Science Fiction News
& Recent Science Review for the
Spring 2022

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

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

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

Spring 2022

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Sense more or less prevailed at this year's Hugo Awards in the 'Best Related Work' category. You may recall our editorial last time on the abuse dished out to a well-known author and Worldcon supporter by some in our community including an instance, with an expletive being used against the said author in its title, actually being nominated for a Hugo this year in the 'Best Related World' category. This category is not one of the principal Hugo categories (less than 500 nominate works) and so it is not included in our summary report on the Hugos below (but you can see all the Hugo category wins over at www.thehugoawards.org).  However sense of a sort did prevail in that it did not win a Hugo coming in at fourth place out of six: ideally it should have come last below 'No Award'. 'The 'No Award' option voters have is actually rarely used, but even so in this case 358 preferred 'No Award' to 753 who preferred the offending work.  The another argument against this nomination was that in terms of effort, it simply was not worthy of a 'science fiction achievement' award.  The author Pat Cadigan noted on Facebook that she was: "also relieved that the tirade against [author's name redacted] did not win the Hugo. I am still baffled as to how a screed like that could have been nominated in a category that has included complex, book-length works of biography, scholarship, art, and other far more worthy examples of associated work. // I don’t care what you think of [author's name redacted]. I don’t care if you think the author was right. That’s not my point. A blog entry or single article is not in any way equivalent to the winner, which is a translation of Beowulf by Maria Dhavana Headley. Translating requires a lot more care, actual knowledge, and hard work than merely venting your spleen. // That would-be polemic was the Donald Trump of Hugo nominations: unworthy."

The Hugo Awards for 2022 and 2023, as well as 2024, are likely to be rather different.  This stems from the recent China win of the 2023 Worldcon site selection ballot at this year's Worldcon business meeting.  The China win was secured by nearly two thousand or so non-attending 2021 Worldcon supporting members from China. These Chinese supporting members have the right to nominate works for the 2022 Hugos and there could be consequences (see coverage later on below) and a similar impact in 2023, and even for the 2024 Worldcon Hugos (as 2023 Worldcon members have the right to nominate works for the 2024 Worldcon Hugos. The 2023 Worldcon in Chengdu will obviously have a vast majority of its members being Chinese and if they exercise their right to nominate they could nominate entirely Chinese work short-lists in some Hugo categories.  These recent works will unlikely to have yet been translated into English and so be unreadable to members of the traditional Anglophone Worldcon community unless they are conversant with written Mandarin.  Ditto Chinese film and TV unless sub-titled.  This Anglophone/non-Anglophone schism will need careful reconciliation if the Hugos are to remain relevant to the traditional Anglophone Worldcon community yet be open to the increasing international diversification of the Hugos.
          This observation is arguably best made in a European fanzine such as SF² Concatenation as we are not US-based. (Most Worldcon are held in the US, though fewer in recent years, and the largest contingent of non-US hosting Worldcons outside of the host nation are US attendees.) As the Hugoclub blog points out, almost 85% of all Hugo short-listed fiction, and almost 85% of all Hugo-winning fiction, was written by U.S.-born authors (a statistic that is even more revealing when one realises that the calculation counts Isaac Asimov, Algis Budrys, and Manly Wade Wellman as not being U.S.-born.)  Which means that for some of us this side of the Black Atlantic, it is the Hugo long-list (announced following the awards ceremony) that is arguably of greater interest. Indeed, non-Anglophone European SF is very much simply overlooked by the Hugos.  Of course, Anglophone Hugo voters cannot be expected to vote for something not published in English which they cannot read (the minority of multi-lingual readers excepted).  Maybe, one way forward (there are other options) would be a two-pronged reform.  First, for the awards to be openly for English language SF (including translations of foreign works for their first year of English translation – The Three Body Problem, for example, provides a precedent).  Second, for those years when the Worldcon is not held in the US or an English speaking nation, for key categories (say, Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation plus perhaps a couple of others) to have additional counterparts with nominations for works of SF achievement from the host nation in its own language.  Yes, such a move would mean more work for the Hugo administrators in those years, but it would mean a lot for the Worldcon host nation in those years it was not held in an English-speaking nation.
          As said, this is not the only option: there is much to discuss. What is, though, clear is that this issue – given the increasing frequency the Worldcon is held outside of the USA and non-English-speaking nations – is a nettle we have to grasp and sooner, not later.
          Finally, the above is quite distinct from other concerns arising out of the Chengdu, China, Worldcon site-selection win.  Most relate to the behaviour of its leaders and resulting politico-legal issues. The least of these is that had some recent past Hugo acceptance speeches (Jeanette's 2020 for example), been made in China, they would have resulted in the Hugo winner's arrest.  It is therefore important that when we have our Hugo Awards discussions that we do not conflate such issues with others that deserve separate attention.

 

STAFF STUFF

After one and a half decades of reviewing the Festival of Fantastic Films, Darrell Buxton is stepping down. The Fest is one of the smallest and friendliest conventions in Britain's speculative fiction diary. It was founded by Harry Nadler along with Tony Edwards and the assistance of Gil Lane-Young as a broad-church Fest covering the gambit of fantastic films: SF, fantasy and horror both vintage and recent art-house film. The past few years, following Harry's passing, the Fest had become more vintage horror focussed. However there has now been a change of management with Kate Edwards (Tony's daughter) taking over, so it may be that the Fest will return to having a broader Fantastic Film appeal. As Darrell is now also assisting on the film programme and with Fest GoH interviewing, he (understandably) feels he cannot provide impartial con reports for us and so is standing down. We wish him every success as a conrunner.
          Meanwhile, edited by Darrell, the paperback edition of the sixth and seventh British Horror Films' Horror Stories has just come out at £10.99 available from Lulu.com.
          Taking over from Darrell in reviewing future Festival of Fantastic Films is Ian Taylor. We look forward to his reports.

Wyldblood magazine sees completion of its first year's publication with issue 6 from one of our book reviewers, Mark Bilsborough.  Wyldblood is an SF/F short story magazine (with a few reviews) that accompanies the publishing imprint from www.wyldblood/magazine. Six issues is only £35/US$49 a year for print copies or £15/US$21 digital. (Or, if you want a single issue sampler, from Amazon Worldwide £2.99 / US$3.99 digital.) epub/mobi/pdf. Worlth checking out.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 32 (1) Spring 2022) we have stand-alone items on:-
          Dune: the novel and films compared – Mark Yon
          The world of the Trigan Empire – Jonathan Cowie
          JUICE 2022 - Jupiter and Icy Moons Explorer – Ian Moss
          Whither Worldcons: Just where are they heading? – Peter Tyers
          My Top Ten Scientists – Timothy Gawne (neuroscientist & SF author)
          31st Festival of Fantastic Films 2021 - Great Britain – Darrel Buxton
          British Fantasycon 2021 – Ian Hunter
          2021 SF Film Top Ten Chart and Other Worthies
          (All archived annual film charts are indexed here)
          SF Convention Listing & Film Diary with links to con sites and film trailers

          Plus over forty (40!) SF/F/H standalone fiction book and non-fiction SF and popular science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 35th 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 2022

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

 

Best SF/F books of 2021? 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 2021:-
          The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (fantasy)
          Day Zero by Robert Cargill (apocalyptic SF)
          A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (soft SF)
          Radio Life by Derek B. Miller (post apocalyptic SF)
          Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North (post apocalyptic SF)
          We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker (hard SF)
          Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (wide-screen space opera)
          Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (hard-ish space opera)
Last year's Best SF/F novels here.  (Two last year were short-listed for a Philip K. Dick Award. Three were shortlisted for a British SF Association (BSFA) Award. One was short-listed for a Hugo and another was on the Hugo long-list (top 16 nominated works. Details here.)

Best SF/F films and long forms of 2021? So if you are looking for something to watch then why not check out these Science Fiction and Fantasy films and long-forms of 2021. Possibilities alphabetically include:-
          Boss Level (Trailer here)
          Dune (Trailer here)
          Finch (Trailer here)
          Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Trailer here)
          The Matrix Resurrections (Trailer here)
          No Time To Die (Trailer here)
          Oxygen (Trailer here)
          Spiderman: No Way Home (Trailer here)
Last year's Best SF/F films here.  (Last year two were short-listed by the World Horror Association's Stoker Award in the screenplay category: one went on to win. One was also short-listed for a British Fantasy Award. One was short-listed for a Hugo and two for a Dragon Award. Two others were also on the Hugo long-list (top 16 nominated films). See here, scrolling down a bit.)

The 2021 Hugo Awards were announced at this year's DisConIII Worldcon.  Once again we are not listing all the results but only those categories for which a reasonable number of nomination votes. So, again as per last year, we are listing only those categories that have over 500 nomination votes. Any category having less than 500 nominated votes becomes, as SF encyclopaedist Peter Nicholls put it, more of a popularity contest among Worldcon regulars than a principal category of interest to the broader SF community beyond the Worldcon. Other than 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form' category (which saw less than 500 nomination votes for nominees) all the categories were the same as those were reported on last year.
          The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-
          Best Novel: Network Effect by Martha Wells
          Best Novella: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
          Best Short Story: 'Little Free Library ' by Naomi Kritzer.
          Best (Book) Series: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: The Old Guard (trailer here)
          Other category (win information) (those categories with less than 500 nominating the works) can be found at thehugoawards.orgLast year's principal category Hugo winners here.

The British Fantasy Society Awards have been presented.  The winners were:-
          Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award): Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
          Best Novella: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
          Best Short: 'Infinite Tea in the Demara Café' by Ida Keogh
          Best Anthology: Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora edited by Zelda Knight & Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
          Best Artist: Daniele Serra
          Best Collection: The Watcher in the Woods by Charlotte Bond
          Best Film/Television Production: The Boys 'What I Know'
          Best Audio: The Magnus Archives
          Best Independent Press: Luna Press Publishing
          Best Magazine/Periodical: Strange Horizons
          Best Graphic Novel: DIE Vol. 2: Split the Party by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans
          Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds Award): Kathleen Jennings for Flyaway
          Best Non-Fiction: Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre by Alison Peirse (editor)
          The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award): Alasdair Stuart<
Note A second year in a row win for the Die graphic novel. Last year's here.

The 2022 Clarke (book) Award has been presented.  The winner was The Animals in That Country by debut author Laura Jean McKay.  Distinct from the other Clarke (space) Awards, the Clarke Award is a juried award for the best SF book published in Britain. This year there was no ceremony and, no longer being sent a press release, we almost missed it, but it was covered in some depth on BBC Radio 4's Front Row: something of a first.

Canada's Prix Aurora Awards have been announced at this year's Can-Con. The Prix Aurora Awards are voted on by members of Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) and presented at Can-Con.  The principal category winners were:-
          Best Novel: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
          Best Juvenile Fiction Novel: Flights of Marigold by Susan Forest
          Novelette/Novella: 'Tool Use by the Humans of Danzhai County' by Derek Kunsken
          Best Short Fiction: 'All Cats Go to Valhalla' by Chadwick Ginther
          Best Visual Presentation: The Umbrella Academy

The 2021 World Fantasy Awards have been announced.  The winners were:-
          Novel: Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson
          Novella: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
          Short Fiction: 'Glass Bottle Dancer' by Celeste Rita Baker
          Anthology: The Big Book of Modern Fantasy edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
          Collection: Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoka Matsuda
          Artist: Rovina Cai
          Special Award – Professional: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas for The Dark Fantastic
          Special Award – Non-professional: Brian Attebery for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
          Lifetime Achievement: Megan Lindholm & Howard Waldrop
          +++ For last year's winners see here.

The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction has been created. It is being run by the Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust and will come with a US$25,000 (£18,500) cash prize. It will go a writer for a single book-length work of imaginative fiction. The Trust’s press release says “the award is intended to recognize those writers she spoke of in her 2014 National Book Awards speech—realists of a larger reality, who can imagine real grounds for hope and see alternatives to how we live now.” The first prize will be awarded on October 21, 2022. October 21st was Ursula K. Le Guin’s birthday. The Prize will be given to a writer whose work reflects the concepts and ideas that were central to Ursula’s own work, including but certainly not limited to: hope, equity, and freedom; non-violence and alternatives to conflict; and a holistic view of humanity’s place in the natural world.  To be eligible for the 2022 Prize, a book must also be: A book-length work of imaginative fiction written by a single author;  Published in the U.S. in English or in translation to English. (In the case of a translated work winning the Prize, the cash prize will be equally divided between author and translator.); A writer may receive the Prize only once.

Superman comic sold for record amount. A rare copy of a Superman #1 comic book that sold for a dime in 1939 was auctioned for US$2.6 million (£1.97) in an auction in the US. Superman comics have previously gone for six or seven figures.

The Hulk issue no. 1 goes for US$490,000 (£360,000).  It was published in 1962 and was bought by a private collector for a record amount.

 

Other SF news includes:-

The SF Encyclopaedia leaves 10 years of development with Gollancz/Orion to a new home, new look and new features.  The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (SFE) came out in 1979 to promptly win a Hugo. The second edition came out in 1993 and this paper version was subsequently expanded as a CD-ROM in 1995. This last was a sign that the encyclopaedia had sadly outgrown paper. The third edition launched by Gollancz in 2011 as an online incarnation and, up to now, Gollancz/Orion have sponsored the site and seen it double in size (more history detail here).  The SFE is now jointly published by its holding company SFE Ltd, based in London, and Ansible Editions, based in Reading, Berkshire. The announcement of a Fourth Edition recognises not only this internal change but also the introduction of several improvements not previously possible for us. The most obvious is the addition of foregrounded graphic content, with a relevant cover image (if one exists in the SFE Gallery) displayed in every entry. Improvements, some more visible than others, have been made to site navigation. Individual pages are – they hope – more intuitive to use. The SFE will continue to evolve along these lines. Importantly, it still has the same visual look as it did during its Gollancz/Orion decade.
          Other improvements include: a security certificate (the https thing);  improved searching;  and updated Encyclopaedia of Fantasy – from the 1997 paper edition – entries.
          The SF Encyclopaedia is a fantastic resource (we at SF² Concatenation use it all the time: hence the bottom of page credit).  You may want to list the site as one of your favourites. Its URL is www.sf-encyclopedia.com.

A plea for hybrid virtual-physical events appears in Nature: could this apply to SF conventions too?  The CoVID-19 pandemic has forced researchers to embrace online science conferences which remove some of the barriers that disproportionately affect marginalised groups. These include the cost of registration, transport and accommodation, the logistics of long-distance travel, and discriminatory visa applications….
          …The organisers of the virtual useR! 2021 statistical-computing conference team used an online format to put diversity and inclusiveness at its heart. This helped to reduce the cost of registration fees and led to a 75% increase in registrations, reaching a wider audience that rose from 47 to 135 countries.
          …Conference organisers are urged to continue running their events online, even when the pandemic subsides. They could also use hybrid formats that offer the benefits of inclusivity alongside in-person interactions. The online component should not be a consolation prize for those unable to attend in person, but a genuine conference experience.
          This plea reflects one made in SF² Concatenation at the beginning of the year.

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is organising a 'Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop'.  Jeanne Cavelos, director of Odyssey, said, "Have you ever wished that you could attend your own private writing workshop that would teach you exactly what you need to know, at the right pace for you, and respond to your questions, problems, and needs in extensive one-on-one sessions? That's what Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop is." Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop will combine the renowned Odyssey lectures with expert feedback and deep mentoring in an experience customized for each student. The intensive, advanced Odyssey curriculum will be broken into modules on different topics, such as characterization, plot/structure, and setting/world-building. To complete a module, a student will watch the lecture recordings; do readings, journal entries, and critiques; work with Jeanne to create and complete an individualized assignment; and write a story or novel excerpt. Penetrating, detailed feedback by Jeanne and guest critiquers (sic Ed.: Their word.) will be provided. Students can choose how long they want to complete 'Your Personal Odyssey'. Those who want to fit their learning into six weeks can apply for the first session, starting 6th June 2022. The application deadline for all three sessions is 1st APRIL 2022. Those wanting early action on their application should apply by 31st JANUARY 2022. The tuition, US$2,450 (very roughly £1,850), includes a textbook and several physical mailings. Six scholarships are available. Further details from www.odysseyworkshop.org.

Odyssey now offer writers' workshops online and by module.  In addition to modules, participants can choose how long they wish their course last. The shortest is a six-week period starting 6th June (2022). The second lasts three months starting 8th August and the third lasts six month, starts 14th November. Details at www.odysseyworkshop.org. The application deadline for all three sessions is 1st APRIL (2022). Those wanting early action on their application should apply by 31st JANUARY. Twelve writers total will be accepted in all three sessions, four per session, to ensure that each writer receives appropriate in-depth attention.

Patrick Rothfuss Partners with Grim Oak Press to launch Underthing Press. Grim Oak Press, the small press that published the award-winning anthology Unfettered, is partnering with #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kingkiller Chronicle Patrick Rothfuss to create the new imprint, Underthing Press. Its first project will be the Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger by Ursula Vernon. There will be a crowdfunding campaign for Digger: The Complete Collection launching 2nd February, 2022.

The 2021 Worldcon, Discon III has been held in Washington, USA. About 2,000 physically attended the convention which meant that for the first time in years it could be held in a hotel rather than a conference centre. Others attended virtually and other still had registered for voting rights and publications but were absent. After CoVID-19 hit CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon, this was something of a return to normality albeit with a hybrid on-line event as something of a way forward.  The event had a CoVID policy of demonstrating that attendees were double-vaccinated and everyone wore facemasks except while eating or drinking, and here programme participants were given transparent masks to enable lip-reading.  Excluding coffee meets (Kaffeeklatsches) with personalities and signings, there were about a dozen parallel programme streams during the day.
          The registration queue was long and some found themselves waiting the better part of an hour to register. In fairness to Discon III, due to CoVID concerns, there were fewer of the Worldcon regulars in attendance than usual and so the number of volunteers on the registration desk were down.
          Programme changes. Some Worldcons are unable to stick to their originally published programme schedule. Washington DC's DisCon III was not one of those (huge cheers): though it did see many participant changes. Its second newsletter listed about 25 changes, some subsequent newsletters even more. Fortunately, nearly all of these were panel participant changes and not alterations to the programme item timing or venue.

The 2021 Worldcon's science programme was one of the smallest in the past decade of Worldcons. As revealed by the programme listed in five, daily programme press releases, with just a score of science programme items to attend this was one of the least science programmed Worldcons in recent years. It would be unfair to compare it with the Loncon 3 (London) 2014 Worldcon programme that saw well over a hundred science programme items (European Worldcons the past decade have a far better science programme compared to their US counterparts if, that is, you can get in to see them) but most years see more than double the science Discord III afforded.  For the scientist into SF or the SF fan into science, the December 2021 event provided the leanest pickings. Excluding the 2015 Spokane, Washington Worldcon's science programme for something so lean. That the two most sparsely science programmed Worldcons the past decade were both held in Washington, one wonders what that city's SF enthusiasts have against the disciplines that drive the fiction of which they are fans?  The charitable take on this is that as Discon III was smaller (due to CoVID-19) so too was the science programme (and maybe potential scientist participants were more CoVID wary and so stayed away?).  The less charitable take is that as, say, the music programme and (non-science) 'academic' tracks each had far more people organising them, than the just three charged with pulling together a science programme, so the science track was fated to be weak.  Irrespectively, the diversity of science covered at the 2021 Worldcon was very markedly down.  As for the programme's topics, the science programme consisted of the usual space related items: 'Assistive Technologies';  'Neural Networks and AI';  'How NASA and Other Space Agencies Use Art';  'International Space Programmes';  'Low-Cost Space Launches';  and  'The James Webb Space Telescope';  'Planetary Defence at NASA';  'Telescopes and Radio Waves'…  'Telescopes and Exoplanets'.  And the rest of science:  'Changing Genes: Can We, Should We?';  'Balancing Story and Scientific Authenticity';  'Dinosaurs and Genomes';  'The Science of Graphene';  'Future Meat';  'Are We Keeping Our Homes Too Clean?';  'Quantum Computing';  'The Role of New Technology in Preserving History';  'Climate Change';  'Scientific Discoveries'; and  'Entrepreneurship, Quantum';  Hopefully,the science programme at the 2021 Worldcon was something of a blip and it will be back to business as usual 2022 Worldcon later this year.  Equally hopefully, should Washington ever decide to again host a Worldcon, its organisers will make a firm point of providing a much better science programme to make up for past failings!

