Science Fiction News
& Recent Science Review for the
Spring 2021

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

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

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

Spring 2021

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff



Well, glad to see the back of 2020.  We now have vaccines being rolled out against SARS-CoV-2, even if there are vaccine unknowns there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is a good thing, otherwise we'd be in a cave.  Yet, we should not expect things to quickly return to normal.  So folks, keep distant, stay safe.



Two of our staff have each had their own new dimension to their lives.  One has taken over helming a national SF association and the other is creating a new genre imprint. They recount elsewhere this season's issue… (See below.)



Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 31 (1) Spring 2021) we have stand-alone items on:-
          - The British SF Association: A Year in the Chair -- Allen Stroud
          - Creating a new SF/F publishing house -- Mark Bilsborough
          - eFanzines: its curator reflects in its 20th year -- Bill Burns
          - My Top Ten Scientists -- Carole Stivers (biochemist & SF author)
          - A Worldcon future -- developments from science symposia -- Jonathan Cowie
          - CoNZealand -- The 2020 SF Worldcon - Suzie Eisfelder
          - DemiSemiQuaver -- The 2020 UK Filk Convention - Peter Tyers
          - SF Convention Listing & Film Diary with links to con sites and film trailers
          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 34th 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 2021

Key SF News & SF Awards



Best SF/F books of 2020? 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 (many are available elsewhere and can be ordered from specialist bookshops). 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 2020:-
          The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell (urban fantasy)
          The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey (post-apocalyptic SF)
          The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (fantasy horror)
          Elevation by Stephen King (urban fantasy)
          Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds (pirate-punk space opera)
          The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (environmental mundane SF)
          The Last Emperox by John Scalzi (space operatic political intrigue)
          The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky (widescreen SF)
          The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison (new wave speculative fiction)
Last year's Best SF/F novels here.  (One last year was short-listed for a Hugo and a Nebula, winning the former. Another won a BSFA Award and another two short-listed for a DragonCon Award. details here.)

Best SF/F films and long forms of 2020? So if you are looking for something to watch then why not check out these Science Fiction and Fantasy films and long forms of 2020. Possibilities alphabetically include:-
          Color Out of Space (Trailer here)
          The Invisible Man (Trailer here)
          The Platform (Trailer here)
          Possessor (Trailer here)
          Save Yourselves! (Trailer here)
          Tenet (Trailer here)
          The Vast of Night (Trailer here)
          Wonder Woman 1984 (Trailer here)
          Vivarium (Trailer here)
Last year's Best SF/F films here.  (Last year three were short-listed for a Hugo. One was short-listed for a Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award. Another was short-listed for a Ray Bradbury to be presented with the Nebula Awards. Two were short-listed for the Dragon Award 'Best SF/F film' category.)

Our previous best books and films of past years, we post at the beginning of each year, have always seen some go on to be short-listed for major SF awards and even win. You can see the archive here.

The 2020 World Fantasy Awards have been announced.  The winners were:-
          Novel: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
          Novella: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
          Short Fiction: 'Read After Burning' by Maria Dahvana Headley
          Anthology: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl
          Collection: Song For the Unravelling of the World by Brian Evenson
          Artist: Kathleen Jennings
          Special Award – Professional: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas for The Dark Fantastic
          Special Award – Non-professional: the editors of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research
          Lifetime Achievement: Rowena Morrill & Karen Joy Fowler
          +++ For last year's winners see here.

The 2020 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced.  The Award was instigated and initially sponsored by the late author Arthur C. Clarke (with the first presentation coincidentally taking place at the 1987 Eastercon at which the first print edition of SF² Concatenation was launched).  It is a juried award for the best SF novel published the previous year in Britain.  This year's shortlist – strangely short on British talent – consisted of:-
          The City in the Middle of the Night – Charlie Jane Anders
          The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley
          A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine
          The Old Drift – Namwali Serpell
          Cage of Souls – Adrian Tchaikovsky
          The Last Astronaut – David Wellington
          One of the 'Best Novel' nominations, A Memory Called Empire, we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Novels of 2019.
          And the winner was  The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth).
          This novel follows the fate of three Zambian families across the centuries: it starts in Victorian times and ends in the near-ish future.  Likely to appeal to fans of Gene Wolfe or Ian McDonald.

Australia's Ditmar awards have been presented. The Ditmar is voted on by those attending Australia's national convention and have been presented since 1969. The Ditmars are named after Martin James Ditmar (Dick) Jenssen, a founding member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. The Ditmar Award wins this year were presented online as this years Australian natcon was cancelled due to CoVID-19:-
          Best Novel: The Year of the Fruit Cake by Gillian Polack
          Best Short Story: 'Whom My Soul Loves' by Rivqa Rafael
          Best Collected Work: Collision edited by J.S. Breukelaar
          Best Fan Writer: Elizabeth Fitzgerald
          Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Be The Serpent podcast presented by Alexandra Rowland, Jennifer Mace and Freya Marske.
          which tied with…
                              SF Commentary edited by Bruce Gillespie
          Best New Talent: Freya Marske
Note: There were insufficient nominations for the Best Artwork and Best Fan Artist categories, therefore no awards were given.

The 2020 NOMO Awards have ben announced for African Speculative Fiction by the African Speculative Fiction Society.  the category wins were:-
          Best Novel: David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
          Best Novella: Incompleteness Theories by Wole Talabi
          Best Short Story: 'Tiny Bravery' by Ada Nnadi
          which tied with…
                              'Sin Eater' by Chikodili Emelumadu
          Graphoc Novel / Comic: DANFO by Morakinyo Araoye, Steven Akinyemi & Ogim Ekpezu


Other SF news includes:-

The 30th anniversary Judge Dredd Megazine sells out in 24 hours.  The anniversary edition came out shortly after we posted last season's news.  The bumper edition of the monthly saw standard strips Judge Dredd (of course), Judge Anderson, Psi-Div, The Dark Judges and Lawless (with a musical final episode). New strips included Megatropilis set in a re-imagined parallel Mega-City One in its art deco retro variation with Joe Rico as one good cop.  This anniversary edition selling out so quickly is a testimony to there being a substantive body of 2000AD followers who, in addition to the die-hard regulars, may have lapsed from regular reading at some point over the decades but who will pick up copies on special occasions and likely buy the graphic novel collections of strips of their favourite characters.

The 2021 Worldcon (Washington, USA) to have a special Hugo category of Best Video Game.  DisCon III will have this special category which has been determined – as allowed by the World SF Society under whose auspices Worldcons are run – by the DISCON III organising committee. DisCon III co-chair Colette Fozard said. “Video games draw from the same deeply creative well that has fed science fiction and fantasy writing and art for so many years. This innovative and interactive genre has brought us new ways of story-telling as well as new stories to tell and we are glad to honour them.” In terms of players, video games are more popular than films, though they have not seen the attention by Worldcon regulars: a trial Best Interactive Video Game Hugo Award was attempted in 2006 but it did not stick. Since then they have undoubtedly evolved. It will be interesting to see if Worldcon attendee attitudes have changed. An eligible work for the 2021 special Hugo award is any game or substantial modification of a game first released to the public on a major gaming platform in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects. A major gaming platform means that the game is available on personal computers such as Windows, Mac, or Linux computers (including, but not limited to, via Steam, Epic,, browser, or direct download), iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation, and/or XBox systems. Members of CoNZealand and DisCon III as of December 31st, 2020 are eligible to nominate works for the 2021 Hugo Awards, including for the special category Best Video Game. Nominations open in early 2021. Only members of DisCon III are eligible to vote on the final ballot.

Other Worldcon bids and forthcoming Worldcon news we will deal with next season in advance of this year's Worldcon and its site selection vote for 2023.

And finally….

What recent developments in running international science symposia are relevant to organising SF Worldcons?  Elsewhere this season's edition there's an article on a possible future of Worldcons in the light of recent international science symposia innovations.


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 2021

Film News


The season'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:-
          Bill & Ted Face the Music (Trailer here)
          Dune Drifter (Trailer here)
          Free Guy (Trailer here)
          Tenet (Trailer here)

The British Isles box office in 2020 has been mangled by the SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 lockdown.  But Tenet in August gave a recovering boost.  The last time we were able to give proper seasonal listing was at the beginning of the year.  Since then the British Isles (UK & Republic of Ireland) box office take declined from mid-February (2020), a full month before the official lockdown the third week in March (2020) when, with cinemas nationally closed, the national box office take hit zero.  Revenue only began slowly to take off with the easing of UK lockdown at the end of June.  Weekly revenue slowly increased to early August (2020) but was still around a fifth of what it would normally have been.  Then the release of Tenet mid-August gave a welcome boost.  Tenet made £5.8m in its first full week on release in the British Isles and brought the latest overall weekly gross to £7.85m. This is still considerably down on the same week in 2019, which made £17m. By September, when 78% of cinemas had re-opened, the British Isles cumulative box office take for the year of £282m ($US366) was around 30% of what 2018 and 2019 had achieved in the same period. (Data from BFI Research and Statistics Unit.).  For comparison some 65-75% of cinemas have re-opened in the US and have seen a proportionally smaller audience as CoVID has affected the US a little more than the UK.  UK cinema box office take is set to hit the lowest level since records began almost a century ago, with the impact of the SArS-CoV-2 pandemic wiping out almost £1bn (US$1.28bn) of sales.
          Then the late summer saw cinema closures (see below) before England saw full lockdown resume 5th November (the day of Guy Fawkes night) and all cinemas closed.

Tenet's US box office take was hit by CoVID-19.  By early September Christopher Nolan's Tenet had crossed £150 million (US$200 million) mark globally, but most of this was made outside of the US which has been particularly hard hid by SARS-CoV-2 and its CoVID-19.  The international total (from countries that have a better handle on COVID-19) early September stood at £136 million (US$177.5 million), while the worldwide figure was £159 million (US$207 million). A number of major Hollywood studios plan to delay major releases.

Cinemas across the UK and North America close.  In October, the cinema chains Cineworld and Picturehouse closed all their theatres.  Meanwhile the Odeon chain is only reducing its opening hours. There are 127 theatres in the Cineworld chain in Britain which employs some 5,000 staff.  Cineworld also runs 536 cinemas in the US all of which are closing.  Picturehouse is closing 26 theatres in England.  A quarter of the Odeon's roughly 120 theatres are seeing a reduction in opening times with closures weekdays.

AT&T decide to air Warner Brothers entire 2021 slate on the HBO Max streaming service simultaneously with their cinematic release.  Dune director, Denis Villeneuve, is most unhappy.  He said: "There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than US$150 billion. Therefore, even though Dune is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street."

New Mutants film tanks  The X-Men horror, from writer-director Josh Boone, cost less than £77 million (US$100 million) to make but even from the first weeks of its release it was struggling domestically in the US making £12 million (US$15.3 million) and globally £22 million (US$29 million).  Its Rotten Tomatoes audience review score is 33% while its IMDB score is just 5.6 (box office hits are usually 7.0 or above).  (Trailer here)

Star Wars toys collection fetches £400,000 (US$500,000)!  An elderly British couple from Stourbridge, who wish to remain anonymous had been left the collection of the toys by a neighbour, Peter Simpson.  They did not thinking it was worth much, and having kept them for years were literally about to throw them out into a skip.  But the toys were in a pristine condition and sought advice from a local auctioneer.  So they were extremely, but pleasantly, surprised at what the toys fetched at Aston's Auctioneers.

Spider-Man Far From Home is to have a sequel.  This will be the third Marvel Comics Universe Spider-Man film and will again star Tom Holland.  Iron Man Tony Stark is reportedly stepping down as Spidy's mentor and apparently Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will step up to fulfil that role.  The film is currently untitled but is tentatively slated for December (2021). This means that 2021 will be the first year in which Marvel will have released four titles.

New Alien comics coming soon!  Based on the franchise spawned by the film Alien (1979) this will be a fresh start and not build on the Alien comics of the 1990s that first saw the merger of the Alien and Predator franchises prior to their cinematic merger. Instead this will be more of an Alien Prometheus take.  It will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph.  The first should be out in March (2021).

Rogue Squadron will be the 2023 Star Wars film.  It is about the group of ace pilots — of X-Wings and snowspeeders, among other zippy ships — first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back and who headlined the Ballantine and Del Rey books in the late 1990s.  This is set in the future beyond The Rise of Skywalker.

Previous Star Wars plans for the franchises' future have been put on hold.  This is because of the poor box office performance of Solo and the last two in the latest trilogy, The Last Jedi (which was short-listed for but did not win a Hugo Award) and The Rise of Skywalker.  At the end of 2017, riding on the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the plan was to have a fourth core Star Wars trilogy of films. Three years on, plans have been put on hold while Lucasfilms assesses what is behind the franchise's successes and failures.

Harrison Ford to return as Indiana Jones.  This will be the 78-year-old actor's fifth and final outing as Indy.  It will be directed by James Mangold and is slated for release in July 2022.  In a 2013 interview, Harrison Ford said it was "perfectly appropriate" for him to return as the adventurer. Saying: "We've seen the character develop and grow over a period of time and it's perfectly appropriate and OK for him to come back again with a great movie around him."

And finally…

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

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the Honest Trailer here.

2026 has been doing the virtual film festival circuit.  The Earth is running out of oxygen – it is 'the sickness' – but a message from the future requests that the present sends Ethan Whyte…  See the trailer here.

Recent SF/F films that came out over the CoVID 2020 summer and autumn included:-
  - Behind You (horror) - Trailer here.
  - Dune Drifter (Military SF, downed fighter on desolate world) - Trailer here.
  - LX 2048 (SF future environmental dystopia) - Trailer here.
  - Proximity (SF close encounter) - Trailer here.
  - Uncle Peckerhead (comedy horror) - Trailer here.

Other recent SF/F films, and some CoVID-delayed, due out in 2021 include:-
  - Greenland: a comet fragments heading for Earth and an extinction event.
  - Dune: the latest interpretation of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel with Pink Floyd.
  - Bloodshot: a veteran wakes up in the future as a powerful but unwitting pawn.
  - Coma: coma victims share a mysterious virtual reality.
  - Tenet: from the future come objects continually travelling backwards in time…
  - Ghostbusters: Afterlife: much delayed sequel.
  - Black Widow: fun romp of Marvel Comics superhero hokum.
  - Color Out Of Space: science fantasy horror based on the H. P. Lovecraft story.
  - Morbius: fun romp of Marvel Comics superhero hokum.
  - Attraction2: Invasion: more aliens.
  - Vivarium: perfect suburbia science fantasy horror.
  - Antebellum: time twisting science fantasy horror.
  - The New Mutants: fun romp of Marvel Comics superhero hokum.
  - Underwater: abyssal mining disturbs something… SF horror.
See all the trailers in order here.

Other films postponed from 2020 to this year include:- Artemis Fowl Trailer here
James Bond: No Time To Die (trailer here) (This is the second postponement)
Jurassic World 3: Dominion (trailer here)
Godzilla vs. Kong (trailer here)
The King's Man (trailer here)

Film clip download tip!: Space Jam: A New Legacy is slated for the summer (August, 2021).  Basketball superstar LeBron James teams up with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes, including Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, for this sequel.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Star Trek fan film trailer goes to a new level.  Classic Star Trek stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley join the reboot movies in a new deepfake fan trailer. Presented as the trailer for a film titled Star Trek: The First Generation, it uses footage from the Star Trek: The Original Series films to show James T. Kirk retelling a story from his youth. The video then deepfakes Shatner’s Kirk onto Chris Pine’s and Nimoy’s Spock.  You can see the fan trailer here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2019/20 (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 recent film releases of the year see our film release diary.


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

Spring 2021

Television News


'Terry Pratchett's' forthcoming The Watch series attracts controversy.  The series ostensibly is set in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch from Terry's Discworld and its law enforcers.  So a group of misfit cops rise up from decades of helplessness to save their corrupt city from catastrophe.  The series has had a long gestation from 2011 and Prime Focus Productions (who previously made three Discworld two-parter films), through Terry's own production company Narrativia, to BBC studios in 2018 with BBC America.  Sadly, we lost Terry in 2015 and the project seems to have drifted.  Following casting details being released along with some storyline elements, there has been criticism that the series has departed too far from the series' medieval origins, delving too far into 'punk rock' visuals, changing the gender, personality, or origins of characters, and removing some Discworld Watch characters completely.  After the 2020 New York Comic Con panel Rhianna Pratchett stated it shared "no DNA with my father's Watch". Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman compared the series to "Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat".  You can see the trailer here.

Mandalorian season 2 has just become available to stream on Disney+.  The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire.   You can see the season trailer here.

Jodie Whittaker may be leaving Doctor Who, informal reports indicate  She took over the role three years ago from Peter Capaldi.  The BBC has refused to officially comment, but the word is that she will leave after the forthcoming series later this year.  It is not known if the next Doctor will be female.  At the moment the hot male favourite is Kris Marshall who is best known for the detective series Death in Paradise.

Who is the best Doctor Who?  BBC Radio Times poll reveals.  BBC's Radio Times weekly TV listings magazine asked its readers who was the best Doctor Who?  Over 50,000 viewers responded.  Over 10,000 nominated the favourite which was David Tennant.  He just pipped the current incumbent, Jodie Whittaker, by just 95 votes.  Peter Capaldi came third with 8,897votes.  Matt Smith came fourth with 7,637 nominations.  The first pre-reboot Doctor came fifth with Tom Baker accruing 3,977 nominations… (Maybe it's a generational thing, but what about Patrick Troughton???)
          Full results below:-

  1. David Tennant 10,518 / 21%
  2. Jodie Whittaker 10,423 / 21%
  3. Peter Capaldi 8,897 / 18%
  4. Matt Smith 7,637 / 16%
  5. Tom Baker 3,977 / 8%
  6. William Hartnell 1,983 / 4%
  7. Paul McGann 1,427 / 3%
  8. Christopher Eccleston 1,144 / 2%
  9. Jon Pertwee 1,038 / 2%
  10. Patrick Troughton 915 / 2%
  11. Sylvester McCoy 462 / 1%
  12. Colin Baker 359 / 1%
  13. Peter Davison 351 / 1%

The Truth Seekers new series began 30th October.  The new comedy, urban fantasy, British series is on Amazon Prime but may later this year migrate to FreeView.  Starring Emma D'Arcy, Nick Frost and Samson Kayo, Truth Seekers sees a team of part-time paranormal investigators use homemade gizmos to track the supernatural, sharing their adventures online. As their haunted stake outs become more terrifying they begin to uncover an unimaginable, apocalyptic conspiracy.  Season trailer here.

Pennyworth season 2 to see Martha Kane pregnant with Bruce Wayne.  The Batman prequel had reasonable success with season 1 as Alfred was revealed to have had a past as a super-spy (somewhat stretching the traditional Batman story.  However filming for season 2 only just started back in March when it was halted due to CoVID-19. Martha's pregnancy is reported as being part of season 2 along with new cast members with James Purefoy, Edward Hogg, Jessye Romeo, Ramon Tikaram, and Harriet Slater.  Shooting resumed in September.

Ken Liu’s short story 'The Hidden Girl' may be a TV series.  FilmNation has acquired the story. Liu himself is apparently to be an executive producer.  'The Hidden Girl' is billed as blending sci-fi and historical reality into a story set in a fantasy world derived from the cosmopolitan realities of Tang Dynasty China. In the story, a diverse group of women assassins travel through the fourth-dimension traversing space and time to kill their opponents, honour their professional code, and face down ethical dilemmas only too relevant for our conflict- and doubt-driven modern world.  Meanwhile Liu has just been appointed as a consulting producer on David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo’s Netflix adaptation of Cixin Liu's Hugo winning novel The Three-Body Problem.

Netflix slammed by US Senators for The Three-Body Problem proposed TV series.  Liu novel won a Hugo as well as being short-listed for the 2015 Locus and the 2015 Campbell Memorial Award and the US Nebula Award.  All well and good, but the US Senators are concerned by Liu Cixin’s 2019 comments to a New Yorker interview in which he seemed to toe the Chinese government's line over the forced internment of about a million Muslim Uighurs.  In arguing their case, the Senators cite Netflix's culture statement which asserts that “Entertainment, like friendship, is a fundamental human need; it changes how we feel and gives us common ground.”  Netflix replied noting that they themselves do not operate in China. Netflix goes on to say that Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show. Finally, that Netflix does not agree with Cixin Liu's comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or the forthcoming Netflix show.

Amazon’s series Utopia cancelled After first season.  With its dark conspiracy theories, violence, global pandemic, and impending apocalypse, it might be that Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia was the wrong show at the exact right CoVID year moment.

The current, 6th, season of Supergirl is to be the last.  The show's viewing figures in the US have slipped dramatically: from a season-averaged 7.7 million total viewers for season 1 in 2015 to 840,000 for last year's (2020) season 5.  You can see the season trailer here.

Batwoman season 2 premieres a couple of days after we post this seasonal news page.  Trailer here.

Wonder Girl TV series in development.  It is being made for the US channel CW.  In effect it tells the origin story of the DC Comics' Wonder Woman. Dailyn Rodriguez is to star.

Brave New World series cancelled.  David Wiener’s series, inspired by Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World, has not had a second season renewal.  The news comes just four months after the 9-episode first season debuted.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has started.  Mid-October saw Star Trek: Discovery season 3 commence on CBS All Access. This means that, over here in Brit Cit, we may be getting season 2 on FreeView soon and season three on a subscription streaming service shortly.  This time they are hundreds of years in the future.  The season will also see a new regular, Grudge is a pet cat of Cleveland Booker's.  See the season 3 promotional trailer here.

Invincible is a forthcoming superhero, animated series from the creator of The Walking Dead.  From Robert Kirkman, it is an adult, animated, superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J. K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.  It is to air on Amazon Prime.  See the season 3 promotional trailer here.

A Suicide Squad spin-off TV series is in the works.  The sequel film The Suicide Squad, due out in August 2021 is to have a spin-off television series based on the character Peacemaker.  Christopher Smith / Peacemaker is a ruthless killer who believes in achieving peace at any cost. The character has been described by Cena as a douchey Captain America but was originally billed by the 1960s original comic series as the man who loves peace so much that he is willing to fight for it: he was a pacifist that uses non-lethal weapons but later this changed.  He will be played by John Cena.  James Gunn, who is writing and directing The Suicide Squad film, is to write episodes for the new, 8-part series and will also direct some of them.  HBO Max is behind the series.  (Note: peacemaker is not to be confused with Mitchell Black, the superhero from a separate DC comic series.  Of interest, the character was used as an inspiration for The Comedian in Alan Moore's Watchmen.)



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 2021

Publishing & Book Trade News


New British SF book imprint.  The publisher Head of Zeus has launched a new SF imprint called Ad Astra.  Head of Zeus has already been publishing a small but steady stream of SF/F including the English translation of the Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu that won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel and which was the first of a trilogy.  Given that 500,000 copies of the trilogy's books from Head of Zeus have been sold, HoZ is releasing through Ad Astra a new edition with cover art from the Chinese original editions. The will also be a new collection of shorts, Hold Up The Sky, from the author.
          Also currently slated from the new imprint are: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by the Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards winning author Sarah Pinsker;  Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow and a collection of AI shorts We, Robots edited by Simon Ing.  Also titles later this year include those by Ada Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky and the recently departed Terry Goodkind.

Books boom during CoVID!  One of the few upsides to this terrible time of CoVID-19 has been a boom in book sales.  This might not seem surprising as during the time of hard lockdown – end-March to June 2020 –there was little to do with many being furloughed having no work and running out of things to do at home. Internet book sales soared.  However, what is surprising is that this boom continued after lockdown ended in June with the re-opening of bookshops.  For example, the publisher Bloomsbury has seen a rise of 60% in pre-tax profits to £4 million (US$5.2m).

The American Library Association reveals the titles US citizens most wanted banned last year (2019).  The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted in the top ten there were two genre titles.  At 7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for 'vulgarity and seχual overtones'.  9. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.  Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals.  The office notes that Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others

Penguin is releasing a second tranche of SF classics  Titles include ground-breaking epics; pioneering works of black and queer genre fiction; and iconic examples of Afrofuturism, dystopia and slipstream from the great science fiction writers of the twentieth century. The future is here now, and these are the books that we need to understand our times and help us see the world afresh – both as it is and as it might be…  Titles will include: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, Black No More by George S. Schuyler, Warm Worlds and Otherwise by James Tiptree Jr., Driftglass by Samuel R. Delany, Ice by Anna Kavan, The Ark Sakura by Kobo Abe, Star Maker and Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon, A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay and Untouched By Human Hands by Robert Sheckley.  All solid SF titles.

The Last Dangerous Visions anthology may yet be published!  This would be the third in the highly acclaimed Dangerous Visions (1967 and 1972) anthology series edited by Harlan Ellison. In the introduction to Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) it was announced there would be a Last Dangerous Visions. However, despite much material solicited from authors many years before Ellison's passing, the anthology never appeared.  Now Ellison’s literary executor, J. Michael Straczynski, has said that it will appear in 2021! However, not all the stories solicited will be included and there will be some new stories that Ellison himself never saw. Whether or not the material Ellison originally solicited will have Ellison's introductions – a valued part of the published Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions -- is not known.  However, apparently there will be one last work by Harlan himself that to date has only been seen by a handful of people. A work that ties directly into the reason why The Last Dangerous Visions has taken so long to be published.

Disney are defaulting on their obligations to pay authors say the SF Writers of America (SFWA) and author Alan Dean Foster.  Since Disney took over publishing rights multiple Alien and Star Wars novelisations in 2015, the books continue to be sold but the contractual royalties s are no longer paid to their authors. As SFWA puts it, ‘Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.’ See  The SFWA also implore any writers who have experienced similar issues with Disney or any other company to contact SFWA.  This is not the first time something like this has happened. Tess Gerritsen says she has not received payment for the film Gravity which she says was based on her novel of the same name and for which she sold film rights to to New Line and New Line apparently asked Alfonso Cuarón for a treatment of the novel. At this point the treatment was not green lit. Then, in 2008, Warner Brothers bought New Line and, in 2013, Alfonso Cuarón makes a film called Gravity for Warner Brothers but Tess Gerritsen never got any payment.

Orbit's commissioning editor wins inaugural Starburst Award.  Jenni Hill, of the SF imprint Orbit at Little Brown, has been awarded the inaugural Starburst Hero Award for Literature 'Heroes' category.  The award is for an outstanding contribution to SF/F literature.  Specifically the category is aimed at people who are active in the industry and doing great work that helps change and improve the shape of the industry.  Starburst said: “The amount of brilliant and inspiring work that Jenni has guided and brought to market is quite frankly astounding. A good commissioning editor can make careers, change lives and introduce the world to talent and ideas that simply need to be read by as many people as possible. Jenni Hill excels at this and we felt we simply had to acknowledge this in our unique way.”

Tor US editor, Beth Meacham, retires.  She joined Tor (US) in 1984 and retired in December. She is also the author of one novel with her husband Tappan King, Nightshade(1976). She worked for the Ace imprint from 1978 before joining Tor in 1984 where eventually she became editor-in-Chief. In 1989 she moved state but continued to work for Tor long-distance as an executive editor. Among the books she has edited are Greg Bear's Blood Music, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Pat Murphy's The Falling Woman and Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates.

New editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Sheree Renée Thomas will replace Charles Coleman Finlay as editor from the March/April 2021 issue. Finlay has been editor for five years.

John Joseph Adams SF/F imprint is to close.  The US imprint is managed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, formerly known as Houghton Mifflin Company that was founded in 1832. John Joseph Adams had only been going for five years. The SF titles it has currently in pre-production will be released.

Shakespeare book of plays sells for £7.7 million.  Containing 36 plays including the horror fantasy Macbeth, it is a rare 17th century edition printed in 1623: there are thought to be only six copies in existence.  The sale value is a record for a work of literature.

