has won seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards.  The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award will be presented along with the Nebula Awards during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from 28th-31st May (2020).

Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy sees the 42nd anniversary of the original broadcast that spawned the best-selling novels in March (2020).  42 being the answer, of course, to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  To mark the occasion, Pan Macmillan are bringing back into print The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (see below) with a brand-new introduction to be announced.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell author Susanna Clarke's next novel will be Piranesiis.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004) sold over four million copies and won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award.  Piranesiis is set in a richly imagined, very unusual world.  The protagonist lives in a place called the 'House' and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems.  A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls…  As with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, it will be published by Bloomsbury as part of a new two-book deal with the author.

BBC Books is to publish a new Target Doctor Who novel collection in July 2020.  Seven Doctors, seven adventures. Meet the new Doctor Who classics. BBC Books has announced that it will be expanding the Doctor Who Target range of books with seven new titles in summer 2020.  First, there will be paperback editions Eric Saward’s novelisations of Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks.  In addition, importantly, there will be a Target edition of The Pirate Planet by James Goss, the first time this Douglas Adams story has been published in the Target range, and a reissue of the Gary Russell’s novelisation of The TV Movie.  To complete the set, BBC Books will be publishing 3 new-era novelisations: The Witchfinders by Joy Wilkinson – the first Thirteenth Doctor adventure to be published on the Target list – Dalek by Robert Shearman, and The Crimson Horror by Mark Gatiss.
          For those unaware (some younger fans) of the background to the Target series. It is the range of Doctor Who novelisations published by Target Books in the 1970s and 1980s. There was a novel published for almost every Doctor Who serial between 1963 and 1989, with a very few (five, actually) notable exceptions, and BBC Books has been reissuing a number of these classic paperbacks since 2012. In 2017, BBC Books expanded the range by publishing the first all-new batch of Target novels, filling in one of those classic-era gaps ('City of Death)', along with new-era novelisations from Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, Paul Cornell and Jenny T. Colgan.

The word 'Dark' was to be trademarked by a fantasy author.  It could only happen in that most litigious society, the US, and it is indeed a US author, Christine Feehan who was doing it. An application for a trademark had been made to the US Patent and Trademark Office; it had yet to be granted.  The application itself was to only apply to a book series: Feehan is known for her 'Dark' series of paranormal romance.  However, if it had been granted, it is not known whether other authors could have a two-word 'Dark' series with the word 'Dark' being accompanied by a qualifier word or words – such as 'Dark Space' series.  Previous attempts have been made in the US to trademark words for book series. Few succeed.  In Britain around the turn of the millennium there was a challenge to the use of the term 'sense about science' to a series of teaching materials on the false grounds that an ISBN had been granted. The publisher subsequently applied for a trademark, though others that had already used it could continue to do so under 'prior use'.  Returning to Feehan's application to trademark 'dark', the resulting outcry caused her to give pause and she then retracted the application in December (2019).

Amazon – More concerns as to staff conditions and right.  One of the ways it is sometimes argued that Amazon is able to undercut bricks-and-mortar bookshops is that it short-changes its workers through poor conditions and resisting their workers joining trade unions.  This concern has been going for years. For example, it was reported by the New York Times in 2015 and the BBC in 2013.  The latest is another BBC report on Amazon's punitive sick leave and bereavement terms among other working conditions issues both in the UK and US.  For example, figures purportedly submitted by Amazon to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed "staggering" injury rates at Amazon's Staten Island distribution centre warehouse. One Amazon employee apparently alleged that they earned just US$20 (£15.50) for working an extra day while having US$198 (£153) deducted for one sick day!
          Previous BBC reporting includes:-
  - Amazon workers launch protests on Prime Day
  - Staff at Amazon's Swansea warehouse 'treated like robots'
  - Amazon warehouse accidents total 440
          Related stories elsewhere on SF² Concatenation includes:-
  - Amazon workers praising conditions are accused of lying
  - Amazon breaks embargo on Atwood's The Testaments
  - Amazon's UK tax paid substantially down despite a great profit increase
  - Amazon must pay its tax, says European Commission
  - Amazon tax wrong says UK Booksellers Association
  - 110,000 submit Amazon tax petition to Downing Street
  - Amazon and Google lambasted by Chair of House of Commons Accounts Committee
  - Amazon UK avoiding substantial tax says report in The Bookseller.

A copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s has sold for a record amount.  The 1997, first edition hardback auctioned was sold for £46,000 (US$56,000).  Only 500 were printed with 300 going to public libraries.  The edition was given to a Lancashire family who planned to keep it as an heirloom.  It was kept in a briefcase for safekeeping for more than 20 years. However, they decided to sell it after hearing about another book fetching £28,500.

A copy of On the Origin of Species has sold for a record amount.  Auctioned in Edinburgh, the first edition copy of the Charles Darwin's 1989 book went for £162,000 (nearly US$200,000). This was over £100k more than its anticipated price.

And finally, some of the autumn's short SF book related videos…

Ray Bradbury - Grandfather of the New Wave?  Ray Bradbury is possible best known for his only true SF novel Fahrenheit 451 but he contributed so much more to the world of literature and science fiction.  While he may not be 'technically' considered a part of the New Wave SF, he certainly influenced it.  His works touch on the fantastical, the psychedelic, and even the theological.  So why did Ray Bradbury refuse to consider himself a science fiction writer, even when his stories were filled with space travel and other technological wonders?  Explore with Extra Sci Fi.  See their 6-minute episode here.

Philip K. Dick - New Wave's Depressed Uncle.  Philip K. Dick is well known in the SF genre for his work Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story that inspired Blade Runner: they are different.  Philip K. Dick often struggled from mental illness and depression and had a uniquely weird childhood experience that led him to question the very fabric of his reality. A common theme of Philip K. Dick's work is the presence of doppelgangers or copies who can't tell who the original is. And this unravelling of reality or treatment of reality as fluid is a huge influence on the New Wave.  Explore with Extra Sci Fi.  See their 6-minute episode here.

Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions the most ground-breaking in SF?  An anthology helmed and edited by Ellison, Dangerous Visions featured short stories written by many science fiction household names like Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany. But most importantly, it introduced human seχuality to science fiction in a way we hadn't seen before. It also questioned the taboo, like addressing religion or death. Not all of the stories are winners, but all of them give you something to think about.  Explore with Extra Sci Fi.  See their 5-minute episode here.

Samuel R. Delany – Dhalgren.  There is no text that better sums up the heart of the New Wave than Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.  The text twists and turns, written with an eye towards modern and post-modern writing.  Where the story even begins is up to interpretation. But one thing is certain.  There's nothing else quite like it in all of science fiction.  It pushed the boundaries of what science fiction could do and proved that science fiction could be just as unique (and sometimes confusing) as high art.   Explore with Extra Sci Fi.  See their 6-minute episode here.

 

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 2020

Forthcoming SF Books

 

The Original Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The radio scripts by Douglas Adams, Macmillan, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03447-9.
The radio series that turned into the novels.  This collection is a faithful reproduction of the text as it was first published in 1985 and features all twelve original radio scripts – Hitchhiker as it was written and exactly as it was broadcast for the very first time. They include amendments and additions made during recordings, and original notes on the writing and producing of the series by Douglas Adams and Geoffrey Perkins.  This special anniversary edition will sit alongside reissued editions of the five individual Hitchhiker books coming in May 2020.

Doctor Who: [Untitled novel] by Sophie Aldred, BBC Books, hrdbk, £16.99, ISBN 978-1-785-94499-4.
Past, present and future collide as the Thirteenth Doctor meets classic Doctor Who companion Ace – in the first novel from the actress who played her, Sophie Aldred.  Once, a girl called Ace travelled the universe with the Doctor – until, in the wake of a terrible tragedy they parted company. Now, decades on, she is known as Dorothy McShane, the reclusive millionaire philanthropist who heads global organisation A Charitable Earth. But Dorothy is being haunted by terrible nightmares in which she’s abducted to an alien world. Nightmares that begin just as scores of young runaways are vanishing from the dark alleyways of London. Could the disappearances be linked to sightings of sinister creatures lurking in the city shadows? Why has an alien satellite entered a secret orbit around the Moon? And how has Dorothy become a target for the victors in an interstellar war? Investigating the satellite with Ryan, Graham and Yaz, the Doctor is thrown together with Ace once more…  Sophie Aldred is best known as Ace, companion of the seventh Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy in Doctor Who.

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, Transworld, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-50352-7.
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...  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, Titan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09356-8.
Set on a tidally locked planet, each part of the world is stuck in perpetual day or night…

The Human by Neal Asher, Macmillan, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86242-9.
The latest novel set in Asher's 'Prador' universe, a warship is laying waste to the galaxy, making for unexpected allies in the face of incredible acts of war.  A Jain warship has risen from the depths of space, emerging with a deadly grudge and a wealth of ancient yet lethal technology. It is determined to hunt down the alien Client, and will annihilate all those who stand in its way. So Orlandine must prepare humanity’s defence.  Both humanity and the Prador thought their ancient foe – the Jain – had perished in a past age. And they resolve to destroy these outliers at any cost. Orlandine wants the Client’s inside knowledge to act, but the Client has her own agenda. Earth Central therefore looks to the Prador for alliance, after the Jain destroy their fleet. However, not everyone is happy with this, and some will do anything to shatter this fragile coalition.  As the Jain warship makes its way across the galaxy, it seems unstoppable. Human and Prador forces alike struggle to withstand its devastating weaponry. Orlandine’s life work is to neutralize Jain technology, so if she can’t triumph, no one can. But will she become what she’s vowed to destroy?

The Human by Neal Asher, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86244-3.
Space opera following The Soldier and The Warship (see below).

The Warship by Neal Asher, Tor, £9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86251-1.
Click on the title link for a standalone review.  Orlandine has destroyed the alien Jain super-soldier by deploying an actual black hole. And now that same weapon hoovers up clouds of lethal Jain technology, swarming within the deadly accretion disc’s event horizon. All seems just as she planned. Yet behind her back, forces incite rebellion on her home world, planning her assassination.  This is the second in the 'Rise of Jain' trilogy from the author of Cowl, Dark Intelligence, The Departure , The Gabble, Hilldiggers, Jupiter War, Line of Polity, Line War, Orbus, Prador Moon, Shadow of the Scorpion, The Technician, War Factory and Zero Point.

Providence by Max Barry, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-35203-0.
In the future, the war against aliens has taken a critical turn. Mankind has developed the ultimate killing machine, the Providence class of spaceship. The mismatched quartet of Talia, Gilly, Jolene and Anders are the crew on one of these battleships. But the ship takes care of all the tactics. The crew’s only job is to publicise their glorious war to a sceptical Earth. But then everything changes. A message comes from base: the Providence is going into the VZ, the Violet Zone, where there are no beacons and no communications with Earth. It’s at this stage the Providence starts having its own agenda.  Max Barry is the author of four previous novels, including Aurealis Award winner Lexicon. He is also the creator of the internet mini-phenomenon NationStates, an online political simulation game.

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20875-9.
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.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Beneath the World, a Sea by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49157-2.
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.

The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54903-7.
The first in a trilogy sees mankind on the brink of annihilation from the Sturm…

Starbreaker by Amanda Bouchet, Piatkus, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42089-9.
A space opera romance following Nightchaser.

Devolution by Max Brooks, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12409-5.
As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined... until now.  Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story.

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50955-6.
From the author of The Girl with all the Gifts comes another post-apocalyptic thriller.  Here, humanity faces attack from nature with species on the attack. (Shades of Harry Harrison's Deathworld?)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (Expanded Edition) by Rae Carson, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12456-9.
The Skywalker saga reaches its conclusion in this expanded novelisation of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.

Tiamat's Wrath by S. A. Corey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51036-1.
The 8th in the 'Expanse' series which is now on Amazon Prime.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Recursion by Blake Crouch, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86667-0.
Barry Sutter investigates the death of a woman who apparently had been told her son had been erased. Meanwhile, a disease spreads, false memory syndrome.

Radicalised by Cory Doctorow, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54494-7.
Four dystopic novellas.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.  "Start at the beginning with Salima’s fight against the system, and work your way forward in a collection that just gets better and better, even if novellas three and four are in the wrong places."

Spider-Man: The Venom Factor Omnibus by Diane Duane, Titan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09459-6.
Her 'venom' trilogy in one book.

Morhelion: The Long Game Book 2 by Dominic Dully, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48608-0.
An alien exile…  A lethal secret…  The hunt is on…  When a con turns sour, Orry Kent is drawn into the heart of the war between the Ascendancy and the alien Kadiran. There’s a traitor at the highest levels of the Ascendancy, and Orry is the only one who can help…  Dominic has recently written for SF² Concatenation his top science heroes of the 20th century.

Echo Cycle by Patrick Edwards, Titan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65881-5.
Set in 2070 Rome and a schoolboy gets lost.  25 years later, his best friend returns and finds him, but he is now a vagrant who claims he has been living in ancient Rome…

Judge Dredd Case Files: 34 by Ennis, Wagner & Morrison, 2000AD, £19.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-781-08691-9.
The latest graphic novel volume as part of a complete reprint of Dredd's 2000AD adventures.

Vulcan's Forge by Robert Mitchell Evans, Flame Tree Press, hrdbk, £20, ISBN 978-1-787-58399-3.
Jason Kessler doesn't fit in the society of Nocturnia, the sole colony that survived the Earth's destruction. Between the colony's dedication to a distorted vision of mid-twentieth century Americana, its sexually repressive culture, and the expectation that his most important duty is marriage and children Jason rebels, throwing himself into an illicit and dangerous affair with Pamela Guest, but Pamela harbours a secret. Soon the lovers are engaged in a lethal game of cat and mouse with the colony's underworld head and the secrets Jason unlocks upend everything he knew, exposing dangers far beyond Nocturnia and its obsessions.

Last One Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff, Tinder Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-25523-5.
Debut novel.  Set in a post-apocalyptic Ireland, an orphan sets off to look for a cure for the skrake…

The Quanderhorn Xperimentations by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22403-2.
Rob Grant is, of course, known for being the co-creator of Red Dwarf. Now he is back with a new novel which is in fact a novelisation of the, six-part BBC Radio 4 series.  England, 1952. Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it is familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world. Few have noticed it has been 1952 for the past 65 years.  Meet Professor Quanderhorn: a brilliant maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. Assisted by a motley crew of outcasts – a recovering amnesiac, a brilliant scientist with a half-clockwork brain, a captured Martian prisoner adapting a little too well to English life, the professor’s part-insect 'son' (reputedly ‘a major breakthrough in Artificial Stupidity’), and a rather sinister janitor – he’ll save the world. Even if he destroys it in the process. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleets of Monkey-Driven Lorries, he's not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit. And far, far beyond…  With England under attack from both the Martians and the Mole men.  Only, perhaps, the maverick genius of professor Quanderhorn can save the day.  Click on the title link for a standalone review. Our Arthur says it comes with "the rib-breaking laughs".

Firefly: Big Dam Hero by Nancy Holder, Titan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65828-0.
An original Firefly novel.

Stranger Thing: Six by Jody Houser, Dark Horse, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-500-71232-1.
Graphic novel based on the hit TV series.

We, Robots edited by Simon Ings, Head of Zeus, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54091-8.
From 1837 through to present day, from Charles Dickens to Cory Doctorow, Simon Ings presents a hundred of the best short stories on artificial intelligence from around the world.  These stories demonstrate humanity’s enduring fascination with artificial creation. Crafted in our image, androids mirror our greatest hopes and darkest fears: we want our children to do better and be better than us, but we also place ourselves in jeopardy by creating beings that may eventually out-think us.  This compelling SF trope has persisted across decades and subgenres, so the anthology is organised into six thematic sections: Making Robots, Dealing with Robots, Served by Robots, Changing Places with Robots, Being Robots and, finally, Supplanted by Robots, We, Robots collects the finest android short stories the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to new rising stars.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65085-5.
Sarya is the galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human. Fortunately, she is the last one. Sarya has lived on a space station her entire life, keeping her identity a secret even as she puzzles over the impossible questions behind her own existence. But when a strange visitor recognises Sarya as Human and makes her an irresistible offer, she is convinced she is about to get the answers she needs – until a series of vicious attacks leaves her world shattered. Suddenly she’s running for her life and she makes for the depths of space aboard a stolen ship, in search of the truth behind her existence.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide by Brian Kirk, Flame Tree Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58441-9.
Military SF space opera.  This is part of the ' The Remembrance War' sequence.  Reclaiming Earth from the Zhen was only the first battle. Now Tajen Hunt and his fellow colonists must fight for their fledgling colony s survival. Tajen s mission to seek aid from the Kelvaki Assembly is cut short when the Zhen invade Earth. Now he, Liam, and Kiri must return to Earth and liberate the colony from brutal occupation.  When Tajen learns the Zhen plan to destroy a human fleet amassing in preparation to help Earth, he and his crew must escape the planet once more and warn them.