The 2021 Worldcon, Discon III in Washington DC, has held its business meetings. The Worldcon is officially held under the auspices of the World SF Society (WSFS) whose members comprise the attendees of the convention while the convention itself is run by a team of volunteer fans largely from the area of the venue. This year's business meting principally addressed:-
          A Young Adult Awards category. There was an overwhelming vote to retain the trial awards category of the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. This is the category for young adult SF or what the trade used to call juvenile SF. It is clearly a very popular category. Please note that while this will be administered alongside the Hugos, it itself is not a Hugo as works eligible for this category are also eligible for some Hugo categories.
          The 'Best Series' of novels. This too had been trialled for a couple of years. The WSFS business meeting's vote narrowly decreed for it to be retained as a Hugo category. This means that series of novels are eligible if a book in that series is published the preceding year.
          Site selection ballot controversy. A guidance motion (rightly – as the constitution is clear albeit, arguably, flawed – but wrongly as reportedly the Chinese version of the ballot was poorly translated) passed but not without controversy on the need for Worldcon site selection voters to provide name, membership number, address and signature. The motion passed 47-30. This guidance clarification, it transpired, was due to the need by those administering the site selection ballot count to deal with a large number of ballots from China that did not have the full details (e-mail and address) of the persons casting the ballots. Note: this was 'guidance' and was not binding. However, our understanding is that around a thousand ballots without a postal address or e-mail had been allowed due to imprecise translation of the Chinese version of the ballot papers… All this meant that Chengdu won (see below).  Apparently there was some fallout as reportedly those associated with the principal rival bid (Winnipeg, Canada) were behind bringing this concern to the business meeting and that this was partisan.
          One episode per series in the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form Hugo. This motion, very sadly, lost.  At the moment it is possible to nominate a number of episodes of the same series. This means that instead of a few, just one or two series can end up being on the final Hugo ballot. This has happened a number of times in the past. Arguably, people should be able to vote for  i) a series and  ii) an episode. The various series with the most nominations would end up on the shortlist ballot and the most episodes nominated for the respective series ends up accompanying the series on the ballot.nbsp; Simples.  The result would be more diversity of series on the ballot. But for some unfathomable reason the die-hard Hugo lobby are not open to this change.  Much appreciation to the group of people who have been lobbying for this change.  Don't give up (besides it looks like G. R. R. Martin has got your back).
          Data protection. A proposal was passed for a rule requiring that Worldcons only  share the contact details of their members with the following Worldcon if  the member had consented to the data sharing.  This brings the Worldcon rules more (but not completely) in line with British and European data protection regulations (GDPR): something we pointed out over three years ago the SF community needs to do. (If you are involved with con-running you do need to check the afore link out very carefully: Discon III (the 2021 Worldcon) was not GDPR compliant as, among a number of things, it had no identifiable designated Data Protection Officer/Manager.)  ++++ It will be interesting to see how Chengdu handles GDPR as the Chengdu team did not seem to be aware of the concept of data protection at SMOFcon a couple of years back.

The 2022 British Eastercon is Reclamation. Reclamation will be held in the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre Heathrow (formerly The Park Inn), London, 15th-18th April (2022). It's first Progress Report (PR) came out in November (2021). It solicited ideas from registrants for the programme and this includes ideas needed for the convention's virtual element.  Also announced is a bursary scheme for the low waged. This is in addition to an in excess of 40% discount on the convention's registration for those on a low income. The bursary is to meet costs other than registration. The PR does not reveal how many are registered, but given that past, fairly recent London-venued Eastercons have seen attendance of around 2,000, and given the CoVID pandemic, it is unlikely that attendance this year will be that high.

Eastercon 2023 has a bid. It is early days yet but we know it is being run by old, experienced hands. Called 'Conversation', we also understand it will have both physical and virtual components. Let's hope the latter includes some YouTube.

The 2022 Worldcon is Chicon. As per our previous (CoVID) muted coverage, Chicon will be held in Chicago, US. It's first Progress Report (PR) came out in November (2021). In it Chicon announced its own bursary scheme, the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF). It will help the following attend: Non-white fans or programme participants;  LGBTQIA+ fans or programme participants and  local Chicago area fans of limited means.  The PR also has two spotlight features on two of its guests: Charles de Lint and Erle Korshak.  Finally, the PR reveals that there are just 1,048 Attending registrants, plus 394 Supporting. Given that there is under a year to go before the event, this is very low. There is no doubt that this is likely to be a small Worldcon and that this is due to the CoVID pandemic. There could be a late surge, but it is doubtful. The very sensible policy of having to wear face masks is a put off: even for the most willing, the prospect of five days of largely having to wear a mask is not a particularly welcome prospect. Then for overseas visitors there is always the gamble of another lockdown especially if there is a new variant: remember, the majority of the world is unvaccinated. Only careful management of the convention's finances is likely to see it through. We, and they, can but trust for the best.
          Other than its PR1, the Chicon's Hugos are likely to see very different nominations short-listed.  This will be a direct consequence of the Chengdu 2023 site-selection vote win which was determined by a nearly two thousand non-attending 2021 Worldcon supporting members from China. Because they were Supporting members of this year's Worldcon, Discon III they have the right to nominate works for the 2022 Worldcon Hugos. Given that 1,093 nominated for the 'Best Novel' Hugo category (the most popular of Hugo categories), if these two thousand or so Chinese fans exercise their right to nominate then the 2022 Hugos could be very different to any to date in Worldcon history. It could well be that most, or even all, short-listed works in some categories could be Chinese works. The likelihood is that they will only be in Chinese and so the usual free PDF copies of these works made available to Hugo voters will be illegible to non-Chinese Worldcon members and voters and so the non-Chinese potential Hugo voters will simply not participate. Further, because 2021 Chinese works are unlikely to have yet been translated, any such Chinese wins will be meaningless to those of the broader Worldcon community (those who only attend the Worldcon once every two or three years) outside of China (unless they can read Mandarin, or speak it for the film and TV categories).  This Anglophone/Non-Anglophone schism will need to be carefully addressed if the Hugos are to remain relevant to the current, extant Worldcon community and yet open to greater international diversification of the Awards. (See also the editorial discussion earlier.)

The Memphis 2023 Worldcon bid folded prior to this year's Worldcon. (This is now old news as the site selection vote for 2023 has already taken place at this year's Worldcon.) With just two years to go Memphis would have been an option for this year's (2021) Worldcon site selection ballot. The reason for the fold was put down to the uncertainties posed by the CoVID pandemic.  This left Winnipeg, Canada, and Chengdu, China, as the only site-selection bids extant prior to the recent Worldcon held in December (2021) for that 2023. (See the next item for the site selection outcome.)

The site selection vote for the 2023 Worldcon has taken place – Chengdu (China) won beating Winnipeg (Canada)! The site selection ballot took place at the recent 2021 Worldcon.  Now, there has been much controversy behind this bid. Only a small part of this is the very limited Worldcon experience the Chinese team bidders have; the biggest concerns relate to the behaviour of the Chinese state both domestically and abroad including human rights abuse, ignoring international treaties and law.  Sensing this, is possibly the reason that the China bid team did not so much campaign and lobby the existing Worldcon community, but encouraged local Chinese fans to support-register for DisCon III so as to get the right to vote.  As we have previously covered (China's Science Fiction World, SF in China and SF, Globalization, and the People's Republic of China), China has a thriving SF scene.  However, this mobilising of its own SF community has led some to say that the Worldcon had been hijacked.  Alas, we do not have the statistics as to the percentage of voters who were non-Chinese based who voted for Chengdu and compare this with the percentage of non-Canadian based voters who supported Winnipeg. These metrics would have told us which bid had greater international support.  Such a metric could, in future years, be easily be gathered in an anonymised spreadsheet.  (Having lived through the Cold War, Eurocons get around gaming of bids by having what is effectively a council of only up to two representatives from each country represented at its business meeting to vote on site-selection bids: it is less democratic but potentially more internationally fair. However, this would not work for the much larger Worldcon community.)  Irrespective of this, there is the distinct possibility of en masse domestic voting happening again and we might even see China hosting the Worldcon regularly.
          The vote breakdown was:-
                              Chengdu – 2,006 votes (including 1,591 missing voters' addresses)
                              Winnipeg – 807
                              Memphis (withdrawn) – 7
                              None of the above – 6
                              Free Hong Kong – 3
          If  this Chengdu win genuinely springs from China's SF community then it deserves to be celebrated: a Worldcon in China once every ten or twelve years would add to the diversity of Worldcons.  Conversely, if this is a state-supported, soft-power play then it may prove a lot harder to correct than the Sad Puppies debacle over half a decade ago and – given the behaviour of the Chinese state so far this century on a number of fronts – be very controversial… Already on YouTube there are videos supporting the Chengdu Worldcon (including introducing Chengdu) and those against (including Boycott the Chengdu Worldcon).  It can only be hoped that any debate will be level-headed and not descend into acrimony; though here SF fandom does not exactly have a good track record.  (NB. Most of you don't need to be told this, but alas some do.  Please note we are here only providing two ends of a likely spectrum of views without providing support to either. This is mentioned in case anyone wants to claim we hold one view or another, or even recruit what they may consider our view to their cause. Additionally, each individual SF² Concatenation team member has their own different, and nuanced, perspective.)  +++ See also the future Hugo editorial discussion earlier.

Glasgow, Great Britain, is still the sole bid for the 2024 Worldcon. This means that unless another (strong) bid is forthcoming it will win. However, 2024 is not that long after the SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 global pandemic onset. Given that now (the beginning of 2022) most of the World is still unvaccinated, it is uncertain as to how many will attend the 2024 Worldcon: it could be many or it could be a few. Given that European venued Worldcons the past decade (London (2014), Helsinki (2017), and Dublin (2019)) all saw substantive overcrowding problems, the uncertainty of likely numbers attending Glasgow puts them in a bit of a bind: do they budget for a large convention or a small one? Or can they scale the amount of venue booked as memberships accrue?  Decisions, decisions…

Dublin announces Worldcon bid. A bid has been mounted for Dublin in 2029.  Further to the previous item let's hope that from the off they demonstrate they have a viable policy to prevent overcrowding: Dublin in 2019 failed to learn from the Helsinki (2017) and even London (2014) over crowding.  For 2029, will it now learn from the overcrowding at its own 2019 event?

Texas announces Worldcon bid. A bid has been mounted for Texas in 2031. This builds on the Texas Lonestarcon Worldcon (2013).  Let's hope that some of our older members on the SF² Concatenation team are still around for this…

And finally….

Future SF Worldcon bids currently running  include for:-
2024
          - Glasgow, Great Britain in 2024
2025
          - Brisbane, Australia in 2025
          - Seattle, WA, USA in 2025
2026
          - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2026
          - Los Angeles in 2026, USA
          - Nice, France in 2026
2027
          - Tel Aviv in 2027, Israel
2029
          - Dublin in 2029, Republic of Ireland
2031
          - Texas in 2031, USA
The voting for the 2024 bid takes place at the 2022 Worldcon in August (2022).

Future SF Eurocon bids currently running  include for:-
          - Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2024)
          - Aland, Finland (2025)
          - Berlin, Germany (2026)
          - Zagreb, Croatia (2028)

 

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 2022

Film News

 

UK cinema recovery.  UK cinemas re-opened over the summer. By mid-September (when we posted last season's – autumn 2021 – news page) the weekly and weekend box office take was four times what it was in the CoVID year of 2020. UK cinema is recovering but importantly it has a way to go: the box office take was roughly half what it was during pre-pandemic times.

The Matrix Resurrections does better than fan expectations.  The Matrix Resurrections came out just before Christmas.  The first Matrix film came out to much fan approval and was in the UK box office top 10 for three months and heading it for three weeks.  It came top of our annual (then) video rental SF/F chart for 1999/2000: it was even short-listed for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo for 2000.  Matrix Reloaded though doing well was not as successful as the original and the final film, The Matrix Revolutions was, quite simply, a disappointment. So it was with a certain amount of equanimity that fantastic film buffs went to see it The Matrix Resurrections. If you have not seen it yet, it does deserve watching on the big screen: IMAX if you can.  You can see the trailer here.

Dune: Part Two gets go-ahead.  Now, while we knew that Dune would be in two parts, the second had not been green-lit. You may recall that the David Lynch Dune (1984) was not a box-office hit yet had high production costs. So you can understand the Warner Brother's caution with Denis (Villeneuve and Timothée Chalamet's 2021 offering. Yet it took US$40.1 million (£29.7m) in its US debut, the biggest Villeneuve’s had as well as the largest debut take of the year for Warner Bros.  By mid-October (2021), globally it had made US$223 million (£165m) and by December US$330 (£250). This compares with a reported production cost of US$165 (£122m) and a combined production and marketing cost of an estimated US$300m (£222).  In short, it more than covered its production costs but not its combined marketing and production cost. However, at this time it was still on general release and the DVD had yet to come out. This together with critics response meant that the studio felt fairly confident that the sequel would also be successful.  The filming ofDune: Part Two will commence in July (2022) and is currently slated for an October 2023 release.   You can see the Dune: Part One film's trailer here.

'I want to make Dune Messiah,' says director Denis Villeneuve.  Dennis (Blade Runner 2049) Villeneuve has now said a number of times that he wants to convey the full saga of Paul Atreides. "I always envisioned three movies," Villeneuve says. "It's not that I want to do a franchise, but this is Dune, and Dune is a huge story. In order to honour it, I think you would need at least three movies. That would be the dream. To follow Paul Atreides and his full arc would be nice."

'I want to make Rendezvous with Rama,' says director Denis Villeneuve.  Dennis (Blade Runner 2049) Villeneuve has now said he wants to adapt Arthur C. Clarke's novel Rendezvous with Rama. For those who haven't read this classic, the story, set in 2131, is about a group of human astronauts who must intercept an alien spacefaring vessel that is hurtling through the solar system. The astronauts prepare themselves for what they assume will be humanity’s first contact with alien intelligence.

Disney delays 2022 blockbuster releases. Disney have delayed the release of a number of films including: the latest Indiana Jones, the Black Panther sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the next Ant Man and the Wasp film. The delay, of course, is due to CoVID-19.

'The Broken Earth' trilogy of films to be scripted by Jemisin herself. We reported on the film trilogy's announcement last season. Now Deadline reports that author N. K. Jemisin herself is writing the script and Michael B.Jordan will co-produce the adaptation. The setting is a harsh futuristic Earth and a continent called the Stillness, which endures seasonal apocalyptic events that shake the world and its inhabitants. Against this backdrop, people called 'orogenes' are employed to control the elements, modifying temperatures and warding off earthquakes.

Exorcist franchise is getting a 're-boot'.  Universal has bought the rights to the Oscar-winning horror franchise.  The new films will see original star Ellen Burstyn reprise her Oscar-nominated role of Chris MacNeil alongside Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr as her father tracking her down when she is possessed.  The first film will be directed by David Gordon Green who directed the new Halloween trilogy.  However, rather than reboot or a remake, the new films are described as “a compelling continuation” of the 1973 original which made over £321 (US$440m) at the box office and won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

New Hellraiser reboot will see Pinhead gender swapped.  The reboot of the 1987 horror film was written by horror novelist Clive Barker and Clive is aboard the reboot as a producer. Jamie Clayton will play demonic creature Pinhead. The film will pay homage to the original but then take it to new places in a screen-story by David S. Goyer and screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. David (The Ritual) Bruckner is directing.

Teen Wolf to get a reboot.  The 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox had a follow-up, Teen Wolf Too (1987) and a TV series which ended five years ago after six seasons, 100 episodes. Cast members of this series are apparently in talks about the re-boot. The film will follow Scott McCall, now an adult Alpha, as he gathers allies to fight the return of Banshees, Werecoyotes, Hellhounds, Kitsunes, and more shape-shifters…

New Stephen King film Mr. Harrigan's Phone coming.  This is based on his short 'Mr. Harrigan's Phone' in his collection If It Bleeds (2020). It tells of a young boy (to be played by Jaeden Martell) who befriends an older, reclusive billionaire, Mr. Harrigan (to be played by Donald Sutherland). When the man passes away, the boy discovers that not everything dead is gone and finds himself able to communicate with his friend from the grave through the iPhone that was buried with him… Netflix is producing.

New Stephen King film The Boogeyman coming.  'The Boogeyman' appeared in King's The Night Shift (1978) collection of his stories that had previously been published in magazines. This will be the tenth short story in the 20-story collection to be turned either into a feature or TV film. It concerns a teenage girl and her little brother who, still reeling from the tragic death of their mother, find themselves plagued by a sadistic presence in their house and struggle to get their grieving father to pay attention before it’s too late… Rob Savage is set to direct. The film comes from Hulu.

New Flash Gordon film to be made.  Producer John Davis has asked the New Zealnd comedian and director, Taika Waititi, to screen-write and direct.  Taika Waititi is known for the Hugo short-listed Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Jojo Rabbit (2019).

Batgirl is to be portrayed by Leslie Grace.  The history of Batgirl is complex and we summarised it when reporting on HBO to make this new film.  (Batgirl is, of course, not to be confused with Batwoman who has recently had a TV series.)  Grace will be playing the role of Barbara Gordon, the daughter of the Gotham City Police Department’s Commissioner Gordon, who adopts the role of the brilliant-and-tough Batgirl (unbeknownst to her father).  The character was originally created for the third and final season of the Adam West Batman TV series in 1967. Then she was played by Yvonne Craig. Since then, Barbara Gordon has appeared in the Birds of Prey television series and briefly in the series finale of Gotham. A version of Batgirl will also be included in the upcoming season of Titans played by Savannah Welch.  The new HBO Max’s Batgirl will be directed by Bad Boys for Life filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, from a script by Birds of Prey and The Flash screenwriter Christina Hodson.

A Black Canary film is being made.  The Black Canary is the name of two DC Comics superheroines: Dinah Drake and her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance. The original version first appeared in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947) and over the decades the character(s) has (have) teamed up with the Justice League and is part of the Birds of Prey. Jurnee Smollett played the Black Canary in the recent Birds of Prey TV series and she will reprise her role in this film. Warner Bros. and DC Films are behind the film at HBO Max: HBO Max also aired Birds of Prey.

Alasdair Gray's novel Poor Things is being adapted to film.  It is a Victorian tale of love, discovery and scientific daring. Belle Baxter is a young woman brought back to life by an eccentric but brilliant scientist…  The cast includes: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo and Ramy Youssef.  Yorgos Lanthimos is directing for Searchlight and Film4.

Grant Chastain’s graphic novel Corrective Measures is being adapted to film.  It is set in San Tiburon, the world’s most dangerous maximum-security prison. The plot follows the monsters, cyborgs, and supervillains incarcerated in the prison, including wealthy genius Julius “The Lobe” Loeb (to be played by Bruce Willis) and corrupt warden Devlin (Michael Rooker), who is after The Lobe’s riches…  Sean Patrick O’Reilly (Howard Lovecraft and The Kingdom of Madness) will write, direct and produce the film.

Jungle Cruise sequel is being made. Given that the first film made £46.5 million (US$61.8 million) worldwide during its opening weekend and by the end of August last year in the US alone topped US$100m, we never saw this coming…  The sequel will bring back lead characters Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) and Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt).  Jungle Cruise (1) (2021) was based on Disneyland's theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travellers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles but with a supernatural element.

Furiosa is a forthcoming action film and the fifth instalment in the Mad Max franchise. It is a direct spin-off of Mad Max: Fury Road and is a prequel focused on a younger version of the Imperator Furiosa character, who will be portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy. The film also stars Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. It is currently slated for a May 2024 release.

Nosferatu is to be remade.  The 1922 silent film is something of a classic that was remade in 1979 as Nosferatu The Vampyre. The new film is being directed by Robert Eggers.

Robert Kirkman's Oblivion Song may be a film.  Kirkman is, of course, famous for The Walking Dead. Released by Image Comics in 2018, Oblivion Song is a 36-issue comic series that sees scientist Nathan Cole, a man who making daily trips to try and rescue those still living in Oblivion, an apocalyptic hellscape in Philadelphia that was lost to another monster-inhabited dimension a decade prior, along with 300,000 of its citizens…  New Republic Pictures has optioned the rights and plans to turn it into a feature film. Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories will produce with Riva Marker and Kirkman via his Skybound Entertainment.

The Witches of Eastwick may be remade. Based on the John Updike’s 1984 novel of the same name, the 1987 film, Warner Brothers film starred Jack Nicholson and was a success. Warners are behind the new remake. In the story, three single women in a picturesque village have their wishes granted, at a cost, when a mysterious and flamboyant man (presumed to be the devil) arrives in their lives. The 1987 film was nominated for best original score for John Williams and best sound at the 1988 Oscars; and won a BAFTA for best special effects the same year.