200 lost copies of Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) found.  Back in the 1950s a survey concluded that there were only 187 copies of Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.  A new survey has just been completed by a US team of academics including Prof. Mordechai Feingold of the California Institute of Technology. They discovered 200 more in 27 countries.

First edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold for £75,000 (US$94,000).  It was sold at a Derbyshire auction to an anonymous expat living in Luxembourg who says it will cover his daughter's student loans.

First edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold for £50,000 (US$66,000).  Following seeing a copy valued at £13,000 on the BBC programme Antiques Roadshow Charlotte Rumsey remembered she had a copy she was going to sell in a car boot sale for 50p. Instead it went on sale at Hansons Auctioneers.

Stolen first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold, but its original owners want it back.  This first edition hardback (of which only 500 were printed) had been auctioned in the US by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, for a Californian.  The book clearly has a Portsmouth City Library (UK) stamp inside it.  It had made for US$55,000 (£42,500) at auction. Portsmouth City Council library service says the book in question was not officially checked out and would like it back.

Rare Newton and Galileo stolen books recovered.  In 2017 the books were among a batch, valued at £2.5 million (US$3.25) en route to auction in the US and in transit at Feltham Customs Centre in west London, when thieves abseiled from the roof to steal some 240 books.  The books were found by British police, working with their Romanian counterparts, buried beneath a house in Romania. Twelve Romanians were extradited to the UK and given prison sentences.

Audible – the audiobook sales outlet for Amazon’s company ACX – seems to be ripping off publishers and authors.  It looks like it is trying to attract readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to and so becoming in practice a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives publishers and authors of what they should have earned on a work that was bought.  The US body Authors Guild’s has called for writers to “Sign Our Letter and Tell Audible to Stop Charging Authors for Returns” and by Christmas this had garnered over 12,000 signatures. Other organizations have supported the campaign against Audible including the SFWA and Britain's acting body Equity (as those voicing the audio book will be hurt if audiobooks become uneconomical).  ++++ Related stories elsewhere on this site and other sites include:-
  - Concerns as to Amazon's staff work conditions and rights
  - Amazon workers launch protests on Prime Day
  - Staff at Amazon's Swansea warehouse 'treated like robots'
  - Amazon warehouse accidents total 440
  - 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.

And finally, two of the spring's short SF book related videos…

Homage short film to the Hugo Award-winning Blindsight.  This short film will not make much sense unless you have read Peter Watts' rather good novella, Blindsight.  Danil Krivoruchko led a small team to make this short film over the past four years as a non-commercial self-funded venture.  Onboard a spaceship returning to the Earth from a first contact mission in the Oort Cloud, a cryo capsule resurrects the body of a survived crew member.  His wakening mind unwinds memories of the first contact mission.  You can see the four-and-a-half minute, short film here.

A funny (it's a ridiculous situation) but serious video over (supposed) fan-fiction copyright infringement.  The US is often viewed an over-litigious society (Britain currently in an unwelcome trend of becoming one with the rise of TV lawyer adverts for no win no fee cases). A recent attempt by an author to allegedly prevent a category of fan fiction (werewolf romance) on copyright grounds is a serious matter but laughable as the author seeks to ban folk from using arguably fairly standard fantasy tropes that have been around for a while.  This is of critical significance to all genre writers: both fan and pro.  You can see the 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 2021

Forthcoming SF Books


The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Complete Trilogy in Five Parts by Douglas Adams, Pan, £25, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03457-8.
A special 42nd anniversary edition of Douglas Adams’s mega-selling cult classic.  A global phenomenon, this paperback omnibus contains the complete Hitchhiker’s trilogy in five parts, charting Arthur Dent’s galactic (mis)adventures through space and time.  Collected together in this special 42nd anniversary edition are the five titles that comprise Douglas Adams’s wildly popular and wholly remarkable comedy science fiction ‘trilogy’: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless.  Plus a bonus short story, 'Young Zaphod Plays It Safe', and a special undeleted scene.  This from Douglas Adams’s original publisher, is, at least, definitively inaccurate.

The Sentient by Nadia Afifi, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58434-1.
Neuroscientist Amira Valdez is trying to put her past on a religious compound behind her.  But when she’s assigned to a controversial cloning project, her dreams of working in space are placed in jeopardy. Using her talents as a reader of memories, Amira uncovers a conspiracy to stop the creation of the first human clone – at all costs.  As she unravels the mystery, Amira navigates a dangerous world populated by anti-cloning militants, scientists with hidden agendas and a mysterious New Age movement. In the process, Amira uncovers an even darker secret, one that forces her to confront her own past.

Doctor Who: I Am The Master by Peter Anghelides et al, BBC Books, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94631-8.
A collection of all-new adventures that reveal the exploits of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis, the Master in all his/her incarnations, including the latest version, played by Sacha Dhawan.  Everything you think you a lie.

Doctor Who: TLV 2 by Anonymous, BBC Books, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94633-2.
The second of two exciting new novels featuring the eighth, ninth and tenth Doctors, connected to the multi-platform Doctor Who project Time Lord Victorious.  Even a Time Lord can’t change the past. A wasteland. A dead world…  No, there is a biodome, rising from the ash. Here, life teems and flourishes, with strange and lush plants, and many-winged insects with bright carapaces – and one solitary sentient creature, who spends its days watering the plants, talking to the insects, and tending this lonely garden. This is Inyit, the Last of the Kotturuh…

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51292-1.
Dead Man in a Ditch is the sequel to The Last Smile in Sunder City, and follows the adventures of Fetch Phillips –a character destined, the publishers say, to be loved by readers of Ben Aaronovitch, Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Jack Four by Neal Asher, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04997-8.
Jack Four is one of twenty clones, created to be sold. But he possesses information no clone should have. And he plans to escape his fate – whatever it takes. Created to die – determined to live…  Jack Four – one of twenty human clones – has been created to be sold. His purchasers are the alien prador and they only want him for their experimentation program. But there is something different about Jack. No clone should possess the knowledge that’s been loaded into his mind. And no normal citizen of humanity’s Polity worlds would have this information.  The prador’s king has been mutated by the Spatterjay virus into a creature even more monstrous than the prador themselves. And his children, the King’s Guard, have undergone similar changes. They were infected by the virus during the last humans-versus-prador war, now lapsed into an uneasy truce. But the prador are always looking for new weapons – and their experimentation program might give them the edge they seek.  Suzeal trades human slaves out of the Stratogaster Space Station, re-engineering them to serve the prador. She thinks the rewards are worth the risks, but all that is about to change. The Station was once a zoo, containing monsters from across known space. All the monsters now dwell on the planet below, but they aren’t as contained as they seem. And a vengeful clone may be the worst danger of all.

World Engines: Creator by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22322-6.
Two spaceship crews from different realities must work together to discover how the World Engineers have altered the solar system, and why…  Trapped on an alternate Earth, three spaceship crews from parallel universes must work together to discover what led them to this point. But their small differences make cooperation difficult.  Some differences are not so small. The solar system has been altered in the various realities, and the World Engineers– unspeakably powerful – are still active. Can they be stopped, and should they be?  Malenfant, Deidra and the rest of their party must find a way off the planet, back into space, and into the many dimensions seeking the answer…  This is the sequel to World Engines: destroyer.

Machine by Elizabeth Bear, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20877-3.
A White Space novel.  Meet Doctor Jens. She hasn’t had a decent cup of coffee in fifteen years.  The first part of her job involves jumping out of perfectly good spaceships. The second part requires developing emergency treatments for sick aliens of species she’s never seen before.  She loves it.  But her latest emergency is also proving a mystery. One in which she’s about to discover that everything she’s dedicated her life to is a lie.

The Shattered Skies by John Birmingham, Ad Astra, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54595-1.
Space opera. Part two of a violently energetic three-part mil-SF extravaganza.  Centuries after they were defeated and exiled to Dark Space, the Sturm have returned. Disgusted by the new technologies humankind have come to depend on, they intend to liberate us, by force if necessary.  With their advanced tech rendered null by the Sturm’s attack, humanity faces certain annihilation. Their only hope lies with a few brave souls who survived the initial onslaught: the Commander of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship; a soldier sentenced to die; a young royal, forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed; the leader of an outlaw band, and the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm hundreds of years ago.  If they are to stand any chance of survival, these five heroes must shed their modern technology and become the enemy. Their resistance might be humanity’s only hope…

A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne, Transworld, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52619-9.
The author is perhaps best known for his 2006 multi-award-winning book, non-genre, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas.  This is the story of all of us, stretching across two millennia.  It starts with a family, a family which will mutate. For now, it is a father, mother and two sons. One with his father’s violence in his blood. One who lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. They will be joined by others whose deeds will change their fate. It is a beginning.  Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years – they will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From distant Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium to a life amongst the stars in the third. While the world will change around them, their destinies will remain the same. It must play out as foretold. It is written.

Widowland by C. J. Carey, Quercus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41199-7.
Billed as an alternative history with a strong feminist twist for fans of Robert Harris’ Fatherland, Christina Dalcher’s Vox and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  London, 1953, Coronation year — but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II.  Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain’s Protector.  The role and status of women is Rosenberg’s particular interest.  Rose Ransom belongs to the elite caste of women and works at the Ministry of Culture, rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. But now she has been given a special task.  Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country; graffiti daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from forbidden works, subversive words from the voices of women. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums where childless women over fifty have been banished. These women are known to be mutinous, for they have nothing to lose. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony of King Edward and Queen Wallis, Rose must infiltrate Widowland to find the source of this rebellion and ensure that it is quashed.

Inscape by Louise Carey, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22999-0.
A fast-paced hi tech dystopian thriller with a strong female lead.  A young soldier, sent on a mission to discover the source of an attack on her home, uncovers a conspiracy that makes her question her absolute loyalty to her own government.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world where people live in corporate campuses separated by hi-tech customs borders, this thriller features corporate surveillance and sinister politics in a world that holds a mirror to our own reality.  See also below…

Inscape by Louise Carey, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23274-7
Trade paperback of above.

The Fall of Koli by Mike Carey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51349-2.
The third and final novel in the 'Rampart' trilogy that began with The Book of Koli – an original series set in a strange and deadly world of our own making, from the author of the million-copy selling The Girl with all the Gifts.

The Trials of Koli by Mike Carey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51349-2.
This follows The Book of Koli and is set generations after a nuclear and environmental holocaust.  Koli is a teenage boy in the village community of Mythen Rood (Mytholmroyd) in the Calder Valley in Yorkshire.  Now he’s reaching out to claim his property, and Ingland is facing something it hasn’t seen in three centuries.  War!

Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, Arrow, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46241-0.
A Star Wars novel.  After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower—and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.  A planet of lush forests, precarious mountains, and towering, petrified trees, Batuu is on the furthest possible frontier of the galactic map, the last settled world before the mysterious expanse of Wild Space. The rogues, smugglers, and adventurers who eke out a living on the largest settlement on the planet, Black Spire Outpost, are here to avoid prying eyes and unnecessary complications. Vi, a Resistance spy on the run from the First Order, is hardly a welcome guest. And when a shuttle full of stormtroopers lands in her wake, determined to root her out, she has no idea where to find help.  To survive, Vi will have to seek out the good-hearted heroes hiding in a world that redefines scum and villainy. With the help of a traitorous trooper and her acerbic droid, she begins to gather a colourful band of outcasts and misfits, and embarks on a mission to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu.  Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Doctor Who: The Target Storybook by Terrance Dicks et al, BBC Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94475-8.
A brilliant new collection of spin-off stories from famous episodes throughout the history of Doctor Who - and a new format for the Target publishing range. Learn what happened next, what went on before, and what occurred off-screen in an inventive selection of sequels, side-trips, foreshadowings and first-hand accounts – and look forward too, with a brand new adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor.

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow, Ad Astra, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93997-7.
Returning to the world of Little Brother and Homeland, Attack Surface takes us five minutes into the future, to a world where everything is connected and everyone is vulnerable.  Masha Maximow has made some bad choices in life — choices that hurt people. But she’s also made some pretty decent ones. In the log file of life, however, she can’t quite work out which side of the ledger she currently stands.  Masha works for Xoth Intelligence, an InfoSec company upgrading the Slovstakian Interior Ministry’s ability to spy on its citizens’ telecommunications with state-of-the-art software (at least, as state-of-the-art as Xoth is prepared to offer in its middle-upper pricing tier).  Can you offset a day-job helping repressive regimes spy on their citizens with a night-time hobby where you help those same citizens evade detection? Masha is about to find out.  Pacy, passionate, and as current as next week, Attack Surface is a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

Residuum by Dominic Dully, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41074-7.
A planet-eating plague. A hustler-turned-hero. Time is running out…  So much for Orry Kent’s quiet life: news footage broadcast across the Ascendancy shows her murdering the eminent scientist she saved just six months earlier.  With her brother Ethan, the irascible Captain Mender, the Kadiran exile Quondam and the Dainty Jane, she sets off to prove her innocence. But it’s not just her freedom at stake: a planet-eating plague has also been triggered…  The race is on!

Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air by Jackson Ford, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51046-0.
A governmental psychokinetic operative encounters someone with more powerful abilities…

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed, Del Rey, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10144-7.
Alphabet Squadron's hunt for the deadliest TIE fighters in the galaxy continues in this Star Wars adventure!  News of the New Republic's victory still reverberates through the galaxy. In its wake, the capital ships of the newly legitimized galactic government journey to the farthest stars, seeking out and crushing the remnants of imperial tyranny. But some old ghosts are harder to banish than others. And none are more dangerous than Shadow Wing…  This comes from the author of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company.  See also below.

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed, Del Rey, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10138-6.
The aces of Alphabet Squadron have one final chance to defeat the darkness of Shadow Wing in this conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy!  (See previous above.)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: The illustrated edition by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26022-2.
This is what he remembers, as he sits by the ocean at the end of the lane: A dead man on the back seat of the car, and warm milk at the farmhouse.  An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made.  A beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile.  And dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed.  They are memories hard to believe, waiting at the edge of things. The recollections of a man who thought he was lost but is now, perhaps, remembering a time when he was saved...

Outbreak by Frank Gardner, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63238-7.
Former SBS officer and now MI6 operative Luke Carlton, races against time to confront the all-too-real horrors of 21st century bio-terrorism.  Deep within the Arctic Circle, three environmental scientists from the UK's Arctic Research Station trudge through a blizzard landscape in search of shelter. There's a cabin ahead. It appears abandoned. No lights or tell tale smoke. No snow-cat parked outside.  The first thing the team's medic, Dr Sheila Mackenzie, notices when she enters is the smell. It's rank, rotting. And then there's movement.  A man, barely recognisable, lies on a sofa, his face hideously disfigured by livid pustules, rivulets of blood run from his nostrils, his chest covered in black bile. Momentarily Dr Mackenzie can't comprehend what she's seeing. Then the alarm bells begin to ring. These are signs of chronic, deadly infection…  But the man is trying to say something. She edges closer to him, and it's then that the convulsions begin. He coughs suddenly, violently, vomiting out a rank mix of blood, bile and mucus…  Contaminating Dr Mackenzie and her two companions. Setting in train a terrifying chain of events that threatens millions with a deadly contagion.

The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton, Macmillan, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-84463-0.
Humanity is in crisis, as cities fall to an unstoppable alien threat. The 'Salvation Sequence' comes to its conclusion.  Save humanity or face the end…  Humanity welcomed the Olyix and their utopian technology. But mankind was tricked. Now the Olyix are exacting a terrible price.  For two years, the Olyix have laid siege to Earth, attempting to harvest its people for their god. One by one, cities have fallen to their devastating weaponry. And while millions have fled to seek refuge in space, others continue to fight an apparently unwinnable war.  As the Earth’s collapse draws near, a team is dispatched to infiltrate the Salvation of Life – the alien’s arkship. If they succeed, they will travel to an alien homeworld thousands of light years away from Earth. This will allow the team to pinpoint its location, so future generations might take action.  But in the far future, humanity are still hunted by their ancient adversary. And as they battle on, in the cold reaches of space, hope seems distant and the end seems near.

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46096-6.
It’s a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed.  He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm.  What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying…  Click on the title link for a stand alone review.  Cited by us as one of the best SF books of 2019.

XX by Rian Hughes, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-02057-1.
Graphic novel.  Wrapping stories within stories, Rian Hughes’ XX unleashes the full narrative potential of graphic design. It uses the visual culture of the twentieth century to ask us who we think we are – and where we may be headed next.  At Jodrell Bank a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin has been detected. Jack Fenwick, artificial intelligence expert and on the autistic spectrum, thinks he can decode it. But when he and his associates at Hoxton tech startup Intelligencia find a way to step into the alien realm the signal encodes, they discover that it’s already occupied – by ghostly entities that may come from our own past.  Have these ‘DMEn’ (Digital Memetic Entities) been created by persons unknown for such an eventuality? Are they our first line of defence in a coming war, not for territory, but for our minds?  Including transcripts from NASA debriefs, newspaper and magazine articles, fictitious Wikipedia pages, a seventeenth century treatise called Cometographia by Johannis Hevelius, and a spread on the so far undeciphered written language of Easter Island, Rongorongo, from a book called Language Lost: Undeciphered Scripts of the Ancient World. There is no book quite like this.  The battle for your mind has already begun.

We, Robots edited by Simon Ings, Ad Astra, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54091-8.
From 1837 through to the 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 SF figure 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 android short stories, from the biggest names in the field to rising stars.

The Raven by Jonathan Janz, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58530-0.
Science fantasy.  Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They have discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA.  These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the Earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-38714-8.
Eccentric genius Adam Bosch has cracked the multiverse and created a way to travel to parallel Earths. There’s just one problem: no one can visit Earths where they are still alive, and all the would-be travellers in Adam’s circle have lived sheltered, safe lives in the city.  Enter Cara. Born in the wastelands, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight.  So, when she’s offered a job travelling the multiverse, and a safe place in the city to call home, she’s willing to do anything to keep it that way.

Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22514-5.
Eris, the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire, has been recruited by the Resistance for an important mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return with the intelligence she finds there.  Alongside her ally Cloelia, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with first-hand knowledge of the empire’s inner workings.  Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking, and the empire’s new heir has plans that will change things forever.

Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu, Ad Astra, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54612-5.
In a sunlit clearing, on an otherwise ordinary day in the late Cretaceous, the seeds of Earth’s first and greatest civilisation were sown in the grisly aftermath of a Tyrannosaurus’ lunch.  Throughout the universe, intelligence is a rare commodity.  That Earth should harbour not just one but two intelligent species at the same time defies the odds. That these species should forge an alliance and kindle civilization defies logic. But time is endless and everything comes to pass eventually...  From humble beginnings came writing, mathematics, computers, fusion, antimatter and even space travel. But such magnificent industry comes at a price – one paid first by Earth’s biosphere, and then by those dependent on it.  And yet the dinosaurs refused to heed the ants’ warning of impending ecological collapse, leaving the Ant Federation facing a single dilemma: destroy the dinosaurs, destroy a civilisation... or perish alongside them?

Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu, Ad Astra, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93760-7.
From the author of The Three-Body Problem, a collection of award-winning short stories – a selection of diamond-hard science fiction.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, Ad Astra, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93206-0.
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.

The Minders by John Marrs, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10065-5.
Five strangers guard our secrets.  Only four can be trusted…  In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born.  Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country's most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.  Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.  But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00162-4.
A Desolation Called Peace is the sequel to A Memory Called Empire, winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel.  An alien terror could spell our end.  An alien threat lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is supposed to win a war against it.  In a desperate attempt to find a diplomatic solution, the fleet captain has sent for an envoy to contact the mysterious invaders. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass – both still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire – face an impossible task: they must attempt to negotiate with a hostile entity, without inadvertently triggering the destruction of themselves and the Empire.  Whether they succeed or fail could change the face of Teixcalaan forever.

Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51588-5.
Debut. Widescreen space opera billed by the publisher as for fans of Ancillery Justice and Gideon the Ninth.  when a Prince dies there is a power vacuum at the head of an interstellar empire.

Radio Life by Derek Miller, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40858-4.
In this SF political thriller a post-apocalyptic civilisation is locked in a fight which threatens to destroy the world… again.  When Lilly was Chief Engineer at The Commonwealth, nearly fifty years ago, the Central Archive wasn’t yet the greatest repository of knowledge in the known world, protected by scribes copying every piece of found material and disseminating them by Archive Runners to hidden off-site locations for safe keeping. There was no Order of Silence creating and maintaining secret routes into the sand-covered towers of the Old World or the northern forests beyond Sea Glass Lake. The world was quiet, because Lilly hadn’t yet found the Harrington Box.  But times change. Recently, the Keepers have started gathering, determined to burn the Central Archives to the ground, no matter the cost, possessed by fear that bringing back the ancient knowledge will destroy the world all over again.  To prevent that, they will do anything.  Fourteen days ago the Keepers chased sixteen-year-old Archive Runner Elimisha into a forbidden Old World Tower and brought the entire thing down on her. Instead of dying, she slipped into an ancient bomb shelter and discovered a cache of food and fresh water, a two-way radio like the one Lilly’s been working on for years…  and something else. Something that calls itself ‘the internet’.

Gallowglass by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22854-2.
Near-future, climate change thriller, billed by the publisher as for fans of Al Reynolds and Richard Morgan.  2069, and Earth is in flux. Whole nations are being wiped off the map by climate change. Desperate for new resources, the space race has exploded back into life.  Jack, the scion of a shipping magnate, is desperate to escape Earth and joins a team chasing down an asteroid. But the ship he’s on is full of desperate people – each one needing the riches claiming the asteroid will bring them. And they’re willing to do anything if it means getting there first.

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46361-5.
It is 2059 and 30 years ago the Earth stopped turning relative to the Sun due to a transient cosmological event! The event itself was spread out over a number of months did not cause an instant cataclysm. However eventually the Earth's rotation with respect to the Sun ceased, so plunging one side of our planet into eternal, frozen night, and the dayside into blistering heat. Only a ribbon circling the Earth was comfortable to live in. The British Isles, Western Europe, parts of Africa and South America were the lucky landmasses able to lead a comparatively comfortable life. The east of North America did have some day but it was a permanent cool early dawn.  So began the 'days', or time, of the Slow…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23130-6.
Superhuman. Immortal. Prince in a galactic empire. There has to be a catch…  Khemri learns the minute he becomes a prince that princes need to be hard to kill – for they are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other princes. There are also mysteries. Khemri is dispatched on a secret mission for the Empire, and in the ruins of a space battle he meets a young woman called Raine.  Raine will cause him to challenge everything he knows. But Khemri is a prince, and even if he wanted to leave the Empire, certain forces have very definite plans for his future.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Penguin Classics, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-45351-3.
Orwell’s masterwork in a Clothbound Classics edition for the first time.  Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker, Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-82919-5.
A recent paperback release for those needing a new copy but not wanting the expense or bookshelf space of the hardback.  A big plus for this edition is that it comes with detailed explanatory notes provide essential explanatory social and historical context.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Macmillan Collector's Library, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03266-6.
Paperback of above but without the detailed explanatory notes of the above but £1 cheaper.

Nineteen Eighty-Four: The graphic novel by George Orwell & Fido Nesti, Penguin, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-43649-3.
Art and adaptation by Fido Nesti.

Chaos Vector by Megan E. O'Keefe, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51223-5.
Space opera.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, Tor, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04650-2.
Space opera.  During a routine survey mission on an uncolonised planet, exobiologists Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that thrusts her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact.  Epic space battles for the fate of humanity take her to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and, in the process, transform not only her, but the entire course of history.

The 2084 Report by James Lawrence Powell, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-31186-0.
A historian in the year 2084 sets out to document the irreparable damage climate change has wrought on the planet over the course of his life, interviewing scientists, leaders and ordinary people from all over the world. This is fiction, but rooted in scientific fact.  From the abandonment of major cities to the total collapse of economies, to drought and nuclear warfare, The 2084 Report is a vivid account of the future we will face if nothing is done to address the climate crisis. This is a powerful prophecy and urgent call to action.

The Evidence by Christopher Priest, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23137-5.
Set in the same world as The Islanders, this is an unsettling tale of a man caught up in a crime he does not understand, and cannot believe.  Todd Fremde is a writer of criminal mysteries. Invited to the island of Dearth, far across the Dream Archipelago, to talk at a conference, he finds himself caught up in a series of mysteries.  How can Dearth claim to be crime-free, yet still have an armed police force?  Why are they so keen for him to appear, but so dismissive when he arrives?  And how does this all connect with a murder on his home island, ten years before?  Fremde’s investigations will lead him to some dangerous conclusions…

Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09071-2.
This is actually slated to come out in the early summer, but given Renyolds' popularity (and that we all like him) we thought we'd give you an early heads up as to this return to the 'Revelation Space' universe with this stand-alone novel.  .Welcome to Michaelmas.  An airless, crater-pocked world whose caverns shelter a tiny band of humans.  They’re hiding, like the other last survivors.  And they’re being hunted.  One man has given them hope, guiding them through the hardest of times: Miguel de Rutyer.  But those times are about to get harder still…

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, Arrow, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46242-7.
The Official Pre-quel to Episode IX.  The Resistance is in ruins. In the wake of their harrowing escape from Crait, what was once an army has been reduced to a handful of wounded heroes. Finn, Poe, Rey, Rose, Chewbacca, Leia Organa—their names are famous among the oppressed worlds they fight to liberate. But names can only get you so far, and Leia’s last desperate call for aid has gone unanswered.  From the jungles of Ryloth to the shipyards of Corellia, the shadow of the First Order looms large, and those with the bravery to face the darkness are scattered and isolated. If hope is to survive, the Resistance must journey throughout the galaxy, seeking out more leaders—including those who, in days gone by, helped a nascent rebellion topple an empire. Battles will be fought, alliances will be forged, and the Resistance will be reborn.

Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23094-1.
The first new Science Fiction novel from this author in over three years.  A spaceship has reached its destination: an abandoned planet dominated by a conical mountain whose summit is high above the atmosphere. The crew hope to discover how the long-departed builders made such a colossus, and why: a space elevator? a temple? a work of art?  Meanwhile, a neurotoxin is causing the collapse of the United States. And for Ottoline Barragão, a regular kid juggling school and her friends, things are about to get dangerous, chased across the country by people willing to do anything to access her private network and recover the secret inside.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50883-2.
This novel charts the coming century set against a backdrop of economic upheaval, climate change and political confrontation.  It builds upon his writing experience with his previous climate-related SF.

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21832-1.
The third novel of the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series merges the best of space opera and epic fantasy.  Hadrian has been serving the empire in military engagements against the Cielcin, the vicious alien civilisation bent on humanity’s destruction. His popularity has grown, but it culminates in an assassination attempt by people within his own government.  In response, Hadrian leaves to pursue his true interest: a long-rumoured connection between the first Emperor and the Quiet: the ancient, seemingly long-dead race. And he will find the key to unlocking their secrets in a massive library on a distant world.  The coordinates for their origin planet.

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. Much delayed – it was originally slated for six months ago – this is 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.

Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12464-4.
Two hundred years before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, in the era of the glorious High Republic, the noble and wise Jedi Knights must face a frightening threat to themselves, the galaxy, and the Force itself…

Fearless by Allen Stroud, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58355-9.
AD 2118. Humanity has colonized the Moon, Mars, Ceres and Europa. Captain Ellisa Shann commands Khidr, a search and rescue ship with a crew of twenty-five, tasked to assist the vast commercial freighters that supply the different solar system colonies. Shann has no legs and has taken to life in zero-g partly as a result. She is a talented tactician who has a tendency to take too much on her own shoulders. Now, while on a regular six-month patrol through the solar system, Khidr picks up a distress call from the freighter Hercules…

Blindspace by Jeremy Szal, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22747-7.
Vakov has been to hell and back, but he’s never faced anything like this…  Stormtech is the most powerful drug out there. Derived from dangerous, alien DNA, it was used to create supersoldiers – like Vakov himself. But now it’s on the streets, it’s incredibly Addictive… and it’s lethal. Worse: Harmony – the outfit which dosed Vakov to begin with needs help to end the epidemic on the streets, before it spirals out of control.  Continuing the story begun in Stormblood, this military Science Fiction story is billed by the publisher as for keep of Altered Carbon.

Hard Time by Jodi Taylor, Headline, £20.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26377-3.
Team Weird are back causing havoc in the Time Police in this spin-off series by Jodi Taylor, author of The Chronicles of St Mary’s.  A time slip in Versailles, problems in the Ice Age and illegal time travellers in need of rescue.  Must be a job for the Time Police.  Luke, Jane and Matthew are back and ready to cause havoc - inadvertently or otherwise...

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar, Ad Astra, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93129-2.
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?

Eve by Una, Virago, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-349-01069-4.
Graphic novel. In a near future world that seems like our own, Eve grows up in a loving family, but a catastrophe slowly turns the world into an authoritarian dystopia from both the right and the left.

Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51443-7.
The next fun and quirky science fiction novel from the author of Chilling Effect.  Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra find themselves once again on the edge not just of populated space, but also of a raging covert war between The Fridge, the intergalactic crime ring, and The Forge, a secret alien research organisation.

There Before the Chaos by K. B. Wagers, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51237-2.
Gunrunner empress Hail Bristol must navigate alien politics and deadly plots to prevent an interspecies war, in this first novel in the Farian War space opera trilogy.

Down Among The Dead by K. B. Wagers, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51238-9.
See above. This is the second novel in the Farian War space opera trilogy.

Out Past The Stars by K. B. Wagers, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51240-2.
See above. This is the final part of the trilogy.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Del Rey, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10061-7.
This is not due out until May, but we know that many of you will want to know that this is coming…  When astronomers notice the Sun is losing its brightness, Earth realises it only has thirty years before the planet freeze. A mission is mounted to save the planet, but something goes seriously wrong, and a scientist wakes up in a spaceship with amnesia, and his two colleagues dead.

The End of October by Lawrence Wright, Transworld, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16574-1.
A deadly virus.  Quarantine.  A world in lockdown.  This is the thriller that predicted it all  A race-against-time thriller, as one man must find the origin and cure for a new killer virus that has brought the world to its knees.  At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with a mysterious fever. When Dr Henry Parsons - microbiologist and epidemiologist - travels there on behalf of the World Health Organisation to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca.  As international tensions rise and governments enforce unprecedented measures, Henry finds himself in a race against time to track the source and find a cure – before it’s too late…  The New York Times described this as, 'Eerily prescient.  Too bad our leaders lack his foresight.'

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy by Timothy Zahn, Del Rey, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12458-3.
The first book in a new Star Wars trilogy set before Thrawn travelled to the Empire and became a Grand Admiral. Journey to the Unknown Regions and learn more about Thrawn’s origins and his home: The Chiss Ascendency.  From the author of Star Wars: Thrawn.


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Spring 2021

Forthcoming Fantasy Books


What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22434-6.
Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.  Ben Aaronovitch’s next 'Rivers of London' novella is here.  It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged, the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.  Aided only by her new friend, Simon, her knowledge that magic is real and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09591-5.
Second in the 'Age of Madness' trilogy.  Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.  For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye before it kills her first.

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allanet al, Riverrun, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40518-7.
A mysterious murder on a Scottish island and the nefarious influence of the fairy people known as ‘the good neighbours’.  Cath is a freelance photographer working in a record shop to pay the rent.  Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle is embedded in her identity, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.  Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Alice Rahman. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of Shirley’s strange father.

Witches, Wizards, Seers & Healers Myths & Tales edited by Anonymous, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$40 / US$30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64236-4.
Collection.  In the West we tend to think of witches in terms of the witch trials, when fear, ignorance and religious fervour brought the poor to heel, and fostered suspicion of those who dared to be different, or knowledgeable, or independent of mind. Witches and wizards are often associated with pre-Christian societies, Celtic in particular, (and therefore popular in tales of fantasy), but the nature of their wisdom can be found in so many fascinating cultures across the world.  Ancient societies, particularly where natural religions with many gods abound, often highlight the power of an elder, or a seer, a healer or a wise friend. Tales of wizards and witches reach across traditions as folk try to explain natural phenomena and engage with the world around them. Those who understood the properties of healing in plants, or could make a prediction of weather events to rescue crops, became worshipped as elders, as keepers of knowledge.  In tribal African societies, Polynesian cultures and East Asian traditions there are tales of those with great knowledge who are often described as witches or wizards. The Baba Yaga of Eastern Europe, the Skinwalkers of the Navajo, Merlin and Morgana la Faye of Arthurian Legend and the fox witches of Japan are but a few of the many examples. Some work for good, others with ill-intent, but all become the focus of folkloric legend, collected here in this new book of myths and tales.

Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51184-9.
From the author of Blood of Assassins a saga of honour, glory and warfare, Call of the Bone Ships is the sequel to the David Gemmell Award-short-listed The Bone Ships.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett, Quercus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48790-2.
Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but the massive merchant houses of Tevanne are willing to do anything to crush them.

When Jackals Storm the Walls by Bradley Beaulieu, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21832-1.
The fifth book in the epic fantasy series of mystery, prophecy and death within the ancient walled city of Sharakhai.  The reign of the Sharakhani kings has been broken. Queen Meryam now rules the city.  Meanwhile, the fallen kings believe they have found the means to save the city and desert beyond from certain destruction. One person is crucial to their success: Ceda. And Ceda must choose: work with the king she’s vowed to destroy or risk losing the city she loves. Whatever she decides, the path will be dangerous. Sharakhai is under threat from neighbouring kingdoms, and now the gods themselves are stepping in..

Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51367-6.
Part of her 'Alpha and Omega' series.

The Black Coast by Mike Brooks, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51391-1.
The start of a series filled with war dragons, armoured knights, sea-faring raiders, dangerous magic and crowd-pleasing battle scenes.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50091-1.
The wizard private eye, Harry Dresden has another outing.

Master Artificer by Justin Call, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22290-8.
What if you had all the power of a god… but found out too late: that god was evil…  Annev wanted, more than anything, to become an avatar. One of the select few skilled enough to leave the Academy to steal dangerous magical artefacts from those who would misuse them, and keep them safe. Only his world has been destroyed – levelled with magic – and worse, Annev was the one who tore it apart. Now he has to find a new place in a world filled with danger, with the few other survivors, and test their skills in ways they could never have imagined.

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51517-5.
The first in a commercial, character-driven fantasy trilogy, in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city, which is slowly being corrupted by dark magic.

Nostalgia by Mircea Cartarescu, Penguin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-241-44891-5.
A dreamlike novel of memory and magic, Nostalgia turns the dark world of Communist Bucharest into a place of strange enchantments. Here a man plays increasingly death-defying games of Russian Roulette, a child messiah works his magic in the tenements, a young man explores gender boundaries, a woman relives her youth and an architect becomes obsessed with the sound of his new car horn – with unexpected consequences. Blending reality and symbolism, time and myth, this is a cult masterwork.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright, Del Rey, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10066-2.
Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.  The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.  And Mara will never forget what she learns there Feathertide is an enchanting, magical novel billed as likely to appeal to fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23277-8.
Something is rotten at the heart of Winterkeep…  A new land has been discovered to the east. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.  But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she must set off to discover the truth.

The Key to the Fear by Kristin Cast, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93398-2.
Billed as for fans of Vox, The Power and The Handmaid’s Tale comes a dystopian novel set in a world where touching is forbidden, books are banned and The Key governs.  Elodie obeys The Key. Elodie obeys the rules. Elodie trusts in the system. At least, Elodie used to…  Aidan is a rebel. Aidan doesn’t do what he’s told. Aidan just wants to be free. Aidan is on his last chance…  After a pandemic wiped out most of the human race, The Key took power. The Key dictate the rules. They govern in order to keep people safe. But as Elodie and Aidan begin to discover there is another side to The Key, they realise not everything is as it seems. Rather than playing protector, The Key are playing God.

Monkey King: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, Penguin Classics, £22, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-141-39344-5.
One of the greatest classics of Chinese literature, in a new translation by the award-winning Julia Lovell One of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, Monkey King was written anonymously during the Ming dynasty and is most commonly attributed to Wu Cheng’en, the son of a silk-shop clerk from east China. It recounts a Tang-dynasty monk’s quest for Buddhist scriptures, accompanied by an omni-talented kung-fu Monkey King called Sun Wukong; a rice-loving divine pig; and a depressive man-eating river-sand monster. Comparable to The Canterbury Tales or Don Quixote, the tale is at once a comic adventure story, a humorous satire of Chinese bureaucracy, a spring of spiritual insight and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeys towards enlightenment.  This novel was the inspiration for the classic comedy fantasy TV series Monkey.

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51623-3.
In a political fantasy, debut author C. L. Clark spins an epic tale of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire…

The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00060-3.
Return to the world of dragons, Fae and Librarian spies in this action-packed instalment of the Invisible Library series.  Librarian spy Irene finds herself in hot water, as a mysterious killer pursues her across an alternate Victorian London. All this while an old enemy pulls strings from afar.  A mysterious archive. A powerful enemy. And a cunning plan. Librarian spy Irene thought her to-do list would be her undoing. She’s on missions for both the Library and a dear friend – the detective Vale. And she’s also training her new Fae apprentice, who’s more interested in the stacks than sleuthing. But now someone is trying to kill her.  As Irene, Kai and Vale pursue her would-be assassin, they uncover a plot. It’s even more insidious than usual and could threaten Irene’s headquarters, Vale’s home and the Library itself. Someone is creating links between high-chaos worlds and Vale’s world. Someone who wants Irene well out of the way – and will do anything to make this happen. When the allies’ investigation takes a wrong turn, they find themselves trapped deep underground.  And while they wander among long-abandoned archives, Irene’s old enemies are closing in.

The Runes of Destiny by Christina Courtenay, Headline, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26824-2.
Fantasy romance.  From the author of Echoes of the Runes comes a new timeslip novel, with adventure and romance, perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine and Diana Gabaldon.  Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and getting her hands dirty with an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs to take her mind off her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem take re-enactment very seriously.  Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. As they set sail, she is forced to confront the unthinkable: she has somehow travelled back to the ninth century.  Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn that she can’t shake. Underneath his hard exterior, he is brave, clever and caring - not to mention attractive. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here with Hrafn?

Voidbreaker by David Dalglish, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51161-0.
This is the final book in the trilogy that started with Soulkeeper.

The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, Del Rey, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10094-5.
From the Oscar-winning director of Pan's Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, and Hellboy, and the authors of The Strain comes a new paranormal thriller billed by the publishers as X-FILES meets Ben Aaronovitch.  A horrific crime that defies ordinary explanation.  A rookie FBI agent in dangerous, uncharted territory. An extraordinary hero for the ages.  Odessa's life is derailed when she's forced to turn her gun on her partner, who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defence, shakes Odessa to her core and she is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation.  But what most troubles her isn’t the tragedy itself – it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.  Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Odessa accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named John Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries. What he tells her could mean he’s an unhinged lunatic. That, or he’s humanity’s best and only defence against an unspeakable evil that could corrupt even the best of us..

Witchshadow by Susan Dennard, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03031-0.
War has come to the Witchlands… and nothing will be the same again. Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.  Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia – rightful queen of Nubrevna – finds herself without a crown or home. As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.

Paris By Starlight by Robert Dinsdale, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10045-7.
Every city has its own magic...  Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon’s grandmother has read to them from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by starlight.  And with every story that Levon’s grandmother tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins…  Nobody can explain why nocturnal water dogs start appearing at the heels of every citizen of Paris-by-Starlight like the loyal retainers they once were. There are suddenly night finches in the skies and the city is transforming: the Eiffel Tower lit up by strange ethereal flowers that drink in the light of the Moon.  But not everyone in Paris is won over by the spectacle of Paris-by-Starlight. There are always those that fear the other, the unexplained, the strangers in our midst. How long can the magic of night rub up against the ordinariness of day? How long can two worlds occupy the same streets and squares before there is an outright war?  Billed by the publishers as suitable for fans of Neil Gaiman and Erin Morgenstern.

D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber, Transworld, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52510-9.
It all starts on the morning the letter D disappears from the language.  First, it vanishes from her parents’ conversation at breakfast, then from the road signs outside. Soon the local dentist and the neighbour’s Dalmatian are missing, and even the Donkey Derby has been called off.  Though she doesn’t know why, Dhikilo is summoned to the home of her old history teacher Professor Dodderfield and his faithful Labrador, Nelly Robinson. And this is where our story begins.  This is set between England and the wintry land of Liminus, a world enslaved by the monstrous Gamp and populated by fearsome, enchanting creatures

The Stitcher and the Mute by D. K. Fields, Ad Astra, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54252-3.
The second novel in a fantasy trilogy about murder, politics, and the power of stories.  Detective Cora Gorderheim has found the man who strangled the Wayward storyteller. But he was just a small part of a much bigger tale. Someone powerful ordered a murder on Cora’s patch. That someone still lurks in the shadows. But as she continues her investigations, Cora is warned not to pry into the great and good of Fenest.  Too stubborn to know better, Cora keeps digging and begins to piece together a conspiracy that reaches from the gutter dwellers of the Union of Realms right to the top: the Chambers.  As the Audience hear the Torn and Perlish tales, Cora realises she must return to her own story, to its very beginning, if she’s going to have any say in its end…  D. K. Fields is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of novelists David Towsey and Katherine Stansfield.

Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-848-66260-5.
An atmospheric horror novel about the nature of repressed guilt, grief and fear.  Daniel once had a baby brother, but he died, a long time ago now. And he had a wife and a daughter, but that didn’t work out, so now he’s alone. The easy monotony of his job as a milkman in the remote northwest of England demands nothing from him other than dealing with unreasonable customer demands and the vagaries of his enigmatic boss.  But things are changing. Daniel’s started having nightmares, seeing things that can’t possibly be there – like the naked, emaciated giant with a black bag over its head which is so real he swears he could touch it… if he dared.  It’s not just at night bad things are happening, either, or just to him. Shaken and unnerved, he opens up to a local witch. She can’t t discern the origins of his haunting, but she can provide him with a protective ward – a witch-bottle – if, in return, he will deliver her products on his rounds.  But not everyone’s happy to find people meddling with witch bottles. Things are about to get very unpleasant…

Eye of the Sh*t Storm by Jackson Ford, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51466-6.
The new novel in the fun and action-packed 'Frost Files' series which began with The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with her Mind.

The Coven by Lizzie Fry, Sphere, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-751-57759-2.
A world in which witchcraft is real and their power used for good, but a populist President decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety…

Minecraft Dungeons: Rise of the Arch-Illager by Matt Forbeck, Century, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89786-8.
Learn the tragic origins of the wicked Arch-Illager in this official Minecraft novel, a prequel to Minecraft Dungeons!  The terrible truth behind the Arch-Illager is that he never asked for ultimate power. Known as Archie, this little Illager is bullied by his fellow Illagers and mistrusted by fearful Villagers. Archie only ever wanted a place to call home, but he finds himself shunned by all. As he wanders through deep forests and up craggy mountains, he stumbles upon a dark cavern—with a sinister secret waiting inside.  Archie discovers an object that whispers to him promises of power: the Orb of Dominance. With it, Archie realizes he can wield incredible magic and reshape a world that turned its back on him. All he needs to do is exactly what it tells him

The Children of D’Hara by Terry Goodkind, Ad Astra, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54133-5.
Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell confront an apocalyptic nightmare. An irresistibly tense, utterly terrifying, near-thousand-page return to Goodkind’s 26-million-copy bestselling world.  The insatiable hunger of Golden Goddess... The irresistible power of a Witch’s Oath... A fracture in the world of life... An opening in the world of death...  Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell face the perfect storm.  The Children of D’Hara picks up immediately after the conclusion of the 'Sword of Truth 'series. Originally written as a serial novel, The Children of D’Hara collects the first five episodes into one volume.

Mother of Daemons: The Sunsurge Quartet Book 4 by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29056-6.
Lyra's empire is falling apart.  The Rondian Empire is collapsing. Ervyn Naxius has unleashed war on two continents and now 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…

Map's Edge: The Tethered Citadel Book 1 by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40193-6.
Follow a renegade sorcerer off the edge of the map, in a thrilling adventure for fans of Brandon Sanderson.  Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide.  The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him.  So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked.  But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation.  But his past won’t let him be: the implacable Imperial Bloodhound Toran Zorne has caught his scent, and Zorne has never yet failed to bring his quarry to ground.  At the edge of the map, there’s no going forward and no going back…

Orfeia by Joanne M. Harris, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22995-2.
A moving story of one mother’s quest for her missing daughter – dead, or stolen away by the fae – this retelling of the Orpheus myth combines music, mythology and a mother’s determination in one beautifully told novella. Illustrated by Bonnie Hawkins.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51247-1.
From the author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January comes this magical work of speculative fiction that will, the publishers say, appeal to fans of Night Circus and A Secret History of Witches.  In 1893 there is no such thing as witches.  There used to be, back in the wild days of the burnings…

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke, Transworld, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63103-8.
Continuing the tale begun in the City of Lies - a story of subterfuge and treachery and wild and ancient magic...  It started with poison and rebellion. It continues with war and witchcraft.  The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic.  But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills to save the city-state when witches and assassins set their sights to domination.  Poison was only the beginning…

Doors: Fields of Blood by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40232-2.
Each door takes you to a different world. Door ?, Door ! or Door X – which will you choose?  An expert team hired to rescue Anna-Lena from mysterious caves come across strange doors marked with enigmatic symbols. They – and you the reader – must choose one.  Who could have imagined that the portal marked with ! would take the rescuers into a different time completely: it is now the early Middle Ages – and they are about to find themselves in the middle of a world-changing battle…

Doors: Colony by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40234-6.
They little expect door ? to open on the 1940s – but in this timeline, Nazi Germany capitulated, the US has taken control and is threatening a nuclear strike. To rescue Anna-Lena – and survive themselves – they have to stop this madness, at all costs!

Doors: Twighlight by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40235-3.
The team knew their mission would be perilous – but how do you defeat your own demons? Trapped in their own nightmares, their only hope of escape is DOOR X, which leads to a threatening vision of the future…

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63252-3.
In a rigid, repressive society, a young woman discovers dark powers within herself with terrifying, far-reaching consequences…  The Handmaid's Tale meets The Village in this original feminist debut.  Born on the fringes of Bethel, Immanuelle does her best to obey the Church and follow Holy Protocol. For it was in Bethel that the first Prophet pursued and killed four powerful witches, and so cleansed the land.  And then a chance encounter lures her into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel.  It is a forbidden place, haunted by the spirits of the witches who bestow an extraordinary gift on Immanuelle. The diary of her dead mother…  Fascinated by and fearful of the secrets the diary reveals, Immanuelle begins to understand why her mother once consorted with witches. And as the truth about the Prophets, the Church and their history is revealed, so Immanuelle understands what must be done. For the real threat to Bethel is its own darkness.

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51523-6.
Innovative, magical fantasy.  A return to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles with the first book in a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

Love Bites by Ry Herman, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40630-6.
Paranormal romance.  Tender and unforgettable, Loves Bites is a laugh-out-loud, feel-good queer romance with a surprising paranormal twist. Two years after her divorce, Chloe struggles to leave the house, paralysed by anxiety. Then she meets Angela, a beautiful astronomy student, and home is the last place Chloe wants to be. But Angela only comes out at night. Angela has no pulse. Angela has deadly teeth. Angela and Chloe might be perfect for each other. But how do you build a life together when one of you is already dead?

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington, Quercus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40887-4.
A lyrical debut with myth, magic and folklore, billed as for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.  This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever lived…  Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.  Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child…  But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

The Ever After by Amanda Hocking, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00134-1.
Welcome to a world in the shadow of our own, a fairytale land where the dangers are real…  In The Ever After, the final book in the Omte Origins trilogy, Amanda Hocking continues her adventure in the Trylle universe.  Ulla Tulin has lost a month of memories. Her journey to uncover her past led her to a mysterious sect – and a man claiming to be her father. But Ulla’s forgotten their reunion, and fears something terrible happened. Determined to recall the truth, Ulla risks her life to battle the enchantments that bind her.  And she finally opens the bridge to Alfheim, the lost First City. Ulla knows this will unleash a tide of monstrous creatures upon the Earth. But she also knows she has no choice – and must gather a Trylle army in time to face them. Or could her own buried heritage be the key to victory?

The Lost City by Amanda Hocking, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00130-3.
Ulla Tulin is desperate to find her real parents and unlock her half-blood heritage. But her journey will be more perilous than she could have imagined – and more rewarding than she could have dreamed.  Nestled against the coast lies the Omte’s secret kingdom: a forested realm filled with wonder and secrets.  Ulla Tulin was abandoned as a baby and raised amongst the Kanin, like many half-blood trolls.  And though she was hidden away because of her heritage, she never forgot her origins.  So when Ulla is hired by an institution that could help those like her, she’s delighted…

The Morning Flower by Amanda Hocking, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00132-7.
Sequel to The Lost City above.  In the beautiful city of Merella, Ulla, Pan and Eliana made an incredible discovery. Determined to learn more, they embark on a quest that takes them across the world, to find a lost temple that may hold the key to Ulla’s heritage. But powerful enemies are close behind – and they’re catching up fast.

The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu, Tor, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03945-0.
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghost talker – and she now speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.  She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…) as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets. And in the process, she discovers an occult library and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

The Coming of the Dark by Chris Humphreys, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22606-7.
As the world begins to learn how divided it really is, a small group of immortals must come together to save everything.  The three lands of the immortals have never known of each other, but now they are at war. A fourth land, meanwhile, has started its invasion. Many immortals are dead, and the rest are unprepared for what is coming.  But there are three, one from each land, who have become involved. One just wants to protect her child. One wants to learn everything he can about this new threat. And one wants revenge. And as all three come together, so do the forces arrayed against them…

Irish Fairy Tales edited by J. Jackson, Flame Tree Press, £6.99 / Can$12.99 / US$9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64223-4.
Fairy stories, especially from the rich tradition of Ireland where the supernatural grew from the legends of the Celts, are the magic stories of everyday folk seeking solutions to the challenges of the day. This new collection brings together the fables and stories of banshees, kings, trembling farmers, tricksters and beloved princesses.  Legends, myths and fairy tales bring a sense of comfort, with their promise of magical charms, the lofty brought low, the meek recognized for their talents and the prospect of survival in even the worst of natural disasters. ‘Fair Brown and Trembling’ (a Cinderella story) and ‘The Haughty Princess’ (recalling Grimm’s ‘Kings Thrushbeard’) are amongst the many tales of hope and reckless determination.

Forged by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51114-6.
Fantasy from the author of Chosen.

Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63235 6.
In a world far in the future, society in the Tearling has reverted to feudalism.  Evil forces have converged to ensure that the rich and powerful stay in control while the poor are plunged into ever-greater depths of suffering. The only hope is a prophecy, whispered about among the poor, that a True Queen will rise up and save the kingdom from succumbing completely to despotism.  But, none of this affects the Mace. We meet the Mace in the beginning of his life, when he is enslaved as a paid fighter in the Creche, the clandestine and sinister underworld beneath the kingdom.  The decrepit Creche is the only home Mace has ever known.  Meanwhile in the Keep and in the countryside, some of the same villains at play in the Mace's world are inciting ever-escalating class conflict. Princess Elyssa must decide if she should align herself with her mother the Queen, or join the socialist rebellion group Blue Horizon, which has captured her heart. As the people rioting across the countryside decide Elyssa holds the key to the Kingdom's future, she is running out of time to make her choice--and to outrun those who hope to make it for her.  When the Mace must leave the Creche for the first time in his life, his own fate intertwines with the prophecy of the princess and the battles of country peasants uniting in mutiny, and everything changes.  The hope that Elyssa represented may be snuffed out by dark magic, and the Mace finds himself called into the service of something bigger than himself -- a fight for a better world.

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03276-5.
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?

The Sun’s Devices by Rebecca Levene, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-144-4-75379-0.
Following The Hunter’s Kind, this is the third novel in the 'Hollow Gods' series.  In the aftermath of the shattering of Mirror Town, Krish has taken his rightful place as heir to the kingdom of Ashanesland. The mysterious land once known as the Eternal Empire has opened its borders at last, and invited Krish to take his place as part of its ruling Triumvirate. But there are plots within plots in the country that once worshipped his sister, the sun, and now hates all gods. Because the sun goddess been made flesh once again and is determined to end the ancient conflict with her brother’s final defeat.

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47589-2.
A Christmas ghost story.  When Leah buys a Yorkshire farmhouse following the deaths of her husband and son, she soon starts having disturbing visions of the farm's former occupants – and it seems the past is creeping into her future…

God of Night by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22464-3.
The final volume in the 'God Fragments' series, as the mercenaries face a war which may threaten the entire continent.  The time for heroes has come, but all the Riven Kingdom has is bastards.  With war between the Militant Orders looming, the entire continent may soon be on fire. The very nature of magic has changed, but even that might not be the biggest disaster on the horizon. To stop it all may require a gamble only a bunch of drunken lunatics are willing to take.  The old ways need breaking and that’s one thing the Cards are good at. Just be careful what you wish for.

The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87958-8.
Billed by the publishers as for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb and Patrick Rothfuss.  Could this life be their last?  The city of Atrine lies in ruins. And now Relos Var has revealed his plan to free the monstrous god Vol Karoth, the end of the world is closer than ever.  To buy time for humanity, Kihrin and his friends need to convince a king to perform an ancient ritual. The power released would imprison the god for an age to come. But this may come at too high a price for the King of the Vané, as the ritual would strip his people of their immortality. As a result, some will do anything to prevent this ritual – including assassinating those championing this solution.  Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with a horrifying possibility. It seems his connection to Vol Karoth is growing in strength… but what does it mean? And how can Kihrin hope to save his world, when he might be the greatest threat of all?  See also below for the paperback's publication details.

The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87960-1.
This is the paperback edition of the above.

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean, William Heinemann, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-15237-5.
Tim and Abi have always been different from their peers. Precociously bright, they spend their evenings in their parents’ attic discussing the macabre and unexplained, zealously re-reading books on folklore, hauntings and the supernatural. In particular, they are obsessed with photographs of ghostly apparitions and the mix of terror and delight they provoke in their otherwise boring and safe childhoods.  But when Tim and Abi decide to fake a photo of a ghost to frighten an unpopular school friend, they set in motion a deadly and terrifying chain of events that neither of them could have predicted, and are forced to confront the possibility that what began as a callous prank might well have taken on a malevolent life of its own….   This debut novel is billed by the publisher as being reminiscent of the gothic suspense of Shirley Jackson and the ghost stories of M. R. James.

The Stranger Times by C. K. McDonnell, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63335-3.
There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable…  At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor… well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who's got her own set of problems.  It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil…

We Lie With Death by Devin Madson, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51409-3.
Sword and sorcery. The empire has fallen and another has risen in its place.

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22565-7.
The second novel in the 'Legacy of the Mercenary King' series.  Michael Kingman thought he was going to die by the executioner’s axe, forever labelled as a traitor.  Still alive, and under the protection of the Orbis Mercenary company, he and his friends are mired in the seemingly rival conspiracies tearing The Hollows apart.  For the king is dead, and both the Corrupt Prince and his sister Serena are vying for the throne. Meanwhile the Rebel Emperor is spreading lies among the people.  Worst of all: everyone wants Michael to die.