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk, Flame Tree Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58378-8.
Science fantasy horror.  Some doctors are sicker than their patients.  When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum s criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospital s most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free…

The Puzzler War by Eyal Kless, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN-0-008-27233-3/>br> A mix of advance tech, fantasy and cyberpunk, this is the sequel to the post-apocalyptic The Last Puzzler.

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling, Orion, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-409-19114-8.
Take a trip into tomorrow today.  Welcome to QualityLand.  QualityLand: the greatest, most advanced country in the world.  Everything in QualityLand is geared towards optimizing your life, and humans, robots and algorithms co-exists. Peter Jobless is a down-and-out metal press operator, dumped by his long-term girlfriend. He’s also the only one noticing that Qualityland’s robot citizens are experiencing an existential crisis. Instructed to destroy these malfunctioning AI, Peter starts to suspect that the ruling technology has a flaw, perhaps a fatal one. Not only that, these robots might be his only friends…

Goldilocks by Laura Lam, Headline, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26764-1.
Despite there being on Earth increasing restrictions for women, female astronaut, Valerie Black, leads a mission to a habitable planet in a star's goldilocks zone.

The First Sister by Linden Lewis, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-38690-5.
The first in a gender queer space-opera that is billed as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Red Rising.  First Sister has no name, and no voice. She’s a priestess, travelling the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth who own the rights to her body and soul, but when she’s asked to become a spy, she discovers that sacrificing for the war effort is so much harder when your loyalties are split.  Lito Val Lucius has a name that marks him as lesser. He climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but now he’s haunted by the betrayal of his partner Hiro. When Lito is assigned to hunt them down, Lito must decide what he is actually fighting for – the society that raised him, or his freedom.

Supernova Era by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54240-1.
Eight years ago and eight light years away, a supermassive star died and tonight its supernova shockwave will finally reach Earth.  Dark skies will shine bright as a new star blooms in the heavens and within a year everyone over the age of thirteen will be dead, their chromosomes irreversibly damaged. And so the countdown begins.  Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge they’ll need to keep the world running.  But they may not want to carry the legacy of their parents’ world. And though they imagine a better, brighter future, they may not be able to escape humanity’s darker instincts...

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1838-93204-6.
The second volume (following The Paper Menagerie of collected shorts (16 in all) from the acclaimed Chinese/American author.  Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his latest science fiction and fantasy stories from over the last five years — sixteen of his best — plus a new novelette. In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the 'Dandelion Dynasty' series, The Veiled Throne.

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21734-8.
Across a structure hanging in space, the lucidor hunts a criminal, while the maps of the world are under attack…  On a giant artificial world, a lucidor is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity but is too valuable to the government to be punished. So, the lucidor has deserted from his job in order to claim justice.  Meanwhile, something has begun to infiltrate the edges of the lucidor’s map that alters animals and plants and turns them into killers. The lucidor’s government has set hunters after him. He has no friends, no resources, no plan. But he does have a mission.  The latest from the author of Cowboy Angels, Eternal Light, Evening's Empires, Into Everywhere and White Devils among others.

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?  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-33712-4.
Gothic science fantasy.  Arden Beacon goes to work in a lighthouse. He has a neighbour, Jonah Riven, not too far off who hunts the giant marine leviathans…

Inspection by John Malerman, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-19317-3.
There is a school for boy geniuses. Meanwhile there is one for girls. Neither know of the other…

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00159-4.
Wide-screen, sci-fi, Star Wars-ish space opera.  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 wasn’t 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.  Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22761-3.
Meet Oona: every year, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, she wakes up in a different year of her life Oona Lockhart and her boyfriend are about to ring in the New Year and Oona’s nineteenth birthday. But seconds after, Oona is torn from her life and everyone she loves, finding herself in her fifty-one-year old body thirty-three years into the future. The life she had is gone. Each year on the stroke of midnight she finds herself resurfacing in a different year of her own adulthood. Still a young woman on the inside, but ever changing on the outside, who will she be next year?  You really can't keep a good SF trope down, and this is the latest iteration of a life non-linearly led (cf. Vonnegut's 1965 novel Slaughterhouse-Five.)

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, Hutchinson, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-33191-5.
Half the world is dark. Only she can save the light. Due to a freak astronomical happenstance, the earth's (sic, not 'Earth's') rotation has stopped.  A debut SF thriller which envisages a world on the edge of catastrophe. One half suffers an endless frozen night; the other, nothing but burning sun. Only in a slim twilit region can life survive. In an isolationist Britain, Ellen Hopper receives a letter from a dying man. It contains a powerful and dangerous secret. One that those in power will kill to conceal…  This is likely to appeal to those into climate change science fiction. While the cause of the catastrophe is science fantasy, the catastrophe itself pushes all the right SFnal buttons and at the heart of the story is an authoritarian regime that will do anything for Britain to survive…  Who would believe in the real-life, early 21st century, that politicians would so blatantly lie…?  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22393-6.
The second in the 'Planetfall' sequence.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Do You Dream of Terra Two? by Temi On, Simon & Schuster, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-471-1712-7.
This is a debut novel.  10 astronauts, six of whom are teenagers, leave a dying Earth on a 23 year trip to a potentially habitable world…

Blue Planet by Jaine O'Reilly, Piatkus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42382-1.
This is the final in the 'Second Species' trilogy following Blue Shift and Deep Blue.

Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilly, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54895-3.
SF thriller.  An artificial intelligence (AI) device witnesses the murder of its creator. Tobias Hawke was the tech genius boss of the British Institute for Deep Learning. Now his body has been found in his lab: he has been brutally murdered. Hawke was on the brink of an astonishing breakthrough in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His creation, ‘Syd’, a machine-learning device that mimics human thought, promised to change the face of humanity forever. But, in the wake of her creator’s murder, Syd has disappeared. Who has taken her, and what secrets are her neural networks hiding?  Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, is the man to find out. But he can’t work alone. Teenage hacker Fangfang, and Hawke’s widow, a prize-winning ethicist, have their own reasons to solve the murder. But can they uncover the truth before it’s too late?

S.N.U.F.F by Victor Pelevin, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-273-21304-3.
A pilot lives in a huge sky city above Ukraine reporting on news events below and even acting to help create them.

From Divergent Suns by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21481-1.
Mass market paperback release of the conclusion to the SF-crime trilogy 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…  This follows on from From Darkest Skies and From Distant Stars.  Click on the title link for a standalone review

Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09667-5.
Not so much steam punk as far-future, high-seas pirate-punk in space.  This follows on from the excellent Revenger and Shadow Captain.  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. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets…

Winter World by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54322-3.
The world is cooling. Something is blocking the Sun…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Howling Dark by Christopher Rucchio, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21830-7.
Space opera and fantasy. The second in the 'Sun Eater' sequence.

New Horizons edited by Tarun K. Saint, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22868-9.
An anthology of SF/F shorts from the Indian subcontinent which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh. Billed as the first SF anthology of its kind in English.  The citizens of Karachi wake up and discover the sea missing from their shores, the last Parsi on Earth must escape to other worlds when debt collectors come knocking and a family visiting a Partition-themed park gets more entertainment than they bargained for.  These stories and others showcase the scope of science fiction from the South Asian subcontinent. Offering a different perspective on our hyper-global, alienating and paranoid world, New Horizons brings together tales of masterful imagination that, more than anything, ask questions about what it means to be human.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi, Tor, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83536-2.
This is the conclusion to John Scalzi’s 'Interdependency' Series that began with The Collapsing Empire (2017), which was short-listed for a Hugo, and The Consuming Fire (2018).  As humanity’s greatest civilization faces its fall, its ruler must battle those who would just save themselves.  Can they escape the end of an empire?  Entire star systems, and billions of people, are about to be stranded. The pathways that link the stars are collapsing faster than anyone expected, accelerating the fall of civilization. But though the evidence is insurmountable, many are in denial. And some even attempt to profit from the final days of this golden age.  Emperox Grayland II has wrested control of the empire from her enemies. But even as she works to save her people, others seek power. And they will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne. Grayland and her depleted allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves and humanity – yet it still may not be enough. Will Grayland become the saviour of her civilization… or the last Emperox to wear the crown?

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22953-2.
Thriller, the west coast of New Zealand and people are going missing…  Singh is best known for her Psy-Changling series that included Ocean Light.

Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22920-4.
This is billed as a "collection of the best of Silverberg’s short works, including the 'Needle in a Timestack' story, the inspiration for the forthcoming film of the same name. This collection features twenty short stories, each with a new introduction from the author."  At least that is what the catalogue and pre-launch publicity says. However Needle in a Timestack was the title of a 1966 collection of his works that did not feature that title story and also only had 10 stories. So we guess that this edition consists of another of his collections tacked on to the original.  Either way, this is a welcome re-airing of stories from the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award-winning Bob Silverberg who is perhaps best known for his 1950s -1990s books.  Younger, serious SF readers check him out.

Batman: Last Night on Earth by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo, DC Comics, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-401-29496-0.
Graphic novel set 25 years in a post-apocalyptic future.

Fall or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson, The Borough Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-16885-8.
Set in a world which sees us live for as long as we want -- via mind uploading to the Cloud – provided we can pay the price.

Invisible Sun: Empire Games: Book Three by Charles Stross, Tor, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-447-24759-3.
This is set in Stross' 'Clan Corporate' or ''Merchant Princess' universe.  Two parallel versions of America are trapped in a cold war that’s heating up fast. Then a new threat no one could have predicted causes consternation across two civilisations. This is the extraordinary finale of Charles Stross’ alternative history espionage thriller.  Two twinned worlds are waiting for war…  America is caught in a deadly arms race with the USA, its high-tech, parallel world. Yet it might just self-combust first. For its president-equivalent has died, leaving a crippling power vacuum. Without the First Man’s support, Miriam Bernstein faces a paranoid government opponent. He suspects her of scheming to resurrect the American monarchy. And Miriam is indeed helping the exiled American princess. This is only to prevent her being used against them, but her rivals will twist anything to ruin her.  However, all factions will face a disaster bigger than anything they could imagine. In their drive to explore other timelines, hi-tech America has awakened an alien threat. This force destroyed humanity on one version of earth – and if they don’t take action, it will do the same to both of their timelines.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86588-8.
It’s the world we know…  but as you’ve never seen it before.  On another Earth, anything is possible…  Four years ago, Lee’s best friend Mal went missing on Bodmin Moor. Their search for an elusive monster had turned up something only too real – and she hadn’t seen Mal since. Now, out of the blue, Mal gets in touch. But where has she been, and who brought her back?  MI5 agent Julian Sabreur tried to save a government physicist from a racist attack. But someone else beat him to it, butchering the attackers. His enquiries lead him to Lee – because caught on camera, one vigilante looks suspiciously like Mal. And Daniel Rove, a powerful businessman, dreams of a future under his control. Aided by a mysterious intelligence from a long-dead world, he recruits allies from a parallel Earth – seething with ambitious, hostile life.  Now the walls between the worlds are collapsing. Every door between us and the original version of Earth, Eden, is slamming open. And anything might come through.

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86585-7.
Before the fall of Earth, its voracious terraforming programme had attempted to colonize nearby stars. One team travelled to a planet they would call Nod, to prepare it to receive life. But they made a startling discovery. Nod already had life; the first alien ecosystem ever discovered. Scientists decided to preserve their find, turning to an ice-world further from the sun. They warmed it into an ocean paradise – while investigating Nod and its fauna. Then humanity’s great empire dissolved into anarchy, isolating Earth’s outposts. Colonizers discovered, too late, that life on Nod transcended the primitive forms they’d discovered. And as they’d been watching Nod, they’d been studied in turn.  Now, thousands of years later, the Portiids and their humans have sent an exploration vessel – following fragmentary, desperate, radio signals. They discover Nod and a system in crisis. Here, warring factions are attempting to rebuild, following an apocalyptic catastrophe. For those early terraformers woke something all those years before – something better left undisturbed...  This is set in the same universe as The Children of Time.

Stormblood by Jeremy Szal, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk ISBN 978-1-473-22742-2.
Alien technology, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down…  Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony. He’s still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, the Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression.  Vakov may have walked away from the Harmony, but they still know where to find him, and his former Reaper colleagues are being murdered by someone, or something…

The GOD Game by Danny Tobey, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22447-6.
On-line players of a game find out that it gets a little too real… If you die in the game, you die in real life.  Charlie and his friends have entered the G.O.D. Game.  Tasks are delivered through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them. It’s all harmless fun at first. Then the threatening messages start. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them. As Charlie looks for a way out, he finds God is always watching – only He will say when the game is done.

New Horizons by various, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22868-9.
An anthology of SF/F shorts from the Indian subcontinent which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51442-0.
Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister is kidnapped, Eva must undergo a series of dangerous missions to pay the ransom. But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead, and her engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.  To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Emily Eternal by M. G. Wheaton, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68197-2.
It is the near future and there's bad news: the end of the world is barely a year away! Somehow, our sun which we thought to be in its mid-life as a main-sequence star is actually close to the beginning of its red giant phase. The bottom line is that all life on Earth is doomed. However, it is the near future and one university has developed an artificial intelligence called Emily. Long story short, it seems that the US President has a plan to save the heritage of humanity but it will require Emily's help even though there are ethical questions…  Click on the title link for a stand alone review.

 

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Spring 2020

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Devil’s Blade by Mark Alder, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-12972-6.
A riotous semi-historical romp through seventeenth century France in the company of Julie d’Aubigny.  The story of Julie D’Aubigny is well known. Connected to most of the nobility of seventeenth-century Paris, feted for her performance, unwilling to live by the rules of her society, she took female lovers, fought duels with noblemen and fled from city to country and back again.  But now the real truth can be told. She also made a deal with the devil. He gave her no powers or help, but he kept her alive for only one reason. To take revenge…  Mark Alder is the pseudonym for fantasy author M. D. Lachlan.

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51288-4.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:  1. Sobriety costs extra.  2. My services are confidential – the cops can never make me talk.  3. I don’t work for humans.  It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, humans don’t need my help. Not like every other creature who had the magic ripped out of them when the Coda came…  I just want one real case. One chance to do something good. Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.

Simantov by Asal Ashery, Angry Robot, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-66838-7.
Soothsayer Task Force detectives realise that a spate of disappearances heralds the start of the apocalypse with a war between two factions of angels with humanity in between….

Rivers of London vol. 7 by Ben Aaronovitch, Titan Comics, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-86546-6.
Graphic novel based upon Aaronovitch's popular, 'Rivers of London', novels.

The Soul of Power by Callie Bates, Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63886-0.
The conclusion to 'the Waking Land' trilogy.

Snowball by Gregory Bastianelli, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / $14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58348-1.
A group of motorists become stranded on a lonely stretch of highway during a Christmas Eve blizzard and fight for survival against an unnatural force in the storm. The gathered survivors realize a tenuous connection among them means it may not be a coincidence that they all ended up on this highway.

Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley Beaulieu, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22361-5.
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…

The King of Crows by Libba Bray, Atom, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-907-41046-8.
After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.  While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners' help to do it.  Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe's estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow's plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.  But as rumours of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.  In this finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe.

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50595-4.
Features a shape-shifter protagonist.  Briggs' previous hardback reached the top of the UK SF/F hardback book charts.

Smoke Bitten: Mercy Thompson: Book 12 by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51359-1.
Mercy Thompson returns in another instalment of Briggs' urban fantasy series.

The Stiehl Assassin by Terry Brooks, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0356-51023-1.
The third in the 'Fall of Shannara' quadrilogy.

Dark Age by Pierce Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64678-0.
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. Another standalone novel in the 'Red Rising' universe featuring Darrow as was Morning Star.