The Incal graphic novel to be made into a film. The Incal [L'Incal] is a French graphic novel trilogy written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and originally illustrated by Jean (Moebius) Giraud. It is a wide-screen (interstellar rather than interplanetary and involving many worlds) space opera The story is set in the dystopian capital city of an insignificant planet in a human-dominated galactic empire, wherein the Bergs, aliens who resemble featherless birds and reside in a neighbouring galaxy, make up another power bloc. Many factions are after the Light Incal, a crystal of enormous and infinite powers (it guides and protects those who believe in it)…  Jodorowsky has announced that Taika Waititi is set to co-write and direct an adaptation.

Mind Fall, an SF thriller, is being made.  It takes place in a near-future London, where the most sought-after drug on the black market is memories, physically removed from one person’s brain and implanted into another’s using a new illegal technology…  Daisy Ridley is set to star and Mathieu Kassovitz is attached to direct.

Hyperion may be made into a film. The award-winning Dan Simmons novel Hyperion was cited by Gollancz on its 50th anniversary as one of its top ten books.  It now may be a feature film. A television mini-series with SyFy has been in development hell for a number of years but Bradley Cooper has now taken it to Warner Brothers. It may be that Warner's success with Dune is making them view investments in award-winning SF novels in a more favourable light.

And finally…

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

Film mini-series of SF shorts download tip!: Atropa is a seven-part, 10-minute episode series about a lost spaceship.  A cop is sent to investigate a missing spaceship. Finding it, he boards to discover something decidedly odd is going on…  The series altogether makes for a rather nifty, short film. Enjoy.  You can see the episodes here:-
  - Episode 1
  - Episode 2
  - Episode 3
  - Episode 4
  - Episode 5
  - Episode 6
  - Episode 7

Short SF film download tip!: Untitled 64 is a short, dark-ish, SF comedy.  A woman is faced with existential crisis after learning something unsettling about the nature of the Universe…  You can see the 6-minute film here.

Short SF film download tip!: Ikarus is an SF thriller.  In a dystopic future, After her brother is fatally wounded, a naïve but ambitious scavenger, must learn to shoot down a futuristic military drone while avoiding a vicious group of hunters, in order to obtain life saving antibiotics before her brother succumbs to infection…  You can see the 19-minute film here.

Short SF film download tip!: The Trap is a short, SF dry-comedy horror.  A man tries to convince his sceptical friend that he has invented a trap for catching extraterrestrials…  You can see the 5-minute film here.

Short film download tip!: Oblivio. An accidental encounter with an uninvited guest disrupts Alice's life. As her husband Tom's hidden secret gradually surfaces, Alice finds things are different to what she assumed.  You can see the short (11 minutes) film here.

Film video download tip!: Dune (1984) gets the honest trailer treatment.  You can see the Honest Trailer here.

Film review download tip!: Does Dune (2021) finally have a worthy adaptation?  How does Dune 2021 measure up to the novel by Frank Herbert? Dominic Noble gives his take… You can see his review here.

Morbius is out this month (January.  One of Marvel’s most compelling and conflicted characters comes to the big screen as Oscar winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic, vampiric antihero Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others suffering his same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. While at first it seems to be a radical success, a darkness inside him is unleashed. Will good override evil – or will Morbius succumb to his mysterious new urges.  You can see the trailer here.

Black Adam is slated for July (2022). It's trailer is out.  A spin-off from Shazam! centring on the film's anti-hero, Black Adam.  You can see the trailer here.

The Batman is coming.  This is the latest version of the franchise starring Robert Pattinson and Andy Serkis as Alfred. This rendition sees the Penguin and Catwoman.  You can see the trailer here.

Buzz Lightyear prequel is coming.  Lightyear is an original feature film releasing June 17, 2022. The sci-fi action-adventure presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans.   You can see the teaser trailer here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2021 (and earlier years) then check out our top Science Fiction Films annual chart. This page is based on the weekly UK box office ratings over the past year up to Easter. You can use this page if you are stuck for ideas hiring a DVD for the weekend.

For a forward look as to film releases of the year see our film release diary.

 

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

Spring 2022

Television News

 

Squid Game was the SF series hit for the latter half of last year (2021). It was made in South Korea but became a hit with Netflix topping its charts in many countries and garnering over 100 million viewers.  Its premise is fairly similar to The Hunger Games but with more violence as youngsters battle to win a £28 million cash prize or die.  And now it has an 'Honest Trailer'.  You can see the Squid Game Honest Trailer here.

Russell T. Davies returns to run Doctor Who.  This is very welcome news. Davies was responsible for the first female Doctor Who in 1999 with Joanna Lumley.  He was also responsible for the 2005 re-boot with Ecclestone and oversaw the David Tennant years to 2010. Steven Moffat then took over as showrunner before Chris Chibnall in 2016. The scripts Chibnall approved were arguably flawed: recently progressive themes have been delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  While the Davies' years saw viewing figures grow, the Moffat reign (which included some dodgy science – remember the Moon being an egg!!! – saw them decline and the Chibnal era continued this downward trend. Arguably, with Moffat and Chibnal we never saw what the Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker might have attained had they had the benefit of Russell T. Davies.  So Davies' return is very good news indeed.

Manifest has been saved for a fourth season! It has all been a bit of a drama over the summer when NBC cancelled the show… I case you missed it, the show's premise concerns Montego Air Flight 828, which landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight. The crew and passengers were relieved, but in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues — after mourning their loss — had given up hope and moved on. Faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance. But as their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds, and some of the returned passengers soon realise they might be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible… The show largely follows a brother and sister duo (played by Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh) as they seek to pick up the pieces and find out exactly what happened to them.
          Manifest premiered September, 2018 and has had reasonable, though not spectacular ratings in the US among the important 18-49 adult cohort. However, total view figures have been good. Also, it does have a solid fan base and so when NBC cancelled it there was some outcry including an online petition with getting on for 100,000 signatures. But there were problems bringing the show back as Netflix wanted international rights, but the series makers, Warner Brothers, had sold them to nations market-by-market. However, it seems that these problems have been overcome as Netflix has ordered a fourth and final season. This was probably due to Netflix, having picked up the first two seasons over the summer, saw the show enter its daily top ten where it stayed for over two months!
          Manifest was originally conceived by Jeff Rake and was sold to NBC with a six-season plan. Had it stopped with season three then much would have been left out. So the renewal will give a chance to resolve plot arcs. Indeed, season four will be extra long with 20 episodes.  You can see the season three trailer here.

Blade Runner: Black Lotus is a new anime series launched in November (2021).  In case you have missed this, it is set in 2032, in the aftermath of the 'Black Out', and will be centred on a female replicant protagonist. It is a Japanese American co-production between Crunchyroll and Adult Swim, in addition to being created in partnership with Alcon Television Group. It aired in English on Adult Swim's Toonami programming block in the United States and streamed on Crunchyroll. In Canada it aired on Adult Swim and presumably will air on FreeView in the UK shortly.  You can see the trailer here.

The Wheel of Time is a new series launched in November (2021).  The much awaited by fantasy fans series is based on the Robert Jordan novel series of the same name. It has already been renewed by Amazon Prime for a second season.  You can see the trailer here.

Star Trek: Discovery season 4 launched in November ( 2021).  You can see the trailer here.

Station Eleven mini-series, based on the novel, launched in December (2021).  This is a limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s Clarke Award-winning, and Campbell Memorial Award short-listed novel Station Eleven (2014). It is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of the devastating Georgia flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what has been lost. It began streaming on 16th December on HBO Max.  You can see the trailer here.

After Life season 3 has just (mid-January 2022) launched. This season will be the final in this genre-adjacent series: it is not SF but does feature some SFnal riffs (super-power, discussion of death and the possibility of life after, etc.).  Created and starring Ricky Gervais, it is a black comedy that follows newspaper writer Tony Johnson, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He contemplates suicide, but instead decides to spend his life punishing the world for his wife's death by saying and doing whatever he wants regardless of how it makes other people feel. Although he thinks of this as his 'superpower', his plan gets undermined when everyone around him pities him and tries to make him a better person.   You can see the trailer here.

Superman & Lois season 2 being aired in the US and season one in the British Isles.  Following season one's viewing figures and the show's renewal season two is now only just airing State-side on the CW. So we'll find out more about Natalie Lane, born of an alternate Lois Lane in another universe.  Over here in the British Isles (as well as the Netherlands and other parts of western Europe) season one is airing on BBC One and streaming on the BBC iPlayer.  You can see the season 2 trailer here.

Star Trek: Prodigy is the latest Star Trek series. It is a computer graphic animation series produced by Nickelodeon. It sees a group of teenagers on a remote mining colony discover a lost starship – the Protostar – which they use to escape the colony. The ship has a hologram officer based on Captain Janeway (from Star Trek: Voyager (1994)) and who is voiced by Kate Mulgrew reprising her role. The series has aired on Paramount in the US and will be on Sky in Britain later this year.  You can see the teaser trailer here.

Gene Roddenberry is having a biopic film made of him. The Star Trek creator's life is being dramatised with his son, Rod Roddenberry producing with Trevor Roth and it is being made by Roddenberry Entertainment. Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth both currently serve as executive producers on current series Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. The film will cover gene Roddenberry’s life before and after creating Star Trek (1966). It will also take us through his survival of two plane crashes and the events leading to his death in 1991 just as Star Trek: The Next Generation was becoming successful.

Lost in Space's third and final series began airing last month (December 2021).  Will Will Robinson find out why and from where the alien robots came?  Oh, the pain…  You can see the Netflix season trailer here.

The Expanse sixth and final(?) season began airing last month (December 2021).  OK, let's cut to the chase regarding the latest news of this popular space opera series.  The show has already been axed and resurrected once before. Season six is meant to be the last, however the series of books on which it is based has yet to have the last in its series published, Leviathan Falls. So, the question is, will Amazon change its mind or will another service (Netflix) pick it up so that the last of the books can be adapted? We will no doubt find out in due course…  You can see the season six trailer here.

The Book of Boba Fett began streaming at the end of last month (December 2021). This STar Wars series follows the surprise end-credit sequence following the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian. The legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigatie the galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate.  The Book of Boba Fett stars Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen. Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez, Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson are the executive producers.  You can see the Disney+ season trailer here.

The new series Peacemaker has just started (January 2022).  It explores the origins of the character that John Cena first portrayed in James Gunn's 2021 film, The Suicide Squad - a compellingly vainglorious man who believes in peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it. The series stars John Cena as Peacemaker, Danielle Brooks as Adebayo, Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Jennifer Holland as Harcourt, Steve Agee as Economos, Chukwudi Iwuji as Murn, and Robert Patrick as Auggie Smith. Gunn wrote all eight episodes of Peacemaker and directed five, including the first. The DC series debuts on HBO Max.  You can see the trailer here.

Outlander season six premieres.  It is a historical drama television series based on the ongoing novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. It concerns a married former Second World War military nurse in Scotland who, in 1945, finds herself transported back in time to 1743. There she encounters, and falls in love with, the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser. The sixth season is based on the novel A Breath of Snow and Ashes. A 16-episode seventh season has been green-lit and is to be based on An Echo in the Bone.  You can see the 6th season trailer here.

Picard new season starts in February.  Team Picard have to travel back in time to our present to prevent Star Fleet becoming a totalitarian organisation.  You can see the trailer here.

House of the Dragon first glimpse.  We've been waiting for this Game of Thrones prequel series for over two years. It is based on George R. R. Martin's novel Fire and Blood.  Not long now before it comes on HBO Max.  You can see a teaser here.

Sandman first glimpse.  We've been waiting for the Neil Gaiman Sandman graphic novel adaptation series for over two years ifnot longer: the original comic series first came out 32 years ago!  The series is Executive Produced by Neil Gaiman, Allan Heinberg, & David S. Goyer.  Former Doctor Who companion, Impossible Girl Jenna Coleman, will play a dual role as two members of the Constantine family, separated by centuries: Lady Johanna Constantine is an 18th century libertine and magician, who battles the evils of Hell while snubbing her nose at the conventions of her time, and he modern-day descendant… The Lord of Dreams has been summoned, and captured, by mortal men. Once free from his captivity, this eternal ruler of Dreams will realise that his troubles are only just beginning...  Not long now before it comes on Netflix.  You can see a teaser here.

New Thunderbirds programmes to come from Hideaki Anno.  We should say before going any further that we have had difficulty getting some of the detail for this Japanese-based story, so please fact-check it...  Hideaki Anno has made an HD re-master of his 1985 Thunderbirds Complete episode compilation film, a condensed rendition of the classic 1960s Gerry Anderson supermarionation series. The aim is to broadcast it later this year as Shin Complete Thunderbirds. This adds to the recent three new Thunderbirds episodes released as the mini-series Thunderbirds 55/GoGo broadcast at the end of last year (2021), which was the 55th anniversary of the original Thunderbirds (see the teaser trailer here). SF² Concatenation thinks that this three episode mini-series might be based on the three vinyl records Century 21 released in Great Britain decades ago (see documentary on the making of these programmes here).  If this is different from the three episodes made in Britain a couple of years ago then whether or not we will see either Thunderbirds 55/GoGo or Thunderbirds Complete productions in Britain, Europe, or North America remains to be seen. If they were aired here, there would certainly be interest from SF buffs of a certain age (in their 60s). Meanwhile the three new episodes made from the vinyl soundtrack are available to view on BritBox: 'Introducing Thunderbirds', 'The Abominable Snowman' and 'The Stately Homes Robberies'.

Wednesday gets a principal cast.  We have reported on the new series before. The latest news is that Catherine Zeta-Jonesand Luis Guzmán will be respectively playing Morticia and Gomez Addams, the dynamic parents of the Addams family.

The Bad Batch has been renewed for a second season.  The Star Wars animation spin-off premiered over the summer (2021) and has done sufficiently well for Disney+. The show follows a squad of misfit clone troopers in the wake of Order 66. Throughout the course of the first season, they watch enlisted soldiers gradually replace their clone brothers as the galaxy falls to the tyranny of the Empire. They take on mercenary work for a Trandoshan named Cid; they have run-ins with some of the most ruthless bounty hunters in the Guild; they aid the fledgling rebellions on Ryloth and elsewhere.  You can see the trailer here.  The second season is expected in the latter half of this year (2022).

Titans has been renewed for a 4th season. Titans launched on DC Universe and moved to HBO Max for its third season where it will be for the fourth.  You can the season 3 trailer here.

Doom Patrol has been renewed for a 4th season. The series re-imagines a DC group of superheroes who all suffered a horrible accident that gave them superhuman abilities, but left them disfigured. In season 3, the Doom Patrol is at a crossroads with each member struggling with who they are and who they want to be. And then Madame Rouge arrives in a time machine with a very specific mission, if only she could remember it.  For a taster of the series, you can the season 3 trailer here.

Y: The Last Man has been cancelled apparently due to planning muddle.  We only announced the new series last season but its cancellation was announced before the end of season 1.  Now, normally TV channels wait for delayed viewing figures and digital downloads before deciding on cancellation. However the cast's contract had a retention option in case another season was commissioned, that expired in October and so a decision had to be made. The reason they ran out of option time was because the series production was itself delayed multiple times due to: a change of show-runner; changes in lead cast; and CoVID (which, of course, no-one foresaw). This meant that the surviving original members of the cast had to have option extensions. A pitch for a second season was therefore made to Hulu's FX after only four of the ten first season episodes had aired. Also Hulu does not release all its viewing data and so FX had little to go on. (Ycurrently has a 73% rating among critics and 67% score with viewers on Rotten Tomatoes.)  At the end of the day, FX had six years to bring Y: The Last Man to the screen, but now declined to pay US$3 million (£2.2m) to further extend options and so, to save cash and also not wanting to leave the cast in limbo yet again, cancelled.
          The question now becomes one of whether the producers can find a new home for the series outside of FX?  HBO Max is likely option for a potential second season. HBO is owned by WarnerMedia, who also owns DC Comics, whose imprint, Vertigo, published the Y: The Last Man comic series from 2002-08. Warner Media’s New Line previously owned the rights to Brian K. Vaughan’s comic series and made two attempts at adapting it as a feature film. The first take, from David Goyer, Carl Ellsworth and director D.J. Caruso fell apart because the studio did not like the idea of adapting Y as a three-film franchise. The rights to Y reverted to Vaughan in 2014, thus killing the 2012 attempt at a film. If the series does find a new home then FX would have to decide whether it would relinquish/sell the library rights to season one.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is to get a new TV adaptation.  The 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson has seen many film versions from 1908 onwards, but the Paramount US (1931) version, dir. Rouben Mamoulian, perhaps has received the greatest critical acclaim. The Hammer re-worked version Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) is also worthy of note.  The novel has also been adapted to TV and into a modern setting before with a rather good (certainly worth checking out) BBC series starring James Nesbitt.
          The new series is called Hide and it has to be said that, like the James Nesbitt adaptation, it does not follow Stevenson's novella at all, the modern setting notwithstanding.  The new series is described as “a Jekyll and Hyde tale by way of a conspiracy thriller”.  A disgraced journalist finds himself investigating a story that he believes could put his career back on track. However, he finds himself on the run from some sinister enemies who are desperate to silence him. He soon realises there are monsters in the world… Worst of all, he may be one of them!
          Hide is being directed executively produced by Julie Anne Robinson.  It will star real life husband and wife David and Georgia Tennant. David was, of course, a Doctor Who. Indeed he and Georgia (then Moffet) met on the set of Doctor Who when Georgia played the Doctor's daughter. Indeed, Georgia is the daughter of another former Doctor, Peter Davidson. David Tennant, having accepted the role has now also become an executive producer.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is coming.  It will be an anthology series and is described as a curation of eight unprecedented and genre-defining sinister narratives meant to challenge traditional notions of horror, ranging from the macabre to magical, gothic to grotesque or classically creepy. Two of the eight tales are original works by del Toro himself. The series has been created by del Toro and he is the show runner and its director. The series will stream on Netflix.

Waterworld is to get a sequel TV series.  The 1995 film, starring Kevin Costner, is to have a sequel TV series that is planned as a continuation of the film picking up with the same characters 20 years later. The original was the story of a postapocalyptic world where the polar ice caps had melted and almost the entire planet was covered by water. Kevin Costner played an underwater-breathing, web-footed, trimaran-sailing loner, The Mariner.  The original had a huge budget of its time of £127 million (US$175m) in part due to a hurricane off the coast in Hawaii that wiped out its expensive set.  The original eventually grossed £190 million (US$260m) and so not nearly as profitable as its studio wanted and by many was viewed as a flop. However, had it not been dogged by the hurricane and had used modern effects it would certainly have been a commercial success.  This is probably why the TV series is being made.

Dark City is to be a TV series.  The 1998 film achieved near cult status by fantastic film buffs, though it is best to see the 2008 Director’s Cut.  Shot in a Noir style a US city appears to be in perpetual night. Then our protagonist finds that things periodically take a dramatic change that nobody else is aware of. Who is re-arranging the city and why?  The original was created by Alex Proyas and he is behind the proposed television series. However, this new vision might be a little different Proyas has warned.

Babylon 5 is being re-booted by the original's creator.  The original began in 1993 and has been described as Star trek for grown-ups. It concerns a giant human space station in neutral space that serves as a meeting place for alien ambassadors. However, there are two 'elder' species that are trying to affect the development of the Galaxy's junior species…  It was ground-breaking in that not only were there individual episode stories, there were also various plot arcs and indeed the whole show, spanning a number of season's, was in effect one story.  Creator J. Michael Straczynski is now writing a re-boot for The CW.  Since the original series was first broadcast back in 1993, he wants it to reach a new audience using new television technology.

Urslula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed is to be a television series.  The 1974 Hugo winning novel is an exploration of the social concept of ownership. Much of the plot takes place on two worlds. On one the society is based on a sort of socialist/beneficial capitalism while the other is an anarchy in the correct dictionary sense (order out of chaos). On the first, ownership (acquiring capital) is fundamental. On the other, nobody actually owns anything but can borrow material goods from a social pool as they are needed for the moment.  The protagonist finds that both are extremes of a spectrum and that on both worlds many are after his 'Simultaneity' idea.  The novel was also voted into the top 20 of the SF² Concatenation all-time book poll and came top of the Locus annual readers' poll (the basis for its award) for the year.  1212 Entertainment and Anonymous Content are working together to adapt the novel.  Theo Downes-Le Guin, son of the author, is also contributing to the series' development.