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-78-954381-0.
A dazzling mix of crime, romance, magic and myth from the acclaimed author of The Psychology of Time Travel.  The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftsmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.  Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires. But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

The House of a Hundred Whispers by Graham Masterton, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54424-4.
Graham Masterton has a genre track record. Now, after eight years writing crime fiction, he is back with this novel about a haunted house on Dartmoor.  All Hallows Hall, a rambling Tudor mansion on the edge of the bleak, misty moor is not a place many would choose to live. Yet the former Governor of Dartmoor Prison did just that. Now he’s dead, and his estranged family are set to inherit his estate.  But when the dead man’s family come to stay, the atmosphere of the moors seems to drift into every room. Floorboards creak, secret passageways echo, and wind whistles in the house’s famous priest hole. And then, on the morning the family decide to leave All Hallows Hall once and for all, their young son Timmy goes missing...

After Sundown edited by Mark Morris, Flame Tree Press, UK£9.99 / Can$19.99 / US$14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58457-0.
This new anthology contains 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned and 4 of which have been selected from the 100s of stories sent to Flame Tree during an open submissions window. It is the first of what will become an annual, non-themed horror anthology of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer.  Features Simon Bestwick, Ramsey Campbell, Grady Hendrix, John Langan, Tim Lebbon, Alison Littlewood, Sarah Lotz, Michael Marshall Smith, Thana Niveau, Laura Purcell, Robert Shearman, Angela Slatter, C.J. Tudor, Stephen Volk, Catriona Ward.

Divine Heretic by Jaime Lee Moyer, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47924-1.
Not everyone is destined to be a hero. Sometimes you have no choice.  Jeanne d’Arc was only five when angels told her she was fated to free France. As time passed, Jeanne grew to mistrust them, but she is bound to do what they want. Resistance has a terrifying price, yet Jeanne is determined to fight for her life. But when the cost grows too high, Jeanne will risk everything to save her brother, her one true friend and the man she loves.

Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01617-8.
Dragon-slayers don’t expect to survive to retirement age, but Bershad has unexpectedly thrived. Yet this very notoriety may be his downfall. This is book two of an epic fantasy trilogy following Blood of an Exile.  Change is coming – but will they survive the storm?  Bershad and his crew are poised on a knife-edge. And they can only hope they have the strength to face the dangers in store. While Bershad continues to hide a life-changing secret, Ashlyn must grapple with her newfound power – one that could have shattering consequences. But a storm is gathering on the horizon…  A foreign emperor is raising an army, equipped with a terrifying assortment of new weaponry. He will stop at nothing to crush the kingdom and claim its prized dragons. And worst of all – he wants Bershad.  See also below for the paperback's publication details.

Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01619-2.
The paperback edition of the above.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22776-7.
A girl’s search for her father leads to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who policing the Old World of England.  London, 1983. Susan Arkshaw is looking for her missing father when she encounters Merlin: a left-handed bookseller.  Together with the right-handed ones, booksellers use magic to police the legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops. Merlin has his own quest: to find the Old-World entity who killed his mother. But his quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan and Merlin must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

House with No Doors by Jeff Noon, Transworld, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52563-5.
At first glance, Leonard Graves’ death was unremarkable. Sleeping pills, a bottle of vodka, a note saying goodbye. But when Detective Henry Hobbes discovers a grave in the basement, he realizes there is something far more sinister at work.  Further investigation unearths more disturbing evidence. Scattered around the old house are women’s dresses. All made of the same material. All made in the same colours. And all featuring a rip across the stomach, smeared in blood. As the investigation continues and the body count rises, Hobbes must also deal with the disappearance of his son, the break-up of his family and a growing sense that something horrific happened in the Graves’ household. And he’s running out of time to find out what.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, Del Rey, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10085-3.
Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.  There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.  Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.  Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it... that is, unless she has no other choice.

The Silk House by Kayte Nunn, Orion, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-398-70018-5.
A ghost story weaving witchcraft withonder.  When Thea Rust takes up a post at an exclusive boarding school, she discovers that she is to live among the girls in the Silk House – a converted eighteenth-century factory, where centuries of secrets are woven into the fabric of the building itself. Secrets that spool back to the dangerous world of the silk trade, and the tangled fates of two young women.

Nothing by Daniel O’Connor, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61530-3.
Debut, urban fantasy.  Michael N wakes up from a coma – after a head injury – believing that he can imagine things out of existence: everything from his children’s involvement in terrible accidents to his colleague’s eyeballs.  He is incredulous to find that he lives in a suburb with this woman, who calls herself his wife, and their children. As he struggles to piece together an identity from memories others give to him, his belief in his new powers escalates. And the world around him begins to fray at the edges…

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51582-3.
The start of a new epic fantasy series.  Set in a world inspired by pre-Colonial West African empires, the 'Nameless Republic' trilogy is billed by the publisher perfect for fans of Brent Weeks, Evan Winter and James Islington.

Animal Farm by George Orwell, Penguin Classics, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-45386-5.
Orwell’s peerless satire, in Penguin Clothbound Classics for the first time.  When the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master, Mr Jones, and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom and equality. But gradually a cunning, ruthless elite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control. Soon the other animals discover that they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another. Orwell’s chilling ‘fairy story’ is a timeless and devastating satire of idealism betrayed by power and corruption.  Click on the title link for a review of this edition of the novel.  See also below…

Animal Farm by George Orwell, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-81373-6.
A recent paperback release for those needing a new copy but not wanting the expense or bookshelf space of the hardback.  A big plus for this edition is that it comes with detailed explanatory notes provide essential explanatory social and historical context. Click on the title link for a review of this edition of the novel.

Animal Farm by George Orwell, Macmillan Collector's Library, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03267-3.
Paperback of above but without the detailed explanatory notes of the above but £1 cheaper.

How To Rule An Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51438-3.
Humorous sword and sorcery fantasy.

As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51354-6.
The second novel in the 'Age of Darkness' series.  The Last Prophet has been found, yet he sees destruction ahead.  Kingdoms have begun to fall to a doomsday cult, the magical Graced are being persecuted, and an ancient power threatens to break free…

The Illustrated Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, Gollancz, £30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23070-5.
With ten full-colour illustrations by Paul Kidby and more pencil drawings inside, this is the ultimate edition of a much-loved Pratchett classic.  This is where the dragons went. They lie, not dead, not asleep, but dormant.  And although the space they occupy isn’t like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there’s a key to let them out.  Captain Sam Vimes of the Night Watch is going to have a doozy of a night when they are.

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner, Orbit, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51146-7.
A new standalone novel with an entrancing fairy tale feel, from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.  Deep in the Hungarian woods the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendents…

The Black Song by Anthony Ryan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51130-6.
Conclusion of the 'Raven's Blade' sword and sorcery series.

Immortal Angel by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23052-1.
In a new Argeneau novel, a gorgeous mortal encounters his greatest temptation.  Ildaria Garcia’s vigilante tendencies have lately drawn unwelcome attention to her fellow Immortals. Forced to relocate, Ildaria unintentionally entangles herself with six and a half feet of muscular, tattooed trouble.  Joshua James Simpson Guiscard, aka G. G., knows enough about Immortals to make him wary. Yet from the moment Ildaria walks into his club, he feels desire stronger than anything he’s known. But when her past catches up to them, G. G. faces a choice – confront his demons at last, or lose a passion that’s hot as hell.

Meant to be Immortal by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23054-5.
The Argeneau vampires are back, in another encounter…  Contrary to belief, vampires (or as they prefer – immortals) can be killed. When Mac Argeneau’s house goes up in flames – with him still inside – he knows it was not an accident.  But why would anyone want to kill him?  C. J. Cummings – from the Special Investigative Unit – is pulled into the case due to a lack of police officers. She too is convinced that Mac is in danger, but she’s also convinced he’s hiding something. If only she wasn’t so distracted by the way her body seems to crave his.

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09338-6.
The sequel to Oathbringer.  After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage.  Now, as new technological discoveries begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22612-8.
A brand-new epic fantasy trilogy.  With strange, mystical forces gathering in the shadows and pursued not only by the Stercza brothers bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools, a medieval asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order.  The ‘patients’ of this institution form an incomparable gallery of colourful types: including, among others, the young Copernicus, proclaiming the truth of the heliocentric solar system.

Brother Red by Adrian Selby, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50844-3.
Billed by the publisher as a gritty and epic standalone fantasy adventure, to appeal to fans of Mark Lawrence, Andrzej Sapkowskiand and Joe Abercrombie. From Adrian Selby, author of Snakewoodand The Winter Road.

A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22524-4.
The sequel to We Are the Dead.  Jia’s revolutionaries are about to learn that wars aren’t won in a day War takes everything.  It thrust Tinnstra into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give everything she has left to keep Zorique safe.  Meanwhile, Dren and Jax must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril, who intend to wipe Jia from the map. The Egril may have lost a battle, but they are coming back.  If Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.

Thirteen Storeys by Jonny Sims, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22872-6.
Horror.  One apartment building, many stories. A chilling thriller that’s perfect for fans of horror like Get Out and It Follows.  A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building.  None of them know why they were selected. Besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced an unsettling occurrence within the building’s walls.  By the night’s end, their host is dead, and none of the guests will say what happened.  His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now.

Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23143-6.
The Archangels of Death and Disease may be gone but their legacy lives on – especially in Africa, where shambling, rotting creatures called the reborn have gained a vicious intelligence.  It is up to Titus, Archangel of this vast continent, to stop them from spreading across the world. Titus can’t do it alone, and there is no one left to help… but the Hummingbird.  Old yet powerful, she must stand with Titus against a tide of death, and the Archangel of Disease’s last terrible gift.

The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51486-4.
The second book in Jon Skovoron’s fantasy trilogy about two siblings on opposite sides of a magical war.  Billed by the publisher as a must-read for fans of Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey.

The Sword Falls by A. J. Smith, Ad Astra, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69692-2.
The second volume in a new trilogy from the author of The World Raven.  A man of the Dawn Claw will be the Always King. It will ever be so. They will always rule... but they will not always lead.  Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies, and too many enemies, he faces a new and otherworldly threat to the Eastron from beneath the sea.  Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.  Meanwhile, Adeline Brand, called the Alpha Wolf, refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise…

The Haunted Shore by Neil Spring, Quercus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47010-1.
A psychological thriller with a hint of the supernatural, this is an unsettling story about retribution and deceit. A darkness rises on a desolate shore, when Pamela, a high-flying PR executive, becomes increasingly paranoid that her elderly father’s care giver is a dangerous imposter with sinister motives. What happens next is everyone’s living nightmare. A terrifying tale of secrets long buried, lies and obsession.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51494-9.
A tale of magic, revolution and identity, from a new author.  Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but her father won’t recognise her as heir unless she can recover the childhood memories she lost after a mysterious illness. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets, Lin vows to prove her worth by mastering the art of bone shard magic…

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex, Picador, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04731-8.
This is the story of three men who vanish from a remote lighthouse. The entrance door is locked from the inside, the clocks have all stopped and the table is set for dinner. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.  Twenty years later, the mystery of their disappearance still haunts the heartbroken women left behind.  The sea has kept its secrets, until now.  Billed as being rich with the salty air of the Cornish coast.

Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51379-9.
Part of Stross' 'Laundry sequence' concerning an underpaid British civil servant combating the forces of evil… The books are standalone so feel free to jump in here (you can always read the backlist later).

Lady of Shadows by Breanna Teintze, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47647-9.
Death is simple.  Dreams are dangerous. Life is… unexpected.  A year after being resurrected, Gray is still adjusting to his situation when the Mages’ Guild demands his help to stop a deadly plague. But the situation is more complicated than anyone has realised, and thousands of lives are at stake…

Minecraft: The End by Catherynne M. Valente, Arrow, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-75868-4.
When humans enter the End, a pair of endermen must decide which side they’re really on.  For as long as they can remember, the twin endermen Fin and Mo have lived in the mysterious land of the End. On the outskirts of the great enderman city of Telos, they explore ancient ruins under the watchful gaze of the mighty ender dragon. They have everything they need in the end ship they call home, and know everything there is to know about their world—or so they think until the strangers from another dimension arrive.  The invaders are called humans, and they’ve come to steal artefacts and slay the ender dragon. Fin and Mo are ready to protect their home from the trespassers, but when they come face-to-face with the humans, they discover that they aren’t as prepared for battle as they’d thought. Caught off guard, the twins are trapped in the middle of a war between the endermen and the humans, with the future of their home at stake.

Night of Demons & Saints by Menna van Praag, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63168-7.
The second book in The Sisters Grimm trilogy.  There is a moment, while the clock strikes twelve, when October ticks into November, as All Hallows’ Eve transforms into All Saints’ Day, that the sisters Grimm are born and anything is possible…  It is almost 3 years since the fours sisters Grimm confronted their father in that strange place called Everwhere. In a month, sisters Goldie, Scarlet and Liyana will be twenty-one. Goldie is still mourning Leo, her waking life barely bearable and she is becoming increasingly estranged from her sisters.  Unbeknownst to anyone, she plans to enact a ritual on the night of demons and saints: her intention is to draw on her powers over earth and growth and resurrect Leo’s spirit and soul, channelling both into the body of a soldier she’ll sacrifice for the purpose.  Meanwhile, Scarlet is happily married and newly pregnant and Liyana is in Zimbabwe, learning more of her family, her culture and history. On her return to England, she learns about Goldie’s plan and persuades her sister to try another method of resurrection. The sisters return to Everwhere to perform a voodoo ceremony to bring Leo back. It goes catastrophically, horrifyingly wrong. And during the ritual, something or someone took an unwelcome interest in Scarlet. Returning to our world, her behaviour begins to change. And Liyana too is disturbed by demons of her own - a darkness that calls out to her, whispering, wanting her to do wicked things…  And so on the eve of their 21st birthdays, three tormented sisters Grimm - Goldie, Liyana and Scarlet - will meet in Everwhere. There to confront each other, to learn what they have become, to face mortality, and discover the wonder of new and unexpected life…

Hag by various, Virago, £10, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-01390-9
Dark folktales retold for modern times by some of the most exciting women writing today, from Daisy Johnson to Eimear McBride  Here are sisters fighting for the love of the same woman, a pregnant archaeologist unearthing impossible bones and lost children following you home.

The Storm Beneath a Midnight Sun by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22414-8.
Returning to the world of Shadows of the Short Days, it’s time to go beyond Reykjavik to Hrimland’s remote islands.  War with the mainland is draining Reykjavik, so Solvi and his mother have fled to Hrimland’s remote islands for the chance of a new life. But things there are strange, and Solvi does not trust the people who take his mother in.  Kari is a professor of magic, recruited for a task only he can complete. He must go deep into the islands’ magical wasteland, find what’s hidden there, and turn the tide of the war forever.  But the world might not be ready for the storm he will unearth…

The Ikessar Falcon by K. S. Villoso, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51449-9.
The queen of a divided land must unite her people in the face of a deadly threat, in this sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

Legacy of Steel by Matthew Ward, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51338-6.
The stunning sequel to epic fantasy debut Legacy of Ash –an tale of war and intrigue that the publisher says "combines the imagination of George R. R. Martin with the gritty historical realism of Bernard Cornwell".

Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler, Ad Astra, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54314-9.
The first book in a new fantasy series from the author of the 'Shadow Campaigns' series.  Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new fantasy trilogy.  Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.  Chasing rumours of a fabled city protecting a powerful artefact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51298-3.
Sword and sorcery. Billed by the publisher as for epic fantasy fans, doing for the genre what Black Panther did for superhero films.

Omens by Suzanne Wright, Piatkus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41633-5.
Witty, paranormal romance, billed by the publisher as perfect for fans of Kresley Cole and Shelly Laurenston.


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 2021

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books


Rebel Cell: Evolution and the New Science of Life by Kat Arney, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60930-2.
An investigation into the origins of cancer and how genetics holds the key to overcoming it.  Cancer has always been with us. It killed our hominid ancestors, the mammals they evolved from and the dinosaurs that trampled the ground before that. Tumours grow in pets, livestock and wild animals. Paradoxically, many of us think of cancer as a contemporary killer, a disease of our own making. But that’s not true. Cancer is a bug in the system of life. In Rebel Cell geneticist Kat Arney shows us how by better understanding cancer we might one day overcome it.

Exponential: How the next digital revolution will rewire life by Azeem Azhar, Random House, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-847-94290-6.
We are entering the exponential age.  New inventions are created at a dazzling speed; our homes and workplaces are remade by technological forces we barely understand; centuries-old tenets of politics and economics are upturned by new technologies. It all points to a world that is getting faster at a dizzying pace.  Azeem Azhar knows this better than most. Over the last three decades he has served as the Economist’s first ever internet correspondent, founded companies bought by Amazon and Microsoft, and created Britain’s leading tech newsletter and podcast, The Exponential View.  Now, Azhar offers a new model for understanding how technology is changing the world. His analysis is rooted in the idea of an ‘exponential gap’, in which technological changes outpace our society’s ability to deal with them. He shows that this divide can explain many of the social problems of our time – from political polarisation, to ballooning inequality, to unchecked corporate power. He delves into how the exponential gap is a near-inevitable consequence of the rise of AI, automation and big data. And he offers set of policy solutions that can prevent the exponential gap destroying our societies.  The result is a wholly new way of thinking about technology. It will transform your understanding of the economy, politics and the future.

Decoding the World by Po Bronson & Arvind Gupta, Headline, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-27859-3.
A vision of the future where the latest Silicon Valley tech meets cutting-edge genetics.  Po Bronson and Arvind Gupta, venture capitalists from Silicon Valley, take everyday news headlines and decode them, leading us on a journey through their unique and highly entertaining view of the world. Each chapter is prefaced with a real-world headline from today’s chaotic news cycle: Dying bees. Rogue planets. Beyond Meat. Glaciers melting.  Bronson and Gupta decipher what’s really going on behind these headlines, and why. They offer firsthand experience in funding technologies to solve these problems, most of which involve genetic engineering.  But what the authors then do with that premise is always surprising and unexpected.  One moment they are ripping it down to the bare bones physics or chemistry, and then they invoke history, philosophy, or psychology, all the while using joyful literary devices and storylines from popular movies.

The Life Scientific: Virus Hunters by Anna Buckley, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60746-9.
The life stories of leading virologists and biomedical scientists as heard on BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific that has featured some of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of deadly viruses.  The interviews included in this collection remind us that for the scientists working in the war against viruses, the arrival of Covid-19 came as no surprise. These pioneers have worked on the frontline tackling SARS, Ebola, HIV, swine flu and more.  Anna Buckley is the series producer of The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4. that attracts more than 2 million listeners.

Artificial Intelligence: How Machine Learning Will Shape the Next Decade by Matt Burgess, Random House, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-847-94323-1.
The past decade has witnessed extraordinary advances in artificial intelligence. But what precisely is it and where does its future lie?  In this, one-stop guide Wired journalist Matt Burgess explains everything you need to know about AI. He describes how it works. He looks at the ways in which it has already brought us everything from voice recognition software to self-driving cars, and explores its potential for further revolutionary change in almost every area of our daily lives. He examines the darker side of machine learning: its susceptibility to hacking; its tendency to discriminate against particular groups; and its potential misuse by governments. And he addresses the fundamental question: can machines become as intelligent as human beings?

Frozen in Time: Fossils of Great Britain and where to find them by Rhys Charles, Trapeze, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-409-19796-6.
A short but rich guide to Britain’s fossils, from the Natural History Museum, for those who love the natural world.  From the Jurassic Coast to the Antrim Coast, our nation is home to some of the most incredible fossil sites in the world. This is a book for those who want to learn to scan the beach for fossils, who love the simple pleasure of getting outside or those who want to develop their relationship with the world around them.  In conjunction with the Natural History Museum, this book invites readers to unlock breathtaking fragments of a lost world.

How to Read Numbers: A Guide to Statistics in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them) by Tom Chivers & David Chivers, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61996-7.
A short, practical guide to the tools you need to understand the numbers we read in the news every day.  On most days we will read something in the media that is based on a statistic. Sometimes it’ll be obvious – ‘X people develop cancer every year’ – and sometimes less obvious – ‘red wine protects against cancer’. Statistics are an immensely powerful tool for understanding the world. But in the hands of unscrupulous, careless or clueless people, they can be used to tell stories that are misleading or simply false. This book is a guide to how and when to trust them – and when not to.

Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke, Little Brown, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-71378-5.
An unflinching insider’s account of medicine in the time of coronavirus from an NHS (Britain's free-to-access National Health Service) clinician at the front line.

Perfect Planet: One in a billion world by Huw Cordey, BBC Books, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94529-8.
Accompanying a major 5-part BBC series presented by David Attenborough and produced by the team behind Planet Earth and Blue Planet, Perfect Planet is an exploration of the unique conditions that make life on Earth possible, and how our wildlife is perfectly adapted to its environment. There is no place like home.  with over 250 full-colour images, and including a foreword by David Attenborough and stills from the BBC series, this is a stunning exploration of life on Earth – life that is increasingly precious and rare.

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Penguin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-753-55381-7.
As director of the Hayden Planetarium in the US, and host of Cosmos and StarTalk, Neil deGrasse Tyson has dedicated his life to exploring and explaining the mysteries of the universe.  Every year, he receives thousands of letters – from students to prisoners, scientists to priests. Some seek advice, others yearn for inspiration; some are full of despair, others burst with wonder. But they are all searching for understanding, meaning and truth.  His replies are by turns wise, funny, and mind-blowing. In this, his most personal book by far, he covers everything from God to the history of science, from aliens to death.  The author has over 13 million Twitter followers, hence is among the top 200 people with Twitter followers in the world.

Light in Darkness by Heino Falcke & Jorg Romer, Headline, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-27449-6.
For readers of Stephen Hawking, an account of the universe from the perspective of astrophysicist Heino Falcke, who took the first ever picture of a black hole.  The Light in the Darkness examines how mankind has always looked to the skies, mapping the journey from millennia ago when we turned our gaze to the heavens, to modern astrophysics. Heino Falcke and Jorg Romer entertainingly and compellingly chart the breakthrough research of Falcke’s team, an unprecedented global community of international colleagues developing a telescope complex enough to look directly into a black hole - a hole where light vanishes, and time stops.  What does this development mean? Is this the beginning of a new physics?  What can we learn from this about God, the world, and ourselves?  For Falcke, astrophysics and metaphysics, science and faith, do not exclude one another.  The book is both a plea for curiosity and humility; it’s interested in both what we know, and the mysteries that remain unsolved.

Life After Gravity: Isaac Newton’s London Career by Patricia Fara, Oxford University Press, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84102-9.
This is the story of Isaac Newton’s decades in London—as ambitious cosmopolitan gentleman, President of The Royal Society, Master of the Mint, and investor in the slave trade.  Newton is celebrated throughout the world as a great scientific genius who conceived the theory of gravity. But in his early fifties, he abandoned his life as a reclusive university scholar to spend three decades in London, a long period of metropolitan activity that is often overlooked.  Enmeshed in Enlightenment politics and social affairs, Newton participated in the linked spheres of early science and imperialist capitalism. Instead of the quiet cloisters and dark libraries of Cambridge’s all-male world, he now moved in fashionable London society, which was characterized by patronage relationships, seχual intrigues and ruthless ambition.  Knighted by Queen Anne, and a close ally of influential Whig politicians, Newton occupied a powerful position as President of London’s Royal Society. He also became Master of the Mint, responsible for the nation’s money at a time of financial crisis, and himself making and losing small fortunes on the stock market. A major investor in the East India Company, Newton benefited from the global slave trading networks that relied on selling African captives to wealthy plantation owners in the Americas, and was responsible for monitoring the import of African gold to be melted down for English guineas.

A History of the Universe in 100 Stars by Florian Freistetter, Quercus, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41010-5.
A history of the universe through the author’s favourite 100 stars. Astronomer Florian Freistetter has chosen 100 stars that have almost nothing in common. There are big stars, small stars, nearby stars and faraway stars.  Some died a while ago, others have not even yet come into being.  Collectively they tell the story of the whole world. In 100 short, fascinating and entertaining chapters, Freistetter not only reveals the past and future of the cosmos, but also the story of the people who have tried to understand the world in which we live.

Extinct: Hallucigenia by Ben Garrod, Zephyr, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93526-9.
A full-colour, eight-book series by TV scientist, Professor Ben Garrod, that offers a comprehensive look at the strongest force in nature – extinction.  The publication details above relate to book one.  Each book will focus on one animal lost to extinction, looking at their evolution, anatomy, behaviour, habitat and their food chain to reveal why they went extinct. With ‘New Science’ and ‘Ask the Expert’ sections, each book will tell a different extinction story, from mass extinctions caused by asteroids or mega volcanoes, to over-hunting by humans and habitat destruction.  Featuring integrated colour artwork by one of the most prominent palaeoartists working today, Gabriel Ugueto, the series will examine our planet’s great extinctions through eight animals: Hallucigenia (book 1), Dunkleosteus (bk 2), Trilobite (bk 3), Lisowicia (bk 4), T. rex (bk 5), Megalodon (bk 6), Thylacine (bk 7) and the Hainan Gibbon (bk 8).

The Apocryphal Gospels edited by Simon Gathercole, Penguin, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-241-34055-4.
A new translation of the oldest non-canonical Christian gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas.  In the early years of Christianity, several groups produced ‘hidden’ or ‘apocryphal’ gospels, alternative versions of the story of Christ. Sometimes these texts complemented the four canonical gospels, sometimes they subverted them and often they were completely different. We hear of the young Jesus making live birds from clay, words of wisdom collected by his disciples, details of his trial, gnostic cosmologies, strange angels and the Harrowing of Hell. Often kept secret by their readers and frequently attacked by their detractors, these gospels shine a fascinating light on the early Christian Church and its surprising manifestations.

Terra Incognita: 100 maps to survive the next 100 years by Ian Goldin & Robert Muggah, Century, £30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12419-4.
From the global impact of the Coronavirus to exploring the vast spread of the Australian bush fires, join the authors as they trace the ways in which our world has changed and the ways in which it will continue to change over the next hundred years.  Map-making is an ancient impulse. From the moment homo sapiens learnt to communicate we have used them to make sense of our surroundings. But as Albert Einstein once said, ‘you can’t use old maps to explore a new world.’ And now, when the world is changing faster than ever before, our old maps are no longer fit for purpose.  Welcome to Terra Incognita. Based on decades of research, and combining mesmerising, state-of-the-art satellite maps with enlightening and passionately argued analysis, Ian and Robert chart humanity’s impact on the planet, and the ways in which we can make a real impact to save it, and to thrive as a species.  Learn about: fires in the arctic; the impact of sea level rise on cities around the world; the truth about immigration - and why fears in the West are a myth; the counter-intuitive future of population rise; the miracles of health and education that are waiting around the corner, and the reality about inequality, and how we end it. The book traces the paths of peoples, cities, wars, climates and technologies, all on a global scale. Full of facts that will confound you, inform you, and ultimately empower you, Terra Incognita guides readers to a new place of understanding, rather than to a physical location.  Economist Ian Goldin is the Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development.

On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience by Michael D. Gordin, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-197-55576-7.
Michael D. Gordin guides readers along a bewildering array of marginalized doctrines, focusing on some of the central debates about what science is and is not, and how such controversies have shifted over the centuries.  On the Fringe provides a historical tour through various theories, providing readers with the tools to think deeply about scientific controversies both past and present.