The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell, Flame Tree Press, hrdbk, £20, ISBN 978-1-787-58404-4.
Fantastical horror.  Patrick Torrington’s aunt Thelma was a successful artist whose late work turned towards the occult. While staying with her in his teens he found evidence that she used to visit magical sites. As an adult he discovers her journal of her explorations, and his teenage son Roy becomes fascinated too. His experiences at the sites scare Patrick away from them, but Roy carries on the search, together with his new girlfriend. Can Patrick convince his son that his increasingly terrible suspicions are real, or will what they’ve helped to rouse take a new hold on the world?  World Fantasy Award Lifetime Achiever, Fellow of John Moores University Ramsey's The Way of the Worm was recently short-listed for Best Novel British Fantasy Award,

The Garden of Bewitchment by Catherine Cavendish, Flame Tree Press, hrdbk, £9 / US$14.99, ISBN 978-1-787-58340-5.
In 1893, Evelyn and Claire leave their home in a Yorkshire town for life in a rural retreat on their beloved moors. But when a strange toy garden mysteriously appears, a chain of increasingly terrifying events is unleashed. The Garden of Bewitchment is all too real and something is threatening the lives and sanity of the women.

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-23947-3.
The second in the 'Daevabad'trilogy.

The Ice House by Tim Clare, Canongate, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-89482-36.
An old woman, Delphine, remembers another world…

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-67757-9.
Set in a world inspired by Inquisition-era Spain.  Renata was just a child when she was kidnapped by the King's Justice. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared magical power, her ability to steal memories enabled a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people. Now a rebel, Renata works to help magic users escape a kingdom bent on their destruction. But when the commander of her unit – and the boy she's grown to love – is taken captive by the notorious Prince, Renata must return to the palace. Can she convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

The House of the Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22340-0.
The 'Dominion of the Fallen' continues saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war.  Set in a world which merges an alternate Paris with powerful Vietnamese mythology and culture.

The War Within by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22173-4.
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.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22195-6.
A welcome reprint. ‘He contrasted the mortal world, in wonder, with the deep calm of his home, where the moment moved more slowly than the shadows of the houses here, and did not pass until all the content with which a moment is stored had been drawn from it by every creature in Elfland…’  The poetic style and grandeur of The King of Elfland’s Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists.

City of a Thousand Faces by John Dryden & Mike Waker, Orion, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18701-1.
Epic tale of a fantastical, ancient African or Middle Eastern type city: the richest city on Earth…  This is inspired by the amazing BBC Radio 4 Tumanbay series.  There’s a city far away. The richest, most powerful place on Earth. The centre of everything. It drew people from every corner of the empire and beyond, hungry for wealth and power. They were dazzled by its brightness. And like moths drawn to a candle, many were burnt alive by its fire…Tumanbay.  Tumanbay is a fast-paced historical thriller set in the richest, most powerful city on earth. It’s a story of slaves, spies, armies, betrayals, assassinations, deserts and plagues.

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21775-1.
The third in the 'Masters & Mage' series sees Aranthur and comrades strike back against the forces that have torn a hole in the Universe.

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi, Mantle, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01910-0.
Billed by the publishers as for fans of The Binding and Station Eleven, The Sin Eater tells a story of a young girl sentenced to silence, and the lies she must unravel.  Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it?  A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.  Orphan May Owens is fourteen, when she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread and sentenced to become a Sin Eater.  It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.  Set in a thinly disguised sixteenth-century England, The Sin Eater is a story of treason and treachery; of secrets and silence; of women, of power – and, ultimately, of the strange freedom that comes from being an outcast with no hope of redemption for, as May learns, being a nobody sometimes counts for everything…

Highfire by Eoin Colfer, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40202-5.
An adult fantasy from the author of the Artemis Fowl books.  This one is billed as a high-octane, comedy adventure about the last dragon in the world.  Squib Moreau may be swamp-wild, but his intentions are (generally) good: he really wants to be a supportive son to his hard-working momma Elodie. But sometimes life gets in the way – like when Fake Daddy walked out on them leaving a ton of debt, or when crooked Constable Regence Hooke got to thinking pretty Elodie Moreau was just the gal for him…  An apprenticeship with the local moonshine runner, servicing the bayou, looks like the only way to pay off the family debts and maybe get Squib and his momma a place in town, far from Constable Hooke’s unwanted courtship and Fake Daddy’s reputation.  Unfortunately for Squib, Hooke has his own eye on that very same stretch of bayou – and neither of them have taken into account the fire-breathing dragon hiding out in the Louisiana swamp…

Ravencaller by David Dalgish, Orbit, £8.99,pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51159-7.
Ravencaller is the second novel in David Dalgish’s epic fantasy series, in which a warrior priest must protect his world from monsters once believed to be no more than myth.

The Woman Who Didn’t Grow Old by Grégoire Delacourt, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61218-0.
There are those who never grow old because they are taken too soon. Others grow old without worries, enjoying everything life has to offer. Many desperately try to slow down the ticking clock. And then there’s Betty, who mysteriously stops growing old on her thirtieth birthday – the same age as her mother when she died. The years leave no trace on Betty’s face, but as everyone around her is transformed by the relentless march of time, her once golden life begins to come apart.

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man by Rod Duncan, Angry Robot, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0857-66844-8.
The final in the 'Map of the Unknown' trilogy.

Daughter from the Dark by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Harper Voyager , £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-37306-1.
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko are simply huge in Ukraine and have been popular among Russian readers too.  We had previously cited their Vita Nostra as one of our choices as to one of the best genre books of 2018.

Kellanred's Reach by Ian Esslemont, Bantam,£9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-50285-8.
This is the third in the series of the early history of what will eventually become Malazan.

Wicked Biteby Jeaniene Frost, Avon, £6.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-062-9563-5.
The latest in the 'Night Rebel' vampire series.

Finale by Stephanie Garber, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66678-8.
This is mass market paperback release of the third in the 'Caraval' series followingLegendaryCaraval itself has across all formats sold 50,000 copies.  It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, and since Tella last saw Legend after he claimed the empire’s throne.  Tella believes that her mother, currently trapped in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne and is determined to stop him, but she is unaware that her mother’s past has put her and Scarlett in unimaginable danger.  Caraval might be over, but the greatest game of all is about to begin – with empires, lives and hearts at stake.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia M. Garcia, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40264-3.
Cassiopeia accidentally releases and ancient Mayan god of death…

Heart of Black by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-01-838-3178-0.
The fourth in the Nicci Chronicles.  In the wake of the brutal war that swept the Old World in Siege of Stone, a new danger is forming along the coast. Taken captive by their enemies, King Grieve, Lila and Bannon are about to discover the terrifying force that threatens to bring destruction to the Old World.  The Norukai, barbarian raiders and slavers, have been gathering an immense fleet among the inhospitably rocky islands that make up their home.  With numbers greater than anyone could have imagined, the Norukai are poised to launch their final and most deadly war.

Children of D’Hara 3: Wasteland by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £7.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54131-1.
If the publication details above (see also the next book below), taken from the Head of Zeus catalogue, are to be believed then this is a very good value hardback, even if the books themselves are short (less than 200 pages) and only possible because Terry Goodkind generates sales.  This is mentioned because there are conflicting dates of release in the catalogue.  The Children of D’Hara picks up the story of Richard and Kahlan immediately after the conclusion of the 'Sword of Truth' series, though there is sufficient exposition for new readers to jump in. This is the story of Richard and Kahlan and their children. Learn what the star shift has done to their world…  And what monsters now lurk in shadows…  See also next book below.

Children of D’Hara 4: Witch's Oath by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £7.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54471-8.
See previous book above.

Mother of Daemons: The Sunsurge Quartet Book 4 by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29065-8.
She’s the Empress of the Fall … and her empire is falling apart. Queen Lyra’s enemies are on the march and the Rondian Empire is collapsing. Ervyn Naxius has unleashed war on two continents and now the world of Urte is tearing itself apart. His ultimate goal – control of all life – is within his reach. Only Lyra and a handful of others stand in his way, and they won’t give up until every last hope is buried…

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan, Gollancz, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51153-5.
With his debut, The Gutter Prayer, Gareth Hanrahan introduced a world of sorcerers and thieves, broken gods and dangerous magic. Now the tale continues in The Shadow Saint, the second novel in the 'Black Iron Legacy'.  As the Godswar draws ever closer and tensions within the city escalate, how long will the people of Guerdon be able to keep their enemies at bay?

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris, Piatkus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978—349-41804-9.
This is the second in the Gunnie Rose series.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey, Mantle, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01418-1.
While not an out-and-out fantasy it does have a vague, ghostly riff and is somewhat gothic wrapped up in a love story.  Some secrets are unspoken. Others are Unspeakable…  August 1939.  Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.  Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.  As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?

A Blight of Blackwings by Kevin Hearne, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50961-7.
Following A Plague of Giants comes the second novel in the 'Seven Killings' series – a fantasy world of warring giants and elemental magic from the author of the 'Iron Druid Chronicles'.

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (edited by Nicholas Daly), Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84109-8.
A swashbuckling adventure set in Ruritania, a mythical pocket kingdom. Nicholas Daly’s introduction outlines this thrilling tale inspired not only stage and screen adaptations, but also place names, and even a popular board game. A whole new subgenre of ‘Ruritanian romances’ followed, though no imitation managed to capture the charm, exuberance, and sheer storytelling power of Hope’s classic tale.

The Broken Heavens by Kameron Hurley, Angry Robot, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-66562-1.
The conclusion of the 'Worldbreaker' saga and the Diai nation sees an invasion from a parallel world.

The Light of all that Falls by James Islington, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50784-2.
This is the conclusion of the Licanious trilogy that began with The Shadow of the Lost.

Shore Fall by Robert Jackson, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48789-6.
The sequel to Foundryside.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51266-2.
Five New Yorkers must band together to defend their city in the first book of a new series by Hugo, British Fantasy and Locus award-winning N. K. Jemisin.  Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay, Hodder, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69237-4.
Kay's latest in mass market paperback is set in a world reminiscent of Renaissance Italy.

Elevation by Stephen King, Hodder,£7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69153-7.
Horror.  A man keeps on losing weight without looking any different…

We are Monsters by Brian Kirk, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58377-1.
When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum’s criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospital’s most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free. Originally published in 2015..

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood, Tor, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03275-8.
Epic fantasy.  When a priestess is rescued from a death cult by a sorcerer, she becomes his personal assassin. But would you do anything for the person who saved your life?  Does she owe her life to those planning her death?  Csorwe was raised by a death cult steeped in old magic. And on her fourteenth birthday, she’ll be sacrificed to their god. But even as she waits for the end, she’s offered a chance to escape her fate. A sorcerer wants her as his assistant, his sword-hand and his assassin. As this involves her not dying that day, she accepts.  Csorwe spends years living on a knife-edge, helping her master hunt an artefact which could change many worlds. Then comes the day she’d been dreading. They encounter Csorwe’s old cult – seeking the same artifact – and Csorwe is forced to reckon with her past. She also meets Shuthmili, the war-mage who’ll change her future. And she makes a decision that will pit them both against a powerful enemy.  To survive his wrath, they’ll need to flee, claim the artefact and stop the death cult. As they plunge from one danger to the next, the hunt is on…  This is the author's debut novel.

The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42132-2.
Good girls don't talk back. Good girls don't cry. Good girls don't scream.  Sadie Burke has been forced to be a good girl her entire life. As a banshee, she's the bottom of the ladder when it comes to the supernatural hierarchy. Weak. Condemned. Powerless. Silent. That's what she and her six sisters have been told their entire lives, since their species was first banished from Ireland.  Yet when a figure from her childhood unexpectedly arrives on the scene, Sadie finds it harder than ever to toe the line.  Texas Contos is the son of their greatest oppressor. He's also someone she's inexplicably drawn to, and as they grow closer, Sadie begins to question what banshees have been told for centuries about their gifts.  But the truth comes at a cost. With Sadie and Tex forced to run for their lives, their journey leads them to new friends, old enemies, and finally to her true voice - one that could shatter the supernatural world forever.

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50933-4.
This is the concluding novel in the 'Gods of Blood and Powder' series that includes Sins of Empire.

Crowfall by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22211-3.
The story which began with Blackwing concludes in the final epic fantasy in the trilogy.  You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet.

Priest of Lies: War for the Rose Throne Book 2 by Peter McLean, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47427-7.
Tomas Piety returned from war to rebuild his home. Now Ellinburg is in ashes, and political intrigue is dragging him to the Queen’s capital. He must decide if he is truly the people’s champion, or just a priest of lies.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51258-7.
Frances uses her wiles and witchcraft to claw her way out of poverty and marry a New York tycoon.  Bad news for her new stepdaughter.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-67593-3.
This is a Latin inspired fantasy in which a face-shifter is forced to carry out an impossible mission…

Wicked Hour by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22282-3.
The second novel in the 'Heirs of Chicagoland' series. Vampires were made, not born, until Elisa Sullivan came along. The only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and she thought she could flee her past. But then trouble came for Chicago, and Elisa came home. Months after the deadly attacks, while tempers are still cooling, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a shifter fight, and the stakes get even higher when Elisa makes a vampire in the middle of Pack territory. Now Elisa’s life, the Pack, and its vampire alliance are at risk.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51377-5.
For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob – a young lawyer with an utterly normal life – hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.  But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing. There’s someone else out there who shares his powers and it’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them – before anyone gets to The End.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51353-9.
The age of darkness approaches. Five lives stand in its way. Who will stop it . . . or unleash it? One of them – or all of them – could break the world. Will they be saviour or destroyer?

Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51127-6.
This is the first book of 'Raven's Blood' and set in his Blood Song universe.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-408-88339-8.
Epic dragon fantasy.

Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22808-5.
The latest in the Psy-Changling series that includes Ocean Light.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Glass Breaks by A. J. Smith, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69690-8.
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.

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes, Gollancz, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21824-6.
Magical fantasy.  Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare.  The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Breanna Teintze, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40264-3.
A god sends a young woman on a life-changing journey.  The Mayan God of Death offers Cassiopeia a deal: recover his throne, and she can have anything she desires.  But failure will see her lost forever…  A wildly imaginative coming-of-age tale, inspired by Mexican folklore.

Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47625-7.
Magical fantasy adventure.

Lord of Secrets: The Empty Gods Book One by Breanna Teintze, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47625-7.
Magic is poison.  Secrets are power.  Death is… complicated.  Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray’s situation seems hopeless, unless he meets fugitive slave Brix, who could be the key to saving his grandfather from the Mage’s Guild. Then they discover something with the power to change the nature of life and death…

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93128-5.
Iconoclastic, provocative, poetic and profane. King Arthur re-imagined — as you’d expect from the author of A Man Lies Dreaming and The Violent Century as well as the World Fantasy Award-winning Osama and the Locus Award short-listed Central Station.  Everyone thinks they know the story of the Once and Future King and his knights of the Round Table. You can read it on Wikipedia. You can see it in those pretty Pre-Raphaelite paintings.  But there was never a painting that showed the true Britain, the clogged sewer Rome abandoned just as soon as it could. A Britain where petty warlords murdered each other in the mud, and all the while the Angles and Saxons and — worst of all — the Jutes, were coming over here and taking our lands and taking our jobs and taking our women.  And what of the only man who could stop them...  What of Arthur, King of the Britons? An over-promoted gangster, in thrall to that eldritch parasite, Merlin.  Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.  The Grail Quest? Have you no idea about the aliens and the radioactive blight?

The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63166-3.
This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of brightwhite wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again. In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die. You’ll have to read on to find out who and why…

Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-475-22412-4.
An Icelandic debut, perfect for fans of contemporary fantasy in the style of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or China Mieville’s The City & The City.  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 Reykjavík fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, inter-dimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51445-1.
Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-Yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves, which nearly tore her nation apart. But her arranged marriage with the son of a rival clan should herald peaceful days to come.  However, her fiancé’s sudden departure before their reign begins puts a quick end to those dreams, and the kingdom is fractured beyond repair.  Years later, Talyien receives a message, one that will send her across the sea. What’s meant to be an effort at reconciling the past becomes an assassination attempt. Stranded in a land she doesn’t know, with no idea whom she can trust, Talyien will have to embrace her namesake. A wolf of Oren-Yaro is not tamed.

Soot by Dan Vyleta, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-297-60995-7.
Follows the novel Smoke.  Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible, pouring from your body as a thick smoke, leaving soot on your skin. Many seek to discover the true nature of Smoke: Balthazar Black, mysterious impresario of a theatre troupe; Erasmus Renfrew, Lord Protector of England and avowed enemy of Smoke; his niece Elizabeth, subject of Erasmus’s experiments and holder of a strange power over Smoke. As their destinies entwine, a cataclysmic confrontation looms. Will the Smoke unite them or rend the world?