The Fall of the House of Usher his to be a Netflix series.  The series is based on Edgar Allan Poe's, 1839 gothic horror story of the same title. A friend visits the ill Roderick Usher who lives with his sister Madeline who is also ill…  The eight-episode series will feature four episodes directed by Mike Flanagan and four by Michael Fimognari.

William Shatner's TekWar is to be an animated television series. It is based on Shatner’s series of detective novels, the first published in 1989. These were set in the year 2043 and follow a former detective in futuristic Los Angeles who was framed for the crime of dealing an illegal mind-altering drug in the form of a bio-digital microchip. It poses a great threat to humanity and has the potential to become a virus that will lead to an unrecoverable future…  Pure Imagination Studios is producing and developing the series.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea's Captain Nemo is to return with a new series called Nautilus.  This is the latest spin-off from Jules Verne's 1870 novel. The 10-part series will tell the origin story of Captain Nemo and his legendary submarine, The Nautilus, told from his point of view. An Indian prince robbed of his birthright and family and a prisoner of the East India Company, Nemo is bent on revenge against the forces which have taken everything from him. Once he sets sail with his ragtag crew on board the technologically advanced submarine Nautilus, he battles with his enemy and also discovers a magical underwater world…  The series is being produced jointly by two British companies, Moonriver TV and Seven Stories.

Ashok to be the next Star Wars spin-off series. The female centric series will focus on Ahsoka Tano of The Mandalorian. with the lead played by Rosario Dawson, it may be ready to air late in 2022 but possibly may not come out until 2023.

No Science Fiction in this year's Prime Time Emmy Awards.  No to be confused with 'the Creative Arts Emmys', which saw The Mandalorian get a win, this year's Prime Time Emmys had no SF wins whatsoever…

 

And finally, some TV related vids…

So what does William Shatner think of imitations of Captain James T. Kirk?  Shat' reviews impressions of him for Vanity Fair, including a teenager, Jim Carrey, and Bill Nye before he became The Science Guy… You can see the short video here.

 

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

Spring 2022

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

UK publishing sees small growth in 2020.  In 2020, the combined value of UK publisher sales of books, journals and rights/co-editions rose 2% to £6.4 billion (US$8.64 billion) from £6.27 billion in 2019. This compares with the pre-CoVID-19 £6 billion in 2018 an increase of 5.3% on the previous year (2017).  Drilling down into the figures a bit, UK domestic sales income in 2020 rose 4% to £2.5 billion while export sales income remained steady at £3.7 billion.
          The big growth was in fiction sales (16%) and this might have been due to CoVID lockdown furloughs? Key statistics include:
          - Total print down 6% to £3.4 billion
          - Total digital up 12% to £3 billion
          - Consumer publishing sales income rose 7% to £2.1 billion
          - Fiction up 16% to £688 million
          - Non-fiction up 4% to £1 billion
          - Audio downloads up 37% to £133 million
          - Children’s up 2% to £396 million

UK book exports fell in 2020, but key market country exports increased. Further to the overall picture (see previous item above), the invoiced value of UK publisher sales of books for export fell 8% in 2020, to £1.5 billion (US$2.03 billion). A 12% decrease in print sales drove this fall despite an 11% growth in revenue from digital book exports.  UK export sales income from Great Britain's top three export markets – the United States, Australia and Germany – all increased. However, income from other key markets including the Netherlands, UAE, Spain and India fell.  Exports accounted for 58% of UK commercial publisher income.

There were more bookshops in the USA in 2020 says the American Bookshop Association. It cites an increase in its membership from 1,701 to 1,910 (up 12.3%) and in membership locations from 2,100 to 2,496 (up 18.6%). This reverses the trend of recent years of decline. However, it is not all good news. Not all the new shops are fully commercial: some are not-for-profit and some are co-operatives.  ++++ Related news previously covered on this site includes: UK decline in independent bookshops possibly ceases decade trend (2018) and Europe's bookshop chains are doing well (2017).

Harper Collins in UK and US saw continued growth in the first quarter of 2021. There was overall a 19% increase in Harper Collins' revenue in the quarter ended 31st March, 2021, over the comparable period in 2020. Sales rose to £357.6 million (US$490 million). Some 62% of the quarter's revenue was from backlist sales. Though physical book sales dominated e-book sales were up 38%, and digital audiobook sales rose by 42%. Harper Collins attributes part of this success due to people wanting something to read during the CoVID lockdown.

Head of Zeus expands its publicity team. Currently a publicity manager for HarperCollins, Kathryn Colwell is to join Head of Zeus as senior publicity manager. She will be overseeing the strategy of the Apollo Non-Fiction and Apollo Fiction imprints.

Future Publishing ups its profit forecast from £244 million (US$322m). Future Publishing is the company behind magazines such as SFX. The year to September (2021) saw its revenue rise 79% to nearly £607 million (US$802m). Its shares rose by 13%.

Springer-Nature has published its millionth open access article. It is difficult for a commercial publisher to provide open access but the science journal publisher Springer-Nature is going down that route for researchers that wish to have their work made freely available and are prepared to pay an editorial fee. This means that 25% of all articles Springer Nature has published since 2005 are gold OA. In 2020 alone, such open access articles accounted for 34% of all articles published by Springer Nature. Since 2016 there have been 2.6 billion open access downloads from Springer-Nature.

2000AD launched 45 years ago – publisher Rebellion will be celebrating. February 1977 saw IPC launch the weekly comic 2000AD. As well as being the home of future lawman Judge Dredd, it has been a proving ground for comic book creators who have gone on to change the industry forever, from Alan Moore to Grant Morrison, from Simon Bisley to Jock. The celebrations begin with The 2000 AD Encyclopaedia (to be published in February, 2022). The first ever comprehensive and definitive encyclopaedia of the worlds of 2000 ADThe Brian Bolland Apex Edition will showcase the artist's Dredd work. To mark Dredd’s 45th anniversary, 2000 AD will honour his co-creators, writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, with two collections that bring together some of their best work for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: The Best of John Wagner (to be published in March) and The Best of Carlos Ezquerra (published in May). Never before reprinted, September 2022 will see the first ever collection of DC Comics’ Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law. Capitalising on the hoped-for success of the Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone, and modelled on the Batman series Legends of the Dark Knight, this mid-1990s series bought in Dredd writers John Wagner and Alan Grant to jettison most of Dredd’s established continuity and focus on the lawman’s earliest exploits.  September will also see a 'what if' Judge Dredd: what if Dredd never defeated the zombies on Judgement Day. It will be told across 2000AD and The Judge Dredd Megazine -- expect a graphic compilation the following year.  Meanwhile, publisher Rebellion has teamed up with Hiya Toys to produce 4-6", moveable figurines. The first two will be available in March (2022) and are of stony-face himself and Judge Death. More Dark Judges appear in April and Dredd's lawmaster motorbike in July. International ordering available.

Foundation and Dune saw a return to the top ten SF/F book charts in both the UK and USA.  Both are SF classics. Isaac Asimov's Foundation was first serialised in 1942 and published as a novel in 1951 that led on to others in a series (originally a trilogy). Frank Herbert's Dune was published in 1965, co-winning a Hugo for 'Best Novel'. Both have now seen sales surge: the former due to the television series and the latter the new film. Foundation is currently published by Harper Voyager and Dune by Hodder.

Saga returns in a few days' time (January, 2022).  The space operatic Saga, from writer Brian K. (Y: The Last Man) Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, has been top of the comic charts since it launched in March 2012. The last issue, #54, was published in July, 2018 and the overall story had hit mid-point. The creators always said that they would return but wanted a break. The return, #55, will be an extra-long issue — 44 pages rather than the usual 22 — for the same price. The second run is also expected to be about 54 issues long.

Orbit acquires medieval Judge Dredd style justice upholder trilogy for a six-figure sum.  Orbit has acquired the Empire of the Wolf trilogy: a debut epic fantasy series from British author Richard Swan. It centres around Sir Konrad Vonvalt, who enforces the Empire’s laws through sword, spell and sheer force of personality – he is effectively a Geralt of Rivia crossed with C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake: a medieval Judge Dredd. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one, tasked with upholding the law. To this end, Vonvalt travels the hinterlands of the Empire of the Wolf, investigating crimes and dispensing instant justice. But these are dangerous times for the Empire and the Order of Justices. Heresy is widespread, and a cabal of Imperial politicians is challenging the Order’s authority, desperate to claim its arcane secrets for their own. When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. And as he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire. The first out is The Justice of Kings.

Orbit has acquired Hannah Whitten's new trilogy. Her debut novel For The Wolf went into the New York Times, USA Today and Indie bestseller lists. This new fantasy trilogy starts with The Foxglove King. This is a gothic tale of a young woman from the streets who suddenly finds herself swept up into a world of courtly intrigue, forbidden romance, and the dangerous death magic of Mortem…  When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.  Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die… For The Wolf comes from Orbit both in the British Isles and US.

A first edition of Frankenstein has been sold.  The Mary Shelly novel was auctioned at Christies fetching US$1,170,000 (£866,000) making it the most expensive book sold authored by a woman.

Oxford University Press aims for carbon neutrality by 2025.  Oxford University Press (OUP) intends to be internally (excluding downstream fossil carbon) carbon neutral by 2025, ensuring that 100% of paper for its printed publications is certified as sustainable and that it produces zero landfill. The publishers has been measuring and monitoring its environmental impact. In 2019 it produced an estimated 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than half of which was associated with paper and book production. It used around 40,000 tons of book paper, two-thirds of which was already certified as sustainable. Of the 5,000 tons of waste from OUP’s offices and warehouses, around a quarter went to landfill.

Authors removed from Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.  The authors were banned with no real explanation. One author, Lexi Ostrow, gave an account. Many of the authors have been reinstated but not after some difficulty.
  - Pirated copy of the Hugo-winning Blindsightis finally taken down from the Amazon website.
  - Amazon fined by European Union
  - Amazon pays a little more tax as sales rise by 50%
  - Amazon destroys millions of items of unsold stock
  ++++ Related stories elsewhere on this site and others include:-
  - Audible – the audiobook sales outlet for Amazon’s company ACX – seems to be ripping off publishers and authors
  - 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.

DreamHaven SF/F bookshop target by thieves, again! The Minneapolis, US bookstore was broken into back in 2007. It was also vandalsised during the May 2020 riots and then in November that year staff were attacked and the place robbed as it closed at the end of the day.  The latest attack saw the front window smashed and boxes of comics taken.

The watering hole of fantasy authors J. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis has been saved.  The Lamb & Flag pub in Oxford was was going to be closed.  Yet a band of several hundred Oxford residents banded together, calling themselves The Inklings, to save the pub.  The Inklings, which includes many scientists, writers and businesses, have now signed a lease with the pub's owner, St John's College. The pub, which had been serving beer since 1613, will now continue to do so.

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

Literary agent and former publisher Richard Curtis talks about writing and publishing.  Author, playwright, literary agent and former publisher Richard Curtis talk about writing, publishing and many things that will interest writers and the general public. Richard gives tips, advice and a bit of a history of publishing and how it has changed over the years in his conversation with author Rick Bleiweiss.  Grab a mug of tea/coffee and sit down to the one-hour video here.

Author Cory Doctorow on what is wrong with copyright in the USA and why Creative Commons Licences are so good.&nsbp; You can see his 8-miute 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 2022

Forthcoming SF Books

 

Jack Four by Neal Asher, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04999-2.
Jack Four is one of twenty clones, created to be sold. But he plans to escape his fate – whatever it takes.  Though this is set in Asher's Polity universe, this is a standalone novel.

The Shattered Skies: Cruel Stars 2 by John Birmingham, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54595-1.
Space opera. Part two of a violently energetic and energetic three-part military SF. 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. eir 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 see 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 have heroes must shed their modern technology and become the enemy. Their resistance might be humanity’s only hope.

Momenticon by Andrew Caldecott, Joe Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41543-8.
The world has become a dangerous place. Despite the environmentalists’ best efforts, the atmosphere has turned toxic, destroying almost all life – plants, animals, and most of humanity too. Survivors live in domes protected by chitin shields, serving one or other of the two great companies, Lord Vane’s Tempestas or Lord Sine’s Genrich, with their very different visions for mankind’s future. A long period of uneasy collaboration between them is about to end. Far from these centres of power stands the Museum Dome, where persons unknown have assembled mankind’s finest paintings and artefacts and installed a young man, Fogg, as its curator. Fogg has laboured here for three years without a single visitor, and with only AIPT, his automated physical trainer, for company. Then a single mysterious pill – a momenticon – appears in the Museum and triggers a series of bewildering events, embroiling Fogg and his unexpected new companions in a desperate fight against the dark forces which threaten to overwhelm all that remains.  And time is running out…

Widowland by C. J. Carey, Quercus Paperbacks, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41200-0.
An alternative history with a strong feminist twist.  London, 1953. Thirteen years have passed since Britain became a Protectorate of Germany. Edward VIII is to be crowned king. Women have been divided into castes with widows the lowest.  These women are threatening rebellion: before the Leader arrives for the Coronation, it must be quashed…

Outcast by Louise Carey, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23275-4.
The sequel to the prescient Inscape, whose dystopia was described as ‘chillingly plausible’ by Claire North. When a bomb goes off at InTech HQ, everything changes for Tanta’s corporation. Order becomes disorder. Safety becomes danger. Calm becomes chaos. Tanta is tasked with getting to the bottom of the attack before violence and unrest overtake the city. But even though the evidence points towards rival corporation Thoughtfront, Tanta can’t shake the feeling that she’s missing something. Something important. Soon she comes to realise something terrible about her own corporation. Sometimes facing the truth can be the hardest thing of all…

The Key to Fury: The Key 2 by Kristin Cast, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93394-4.
Billed by the publisher as for fans of Vox, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power, comes the second book in Kristin Cast’s dystopian series.  Safety comes with a price. Change comes with a cost.  The Key Corporation has kept Westfall safe from pandemics for the last 50 years. But that’s not all they’ve done...  After discovering the shocking truth behind the Key Corporation, Elodie and Aiden have managed to escape in search of New Dawn – the stronghold for the Eos resistance movement. There, they can fight for a better world, one where everyone can decide their own futures.  But things aren’t always as they seem, and as they navigate the tricky paths between perception and reality, freedom and fighting for survival, the two young rebels must discover who they can trust, even as they learn more about who they really are…

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-13585-5.
SAND. A hostile world of burning sun.  Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins. In the distance a group of people - a family - walk towards us. Ahead lies shelter: a 'shuck' the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death. To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs. It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life - except that the previous night she found a sandlizard in her bed, and now she's beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is ... Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.

Viral by Robin Cook, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05940-3.
A medical thriller featuring a deadly airborne disease set in New York City.

Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51039-2.
The final book in the 'Expanse' series of which there is a TV series entering its 6th (final?) season. Gritty space opera set when Earth has spread out into the Solar system and encountered…

Memory's Legion by James S. A. Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51778-0.
Collection of shorts.  For the first time, all of the short fiction set in James S. A. Corey’s 'Expanse' series is available in this collection – including a brand new novella. Now a major television series on Prime.

Our Child of Two Worlds by Stephen Cox, Joe Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47161-0.
Cory is the child of two worlds. When his birth-people come, they will break his mother’s heart…  Molly and Gene Myers rescued Cory and kept him safe from those who wanted to use him for their own ends . . . and in doing so, they rediscovered themselves and fell in love with a remarkable child.  In this sequel to Our Child of the Stars, Cory and his new family are having to deal with the consequences of fame – but Molly is more concerned about the future, for Cory’s people are on their way.  This is the time of Woodstock and the moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation – but the Myers know there is a far greater threat approaching from the stars. The snakes, murderous alien machines, are determined to wipe out every living thing. Only Cory’s people possess the knowledge to fight off the invaders.  But when Cory’s people do arrive, the Myers know they will lose the son they have come to love so dearly, and that is a hard price to pay.

The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 1 by Terrance Dicks, BBC Books, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94665-3.
Terrance Dicks became Script Editor of Doctor Who in 1968, co-writing Patrick Troughton’s classic final serial, 'The War Games', and editing the show throughout the entire Jon Pertwee era to 1974.For over 50 years, Terrance Dicks was the secret beating heart(s) of Doctor Who - from joining production of 'The Invasion 'in 1968 to his final short story in 2019. As the undisputed master of Doctor Who fiction, Terrance wrote 64 Target novels from his first commission in 1973 to his last, published in 1990. He helped introduce an entire generation to the pleasures of reading and writing, and his fans include Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Mark Gatiss, Alastair Reynolds, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Frank-Cottrell Boyce, and Robert Webb, among many others.

Furious Heaven: The Sun Chronicles 2 by Kate Elliott, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24324-8.
This is the second in a galactic-scale, gender-swapped space opera trilogy inspired by the life of Alexander the Great. Princess Sun and her formidable mother, Queen-Marshal Eirene, have defeated and driven out an invading fleet of the Phene Empire. Their joint command has proven effective and their enemy appears cowed, though success is not without its price.  Their once-mighty fleets depleted, Sun and Eirene must work together to rebuild and consolidate their victory. But on the eve of a bold attack, an unexpected tragedy strikes. Princess Sun will have to step out of her mother’s shadow and take charge, or lose the throne for good. But, will she be content with the pragmatic path laid out by her mother? Or will she forge her own legend despite all the forces arrayed against her?  All the while, the Empire remains strong and undeterred.  Their rulers are determined to squash the upstart republic once and for all – by any means necessary…

The Landing by Mary Gentle, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-08353-0.
The BSFA award-winning author returns with her first novel for ten years.  Aeris Warren-Finch is NASA’s Acting Director of the New Earth Object Lab, overseeing the transit of a large unidentified object past earth’s orbit.  But what was one object becomes three, seven, nineteen.  Nineteen different modules land across the planet.  When the nearest module creates a dome and leaves Aeris and her unlikely companions stranded within its confines, they’re left to wander in search of safety. But when every direction reveals new and strange geographies, which way is the right way to go?

Star Wars: The Fallen Star (The High Republic) by Claudia Gray, Del Rey, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15014-8.
In this sequel to Star Wars: The Rising Storm, the light of the Jedi faces its darkest hour.  Time and again, the vicious raiders known as the Nihil have sought to bring the golden age of the High Republic to a fiery end. Time and again, the High Republic has emerged battered and weary, but victorious thank to its Jedi protectors-and there is no monument to their cause grander than the Starlight Beacon.  Hanging like a jewel in the Outer Rim, the Beacon embodies the High Republic at the apex of its aspirations: a hub of culture and knowledge, a bright torch against the darkness of the unknown, and an extended hand of welcome to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. As survivors and refugees flee the Nihil's attacks, the Beacon and its crew stand ready to shelter and heal.  The grateful Knights and Padawans of the Jedi Order stationed there finally have a chance to recover-from the pain of their injuries and the grief of their losses. But the storm they thought had passed still rages; they are simply caught in its eye. Marchion Ro, the true mastermind of the Nihil, is preparing his most daring attack yet-one de signed to snuff out the light of the Jedi.

Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston, BBC Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94714-8.
She's got ice in her heart and a kiss on her lips... 1939, New York. Private Eye, Melody Malone, is hired to find a stolen ruby, the Eye of Horus. The ruby might hold the secret to the location of Cleopatra's tomb - but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. Can Melody escape the ruby's curse? 1939, New York. River Song, author of the Melody Malone Mysteries, is forced to find a reality-altering weapon, the Eye of Horus - but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. River doesn't believe in curses - but is she wrong? From the top-security confines of Stormcage to the barbarism of first-century Egypt, River battles to find the Eye of Horus before its powers are used to transform the universe. To succeed, she must team up with a most unlikely ally - her own fictional alter ego, Melody. And together they must solve another mystery: Is fiction changing into fact - or is fact changing into fiction?

Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23315-7.
A mysterious accident on Pluto has left one girl mute and her father comatose. But secrets can’t be kept forever…  Terraforming is now commonplace across the solar system, and Pluto’s will be the most ambitious transformation yet.  What nobody factored in, though, was a saboteur – but who, and why? From the start, Lucian is intrigued by nine-yearold Nou, traumatised to muteness after a horrifying incident that shook the base and upended her family.  For Nou possesses unspoken knowledge – something that could stop the terraforming. Only through Lucian’s gentle friendship will she start to rediscover her voice – and what she has to say could transform our understanding of the universe…  The author is a planetary geochemist.