Notes From Deep Time: A Journey Through Our Past and Future Worlds by Helen Gordon, Profile Books, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-16163-3.
The Earth writes its own story in the landscape.  From the secret fossils of London to the 3-billionyear- old rocks of the Scottish Highlands, and from state-of-the-art Californian laboratories to one of the world’s most dangerous volcanic complexes hidden beneath the green hills of western Naples, set out on an adventure to those parts of the world where the Earth’s life story is written into the landscape.  Helen Gordon turns a novelist’s eye on the extraordinary scientists who are piecing together this planetary drama. She gets to grips with the theory that explains how it all works – plate tectonics, a breakthrough as significant in its way as evolution or quantum mechanics, but much younger than either, and still with many secrets to reveal. And she looks to the future of our world, with or without us.

Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene, Penguin, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-98532-9.
From the physicist and author of The Elegant Universe comes this exploration of deep time and humanity’s search for purpose.

How to Make the World Add Up by Tim Harford, Bridge Street Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-71224-5.
Statistics has had a bad press and many think that it is a way to disguise falsehoods. This does statistics a great disservice for statistical analysis is a very powerful tool that needs to be better understood by the public at large.

All Men Must Die: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of an Epic Series by James Hibberd, Transworld, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63328-5.
Game of Thrones is the epic saga of warring families, huge battles, arduous journeys and dying heroes has captured the hearts and attention of millions of fans across the world. But its conclusion isn't necessarily the end of the story...   James Hibberd is the only member of the media ever to have been permitted on the show's top secret set during filming.  He was in Croatia when Joffrey Baratheon perished; he was in Northern Ireland when Jon Snow desperately fought in the Battle of the Bastards. He has documented every part of the making of the show and has had exclusive access to cast members, writers and directors.  This official, complete history of HBO's Game of Thrones will draw on the author's many long days and nights spent on GoT sets all over the world and his countless interviews with cast and crew, many of which have never been published before.  Packed with photographs both from the show and from the author's personal collection, this is the only book that will be absolutely essential reading for every Game of Thrones fan.

Doctor Who: The Monster Vault by Paul Lang, BBC Books, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94533-5.
The ultimate guide to every monster in the Whoniverse, from the Abzorbaloff to Zygons – including in-depth biographies, classic episodes, making of anecdotes, and more.  You're going to need a bigger sofa...

The Crowd and the Cosmos: Adventures in the Zooniverse by Chris Lintott, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-197-55576-7.
In this book, Chris Lintott describes the exciting discoveries that people all over the world have made without having to leave their homes, from galaxies to pulsars, exoplanets to moons, and from penguin behaviour to old ship’s logs. This approach builds on a long history of so-called ‘citizen science’, given new power by fast internet and distributed data. Discovery is no longer the remit only of scientists in specialist labs or academics in ivory towers; it’s something we can all take part in.

Extraterrestrial: The Search for Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb, John Murray, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-30482-4.
Prof. Avi Loeb (Chair of Harvard University's Astronomy Department) explains why he believes in extraterrestrial life.  In late 2017, scientists glimpsed an object soaring through the inner Solar System, moving so quickly that it could only have come from another star. Avi Loeb, Harvard’s top astronomer, showed it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit, and left no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation the publisher's promotion says): the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilisation.

The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell's 1984 by Dorian Lynskey, Picador, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89075-0.
Charts the life of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: one of the most influential books of the 20th Century, a perennial bestseller, and a work that remains more relevant than ever in today's tumultuous world.

COVID-19: The pandemic that should never have happened, and how to stop the next one by Deborah McKenzie, Bridge Street Press, £16.99, e-book, ISBN 978-0-349-12834-4.
The author writes for New Scientist.

Colliding Worlds: How Cosmic Encounters Shaped Planets and Life by Simone Marchi, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84540-9.
Drawing on the latest research, Simone Marchi describes the vital role that collisions in space have played in the formation and evolution of the solar system and inner planets. Comparing the evidence from the surfaces of our planetary neighbours, he explains the impact of these strikes on the Earth and our Moon, and on the evolution of life itself.

Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction by Mark Maslin, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-86786-9.
This is the fourth edition of this short briefing.  Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity. This book describes the substantial evidence for climate change and considers its potentially catastrophic impacts worldwide in the coming decades. It also discusses the geopolitical aspects, and explores what actions can be taken by individuals, companies, and governments.  Fully updated for 2021 with the latest science on climate change, including key findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report.  Includes a new final chapter that discusses the impact and lessons that can be learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic for dealing with the even greater crisis of climate change.

The Genesis Quest: The Geniuses and Eccentrics on a Journey to Uncover the Origin of Life on Earth by Michael Marshall, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61141-1.
How did life begin? Why are we here? These are some of the most profound questions we can ask. For almost a century, a small band of eccentric scientists has struggled to solve this mystery. In The Genesis Quest, experimental psychologist Michael Marshall explains the many different theories of how life evolved on earth, revealing a compelling human story, rich in personalities, conflicts, and surprising twists and turns.

Small Gases, Big Effect: This Is Climate Change by David Nelles & Christian Serrer, Particular Books, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-46188-4.
One for non-scientists.  Climate change for people in a hurry – a succinct, easy-to-read, guide to the most important question of our time.  When students David Nelles and Christian Serrer struggled to find a book that explained the nuts and bolts of climate change in a way that was comprehensive, concise and enjoyable to read, they decided to write it themselves. Illustrated with many diagrams.

Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy by Sir Isaac Newton, Flame Tree Press, £20 /Can$33 / US$25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64150-3.
Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, often known as the Principia, is one of the most important scientific works ever to have been written and has had a profound impact on modern science. Consisting of three separate books, the Principia state Newton’s laws of motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Understanding and acceptance of these theories was not immediate, however by the end of the seventeenth century no one could deny that Newton had far exceeded all previous works and revolutionized scientific thinking.  New introduction by Kirill Krasnov, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Nottingham. He is most known for his work on black hole entropy within the loop approach to quantum gravity, work on spin foam models of quantum gravity, as well as work on the renormalized volume of hyperbolic 3-manifolds.

Climate Change: How We Can Get to Carbon Zero? (WIRED GUIDE) by Bianca Nogrady, Random House, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-84-794324-8.
Man-made global warming is advancing inexorably. Are there ways to halt it?  In this one-stop guide Bianca Nogrady analyses the science of climate change and offers a concise overview of the ways in which our carbon emissions might be reduced. She examines the challenges posed by food and energy production and the cutting-edge technologies that could mitigate their polluting effects. She looks at initiatives to create green industry and transport. She explains the economics of emissions trading schemes and the practicalities of geoengineering plans to trap greenhouse gases. And she addresses the fundamental question: is it possible to safeguard our future before it's too late? Bianca Nogradyis a freelance science journalist and regular contributor to Wired UK.

The Werewolf in the Ancient World by Daniel Ogden, Oxford University Press, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-85431-9.
Tales of the werewolf are well established as a sub-strand of the popular horror genre; less widely known is how far back in time their provenance lies. This is the first book in any language devoted to the werewolf tales that survive from antiquity, exploring their place alongside witches, ghosts, demons, and soul-flyers in a shared story-world.

Limitless: The Autobiography by Tim Peake, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12557-3.
In personal detail, and based on exclusive diaries and audio recordings from his mission, British astronaut Tim Peake takes readers closer than ever before to experience what life in space is really like: the sacrifice that astronauts make in being apart from their families, the sights, the smells, the fear, the exhilaration and the deep and abiding wonder of the view from space. Limitless is a book about the power of following our dreams – however unlikely they may seem – and of striving to reach our potential, even when we might not believe in it ourselves.  Limitless also charts Peake’s surprising road to becoming an astronaut, from a shy and unassuming boy from Chichester who had a passion for flight, to a young British Army officer, Apache helicopter pilot, flight instructor and test pilot who served around the world.

Limitless: The Autobiography by Tim Peake, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46596-1.
Advance notice, the paperback of the above is out in June.

The Ankh-Morpork Archives Volume II by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs & Paul Kidby, Gollancz, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22964-8.
A comprehensive guide to the capital city of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, getting to the heart of Ankh- Morpork’s secrets, societies and guilds.  In the second volume of this confidential guide, brave travellers are made privy to the inner workings of more illustrious Ankh-Morpork societies.  Disabuse yourself of notions of professionalism under which you may hold the City Watch; discover what serious business is undertaken by the Fools’ Guild (joking is no laughing matter); and, should you be lucky, achieve true enlightenment through the teachings of Lu-Tze.  One thing’s for sure: after you’ve read this book, Ankh-Morpork’s Guilds are going to need to come up with new ways of doing things.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Calendar 2021 by Terry Pratchett, Gollancz, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-473-22836-8.
The annual foray into the days and dates of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  The calendar dates are extensive, and exhaustively researched, and include all major real-time calendrical data for Great Britain, Eire, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, as well as notable Discworld dates.  This year’s calendar has us signing up to Ankh-Morpork’s most singular institution, dedicated to the upkeep of law and order. Head through the year and revel at the mighty and honourable exploits of the City Watch, plus whatever it is Cpl Nobbs has been up to…

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Weird True Facts as if by Robert Leroy Ripley, Century, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12569-6.
Explore our wonderful world through some of its weirdest, most astonishing and interesting facts. From the editors at Ripley’s and IFL Science comes a book that will fascinate, entertain and give a deeper understanding of the world around us - as well as provide some nifty facts for your next family quiz!  Did you know that there may be mini black holes passing through Earth every day? Or that the secrets of digestion were discovered by testing on a gentleman who was curiously living with a 6-inch hole in his stomach? What if we told you the colour pink isn’t real? These are all Weird True Facts.  Ripley's Believe It or Not! Weird True Facts is compulsory reading for anyone interested in science, the natural world and beyond but also for anyone looking for a tantalising fact for their next networking event. Prepare to be amazed by these very weird, all true, believe-it-or-not facts!  Robert Leroy Ripley was an American cartoonist who created and developed the world-famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon strip in the years after the First World War.

Test Gods: by Nicholas Schmidle, Hutchinson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-33185-4.
When Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, the goal was simple: to offer civilian space travel by the end of the decade. Fifteen years, a dozen delays and one catastrophic rocket crash later, we are on the verge of space tourism becoming a reality…  New Yorker journalist Nicholas Schmidle has witnessed the fall and rise of Virgin Galactic first-hand. Over the last five years, he has spent hundreds of hours embedded in the heart of the company: spending countless hours with Branson, and befriending the pilots who are risking their lives to make space tourism a reality.  Now, Schmidle offers the definitive inside story of the individuals building this new world of commercial space travel.

A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind, Penguin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-98680-7.
An analysis of the future of work in the age of AI that was nominated for FT & MacKinsey Business Book of the Year Awards 2020.

Genesis: The Ultimate Origin Story by Guido Tonelli, Profile Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-16510-5.
What if the ancient Greeks were right, and the universe really did spring into being out of chaos and the void? How could we know? And what must its first moments have been like?  To answer these questions, scientists are delving into all the hidden crevices of creation. Armed with giant telescopes and powerful particle accelerators, they probe the subtle mechanisms by which our familiar world came to be, and try to foretell the manner in which it will end.  The result of all this collective effort is a complex story, stranger at times than even our most ancient creation myths. But its building blocks give us the power to work marvels our predecessors could scarcely comprehend. In Genesis, the CERN physicist Guido Tonelli sets out to do justice to that great story.

Your Planet Needs You! by Bernadette Valley, Amy Charuy-Hughs & Bethan Stewart James, Virago, £10, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-01390-9.
A practical and succinct A to Z guide to Planet Earth with advice for how everyone can take positive action. Your Planet Needs You is the essential beginner’s guide to understanding thee environment and the threats to its wellbeing. From plastic waste to pesticides, food production and chemicals, global warming to species extinction, this book covers the topics that you need to know about.

How to Land a Plane: Little Ways To Live a Big Life series by Mark Vanhoenacker, Quercus Non-Fiction, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41052-5.
Many SF fans have wanted to be an astronaut. For virtually all of us that's simply not going to happen. But what if on a flight the crew become incapacitated and the call goes out for someone to land the plane?  Mark Vanhoenacker, the airline pilot who makes poetry out of the science of flight technology, hands over the controls.  Walking and talking us through the nitty-gritty of an approach and touchdown, he builds our understanding of flight from the ground up (or rather from the sky down), offering a new perspective of one of the more challenging and rewarding tasks ever.  Mark Vanhoenacker is a Senior First Officer for British Airways, flying Boeing 747s to major cities.

Privacy is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Véliz, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63404-6.
As the data economy grows in power, Carissa Véliz exposes how our privacy is eroded by big tech and governments, why that matters and what we can do about it.  The moment you check your phone in the morning you are giving away your data. Before you’ve even switched off your alarm, a whole host of organisations have been alerted to when you woke up, where you slept, and with whom. As you check the weather, scroll through your ‘suggested friends’ on Facebook, you continually compromise your privacy.  Without your permission, or even your awareness, tech companies are harvesting your information, your location, your likes, your habits, and sharing it amongst themselves. They're not just selling your data. They’re selling the power to influence you. Even when you’ve explicitly asked them not to. And it's not just you. It's all your contacts too.  Digital technology is stealing our personal data and with it our power to make free choices. To reclaim that power and democracy, we must protect our privacy.  What can we do? So much is at stake. Our phones, our TVs, even our washing machines are spies in our own homes. We need new regulation. We need to pressure policy-makers for red lines on the data economy. And we need to stop sharing and to adopt privacy friendly alternatives to Google, Facebook and other online platforms.  Short, terrifying, practical: Privacy is Power highlights the implications of our laid-back attitude to data and sets out how we can take back control.

The Mathematics of the Gods and the Algorithms of Men: A Cultural History by Paolo Zellini, Penguin, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-98648-7.
Is mathematics a discovery or an invention? Do numbers truly exist? What sort of reality do formulas describe?


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 2021

General Science News


The 2020 Nobel Prizes have been announced. The wins were:-
          Physics: Professor Sir Roger Penrose (Britain), Reinhard Genzel (Germany) and Andrea Ghez (US) for work to understand black holes.  Roger Penrose receives half the award category prize money of 10 million krona (£864,200). Sir Roger demonstrated that black holes were an inevitable consequence of Albert's Einstein's general theory of relativity and showed that black holes always hide a singularity - a boundary where space and time ends.  Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez started using the world's largest telescopes to see through huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way. They found that the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, was affecting the motion of stars orbiting it.
          Chemistry: Emmanuelle Charpentier (Germany) and Jennifer Doudna (USA) for developing the DNA editor known as CRISPR-Cas9. Since the two scientists discovered the CRISPRr-Cas9 genetic scissors in 2012, their use has exploded. The tool has contributed to many important discoveries including new antibiotics, editing embryos, gene drives and gene therapy such as for deafness.
          Medicine: Michael Houghton (Great Britain), Harvey Alter (USA) and Charles Rice (USA) who discovered the virus Hepatitis C.  The discovery ultimately saved millions of lives.  Back in the 1960s, there was concern that people receiving donated blood were getting chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation) from an unknown, mysterious disease. This year's Nobel winners showed it to be Hepatitis C. There are 70 million people today living with the virus, which still kills around 400,000 a year. Harvey Alter noticed donated blood recipients were getting a mysterious infection in 1972. Michael Houghton sequenced the virus in 1989. Charles Rice injected a genetically engineered Hepatitis C virus into the liver of chimpanzees demonstrating this could lead to hepatitis.
          Literature: Louise Glück (US) for her poetry.
          Economics: Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson "for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats."  Wilson showed that people bid below what their own best estimate of what they think is the common value of the item. Milgrom developed a theory as to how common and private valuations were derived.  Their work relates to high value auctions of things whose worth is not exactly known, such as mining rights for land, or auctioning off bandwidths.  Both economists live across the street from one another in Stanford and when the Nobel announcement was made, Wilson crossed the street and to tell him had to wake up Milgrom who was oblivious of the news having had his mobile (cell) on silent so he could sleep.
          Peace: The UN World Food Programme in recognition of the work of WFP staff who put their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance to more than 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world.
          Last year's Nobel winners here.

Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize shortlist for 2020 has been announced.  The Royal Society is Britain's national academy for science. The award is for popular science writing and this year’s shortlisted books were chosen from over 172 submissions. It is a juried award.  The shortlist consists of:-
  - The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili (Princeton University Press)
  - The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (Transworld Publishers)
  - The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (Canongate Books)
  - Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang (Viking)
  - The Double X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women  by Linda Scott  (Faber & Faber)
  - Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince (Allen Lane)
         The shortlisted authors include two previous winners, author Bill Bryson  (A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2004) and Gaia Vince, science writer and broadcaster (Adventures in the Anthropocene, 2015) and previously shortlisted author and physicist, Jim Al-Khalili (Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, written with Johnjoe McFadden, 2015).
          And the winner is Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang.  Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Dr Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her.  Desperate for a solution, Camilla asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. But, without the blueprint to life she was hoping for, Camilla began to create her own.  Now armed with a PhD in biochemistry, Camilla dismantles our obscure social customs and identifies what it really means to be human using her unique expertise and a language she knows best: science.  Through a set of scientific principles, this book examines life’s everyday interactions including: decisions and the route we take to make them; conflict and how we can avoid it; relationships and how we establish them; etiquette and how we conform to it.
          Camilla Pang is the sixth woman to win the prize in six years.  The winner receives a cheque for £25,000 (US$33,000), with £2,500 (US$3,250) awarded to each of the five other shortlisted authors.

Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2020 shortlist announced.  The award is for popular science writing aimed for an under-14s readership.  The shortlist consists of:-
  -   - The World According to Physics by Katie Brosnan (Cicada Books Limited)
 by Jim Al-Khalili (Princeton University Press)
  - The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things by Libby Deutsch & Valpuri Kerttula (Ivy Kids)
  - Cats React to Science Facts  Izzi Howell (Hachette Children’s Group)
  - In the Key of Code  by Aimee Lucido (Walker Books)
  - How to Win a Nobel Prize by Prof. Barry Marshall et al (Rock the Boat)
  - Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry  by Neil deGrasse Tyson with Gregory Mone (W W Norton)
The winners will be chosen by over 13,000 young judges, drawn from over 500 schools, science centres, and community groups such as Scouts and Brownies from across the UK.

Antarctica is close to the point where further warming will see a commitment to ice sheet collapse.  Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight, so enhancing future warming.  Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away l lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are also other feedbacks, both positive and negative.  We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures.  The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse.  Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, the East Antarctic sheet begins to be significantly affected and melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.  Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse. That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.  (See Garbe, J., Albrecht, T., Levermann, A. et al (2020) The hysteresis of the Antarctic ice sheet. Nature, vol. 585, p538-544.)

Greenland could be ice free in as little as 1,000 years new research affirms.  An international collaboration of a score of researchers – led by Jason Briner, Joshua Cuzzone and Jessica Badgeley largely from N. America has combined past climate records with a model of the West SouthWest (WSW) Greenland ice sheet. This part of the sheet is thought to be representative of the Greenland ice sheet as a whole but does not have the complications of marine ice shelves and so is easier to model. The researchers have then applied an ice sheet model and tested it with 12,000 years of past ice sheet change as the Greenland sheet expanded and contracted with past climate change that left behind a series of moraine (rubble, silt and mud) ridges that could be dated.  They then ran the model forward based on a number of IPCC (the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scenarios. They found that the rate of ice loss would this century exceed that at the time of the greatest melt the past 12,000 years (the Holocene) since the last ice-age glacial.  Under the worse case (the sort of business-as-usual) scenario of continued slowly increasing emissions (as they have been for the past 20 years since the first IPCC Assessment) Greenland is predicted to be ice free in around a thousand years so contributing to 6.5 metres of sea-level rise (there would be additional contributions from Antarctica and glaciers elsewhere..  This work corroborates other research.  (See  J Briner, J. P., Joshua K. Cuzzone, J. K., Badgeley, J. A. et al (2020) Rate of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will exceed Holocene values this century. Nature, vol. 586, p70-4  and a review piece  Aschwanden, A. (2020) The worst is yet to come for the Greenland ice sheet. Nature, vol. 586, p29-30.)

Hurricanes last longer on land in a warmer world.  Japanese researchers looking at the duration length of hurricanes over land in N. America between 1967 and 2018 and sea temperature have elucidated this correlation.  They then used hurricane models to try to get an explanation.  Building on previous work by others, they tentatively propose that in a warmer world with warmer seas, there is more evaporation and this means the air holds a greater mass of water which physically slows the hurricane's migration (even if wind speeds remain high). (See Lin, L. & Chakraborty, P. (2020) Slower decay of landfalling hurricanes in a warming world. Nature, vol. 587, p230-4 and the review Chavas, D & Chen, J. (2020) Hurricanes last longer on land in a warming world. Nature, vol. 587, p200-1.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
- Is the intensity of the 2017, Caribbean, US and Asian hurricanes due to climate change?

Record Arctic wildfires portent major carbon sink becoming a carbon source!  The wildfires in Oregon, USA, have been in the late summer headlines, further to the Australian wildfires earlier in the spring.  They were headline grabbing arguably because they destroyed many developed nation citizens' homes as well as being what we would expect in a globally warming world.  Yet the record wildfires in the Arctic are of greater planetary concern.  The Arctic Circle wildfires over the summer, that covered Siberian cities in smoke as well as burned tundra, . emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, 35% more than last year's own record-breaking fires.
          Peatlands, which are common along the Arctic Circle, are the most carbon-dense ecosystems and nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle.  Traditionally such peri-Arctic soils are a carbon sink, but with warming, their drying and burning, they could be becoming a net carbon source so adding to humanity's greenhouse gas emissions. The Russian Wildfires Remote Monitoring System catalogued 18,591 separate fires in Russia’s two easternmost districts, with a total of nearly 14 million hectares burnt with half on peatlands.  (See  Witze, A. (2020) Why Arctic Fires are Bad News for Climate Change. Nature, vol. 585, p336-7.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
- Boreal forests are becoming net sources of carbon rather than sinks
- The Amazon is on fire
- There has been a record surge in atmospheric carbon dioxide while the ability to reduce emissions declines
The Earth is warming faster, Arctic summer ice melting more extensively, sea level rise is accelerating, and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing

Permafrost peatlands to become a net source of carbon dioxide and methane with global warming.  Over many millennia, northern peatlands (mainly in Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia) have accumulated large amounts of carbon and nitrogen, so cooling the global climate.  Over shorter timescales, peatland disturbances can trigger losses of peat and release of greenhouses gases.  Despite their importance to the global climate, peatlands remain poorly mapped, and the vulnerability of permafrost peatlands to warming is uncertain.  This study compiles over 7,000 field observations to present a data-driven map of northern peatlands and their carbon and nitrogen stocks.  Researchers (mainly from Sweden Canada and the US) used these maps to model the impact of permafrost thaw on peatlands.  They found that warming will likely shift the greenhouse gas balance of northern peatlands from their being a net sink of carbon t a net source, so adding further to global warming.  Worse, while the amount of greenhouse gas warming from the gases immediately released will be the equivalent to about 1% of human contributions (from fossil fuel use, agriculture and deforestation), additional carbon enters streams and rivers which in turn give off even more carbon dioxide.  (See  Hugeliusa, G., Loiseld, J., Chadburne, S. (et al (2020) Large stocks of peatland carbon and nitrogen are vulnerable to permafrost thaw. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 117 (34), p20,438–20,446.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
- Boreal forests are becoming net sources of carbon rather than carbon sinks
- The Amazon is on fire

New inductor could potentially revolutionise electronics.  Inductors are key components of nearly all electrical circuits (along with resistors, capacitors, semiconductors etc.)  They provide inductance (opposition to changes in electric current). Up to now inductors consist of a coil of wire wrapped around a central core with the coil generating a magnetic field whose changes impede the current. However, the degree of inductance induced is proportional to the cross section of the coil and so it is difficult to miniaturise them.  Now a small team of Japanese physicists led by Tomoyuki Yokouchi, Fumitaka Kagawa and Max Hirschberger, have developed a new type of inductor that gets around this problem.  They have developed a quantum-mechanical inductor, called an emergent inductor.  It uses the electric field produced by the current-driven dynamics observed for intricate structures of magnetic moments (spins) in a magnet.  Importantly they have an inductance that is inversely proportional to its area and does not require a coil or a core: in fact the smaller the better.  This could one day revolutionise electronic miniaturisation.  However, one problem solved and another presents itself.  The new, quantum mechanical inductor only works under super-cool conditions. What's needed is the development of such an inductor that operates at room temperature.  Nonetheless the principle looks promising.  (See Yokouchi, T., Kagawa, F. & Hirschberger, M. (2020) Emergent electromagnetic induction in a helical-spin magnet. Nature, vol. 586, p232–6 and a news review item Woo, S. (2020) Inductors enter the world of quantum mechanics. Nature, vol. 586, p202–3.)

Room-temperature superconductivity has been achieved…  But there's a problem.  A small team of US researchers, led by Elliot Snider and Nathan Dasenbrock-Gammon, have created a superconductor made of carbon, sulphur and hydrogen that operates at 288° Kelvin (15°C).  Alas, there's a problem to overcome before such a room temperature superconductor can be used in everyday electronics. This is because it requires a pressure of over 140 gigapascals, that's over a million atmospheres  Nonetheless, the researchers are optimistic that this new class of superconductors might eventually lead them to a "robust room-temperature superconducting material that will transform the energy economy, quantum information processing and sensing!"  (See  Snider, E., Dasenbrock-Gammon, N., McBride, R. et al (2020) Room-temperature superconductivity in a carbonaceous sulfur hydride. Nature,vol., 586, p373-7.)


And to finally round off the General Science subsection, here is a video…

Does the past and future actually exist?  Is all that exists only existing in the present, right now? Is the past an empty void, as is the future into which the real present moves?  Or is the past and future as real as the present?  PBS Space Time explores this question from a physics perspective.  You can see the 16 minute video here.


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Spring 2021

Natural Science News


Nearly all the building-block chemicals life needs can be produced without life itself, a computer program reveals.  This helps explain how life first arose.  Chemists based in Warsaw, Poland, have created a computer programme containing the rules of chemistry (energetics, valency, hydrogen bonding and so forth).  They then began the programme with six, small, simple molecules (water, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide, methane, ammonia and nitrogen) to see how they would react. (This is much like the real-life Urey-Miller experiment but done in theory.)  They found that allowing these chemicals to interact produced 12 new products. Allowing these 12 to interact with each other as well as the original six molecules resulted in 20 more molecules. Included in these 20 is the first amino acid to be generated (as is in the Urey-Miller experiment), glycine.
          Repeating this process 5 times resulted in around a thousand molecules.  28 of these molecules are fundamental to life.  As to why these molecules were used by life and not the remaining nine hundred plus or so is indicated by their properties.  The life-using ones are all at least partially water soluble, synthesised in fewer steps, and many had the propensity for cyclic reactions spawning multiple copies.
          A computer program is a computer program, but is it any good?  Well some of the chemical products the program identified had not had the program's reactant route previously known by chemists: these unidentified routes, were simply hypothetical.  So the researchers checked these out and explored several of these in the laboratory (e.g., prebiotic syntheses of acetaldehyde and diglycine, as well as malic, fumaric, citric, and uric acids) and they found by experiment that the theoretical chemical routes identified by the program worked in reality.  So this study helps explain how the molecules life uses chemically evolved.  (See  Wolos, A., Woznak, R., Zadlo-Dobrowolska, A. et al (2020) Synthetic connectivity, emergence, and self-regeneration in the network of prebiotic chemistry. Science, vol. 369, eaaw1955. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw1955.)  This research adds to last season's news that DNA and RNA may have formed together before life got going.
          Similar stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Life's key metabolic pathway molecules could form on the early lifeless Earth
  - First life could have begun between 3.77and 4.280 billion years ago
  - Life could have begun before 3.7 billion years ago
  - Life could have begun before 3.2 billion years ago
  - What was the first species of life like?.
  - Support uncovered for new theory for the evolution of eukaryotic cells

Birds evolved from dinosaur relatives but which group was the source?  Birds evolved from pterosaurs, feathered, winged relatives of the dinosaurs. But from where did pterosaurs evolve?  An international team has studied the skulls of recent fossils. Pterosaurs seemingly belong to a flying species line called archosaurs and it now appears that, within archosaurs, pterosaurs are closely related to a group called lagerpetids that had a bipedal stance and long legs. This group included the first dinosaurs. Largerpetids themselves did not fly but did have an elongated hand (palm) bones. Their ancestors (which would also have been the ancestors of the line that led to birds) would also likely have had these traits that would have been a good starting point for the pterosaur Archaeopteryx wings to evolve. (Ezcurra, M. D., Nesbitt, S. J., Bronzati, M. et al (2020) Enigmatic dinosaur precursaurs bridge the gap to the origin of Pterosauria. Nature, vol. 588, p445-9  and the review  Padian, C. (2020) Close kin of the first flying vertebrates found. Nature, vol. 588, p400-1.)