The Forever House by Tim Waggoner, Flame Tree Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58320-7.
Fantastical horror.  In Rockridge, Ohio, a sinister family moves into a sleepy cul de sac. The Eldreds feed on the negative emotions of humans, creating nightmarish realms within their house to entrap their prey. Neighbours are lured into the Eldreds’ home and faced with challenges designed to heighten their darkest emotions so their inhuman captors can feed and feed well. If the humans are to have any hope of survival, they will have to learn to overcome their prejudices and resentments toward one another and work together. But which will prove more deadly in the end, the Eldreds… or each other?

The Sinner by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42049-3.
The 18th in Ward's vampire series.

Blood Truth by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42066-3.
The next in the 'Black Dagger' sequence.

Where Gods Fear To Go by Angus Watson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-356-50760-6.
Book three of the 'West of West' trilogy and our mismatched group of refugees trek across a continent battling monsters.

The Poison Song by Jen Williams, Headline, £9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-23524-4.
Ebora was once a glorious city defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now, refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls. The enemy that has poisoned their land will not lie dormant for long…  This is the conclusion to the 'Winnowing Flame' trilogy that began with The Ninth Rain, followed by The Bitter Twins.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-60328-8.
This is book two of 'The Last King of Osten Ard' sequence following on from The Witchwood Crown.

 

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Spring 2020

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Arrow, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-099-53679-6.
Reprint. After years of reflecting on the absurdities of life on other planets, Douglas Adams teamed up with zoologist Mark Carwardine to find out what was happening to life on this one. Together they lead us on a journey across the world in search of exotic, endangered creatures – animals that they may never get another chance to see. They encounter the animal kingdom in its beauty, variety, and imminent peril: the giant Komodo dragon of Indonesia, the helpless but lovable Kakapo of New Zealand, the blind river dolphins of China, the white rhinos of Zaire, the rare birds of Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean. Both funny and poignant, Last Chance to See is the tale of wildlife odyssey and a timely reminder of all that we must protect.

The Economists’ Hour: How the False Prophets of Free Markets Fractured Our Society by Binyamin Appelbaum, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87913-7.
After decades of pervasive influence over government policy, economists have done much to create the world in which we live. But as much of the Western world turns against ‘experts’, has their time come to an end?  This book tells the biography of a revolution: the story of how economists who believed in the power of free markets transformed government, the conduct of business and, as a result, the patterns of everyday life. Over four decades, these economists played a leading role in reshaping taxation and public spending and clearing the way for globalisation.  The United States was the epicentre of this intellectual ferment, but the embrace of markets was a global phenomenon, seizing the imagination of politicians across the world, from the UK to Chile and New Zealand.  Yet this revolution failed to deliver on its central promise of increased prosperity. In the US, growth has slowed in every successive decade since the 1960s. Policymakers traded well-paid jobs for low-cost electronics; the loss of work weakened the fabric of society and of democracy. Soaring inequality extends far beyond incomes: life expectancy for less affluent Americans has declined in recent years. And the focus on efficiency has come at the expense of the future: lower taxes instead of education and infrastructure; limited environmental regulation as oceans rise and California and Greece burn.  This book is a reckoning: the economists’ hour is coming to an end, and the world they have left us with feels less predictable than when it began.  Binyamin Appelbaum writes about economics and business for the editorial page of the New York Times. His reporting for the Charlotte Observer on sub-prime lending won him a George Polk Award and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Conjuring the Universe: The Origins of the Laws of Nature by Peter Atkins, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-81338-5.
The marvellous complexity of the Universe emerges from several deep laws and a handful of fundamental constants that fix its shape, scale, and destiny. Peter Atkins identifies the minimum decisions that would be needed for the Universe to behave as it does, arguing that the laws of Nature can spring from very little—or perhaps from nothing at all.

Mass:  The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields by Peter Atkins, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-75972-0.
Jim Baggott explores how our understanding of the nature of matter, and its fundamental property of mass, has developed, from the ancient Greek view of indivisible atoms to quantum mechanics, dark matter, the Higgs field, and beyond.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Bond Cars: the Definitive History of… by Jason Barlow, Ebury, £50, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94513-7.
Of interest to James Bond aficionados.

The 4 Day Week by Andrew Barnes, Piatkus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42490-3.
Entrepreneur and business innovator Andrew Barnes makes the case for the four-day week as the answer to many of the ills of the twenty-first century global economy.  In 2018, Barnes conducted an experiment in his own business, the New Zealand trust company, Perpetual Guardian, and asked his staff to design a four-day week that would permit them to meet their existing productivity requirements on the same salary but with a 20 per cent cut in work hours. The outcomes of this trial, which no business leader had previously attempted on these terms, were stunning. People were happier and healthier, more engaged in their personal lives, and more focused and productive in the office. The story of Perpetual Guardian’s unprecedented work experiment made headlines around the world and stormed social media, reaching a global audience over 4.5 billion. In The 4 Day Week, Andrew Barnes presents a practical, step-by-step guide to preparing businesses for productivity-focused flexibility, from the necessary cultural conditions to the often complex legislative considerations.

A Brief History of Your Very Near Future by Jamie Bartlett, Ebury, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10553-7.
A deep dive into what the future holds for our digital lives, from how we die online to how to tell the truth in the era of Deep Fakes, by the author of The People vs Tech and The Dark Net.  It puts you and your life at the centre of the story about our digital future, which is already here and has consequences for everything from democracy to our very humanity, none of which we have reckoned with yet.  REALITY You can no longer tell the difference between a bot and a human, and emotionally you are long past caring.  CONTROL Your smart devices and intelligent possessions are not only measuring you but judging you.  FREE WILL You’re now unable to protect your free will as micro profiling and neuro hacking can manipulate you at will.  INEQUALITY You’re part of a new tech underclass, never off-grid, always on and working at the economic zero hours digital interface.  TRUTH In the face of deep fake technology, truth has become a meaningless bankrupt currency. What do you replace it with? SECURITY The new digital and nano-robotic technologies means there is always threat – nowhere, no one and nothing is really safe anymore.  TRUST Now algorithms are making all the decisions, how do we hold ourselves to account?

Altered Carbon: The art and making of the series by Abbie Bernstein, Titan, £24.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09218-9.
This is a companion to the Netflix series based on the Richard Morgan novels.

Possible Minds: Twenty-five ways of looking at A.I. edited by John Brockman, Penguin,£15, pbk, ISBN 978-0-525-55801-9.
Artificial intelligence is likely to shape the key changes to living as we approach themed-twenty-first century. Here, 25 leading scientists working on artificial intelligence present their views.

The Magicians: The visionaries who demonstrate the miraculous predictive power of science by Marcus Chown, Faber, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-0-571-34638-7.
From the discovery of Neptune to Einstein's gravity waves, Marcus Chown tells the story of how mathematics and science predicted major discoveries, including anti-matter.

Women of Science: 100 inspirational lives by John S. Croucher, Amberley, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-445-68471-0.

Oxford Guide to Plain English by Martin Cutts, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84461-7.
An essential addition to the bookshelf for those seeking to be a journalist, author, copy-writer or even a fanzine editor. This offers practical guidelines to help readers make their writing clearer by improving structure, word choice, grammar, punctuation, and layout. This new edition has been fully revised, reorganized, and updated to make its content even more accessible. There are new chapters detailing customer service writing and common blunders in the workplace, while other sections have been amended to update examples, provide easier routes though the book, and cut out jargon and repetition. A new appendix has also been added, summarising the history of plain English from Chaucer to the present day.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins, Black Swan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16420-1.
From the author of The God Delusion, it's second helpings with another rant against organised primitive superstition that survives today.

Physical Intelligence: The science of thinking without thinking by Scott Grafton, John Murray, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66976-5.
What stops us walking into walls? How do we pick the moment to cross the road? What helps you discover that shortcut? The author is a neuroscientist.

Alien Oceans: The search for life in the depth of space by Kevin Peter Hand, Princeton University Press, £22, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-691-17951-3.
Is there life in the seas under the ice on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn?

Niels Bohr:  A Very Short Introduction by John Heilbron, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-81926-4.
This book introduces the life and work of one of the most creative physicists of the 20th century. Niels Bohr, the pioneer of quantum theory, ranking with Einstein in importance for the development of modern physics, also had deep interests in philosophy, literature, and humanism. John Heilbron explores how these influenced his ground-breaking work.

Building a Resilient Tomorrow:  How to Prepare for the Coming Climate Disruption by Alice C. Hill & Leonardo Martinezdiaz, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-190-90934-5.
This does not dwell on overhyped descriptions of apocalyptic climate scenarios, nor does it travel down well-trodden paths surrounding the politics of reducing carbon emissions. Instead, it starts with two central facts: climate impacts will continue to occur, and we can make changes now to mitigate their effects. While squarely confronting the scale of the risks we face, this pragmatic guide focuses on solutions—some gradual and some more revolutionary—currently being deployed around the globe.

Cyberwar:  How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President: What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Oxford University Press, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-190-05883-8.
This tackles the issue of Russian meddling in US elections. She marshals the troll posts, unique polling data, analyses of how the press used the hacked content, and a synthesis of half a century of media effects research to argue that it is probable that the Russians helped elect Donald Trump. After detailing the ways in which the Russian efforts were abetted by the press, social media platforms, the candidates, party leaders, and a polarised public, Cyberwar closes with a warning: the country is ill-prepared to prevent a sequel. In this updated paperback edition, Jamieson covers the many new developments that have come to light since the original publication.

The Story of More by Hope Jahren, Fleet, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-708-89898-7.
Hope Jahren is an award-winning geobiologist, a brilliant writer and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this Earth.  In The Story of More, Jahren illuminates the link between human consumption habits and our imperilled planet. In short, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions – from electric power to large-scale farming and automobiles – that, even as they help us, release untenable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. She explains the current and projected consequences of greenhouse gases - from super-storms to rising sea levels - and the actions that all of us can take to fight back.  At once an explainer on the mechanisms of warming and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.

All the Ghosts in the Machine by Elaine Kasket, Robinson, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-14190-3.
A look at the problems likely with digital after-lives.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Radical Uncertainty by John Kay & Mervyn King, The Bridge Street Press, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-71260-3.
Uncertainty pervades the big decisions we all make in our lives. How much should we pay into our pensions each month? Should we take regular exercise? Expand the business? Change our strategy? Take an expensive holiday? We do not know what the future will hold. But we must make decisions anyway. So we crave certainties which cannot exist and invent knowledge we cannot have.  This incisive and eye-opening book draws on biography, history, mathematics, economics and philosophy to highlight the most successful – and most short-sighted – methods of dealing with an unknowable future. Ultimately, the authors argue, the prevalent method of our age falls short, giving us a false understanding of our power to make predictions, leading to many of the problems we experience today. Tightly argued, provocative and written with wit and flair, Radical Uncertainty is an exploration of the limits of numbers and a celebration of human instinct and wisdom.  John Kay is an economist and an Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.  Mervyn King was Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013 and is currently Professor of Economics and Law at New York University and School Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Lord King was made a life peer in 2013 and appointed by the Queen a Knight of the Garter in 2014.

Disaster by Choice:  How Our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes by Ilan Kelman, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84134-0.
We speak of earthquakes, floods, and wildfires as ‘natural disasters’. Here Ilan Kelman argues that the true disaster is not caused by natural phenomena, but by human choices that leave people unprepared and at terrible risk. He explores how we can and should act to stop people suffering when nature unleashes its powers. Throughout, his message is clear: there is no such thing as a natural disaster. The disaster lies in our inability to deal with the environment and with ourselves.

Apocalypse How:  Technology and the Threat of Mass Disaster by Sir Oliver Letwin, Atlantic, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49686-7.
How advancing technology is leaving society open to myriad dangers, from hackers to natural disaster. As we grow ever more dependent on technology, the risks of something going very wrong are multiplying. Whether it is a hostile state striking key infrastructure (like Russia did with Ukraine in 2016) or a freak solar storm, our systems have become so interlinked that if one part goes down, the rest topples like dominoes. In this gripping book, former UK government minister Oliver Letwin imagines our near future and asks what would happen if the unthinkable happened. Exploring the utter chaos that would ensue, he asks how we can become more resilient to black-swan events – and whether we place too much faith in technology to always have the answers.

The Remarkable Lives of Numbers by Derrick Niederman, Duckworth, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-715-6540206.
A tour of numbers from zero to 200 explaining each's properties. Possibly more interesting than it sounds.

The Self Delusion:  The Surprising Science of How We Are Connected and Why that Matters by Tom Oliver, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61174-9.
Ecologist at Reading University, Tom Oliver explores the evidence contradicting the perception we have of ourselves as independent beings we like to believe that we exist as independent selves at the centre of a subjective universe. This is an illusion, and on a physical, psychological and cultural level, we are all much more intertwined than we know. Tom Oliver makes the argument that we have a better chance of facing some of the biggest global challenges ahead if we can start to understand and accept the complex connections between us and see beyond our individualistic mindsets to view our place in the world as it really is.

The Hidden Universe: An investigation into non-human intelligences by Anthony Peake, Watkins, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-78280-9.
Covers aliens, ghosts, UFO abduction in an overall survey.

Nano Comes to Life: How nanotechnology is transforming medicine and the future of biology, Princeton University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-691-16880-7.

Einstein's Fridge: The science of fire, ice and the universe by Paul Sen, Collins, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-26279-2.
This is a very readable account of how leading physicists countered personal demons to elucidate the laws of thermodynamics.

Some Assembly Required: Decoding four billion years of life from ancient fossils to DNA by Neil Shubin, Oneworld, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-07801-8.
A fascinating deep time perspective using both palaeontological and the more recent molecular clock techniques.

Infinite Powers: The Story of Calculus – The Language of the Universe by Steven Strogatz, Atlantic, £9.99, ISBN 978-1-786-49297-5.
One of the world’s foremost mathematicians takes readers on a thrilling journey through three millennia, professor Steven Strogatz charts the development of calculus from the days of Archimedes to its application today in everything from artificial intelligence to making blockbuster movies.

Future Politics:  Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech by Jamie Susskind, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84892-9.
Digital technologies—from artificial intelligence to blockchain, from robotics to virtual reality—are transforming the way we live together. Those who control the most powerful technologies are increasingly able to control the rest of us. A landmark work of political theory, Future Politics challenges readers to rethink what it means to be free or equal, what it means to have power or property, and what it means for a political system to be just or democratic. In a time of rapid and relentless changes, it is a book about how we can—and must—regain control.

The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by Phil Szostak, Abrams, £30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-419-74038-1.

Spacefarers: How humans will settle the Moon, Mars and Beyond by Christopher Wanjek, Harvard University Press, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-674-98448-6.
One for mundane, hard SF fans.

The Maths of Life and Death by Kit Yates, Quercus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47540-3.
Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application - or misapplication – of mathematics has played a critical role, and arms us with simple mathematical rules and tools that can help us make better decisions.

 

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 2020

General Science News

 

The 2019 Nobel Prizes for science have been announced. The science category wins were:-
          Physics: Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both from the University of Geneva, were honoured for discovering 'an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star'.
          Chemistry: John B. Goodenough (German born American), M. Stanley Whittingham (Great Britain) and Akira Yoshino (Japan) share the prize for their work on these rechargeable devices, which are used for portable electronics.  At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever Nobel laureate.
          Medicine: Sir Peter Ratcliffe (Great Britain), William Kaelin (US) and Gregg Semenza (US), for their work on how cells sense and adapt to levels. Their work also has possible implications for the development of potential leukaemia treatments.
          Literature: Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish author, and Peter Handke, an Austrian writer.  Two wins this year as the Literature prize was not presented last year because of a scandal at the academy administering the Nobels.  Of genre relevance Olga Tokarczuk's work includes that which is fantasy in the novels E. E. (1995), Primeval and Other Times (1996) and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009).
          Economics: Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for using the scientific method including experimental, randomised trials to underpin economic theory relating to poverty.  Worthy work and good to see the humanities and sociology recognise the value of science.  Abhijit Banerjee said, The poor appear, in social theory, as much as in literature, by turns lazy or enterprising, noble or thievish, angry or passive, helpless or self-sufficient," Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo wrote in their seminal work, Poor Economics, which examined the real nature of poverty and how the poor reacted to incentives.
          "It is no surprise that the policy stances that correspond to these views of the poor also tend to be captured in simple formulas: 'Free markets for the poor', 'Make human rights substantial, 'Deal with conflict first', 'Give more money to the poorest', 'Foreign aid kills development' and the like."
          So the couple decided to begin work on the world's poorest and how markets and institutions work for them.
          They undertook field studies and randomised trials in India and Africa to make sense of what the poor are able to achieve. Banerjee and Duflo have been involved in about 70 to 80 experiments.