Kingdoms of Death: Sun Eater: Book Four by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21835-2.
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning 'Sun Eater' series. In this fourth instalment, we join the legendary figure as he finally finds – and is at once captured by – the mysterious alien Cielcen, in a story which – the publishers say – will delight fans of Dune.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00164-8.
As a terrifying alien threat sweeps across the galaxy, their first battle is how to communicate. A Desolation Called Peace follows Arkady Martine’s debut, the Hugo wining A Memory Called Empire.

Seven Mercies by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22517-6.
Ariadne’s Seven Devils have fled the Empire and scattered across the galaxy. But she has received a horrifying message: the Oracle has gone rogue. Turning against its Empire masters, the AI has managed to programme its citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand: it wants its daughter Ariadne back.  Time for an impossible mission. The Devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, and pair up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the Oracle. Destroy it. Burn everything to the ground.

Rabbits by Terry Miles, Pan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01695-6.
Rabbits is a dangerous underground game, and rumours tell of incredible rewards for its elusive winners. K is about to find out how high the stakes really are . . . and is he ready to play? Based on the hit podcast from the Public Radio Alliance, Rabbits is billed by the publisher as perfect for fans of Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Ready Player One.

The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe, Harper Voyager, £20, hrdbk, ISBN In The Memory Librarian, music, fashion, film and activist icon Janelle Monáe returns to the Afrofuturistic world of her critically acclaimed album, Dirty Computer, to explore how different threads of liberation – queerness, race, gender plurality, love – become tangled in a totalitarian landscape… and to discover costs of unravelling them.

The Flight of the Aphrodite by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22858-0.
Strange radio signals are coming from Jupiter’s largest moons.  A natural phenomenon, or something else?  Commander Mariucci and his hand-picked team of experts know they will have to muster all their expertise, creativity and teamwork to survive the very harshest of conditions in orbit around the king of planets. But when they intercept a peculiar radio transmission, they have to investigate.  Nothing should work in these impossible conditions, so what is sending the signal… and why?

The Last Crucible by J. D. Moyer, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$19.95 / US$14.95, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58586-7
Earth is mostly depopulated in the wake of a supervolcano, but civilization is preserved in vast orbiting ringstations and in isolated communities on Earth. Jana is in line to become the next sorceress by way of an ancient technology and must protect her people, while deciding whom to trust amongst possible ringstation allies.

Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji, Joe Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47161-0.
Interstellar vehicle Archimedes has been hurtling through space for more than five generations. Now the ageing starship is preparing to brake, for it is arriving at Destination Star, Tau Ceti, the new home for the space-born descendants of the First Crew.  For trainee engineer Ravinder MacLeod, the world he knows is coming to an end. Once Archimedes succumbs to the gravitational pull of the Destination Star, there will be no going back. As Braking Day approaches, Ravi finds himself caught between the rigid requirements of the officer class to which he aspires and his blue-collar, ne’er-do-well family. Unfortunately for Ravi, Boz, his brilliant ex-con cousin, seems determined to make his life difficult.  Then Ravi is assigned to routine maintenance deep in the massive engines of the Archimedes, where, alone and out of contact, he comes face to face with something impossible.  Plagued by nightmares and visions and worried that his grip on reality is slipping, Ravi turns to Boz for help. Their search for answers takes them to the place where the ship’s future intersects with its long past – and the discovery that not everyone is excited to be reaching journey’s end…

The Unfamiliar Garden: The Comet Cycle Book 2 by Benjamin Percy, Hodder, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69013-4.
A huge meteor strike on Earth has changed everything. Early one morning Professor Jack Abernathy takes his daughter Mia into a forest of the Pacific North-west coast. The flora is exhibiting strange behaviour and he wants to see what is happening at first hand. Only he returns. His life shattered, he and his estranged detective wife must dedicate their lives to finding what happened to Mia and why invasive growths appear to have taken over the minds of some of their fellow citizens and rendered them deranged killers.

Eversion by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09077-4.
This is not coming out until May (2022) and so should be in next season's forthcoming books but we all love Reynolds' stories and at the 2014 Worldcon in London he had the second longest queue for signings (after George R. R. Martin since you didn't ask), so we thought you'd appreciate a heads up (even though we gave you a plot teaser last season).  Doctor Silas Coade is a physician on a small, privately sponsored, sailing ship expedition with a simple mission: to investigate a mysterious object that is shrouded in secrecy.  But Doctor Coade is starting to worry. Either events are subtly repeating themselves – or his hold on reality is beginning to slip. Both possibilities have much bigger ramifications, but the first thing he must do is establish the truth… and then trust one of his companions with his fears, and enlist their help to either save himself, or save them all.

Classic Science Fiction Stories by Adam Roberts (editor), Macmillan Collector's Library, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06907-5.
A collection of short stories showcasing the classic science-fiction writing.  An eclectic collection of SF stories. The book highlights not only the most famous writers of the genre, such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft, but also gives voice to less-well-known but no-less-intriguing writers such as Florence McLandburgh and Ambrose Bierce.  Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of cloth-bound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. Classic Science Fiction Stories is selected and introduced by academic and science-fiction writer Adam Roberts.  There are intrepid travellers to outer space, mind-boggling and futuristic inventions and glimpses into the future with stories such as ‘A Martian Odyssey’ by Stanley Weinbaum, ‘The Mortal Immortal’ by Mary Shelley and ‘The Sultana’s Dream’ by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Some are comic, some are terrifying and some are downright weird, and together, these mesmerising and expertly crafted stories show how the genre of science fiction has developed and how modern writers are influenced by the giants of the past.

The This by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23090-3.
A brand-new social media phenomenon, hiding a terrible secret. A far-future war between AIs and humanity. And a connection…  The This is the new social media platform. For one journalist, hired to do a puff-piece on its CEO, it will change their world forever.  Elsewhere, Adan is forced to enlist in the army. Sentient robots are invading America, but Adan’s surprising ability to survive their attacks reveals he has a purpose he does not understand.  And in the future, the war against AI is ending. But one woman has developed a weapon that might change everything.

Kingdoms of Death – Sun Eater: Book Four by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21835-2.
Wide screen space opera. Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series. In this fourth instalment we join the legendary figure as he finally finds – and is at once captured by – the mysterious alien Cielcen, in a story which the publisher says will delight fans of Dune.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, Picador, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08349-1.
A novel of art, time, love and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony of the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.  The award-winning author of Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel returns with a novel of time travel that precisely captures the reality of our current moment. Sea of Tranquility is a virtuoso performance and an enormously exciting offering from one of our most remarkable writers.  In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic, exiled from English polite society. In British Columbia, he enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and for a split second all is darkness, the notes of a violin echoing unnaturally through the air. The experience shocks him to his core.  Two centuries later Olive Llewelyn, a famous writer, is traveling all over Earth, far away from her home in the second moon colony. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.  When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in time, he uncovers a series of lives upended: the exiled son of an aristocrat driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe. Sea of Tranquility is a novel that investigates the idea of parallel worlds and possibilities, that plays with the very line along which time should run.  Perceptive and poignant about art, and love, and what we must do to survive.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, 417pp, ISBN 978-1-473-21793-5 The third in the series, which began with Skyward…  Humanity has been crushed, driven almost to extinction, trapped on a single planet under near-constant, devastating attack by alien starfighters. And now Spensa knows why. But another attack is on the way – and it hides an even greater danger. Will even Spensa’s new knowledge be enough to bring about peace, before everything is destroyed? (Actually, this came out at the end of last season but we forgot to include it in last season's listings. Oooppps.  And by the way if you are checking the Orion/Gollancz Spring 2021 catalogue it has an error regarding the first title in the series.)

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08288-3.
In New York City, Jamie Gray is a driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls ‘an animal rights organisation’. Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.  What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world.  They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous animal and they’re in trouble. It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society whose found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.

Off Target by Eve Smith, Orenda Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-914-58502-9.
In the near future, parents take risks to ensure that their babies are genetically perfect. But as governments around the world are engaged in a genetic arms race, so some symptoms emerge in children. Something horrendous is unleashed. Because those children only have one thing in common, people are asking questions…

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson, Borough Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-40437-6.
Neal Stephenson’s new novel is set in a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of super-storms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics…

Resilient by Allan Stroud, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58641-3
AD 2118: Earth’s biggest solar array has been destroyed, a space station hijacked. A vast, terrifying war beckons. Emerson Drake, Natalie Holder, April Johannsson and Ellissa Shann are caught in the middle of it all. Humanity’s future is on the line. What can they do to save us?

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird, Borough Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-40796-4.
Glasgow, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is how it begins.  The victims are all men.  Dr Maclean raises the alarm, but the sickness spreads to every corner of the globe. Threatening families. Governments. Countries. Can they find a cure before it’s too late? Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation?

Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05193-3.
After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilisation – could save a world from annihilation. Yet the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics.  Suddenly, no planet is safe.  Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.  Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade.  What Idris discovers there will change everything.

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05190-2.
The main character is an Intermediary (or ‘Int’) called Idris, who’s one of a small cadre of specially crafted humans who can safely navigate ‘unspace’ without going mad. He navigates for itinerant traders on the decrepit cargo ship the Vulture God and generally tries to stay out of trouble.  Years before, he was at the centre of a war with aliens called the Architects, whose modus operandi was to send big ships to populated planets and remodel them into massive works of art (albeit killing everyone in the process). Earth is destroyed, and human populated worlds across the galaxy are at risk. Idris managed to infiltrate the mind of an Architect as the giant ship prepared to destroy the new human capital planet, Berlenhof, following which the Architects withdrew. Humanity, thinking they were gone for good, rebuilt. But then a ship emerges from unspace, destroyed and reshaped apparently by the Architects hands and panic resumes…

The Fourth Species by A. E. Warren, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10136-2.
The third in the 'Tomorrow's Ancestors' series.

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, Macmillan Collector's Library, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06905-1.
It is always good to see a classic reprinted. The Invisible Man is a tense, unsettling novel about a terrifying scientific discovery from one of the masters of science fiction, H. G. Wells.  Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover.  A mysterious stranger arrives at a local Sussex inn on a cold winter’s night, cloaked in bandages from head to toe and dripping from the rain. Griffin locks himself in his room and spends his stay labouring over chemicals in intricate glass bottles. The villagers, bewildered by what lurks under Griffin’s bandages, could never be prepared for the terrible truth: that Griffin is a scientist who has rendered himself invisible and is desperately struggling to find an antidote. He flees to the South Downs in search of someone he can trust, but this only isolates him further and he embarks on a ‘Reign of Terror’.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy – Greater Good by Timothy Zahn, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10194-2.
Thrawn and his allies race to save the Chiss Ascendancy from an unseen enemy in the second book in the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy.  Thrawn's latest triumph still rests newly on his shoulders. He has led the Chiss to victory and brought glory to the House of Mitth, but the true threat to the Ascendancy has not yet been extinguished. Their foes do not send threats or ultimatums, do not mass ships on the edge of the Chaos. Their weapons come cloaked in smiles and generosity: Gifts offered freely. Services granted unconditionally…

 

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Spring 2022

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51542-7.
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys’s. When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives. Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.

The Queen’s Assassin by James Barclay, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20246-7.
As a healer, she swears to do no harm. If she wishes to survive, she may have to…  Society has long held that the Esselrode people and their abilities are evil, a truth which Naida – a peerless battlefield surgeon – has been brought up to believe. But as one of them herself, feeling compelled to use her powers to heal wounded allies, it’s hard to accept.  Taken from the battlefield to a court where her life hangs in the balance, Naida is about to learn that there are even greater secrets, and conspiracies, afoot . . . and she could change the course of a nation.

Tomorrow by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49937-0.
Tomorrow I’m going to begin my novel…  A would-be author has taken time out from life in the city to live in a cabin by a river and write a novel.  And not just any novel. A novel that will avoid all the pitfalls and limitations of other novels, a novel that will include everything.  At first these new surroundings are so idyllic that it’s hard to find the motivation to get started. And then, in all its brutality, the outside world intervenes...  Ranging constantly backwards and forwards in time and space, Tomorrow becomes a restless search for meaning in a precarious and elusive world.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Book of Night by Holly Black, Del Rey, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10069-3.
How do you heal a broken house? First you unlock its secrets.  Alone on an island, surrounded by flowers that shine as dusk begins to fall, sits an old, faded house. Rooms cannot be rented here and visits are only for those haunted by the memory of loss.  When Liddy receives an invitation, she thinks there must be some mistake - she's never experienced loss. But with her curiosity stirred, and no other way to escape a life in which she feels trapped, she decides to accept.  Once there, she meets Vivienne, a beautiful, austere woman whose glare leaves Liddy unsettled; Ben, the reserved gardener; and Raphael, the enigmatic Keymaker. If Liddy is to discover her true purpose in the house, she must find the root of their sorrow - but the house won't give up its secrets so easily…

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-09523-4.
Six young magicians are chosen for greatness. But as they study to become the best among rivals, the stakes are higher than they know.  The world’s best young magicians accept the opportunity of a lifetime.  Six are chosen. Only five will walk away.  The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilisations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few.  When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive.  Most of them.

Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51362-1.
Mercy Thompson returns in another thrilling instalment of her urban fantasy series.

This Time Tomorrow by Charlotte Butterfield, Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-35371-6.
If you could have another go at the past, would you end up with the future you want?  Jessica Bay has it all – and it’s all too much. Desperate for change, she moves the family to a tiny island in the English Channel that holds a secret: it can take you back in time to relive any day in your past. To have another go at doing it right. But it turns out changing even one moment in your past can change your whole future in unknowable ways. How much of her supposedly imperfect life is Jess willing to gamble? And will she realise the risks before she loses everything?

Born to the Dark by Ramsey Campbell, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$19.95 / US$14.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58563-8
1985. Dominic Sheldrake is now a lecturer on cinema. His son Toby has begun to experience strange nocturnal seizures that no medical help seems to be able to treat. Meanwhile Dominic assumes the occultist Christian Noble is out of his life, but his influence on the world is more insidious than ever... This is a welcome reprint of his 2017 novel.

The Way of the Worm by Ramsey Campbell, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$19.95 / US$14.95, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58761-8
The present. The cult that has been growing since The Searching Dead now operates openly throughout the world. Their leader, Christian Noble, is almost a century old and inhumanly vital. Dominic Sheldrake joins the cult and learns their secret of travelling through time, but only to be faced with the monstrous future the cult is invoking…

Mestiza Blood by V. Castro, Flame Tree Press, £12.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58616-1
A short story collection of nightmares, dreams, desire and visions centred around the Chicana experience. An intimate anthology of modern horrors. This weaves urban legend, folklore, life experience and heartache in this personal journey beginning in south Texas: a bar where a devil dances the night away; a street fight in a neighbourhood that may not have been a fight after all; a vengeful chola at the beginning of the apocalypse; mind swapping in the not so far future; satan who falls and finds herself in a brothel in Amsterdam; the keys to Mictlan given to a woman after she dies during a pandemic…. And more.

The Wanderer by Luca D’Andrea, Maclehose Press, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40789-1.
The publisher pitches this as "A haunting thriller, drawing on myths, legends and fairy tales, from Italy’s bestselling answer to Stephen King."  Out walking his dog, Tony Carcano is confronted by Sybille Knapp, whose mother drowned herself in 1999. That was the official verdict. Tony, a writer, sets out to uncover the truth. But their main suspects, the powerful Perkman family, are determined to keep it buried. And there are other forces at work. Stories of an ancient evil. Whispers of a figure who stands between this world and the next.

The Wakening by J. G. Faherty, Flame Tree Press, £12.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58593-5
In a small New York town, an ancient demon has possessed a young girl. Different groups of people, including a team of paranormal investigators, a priest who once exorcised the demon from another child, and a defrocked priest with a dark secret, all join forces to rid the town of the evil.

Chivalry by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran, Headline, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-29064-9.
Graphic novel. An elderly widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic journey with an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in the hope of winning the cup. From the Eisner and Bram Stoker-award winning team of Snow, Glass, Apples comes a beautiful, brand-new graphic novel adaptation.

The Gauntlet and the Fist Beneath by Ian Green, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24416-0.
An action-packed fantasy set in a world of brutal juntas and ancient animism, where gruesome medieval warfare and strange magic are the tactics used in the name of freedom.  Protect your people. Fight for your family. Destroy your enemies.  The endless rotstorm rages over the ruins of the Ferron Empire. Floré would never let the slavers of the Empire rise again. As a warrior of the Stormguard Commandos, she wrought horrors in the rotstorm to protect her people. She did her duty and left the bloodshed behind.  Floré’s peace is shattered when blazing orbs of light cut through the night sky and descend on her village. Her daughter is abducted and Floré is forced into a chase across a land of twisted monsters and ancient gods. She must pursue the mysterious orbs, whose presence could herald the return of the Empire she spent her entire life fighting.  Now, Floré must take up a role she had sworn to put aside and become the weapon the Stormguard trained her to be, saving not only her daughter, but her people.

The Gauntlet and the Burning Blade by Ian Green, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24411-5.
Break the chains.  Hold your strength.  Burn your foes.  Once a warrior of the Stormguard Commandos, Floré wrought horrors in the rotstorm to protect her people. She did her duty and swore to leave the bloodshed behind. But when her daughter, Marta, was kidnapped, Floré was forced to once again raise her gauntlet against the devils of Ferron to bring her home.  But still the rotstorm rages.  Marta is dying from the skein-magic she inherited from her father, and the Protectorate is weakened by the absence of the whitestaffs. The mystical order of healers and sages fled to their island citadel of Riven when strange orbs cut through the night.  Now Floré and her comrades must race to find a cure for Marta, to find the truth of the whitestaffs' betrayal, and to fight back against the encroaching children of the storm.  Floré has taken up her gauntlets and her sword to keep her people safe – but steel alone might not be enough...

The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51422-2.
Billed by the publisher as The Witcher meets Vikings in the second book in a Norse-inspired epic fantasy series.  Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison.  Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest. As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.  Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her. Their only hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the Earth.

The Shadow in the Glass by J. J. A. Harwood, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-36813-5.
Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.  Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.  One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay…  A smouldering, terrifying new spin on Cinderella.

Aera: The Return of the Ancient Gods (Omnibus) by Markus Heitz, Joe Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40198-1.
The gods are back, the world is in uproar – and only one man has the strength to seek the truth. I’ve never believed in any kind of god, so that’s a problem when they start manifesting – Zeus, the Mórrígan, Thor, all of them. But I don’t think these really are the gods we’ve worshipped in the past. I think we’re in the middle of an invasion. And now people are dying… My name is Malleus Bourreau. I’m an atheist and an investigator – and I will find the answers.

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-38059-5.
‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all.'  1768. Charlotte arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Two years later, her sister Antoine is sent to France to marry another stranger. In the mirrored corridors of Versailles, they rename her Marie Antoinette.  But the sisters are not powerless. When they were only children, Charlotte and Antoine discovered a book of spells – spells that seem to work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.  In a world of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, Charlotte and Antoine use their secret skills to redefine their lives, becoming the most influential women of the age.  But every spell requires a sacrifice.

Asian Ghost Short Stories by Dr. Luo Hoil & K. Hari Kumar (eds.), Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$40 / US$30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64882-3
A new collection of stories from submissions and classic literature offering the best and most incredible ghost stories from across the East, South East and East Asia, the best of India, Korea, Japan, Thailand and more, combining new and classic authors across the entire region

The Land of the Dead by Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi, Flame Tree Press, £12.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58641-3
Science and the supernatural collide in this tale of witches, reanimated corpses and spirits invading our world from beyond the grave. Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde again become reluctant monster hunters when a mad scientist searching for immortality teams up with a necromancer to put spirits into his abominations. This is set in the same universe as Stoker's Wilde West.

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T. L. Huchu, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03952-8.
The sequel to The Library of the Dead, with more ghosts, mysteries and mayhem as Ropa grapples with her newfound magical abilities.  Some secrets are meant to stay buried.  When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. And her with bills to pay and a pet fox to feed.  Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialized hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. The first patient was a teenage boy, Max Wu, and his healers are baffled. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander.  Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time.

The Wars of Gods and Men Immortal’s Blood: Book Three by Chris Humphreys, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22609-8.
The old gods are dead. The world is ruled by prophecy. But there are still some who will fight…  After the Coming of the Dark, most immortals have been killed. The religion of the Four Tribes has taken over the world, crushing any opposition. The resistance awaits the return of the prophesised One, who is both male and female, and neither. They have not been seen for fifteen years.  But over the mountains, kept deeply secret, the One has grown into adulthood. It is time for them to return and see what is being done in their name. And that means going to war.