Denisovan and Neanderthal Y chromosomes have been sequenced.  The majority of previous Denisovan and Neanderthal genomic sequences have been female.  Now the Y chromosomes from three Neanderthals and two Denisovans have been sequenced.  The researchers found that, similar to the female inherited mitochondria, the human and Neanderthal Y chromosomes were more closely related to each other compared with the Denisovan Y chromosome.  They also show that the Y chromosomes of Denisovans and the Neanderthals/modern-human lineage split around 700 thousand years ago and also modern human Y chromosomes, which diverged from Neanderthals around 370 thousand years ago.  The 700 thousand year old split in Y chromosome lineage between the linage of modern humans/Neanderthals and Denisovans is older than the split of maternal DNA.  It should be noted that we only have a few Denisovan sequences from populations that were geographically separated.  (See  Petr, M., Hajdinjak, M., Fu, Q. et al (2020) The evolutionary history of Neanderthal and Denisovan Y chromosomes. Science, vol. 369, p1,653-1,656.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
  - Neanderthals and Denisovans diverged between 381,000 and 473,000 years ago
  - Modern humans on Flores exhibit dwarfing genes
  - New early human species found Homo luzonensis
  - New Denisovan fossil indicates these early humans were more widespread and adapted to high altitude living
  - Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA found in modern Icelander genomes

The Viking period saw much gene flow from further east and south as well as outflow to the west.  The Viking Age (about 750–1050AD) was a far-flung transformation in world history.  It had been thought that most of the gene flow in that period was outward from Scandinavia.  Now, a large genomic study has been made by a large team of European researchers led by Eske Willerslev, Ashot Margaryan, Daniel J. Lawson and Martin Sikora.  They sequenced the genomes of 422 individuals from archaeological sites across Europe and Greenland.  They found that the Viking period involved gene flow into Scandinavia from the south and east.  They also saw evidence for a major influx of Danish ancestry into England; a Swedish influx into the Baltic; and Norwegian influx into Ireland, Iceland and Greenland.  Their overall conclusion was that conclude that the Viking diaspora was characterized by substantial transregional engagement: distinct populations influenced the genomic makeup of different regions of Europe, and Scandinavia experienced increased contact with the rest of the continent.  (See Margaryan, A.., Lawson, D. J., Sikora, M. et al (2020) Population genomics of the Viking world. Nature, vol. 585, p390-6.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
  - Iηcest abounds among Neolithic Irish ruling classes genomic research reveals
  - Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans
  - Early Britons had dark skin and blue eyes ancient DNA reveals
  - Genomes show modern humans first left Africa thousands of years earlier
  - Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago

Dogs were domesticated before our warm interglacial that began over 11,000 years ago.  There has been some debate as to when dogs were domesticated by humans. Whether dog domestication happened once or multiple times, whether dog dispersals and adaptations were coupled to those of humans, and how dogs interacted with their wild sisters, the wolves?  Researchers have now sequenced 27 ancient dog genomes from across Eurasia, going back 11,000 years, to resolve these questions.
          The researchers' results suggests that dogs and wolves diverged possibly somewhere around 20,000 years ago, about the time of the coldest part of the last ice-age glacial, the Last Glacial Maximum   This is a little earlier than some previous estimates, but they certainly diverged before 11,000 years ago.  By that time there were at least five major dog lineages.  The researchers find no evidence supporting multiple wolf-dog divergence, though European dogs seem to have originated from two distinct dog lineages.  Because of these lineages the geographical origin of dogs remains confused, hence unknown.  The researchers show that the genetic relations between human populations largely match the genetic relations between their dog populations in Eurasia and the Americas, suggesting that movement patterns are correlated between dog and human.  For instance, about half of the ancestry of European dogs originates from Palaeolithic West Eurasia, and the other half from Southwest Asia; similarly, modern-day Europeans are a mixture between pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers from Anatolia.  However dogs have not always faithfully followed humans, resulting in cases of decoupling between dog history and human history.  For instance, comparing Neolithic and Chalcolithic Iran, the researchers find that people have remained, but indigenous dogs have been replaced by Levantine dogs. Conversely, in Neolithic Germany and Ireland, incoming farmers of Anatolian descent appear to have adopted dogs from local foragers.
          After their split, dogs and wolves have continued to occasionally interbreed. For instance, a black coat colour gene passed from dogs to wolves in North America.  The research shows that Iberian wolves are genetically closer to European dogs than to Asian dogs, whereas Mongolian wolves are closer to Asian dogs.  (See Bergstrom, A., Frantz, L., Schmidt, R. et al (2020) Origins and genetic legacy of prehistoric dogs. Science, vol. 370, p557–564  and the review article Pavlidis, P. & Somel, M. (2020) Of dogs and men: Ancient genomes reveal the common history of human and dog. Science, vol. 370, p522-3  and also the review  Callaway, E. (2020) Ancient dog DNA unveils 11,000 years of canine evolution. Nature, vol. 587, p20.).
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - American dogs came across Bering Straights rather than with Atlantic Vikings
  - Rice became a domesticated crop multiple times over 9,000 years ago
  - Those domesticating the horse were descended from hunter-gatherers
  - The origins of domesticated cattle
  - Cattle were domesticated after humans left Africa
  - Cat domestication

We are failing to manage global biodiversity loss says UN agency in its 5th major report.  The fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) is published by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Environment Programme to help meet commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  It assesses where we are in addressing biodiversity loss.  It draws on t the assessments of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and in particular the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.  During the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020, countries have worked to address many of the causes of biodiversity loss.  However, those efforts have not been sufficient to meet most of the Biodiversity Targets set in 2010.  These target in summary include:-
  - By 2020, at the latest, ensure people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably
  - By 2020, at the latest, and ensure biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems
  - By 2020, at the latest, have incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts and ensure positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied
  - By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels must have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits
  - By 2020, ensure that the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced
  - By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species
  - By 2020 ensure that areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity
  - By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity
  - By 2020, invasive alien species and Pathways are identified and prioritised, priority species are controlled or eradicated
  - By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning   - By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed
  - By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained
  - By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animal and of wild relatives including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity
          The report concludes that none of these targets has been achieved!  It says that on our current trajectory, biodiversity, and the services it provides, will continue to decline, jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
          The report identifies five crucial areas of urgent action: (1) Enhanced conservation and restoration of ecosystems;  (2) climate change mitigation;  (3) action on pollution, invasive alien species and over-exploitation;  (4) more sustainable production of goods and services, especially food;  and  (5) reduced consumption and waste.  However, none of the areas of action alone, nor in partial combinations, can bend the curve of biodiversity loss. All must be fully implemented!  (See  UNEP & the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat (2020) Global Biodiversity Outlook 5. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity: Quebec, Canada.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site includes:-
  - International action on the level of climate change needed
  - Over 40% of insect species are possibly threatened with extinction over the next few decades
  - Possible ecological mega-crisis foreshadowed by three-quarters flying insect decline
  - Amphibian extinctions likely to increase

Globally, having a more plant-based diet, reducing food waste, have more sustainable intensive agriculture as well as restoring eroded lands, all together and starting immediately, then we might avoid further terrestrial biodiversity loss by the middle of the century.  But food prices will increase..  A large international team of biological conservationists, land-use geographers and computer modellers have come together to map existing land use and biodiversity using an ensemble of four global land-use models and eight global biodiversity models.  They conclude that it is possible to halt further terrestrial biodiversity loss beyond the middle of the 21st century if we pull out all the stops: partial efforts by themselves will not work.  However, food prices will increase.  Further, even if we do not do all of this, there is still a chance that some biodiversity loss will continue.  Tackling climate change is important and must be included.  (See  Leclere, D., Obersteiner, M., Barrett, M. et al (2020) Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy. Nature, vol. 585, p551-6  and the review article . Bryan, B. A. & Archibald, C. L. (2020) A recipe to reverse the loss of nature. Nature, vol. 585, p503-4.)

Marine ecosystems set to collapse under double whammy of climate change and acidification.  Using an artificial marine ecosystem in the lab, researchers have found that while the systems are more robust to either climate change or acidification alone, together they are more likely to ecosystem collapse.  As they gradually warmed and made their artificial ecosystems more acidic, they first found that species at the top of the food chain (large fish) and those at the bottom (such as algae) survived. Middle food chain (trophic level) species reduced.  However this state appears to be a precursor of ecosystem collapse. With further warming and acidification, the top food chain species also disappeared leaving just basal food chain species. (See Nagelkerken, I. et al (2020) Trophic pyramids reorganize when food web architecture fails to adjust to ocean change. Science, vol. 369, p829-832  and the review piece  Chown, S. L. (2020) Marine food webs destabilized. Science, vol. 369, p770-771.)


…And finally this section, the season's SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 science primary research and news roundup.

First vaccine to be deployed has been developed by the German company BioNTech with mass production provided by the US firm Pfizer in their Belgium plant.  It has gone through a phase III trial involving 43,500 people in a randomised, blind trial in which half were given the vaccine and half a placebo.  The results suggest that the vaccine is 94.5% effective. To put this into context, annual flu jabs are about 50% effective.  When this vaccine is deployed then the vaccine will be delivered in two doses three weeks apart. It will take a further days for maximum immunisation: only partial protection will be conferred after five days following the first dose.  The good news is that this vaccine is based on the SARS-CoV-2 virus coat protein spike, as many of the over 100 vaccines currently being developed. This means that it is quite likely that many of these other vaccines will also work.
          The cost for the two dose course is likely to be £14.80(US$19.50).
          The first pharmaceutical regulatory approval came from the UK's Medical Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA, though a government agency, is independent and operates to standards at, or higher, than European Union requirements.  It was able to give approval first because instead of waiting for trial completion before considering the vaccine, it worked with Pfizer BioNTech during the trials in an on-going, rolling assessment.  This begs the question as to why the US (Pfizer is a US company), with its President Trump policy of 'America first', did not undertake a regulatory on-going, rolling assessment?  However, some weeks later the US did grant approval, as did days later the European Union.  Meanwhile, the UK had advance-purchased 40 million doses (enough for 20 million people).
          PROBLEMS.  Aside from general vaccine unknowns (see below), this vaccine has to be stored at -70 to -80°C.  It is not usual for general practitioner clinical practices to have such storage facilities and so these too needed rolling out. The vaccine will be denatured if it is thawed more than four or five times and ca only remain effective for a few hours after thawing.  It is therefore possible that some will be unknowingly given a deactivated vaccine.  Great care will therefore be needed in rolling out this vaccine.
          TECHNICAL DETAILS.  This paragraph is really for our followers who are into bioscience.  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a messenger-RNA vaccine denoted as the BNT162b2 vaccine.  In this case the mRNA codes for the whole SARs-CoV-2 surface protein spike (that includes the receptor-binding domain – RBD – the protruding bits of the virus that lock on to proteins on the surface of human cells).  The mRNA is delivered by lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), a common delivery mode for mRNA vaccines, but this necessitates the cold storage requirements.  It works by injecting the vaccine into muscle cell where upon the mRNA makes SARs-CoV-2 viral protein spikes: the vaccinated person makes the virus' surface protein spike.  This tricks the person's immune system into thinking that the whole SARs-CoV-2 virus is present and so establishes an immune response.

In the second tranche of vaccines being developed from the US is one being developed by Moderna.  Moderna is based in Massachusetts and its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective (which is very good).  It is likely to be priced around £28 (US$37) more than the Pfizer vaccine and a lot more expensive than Britain's Oxford-AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine.  Though Moderna has never before manufactured a vaccine, January (2021) saw it approved for use in the UK and it will be able to produce a billion doses by the end of 2021.  The US has had an initial order of 100 million doses which can provide 50 million with a two-dose course.  The EU has an initial order of 80 million doses and the UK 17 million.
          TECHNICAL DETAILS.  This paragraph is really for our followers who are into bioscience.  The Moderna vaccine has been designated the mRNA-1273 vaccine.  Like the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is a messenger-RNA vaccine that codes for the whole SARs-CoV-2 surface protein spike (that includes the receptor-binding domain – RBD – the protruding bits of the virus that lock on to proteins on the surface of human cells).  Again, like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine the mRNA is delivered by lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), a common delivery mode for mRNA vaccines.  However unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not require very cold storage.  It can remain stable in a normal refrigerator for a month and in a typical household freezer for six months.

Among the next vaccines likely to be deployed – subject to safety confirmation – is from Belgium being developed by Janssen.  This is similar to the vaccine being developed by Britain's Oxford University with AstraZeneca reported below.
          TECHNICAL DETAILS.  This paragraph is really for our followers who are into bioscience.  The Janssen vaccine has been designated the Ad26CoVS1 vaccine (Adenovirus-26-CoronoVirus-Serum-1).  It is a replication incompetent (it will not replicate in human cells) vaccine using a weakened cold (adenovirus) type 26 (AdV26) augmented with the genetic code for the surface protein spikes of SARS-CoV-2 and (just as with the above vaccines) this fools the vaccinated person's immune system into thinking that the real SARS-CoV-2 virus is there and so the person develops an immune response.

Also being deployed is Britain's University of Oxford and AstraZeneca with India's Serum Institute vaccine.  Oxford U. researchers have developed the vaccine, the Serum Institute has been involved in non-European manufacture, while AstraZeneca in the UK is providing European mass production roll out.  Results from trials indicate that it is effective with the elderly (over 70s). This last is a concern with some of the other vaccines.  Interim phase II/phase III trial results indicated that two full dose shots are around 62% effective: 62% do not go on to get CoVID-19 following SARS-CoV-2 infection and of those that do, none expressed the more severe symptoms and there were no fatalities.  However, a small cadre of those trials received half a dose followed by a booster of a full dose a few weeks later and this appears to have around 90% efficacy.  This result needs to be treated with caution as the statistical confidence error with such a small cadre is large. Consequently, it was decided in November to run another, larger phase III trial of the half-dose followed by a full-dose booster course. The good news is that of those in the trial, irrespective of the doses they received, none that went on to express CoVID-19 did no seriously: nobody required hospitalisation and nobody died. The subsequent trials seem to be satisfactory – though none at SF² Concatenation has seen any research papers or journal review articiles on the later trials. The vaccine has since been approved for use in the UK. (See Cohen, J. (2020) Amid the cheering, some vaccines face questions. Science, vol. 370, p1,151  and  Callaway, E. (2020) Oxford CoVID vaccine results puzzle scientists. Nature, vol. 588, p16-8.)
          The cost for the two-dose course is likely to be around £4.46 (US$5.80) which for UK citizens is paid for by the NHS (National Health Service). The UK has advance-bought 100 million doses (enough for 50 million people).
          Unlike the German BioNTech / US Pfizer or the US Moderna mRNA vaccines, the Oxford - AstraZeneca vaccine does not have to be stored at a super-cool temperature: a normal household fridge will suffice. This means that the vaccine can be more easily transported in less-developed nations: this is a vaccine for the world.
          TECHNICAL DETAILS.  This paragraph is really for our followers who are into bioscience.  The Oxford – AstraZeneca vaccine has been designated the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (Changed-Adenovirus-Oxford-1).  It is based on a whole chimpanzee-adenovirus (simian adenovirus) that has been modified to include the genes from the SARS-CoV-2 for the whole SARs-CoV-2 surface protein spike (that includes the receptor-binding domain – RBD – the protruding bits of the virus that lock on to proteins on the surface of human cells).  Like Janssen's Ad26CoVS1, the Oxford/AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 is also replication-incompetent in that it cannot replicate inside the cells of the vaccinated person.  It works because the modified simian (monkey) adenovirus has the surface protein spikes of SARS-CoV-2 and it also tricks human cells into making the spikes. These spikes fool the vaccinated person's immune system into thinking that the real SARS-CoV-2 virus is there and so the person develops an immune response. This is also similar to the way the Janssen's Ad26CoVS1 vaccine works.

Russian SARS-CoV-2 vaccine data is suspicious say researchers.  Russia's President Putin has rushed out a vaccine – Sputnik V (the 'V' standing for 'vaccine') – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but this vaccine has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers.  The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet medical journal.  This rushed approval (approval by Russia only as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  And, now, the Russian research paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.  The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Such inclusion is usually considered best practice as everything is open for scrutiny.  Previously, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper published in The Lancet did have its underlying data included. So it is inconsistent of the journal's own editorial practice to publish a vaccine paper without it.  Indeed, without it, it is impossible to check the Russian paper's headline data.  Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.  The Russian researchers are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature's news team's queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.  (See  Abbott, A. (2020) Researchers question Russian CoVID vaccine trial results. Nature, vol. 585, p493-4.)

There are unknowns with all the new SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 vaccines being produced. While the vaccines in general will work for a while, all have unknowns that will not be resolved until phase IV trials.  Alas, a phase IV trial is when a vaccine is given to a large population and so the first of the public at large to receive the vaccine will be phase IV guinea pigs.  The vaccine unknowns include as to how long immunity will be conferred to those who develop an immune response with the vaccine?  Will it be four to several months? A year? Or several years?  The answer to this will become known with time and this will determine the frequency of boosters people will need and also the likelihood of future outbreaks. (Saad-Roy, C. M., Wagner, C. E., Baker, R. E. et al (2020) Immune life history, vaccination, and the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 over the next 5 years. Science, vol. 370, p811–818.)
          Another unknown is whether there will be any type of person who does not develop an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, i.e. for whom the vaccine does not work?  Could effectiveness be age-related? Or might it be genetically related: those with (or without) certain genes finding the vaccine more (or less) effective?  The answer to this will become known with time.  Fortunately, because more than one vaccine is being developed, it may be that different people will find a different vaccine more effective.  More likely, ultimately we will have a cocktail mix of two or three vaccines given to all.
          Finally, will the vaccines completely immunise against the SARS-CoV-2 virus or only partially immunise, with people remaining infectious but not experiencing the worst effects of CoVID-19?  This is a critically important question that will affect how long we need to continue social-distancing, household bubbling, some economic lockdown and compulsory mask-wearing in public. (Lipsitch, M. & Dean, N. E. (2020) Understanding COVID-19 vaccine efficacy. Science, vol. 370, p763-5.)

Even an effective coronavirus vaccine will not return life to normal in spring 2021.  This is according to a report (number 6) from the DELVE working party of the Royal Society – the UK body that promulgates science and scientific research by Royal Charter.  There are currently over 200 vaccine candidates in development and the results of initial large-scale trials are expected soon. However, to deliver a successful vaccination programme, many challenges remain.  These include ascertaining how effective and for how long any vaccine will confer protection or whether combinations of vaccines will be required.  This is in addiction to the mass production needed for global inoculation, the global inoculating process itself, and overcoming those reluctant to get vaccinated.  "Even when the vaccine is available it doesn't mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated, we're talking about six months, nine months... a year," said the working party's Prof Nilay Shah, head of chemical engineering at Imperial College London. "There's not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March."  We will have to live with the virus for some time.  (See  The DELVE Initiative (2020) SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Development & Implementation; Scenarios, Options, Key Decisions. DELVE Report No. 6. Royal Society: London. Published 1st October 2020. Available from

An alternative to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is being developed.  The SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will not work for those with poor immune systems.  Such people are likely to be the elderly and also those taking immunosuppressive drugs such as cancer patients and those with organ transplants reducing the risk of organ rejection.  This alternative is a monoclonal antibody treatment consisting of two types of antibody against SARS-CoV-2.  It is being developed in the UK by AstraZeneca.  Being more expensive than the vaccines, it will only be used for those that really need it.  But, in addition to the afore-mentioned groups of people, it can also be used in old-age homes at the onset of an outbreak.  This is because, unlike vaccines which take several days to confer a degree of immunity, the antibody therapy takes effect almost immediately.

Synchronising temporary CoVID lockdowns could halve the need for such lockdowns.  A collaboration of researchers based in Great Britain and the US have used mobile phone data and a meta-population model of COVID-19 transmission to assess the way temporary lockdowns across Europe to prevent a secondary surge of SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 might be made more effective.  Their results indicate that appropriate coordination can greatly improve the likelihood of eliminating community transmission throughout Europe. In particular, synchronising intermittent lockdowns across Europe means that only half as many lockdown periods would be needed to curb virus transmission in the community.  (Ruktanonchai, N. W.,. Floyd, J. R., Lai, S. et al (2020) Assessing the impact of coordinated COVID-19 exit strategies across Europe. Science, vol. 369, p1,465–1,470.)

Masks might reduce viral load, hence severity of CoVID-19.  Wearing them may even confer a vaccination type of protection clinical researchers muse.  It has previously been mused (including noted by our pre-CoVID lockdown briefing back in March 2020) that the degree of infecting viral load may relate to the severity of the CoVID-19 disease.  The idea is this, being infected by only a few viral particles and the person's immune system can react before the virus replicates too much. Conversely, infect with many viral particles and the body's immune system is overpowered and overwhelmed before it can develop its defences.  There is no hard evidence for this idea, but there has been some work with Syrian hamsters that does show this viral load relationship and Syrian hamsters are thought to be a model for how SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes CoVID-19) infects humans.
          This could relate to mask wearing suggests Monica Gandhi and George W. Rutherford respectively from at the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, Center for AIDS Research, and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the University of California, San Francisco.  Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine they propose that wearing masks reduces the number of viral particles a person receives from an infected passer-by. (Either the infected person wearing the mask or the person likely to be infected will see this effect, and if both wear masks then the viral load transferred is likely to be even smaller.)  This broad concept of reduced viral load may act as a sort of vaccination.  This too is not a new notion.  'Variolation' was a process whereby people who were susceptible to smallpox were inoculated with material taken from a vesicle of a person with smallpox, with the intent of causing a mild infection and subsequent immunity.  Variolation was practiced only until the introduction of the variola vaccine, which ultimately eradicated smallpox.  To test the variolation hypothesis, we will need more studies comparing the strength and durability of SARS-CoV-2–specific T-cell immunity between people with asymptomatic infection and those with symptomatic infection, as well as a demonstration of the natural slowing of SARS-CoV-2 spread in areas with a high proportion of asymptomatic infections.  Ultimately, combating the pandemic will involve driving down both transmission rates and severity of disease.  Increasing evidence suggests that population-wide facial masking might benefit both components of the response.  (See Gandhi, M. & Rutherford, G. W. (2020) Facial Masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “Variolation” as We Await a Vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine. Pre-print available at

Racoon dogs Nyctereutes procyonoides) can catch SARS-CoV-2.  German researchers at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute deliberately infected nine racoon dogs with SARS-CoV-2.  Six of the animals began shedding virus from their noses several days later.  When three uninfected animals were put in separate cages next tot the infected animals, two became infected.
          The importance of this science is that there are some 4 million racoon dogs in fur farms in China.  The original SARS virus outbreak of 2002-4 caused by SARS-CoV and isolates of that virus were found in racoon dogs who could have been the intermediate species behind that outbreak.  (Freuling, C.M., Breithaupt, A., Muller, T., (2020) Susceptibility of Raccoon Dogs for Experimental SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 26 (12), p2,982-5  and  Anon. (2020) Fur-farm animal can spread the coronavirus. Nature, vol. 587, p13.)

Pet dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of owners.  Biomedical researchers in Hong Kong found that 2 out of 15 dogs from households with confirmed human cases of COVID-19 were found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. The dogs remained asymptomatic (did not have a canine version of CoVID-19). However, it is not known whether infected dogs can transmit the virus back to humans.  (See Sit, T. H. C., Brackman, C. J., Ip, S. M. et al (2020) Infection of dogs with SARS-CoV-2. Nature, vol. 586, p776-8.)

Minks can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of farm workers.  New variant of SARS-CoV-2 have been found in minks in Danish mink farms. The World Health Organisation says that the minks caught the virus from farm workers. The infected minks saw the virus significantly mutate. Of concern, one of the new mutated variant has an altered receptor-binding domain's (RBD) protein spike that the virus uses to lock on and access host cells. As the viruses RBD proteins are involved in a number of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines now being developed, this is a serious development. RBD proteins are also involved in the action of many of the vaccines being developed. So the danger is that an altered RBD strain of SARS will get round any current vaccination-induced immunity.
          Also worryingly, samples from 40 mink farms reveal 170 new strains.  With regard to humans, an analysis of fifth of the country's confirmed CoVID cases showed that around 300 had CoVID thought to be from mink SARS-CoV-2 variants.
          Denmark is the world's largest producer of mink pelts.  In November Denmark was removed from the UK travel corridor and importing goods from that country to the UK has been banned.  Denmark itself has culled some 15 million minks.
          There have now been outbreaks on mink farms elsewhere, including: the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Italy and the USA. The Netherlands plans to cull its entire farmed mink herd this year and to end mink farming altogether by 2024. (See Mallapaty, S. (2020) CoVID mink analysis shows mutations are not dangerous – yet. Nature, vol. 587, p340-1.)

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged in the south-east of the UK.  This new variant is very worrying.  There are 22 genetic differences between this variant and the original SARS-CoV-2.  Six of these are in the receptor-binding domain's (RBD) protein spike (it is not known at the time of reporting whether this is the same as the new Danish mink variant discussed above).  Given that the first vaccines being developed all rely on the protein spike for their effect, it is not yet known whether the vaccines will work on this new strain though they are thought to.  What is known is that in the run up to Christmas this strain was becoming the dominant strain in circulation in the SE of England. It has also appeared on mainland continental Europe.  This dominance is because this new strain seems to find it easier to enter human cells: it is more infectious.  The big worry is that if the vaccines currently being developed are ineffective against this new variant, then it could be that SARS-CoV-2 will significantly mutate faster than we can develop new vaccines, though the thinking is that it will be relatively easy to tweak the existing vaccines.  The bad news is that this new variant affects younger people that were otherwise less susceptible to the original SARS-CoV-2. This Kent, UK varant has been termed B.1.17. or 501Y.V1.

A second new variant has emerged.  Worryingly this new variant seems to be more different to SARS-CoV-2 than the first new variant reported above. This variant also was first detected in the UK. However, in this case, the detection was more to do with the high level of virus genome sequencing undertaken by Britain: 45% of the World's SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequencing is undertaken by the UK.  This new variant seems to have come from people with contact with South Africa where, in December, it made up between 80 – 90% of new cases.  That this variant is even more different to SARS-CoV-2 has implications for the existing vaccines' effectiveness: researchers are less confident that the existing vaccines will work.  The good news is that it should be possible to tweak the existing vaccines relatively easily.  It too is more infectious than the original SARS-CoV-2. Worse, like the new UK variant it affects younger people that were otherwise less susceptible to the original SARS-CoV-2.  This South African variant has been termed B151 or alternatively 501Y.V2.