Electric car recharging time drastically shortened!  Today, the best lithium battery electric cars have a range of 200 miles (320 km) but can take up to three hours to recharge. This means that travelling over 200 miles in a day becomes unrealistic.  It is possible to shorten the charge time using more power however, as a battery's rate of power absorption has its limits, electrolysis of the lithium battery comes into play and one of the electrodes becomes coated in lithium (called plating) so reducing the battery's ability to store power: fast charging significantly reduces battery's storage ability in just a few dozen charge-discharge cycles.
          Researcher Chao-Yang Wang and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University (US), and publishing in the journal Joule, have found that pre-warming batteries to 60°C (the temperature of a very hot bath), and keeping it warm just during recharging, increases batteries' ability to absorb charge with reduced plating.  This way they can recharge a battery in just 10 minutes! (This is just 5% of the normal 3-hour recharge time.)  Warming batteries during charging sees the batteries able to retain 80% of their storage capacity after 1,700 charge-discharge cycles.

The Earth is warming faster, Arctic summer ice melting more extensively and sea level rise is accelerating more than at any time in humanity's evolutionary history says the UN's World Meteorological Organisation.  The current five-year period 2015–2019 has seen a continued increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and an accelerated increase in the atmospheric concentration of major greenhouse gases (GHGs), with growth rates nearly 20% higher.  The five-year period 2015–20191 is likely to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record globally, with a 1.1°C global temperature increase since the pre-industrial period and a 0.2°C increase compared to the previous five-year period. Continuing and accelerated trends have also predominated.  The WMO later produced an Emissions Report that revealed that not only were greenhouse gas emission were continuing to rise, that the rate of increase was itself increasing!  (See World Meteorological Organisation (2019) Global Climate in 2015–2019. WMO: Geneva, Switzerland, and World Meteorological Organization (2019) WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. World Meteorological Organization: Geneva.)

Because we are failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions we need even more drastic cuts if we are to stabilise climate change says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  "Our collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts." UNEP tells us that "to get in line with the Paris Agreement, emissions must drop 7.6 percent per year from 2020 to 2030 for the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal. The size of these annual cuts may seem shocking, particularly for 1.5°C. They may also seem impossible, at least for next year. But we have to try."  (See United Nations Environment Programme (2019) Emissions Gap Report 2019. UNEP: Nairobi.)

Australia sees over six million hectares burn in wildfires.  An unusually dry and very hot summer has seen fires that together cover an area more than twice the size of Belgium or six times the size of California.  Nearly half a billion wildlife animals are estimated to have died in the conflagrations in addition to 100,000 cows and sheep that may also have been lost.  As we post this page over 25 humans have lost their lives and over 1,800 homes have been destroyed including some of SF fans.  The unprecedented scale of the disaster is in line with the expected impacts of global warming.  ++++ Related news covered last season includes:-
- Boreal forests are becoming net sources of carbon rather than sinks
- The Amazon is on fire

The Earth is losing ice faster than ever before on record.  The Earth's 'cryosphere' comprises all its regions of snow and ice including regions of permafrost.  A special report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that:  between 2006 and 2015: the Greenland Ice Sheet lost ice mass at an average rate of 278 ± 11 Gt (gigatonnes a year (equivalent to 0.77 ± 0.03 mm yr–1 of global sea level rise);  the Antarctic Ice Sheet lost mass at an average rate of 155 ± 19 Gt yr–1 (equivalent to 0.43 ± 0.05 mm yr–1 of global sea level rise);  and that glaciers worldwide outside Greenland and Antarctica lost mass at an average rate of 220 ± 30 Gt yr–1 (equivalent to 0.61 ± 0.08 mm yr–1 sea level rise).  (See IPCC (2019) IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. IPCC: Geneva, Switzerland.)

The oceans are losing oxygen says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  The IUCN has issued a report, Ocean Deoxygenation: Everyone’s Problem, that points to nutrient run-off from land coupled with the significant warming of sea water (resulting from build-up of greenhouse gases) as the cause of this deoxygenation.  The report is the work of 67 scientists from 51 institutes in 17 countries.  Ocean deoxygenation is but the latest consequence of our activities on the ocean to be recognised. Ocean warming, ocean deoxygenation, and ocean acidification are major ‘stressors’ on marine systems and typically co-occur because they share a common cause. Increasing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere simultaneously warm, deoxygenate, and acidify marine systems.  Different analyses conclude that the global ocean oxygen content has decreased by 1-2% since the middle of the 20th century.  (See Laffoley, D. & Baxter, J.M. (eds.) (2019) Ocean Deoxygenation: Everyone’s Problem - Causes, impacts, consequences and solutions. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.)

The science is clear: the Earth is warming faster, Arctic summer ice melting more extensively, sea level rise is accelerating, and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing more than at any time in humanity's evolutionary history says the UN's World Meteorological Organisation together with other UN agencies united in science.  The consortium of organisations have produced a report United in Science that synthesises the latest climate science information convened by the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019.  It concludes that:  the average global temperature for 2015-2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2°C warmer than 2011-2015.  Observations show that global mean sea level rise is accelerating and an overall increase of 26% in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era.  Increases in CO2 concentrations continue to accelerate.  Current levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O represent 146%, 257% and 122% respectively of preindustrial levels (pre-1750).  Global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020.  Furthermore, climate impacts increase the risk of crossing critical tipping points, climate thresholds that send the Earth system into a new state.  Finally, it notes that there is a growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago. (See Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 (2019) United in Science. WMO: Geneva, Switzerland.)
          Previous news covered elsewhere by SF² Concatenation includes:-
  - Recent growth in methane greenhouse gas large
  - US rain storms to become more intense with global warming
  - 2017 record greenhouse gas high
  - We must totally de-carbonise global energy by mid-century
  - Past Antarctic ice loss indicates future sea level rise
  - Global warming is forecast to intensify more than usual between 2018-2022AD
  - Hurricanes are moving slower, dumping more water
  - Global warming forecasts may need revising upwards
  - Warming will make where a fifth of population live uninhabitable
  - Hurricane record in the 2017 late summer
  - More super-hot summers ahead
  - Marine heatwaves more common
  - Reducing climate goal 0.5°C will save a quarter of a billion sea-level refugees
  - Antarctic melt increases
  - Surge in emissions while ability of Earth system to absorb carbon declines
  - Southwest USA 70-99% chance of a megadrought by 2100
  - We may be committed to 5°C warming
  - UK set to miss 202 renewables target in three years time
  - Sea-level rise estimates from Antarctica needs to be revised upwards
  - UN Climate Change Panel (IPCC) releases 2014 impact assessment
  - IPCC releases 2013 science assessment (AR5)

Between 190 million and 630 m people currently live on land projected to flood by 2100AD due to sea-level rise.  The range reflects the low and high greenhouse gas emission scenarios used by the IPCC.  It is important to note that this estimate range is based on the current population living in these low-lying lands and it ignores population growth. It also does not incorporate the latest sea-level rise estimates resulting from the previous news item's ice melt research.  This makes the number of refugees from Syria entering Europe, combined with the number currently leaving S. America for the US, small beer.  (See S. Kulp, S. A. & Strauss, B. H. (2019) New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Nature Communications, vol. 10, 4844. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12808-z)  See also previously Reducing climate goal 0.5°C will save a quarter of a billion sea-level refugees.

Weather forecasting worldwide is being threatened by 5G roll-out.  The World Meteorological Organization is concerned that the outcome of international agreement as to 5G roll-out will mean that 5G microwave leakage risks for several years impeding weather satellite data being transmitted to Earth.  The new allocation of bandwidths of the world’s radio spectrum for 5G are right next to the band used by weather and Earth monitoring satellites. Leakage could well affect weather forecasting and warning activities of the national weather services as well as Earth observation. Specifically, there could be an unregulated increase in interference in the 24GHz the meteorological satellite observation frequency radio spectrum band.

An artificial quantum computer has been built and tested.  Normal computers uses bits of zero or one; quantum computers use qubits that are simultaneously one or zero (0/1). Qubits use quantum states such as the up/down electron spin.  Japanese researchers have now created an artificial 'quantum-like qubit using hundreds of thousands of electron spins that oscillate up or down due to random, thermal fluctuation. Such bits are called probabilistic bits (p-bits) and the computer using these is called a probabilistic computer — also known as a stochastic computer (one using the precession of electron spins in nano-magnets was reported in 2016).  One advantage of this type of computing is that unlike current quantum computers that need to be cooled to near absolute zero.
          The research team programmed their probabilistic computer to calculate the factors of integers up to 945. Such calculations are so difficult for standard computers to solve that they have become the basis of public encryption keys used in passwords. A conventional probabilistic computer — one that uses silicon transistors — would require more than 1,000 transistors to complete this task. But Fukami and colleagues’ machine did it using just eight p-bits!  Their components needed just one three-hundredth of the surface area and used one-tenth of the energy.  (Borders, W. A., Pervaiz, A. Z.., Fukami, S. et al (2019) Integer factorization using stochastic magnetic tunnel junctions. Nature, vol. 573, p390-3, and a review piece Nikonov, D. E. (2019) Stochastic magnetic bits rival quantum bits. Nature, vol. 573, p351-2 as well as the editorial Feynman’s quest: Probabilistic computing could provide an energy-efficient way of dealing with big data. Nature, vol. 573, p310.)

Google claims to have achieved 'quantum supremacy'.  'Quantum supremacy' takes place when a quantum computer out-performs the best conventional computer.  John Martinis (an experimental physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Google in Mountain View, California) says that his team's quantum computer carried out a specific calculation that is beyond the practical capabilities of regular ‘classical’ machines The same calculation would take even the best classical supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.  'Quantum supremacy' is something of a milestone for quantum computing.  (See Arute, F. et al (2019) Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor. Nature, vol. 574, p505-510.  See also the review Oliver, W. D. (2019) Quantum computing takes flight. Nature, vol. 574, p487-8  and the news item Gibney, E. (2019) Google publishes landmark quantum supremacy claim. Nature, vol. 574, p461-2.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site:-
  - Writing large numbers of qubits is now possible
  - Two-colour photon for qubit
  - IBM is to launch a cloud accessed quantum computing
  - Qubit for quantum computing using conventional electronics
  - Record for storing a quantum bit at room temperature
  - First commercial quantum computer sold

 

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 2020

Natural Science News

 

Following the dinosaur extinction, mammals recovered in just about 100,000 years.  US biologists looking at the geological record in Colorado, have found that mammal species richness and maximum body mass retuned to pre-extinction levels within around 100,000 years after the extinction event. Large mammals appeared somewhere around 700,000 years after the extinction.  The Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T), or Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) in new nomenclature terminology, extinction saw the demise of the dinosaurs following an asteroid strike some 65 million years ago.  While it took nearly several million years for the assemblage of ecosystems globally to recover, species considered alone fared better, and mammals seemed to recover quickly.  This may have set the stage for mammal dominating the subsequent Cenozoic era to the present.  See Lyson, T. R. et al (2019) Exceptional continental record of biotic recovery following the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. Science, vol. 366, p977-983. doi 10.11.26/scienc.eaay2268)

A fossil of the earliest (so far) ape to walk upright has been found.  Surprisingly, unlike all the other early upright walking ape fossils found (which were in Africa), this discovery was made in Bavaria, Germany.  The remains are of an ape that had long legs compared to body, as well as a vertebra structure, that suggests it could stand upright.  The fossils include remains of at least four individuals, with a partial skeleton that is sufficiently complete to describe the shape of the limbs and spine and proportions of the body in detail.  The fossil dates to around 11.62-million years-old and so from the late Miocene epoch. The species has been named Danuvius guggenmosi.  (See Bohme, M., Spassov, N., Fuss, J. et al, 2019, A new Miocene ape and locomotion in the ancestor of great apes and humans. Nature, vol. 575, p489-493, and a short review piece Kivell, T. L., 2019, Fossil ape hints at how bipedal walking evolved. Nature, vol. 575, p445-6.)
          Related previous news elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - New Denisovan fossil indicates early humans were more widespread
  - Modern humans left Africa 80,000 years earlier than thought
  - Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago
  - How humans eat meat before fire has now been revealed
  - Modern humans had seΧ with Neanderthals 100,000 years ago
  - First stone age tools now 71,000 years not 40,000 years ago
  - First humans in Australia arrived 10,000 years earlier than thought
  - Earliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years ago among a raft of early human science news.
See also below…

Anatomically modern humans likely originated in the Makgadikgadi–Okavango palaeo-wetland of southern Africa.  Anatomically modern humans' (as opposed to earlier species of human and even earlier hominins) likely geographical origins have been elucidated though analysing over 1,200 individual's mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes) featuring the ancient maternal L0 mitochondrial DNA branch as well as doing a linguistic analysis (comparing similar words across African languages to see how one evolved from another hence which came first and where.  Finally, the researchers married the results of both these analyses with a palaeoclimate(past climate) model of Southern Africa.  Southern Africa (not just the nation South Africa) has long been considered to be one of the regions in which anatomically modern humans originated.  Today the Makgadikgadi–Okavangoarea consists of salt beds but used to be an ancient wetland with lakes.  The researchers propose that humans may well have come from this area during past dry periods and returned to it during wet periods within the 130,000 to 110,000 years ago time frame with each migration pulse affecting language and leaving a genetic imprint in surrounding populations that resonates through to today.  (See Chan, E K. F., Timmermann, A., Baldi B.F. et al, 2019, Human origins in a southern African palaeo-wetland and first migrations. Nature, vol. 575, p185-189.)

Earliest figurative artwork has been found, drawn a little over 43,900 years ago.  The previous oldest figurative cave art (as opposed to abstracts or hand prints) was a carved figurine from Germany of a human with a feline head a little over 39,000 years old.  Australian and Indonesian researchers have found an elaborate rock art panel from the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong (Sulawesi, Indonesia) that portrays several figures including presumably prey animals. This cave art has been uranium decay dated to at least 43.9 ka.  This hunting scene is thought to be currently the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world. (Aubert, M. et al, 2019, Earliest hunting scene in prehistoric art. Nature, vol. 576, p442-5.)

The Great Auks were doing fine, only humans caused their extinction.  The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a large, flightless diving bird thought to have once numbered in the millions.  The great auk was distributed around the North Atlantic with breeding colonies in northern Europe and NE America.  The last member of the species died out in the mid-nineteenth century after probably around 350 years of non-sustainable harvesting.  A large research team, mainly of European biologists, led by Britain's Jessica Thomas, has used genetic analysis of auk remains of over 40 individuals spanning 15,000 years as well as GPS floats to determine currents, hence model gene flow between breeding colonies.  They found that there was no population stress prior to hunting by humans. Also, had humans restricting harvesting to 9% or less per annum of adults, then the bird would have survived.  The researchers note that their conclusions are in line with the extinction of other species by humans including: the New Zealand moa by the Maori, and the Hawaiian Petrel by the newly indigenous population.  (See Thomas et al (2019) Demographic reconstruction from ancient DNA supports rapid extinction of the great auk. eLife doi.org/10.7554/eLife.47509.)

The Chinese gene-edited humans may not have shorter lives.  Last season we reported that the Chinese gene-edited humans may have shorter lives.  This referred to the creation of gene edited humans resistant to HIV.  This is because there is some evidence that people with two disabled copies of the CCR5 gene — the version that protects against HIV infection and which was edited — are 21% more likely to die before the age of 76 than are people with at least one working copy of the gene, according to a paper in Nature Medicine (Wei et al http://doi.org/c6pj; 2019).  However, it now seems that there were errors in the database the researchers used and this completely renders the lifespan conclusions as invalid.  The researchers of the original paper have themselves retracted their paper. (See also (2019) Errors in CRISPR-baby study: Geneticists retract paper that suggested first gene-edited babies might die early. Nature, vol. 570, p307.)