Gwendy's Final Task by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-399-70234-8.
When Gwendy Peterson was 12 a stranger named Richard Farris gave her a mysterious box for safekeeping. It offered treats, vintage coins, but it was dangerous. Pushing any of its seven coloured buttons promised death and destruction… Years later, the button box re-entered Gwendy's life. A successful novelist and a rising politician, she was once more forced to deal with the box's temptations. However, with the passing of time, the box has grown ever stronger and there those who desire to possess it…

The Thousand Eyes by A. K. Larkwood, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03279-6.
Two years have passed since Csorwe defied her mentor and stole a precious artefact. But the powerful wizard isn’t done with her yet – even as an ancient and deadly enemy threatens to reawaken. This is the sequel to The Unspoken Name.  Could you sacrifice your dreams to escape a nightmare?  Csorwe, Shuthmili and Tal survey abandoned Echentyr worlds to make a living. The empire’s ruins seem harmless but fascinating. Yet disaster strikes when they stumble upon ancient magic during a routine expedition. This revives a warrior who’d slept for an age, reigniting a conflict thousands of years old. And the soldier binds Csorwe to her cause.  Shuthmili is desperate to protect the woman she loves. However, as events escalate, she’s torn. Can she help Csorwe by clinging to her own humanity or by embracing her eldritch powers?  Tal heads home, but his peace is shattered when a magical catastrophe hits his city. The wizard Sethennai is missing and Tal can’t face seeking his former lover to ask for help. So, he flees – but there’s no escaping the future. For throughout the Echo Maze’s linked worlds, fragments of an undead goddess are waking. Soon all must choose a side.

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-29504-2.
This is the second novel in the new fantasy series from the author of Prince of Thorns and Red Sister.

Speaking Bones: Dandelion Dynasty 4 by Ken Lui, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93165-0.
The conclusion to the Dandelion Dynasty. Stalked by foes and dogged by betrayal, Princess Déra is pursued across a continent vaster than she could ever have imagined, to the hidden valleys of the World’s Edge Mountains, into the barrows and subterranean halls of the City of Ghosts, across the ice floes of the far north. She breached the Wall of Storms intent on taking war to the Lyucu homelands, but how can you conquer the unconquerable?  Empress Jia, Prince Phyro and Pékyu Tanvanaki find themselves bound to paths they never would have chosen. Amid atrocity and subterfuge, they will discover that the Courage of Brutes is no substitute for the Grace of Kings, and that little separates the Grace of Kings from the Madness of Tyrants.  On both sides of the Wall of Storms, defeat’s bitter tears mix with the fruits of knowledge new and ancient as two empires bound by blood and bone, by writ and iron, by time and custom, face a force that threatens to utterly consume them. The teeth, as they say, are on the board.

The Discord of Gods by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87963-2.
The end times have come.  Relos Var’s final plans to enslave the universe are on the cusp of fruition. He believes there’s only one being in existence that might be able to stop him: the demon Xaltorath.  As these two masterminds circle each other, neither is paying attention to the third player on the board, Kihrin. Unfortunately, keeping himself classified in the ‘pawn’ category means Kihrin must pretend to be everything the prophecies threatened he’d become: the destroyer of all, the sun eater, a mindless, remorseless plague upon the land. It also means finding an excuse to not destroy the people he loves (or any of the remaining Immortals) without arousing suspicion.  Kihrin’s goals are complicated by the fact that not all of his ‘act’ is one. His intentions may be sincere, but he’s still being forced to grapple with the after-effects of the corrupted magic ritual that twisted both him and the dragons. Worse, he’s now tied to a body that is the literal avatar of a star – a form that is becoming increasingly, catastrophically unstable. All of which means he’s running out of time.  After all, some stars fade – but others explode.

The House of Always by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87970-0.
Trapped and running out of time, Kihrin and his allies must escape their demonic prison and save the world from Relos Var’s calamitous plans. Billed by the publisher as perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss.

Only A Monster by Vanessa Len, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-38006-4.
Juvenile fantasy. In every story there is a hero and a monster… Sent to stay with her late mother’s family in London, Joan is determined to enjoy her summer. But then a good deed gone wrong sends Joan spinning through time, and her life unravels. Her family are monsters, with terrifying powers. And her crush, Nick, is a monster slayer who will do anything to bring them down. Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her monstrousness to save herself, and her family. Because in this story, she is not the hero.

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23363-8.
Billed by the publisher as a fast-paced epic fantasy with a streetwise female protagonist plunged into a maelstrom of magic, conspiracy and diabolic power.  Raine is seventeen years old and on the run. She can see the dead, a secret that could get her killed.  Seeking refugewith a deluded cult is her latest bad decision, but rescuing a woman in the snow is revealed to be even worse.  Hazia endangers not just Raine, but the world: she’s escaped from Redwinter, fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, the warrior magicians who answer to no king or queen, but to their own Grand Master. They will stop at nothing to retrieve what she’s stolen.

The Charming Man by C. K. McDonnell, Bantam, £14.99, hrdbk, 978-1-787-63337-7.
Vampires do not exist, everyone knows this. So it's particularly annoying when they start popping up in Manchester. Nobody is pleased. Not the Founders, the secret organisation for whom vampires were invented as an allegory, nor the folk, the magical people hidden in plain sight, and definitely not the people of Manchester. Somebody needs to sort this out before all Hell breaks loose. Step forward the staff of the city's weirdest paper, The Stranger Times.

Priest of Crowns by Peter McLean, Joe Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41134-8.
Gangster, soldier, priest, knight – and aboveall, Queen’s Man: the climax of the 'War for the Rose Throne' quartet.  Tomas Piety looked after his men, body and soul, as best he could, until those who ran his country decided his dark talents would better serve the throne.  Now, with the Skanian menace rising once more on the streets of Ellinburg, Piety is forced to turn to old friends and untrustworthy allies. With revolution brewing and tragedy and terrorism running rife, Piety must weigh the true cost of a crown.

The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin, Harper Voyager, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-11885-3.
An enchanting tale of courage and sacrifice…

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez, Joe Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40811-9.
Meet Constance Verity, the girl who’s been saving the world since she was seven.  Constance has spent twenty-seven years saving the world and she’s fed up. She wants an everyday sort of life: an ordinary job, friends, a normal boyfriend. And she’s got a plan. The problem is, saving the world is Constance’s destiny, and she’s good at it – and there are forces at work ensuring she keeps doing it. Then again, it’s also her destiny to have a glorious death…

Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez, Joe Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40813-3.
Constance Verity is still saving the universe, one crisis at a time – but now the rules have changed.  Constance has managed to build a quiet life between feats of improbable heroism. But when malicious superbrains and sinister ocean gods join an entirely unreasonable number of assassins, Connie might finally be in over her head – and the curse of steadily worsening bad luck isn’t helping much.  With her history of saving the world over and over, it should be just another day in Connie’s life – shouldn’t it?

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe by A. Lee Martinez, Joe Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40815-7.
The climax to Constance Verity’s epic adventure: saving the world is easy.  Everything that comes after is the tricky part.  There isn’t a foe Connie can’t out-fight – until she discovers she herself might be the greatest threat to the world she’s spent her life saving.With her trademark determination, Constance Verity sets out to avert a cosmic plan millions of years in the making – and save the universe from herself. After all, who else is going to do it?

The Shadow People by Graham Masterton, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24336-1.
Jerry Pardoe and Jamila Patel hunt down a ritualistic cult inspired by Neolithic cannibals in the new chilling horror from Graham Masterton.  Detective Sergeant Jamila Patel and Detective Constable Jerry Pardoe have reluctantly acquired a reputation in the Metropolitan Police for their ability to tackle bizarre and apparently supernatural crimes. Now they have been called back together after three bodies are found in a London basement… Bodies which have been taken apart, roasted and eaten.  The markings on the wall suggest this might have been done by some kind of religious cult - and as more people are kidnapped and cannibalised, Patel and Pardoe realise they are dealing with a group of devil-worshippers invoking an ancient god who has not been worshipped since the Neolithic age…

The Soul Stealer by Graham Masterton, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-801-10393-0.
A Native American demon is unearthed in the present day…  Nemo Frisby used to be a detective. Now he drives an Uber between billionaire mansions in California. But he never lost the nose for the case – and when his house cleaner, Trinity Fox, discovers a young woman lying dead in her neighbourhood, she persuades him to help her prove it wasn’t suicide.  Their investigation leads them to the Bel Air home of a wealthy movie producer who built his mansion over a Native American burial site. Ancient mythology tells of a demon who, if unearthed, can imbue evil men with terrible power. But only if the demon is fed by the sacrifice of innocent lives...

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51759-9.
Billed by the publisher as The Great Gatsby meets Practical Magic in this lush, decadent gothic novel On Crow Island, people whispered real magic lurked just below the surface.  But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch. When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline's extravagantly illicit parties, Annie is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money cannot; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death. Get swept into a vision of 1920s England where magic is real but illegal, where young women have dark powers burning inside them, and where the boundaries of wickedness are tested with dire consequences.

Beyond the Veil by Mark Morris (ed.), Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$19.95 / US$14.95, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58463-1
Beyond the Veil is the second volume in an annual, non-themed horror series of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer, Mark Morris (editor) has written and edited almost forty novels, novellas, short story collections and anthologies. The previous anthology, After Sundown, was short-listed for a Shirley Jackson Award.

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01624-6.
The conclusion to the 'Dragons of Terra' trilogy.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-39169-5.
A juvenile fantasy that is a feminist retelling of a classic Korean folktale. Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. To appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the ‘true bride’ will be chosen and end the suffering. To save her village, Mina throws herself into the water and is swept away to the Spirit Realm to seek out the Sea God.

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-28912-6.
Emma can’t sleep.  She’s convinced there’s someone outside.  It’s been like this ever since her 40th birthday started getting closer.  The same thing happened to her mother the week before her 40th.  She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.  Is that what’s happening to Emma too?  Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes is now a Netflix limited series. Her Dead To Her is now in development with Amazon Studios, and 13 Minutes and The Death House is in development with Compelling Pictures. Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel and was shortlisted for the British Book Award for best Thriller.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-51463-1
Enchantments run deep on the magical Isle of Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armour, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that live there find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home, but that mischief turns to malevolence as girls begin to go missing.  Adaira, heiress of the east, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, enticing them to return the missing girls. But there’s only one bard capable of drawing the spirits forth by song: her childhood enemy Jack Tamerlaine.  He hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university, but as Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than first thought and an older, darker secret lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all…

Elektra by Jennifer Saint, Wildfire (Headline), £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-27391-8.
The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.  Clytemnestra: The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon - her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.  Cassandra: Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.  Elektra: The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23505-2.
Paranormal romance. Featuring a brand-new heroine and hero readers to the established the Argeneau vampire series.

Castles In Their Bones by Laura Sebastian, Hodder, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-37296-0.
A new trilogy. The plot: overthrow a kingdom. The goal: world domination. The plan: marriage. Trained from birth in espionage and seduction, the triplet princesses of Bessemi must travel to three distant lands to marry three princes and enact their Queen mother’s plan to rule from sea to sea. But when they arrive, each sister discovers her task is not so simple, and their mother’s motives may not be what they seem.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-398-70543-2.
A spellbinding story set in a world where it’s possible to create new places by illustrating them on maps.  Nell Young has lived her life in and around maps. Her father, Dr David Young, was one of the most respected cartographers in the world. He’s also just been found dead – in an office at the New York Public Library. Nell’s search for answers will take her on a dangerous journey into the heart of a conspiracy and the true power of maps . . . Step inside the hidden world of The Cartographers.

The Sea Rises: Form & Void 3 by A. J. Smith, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69696-0.
The conclusion to the trilogy. The glass breaks, the sword falls, the sea rises. Ages end and the sea rises. As the sea rises, so too does the old world.  Lord Marius Cyclone faces an unimaginable danger. The mighty legions of Santago Cyclone – known as the Bloodied Harp – and King Oliver Dawn Claw will be upon the Dark Harbour in less than a day, and truce seems impossible, even as the end of the world of Form creeps ever nearer.  But the tide waits for no man. Marius has only one choice if his people are to survive: flight, into the Void. All the while, a primal power awakens. The Sunken God has lived through many ages and watched countless civilizations rise and fall. And he will not let his quarry flee without a fight

Lore Olympus: Volume Two by Rachel Smythe, Del Rey, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15046-9.
Graphic novel based on Greek mythology. Persephone was ready to start a new life when she left the mortal realm for Olympus. However, she quickly discovered the dark side of her glamorous new home - from the relatively minor gossip threatening her reputation to a realm-shattering violation of her safety by the conceited Apollo - and she's struggling to find her footing in the fast-moving realm of the gods.  Hades is also off-balance, fighting against his burgeoning feelings for the young goddess of spring while maintaining his lonely rule of the Underworld. As the pair are drawn ever closer, they must untangle the twisted webs of their past and present to build toward a new future.  This full-colour edition of Smythe's original Eisner-nominated webcomic Lore Olympus features a brand-new, exclusive short story, and brings Greek mythology into the modern age.  This volume collects episodes 26-49 of the #1 WEBTOON comic Lore Olympus

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, #Merky, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-11875-9.
Vern, a Black woman with albinism, is hunted after escaping a religious compound, then she discovers that her body is changing and that she is developing extra-sensory powers. Alone in the woods, she gives birth to twins and raises them away from the influence of the outside world. But something is wrong – not with them, but with her own body. It's itching, it's stronger, it's... not normal. To understand her body’s metamorphosis, Vern must investigate not just the secluded religious compound she fled but the violent history of dehumanization, medical experimentation, and genocide that produced it. In the course of reclaiming her own darkness, Vern learns that monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire histories, systems, and nations.

The Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens, Flame Tree Press, £6.99 / Can$12.99 / US$9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64885-4.
Two adventurers, prospecting for gold in the jungles of Mexico, stumble across a lost Aztec city and cause an ancient evil to be unleashed. An early science fiction masterpiece written by Gertrude Barrows Bennett, writing as Francis Stevens. Bennett (1884–1948), writing as Francis Stevens, is often regarded as the founder of dark fantasy and was an influence on H.P. Lovecraft amongst many.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04735-6.
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.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Quantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51693-6.
A new adventure begins in the bestselling world of the Laundry Files: in a nightmarish vision of a Britain where magic has gone mainstream…

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51642-4.
No man is above the law. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is a Justice – a judge, jury and executioner all in one. He is sworn to travel the Empire and uphold the law by way of his sharp intellect, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. Yet these are dangerous times, even for a Justice. When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, he unearths a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he's sworn to uphold in order to protect the Empire?

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-47929-9.
Growing up on the Moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.  Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which flames between her and the emperor’s son. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies, across the Earth and skies…  This novel weaves ancient Chinese mythology.

Beasts & Creatures Myths & Tales by Tok Thompson (ed.), Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$40 / US$30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64883-0
With their weird combination of animal limbs, or distorted visions of human perception, beasts and creatures can be found in all myths and legends of the world, often used to demonstrate moral or fabulistic stories, and explain extreme natural phenomenon.  This new collection includes many of the most famous and recognisable, with some insight too into the rare and the little known: the Scorpion men of Babylon mingle with the Zombies of Haiti and the Jaguars of the Aztecs, the Dybbuk and Golem of Jewish folklore can be found alongside the Yeti and the Sasquatch. Of course, from the Greek and Celtic mythologies come the Phoenix, the Banshee, the Unicorn, Satyrs and Fauns, Centaurs and Minotaurs, the many headed Hydra, the Basilisk and the Griffin. And let’s not forget the goblins of the Norse, the ogreish monsters of Japanese mythology, the Oni, and the nymphs, fairies and sprites that appear in many different mythological traditions. This truly is a wonderful collection of tales.

Ghosts by G. X. Todd, Headline, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-23320-2.
Fantasy horror. Seven years ago, the voices came. Some people could hear and others despised them for it. As death and destruction spread, a ghostly figure was waiting in the shadows. Now the Flitting Man is ready to show his face - and no one is safe. Pilgrim was made for this broken world. He's chosen his path and will stop at nothing to see it through. Albus sees this world as others cannot. And the friends that he's kept safe are facing terrible danger. Addison belongs to a very different world. She might just be the future, if she survives…

The Storm Beneath a Midnight Sun by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22415-5.
War is draining Reykjavík. For some, the remote islands off Hrímland’s coast are their only hope of survival.  Elka has fled there with her son, Solvi. In their village they find a new life – all thanks to the Deep, a peculiar power their neighbours praise for the booming fishing industry.  Everything seems perfect, but Sölvi does not trust the new people around him.  Kari is a sorcerer, recruited for a career-making venture – an excavation of an ancient power. He must go deep into the magical wasteland, find what is buried there and turn the tide of the war forever.

In the Heart of Hidden Things by Kit Whitfield, Joe Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41488-2.
When you live next door to the People, life is never going to be simple – or safe.  If you fall afoul of the People, you must travel to Gyrford, where generations of fairy-smiths have protected the county with cold iron and good counsel and unvarnished opinions about your common sense.  But shielding the weak from the strong can make enemies. Ephraim Brady has money and power, and the bitter will to hurt those who cross him. And if he can’t touch elder farrier Jedediah Smith, he can harm those the Smiths care about. The Smiths care about the Porters, who have been millers to the village for generations, but have fallen foul of their grasping landlord. And they care about Tobias Ware, whose mind was touched in the womb by the flames of the great fey dog Black Hal. Tobias doesn’t understand the laws of men, and he can’t keep away from the Bellame woods or stop chasing coneys, which is poaching – and that’s a hanging offence. Toby’s also upset one of the kind neighbours, who looks a lot like a thornbush with a blackberry for a head.  The Smiths mean to protect as many as they can. If only they can keep their own boy, John, who’s a little touched himself, from doing something foolish…

The Gift: Book 1 – Eleanor by R. A. Williams, White Fox, £18.99 / US$26.99 / €22.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-913-53295-6.
The North Atlantic and the Titanic is sinking. Eleanor is led by a stranger into the hold and an open sarcophagus surrounded by mutilated bodies, as the ship sinks. But somehow Eleanor survives and is rescued. But now, unintentionally, she has a gift that will pull her into a world of ancient evils and vicious hunters and human prey…

Crimson Reign by Amélie Wen Zhao, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-32799-6.
The third book in an epic fantasy series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to liberate her empire from a dark reign.

Red Tigress by Amélie Wen Zhao, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-32798-9.
Ana Mikhailov is the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia. She has no army, no title, and no allies, and now she must find a way to take back the throne or risk the brutal retribution of the empress. Morganya is determined to establish a new world order on the spilled blood of non-Affinites. Ana is certain that Morganya won’t stop until she kills them all.  Ana’s only chance at navigating the dangerous world of her homeland means partnering with Ramson Quicktongue again. But the cunning crime lord has schemes of his own. For Ana to find an army, they must cross the Whitewaves to the impenetrable stone forts of Bregon. Only, no one can be certain what they will find there.  A dark power has risen. Will revolution bring peace – or will it only paint the streets in more blood…

 

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 2022

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe by Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-80912-8.
The greatest challenge for physics is to combine its two most successful theories: general relativity and quantum mechanics. The resulting quantum theory of gravity would explain the universe across all scales. Much has been said about the approach based on string theory. Here, Jim Baggott describes its powerful rival: Loop Quantum Gravity. Over the past couple of years this has sold well enough for OUP to produce this affordable hardback edition. (Click on the title link for a review of the trade paperback)

The Book of Minds by Philip Ball, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06914-3.
This explores the diversity of thinking minds, from the variety of human minds to those of mammals, insects, computers and plants, in a book that brilliantly illuminates how many different ways there are to think and engage with the world; and how particular are our own.  Understanding the human mind and how it relates to the world of experience has challenged scientists and philosophers for centuries. How do we even begin to think about ‘minds’ that are not human? That is the question explored in this ground-breaking book. Award-winning science writer Philip Ball argues that in order to understand our own minds and imagine those of others, we need to move on from considering the human mind as a standard against which all others should be measured.  Science has begun to have something to say about the properties of mind; the more we learn about the minds of other creatures, from octopuses to chimpanzees, to imagine the potential minds of computers and alien intelligences, the more we can begin to see our own, and the more we can understand the diversity of the human mind, in the widest of contexts, the more we can glimpse, however faintly at present, the central concept of this book: The space of possible minds.