So, what is the situation with vaccines and the new variants?  Let's be clear from a broad biological stance: there will be a time when a new SARS-type coronavirus will evolve! It's just that it was hoped that it would be a while. New strains that have an unchanged receptor-binding domain's (RBD) protein spike (that the virus uses to lock on and access host cells) are unlikely to have any effect on new vaccines' effectiveness. This is because in one way or another, all the first tranche of vaccines being currently developed are based on the SARS-CoV-2 protein spike.
          The problem arises with new strains that have a markedly different protein spike: the greater the difference, the less likely the vaccine will work.  BioNTech (the makers of the first vaccine to be approved by the UK) have said that it is confident that its vaccine would work on the first new variant. Let's hope they are right and it is not industrial hype.
          However, the second new variant is markedly more different than the first and this does not bode well.
          BioNTech has also said that even if a new vaccine was required that they could develop one in six or seven weeks.  This statement is more than a little disingenuous as they developed their first vaccine in that sort of time window but what took many months was not the development of the vaccine but the phase I, II and III trials. Even with overlapping the trials – starting the next when a trial is halfway through but looks fine – it will take many months for these trials that are needed to ensure both safety and vaccine effectiveness.  Again, the big worry is that if the vaccines currently being developed are ineffective against this new variant, then it could be that SARS-CoV-2 will significantly mutate faster than we can develop new vaccines.  One way around this would be to assume that the tweaking of the vaccine (getting them to express the slightly changed receptor-binding domain's (RBD) protein spike), but otherwise keeping everything else with the vaccines the same, means that it will be as effective. Effectiveness (efficacy) is the main function of the phase III trials. It therefore may be possible to only undertake phase I & II trials, to ensure safety, but skip the phase III trials.

Two viruses related to SARS-CoV-2 (not strains of SARS-CoV-2) have been discovered outside of China in horseshoe bats.  This is the first time SARS-CoV-2 related viruses have been found outside of China. Both were discovered in old stored samples in laboratory freezers: one in Japan and the other in Cambodia.  Both samples relate to the horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus shameli).  It was discovered in 2018 that a pool of variant SARS viruses existed in horseshoe bats in China.  Both the newly discovered viruses have been partly sequenced and this suggests that they are related to SARS-CoV-2 but their whole genome needs to be sequenced before we will know how closely related they are.  So far the closest relative was a sample taken in 2013 in China (again from horseshoe bats), is RaTG13. It was recently sequenced and has 96% of its genome the same as SARS-CoV-2. Any immediate ancestor would be 99% similar. It is unlikely that either of the newly discovered viruses is a direct ancestor but they do throw some light on the diversity of coronaviruses circulating in horseshoe bats. (See Mallapaty, S. (2020) Coronaviruses closely related to the pandemic virus discovered in Japan and Cambodia. Nature, vol. 588, p15-6.)

The spikes from the SARS-CoV-2 virus have now been directly seen by cryo-electron microscopy in sufficient detail to model.  The researchers, primarily based in Britain and Germany, used cryo-electron microscopy combined with tomography. The protein spikes have previously been studied as separate entities in solution but not actually in situ on the surface of the virus.  Though the images are blurry, it is possible to marry them to models of their protein structure possible conformities.  This should provide in sights as the conformities used during infection.  ( Ke, Z., Oton, J., Qu, K. et al (2020) Structures and distributions of SARS-CoV2 spike proteins on intact virons. Nature, 588, p498-502.)

No symptom transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is less significant than symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.  Symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission (1-2 days before symptom onset) is likely to play a greater role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than asymptomatic (no CoVID symptom) transmission.  Those infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not expressing CoVID-19 symptoms have a lower viral load and so less likely to transmit the virus. Those infected may themselves be infectious up to five days before they show symptoms.  Those having only a mild CoVID-19 illness will see it last for about 10 days with viral load peaking after about five days of seeing the first symptoms.  For those who have a worse form of CoVID tend to see hospitalisation about a week after feeling the first symptoms and those going on to need intensive care do so at around ten days after the first symptoms.  (>See  Cevik, M., Kuppalli, K., Kindrachuk, J. & Peiris, M. (2020) Virology, transmission, and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2. British Medical Journal, vol. 371, m3862.)

Kenya has a surprisingly low death toll for its infection rate.  This is one of the surprises of the global pandemic.  Antibody studies between late April and mid-summer suggest that the virus had infected 4% of Kenya's population which itself is a surprisingly high figure given Kenya's small population.  This 4% is similar to that of Spain, yet Spain saw over 28,000 deaths compared to Kenya's 341. (See the pre-print at Science,;2020)

Those who have more Neanderthal genes are at greater risk of severe CoVID-19.  First, some background. A recent genetic association study identified a gene cluster on chromosome 3 as a risk locus for respiratory failure after infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). A separate study (CoVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative) comprising 3,199 hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (CoVID-19) and control individuals showed that this cluster is the major genetic risk factor for severe symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection and hospitalization.  What researchers, Hugo Zeberg and Svante Paabo, have now found is that the risk is conferred by a genomic segment of around 50 kilobases in size that is inherited from Neanderthals and is carried by around 50% of people in south Asia (especially the Indian subcontinent) and around 16% of people in Europe (and Americans of European descendent).  This genetic segment is closely related to that found in the genome of a Neanderthal individual that lived in modern-day Croatia around 50,000 years ago.
          It should be noted that while this Neanderthal gene link is real, it does not mean that those with these genes will be at substantive greater risk of death should they contract CoVID-19. Other factors – such as age, underlying health conditions (obesity and respiratory illness), social living conditions – are far, far more significant mortality factors.  (See Zeberg, H. & Paabo, S. (2020) The major genetic risk factor for severe CoVID-19 is inherited from Neanderthals. Nature, vol. 587, p610-612  and  the review piece Luo, Y. (2020) Neanderthal DNA raises risk of severe CoVID. Nature, vol. 587, p552-3.)

Some people may be naturally immune to SARS-CoV-2 and so do not get severe CoVID-19.  A collaboration of British-based biomedical researchers have found patients with antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 in samples taken either before or very early in the UK outbreak. One patient was a transplant patient who had been isolating but had had another human coronavirus infection prior to SARS-CoV-2. All the patients exhibiting resistance were either young adults or children. The tentative hypothesis is that youngsters who get a lot of colds (human coronaviruses) may have developed a resistance to SARS-CoV-2. More work needs to be done. (See Ng, K. W.,, Faulkner, N., Cornish, G. H. et al (2020) Preexisting and de novo humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Science, vol. 370, p1,339–1,343 and the review article Guthmiller, J. J. & Wilson, P. C. (2020) Remembering seasonal Coronaviruses. Science, vol. 370, p1,339–1,343)

Why men are more prone to CoVID elucidated.  It is known that more men get, and die from, CoVID than women, but why? Is it due to lifestyle – such as more going out to work – or immunity differences? Now, US based biomedical researchers have determined it is the latter. They looked at levels of immune response molecules, such as innate immune cytokines, and found that they were higher in women. (See Takahashi, T., Ellingson, M. K., Wong, P. et al (2020) Sex differences in immune responses that underlie CoVID-19 disease outcomes. Nature, vol. 588, p315-9.).  ++++ Related news elsewhere on this site includes Man-flu is real.

Healthcare workers and their households are at greater risk from SARS-CoV-2.  Between 1st March to 6th June 2020 some 158,445 Scottish NHS healthcare workers and 229,905 of their household members were monitored.  In non-patient facing healthcare workers and their households there was similar to the risk from SARS-CoV-2 in the general population.  However for patient-facing workers and those in front door roles, were at higher risk. Patient-facing workers had roughly three times the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.and their households twice the risk compared to the general population.  ( Shah, A. S. V., Wood, R. & Gribben, C. (2020) Risk of hospital admission with coronavirus disease 2019 in healthcare workers and their households: nationwide linkage cohort study. British Medical Journal, vol. 371, m3582.)

Restaurants are high risk places for the spread of SARS-CoV-2!  Researchers, led by a team-leader based at Stanford University, have produced a model based on mobile phone proximity data. The model was tested on Chicago location data was collected by Denver company Safe-Graph between 8th March and 15th April. It accurately predicted the number of CoVID cases that actually took place a month later. The model itself uses actual proximity contact data from 10 US cities, including: Chicago, Illinois, New York and Philadelphia.  It modelled some 100 million people from contact data in 57,000 neighbourhoods and their points of interest: car dealerships, gyms, churches, restaurants, and sporting goods stores etc, in March and April. They then anonymised the contact data and put it into their model.  They found that the highest risk places to catch SARS-CoV-2 were restaurants, followed by gyms, cafes and hotels.  They re-ran the model under varied assumptions. So, if Chicago had re-opened restaurants on 1st May there would have been nearly 600,000 extra infections whereas opening gyms would have resulted in 149,000 extra infections. Capping venue occupancy density also reduces infection rate.  The data and model also indicates possibly why people in poorer areas have higher infection rates. First off, poorer people are less likely to work from home. Their neighbourhoods tend to have higher population densities and higher density of people in their smaller shops: nearly 60% higher number of visitors per square foot.  It is hope that this and related work could help refine social-distancing and closure measures in the remaining time before complete vaccine roll-out as well as in future pandemics.
          This work is also relevant to other countries. In the UK there was a summer programme called Eat Out To Help Out in which the government subsidised restaurant meals by £10 in August. This resulted in an increase of 17% of infections.  (See the review piece Cyranoski, D. (2020) How to stop restaurants seeding CoVID infections: US mobile phone data suggests restaurants and gyms can be virus hotspots – and reveal ways to slow spread. Nature, vol. 587, p344.)

School closures in the spring of 2020 possibly increased CoVID-19 deaths! Physicists have modelled the first UK wave of CoVID-19 resulting from SARS-CoV-2 under a number of different conditions and initialised with actual UK data from March 2020.  They used the CovidSim, which implements Imperial College London’s model.  Their results showed that closing schools did flatten the peak curve of deaths but that overall the number of deaths increased.  This is because the vast majority of youngsters that catch SARS-CoV-19 are asymptomatic (do not express symptoms) of CoVID-19 and are also less infective.  Therefore going to school will, over months, grant the young cohort of the population herd immunity and so less likely to infect older cohorts of the population.  So while closing schools in the spring of 2020 did flatten the UK mortality curve for CoVID-19, it may have postponed deaths to subsequent waves of virus outbreak so increasing the total number of deaths.  (See  Rice, K., Wynne, B., Martin, V. & Ackland, G. J. (2020) Effect of school closures on mortality from coronavirus disease 2019: old and new predictions. British Medical Journal, vol. 371, m3588.) Note: The impact of a spring-summer 2020 school closures would be different from possible subsequent-in-the-pandemic school closures in the winter and spring (season's of high infection transmission) and also different to the current peak due to the new strains' high transmission.

Big data and a simple epidemic model estimates SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 transmission rates.  US researchers have merged an epidemic model with mobile phone data from 98 million US citizens and the hourly location data comprising 5 billion time points from March to May (2020).  The model and data combination indicates that full-service restaurants are the highest risk for getting infected.  Also that gyms and religious establishments have a disproportionately large role in driving up infection rates.  Alas, because schools and universities tended to close at roughly the same times it was not possible to disentangle the two to see whether schools really were lower risk and flatten the curve.  However the model and data combination did give two indications as to possibly why ethnic minorities and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups were more at risk from CoVID-19. First, more from ethnic minorities and poor socioeconomic groups tend to be key workers. Second, they live in poorer, higher-density populated areas and frequent more densely peopled venues. Further, the model predicts that a small number of superspreaders account for a large majority of infections.  To reduce risk it is important to minimise the time spent with others such as shopping and to attend less crowded venues for as short a time as possible while avoiding crowded indoor venues. (Chang, S., Pierson, E., Koh, P. W. et al (2021) Mobility network models of CoVID-19 explain inequities and inform reopening. Naure, vol. 589, p82-7  and the review piece  Ma, K. C. & Lipsitch, M. (2021) Big data and simple models. Nature, vol. 589, p26-8.)

Hydroxychloroquine use against SARS-CoV-2 does not work, two teams of researchers show!  The political leaders of a couple of nations have been touting hydroxychloroquine (an anti-malarial treatment) as a cure for CoVID-19.  While hydroxychloroquine does have an anti-viral property against some viruses in some animal cells, this does not mean that it works against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes CoVID-19) in humans.  Two papers in Nature now indicate that it has no effect.  In the first a French collaboration demonstrated that it shows no antiviral activity in macaques – an animal used as a model for human biology hence will not work in human airway epithelium cells (lungs) and so their results "do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine… as an antiviral drug for the treatment of CoVID-19 in humans."  In the second paper, a German based team looked at the molecular biology of the supposed protection mechanisms in human lung cells and comes to the conclusion that chloroquine "is unlikely to protect against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in and between patients."  (See Maisonnasse, P., Guedj, J., Contreras, V. et al (2020) Hydroxychloroquine use against SARS-CoV-2 infection in non-human primates. Nature, vol. 585, p584-7  and  Hoffmann, H., Mosbauer, K., Hofmann-Winkler, H. et al (2020) Chloroquine does not inhibit infection of human lung cells with SARS-CoV-2. Nature, vol. 585 p588-590.)
          Related SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 news, previously covered elsewhere on this site, includes:-
  - CoVID-19 fatality risk factors confirmed
  - SARS-CoV-2 can be spread by aerosols
  - Review concludes that masks are necessary to reduce spread of SARS-CoV-2
  - Social distancing and school closures are key to lowering the spread of CoVID-19
  - Genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 reveals how the epidemic spread in New York, US
  - Cruise ship SARS-CoV-2 containment informs on the virus
  - The free market has failed to lay the groundwork for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine
  - A new, highly pathogenic, coronavirus has emerged in China
  - How Eastercon and Worldcon fandom survived CoVID-19 lockdown
  - SARS-CoV-2, CoVID-19 and the SF Community Briefing


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Spring 2021

Astronomy & Space Science News


Possible biosignature of life on Venus has been detected..  The paper in Nature Astronomy came just hours before we put last season's seasonal news page to bed, and also as something of a surprise.  We could not properly cover it then but do so now.  The work is the result of a collaboration researchers based at a dozen British research centres.  What they have done is detect the radio spectrum of phosphine (PH3) in the clouds of Venus.
          Venus is not a nice place; it isn't even a nice place just to visit briefly.  Its surface temperature is 462 °C and atmospheric pressure 93 times that of Earth's.  The atmosphere itself is mainly carbon dioxide (96%) but there are traces of sulphur dioxide (150 parts per million (ppm)) and even less water (20 ppm).  Which in turn, under sunlight (the photolysis of water and sulphur dioxide), generates sulphuric acid clouds in the upper atmosphere.
          The researchers detected phosphine in the atmosphere at 33 - 38 miles (53 - 61 km) where conditions are more clement (30 °C and half an Earth atmospheric pressure).  The phosphine should react with the Venusian atmosphere and so be removed, but the detection indicates a concentration of 20 parts per billion: something is replenishing it.  Atmospheric chemistry has been considered, but the chemical energetics are not favourable for that explanation to be likely.  So unless there is some unknown atmospheric chemistry at work, life seems to be the answer.  On Earth, some anaerobic prokaryotes do generate phosphine.  Could it be that there are analogues of prokaryotes on Venus living in its clouds and this phosphine is part of its biosignature?  The possibility of microbiological life in Venus's clouds has previously been explored by others (including Carl Sagan).  However, with atmospheric circulation any life would be continually flushed down into less hospitable zones and so it would need to be extremely hardy or there is some as yet to be elucidated atmospheric circulation that keeps Venus' atmosphere largely layered.  Yet this new discovery is rather enticing, though alternative explanations need to continue to be explored.
          Yet while extant life on Venus is unlikely, it is possible that life got going billions of years ago.  The idea is this, the surface of Venus was far more clement billions of years ago for a period of a little over half a billion years after the late heavy bombardment. Back then, the Sun was a lot cooler than it is today (as it has evolved through its main sequence stage).  Life got going really early in Earth's history (which makes there a case for life on Mars) and so also possibly could have on a more clement, early Venus.  It was only when the Sun got warmer, and Venus being closer to it than the Earth, that the runaway greenhouse effect began to transform the planet into the inhospitable place it is today.  This process itself would have taken many millions of years, during which any putative, analogue prokaryote would have had time to adapt.
          This discovery is intriguing, though not yet entirely convincing evidence of extant Venusian life.  (See Greaves, J. S., Richards, A. M. S., Bains, W. et al (2020) Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nature Astronomy.

Hydrogen theory of galaxy formation corroborated.  Theory has it that atomic hydrogen (single hydrogen atoms) gets attracted onto halos of dark matter to form hydrogen molecules (H2), stars and hence galaxies.  Star formation in the Universe peaked 2.5 and 4.5 billion years ago. Today they are forming at only a tenth of the rate per unit volume of the Universe. So the question arises as to whether there was more atomic hydrogen at this peak time.  However the absorption line in the astronomical atomic hydrogen spectra they use to measure is very weak and so hard to gauge.  A small team of Indian astronomers have now succeeded employing a new way of making a measurement from this time.  To overcome the sensitivity issue, the astronomers used stacking analysis.  They chose 7,653 galaxies whose distances from Earth (hence their age of existence in the Universe) are known from red-shift measurements.  They stacked the individual radio spectra from all the galaxies of a specific age to achieve a sensitivity that is about 90 times better than could be obtained for a single galaxy.  The so determined the average mass of neutral hydrogen in galaxies towards the end of the peak epoch of star formation, about 8 billion years ago.  They found that galaxies at that time contained about 2.5 times more of this gas relative to their stellar masses than do galaxies today. This corroborates other work using a different method.  (See the review piece by Carilli, C. L. (2020) Key ingredient of galaxy formation measured. Nature, vol. 586, p361-2  and  research paper itself, Chowdhury, A., Kanekar, N.,. Chengalur, J. N., Sethi, S. & Dwarakanath, K. S. (2020) Hi 21-centimetre emission from an ensemble of galaxies at an average redshift of one. Nature, vol. 586, p369-37-2.)

More evidence that Fast Radio Bursts are caused by magnetars.  Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-duration radio transients of unknown origin.  Recently the first fast radio burst (FRB) observed in our galaxy was shown to come from an area that is the home to a magnetar (or magnetostar).  (Magnetars are the fast spinning remains of a supernova wrapped in a magnetic field. So they are sort of related to pulsars which don't have a strong magnetic field but are fast-spinning neutron stars left behind after a super nova.)  The alternative theory is that relativistic shocks far from the central energy source, such as a pulsar's pulse travelling through some intermediate interstellar medium, get transformed into radio bursts.  Chinese astronomers have now examined the polarization of an FRB and conclude that FRBs are likely caused by magnetars (or magnetostar).  (See Luo, R., Wang, B. J., Men, Y. P. et al (2020) Diverse polarization angle swings from a repeating fast radio burst source. Nature. vol. 586, p693-6.).
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - Repeating fast radio burst (FRB) detected
  - Fast radio burst enables Universe weighing
  - Fast Radio Bursts could be alien civilisation light sail boosters.

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm?  We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the distance of our asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.
          It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star's protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.
          Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation).  However, ESA's Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery, or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.
          You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars' positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery.  Conversely, stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation.  With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars that Gaia had mapped.
          What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star's birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.
          As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has "possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe" questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systems. Nature, vol. 586, p528-532.)

Another planet survives red giant death phase of a star but it is a gas giant. So how come?  Unlike the previous planet found to have survived a star's red giant phase, this one is a gas giant.  The team of US astronomers, using data collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, observed a gas giant planet transiting the white dwarf WD 1856+534 (TIC 267574918) every 1.4 days: that's close in. Had it been that close in when the white dwarf was in its red giant phase it would have been engulfed by the star. No gas giant is thought to be able to survive being engulfed by a red giant star even if rocky planets (like the Earth might – all be they stripped of their atmospheres). Could it be that the gas giant migrated inwards towards its star after or as its red giant phase ended?  The gas giant detected is the same size a Jupiter.  WD 1856+534 is some 81 light years (25 parsecs) from Earth.  (See  Vanderburg, A.., Rappaport, S. A., Xu. S. et al (2020) A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf. Nature, vol. 585, p363-7  and a review piece  Parsons, S. (2020) A planet transiting a stellar grave. Nature, vol. 585, p354-5.)
          Related news previously covered elsewhere in this site included – Earth's fate glimpsed

How hard is a comet?  An analysis of the Philae accident in 2014 has just revealed the comet's surface has the consistency of fresh snow!  The European Space Agency (ESA) launched it Rosetta mission with its Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.  After a flight that took it past asteroids, it reached, and went into orbit about, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in august 2014.  Then, on 12th November 2014, Rosetta released its Philae lander probe but unbeknownst to ESA at the time, it had a faulty harpoon system that was meant to enable Philae to latch on to the comet, with its weak gravitational field (about 1/50,000 that of Earth's), so as to probe the comet's surface.  Alas, the harpoon system failed to deploy and so Philae bounced once, had a glancing blow with a ridge and then bouncing again before finally coming to rest.  Rosetta subsequently re-photographed the asteroid's surface. This has enabled its mission controllers to identify Philae's three touchdown points from crash marks and where the encounter with the ridge took place.  Knowing this they were able to accurately reconstruct Philae's trajectory.  Combining this with seeing the size of the dents (one of which was 25 cm) in the comet's surface Philae made on its touchdowns, and knowing Philae's mass and the comet's gravity, they were able to work out that comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's surface has the consistency of fresh snow.  (See O'Rourke, L., Heinisch, P., Blum, J. et al (2020) The Philae lander reveals low-strength primitive ice inside cometary boulders. Nature, vol. 586, p697-701  and the review piece Asphaug, A. (2020) The eye of the skull and a tale of a comet. Nature, vol. 586, p675-6.).
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - ESA has announced a plan to fly a trio of probes to a comet

Sample successfully taken from asteroid Bennu.  Having arrived at the end of 2018, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission successfully took samples from the surface of asteroid Bennu.  So much was obtained that the sample chamber could not be closed.  It had been planned that, having obtained the sample securely, the probe would spin so as to weigh the amount collected: 60 grams was the target amount.  Instead the sample was secured in a canister within the probe's main body.  The probe will remain in orbit about Bennu until March (2021) when the asteroid will be in an optimal position in its orbit about the Sun for OSIRIS-REx to begin its return to Earth.  It is expected to arrive back in 2023.  This is NASA's first mission to gather and return an asteroid sample to Earth.
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - Hayabusa 2 reveals that the asteroid 162173-Ryugu's surface boulders are highly porous
  - Sample from 2nd celestial body makes it back to Earth
  - Hayabusa [Falcon] arrived at the 500m-long, nickel-iron asteroid Itokawa

Asteroid Bennu broke off from a parent body to enter near-Earth space very roughly 1.75 million years ago an analysis reveals.  Using OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite, researchers have scanned part of the asteroid to a level of 1 – 3 cm. Previous studies on the Moon and on Earth meteorites show that there is a near linear relationship between meteor size and frequency: the smaller they are, the more of them they are.  Combine this with the known frequency of medium-sized meteors and the impact crater record of Bennu, it was possible to roughly determine when Bennu broke away from its parent body. This was estimated to be 1.75 million years ago (mya) with a younger estimate of 1 mya and an older estimate of 2.5 mya. (Ballouz, R. L., Walsh, K. J., Barnouin, O. S. et al (2020) Bennu's near-Earth lifetime of 1.75 million years inferred from craters on its boulders. Nature, vol. 587, p205-9.)

Additional possible Martian lakes detected.  back in 2018, there was radar evidence for a lake under part of Mars' south pole.  Now a more extensive radar examination, using the European Space Agency’s Mars-orbiting spacecraft, Mars Express, not only seems to confirm the first possible detection but also detected some other areas of high reflectivity that they say indicate additional possible bodies of liquid water trapped under more than one kilometre of Martian ice.  Their results strengthen the claim of the detection of a liquid water body at Ultimi Scopuli and indicate the presence of other wet areas nearby.  They suggest that the waters are hypersaline perchlorate brines, known to form at Martian polar regions.  (See Lauro, S. E., Pettinelli, E., Caprarelli, G. et al. (2020) Multiple subglacial water bodies below the south pole of Mars unveiled by new MARSIS data. Nature Astronomy.

China has Moon mission.  The unmanned mission took China's Chang'e-5 probe to the Moon's Oceanus Proccellarum ('Ocean of Storms'). It successfully landed and obtained a sample of Lunar rock.  It then returned to Earth.  Chang'e is named after an ancient Chinese Moon Goddess.
          Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - China has landed its 'Jade Rabbit' lunar rover on the Moon
  - China has landed a probe on the far side of the Moon

First Arab Moon mission announced.  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced its intention to mount a Lunar mission currently slated for 2024.  The aim is to send a small rover, Rashid, named after the late Sheik Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.  The UAE will pay for another (as yet unnamed) nation's space agency to carry the rover to the Moon and land it.  At 10 kg, Rashid is a tenth the size of China's Chang'e-4.  In addition to four cameras, Rashid will carry a Langmuir probe – the first to be on the Moon – to study the faint plasma hovering above the Lunar surface created by Solar wind interactions with the surface.  The mission will last one Lunar day: two weeks.  There is though a hope that it will survive the Lunar night and its temperature drop to -173°C.  This is an ambitious attempt for a country whose space agency is only 14 years old and which only awarded its first domestic doctorate in any discipline ten years ago.  Unlike the UAE's Mars Hope mission which was built with substantive help from the US, Rashid will be constructed in the UAE by Arabian engineers.  If the mission is a success, it will be a major feat. Over 20 landers have crashed on the Moon, most recently India's Chandrayaan-2 in 2019.

Water detected in Lunar minerals.  US researchers using the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).  The trace water in the minerals was detected at high-latitudes and so is a result of the local geology there and is probably not a Moon-wide phenomenon.  They suggest that a majority of the water detected must be stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh lunar environment, allowing the water to remain on the lunar surface. (See Honniball, C. I., Lucey, P. G., Li, S. et al (2020) Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA. Nature Astronomy,

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has had a major structural failure and is to be decommissioned!  The Arecibo radio telescope and planetary radar, is the world's most powerful transmitter.  Assuming our alien intelligence has a similar technology to ourselves, then their most powerful transmitter would be a twin of the 1,000 ft antenna, used as a planetary radar, at Arecibo. It could detect a similar device at a distance of 30 light years, or 300 light years if targeted.  Two broken cables used to support a 900-tonne platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. This finally happened when the 900-tonne platform suspended platform at the focal point subsequently broke loose and crashed into the main reflector below.  The decommissioning represents the end of an astronomical era.


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Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
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Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Spring 2021

Science & Science Fiction Interface

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


SF author wins Nobel prize.  Escaping the news coverage was the fact that this year's Physics Nobel prize-winner, Roger Penrose is also an SF author.  His White Mars co-authored with Brian Aldiss, in 2019 saw the 20th anniversary of its publication.

Earthshot to save the planet.  Overpopulation, climate change, global resource exhaustion and massive loss of biodiversity as the horsemen of planetary destruction have long been used as SF tropes in SF books such as Make Room, Make Room and Stand on Zanzibar or films from Mad Max to Silent Running.  Today, while the human population continues to rise from under 2 billion in the 1950s to 7.7 billion today, we are seeing in real life extensive tropical forest destruction, coral bleaching, extreme weather events from wildfires to storms, plastics in the oceans, global overfishing, etc, etc.  Now, to help combat these planetary threats the Earthshot Prize has been launched by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough FIBiol.  It will make five awards of £1 million (US$1.27m) each year for 10 years: £50 million (US$64) in total for 50 practical ideas and ways, solutions to the world's gravest environmental problems by 2030.  The world is "at a tipping point", says the Prince, who said the Earthshot Prize is his and Sir David's effort to ensure we hand the planet on to our children and grandchildren "in a better state than we found it." These "Earthshots" are intended as "universal goals to repair our planet by 2030" and will go to the best and most innovative ideas to help:-
  - Protect and restore nature
  - Clean our air
  - Revive our oceans
  - Build a waste-free world
  - Fix our climate
Even suggestions that "may sound crackpot" are welcome, said Sir David, so long as they have the potential to make a difference on what he called "the world scale".  The aim is to find "new solutions" that have a positive effect on environmental change and improve living standards globally, particularly those communities most at risk from climate change.