Jail for human modifying Chinese researchers.  The biophysicist He Jiankul, who claimed to have genetically modified twins using CRISPR, has been handed a three-year prison sentence and two colleagues have also been sent to jail with shorter sentences for 'illegal medical practice'.  He Jiankul was additionally fined three million yuan (£524,500 / US$430,000).

New, prime-editing, tool for modifying genomes sets to take biology by storm.  When the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool was developed in 2014 there was a boom in research editing genomes this past half decade.  The advantage of the original CRISPR-Cas9 is that it is easy to use an fairly accurate.  However, its disadvantage is that it is only fairly accurate: there are errors.  These errors come about because CRISPR-Cas9 breaks both strands of DNA (double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs)) and the cells repair mechanisms can get in and mess things up.  Conversely, with the new Cas9 prime-editing tool (this tool still uses Cas9) only part of one strand is replaced and the cell's repair mechanisms suitably (accurately) complement the other strand with the bases edited in.  Consequently, prime-editor is more accurate than the previous CRISPR-Cas9.  The only disadvantage of prime-editor is that only short strands of DNA can be inserted or deleted and so there will still be a role for the old fashioned CRISPR-Cas9.  However, prime-editing's accuracy will be valuable for single-gene editing and so it is likely to have a bright future in gene therapy.  Prime editor was developed by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  (Anzalone, A. V., et al (2019) Search-and-replace genome editing without double-strand breaks or donor DNA. Nature, vol. 576, p149-157 Doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1711-4  and two review piece Ledford, H. (2019) Precise CRISPR tool could tackle host of genetic diseases. Nature Vol. 574, p464-5 and Platt, R. J. (2019) CRISPR tool enables precise genome editing. Nature, vol. 576, p48-9.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on SF² Concatenation:--
  - The risks of altering the genetics of whole animal populations have been reduced
  - US intelligence says gene editing is a weapon of mass destruction
  - New antibiotics created derived from engineered viruses targeting resistance
  - CRISPR tool developed to reveal gene activity over time
  - Genetic progressive deafness may be cured by CRISPR
  - CRISPR off-switch found
  - Japan, US and Europe determine gene editing rules
  - New CRISPR tools edit RNA
  - Two new nucleic acid editors take us beyond CRISPR-Cas9 editing

Russian researcher edits human embryo removing deafness gene.  This goes beyond gene therapy for deafness.  Denis Rebrikov has edited out genes in human eggs with the goal of repairing a mutation that can cause deafness.  The eggs were donated by a couple who both have a gene impairing hearing.  The eggs were not allowed to develop nor were they implanted.  Rebrikov says he will not look at doing this until the Russian ethical regulatory body grants approval.
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on SF² Concatenation:-
  - Genetically modifying humans is not unethical says Nuffield
  - Book review: Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes
  - Genetically edited human embryos created
  - Mitochondrial genetic disease measure.
  - Human mitochondrial replacement is OK say US Academies
  - UK scientists get go-ahead for human embryo gene editing
  - US Food and Drug Administration has orders clinic to cease mitochondrial replacement
  - Three parent humans are now possible with mitochondrial DNA
  - First genome edit of a human embryo conducted
  - Artificial life with artificial base pairs has been created
  - Preparations for post-human society begun
  - Australia lifts ban on stem cell cloning
  - Japan lifts ban on human cloning embryo research
  - Complete genome for a bacterium chemically assembled
  - First human-made bacterial life from raw chemicals imminent

The global trade in wildlife is likely to place 8,775 species at risk of extinction.  Trade in wildlife affects ~18%of all extant terrestrial vertebrate species on Earth. An assessment by US and British biologists now shows that 5,579 of 31,745 vertebrate species have been reported as traded and that 8,775 species will be at risk of extinction from trade.  The tree of life is being pruned by human activities at an unprecedented rate.  (Scheffers, B. R., Oliveira, B. F., Lamb, I. & Edwards, D. P. (2019) Global wildlife trade across the tree of life. Science, vol. 366, p71-6.)

A survey detailing the state of British nature reveals that since 1970 more than a quarter of UK mammals are facing extinction.  The report by 'The State of Nature' partnership of 70 learned societies and environmental charities, reveals that: a quarter of moths have been lost, and nearly one in five butterflies; almost one in five plants are classified as being at risk of extinction, along with 15% of fungi and lichens, 40% of vertebrates and 12% of invertebrates.  UK wildlife is also changing more and more quickly. The report found more than half of species had either rapidly decreased or increased in number over the last 10 years.  (See Hayhow, D. B., Eaton, M.A., Stanbury, A. J. et al (2019) The State of Nature 2019. The State of Nature partnership.)

A survey of N. American birds reveals a decline in abundance of 29% since 1970.  Canadian and US biologists and wildlife conservationists report population losses across much of the North American bird population over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance.  A continent-wide weather radar network also reveals a similarly steep decline in biomass passage of migrating birds over a recent 10-year period.  (See Rosenberg, K. V., Dokter, A. M., Blancher, P. J. et al (2019) Decline of the North American avifauna. Science, vol. 366, p120-4.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on SF² Concatenation:--
  - Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction
  - Three-quarters flying insect decline
  - Humans not the cause of African extinctions 4.6 million years ago
  - Thousands of vertebrate species declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014
  - 2017 sees record tree loss
  - Last northern white rhinoceros dies
  - 10% of the planet's wilderness area gone in two decades
  - Another 10% of the planet's wilderness area gone estimate
  - City birds and plants in worldwide decline

Global agriculture may have to provide 80% more calories by 2100.  Not only is the global population growing, it is getting heavier with a rising BMI (body mass index).  Researchers Lutz Depenbusch and Stephan Klasen noted that just on numbers alone, assuming a proportional increase from the population in 2010 AD, that to meet demand the global food system would need to provide an extra 61.85% calories by 2100.  However, noting that richer societies become taller and heavier, an extra 18.73% would be additionally required.  The combined additional calories the world will require therefore approximates 80%.  They also note that China is estimated to experience an early peak in calorie requirements before being surpassed by India.  This is mainly driven by demographic developments: China will face a sharply declining population while India’s population is projected to grow much longer. Calorie requirements in the USA will peak towards the end of the century due to steady population growth, while Indonesia’s requirements will peak in the middle of the century.  These countries will be surpassed by Nigeria, where rapid population growth propels requirements up.  The USA, whose population is on average already tall and overweight, will likely see a decrease in calorie requirement due to height and BMI factors alone.  The researchers' estimates show that changes in body weight considerably add to the expected increase in future national and global calorie requirements. This will be particularly important in the second half of the 21st century, when increases due to demographic change start levelling off.  The wild card factors that will affect these estimates are: tackling food waste, the amount of meat in the global diet, and tackling food distribution inequalities.  If this last is not addressed, regional and poor starvation will increase.  (Depenbusch L. & Klasen S. (2019) The effect of bigger human bodies on the future global calorie requirements. PLoS ONE, vol.14 (12), e0223188.)

 

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Spring 2020

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

Inter-galactic gas observation helps confirm theory of Universe structure.  Cosmological theory has it that most gas in the Universe lies in the intergalactic medium, where it forms into sheets and filaments of the cosmic web. Clusters of galaxies form at the intersection of these filaments, fed by gas pulled along them by gravity.  All well and good but there has been little observation of intergalactic gas as it is so thin.  This intergalactic gas theory is a prediction of the lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model. In this model, primordial hydrogen created in the Big Bang collapses into sheets, which in turn collapse into filaments. Galaxies form where filaments either cross or are over-dense. The gas filaments feed galaxies as they grow. However, the evidence for this web of gas has remained circumstantial.  Using the latest equipment, a collaboration of British, Japanese and Swiss astronomers report the detection of rest-frame ultraviolet Lyman-α radiation from multiple filaments extending more than one megaparsec between galaxies within the SSA22 protocluster at a redshift of 3.1.  Their observations map the gas in filamentary structures of the type thought to fuel the growth of galaxies and black holes in massive protoclusters.  (See Umehata, H., Fumagalli, M., Smail, V. et al (2019) Gas filaments of the cosmic web located around active galaxies in a protocluster. Science, vol. 366, p97-100, and a review piece Hamden, E. (2019) Observing the cosmic web. Science, vol. 366, p31-2.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on SF² Concatenation:-
  - We are on the edge of a 500 million light year diameter supercluster
  - A billion light year void in the Universe discovered

Ancient galaxy cluster observation affirms previous inference of early stars.  Astronomers primarily from Canada and the US have observed an ancient galaxy cluster (from 10.4 billion years ago) that existed some 3.3 billion years after the Big Bang.  All well and good, this cluster had been previously known.  What is new is that they used the galaxies colour (its redness) to deduce the cluster's age: young galaxies have more yellow and green stars; old galaxies have more red dwarfs.  From this they concluded that the first stars in these galaxies must have begun forming when the Universe was only 370 million years old.  This lends credence to previous theory from observation that the first stars got going just 180 million years after the Big Bang and the inference of ancient stars by a microwave signal detected by Europe's Planck satellite.  This confirms the notion that the first stars contained only hydrogen as that was the only element in the primordial Universe.  These were very, very big and so blue and very short-lived, dying with massive supernovae and generating many heavier elements. These quickly (cosmologically speaking) resulted in the hydrogen/helium stars with just traces of heavier elements like those we see today.  It also means that the first planets could have formed reasonably early in the Universe.  (See Willis, J. P. et al (2020) Spectroscopic confirmation of a mature galaxy cluster at a redshift of 2. Nature, vol. 557, p39-41  and a review piece  Hatch, N. A. (2020) Galaxy cluster illuminates the cosmic dark ages. Nature, vol. 557, p36-7.)  ++++ Previous related news elsewhere on this site includes Ancient galaxies lack dark matter.

Large stellar nursery structure found in our galaxy.  The huge star-forming region is effectively a ribbon 9,000 light-years long and 400 light-years wide and around 500 light-years from the Sun.  Other than the spiral arms themselves, it is the largest known coherent structure in the Galaxy.  It has been tentatively called the Radcliffe Wave, after Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  The discovery was made by US astronomers examining the data from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission.  Releated news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
- Gaia discovers fast-moving, dead zombie stars
- Gaia confirms that the Galaxy is larger than thought
- Gaia finds that our galaxy was hit by another 10 billion years ago
- Gaia reveals our galaxy was perturbed between 300 and 900 million years ago

There is surprisingly high-speed solar wind near the Sun, NASA's Parker Solar Probe reveals.  In 2018, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) with the aim of identifying the mechanisms behind the heating of the corona and the acceleration of the solar wind. Four papers in Nature report the first results from the PSP.  The measurements from the PSP were taken when the spacecraft was as close as 24 million kilometres to the Sun (for comparison, the average distance between Mercury and the Sun is about 58 million kilometres). They show that the solar wind near the Sun is much more structured and dynamic than it is at Earth.  There are also rapid reversals in the direction of the field that last for only minutes.  It could be that the magnetic-field reversals as travelling S-shaped bends in the field lines coming from the Sun.  Looking ahead. The orbit of the PSP will bring the spacecraft even closer to the Sun in the coming years, to just over 6 million kilometres from the surface.  (See the overview piece Verscharen, D. (2019) A step closer to the Sun’s secrets. Nature, vol. 576, p219-220, and the primary research papers: Bale, S. D. et al. (2019) Nature, vol. 576, p237–242, Kasper, J. C. et al. (2019) Nature, vol. 576, p228–231, McComas, D. J. et al. (2019) Nature vol. 576, p223–227 and Howard, R. A. et al. (2019) Nature vol. 576, p232–236.)

European Space Agency's CHEOPS launched to study exoplanets  Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA), with Switzerland leading.  The mission will take spectra of starlight as it passes through the atmosphere of an intervening planet and so enable elucidation of the planet's atmosphere's composition.  Some 4,500 exo-planets have been discovered since the late 1990s.  CHEOPS has 400-500 targets to look at over the next 3.5 years.  The Americans are currently flying a space telescope called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a follow-on to the highly successful Kepler Observatory

NASA's TESS finds exoplanet in habitable zone.  TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) was launched in April 2018.  It's latest discovery is a likely rocky planet named TOI 700d: 'TOI' being 'TESS Object of Interest' and 'd' being the planet number in the system.  It is just 101.5 light-years from Earth which means it is close enough for good follow-up study with the space telescopes being planned.  The next planet in from TOI 700d – TOI 700c – orbits the star TOI 700 every 16 days but is too close, hence hot on its day side for liquid water.  Conversely, TOI 700d is in the star's habitable zone.  But TOI 700 is a red dwarf hence cooler than our Sun and so TOI 700d orbits every 37 days close in to the red dwarf and receives 86% of the stellar energy that Earth gets from the Sun,.  This means that despite being in the habitable zone it is likely to be tidally locked, or at least near-tidally locked so have a day that is slightly longer or shorter than its year.  Interestingly, TOI 700d just 20% larger than Earth.  The findings were announced during the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society this month (January 2020) in Honolulu.
          TESS has only been operational for a year and a half.  Yet a number of transits need to be detected before the researchers can confirm an observation.  This means that TESS has not been operational long enough to detect Earth-like planets orbiting larger, warmer stars (like our Sun) than red dwarfs.  So detecting a habitable-zone near-Earth-sized world around a red dwarf hints at exciting things to come in the coming years.  We might expect the confirmation of a TESS detection of an Earth-like planet in a habitable zone around a Sun-like star before the middle of this decade!

NASA's TESS finds its first planet orbiting two suns.  TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has discovered its first circumbinary planet – a world (TOI 1338b) with two suns in its sky a bit like in the famous Star Wars scene.  TOI 1338b is nearly the size of Saturn and orbits its stars every 95 days. The two binary stars include a small red dwarf (TOI 1338B) and another a bit like the Sun (TOI 1338A).  From the planet, the suns eclipse each other every 15 days.  ++++ Previous related news covered elsewhere on this site includes two more twin sun planetary systems found.

Rocky planets with the composition similar to Earth and Mars are common in the Galaxy a new type of analysis reveals.  The Earth and Mars contain a different mix of elements compared to the Sun, comets and chondrites, let alone the gas giant planets.  While recent years have seen the detection of many exoplanets, determining their composition is neither easy nor particularly exact.  A small team of US astronomers led by Alexandra Doyle and Edward Young instead have looked at white dwarf stars.
          White dwarves are stars near at the end stage of their life cycles. Normally, the heavy elements (heavier than hydrogen and helium) in white dwarves slowly sink to their centre and so are not detectable from the spectrum of the their near-surface plasma. However, if planets orbiting such stars fall into their white dwarf then these heavy elements persist for a while (in astronomical/geological terms) and so can be detected in the star's spectrum.
          The Alexandra Doyle and Edward Young team looked at six white dwarfs polluted by planets falling in.  All exhibit spectra that reflect an element mix (expressed as oxygen (or, to put it very simply, element oxide) fugacity that reflect rocky planets of a composition similar to Earth and Mars. (See Doyle, A. E., Young, D. E. et al (2019) Oxygen fugacities of extrasolar rocks: Evidence for an Earth-like geochemistry of exoplanets. Science, vol. 366, p356-359.  DOI: 10.1126/science.aax3901)  ++++ Other exoplanet news previously covered on this site includes:-
  - Water detected on an exo-planet large analogue of Earth
  - 2019 and the number of exoplanets discovered tops 4,000!
  - A new technique probes atmosphere of exoplanet
  - European satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres
  - The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launch
  - Seven near Earth-sized planets found in one system
  - Most Earth-like planets may be water worlds
  - Earth's fate glimpsed
  - An Earth-like exo-planet has been detected
  - Exoplanet reflected light elucidated
  - Kepler has now detected over 1,000 exoplanets and one could be an Earth twin
  - and Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star.