Roald Dahl: Teller of the Unexpected by Matthew Dennison, Apollo – Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54941-7.
A concise life of Roald Dahl – much-loved author and creator of numerous iconic literary characters. Roald Dahl was one of the world’s greatest storytellers. He conceived his vocation as one as intrepid as that of any explorer and, in his writing for children, he was able to tap into a child’s viewpoint throughout his life. He crafted tales that were exotic in scenario, frequently invested with a moral, and filled with vibrant characters that endure in public imagination to the present day.

Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction by Thomas Dixon & Adam R. Shapiro, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-83102-0.
This second edition explains the philosophical and historical concepts that shape current debates about science and religion. It also considers some of the themes and issues that have become more prominent in the past decade, such as science denial, climate change and environmentalism, and religion and public health - including responses to CoVID-19. (Click on the title link for a standalone review of the first edition.)

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts by Silvia Ferrara, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06475-9.
This book tells the story of our greatest invention. Or, it almost does. Almost, because while the story has a beginning – in fact, it has many beginnings, not only in Mesopotamia, 3,100 years before the birth of Christ, but also in China, Egypt and Central America – and it certainly has a middle, one that snakes through the painted petroglyphs of Easter Island, through the great machines of empires and across the desks of inspired, brilliant scholars, the end of the story remains to be written.  The invention of writing allowed humans to create a record of their lives and to persist past the limits of their lifetimes. In the shadows and swirls of ancient inscriptions, we can decipher the stories they sought to record, but we can also tease out the timeless truths of human nature, of our ceaseless drive to connect, create and be remembered.  The Greatest Invention chronicles an uncharted journey, one filled with past flashes of brilliance, present-day scientific research and the faint, fleeting echo of writing’s future. Professor Silvia Ferrara, a modern-day adventurer who travels the world studying ancient texts, takes us along with her; we touch the knotted, coloured strings of the Incan khipu and consider the case of the Phaistos disk. Ferrara takes us to the cutting edge of decipherment, where high-powered laser scanners bring tears to an engineer’s eye, and further still, to gaze at the outline of writing’s future.

The History of the Universe In 100 Stars by Florian Freistetter, Quercus Paperbacks, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41015-0.
A very personal history of the universe through the author's favourite stars who believes that stars tell the story of the universe. Freistetter reveals the past and future of the cosmos and the story of those who have tried to understand the world in which we live.

Death by Nature? Understanding Wildlife Diseases by Ben Garrod, Apollo – Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54766-6.
When we make nature ill, it makes us ill.  With the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and the unsustainable farming of livestock, it seems all too likely that deadly zoonotic diseases will shape the twenty-rst century. We think of dangerous wildlife as the n of the shark cutting through the shallows or the tiger hunting its prey, but the greater threat comes from the microscopic killers passed from animals to humans.  Taking this major human health issue and exploring it from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist, Death by Nature? combs the natural world for causes, clues and cures to some of the greatest threats we face.

Mary Shelley: A Very Short Introduction by Charlotte Gordon, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-86919-1.
Famous for her novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was also infamous in her own time for breaking social and literary conventions, and taking a political and philosophical stance advocating for the rights of women. Charlotte Gordon explores the context and key themes in the life and work of this courageous, complicated, and accomplished woman.

The Future of Dinosaurs by David Hone, Hodder & Stoughton, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69224-4.
What we don’t know, what we can, and what we’ll never know. We have made more discoveries about dinosaurs in the last 20 years than we have in the previous 200, and there is a wealth of cutting-edge research that has never been written about before, from their skin (some had feathers) to their extinction (the myth of the meteorite), much of which is David’s own personal research and discovery. In The Future of Dinosaurs, David Hone shows us the extraordinary advances in palaeontologist research that are starting to fill in these gaps, and sets out the future of dinosaurs for the next generation.

The Story of the Dinosaurs by David Hone and edited by Ella Al-Shamahi, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94528-1.
What were the earliest dinosaurs like? How did they communicate? How do we know so much about them and why did they disappear? Which were the fastest, the fiercest, or the longest living? Based on the latest scientific research, The Story of the DinosaursThe Story of theDinosaurs will bring its most infamous inhabitants to life.

The Short Story of Science: A Pocket Guide to Key Histories, Experiments, Theories, Instruments and Methods by Tom Jackson. Laurence King, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-913-94788-0.
A new introduction to the complete subject of science. Covering sixty fundamental experiments, from Archimedes’ investigations of buoyancy to the discovery of dark matter, and linking these to the key theories and methods, this book simplifies and explains all the crucial breakthroughs. Accessible and concise, generously illustrated throughout, and with all the essential information presented without jargon.

Disaster by Choice: How our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes by Ilan Kelman, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84135-7.
We speak of earthquakes, floods, and wildfires as ‘natural disasters’. Here, Ilan Kelman argues that the true disaster is not caused by natural phenomena, but by human choices which leave people unprepared and at terrible risk. He explores how we can and should act to stop people dying when nature unleashes its powers.

The Parrot in the Mirror: How Evolving to be Like Birds Made us Human by Antone Martinho-Truswell, Oxford University Press, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84610-9.
How similar are your choices, behaviours, and lifestyle to those of a parrot?  We humans are not like other mammals. We look like them, but we don’t act like them. In fact, many of our defining human traits: our longevity, intelligence, monogamy and childrearing, and learning and language, all deep parts of what it means to be human, are far more similar to birds than to our fellow mammals. These similarities originate not from shared ancestors but from parallel histories. Our evolutionary stories have pushed humans and birds to the same solutions. In this book, Antone Martinho-Truswell explores these similarities to argue that we can learn a great deal about ourselves by thinking of the human species as ‘the bird without feathers’.  This is also a book about convergent evolution—evolution that drives very different species to very similar outcomes and behaviours. The traits we share with birds but not mammals are the result of similar, specific pressures that demanded similar solutions—and exploring these similarities can help us understand both why we evolved to be the way we are, and also how very unusual some of our behaviours are in the animal kingdom.

The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World by Oliver Milman, Atlantic, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-95117-7.
How would we live if insects no longer existed?  When is the last time you were stung by a wasp? Or were followed by a cloud of midges? Or saw a butterfly? All these normal occurrences are becoming much rarer. A groundswell of research suggests insect numbers are in serious decline all over the world – in some places by over 90%.  The Insect Crisis explores this hidden emergency, arguing that its consequences could even rival climate change. We rely on insect pollination for the bulk of our agriculture, they are a prime food source for birds and fish, and they are a key strut holding up life on Earth, especially our own. A celebration of the incredible variety of insects, this rousing book highlights why we need to wake up to this impending environmental disaster.

The 2000AD Encyclopaedia by Scott Montgomery, Rebellion, £39, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-18561-7.
If you have been getting the monthly The Judge Dredd Megazine over the past three years then you will have in effect already had this as every now and then a section of the encyclopaedia is bagged with The Megazine.  What are the essential Judge Dredd stories? In which progs did The Ballad of Halo Jones run? What year was the first appearance of Nemesis the Warlock? Just who are the Thrillsuckers? Look no further, Earthlets! Every strip and major character from 2000 AD’s 45 year history is catalogued and detailed, accompanied by artwork and illustrations.

Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers by Paul Morland, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04599-4.
The future of both humanity and the planet depends on the shape of human population growth, the only aspect of our future that be confidently predicted. In ten thought-provoking chapters, Paul Morland explores ten illuminating trends that will determine that shape, from the fecundity rate of Singapore to the aging of the Japanese.  The great forces of population change – the balance of births, deaths and migrations – have made the world what it is today. They have determined which countries are super powers and which languish in relative obscurity, which economies top the international league tables and which are at best also-rans.  The same forces that have shaped our past and present are shaping our future. Illustrating this through ten illuminating indicators, from the birth-rate in Singapore (one) to the median age in Catalonia (forty-three), Paul Morland shows how demography is both a powerful and an under-appreciated lensthrough which to view the global transformations that are currently underway.  Tomorrow’s People ranges from the countries of West Africa where thetendency towards large families is combining with falling infant mortality to create the greatest population explosion ever witnessed, to the countries of East Asia and Southern Europe where generations of low birth rate and rising life expectancy are creating the oldest populations in history.  Morland explores the geographical movements of peoples that are already under way - portents for still larger migrations ahead - which are radically changing the cultural, ethnic and religious composition of many societies across the globe, and in their turn creating political reaction that can be observed from Brexit to the rise of Donald Trump.  Finally, he looks at the two underlying motors of change – remarkable rises in levels of education and burgeoning food production – which have made all these developments possible.

Dust: A history and a future of environmental disaster by Jay Owens, Hodder & Stoughton, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-36264-0.
Exploring dust as a method for seeing the world – from space dust to sandstorms, the domestic to the digital.  Four-and-a-half billion years ago, Planet Earth was formed from a vast spinning nebula of cosmic dust, the detritus left over from the birth of the sun. Within the next hundred years, human life on swathes of the Earth’s surface will also end, in a haze of heat, drought and, again, dust. All of history is recorded in the dust we create: the pollution we make, the fires we start, the chemicals we use, the volcanoes that erupt. Now, for the first time, Dust will examine this substance and reveal its importance and the fascinating stories it can tell.

The Story of the Solar System by Maggie Aderin-Pocock, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94527-4.
What is a planet? Is there life on Mars? What makes Earth so special? Questions about our Solar System have fascinated us for centuries. Based on the latest scientific research, The Story of the Solar System will help you see the planets around us in a whole new light. Using colourful and easy-to-follow infographics, each planet becomes a character with a story of its own to tell, from Jupiter the King of the Solar System to ice oddity Uranus and outlier planet-but-not-a-planet Pluto.  As Space Scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock shows us, the story of Earth is best understood as part of its larger family, and The Story of the Solar System brings that family to life.

This is the BBC: Entertaining the Nation, Speaking for Britain, 1922-2022 by Simon J. Potter, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-192-89852-4.
2022 marks the centenary year of the British Broadcasting Corporation. As Britain’s most famous and influential broadcaster, the BBC faces a range of significant challenges to the way it operates, and perhaps to its existence, from the government but also from a rapidly changing media environment. Historian Simon J. Potter explores the hundred year history of this corporation, drawing out the roots of these challenges and understanding how similar threats—hostile politicians and prime ministers, the advent of television—were met and overcome in the past.

About Writing by Gareth L. Powell, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23469-7.
The essential, practical and accessible field guide to publishing.  This is the definitive field guide for aspiring authors who want encouragement and support in their writing, a reference guide to the publishing landscape and an entry-level text that isn’t intimidating.  This book is that aspiring writer’s best friend – written by an award-winning novelist who has walked the same road, and who shares tips, insights and top advice in an open, approachable way that’s always honest and inspiring.  Gareth Powell is an SF author who has won the BSFA Award for Best Novel twice: for Embers of War and Ack Ack Macaque.

Rebalancing Our Climate: The Future Starts Today by Eelco J. Rohling, Oxford University Press, £26.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-197-50255-6.
This documents a wealth of ways to adjust the trajectory of climate change. He outlines measures to drive massive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, remove these gases from our atmosphere, and reflect part of the incoming energy from the Sun back into space. The book evaluates both advantages and disadvantages of changing our behaviour.

Human-Centered AI by Ben Shneiderman, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-192-84529-0.
An an optimistic realist’s guide to how artificial intelligence can be used to augment and enhance humans’ lives. This project bridges the gap between ethical considerations and practical realities to offer a road map for successful, reliable systems. Digital cameras, communications services, and navigation apps are just the beginning. Shneiderman shows how future applications will support health and wellness, improve education, accelerate business, and connect people in reliable, safe, and trustworthy ways that respect human values, rights, justice, and dignity.

A New Science of Heaven: How the new science of plasma is shedding light on spiritual experience by Robert Temple, Coronet, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62374-3.
Plasma and its implications for the way we understand the universe.  Science in the 20th century focused on relativity and quantum mechanics. Quietly in the background, there has been another area of exploration with important implications for our understanding of the universe: the study of plasma. This book will reveal how over 99% of the universe is made of plasma and how there are two gigantic clouds of plasma, the Kordylewski Clouds, hovering between the Earth and the Moon. Plasma even exhibits features that suggest they may be in some sense alive… We may have been looking for signs of extra-terrestrial life in the wrong place.

Still Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-45132-5.
From starring in Stand By Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself in his second iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well-respected names in science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture.  Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies. Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and has an enormous presence online. In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek.

The Cosmic Oasis: The Remarkable Story of Earth’s Biosphere by Mark Williams & Jan Zalasiewicz, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84587-4.
This examines life on Earth, from our earliest interactions with animals and plants to our absolute domination ofbiology. It follows our developing understanding of life’s origins, its remarkable complexity, and its interactions with the air, oceans and land. It also shows how patterns of diversity across the surface of the planet evolved, and how humans are now homogenising these, degrading both biodiversity and the space in which life can exist.

 

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 2022

General Science News

 

The 2021 Nobel Prizes have been announced. The wins were:-
          Physics: Syukuro Manabe (Japanese born US citizen), Klaus Hasselmann (Germany) and Giorgio Parisi (Italy). For work discerning order from chaotic systems.  Research by Manabe and Hasselmann, independent of each other, led to computer models of the Earth's climate that can predict the impact of global warming.  Syukuro Manabe demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could lead to increased temperatures at the surface of the Earth. In the 1960s, he led the development of physical models of the climate. A decade later, Klaus Hasselmann created a computer model that linked together weather and climate. His work answered the question of why climate models can be reliable despite weather being changeable and chaotic. Parisi's work developed a metal alloy called spin glass, in which iron atoms were randomly mixed into a grid of copper atoms. Even though there are only a few iron atoms, they change the material's magnetic properties in a radical and very puzzling manner. His work builds from the disorder and fluctuations of complex systems at the level of]their microscopic constituents.  One half of the 10 million krona (£842,611/US$1,137,500) prize goes to Manabe and Hasselmann, while the other goes to Parisi.
          Chemistry: German-born Benjamin List and Scotland-born David MacMillan for their work on building molecules that are mirror images of one another. Their chemical toolkit has been used for discovering new drugs and making molecules that can capture light in solar cells.
          Medicine: David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian (USA) for their work on sensing temperature and touch. It is thought their work could lead to a breakthrough in treating chronic pain.
          Literature: Abdulrazak Gurnah.
          Economics: David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens for the use of "natural experiments" to understand the causal effects of economic policy and other events. Natural experiments use real-life situations to work out impacts on the world, an approach that has spread to other fields and revolutionised empirical research. They have shown that increasing minimum wage increases in the US do not lead to a rise in unemployment as had been previously thought.
          Peace: Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) for freedom of journalistic expression.
          Last year's Nobel winners here.

Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize shortlist for 2021 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 a record 267 submissions. It is a juried award.  The shortlist consists of:-
  - The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque (Oneworld)
  - Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (Penguin Life)
  - The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds by Jessica Nordell (Granta Books)
  - The Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories of Mystery Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan (Picador)
  - Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science by Stuart Ritchie (Bodley Head)
  - Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Bodley Head)
And the winner was Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures. The winner received a cheque for £25,000 (US$33,750), with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.
See here for last year's short-list and winner.

Windows 11 has launched, but you may need a new computer.  When Windows 10 came out in 2015 Microsoft said that it would be the "last version" of the system… Famous last words!  Windows 11 features a simplified design and changes to the Start menu which is now at the centre of the screen.  Windows 11 runs Android smartphone apps through the Amazon app store. Its in-built search function is significantly faster on most devices but it favours Microsoft's own services, Bing and the Edge browser, when delivering web results.  Windows 11 is a free upgrade for Windows 10 users. Others will have to buy it. However, it will only run on computers with a type of security chip - called a TPM – that are only on modern computers. If your device does not have this then you'll have to buy a new PC if you want Windows 11. But Windows 10 will only continue to be supported and receive security updates until October 2025.

A new type of artificial diamond has been made. A diamond shatters easily, despite it being the hardest natural material. Atomically disordered forms of diamond made from buckyballs might not only overcome this problem. Buckyballs are fullerenes — soccer-ball shaped C60 molecules This new form of diamond may see other properties to be optimised. Disorder impedes fracturing: glass is disordered where as quartz is a regular – easily shattered – crystal with the same chemical formula. Processes have been developed independently by two teams based in China. Both research groups used fullerite as a starting material, which consists of a crystalline arrangement of fullerenes. They also used large-scale pressure cells at temperaturesof about 900–1,300°C, and the pressures of the order of 27–30 gigapascals (1 GPa is 109 pascals). These pressures are much lower than were used in previous studies that reported dust-particle-sized amorphous diamond. The resulting paracrystalline material has excellent chemical stability and the amorphous material has outstanding thermal and optical properties. (See Shang, Y. et al (2021) Ultrahard bulk amorphous carbon from collapsed fullerene. Nature, vol. 599, p599-604,   Tang, H. et al (2021) Synthesis of paracrystalline diamond. Nature, vol. 599, p605-610,  and the review piece San-Miguel, A. (2021) How to make macroscale non-crystalline diamonds. Nature, vol. 599, p563-4.)

Artificial intelligence combined with remote sensing charts the recent rise of solar power globally. Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generating capacity has grown by 41% per year since 2009.  A small UK-USA team of researchers have provides a global inventory of commercial-, industrial- and utility-scale PV installations (that is, PV generating stations in excess of 10 kilowatts nameplate capacity) by using remote sensing imagery and machine learning. They used the AI to train itself to see known PV panels and then let it loose on pictures from the air and satellites across the globe. They estimate that the global installed generating capacity to be 423 gigawatts (-75/+77 gigawatts) at the end of 2018. They found many more solar installations than were previously described and that over four fifths by 2018 were installed since 2015. The study is a milestone because it shows that machine-learning approaches can be used to catalogue global energy infrastructure. (See Kruitwagen, L. et al (2021) A global inventory of photovoltaic solar energy generating units. Nature, vol. 598, p604-610  and  Kaack, L. H. (2021) Solar-panel detection goes global. Nature, vol. 598, p567-8.)

2020 was a record year says the UN's World Meteorological Organisation.  Atmospheric concentrations of the major greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continued to increase in 2020 and 2021. The growth rate of all three greenhouse gases in 2020 was above the average for the last decade despite a 5.6% drop in fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2020 due to restrictions related to the CoVID-19 pandemic.
          Global mean temperature in 2021 (January to September) is around 1.08 ± 0.13 °C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average and the year is likely to be between the 5th and 7th warmest year on record. 2021 is cooler than recent years owing to La Niña conditions early in the year.
          The rate of global sea level rise has increased since satellite altimeter measurements began in 1993, reaching 4.4 mm/yr between 2013 and 2021. Global mean sea level reached a new record high in 2021.
          Ocean heat content reached new record highs in 2019 and then 2020, the latest year for which a comprehensive analysis is available. Ocean warming rates show a particularly strong increase in the past two decades.
          Greenland experienced an exceptional mid-August melt event which included temperatures above 0 °C and rainfall at Summit Station, the highest point on the ice sheet. This is the first time that rain has been observed at Summit, and marks the third time in the last nine years that the Summit has experienced melting conditions. Ice core records indicate that only one such melt event occurred in the 20th century. (See World Meteorological Organisation (2021) State of the Global Climate 2021. WMO: Geneva.)

The UN climate COP26 meeting was held: world fails to commit to anything except aspirations. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) that arose out of the (Rio) UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held its 26th meeting in Glasgow, one year delayed due to CoVID. It was meant to be the most important climate COP meeting since 2015 that gave rise to the Paris Accord that aimed to hold global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures (previously aspired to in COP6 (Cancún, Mexico, 2010) and preferably 1.5°C.  The Glasgow COP26 resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact. It 'Expressed alarm and utmost concern…', 'Stress[ed] the urgency…', ''Recognise[d]…', 'Urge[d]…', 'Request[ed]…' and 'Call[ed] upon…' in making a raft of aspirational statements. However, if the associated 'pledges' made by the attending nations for nations 2030 targets were all fully implemented the world would warm by 2.4 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (Mashood, E. & Tollefson, J. (2021) ‘COP26 Hasn’t Solved The Problem’: Scientists react to UN climate deal. Nature, vol. 599, p355-6.). Much therefore depends on the COP 27 at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (2022) and COP 28, at the United Arab Emirates (2023).
++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Record surge in carbon dioxide
  - Keeping to 1.5°C will save 250 million by 3000AD
  - Species assemblages not just species could go extinct with climate change
  - We must totally decarbonise by 2050
  - How much will the Earth warm with more carbon dioxide?
  - UN Climate Change Panel (IPCC) releases 2014 impact assessment

Polls show climate change fear and extreme worry.  A BBC World Service opinion poll of over 30,000 people in 31 countries polled, revealed an average of 56% of people want their governments to set stronger targets that would address climate change as quickly as possible. Another 36% want their government to take a more moderate approach and support gradual action. Just 8% want their governments to oppose a deal.  In 2015, 43% of those polled wanted strong action.
          In another survey, the journal Nature polled over 650 of its readers who are mainly scientists researching or modelling climate change.  75.8% of the poll's respondents say they are extremely worried about climate change. 80% of respondents say their level of worry has increased since the last major international climate summit in Paris in 2015. (See McGrath, M. (2921) Climate change: Polls shows rising demand for government action. BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59067471  and  Anon (2021) Nature readers share growing climate fears. Nature, vol. 598, p551.)