Giant 19th century sea serpents elucidated.  Giant sea serpents existed in the 19th century according to a plethora of explorers’ reports, travellers’ diaries, naturalists’ journals, fishers’ observations and ethnohistorical records.  For example, Two sightings that occurred within the Scottish Hebrides went on to garner considerable worldwide attention: that of the "Soay beast" in 1959, which became one of the most discussed "sea monsters" in the second half of the twentieth century, and that of the creature observed from the vessel Leda in 1872, which has been described as “the most detailed account of a sea serpent encounter” in the British Isles.  They were also seen in N. America with one of the most famous being in Gloucester Harbor and elsewhere in New England and New York between 1815 and 1824,  Yet today there is no sight of them.  What happened or was happening?
          Robert France of the Department of Plants, Food and Environmental Science, Dalhousie University, Canada, may have an answer which he presented in the journal Fish & Fisheries.  A total of 214 unidentified marine sightings around the British Isles between 1809–2000 were found to be of sufficient length and adequate description to enable them to be analysed.  He found that the sea serpent literature is filled with accounts of strong swimmer species (whales, pinnipeds, large fishes or unknown “monsters”) could muscle their way through fishing gear – gillnets made of cotton twine or hemp – sometimes, in the process, making off with portions of the net and its accompanying floats in tow.  Back in the 19th century net buoys from being blown glass balls to larger cork floats and wooden casks.  Imagine a whale or basking shark getting entangled in one of these floating nets and making off. You would see a large body at the front with smaller body parts interspersed with just sea behind: the smaller body parts being the net floats with netting connecting the whole assemblage. It would look like a long, thin, snake-like creature with parts occasionally appearing humped in the water.  Tragically, it is most likely that such entangled creatures, unable to get free, soon died.  Considering the sea serpent reports in this light and they become easily explainable.  (See France R. L. (2020) Historical anecdotes of fishing pressure: Misconstrued "sea serpent" sightings provide evidence for antecedent entanglement of marine biota in the British Isles. Fish & Fisheries.

Possible breakthrough with brain inspired computing.  A core trope of science fiction has been 'artificial intelligence' (AI) from Arthur Clarke's HAL2000 to Philip K. Dick's replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the road to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore's Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so's time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.
          all this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade's time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article  Rhodes, O. (2020) Brain-inspired computing. Nature, vol. 586, p364-5  and  the full paper  Zhang, Y., Qu, P., Zhang, W. et al (2020) A system hierarchy for brain-inspired computing. Nature, vol. 586, p378-384.)

Approaching spacecraft enters Earth orbit.  On September 17, 2020, astronomers sighted the object on approach to Earth, using the 71-inch (1.8-meter) Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Maui, Hawaii. They designated it as asteroid 2020 SO and added it as an Apollo asteroid in the JPL Small-Body Database.  However its orbital trajectory and speed near the Earth is unusual for an Apollo asteroid. Indeed, its orbital velocity about the Sun is close to that of Earth's. It is now thought that the object is in fact a space craft and likely a 41-foot-long Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D booster from the Surveyor 2 probe that was launched to the moon on September 20, 1966.

Quantum computing mathematician warns not to be complacent over internet security in a post-quantum computing world.  Quantum computing was theoretically considered in the 1980s but thought to be practically impossible due to quantum noise. This is because measuring the quantum state for noise destroys the said quantum state.  In 1995 the applied mathematician Peter Shor showed that you could determine the degree of error in a quantum state without measuring the state itself. This made quantum computing a practical possibility.  Meanwhile, in science fiction tropes using computing, cyber warfare, hacking, state control of information etc were being increasingly used.  Now, in an interview, Peter Shor warns that big players such as the security services of technologically advanced nations are on the brink of being able to crack current internet encryption using quantum computing techniques.  Though he says we have a little time yet, as even with quantum computing, there are currently so limited resources that people's e-mail remains safe – national security agencies will reserve their quantum capability for the few communications they really want to access – yet it is only a matter of time before more routine communications can and will be intercepted by more and more players.  He feels that there is a risk that we will be caught unprepared. He notes that there was a lot of effort put into fixing the Year 2000 bug. He says that we will "need an enormous amount of effort to switch to post-quantum. If we wait too long, it will be too late!" (See Shor, P. & Castelvecchi, D. (2020) Quantum computing pioneer warns of complacency over internet security. Nature, vol. 587, p189.)
          Relegated news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - Wiring large numbers of qubits is now possible for quantum computing
  - Quantum wave-function collapse can now be observed

US film superheroes don't eat well… And that's bad news for us!  Bradley Turnwald and colleagues of California University looked at the 250 top grossing films in the US between 1994 and 2018.  These included all the Marvel superhero films, the Hunger Games series, Harry Potter films etc., to see what was being eaten by the characters.  They found that diets failed US nutrition recommendations by 25% for saturated fats and 45% for fibre.  They also did not fare well in UK terms with 73% featuring food that was too unhealthy for Ofcom standards (Britain's communication ombudsman) and Food Standards Agency limits for advertising to under 16s: eating food in films is effectively product placement.  Snacks and sweets were the most common items and they featured in nearly a quarter of the films.  Popular US films, the researchers say, depict an unhealthy diet similar to US citizens' actual diets. Depicting unhealthy consumption is a problem that extends beyond advertising. (See  Nutritional Analysis of Foods and Beverages Depicted in Top-Grossing American Movies, 1994-2018 in JAMA Internal Medicine, 23rd November 2020.)

2001: A Space Odyssey monolith found in desert.  A 12-foot, shiny slab of metal, has been found upright in a remote Utah, US, desert.  It was spotted by a helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, a state official counting sheep.  It is very reminiscent of the monolith in the Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.  How it got to stand in the remote spot is a bit of a mystery but Google Earth reveals that it has been there for half a decade. One theory is that fans of the film left it, but why site it somewhere where nobody was likely to see it?  That leaves another option, it was aliens….  Time to call Mulder and Scully…  (One wag on social media opined it was the off switch for the planet.)
          Then at the end of November it was just as mysteriously removed (presumably taken for scrap metal)…  Only for another metal monolith slab to appear near the old fort at Piatra Neamt in Romania! Meanwhile, back in the US another a similar monument appeared at the top of Atascadero’s Pine Mountain, California for a few days before it was vandalised.
          Then in December A group of four artists and fabricators declared themselves the creators Pine Mountain, Atascadero, monolith. The creators were Wade McKenzie, Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father, Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.
          A few days later another shiny steel monolith was discovered in downtown Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience. And yet another, by different creators, was found in Los Padres National Forest by campers at a site about 100 miles southeast of the one in Atascadero, USA. It has “Caution” written in red letters at the top and features an image of a UFO.


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

Low-tech space faring civilisations.  Some civilisations might engage in space travel even though they are at a lower level of technology than might be thought appropriate.  Isaac Arthur (often controversial, always interesting) explores this question and along the way looks at how low can a technology be to suffice…  You can see the twenty-six minute 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 2021

Rest In Peace

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


Berni Alder, the German-born US chemist, has died aged 95.  He is best know for computer modelling matter and how molecules in solids and liquids moved in relation to each other.  His invention of molecular dynamics has led to applications in materials science, biochemistry and biophysics, as well as physics and chemistry.

Joseph Altairac, the French SF scholar, has died aged 63. He is particularly known, among other work, for writing (with Guy Costes) Rétrofictions (2018), a two-volume encyclopaedia of Francophone genre fiction. He also edited the fanzine Lovecraftian Studies.

Angelika Amon, the Austrian molecular geneticist, has died aged 53.  She worked on the control of chromosome segregation and the consequences of segregation errors. She soon moved to the US and her work looked towards chromosome segregation errors leading to cancer. It was therefore ironic that she died of ovarian cancer. She received many awards and honours, including the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award (the highest American honour for a scientist under 40), the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Sten Anderssen, the Swedish SF author, has died aged 69. He was the author of five novels and numerous short stories.

Roman Arbitman, the Russian SF author, has died aged 60.

David Ashford, the UK comics historian and actor, has died. He wrote a number of non-fiction books on comics. As an actor he appeared in The Quatermass Conclusion and a number of episodes of Doctor Who.

Arthur Ashkin, the US physicist, has died aged 98. He worked on quantum electrodynamic (relativistic) theory. He then began to followed the work of Canadian Eric Rawson who trapped dust particles in a helium-neon laser cavity. Ashkin went on to focus a laser beam onto micro latex spheres immersed in water. He showed that particles act as a tiny lens that alters the momentum of light. This rate of change of momentum creates and equal but opposite force attracting it to higher light intensity. After years of work this led him to look at moving atoms just a few degrees above absolute zero. This laid the groundwork for what were to become optical tweezers.  These could be used at room temperature on comparatively larger objects such as bacteria.  He shared the 2018 Nobel for physics for his work on optical tweezers as part of the prize that year for work on lasers.

Karen Babcock, the US con-goer, freelance editor/proof-reader and acquisitions editor for Double Dragon Publishing, has died aged 56.

Brian N. Ball, the British SF author, has died aged 88.  His SF career began with "The Pioneer" for New Worlds magazine in 1962.  He is noted for his novels Sundog (1965) and the trilogy 'Time' which began with Timepiece (1968) as well as the 'Probability' duology that began with The Probability Man (1972).

Ben Bova, the US editor and writer, has died aged 88 from CoVID-19 related pneumonia and a stroke.  He is appreciated more for his editing than writing and with the latter his shorts trump his novels. He edited Analog between 1971-1978 – winning six Hugos as best pro editor – and Omni between 1978-1982. He served as President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) from 1990 to 1992. He was Worldcon Author Guest of Honour at Chicon 2000 and was awarded the Robert A. Heinlein Award in 2008 for his work in science fiction.

David Britton, the publisher and SF fan, has died aged 75. He was a regular at MaD SF (Manchester and District SF). He co-founded, with Mike Butterworth and Charles Partington, Manchester Savoy books. Savoy's authors included Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt. He wrote the very dark humorous, satirical and pοrnοgraphic Lord Horror (1989) that was banned for obscenity by Manchester snowflake police bosses and so went to prison twice. However, a destruction order on the novel was court-rescinded, though a ban on the graphic novel version of the same was upheld.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor, has died aged 75. In SF terms he is best known for playing Boba Fett in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) as well as episodes of early Doctor Who.

Roxanne (Rachel Caine) Conrad, the US author, has died aged 51.  her books were written as by Rachel Caine. She wrote some 56 books including the Young adult 'Morganville Vampires' series.

Vittorio Catani, the Italian SF author, has died aged 80.  His novel Gli universi di Moras [The Universes of Moras] Italy's first Urania Prize in 1990.

Ron Cobb, the US cartoonist and production designer, has died aged 83 on his birthday.  His genre work included designing several cantina characters for Star Wars (1977) and the weaponry and sets for Conan the Barbarian (1982), the exterior and interior of the Nostromo ship in Alien (1978) and the Earth colony complex in Aliens (1986), the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future (1985), the helmets in The Abyss (1989) and the vehicles of The Last Starfighter (1984).

Joseph Connell, the US ecologist, has died aged 91.  After studying for undergraduate and MA degrees in the US, he took a PhD in Glasgow, Scotland, looking at barnacle ecology. He then moved to the Pacific coast with research on San Juan Island, Washington.  He is noted for showing that a species local abundance encourages host-specific enemies such as herbivores and pathogens. Also, that some limited recurrent ecological disturbance can help maintain biodiversity.

Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, had died aged 90.  He is best known for playing British secret agent James Bond based on Ian Fleming's novels, that are more technothrillers (with homing devices, lasers etc), but some have SFnal tropes such as spaceships: he portrayed Bond seven times including Never Say Never Again (1983) whose title noted the irony of his having repeatedly said that he’d never play the part again.  He also starred in a number of clearly SF films such as Outland (1981) and Zardoz (1974), this last a hugely underrated film with some brilliant lines such as 'what about the stars?', 'The stars, the stars… another dead end.'  He also co-starred in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) which won a best dramatic presentation Hugo Award in 1990.  He also had a supporting role in Time Bandits (1981): he was a fan of Monty python.

Richard Corben, the US artist, had died aged 80.  He is best noted for his SF and fantasy strips in Metal Hurlant and its US counterpart Heavy Metal. Regarding this last, he is noted for the semi-regular strip Den. He also worked for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics and drew for Vampirella and Creepy.

Richard De Croce, the former BBC America VP and executive producer of four documentaries about Doctor Who (2009-2010) plus The Real History of Science Fiction (2014), has died aged 53.

Debra Doyle, the US fantasy author, has died aged 67.

Phyllys Eisenstein, the US SF author, has died aged 74. Her books include Born to Exile (1978) and Shadow of Earth (1979). She wrote much SF and fantasy with her husband Alex.

Joan Feynman, the solar scientist died, back in July (2020), aged 93.  She was the sister of the Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman. She was blazed a trail for women in science being one of only two women on her BSc course. She is best known for showing that aurora were caused by Solar particles interacting with the Earth's magnetic field.

Janet Freer , the British author agent, has died aged 89. Among the SF authors she represented were: Thomas Disch, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Michael Moorcock and Christopher Priest.

Terry Goodkind, the US fantasy author of epic sword and sorcery sagas, has died aged 72.  Among his many novel, his recent titles include: Shroud of Eternity, Siege of Stone andChildren of D’Hara: Witches Oath. His The Sword of Truth sequence of novels was adapted into a television series called Legend of the Seeker, which premiered in November 2008 running for two seasons

Robert W. Gore, the US chemical engineer and inventor, has died aged 83.  His family's company, W. L. Gore & Associates, in developed applications of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) ranging from computer cables to medical equipment to the outer layer of space suits. His most famous breakthrough was the invention of Gore-Tex: a waterproof and breathable fabric popularly known for its use in sports and outdoors protective clothing. He was a philanthropist who gave away around US$40 million (£33m).

James Gunn, the US author and SF academic has died aged 97. He wrote much non-fiction science fiction including The Discovery of the Future: The Ways of Science Fiction (1975) and Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction (1975). His first novel was The Fortress World (1955) and a number of his shorts are collected in Some Dreams are Nightmares (1974). He is notable for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction (1982) which garnered him a Hugo Award. For non-fiction SF.  He became an SFWA Grandmaster in 2007 and was a Guest of Honour at the 2013 Worldcon.

Michael Z. Hobson, the US comics editor, has died aged 83.  He had been executive vice president of Marvel.

Walter Hooper, the British archivist of the C. S. Lewis estate, has died of CoVID-19 aged 89. He had served briefly in 1963 as C.S. Lewis’s private secretary before becoming a literary advisor to his estate. He authored the C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide.

Dean Ing, the US author, has died aged 89.  In real life he was a mechanical engineer ans also a behavioural psychologist. Many of his short stories were collected in High Tension (1982) and Firefight 2000 (1987). He is known for his 'Ted Quantrill' quadrology set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic USA under a theocracy.

James S. Jackson, the US social psychologist, has died aged 76.  His study of Black communities contributed many insights into family composition, education, health status and outcomes, aging, violence in the community, religious and spirituality practices, help-giving and help-seeking behaviours, law enforcement and policing, and experiences with racism. He reframed the discourse on people of African descent, giving Black people a voice on Black mental health.  He was recognised for outstanding contributions to research in aging by the Gerontological Society of America’s Robert W. Kleemeier Award. In 2014, he was appointed to the National Science Board.

Elizabeth Johnston, the British languages expert, has died aged 99.  During WWII she worked with the Omega code breakers at Bletchley Park. She only revealed her WWII role when she was asked to give a Church talk in 2014.  She was one of the last living Bletchley code breakers.

Miriam Dyches Carr Knight Lloyd, the US fan, has died.  She was particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s with fanzines including various ‘Goojie Publications’ titles as Dyches or Carr, Klein Bottle and later issues of Fanac with her first husband Terry Carr, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie with her second husband Jerry Knight.

Richard ('Dick') Lupoff, the US author, has died aged 85.  He was computer technical writer but became a full-time writer in 1970 but before then had joined fandom in 1952. He co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Xero (with his wife Pat and Bob Stewart). He was one of the founders of the Fanoclasts, and the New York Eastercon.  He wrote 20 novels and numerous short stories.  His novella “With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama” in Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions was short-listed for a Nebula Award (1973). He was also twice short-listed for a Hugo Award for his short stories 'After the Dreamtime' (1975), and 'Sail the Tide of Mourning' (1976), the latter was also short-listed for a Nebula.  Notably he wrote the short story '12:01 P.M.' (1973), which was adapted as the Oscar-nominated short film 12:01 pm (1990) and the TV film 12:01 (1993) appearing in both as an extra.  The film is in effect an SF treatment of the fantasy Groundhog Day (also 1993) – both must have been filming at the same time but Lupoff's stories clearly predate the Goundhog Day film.  His book, the fan collection The Best of Xero (2004), was short-listed for the Best Related Book Hugo in 2005.

Alison Lurie, the US horror writer and academic, has died aged 94. Her ghost stories have been collected in Women and Ghosts (1994) and she edited The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales (1993).

Dame Georgina Mace FRS, the British ecologist, has died aged 67.  Her PhD was in the evolutionary ecology of small mammals, and she developed a career in conservation biology and biodiversity.  She was particularly concerned over the current extinction event we now seem to be going through.  She had a quantitative approach to her work relying on hard data rather than emotional or qualitative arguments. One of the, then, surprising results of her work was that in long-lived species, only a very sight increase in the rate of mortality would tip the species into an extinction trajectory. Her work with a small group of other ecologists helped further shape the 'Red List' of species at risk of extinction from species being nominated by conservation experts more towards a quantitative approach.  In the 2010s she served a term as President of the British Ecological Society.

Joe L. Martinez Jr. , the US neurobiologist and psychologist, has died aged 76.  He contributed to the finding that endogenous opioids are involved in learning and memory.

Mario Molina, the Mexican chemical engineer, has died aged 77.  He studied at Mexico University as well as the University of California, Berkley, in the US.  In 1974, with Sherwood Rowland, he determined the threat of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to stratospheric ozone. As a result of this, in 1995, he and Sherwood, along with the Dutch chemist Paul Crutzon, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.  Their work, together with the British detection of ozone depletion over Antarctica (the ozone hole), led to the UN Montreal Protocol to reduce emissions of chlorine and bromine compounds. This was the first UN Protocol to receive universal ratification.  For much of his subsequent career, he split his time between the US and Mexico. With his wife he worked on the air quality issues of megacities (those with more than 10 million inhabitants). He also acted as a science adviser to several Mexican Presidents.  In 2014 he helped lead a public science communication campaign on climate change and also advised three Popes on the need to keep temperatures below 2 °C above pre-industrial.  In 2020, in Mexico up to his death, he was vocal on the need to wear masks to stop the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Gianni Montanari, the Italian translator and editor, has died aged 71.  He was an editor of the Italcon Award-winning, monthly Italian SF (book) magazine Urania and founded the juried Urania Award in 1989.

Jaroslav Mostecký, the Czech SF author and Karl Capek Prize-winner, has died aged 57.

Dennis O’Neil, the US author, has died aged 81.  whose first novel was The Bite of Monsters (1971) and who wrote various Batman novelisations and scripted such Marvel titles as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil.

Keith Newstead, the British automata builder, has died aged 64. His artistic mechanical devices that were built to look like human or animal figures and gave the illusion of acting as if under their own power. His work included Gormenghast figures.

Ernie F. Orsatti, the US stuntman and stunt co-ordinator, has died aged 80.  His films include: The Swarm (1978), The Entity (1982), Phantasm II (1988), Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996) and Doctor Dolittle (1998).

David Prowse MBE, the 6' 6" British body builder turned actor, has died of CoVID-19 aged 85.  He won the British Heavyweight Championship three times before turning to acting. He garnered his MBE for portraying the Green Cross Code Man, the superhero of the 1970s and '80s whose advice helped children safely cross the road. Following being spotted playing a bodyguard in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange by George Lucas, he was body cast for the role of super-villain Darth Vader in the first Star Wars trilogy. Due to Prowse's Bristolian accent Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones.  Prowse also played a Minotaur in Doctor Who and appeared in Monty Python's Jabberwocky.

James Randi, the Canadian illusionist and sceptic, has died aged 92.  As a magician in his youth he literally ran away to join the circus as a mind reader. However he became renowned in challenging psychics and promulgators of superstitions as being fraudsters. His targets famously included Uri Geller whose abilities Randi duplicated.  For those into science and science fiction, Randi's passing is a particularly greater loss for he also worked with scientists and SF authors.  Most famously, Randi debunked French immunologist Jacques Beneviste's claims that water has a memory of what had been dissolved in it (this is the supposed basis for homeopathy) working with the journal Nature editor John Maddox.  Beneviste's experiment has to date not been independently replicated.  In 1976 James Randi joined with mathematician Martin Gardener, astrophysicist Carl Sagan and chemist and SF author Isaac Asimov to found the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. This still survives today in the form of the magazine Skeptical Inquirer.

Barbara Shelley, the British actress, has died aged 88.  She starred in numerous Hammer fantastic films including: The Gorgon, Dracula Prince of Darkeness and Rasputin: The Mad Monk. Her passing is all the more tragic as she recently recovered from CoVID-19.

Guy N. Smith, the British author, has died aged 81. He mainly wrote horror.

Bo Stenfors, the Swedish fan and author, has died aged 92.  He was active since Swedish fandom's early days and he co-founded the Stockholm Fantasy & Science Fiction society. He went on to become an author.

Richard Trim OBE, the British aerospace and electrical engineer, has died aged 88.  He is best known – following the first civilian air accident in the US that killed over a hundred – for developing the international system of secondary radar for air traffic control. (Primary radar just shows the radar reflection of an aircraft. Secondary radar has the aircraft detect the radar signal and broadcast back identification and height.)  He also developed automatic landing systems to aid pilots in bad weather.  For the military, he developed anti-aircraft systems.  Among his many other achievements was his providing a valve amplifier system for the rock band Stone Roses' second album.  Meanwhile, residents near some rail stations (the first being some of London's DLR stations) can be thankful for his 'smart sound' public announcement system that used many smaller speakers across platforms rather than one large one, that also sensed whether people were on the platform and also picked up the background noise level so that the volume automatically adjusted so the announcement could be heard but was not too loud.

Richard C. West , the US Tolkien scholar, has died aged 76.  He helped found Tolkien and Fantasy Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966, and also founded a Tolkien book discussion group which met continuously for more than fifty years. He edited Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (Kent State, 1970), co-winner of the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies (1976).

Carl-Henning Wijkmark, the Swedish author, has died aged 85.  His works include Den Svarta Vaggen [The Black Wall, 2002] and Vi Ses Igen i Nasta Drom [See You Again in the Next Dream, 2013].

Flossie Wong-Staal, the Chinese-American virologist and molecular biologist, has died aged 73.  In 1985, she was the first to clone HIV and determine the function of its genes, which was a major step in proving that HIV is the cause of AIDS.  In 1994, she became chairman of University of California, San Diego's newly created Center for AIDS Research.  She later moved to work on hepatitis C and, with her husband, helped create therapeutics.

Chuck Yeager, the US air force test pilot, has died aged 97.  He was a WWII fighter ace. After the war, in 1947 he flew the Bell X-1 rocket plane (which he nicknamed 'Glamorous Glennis' after his wife) past the sound barrier.  He also pushed the X-15 to nearly 1,000 mph. Many of his fellow test pilots went on to join NASA's Mercury and Gemini space missions. This became the subject of the film The Right Stuff (1983).


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 2021

End Bits & Thanks



Well, that is 2020 done and dusted.  2020 was..:-

          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

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 (back right)
and Jonathan Cowie (2nd from back right).
Then front left Simon Geikie & Elaine Sparkes.
Right from the mid-back: Laurentiu Demetrovivi, Dan Heidel and (front right) 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 20th anniversary of the first astronauts to the International Space Station.

          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 80th anniversary of: the Tom and Jerry.

          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]
As well as a century since the Serbian mathematician, Milutin Milanković (Milankovitch) published his book Mathematical Theory of Thermal Phenomena Caused by Solar Radiation that explained the timing of ice-age glacials and interglacials.

          The 200th anniversary of: the founding of the Royal Astronomical Society.


And now we are firmly into 2021 and a number of other anniversaries.  2021 will be..:-

          the 20th anniversary of the following:-
                    2001 the year in which the iconic film 2001: A Space Odyssey was set.

                    the publication of:-
                    American Gods by Neil Gaiman
                    The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
                    Passage by Connie Willis.

                    the general release of Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring.

                    the selling, hence saving, of 2000AD by IPC to Rebellion.

                    the death of Alan Fennell (who arguably did the most to unify the worlds of Gerry Anderson's puppet series) and the SF grandmaster author Poul Anderson

          the 30th anniversary of the following:-
                    the publication of
                    Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
                    Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

                    the general release of:-
                    Terminator 2

          the 40th anniversary of the following:-
                    the publication of
                    Hello America by J. G. Ballard
                    Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh
                    The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May
                    and the graphic novel V for Vendetta.

                    the general release of:-
                    Escape from New York
                    Raiders of the Lost Ark
                    Time Bandits
                    Mad Max 2
                    and Outland.

          the 50th anniversary of the following:-
                    the publication of The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
                    The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem
                    and A Maze of Death by Phlip K. Dick.

                    the general release of:-
                    The Abominable Dr Phibes
                    A Clockwork Orange
                    Silent Running
                    and The Andromeda Strain.

          the 90th anniversary of the birth of Star Trek's William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock).

          the 95th anniversary of Winne the Pooh.

          the 100th anniversary of the following:-
                    the birth of:-
                    James Blish
                    Stanislaw Lem
                    Gene Roddenberry

                    the publication of Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw.



More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2021 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, internet access help and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible, Tracy Cowling, Fancylopaedia, Pat Fernside, File 770, Julie Perry, the SF Encyclopaedia, 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 (2020) also saw articles and convention reports from: Mark Bilsborough, Jacqueline Brasfield et al., Eric Choi, Jonathan Cowie, Julie E. Czerneda , Dominic Dulley, Pete Gilligan, Ian Hunter, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, Ian Moss, Caroline Mullan  and  Peter Tyers.  Stand-alone book reviews over the year were provided by: David Allkins, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, Karen Fishwick, Luke Geikie, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Sebastian Phillips, Jane O'Reilly, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers, Peter Wyndham and Peter Young.  'Futures stories' in 2020 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories by: Timothy J. Gawne, Kurt Pankau and John Wiswell.  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 2021 period – needs to be in before 15th March 2021. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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

Note: While we hope to have our edition for the summer up mid-April 2021, the seasonal news page may have to be shorter due to CoVID-19 lockdown here in Britain.  Conversely, if it looks like lockdown will end in April we might delay the summer edition by a few weeks to gather news for a full edition.

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Very many thanks. Meanwhile feel free to browse the rest of the site; key links at the bottom, below.

Want to be kept abreast of when we have something new?
Well, we have a regular schedule but in addition if you are on Twitter we do give some early news of posting @SF2Concat
but no chat just posting alerts so this may not be for you.
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