Mystery oxygen in Martian atmosphere.  A nearly six-year analysis of NASA's Curiosity rover data have revelled a mysterious seasonal oxygen variation in the atmosphere.  The values are small, but they are there and in amounts that cannot easily be explained, hence NASA waited till they had nearly six years-worth – remember that is three Martian years – of data before they submitted a paper to the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (Trainer, M. G., Wong, M. H., McConnchie, T. H.et al, 2019, Seasonal variations in atmospheric composition as measured in Gale Crater, Mars. Doi: 10.1002/jgre.21250).  The amount of oxygen in Martian 'air' rose by 30% in spring and summer around an average value of 0.16% of the atmosphere.  95% of the Martian atmosphere is carbon dioxide and it had been considered that the oxygen could arise by the action of sunlight on carbon dioxide (or even the small traces of water in the atmosphere). However even this is unlikely to produce so much oxygen and, given that sunlight falls equally on the Martian atmosphere throughout the year (albeit different hemispheres) then mixing should smooth things out especially as the sunlight dissociation rate on carbon dioxide is much slower than could account for the variation detected.  However, the Curiosity data shows a significant seasonal and year-to-year variability, suggesting an unknown atmospheric or surface process at work.  This leaves some geological process, but nobody can contemplate what that might be, or life.  If this seasonal oxygen variation were due to life then the biology would also have to fix nitrogen as the non-biological fixation of nitrogen on Mars would be too small by itself to sustain the population of bacteria to produce the methane variations seen as well as the oxygen.  In short, it is all a bit of a puzzle.  Yet, if life was involved, much more evidence would be required for scientists to be convinced.
          Related Mars news preciously covered on this site includes:-
  - Curiosity Mars rover touches down
  - Evidence has been found for an ancient lake on Mars
  - Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater
  - At least 66% of Mars' atmosphere has been lost since it was formed
  - Methane spike detected in Martian atmosphere: it could have come from a plume
  - A past flood on Mars has been deduced from geology
  - ESA's Mars Express has detected geological activity over the past billion years
  - ESA's Mars Express methane detection may indicate life
  - Mars' south pole has far more water than previously thought
  - Mars Express discovers a reservoir of water on Mars

Europe boosts European Space Agency's budget €14.4bn (£12.3bn/$15.9bn) over next five years.  ESA's new Space19 budget will include a new Sentinel carbon dioxide monitoring system to be launched by 2025/6.  The top individual contributing nations – the European Union additionally contributes collectively – I to the Space19 budget were:-
  Germany - €3.3bn (£2.8bn), which is a 23% share of the total budget
  France - €2.7bn (£2.3bn), which is an 18.5% share
  Italy - €2.3bn (£1.8bn), which is 16%
  UK - €1.6bn (£1.4bn), which is 11.5%
Space19 also makes ESA an important partner in the US space agency's (NASA) Artemis plan to return astronauts to the Moon.  There will also be an X-ray space telescope called Athena and a gravitational wave detector called LISA.  Both are slated for a 2031/2 launch. In addition there will be an Italy-led reusable mini robotic shuttle called Space Rider and a HERA asteroid mission.

The Starliner test capsule fails to dock at the International Space Station.  The Starliner launched successfully on its Atlas rocket from Florida, but then suffered technical problems that prevented it from taking the right path to the International Space Station.  It appears the capsule burnt too much fuel as it fired its thrusters.  Since 2011, when the space shuttles were retired, have Americans launched people from their own country; US astronauts have been using Russian Soyuz capsules instead.  The Boeing Starliner, and another capsule called Dragon from the SpaceX company, have been developed to reinstate the capability.  The SpaceX craft looks closer to entering service after completing its own uncrewed trial in March.

 

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Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2020

Science & Science Fiction Interface

Real life news of SF-like tropes and SF impacts on society

 

Elon Musk is building an interplanetary 'Starship'.  His SpaceX company is constructing a 50 metre craft. It will launch atop the 68m Super Heavy booster. The aim is to have a craft that transport a crew to the Moon and even Mars.

Facebook has moved into mind-reading technology  It has acquired the start-up company CTRL-Labs which is developing devices that can pick up electrical signals from the brain and transmit them to a computer.  It has designed a wristband that can identify the signals the brain sends to the hand telling it to move, and decode them.  It could then transmit that command – such as to activate a switch – to a computer or other device.

Jedi are to make the US defence department more technologically agile.  The US Department of Defence wants to replace its ageing computer networks with a single cloud system in a public-private partnership called the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure, or Jedi.  Microsoft and Amazon were the two forerunners in the bid to be the private partner.  The Pentagon has awarded a US$10bn (£8bn) cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, though Amazon was seen by some as the likely successful candidate.  With Jedi Microsoft will provide artificial intelligence-based analysis and store classified military secret information among other services.  president Trump is said to have swayed the decision.  Trump has repeatedly criticised Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos - who also owns the Washington Post newspaper - in the past.  The Pentagon has awarded more than US$11bn (£8.8bn) in 10 separate cloud-computing contracts over the past two years. The Jedi deal "continues [the Pentagon's] strategy of a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department's needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier" the Pentagon is reported as stating.

Songs – Is there a universal commonality across different cultures and societies?  In Ian Watson's 1973 SF novel The Embedding a linguist, an Amazonian tribe speaking a drug-induced tongue and aliens arriving in Earth orbit monitor the prolific range of human language, come together.  This novel possibly inspired Ted Chiang's 1998 story behind the 2016, Hugo-winning film Arrival (which incidentally we rated as one of the best films of the year).  The premise behind these stories is the universality, or not, of the nature of language.  But what of songs?
          Now a team, led by Samuel A. Mehr, Manvir Singh and Dean Knox, have looked at songs across human cultures and societies: 315 societies in all.  (These are songs with words: analysing wordless music is a bigger task that has yet o be undertaken.)  They found that variability of song context within cultures is much greater than that between cultures, indicating that despite the diversity of music, humans use similar music in similar ways around the world. Additionally, the authors found that the principle of tonality (building melodies from a small set of related notes, built upon a base tonic or 'home' pitch) exists in all cultures. This suggests the existence of a universal cognitive (thinking process) bias for humans to create melodies based on categories of standard building blocks.  (See Mehr, S. A., Singh, M. & Knox, D. et al (2019) Universality and diversity in human song. Science, vol. 366, p970-986, and the short review piece by Fitch, W. T. & Popescu, T. (2019) The world in a song. Science, vol. 366, p944-5.)  Now all we need to do is to sample songs from different alien cultures to see if there is cognitive standardisation across alien species.  Back to science fiction.

Synthetic skin enables androids to feel.  A collaboration of Italian and US engineers and physicists have devised a flexible grid of a matrix of sheets of optic fibres (an optical lace) that can serve as a skin (or sub-skin if covered by a protective layer).  Simplifying matters for purposes of explanation, applying pressure at a point causes the grid to deform at that point that in turn enables optic fibres within the grid to touch and so alter the path of light through the grid. This enables where the pressure point on the grid to be calculated. Further, the greater the pressure the greater the deformation (hence the degree of altering of the light path)  The grid (optical lace) is capable of detecting multiple pressure points simultaneously.  The lace could localize deformation with sub-millimetre positional accuracy (error of 0.71 millimetre) and sub-Newton force resolution (~0.3 newton).  Such an optical lace 'worn' by an android as its skin (or sub-skin if covered bya flexible protective layer) would enable the android to have the sense of touch. (See Xu, P. A., Mishra, A. K., Bai, H. et al (2019) Optical lace for synthetic afferent neural networks. Science Robotics, vol. 4, eaaw6304.)  ++++ Related news previously covered elsewhere on SF² Concatenation includes:-
  - Saudi robot has more citizen rights than Saudi women
  - Report into SeΧ bots concludes that there is a market
  - Squishy robot built
  - Simple robotic AI with Asimov's First Law
  - Robotics and AI examined by British all-party Select Committee
  - Intelligent robots must uphold human rights
  - DNA nano-robots have been animal tested
  - Europe considering robotic A.I. regulations

Vampires are key to spreading rabies in the US.  Over 14 years small team of British, Costa Rican and US biologists have monitored rabies virus outbreaks in the Central American country of Costa Rica that were transmitted by vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus).  However, genomic analysis reveals that each outbreak consisted of a different strain of rabies with no overlap with strains associated with other outbreaks.  The simplest explanation is that each viral strain became extinct but rabies was re-introduced with a new strain by the vampires. The best model that fits this pattern ins that vampire bats spreading rabies through a corridor between North and South America through Central America.  (Streicker, D. G., González, S. L. F., Luconi, G., et al (2019) Phylodynamics reveals extinction–recolonization dynamics underpin apparently endemic vampire bat rabies in Costa Rica. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol. 286, 20191527.)

The BBC turns to the dark web in bid to sidestep Orwellian censorship.  George Orwell used to work as a journalist for the BBC and it is said to be that George Orwell used its Bush House as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in 1984.  The Ministry of Truth was, in the novel, of a centre of what today would be called fake news and was an ultimate censor that even changed the nation's language.  The BBC, of course, prides itself on striving for impartiality and nation speaking unto nation.  However it is subject to censorship by certain regimes, including China, who blocks some of its content.  So the BBC has turned to the dark web, that part of the web usually used for dubious activity.  It has mirrored part of its site – the BBC news site as seen from outside of the UK and not including BBC iPlayer – on the dark web that can only be seen by those anonymously using the Tor browser.  The BBC said: "The BBC World Service's news content is now available on the Tor network to audiences who live in countries where BBC News is being blocked or restricted. This is in line with the BBC World Service mission to provide trusted news around the world."  Orwell may well have been proud.

Russia has successfully tested its internet alternative.  This effectively is a version of the internet as if Russia had its own intranet with limited (or controlled) access to the internet.  It is possible that Russia is moving to ban the internet and instead give its citizen's a controlled intranet.  Such a system would not only control access to the broader global internet but would also (through control of internet service providers) effectively curtail virtual private networks (VPNs), which would mean that nobody would have internet privacy from the state.  Russia has already passed a lawmaking it illegal to sell smartphones that do not have code provided by the state pre-installed.  As existing smartphones go out of circulation, so eventually all smartphones in Russia will have state-accessible back doors.  There is also talk of the country having its own state-controlled Wikipedia.  What Russia is doing is not new: China has its Great Fire Wall and Iran's National Information Network limits its citizens access to non-Iranian websites and monitors what its citizens are surfing.  All this is not Orwell's 1984, just real life 2020.  (The BBC summarises the story here.)

Netflix has effectively opened a cyber door to criminals with former customers financially defrauded.  Purportedly, so as to make it easier for former Netflix customers to return to Netflix, Netflix kept their accounts alive, albeit dormant. This meant that people's details, including billing details, remained online. This has kept a cyber door open for criminals who used those details to financially defraud former customers.  The BBC has reported that "There is a lucrative market for Netflix login details, with criminals selling "lifetime" accounts on eBay for as little as £3."  Former Netflix subscribers have also been complaining on Twitter.

SF/F/H author Dan Simmons decries Greta Thunberg.  Hugo winning Dan Simmons says of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, she's an "unbelievably bratty child" who "lectured, insulted, scolded and threatened all adults in the world at the UN's Climate Action Summit in New York".  He continued: "Never mind that little Greta behaved like an absolute brat and knows nothing about climate, or climate change or science, or for that matter basic manners…" Her behaviour should "earn her … an hour or two in a time-out corner".  Not surprisingly several in the SF community reacted.  What was a little surprising was their surprise, Dan Simmons has aired his views before.  But, as was opined in the film Dark Star, an idea's merit is independent from whence it comes.  So don't let this put you off his stories.
++++  Previous related news covered elsewhere by SF² Concatenation includes, Michael (Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park) Crichton says that global warming is not happening.

SF vs. literary: it is the quality of writing, not genre that counts say psychologists back-tracking on their previous 'research'  After finding readers needed less effort to read science fiction than literary fiction, these researchers say quality determines comprehension – not genre.  Washington and Lee University psychologists Chris Gavaler and Dan Johnson's previous work (A science fiction (vs. realism) manipulation decreases inference effort, reading comprehension, and perceptions of literary merit, 2017, Vol. 7 (1),p79–108.) concluded that reading literary work required more effort and while it might not make you more intelligent than if you read SF, they suggested that literary readers were more intelligent.  The Guardian reports that they have backtracked with new research.  At the time posting the new research had not been published and so we can only go on The Guardian report (Flood, A. (2019) 'Sci-fi makes you stupid' study refuted by scientists behind original research. The Guardian, 1st October.)  Apparently they got readers to read an identical story with one word changed: instead of 'daughter' the word 'robot' was used.  In what Gavaler and Johnson call “a significant departure” from their previous work, readers of both texts scored the same in comprehension, “both accumulatively and when divided into the comprehension subcategories of mind, world, and plot”.  A 'no shiτ Sherlock' conclusion if ever there was.  Nonetheless, reportedly, Gavaler said he was “pretty startled” by the result that virtually identical texts require virtually the same reading effort.  However, the only reasonable conclusion from all this is the need for the Canadian government to fund proper research.

And to finally round off the Science & SF Interface subsection, here is a sort video…

10 solutions to the Fermi Paradox.  This short (7-minute) video explores some weird solutions to the famous paradox.  Why, with all the billions of stars out there, we haven't been able to detect a single intelligent civilisation out there. This is the Fermi Paradox.  If this sounds bizarre, the reasons science has come up with to explain this are bananas.  You can see the short video here.

 

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 2020

Rest In Peace

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

 

Allen Adams, the British fan, has died. In addition to being a conrunner he co-authored, with Jim Mortimore and Roger Clark, The Babylon 5 Security Manual (1998). He was especially in to Doctor Who.

René Auberjonois, the US actor, has died aged 79.  He is best known in genre terms for playing Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine of which he directed several episodes. (He also played Colonel West in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).)  He played many roles on stage, in film and on TV.  His genre related film contributions included parts in: King Kong (1976), The Big Bus (1976), My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988) and Inspector Gadget (1999). His genre TV roles included parts in episodes of: The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, The Bionic Woman, Stargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13.  He received an Emmy Award nomination for his performance in ABC's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

David Bellamy FIBiol, the British botanist, has died aged 86.  He is best known for his many television appearances and several TV series on biology from the early 1970s though to the 1990s.  During this time he was a much-loved public figure.  In addition to television and being a university lecturer, he was active in conservation. In 1983 he was imprisoned for blockading the Australian Franklin River in a protest against a proposed dam. In 1984, he leapt from the pier at St Abbs Harbour into the North Sea to open Britain's first Voluntary Marine Reserve.  However, in the mid-2000s, when in his 70s, he made some public statements that he did not believe that global warming was taking place.  It should be noted that these climate-denying views were not based on botanical science (Bellamy's area of expertise) but discredited glacier data originally published by Fred Singer. Bellamy subsequently drew back on the climate debate.  Notwithstanding that he was by then retired, his earlier climate change controversial view quite likely was a factor in the marked decline in his media appearances.

Harold Bloom, the US author and editor, has died aged 89. Authors stories included in his anthologies include Mary Shelley, Poe, Le Guin, Lessing and Orwell.

Sam Bobrick, the US mystery writer and television scriptwriter, has died aged 87.  The shows he wrote for included: Bewitched, The Flintstones and Get Smart.  His mystery play The Psychic won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award.

Robin Brett, the US geologist, has died aged 84.  He is bes known for being among the first tranche of scientists to analyse the Apollo Moon rock samples.  From 1969 to 1974, he was chief of the Geochemistry Branch at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Of interest, when the samples were returned to Earth they were at first quarantined lest they carry alien microbes (seriously!),  Robin Brett doubted the need for the quarantine which he demonstrated by touching the rock and he became the first person to taste it by licking one.  Apparently, it tasted like a dirty potato.

Anthony (Tony) Brooker , the British computer scientist, has died aged 94.  Originally graduating in mathematics from Imperial (London),he moved to Cambridge and then Manchester where he took over the Computing Machine Laboratory from Alan Turing.  There he developed in 1954 what is arguably the world's first high-level computer programming language, the Mark 1 Autocode. (This was two years ahead of Fortran.)  In the mid-1960s Tony helped inaugurate the Britain's first Computer Science degree course at Manchester. He moved to Essex University in 1967as the University's founding Chair of Computer Science.

Les Cole, the US fan and author, has died aged 93.  As a fan he co-chaired SFCon, the 1954 Worldcon held in San Francisco that had John W. Campbell, Jr. as its guest of honour.  As an author he had some 50 short stories published in addition to a few novels including the trilogy The Sea Kings, Lion at Sea and The Sea People.

Nigel Dobbyn, the comics artist, has died aged 56.  he is known for his work for the weekly 2000AD.  Here his strips included contributions to: Future Shocks, Medivac 318, Trash, Strontium Dog and Ace Trucking Co.  Sadly he was taken from us much too early.

Aron Eisenberg, the US actor, has died aged 50.  His genre appearances include in Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989) and The Horror Show (1989), Tales from the Crypt(1991) and Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1996).  However he is best known as Nog, a Ferengi, in all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Although the part called for him to appear under heavy makeup, he appeared without makeup as a news vendor in the episode 'Far Beyond the Stars'. He later guest-starred as a Kazon called Kar in 'Initiations', an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Dorothy C. Fontana, the US script writer and screenplay editor, has died aged 80.  She adopted the gender-blind name form D. C. Fontana for her written works, to prevent her pitches being prejudiced against.  She began working for Gene Roddenberry and when he began work on Star trek she edited the scripts. She came up with the ideas for the episodes for "Journey to Babel" and "Friday's Child".  She completely rewrote the episode "The Ultimate Computer", as the original writer was unwilling to make the recommended changes.  She also wrote the episodes "The Enterprise Incident", "That Which Survives", and "The Way to Eden"; the last two were credited under the pseudonym Michael Richards.  She contributed to other science fiction series, including The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Automan.  She then joined the Star trek: The Next Generation production team.  She developed the central plot to the pilot "Encounter at Farpoint".  She also wrote a number of Star trek novels.

Graeme Gibson, the Canadian non-genre writer, has died aged 85. He was an active supporter of wildlife conservation and was the partner to the genre writer Margret Atwood.  He passed away in Britain where he was accompanying Margret at the start of her promotional tour for The Testaments.  He was a founding member of both the Writers' Union of Canada and the Writers' Trust of Canada, as well as a past president of PEN Canada. He was an advocate for conservation efforts and a devoted birder who helped found the Pelee Island Bird Observatory.

Alasdair Gray, the Scottish playwright, painter and author, has died aged 85.  He wrote across genres. His first SF story he had published was a short, 'The Star', that appeared in Collins Magazine for Girls and Boys (1951).  A number of his novels had either fantasy elements or were set in alternate versions of our world.  These included Lanark (1981) which includes an alternate, Glasgow-like city, and A History Maker (1994) set in a future, nearly post-scarcity, matriarchal society in the Scottish Borders (with England).  He illustrated many of his own books.

Micahel Hanson, the US radio broadcaster, has died aged 78. Noted for his broadcasts of SF readings from the mid-1970s to mid-'90s.

Anna Karina (born Hanne Karin Bayer), the Danish born actress, has died aged 79.  She is noted for being in several of Jean-Luc Godard's films with who she was married for four years.  Her SFnal film was Goddard's Alphaville (1965).

George Laurer, the US electrical engineer, has died age 94.  He joined IBM in 1951. In 1969 he was assigned the development of barcodes for use in grocery stores. Originally, these were to be circular, bull's-eye-like, but Laura came up with the idea vertical stripes to get over the problem of smearing during printing. In 1973, a consortium of grocery store companies adopted his Universal Product Code (UPC).  The holder of 25 patents, in 1976, he was awarded the Raleigh Inventor of the Year. In 1980, he received the Corporate Technical Achievement award from IBM.  In 2019, it is estimated that UPC barcodes were being scanned more than 6 billion times each day.  George Laurer changed the way we shop.  Beep.

Alexei Leonov, the Russian cosmonaut, has died aged 85.  Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.  Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).  “The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world.  He went on to become the commander of Soyuz-Apollo, the first ever joint US-Soviet mission in 1975 with Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19.  Apparently, he was slated to be the first Russian to walk on the Moon.

Johanna Lindsey, the German born, US romance writer, has died aged 67.  She had a substantive following and many of her romances had historical settings. Some fifty-eight million copies of her fifty books have been sold worldwide.  Equally, she has bee criticised for poor writing, simplistic plots and questionable gender stereotypes and behaviour described in her books. However her 'Ly-San-Ter' trilogy was a space opera: Warrior's Woman (1990), Keeper of the Heart (1993) and Heart of a Warrior (2001).  Also her Until Forever (1995) is a time travel story.

Tom Lyle, the US comics artist has died aged 66. His work for DC included Robin and for Marvel Spider-Man.

Syd Mead , the US industrial designer, has died aged 86.  Graduating from arts school following a stint in the army, he drew illustrations for industrial catalogues.  He then started his own company.  He is famous for his work on films including: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Tron, 2010, Short Circuit, Alien, Aliens, Timecop, Johnny Mnemonic, Mission: Impossible III and Blade Runner 2049.

Norm Metcalf, the US fan, has died aged 82.  He was based in California and was also a bibliographer noted for The Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1951-1965 (1968).  He collected the eight SF stories about Sherlock Holmes that were included in the anthology The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes (1960), edited by Robert C. Peterson. He was very active in US fanzine fandom. Here, among much else, he was the editor of the fanzine New Frontiers that saw four issues (1959-1964) with contributors that included: Poul Anderson, Anthony Boucher, Stanton Coblentz, L. Sprague de Camp, August Derleth and Wilson Tucker.

Stephen Moore, the British actor, has died aged 81.  He is best known in genre circles for voicing Marvin the paranoid android in The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  He is known in Britain for many support roles including playing the father of Adrian Mole and also the father of the Harry Enfield comic teenager character Kevin.  Among his many parts, his other supporting genre roles included Eldane in the 2010 Doctor Who adventure 'Cold Blood', Major Prentice in The New Avengers adventure 'Dirtier by the Dozen' (1976) and Jentee in the mini-series The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999).

Kary Mullis, the US biochemist, has died aged 74.  Actually he passed away last August but we unfortunately missed the news last season.  He invented the commercial the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique that uses polymerase from a heat-tolerant bacterium. PCR replicates DNA with each PCR doubling the amount of DNA so that after 10 cycles the DNA concentration increases over a thousand fold. PCR therefore enables the detection of DNA even if there are only the faintest of traces (such as amplifying DNA for DNA fingerprinting at a crime scene or background in the environment). For his discovery he shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  He was also known for his climate denial and disbelief in HIV causing AIDS.

Anne Page, the British SF fan, has died. She was active in the Eastercon and related fandoms from the 1980s through to the early 2000s. She took part in fancy dress and was on the staff of a number of conventions. She was on the 1987 Brighton Worldcon steering committee and was a guest of honour at the 1990 Eastercon. She was known to all the SF² Concatenation's founding editorial team and it is with sadness we learnt of her passing.

Lawrence Paull, the film set production designer, has died aged 81.  His genre work includes Blade Runner and Back to the Future.  He won an Academy Award (BAFTA) in art direction with David L. Snyder for Blade Runner and was nominated for one for Back to the Future.  He also worked on Escape From L. A. and Predators 2.

Michael J. Pollard, the US actor, has died aged 80.  In genre terms he is best known in the original Star Trek series as the teenage-leader of an all-child planet in the episode "Miri" (1966) and in a first season episode of Irwin Allen's Lost In Space as a nameless Peter Pan-like boy who lives in the dimension behind all mirrors ("The Magic Mirror"). In 1989, he had a two-episode role as the fifth-dimensional imp-villain Mr. Mxyzptlk in the Superboy TV series.

Mike Resnick, the US author, has died aged 77.  He was a prolific writer including non-SF with over 200 non-SF novels under various pseudonyms under his belt.  His first published genre work was an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche, The Forgotten Sea of Mars (1965). His first sequence of novels was the Ganymede series of Planetary Romances beginning with The Goddess of Ganymede (1967).  Media sci-fi fans will know of him for his Battlestar Galactica 5: Galactica Discovers Earth (1980) co-authored with Glen A Larson (the original show's creator).  A number of his many short stories were recently collected in Win Some, Lose Some (2012) The Hugo Award Winning (and Nominated) Short Science Fiction and Fantasy (coll 2012) that won a Hugo Award.  His work has garnered him many awards including five Hugo Awards (from a record 37 nomination short-lists) and one Nebula from 11 short-listings.  He was also a regular contributor to the SFWA Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).  One of his shorts was included by SF² Concatenation as one of that year's 'Best of Nature Futures': 'A Better Mousetrap'

Bill Schelly, the US comics fan, writer and genre historian, has died aged 68.  His books included The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (1995; revised 1999) and The Man Who Created 'Mad' (2015).

Irene Shubik, the British television producer and screenwriter, has died aged 89.  She is known in television circles for developing single plays for TV.  Her genre recognition principally stems for her having created the anthology series Out of the Unknown.  An enthusiast of science fiction, while working on Armchair Theatre she oversaw Murder Club, an adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s novel Seventh Victim.  Its success enabled her to persuade the British company ABC to develop a science fiction version of Armchair Theatre – this became Out of This World, a thirteen part anthology series, hosted by Boris Karloff, that aired between 30th June 1962 and 22nd September 1962. Many of the stories featured in Out of this World were adaptations of stories by science fiction authors including Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak.  She moved to the BBC when her boss was poached by them. There became the story editor for Story Parade, an anthology series of adaptations of modern novels that was intended to be the main drama strand for the new channel BBC2 due to be launched in 1964. One of the best-received instalments of Story Parade that Shubik worked was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's 1954 novel The Caves of Steel starring Peter Cushing.  She then created a similar anthology series to Out of This World for BBC2 called Out of the Unknown on which she acted as story editor and producer.  Out of the Unknown concentrated mainly on adaptations of science fiction stories including works by Frederik Pohl, Ray Bradbury, J. G. Ballard and Isaac Asimov (of whom she was a particular fan, commissioning adaptations of six of his works for the series).  She also adapted John Brunner's 'Some Lapse of Time'.

Fred Singer, the Austrian-born American physicist and environmental scientist, has died aged 95.  He designed mines for the U.S. Navy during World War II, before obtaining his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1948 and working as a scientific liaison officer in the U.S. Embassy in London.[5] He became a leading figure in early space research, was involved in the development of earth observation satellites.  However, especially in his later career, he became controversial. In the 1990s he questioned the link between UV-B and the incidence of melanoma skin cancers. In the early 2000s he became a climate change denier espousing the view that there is no evidence that global warming is attributable to human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Singer's views influenced others including David Bellamy.  There were criticisms that alleged he accepted financial support from oil companies.

Tom Spurgeon, the US comics writer, has died aged 50.  He was an Eisner Award winner. He edited The Comics Journal (1994-1999), and co-wrote with Jordan Raphael Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book (2003). He launched The Comics Reporterblog in 2004.

Steve Stiles, the US artist, has died aged 76.  He was popular within the SF community being active in fandom for over half a century.  He was short-listed for the 'Best Fan Artist Hugo 17 times and won one in 2016.  He has won 15 FAAn Awards, presented by fanzine fans at Corflu.  His passing came a little over a day when he announced on social media that he had not long.

Curt Stubbs, the US fan, has died aged 71.  He was one of the founders of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society and a member of the 'Friday Night Inevitable'.

Paul Turner, the US fan, has died aged 83.  He was active in Los Angeles fandom and established its building fund. He was Fan Guest of Honour at Loscon XX (1993). For his day job he was an electrical engineer and worked on the Space Shuttle. He lived in a small, remote settlement in the desert 100 miles or so from LA and was found by a local.

Shuping Wang, the Chinese born American biomedical researcher, has died aged 59.  In 1991 she found that that some blood plasma donors were infected with hepatitis C but for cost reasons the local health authority continued to use the plasma so infecting others. Infection was further spread through lack of proper sterile procedure. She then reported this to the national Ministry of Health which led to a 1993 regulation to require all plasma donors to be screened for hepatitis C. She was sacked from her position at the collection centre, but took it upon herself to evaluate other facilities elsewhere, creating her own testing site and taking her own samples from the population, as well as evaluating collection centres and identifying further points of cross-contamination. She found that hepatitis C infection was as high as 84.3% of the population in the region at the height of the epidemic.  She then found that HIV (the AIDS virus) was also being transmitted by blood donors. Again the local health authorities refused to act on cost grounds. This was at a time when China was refusing blood donations from western countries as AIDS was deemed a western disease.  She received threats and attacks from local health authority workers. She migrated to the US in 2001.  A play was made of her life called The King of Hell's Palace to which China objected and targeted her friends and family back in China.  However, She believed that the play would help expose corruption in Chinese health service, save people and help persecuted Chinese doctors and AID activists.

Andrew Weiner, the Canadian SF writer, has died aged 70.  He primarily wrote short stories many of which explored psychological aspects: Weiner studied psychology.  Much of his work is collected in Distant Signals, and Other Stories (1989) and This is the Year Zero (1998). His last works were the novel En Approchant de la Fin (2000) published in English as Getting Near the End (2004) and (only in French) Boulevard des Disparus (2006).

Wendy Williams, the British actress, has died aged 85.  In science fiction the is best known for her Doctor Who 'The Ark in Space' episodes role.  She also was in an episode of Danger Man the pre-cursor to The Prisoner and a couple of episodes of the original Survivors (1975).

Gahan Wilson, the US artist and SF reviewer and write, has died aged 89.  In addition to drawing cartons for mundane magazines such as Playboy he also dew for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for whom he also wrote reviews and the occasional short story.  he also reviewed for Twilight Zone Magazine and Realms of Fantasy.  He designed the original World Fantasy Award trophy, a bust of H. P. Lovecraft, which was presented from 1975-2015 (it changed its design in 2016).  He was the recipient of an Inkpot Award from San Diego Comic-Con in 1989, of a Bram Stoker Award for lifetime achievement in 1992, a World Fantasy Award in 2004, and was named a 'Living Legend' by the International Horror Guild Awards in 2005.  He also received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

 

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 2020

End Bits & Thanks

 

Well, that is 2019 done and dusted.  2019 was..:-

          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:-
                    Avatar
                    District 9
                    Moon
                    Star Trek
                    Up

          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 Neil 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
                    Marooned
                    Scooby-Doo

2019 was 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 Wallace'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).

2019 was the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements  The United Nations General Assembly 72nd Session 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 coincided with the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Periodic System by Dmitry Mendeleev in 1869.

 

 

And now we are firmly into 2020 and a number of other anniversaries.  2020 will be..:-

          the 10th anniversary of the publication of:-
                              Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
                              The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
                              Metro 2033 (English language edition) by Dmitry Glukhovsky
                              Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
                              The Reapers and Angels by Alden Bell
                              The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

          the 10th anniversary of the following SF/F/H films:-
                              How to Train Your Dragon
                              Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
                              Scott Pilgrim
                              Toy Story 3
                              Inception

SF2 Concatenation staff 2010
And here's how some of us looked 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:-
                    Eater by Gregory Benford
                    Timeline by Michael Crichton
                    The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carroll
                    Slow Lightning by Jack McDevitt
                    Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
                    Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
                    Zeitgeist by Bruce Sterling

          the 20th anniversary of the first screening of the following media offerings:-
                    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
                    Galaxy Quest
                    The Hollow Man

          the 50th anniversary of the publication of:-
                    The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard
                    Spock Must Die by James Blish
                    Ringworld by Larry Niven
                    The City Dwellers by Charles Platt
                    Downward to Earth by Robert Silverberg

          the 50th anniversary of the first screening of No Blade of Grass

          the 100th anniversary of:-
                    Isaac Asimov's birth.
                    Ray Bradbury's birth
                    Louis Russell (‘Russ’) Chauvenet birth
Also the publication of R.U.R. by Karel Capek  and  Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
And the screening of Der Golem [The Golem: How he came into the world]

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2020 upload in April
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' summer book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews. (Remember, these season's relate to the northern hemisphere 'academic year'.)

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible, Donna Connor, Fancylopaedia, File 770, Simon Geikie, Silviu Genescu, SF Encyclopaedia, Elaine Sparkes, John Watkinson and Peter Wyndham.  Additional thanks for news coverage goes not least to the very many representatives of SF conventions, 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 (2019) also saw articles and convention reports from: Sue Burke, Darrell Buxton, Arthur Chappell, Eric Choi, Julie E. Czerneda , Dominic Dulley, Pete Gilligan, Ian Hunter, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, Jane O'Reilly, Alan Robson  and  Peter Tyers.  Stand-alone book reviews over the year were provided by: David Allkins, Roland Amos, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, Karen Fishwick, Luke Geikie, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Sebastian Phillips, Jane O'Reilly, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers and Peter Young.  'Futures stories' in 2019 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories by: J. W. Armstrong, Steven Fischer, Zack Lux and Laura Pearlman.  Additional site contributions came from: Jonathan Cowie (news, reviews and team coordinator plus semi-somnolent co-founding editor), Boris Sidyuk (sponsorship coordinator, web space and ISP liaison), Tony Bailey (stationery) and in spirit the late 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 2020 period – needs to be in before 15th March 2020. 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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