Poll of IPCC scientists reveals extreme worry.  Nature has surveyed over 90 scientists who authored the Working Group I science report of the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 82% thought that they would see catastrophic impacts from climate change in their lifetime.  61% experienced anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns over climate change? 17% said that climate change concerns had caused them to reconsider having children. Only 4% had confidence that the world might meet its most aggressive goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C from the 2015 COP 21 Paris Accord. (See Tollefson, J. (2021) Top climate scientists are sceptical that nations can rein in global warming. Nature, vol. 599, p22-4.)

In a hothouse world rainfall becomes more episodic. We already know that hurricanes last longer in a warmer world and move slower dumping more water which are already making hurricanes more damaging, but what of 'normal' rainfall?  Earth’s distant past and potentially its future include extremely warm ‘hothouse’ climate states. In tropical seas with temperatures of 50°C; it looks like the weather system will flip from one of rainfall every few days to intense bursts between dry periods every fortnight. (See Seeley, J. T.& Wordsworth, R. D. (2021) Episodic deluges in simulated hothouse climates. Nature, vol. 599, p74-9.)

The pattern of future flash droughts revealed by an analysis of recent droughts. Flash drought is characterised by a period of rapid drought intensification. A study by US based meteorologists study identifies global hotspots for flash drought from those occurring between 1980–2015. Flash drought hotspots exist over Brazil, the Sahel, the Great Rift Valley, and India, with notable local hotspots over the central United States (broadly around Indianapolis), southwestern Russia, and northeastern China as well as Mexico. Six of the fifteen study regions experienced a statistically significant increase in flash drought during 1980–2015. In contrast, three study regions witnessed a significant decline in flash drought frequency including northern Australia and the east African rift valley. (See Christian, J. I. et al (2021) Global distribution, trends, and drivers of flash drought occurrence. Nature Communications, vol. 12, 6,330.)

Australian wildfires have released 715 megatonnes (million tonnes) of carbon dioxide.  During the 2019–2020 summer season, southeast Australia experienced intensive and geographically extensive wildfires.  Using observations by a European Space Agency satellite, researchers based in the Netherlands have estimated that the carbon dioxide release by the wildfires over this time was 715 teragrams or 715 megatonnes (million tonnes). This is equivalent to 195 megatonnes (million tonnes) of carbon.  To put this into context, this is over 93% more than Australia released from fossil fuel combustion in 2020. (See van der Velde, I. R. et al (2021) Vast CO2 release from Australian fires in 2019–2020 constrained by satellite. Nature, vol. 597, 366-369.)

And, before we move on to a round-up of recent natural science research in the next section below, here is a short science video…

What happens If a black hole hits Earth?  The possibility that a black hole could actually impact Earth may seem straight out of science fiction, but the reality is that microscopic primordial black holes could actually hit Earth. If one did, it wouldn't just impact like an asteroid, it'd pass straight through the entire Earth and exit the other side. Perhaps craziest of all, this may have already happened!  You can see the PBS Space-Time 20 minute video here.

 

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Spring 2022

Natural Science News

 

Rhinoceros evolution determined from current and extinct genomes.  Researchers largely based in Scandinavia have sequenced the genomes of five living rhinoceros species as well as three extinct species dating from around 50,000 years ago using DNA taken obtained from bone and tooth samples. Species genomes that are similar mean that the species diverged recently, and those more different, divergence longer ago. They also used fossil similarity/difference to estimate the divergence between horses and tapirs as well as their divergence from the line that went on to become rhinoceros species.
          They picture they build up is this. The last common ancestor of the horse and tapir lived shortly after or around the time of the end-Cretaceous extinction that did in the dinosaurs.  The divergence that led to rhinoceros species was estimated to be about 36 million years ago. This was in the warm Eocene, the epoch that saw the rise of many modern animal species we see today. Living species of rhinoceros began to diverge around 15 and 17 million years ago. This early Miocene timing split post-dates the land bridge formation between the Afro-Arabian and Eurasian landmasses so enabling rhinoceros to leave Africa and evolve into new species in Asia.
          The researchers also note that the genetic diversity of rhinoceros today is low which means that they may be vulnerable to environmental change. However, they also note that rhinoceros genetic diversity has always been on the low side. This means that they may be more resilient than might be supposed and careful breeding programmes to preserve diversity could be key to their conservation. Already we have lost the northern white rhinoceros.  (See Liu, S. et al (2021) Ancient and modern genomes unravel the evolutionary history of the rhinoceros family. Cell, vol. 184, p4,874–4,885.)
          Other ancient genome stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Oldest DNA sequenced
  - Mammoth genome sequenced
  - The last mammoths were riddled with genetic errors
  - Dog domestication revealed by genomes
  - 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 revealed

Human out-of-Africa Arabian windows identified.  Humans evolved in Africa and then left it to colonise every continent in the world except Antarctica. To do this they had to pass through Arabia which today is dominated by desert. However as the global climate changed so there were times when Arabia was wet and much of it wooded. Further, during cold glacials with large continental ice sheets, so sea levels were lower. This facilitated migrations leaving Africa.  Ten years ago, no dated archaeological sites more than 10,000 years old had been recorded in the three million square kilometres of the Arabian Peninsula. Now research has been published that dates Arabian stone age archaeological sites to periods when Arabia was wet. The discoveries reveal at least five human expansions into the Arabian interior, during these wet windows 400, 300, 200, 130–75 and 55 thousand years ago.  (Groucutt, H. S., White, T. S. Scerri, E. M. L. et al (2021) Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years. Nature, vol. 597, p376-480 and Dennell, R. (2021) Traces of a series of human dispersals through Arabia. . Nature, vol. 597, p338-339.)

When did the first humans arrive in the Americas?  Previously there has been some debatable archaeological evidence and present-day genomic evidence that humans arrived in the Americas during the last glacial maximum at least 26,000 years ago and possibly 30,000 years ago.  In a study of exposed outcrops of Lake Otero in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, researchers found numerous human footprints dating to about 23,000 to 21,000 years ago. These finds indicate the presence of humans in North America for approximately two millennia during the Last Glacial Maximum south of the migratory barrier created by the ice sheets to the north. (See Bennett, M. R et al. (2021) Evidence of humans in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum. Science, vol. 373, p1,528-1,531. DOI: 10.1126/science.abg7586

The genomic origins of the Bronze Age Tarim Basin mummies.  Genomes reveal The unexpected ancestry of Inner Asian mummies has been revealed by the genomes of 4,000-year-old naturally mummified individuals in the remote deserts of the Tarim Basin in the south of present-day Xinjiang, northwest China. These suggest that these individuals were descended from an ancient Asian population that was genetically isolated, despite extensive cultural interactions in the region. (See Zhang, F. et al (2021) The genomic origins of the Bronze Age Tarim Basin mummies. Nature, vol. 599, p256-261  and  Dupuy, P. N. D. (2021) The unexpected ancestry of Inner Asian mummies. Nature, vol. 599, p204-5.)
++++  Related news previously reported elsewhere in this site includes:-
  - Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago
  - Genomes show modern humans first left Africa thousands of years earlier
 - Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans
 - Origins of first Americans elucidated by Clovis genome
  - Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans
  - Early Britons had dark skin and blue eyes ancient DNA reveals

Humans used tobacco 12,300 years ago, 9,000 years earlier than was thought!  Daron Duke and his colleagues at the Far Western Anthropological Research Group in Davis, California, USA, have discovered the oldest direct evidence of tobacco use at a hunter-gatherer camp in Utah’s West Desert. The site lies alongside the now-dry channel of a prehistoric river called the Old River Bed, where people camped 13,000 to 9,500 years ago. The team found an ancient hearth containing four burnt tobacco-plant seeds. The researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine how old the hearth and its contents were. (See Duke, D. et al. (2021) Nature Human Behaviour. http://doi.org/g2kw;)  ++++  Related news of early human use previously reported elsewhere in this site includes:-
  - By 13,000 years ago human agriculture marked tropical forests
  - Domestication of Canηabis sativa revealed from genome
  - 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

Traneurasian languages (Chinese, Turkish and Japanese groups) spread with agriculture approximately 9,000 years ago. An international research collaboration has used both language similarities as well as genomics and also archaeology to determine the origin of Transeurasian languages (the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Koreanic and Japonic language groups).  Today about 80 Transeurasian languages are spoken in a region that extends across more than 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of Asia. The speakers span lands from Istanbul in the west to Tokyo and Seoul in the east, and that extend north to a Russian republic of Sakha, which reaches the Arctic coastline of Siberia and is home to the reindeer-herding and Turkic-language-speaking Yakut people.  The statistical language similarity analysis revealed that a proto-Transurasian language existed in the Liao Valley and next to the lowlands of northeastern China about 9,000 years ago. The archaeology of this area revealed that people then were early farmers of millet who also kept pigs and wove fabric. The genomes of people from 255 Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological sites showed how they migrated over time and this paralleled the diversification of Transeurasian languages. (See Robeets, M. (2021) Triangulation supports agricultural spread of the Transeurasian languages. Nature, vol. 599, p616-621  and the review piece  Bellwood, P. (2021) Tracking the origin of Transeurasian languages. Nature, vol. 599, p557-8.)

The first horse domestication has been located.  Two research papers, one using ancient horse genomics and the other proteins from the of dental calculus in human remains five thousand years ago, point to the horse being first domesticated on or around the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga–Don region that are to the north and a little east of the Caspian Sea. The dental calculus includes horse milk proteins, from 5,000 years ago so horses and humans were in association back then. However the evidence from 273 ancient horse genomes suggests that horses only expanded across Europe 4,000 years ago. This suggests that the Yamnaya steppe pastoralists who lived in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga–Don region 5,000 years ago did dairy horses back then and while the Yamnaya subsequently expanded with goat and dairying found in Scandanavia and Mongolia, horse riding took place centuries after this expansion. (See Wilkin, S. et al (2021) Dairying enabled Early Bronze Age Yamnaya steppe expansions. Nature, vol. 598, p629-633,   Pitulko, V. et al (2021) The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes. Nature, vol. 598, p634-640  and  Thompson, T. (2021) Ancient DNA points to origins of modern domestic horses. Nature, vol. 598, p550.)

Maori arrival in New Zealand leaves mark on Antarctica.  Comparing the carbon black (soot) in ice cores from five locations in Antarctica shows a spike only in the core from the Antarctic peninsula around the year 1297AD: the peninsular is downwind from New Zealand. This is thought to coincide with widespread forest burning by the Maori following their arrival. This work provides clear evidence of large-scale environmental effects associated with early human activities across the remote Southern Hemisphere. (See McConnell, J. R., et al (2021) Hemispheric black carbon increase after the 13th-century Maori arrival in New Zealand. Nature, vol. 598, p82-5.)

Polar bears are beginning to inbreed as sea ice reduces with global warming.  Norwegian biologists have looked at the genetic diversity of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) across two decades (1995–2016) from the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway. This is an area that is affected by rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic Barents Sea.  This revealed a 3–10% loss of genetic diversity across the study period, accompanied by a near 200% increase in genetic differentiation across regions. The results are explained by melting sea ice increasingly isolate pockets of polar bear populations. These pockets become increasingly inbred which the different pocket populations slowly diversify due to genetic drift. (See Maduna, S. J. et al (2021) Sea ice reduction drives genetic differentiation among Barents Sea polar bears. Proceedings of the Royal Society (B), vol. 288, 20211741.)

Ivory poaching has led to the rapid evolution of tusklessness in African elephants. Human activity is driving the evolution of the elephant to having no tusks. Research in the Mozambican Gorongosa National Park has shown that since 1972 there has been a nearly threefold increase in the frequency of tuskless females. This is because poachers leave tuskless elephants alone and so their tuskless genes are carried on to the next generation. The researchers note that elephant tusks are multipurpose tools used for excavating subterranean food and minerals and gouging and peeling bark, which can kill trees. These behaviours can catalyse forest-to-grassland transitions at large scales and create habitat for other species at local scales. This means that the loss of tusks not only impacts elephants but has broader ecological implications. (See Campbell-Staton, S. C. et al. (2021) Ivory poaching and the rapid evolution of tusklessness in African elephants. Science, vol. 374, p483–487.)

Healthy diets have a higher environmental impact and are unaffordable to the poor. It is though possible to have healthy diets that are more environmentally friendly.  An international collaboration of researchers has looked at various diets in the USA. And their impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, blue water footprint, land use and energy consumption across supply chains.  They found that individuals with higher income or education levels are more likely to adopt healthier diets but are also responsible for larger environmental impacts of diet. This is primarily due to a higher consumption of dairy and livestock products, seafood and items with lower energy density but higher nutrient density.  They also found that it was possible to have a healthy diet with lower environmental impacts within current food budgets for almost 95% of US people. This diet would have less animal-based and a lower processed content. Such a diet results in average decreases of 2% in food-related greenhouse gas emissions, 24% in land use and 4% in energy consumption, but a 28% increase in blue water consumption.  However, such a diet would be unaffordable for 38% of Black and Hispanic individuals in the lowest income and education groups.  (See He, P. et al (2021) Shifts towards healthy diets in the US can reduce environmental impacts but would be unaffordable for poorer minorities. Nature Food, http://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00350-5.)

Illegal mining in the Amazon at an all-time high.  An analysis of 36 years’ worth of satellite imagery show that illicit mining operations on Indigenous lands and in other areas formally protected by law have hit a record high in the past few years, under the administration of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro. Mining operations strip the land of vegetation and pollute waterways with mercury. Currently tropical deforestation in the Amazon is responsible for around 8% of global carbon emissions. (See Tollefson. J. (2021) Illegal mining in the Amazon hits record high amid indigenous protests. Nature, vol. 598, p15-6.)
          ++++ Related stories elsewhere on this site include: Bolsonaro co-wins IgNobel prize for 'Medical Education'.

BRAIN project releases interim results. In 2013, then-US president Barack Obama launched a US$5-billion (£3.7) project to improve our understanding of the human brain: the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative.  The tranche of academic papers published creates an atlas that reveals the locations of around 25 subclasses of cell in the primary motor cortex of three species: mice, marmosets and humans.  Whereas the mouse brain hosts around 70 million neurons, the human brain boasts some 86 billion, each one bristling with synapses, which allow them to connect to other cells. Many neurons have thousands of synaptic connections. This difference in scale is among the reasons that means it will take at least 50 years to create even a crude wiring diagram of a typical human brain.  One of the next steps for the BRAIN Initiative will be to build tools that selectively target particular cell types in circuits relevant to disease and deliver therapeutic molecules that can tune those circuits up or down. The ultimate goal of the BRAIN initiative is to build an observatory that can integrate data from all the BRAIN projects into one grand, unified picture. (See Editorial (2021) A big step for neuroscience. Nature, vol. 598, p7&nbsop; and  Abbott, A. (2021) Billion dollar brain maps: what we've learnt. Nature, vol. 598, p22-25.)

African swine fever outbreaks in China led to significant economic loss.  African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal and highly infectious haemorrhagic disease that in 2018/9 spread to all provinces in China – the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork.  Despite gaps in data due to a lack of state openness, economists have estimated that the outbreak incurred a loss equivalent of 0.78% of China’s gross domestic product in 2019, with impacts experienced in almost all economic sectors through links to the pork industry and a substantial decrease in consumer surplus. The total amount of pork lost was estimated at 3.67 million tonnes. The findings demonstrate an urgent need for rapid ASF containment and prevention measures to avoid future outbreaks and economic declines. (See You, S. et al (2021) African swine fever outbreaks in China led to gross domestic product and economic losses. Nature Food, http://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00362-1.)

British cervical cancer vaccine a success, over a decade's worth of study reveals. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Immunisation with the bivalent vaccine, Cervarix, began in England, in September 2008.  The results have seen a substantial reduction in cervical cancer and incidence in young women, especially in individuals who were offered the vaccine at age 12–13 years. The HPV immunisation programme has successfully almost eliminated cervical cancer in women born since September, 1995. (See Falcaro, M. et al (2021) The effects of the national HPV vaccination programme in England, UK, on cervical cancer and grade 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia incidence: a register-based observational study. The Lancet, doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02178-4.)

 

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

As vaccine effectiveness wanes with time, Britain embarks on an experiment ditching mask wearing. The UK saw a wave of CoVID last spring that preceded that in Europe. England was also the first nation to speedily roll out CoVID vaccination. The in July, the 2020 IgNobel co-prize-winner (for 'medical education') Boris Johnson ended the legal requirements for social distancing and mask use, with Wales and Scotland lifting most of their restrictions on 7th and 9th August, respectively. Northern Ireland followed on 31st October. And so the UK has (unwittingly) embarked on an experiment to see whether the CoVID pandemic can be controlled by vaccination alone. The problem is that though effective for a number of months, after six months vaccine effectiveness wanes so necessitating a booster roll-out.  The United Kingdom has become a control experiment that scientists across the world are studying.  UK infection rates are higher than those in countries in continental Europe, where CoVID-19 restrictions were relaxed later or remain in place. In the 7 days between 17th October and 23rd October, Spain recorded 286 infections per one million people, and Germany 1,203. The United Kingdom registered 4,868 over the same week. This surge in UK infections shows that vaccines alone cannot contain the virus. However, while cases (and hospitalisations), in the UK have risen, deaths have only risen a little. Relative to the size of its population, the United Kingdom has around three times as many infections as the United States, but only two-thirds the daily deaths. (See Taylor, L. (2021) Scientists worldwide watch UK CoVID infections. Nature, vol. 599, p189-190.)

Third shot vaccine booster approved in Israel.  A third (booster) dose of the BNT162b2 messenger RNA vaccine (Pfizer–BioNTech) was approved in Israel for persons who were 60 years of age or older and who had received a second dose of vaccine at least 5 months earlier. This was due to promising trials that showed that the rate of confirmed infection was lower in the booster group than in the non-booster group by a factor of 11.3 interval; the rate of severe illness was lower by a factor of 19.5. (See Bar-On, Y. M. et al (2021) Protection of BNT162b2 vaccine booster against Covid-19 in Israel. New England Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2114255) Booster vaccines are being rolled out in the UK for the over 55s first.

Broad SARS-CoV-2 variant vaccine has initial trials in Manchester, Great Britain. Vaccines to date focus on exposing humans to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and its receptor-binding domain (RBD). The problem with this is that the RBD mutates (leading to variants). This new vaccine has a number of innovations. First, not only does it contain mRNA coding for the spike protein, it also codes for a protein within the virus that does not mutate so much: the protein coded for is called the n-protein.  Second, it uses amplified mRNA. This RNA has a limited replicating capability once injected and so generates more spike and n-proteins.  The hope is that this new vaccine will work against a number of variants. There is also the chance that it might work against other SARS coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS itself. If it works, it might even eventually lead to a vaccine for the common cold.

Delta variant characteristics. The India B.1.617.2 Delta variant is less susceptible to the Oxford–AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) than the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. By late 2020 it had outcompeted pre-existing lineages including the other India B.1.617.1 (Kappa) and the Kent B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variants. It mutated from B.1.617. (See Mlcochova, P. et al (2021) SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 Delta variant replication and immune evasion. Nature, vol. 599, p114-119.)

New York's Iota variant contains key mutations found in other variants.  The New York, B.1.526 (also known as the 'Iota') variant, rose to dominance in New York City in early 2021.  The presence of the B.1.526 lineage has now been reported in all 50 states in the United States and in many other countries. B.1.526 rapidly replaced earlier lineages in New York, with an estimated transmission advantage of 35%.  This variant contains the E484K mutation that has appeared in other highly transmissible variants. (See Annavajhala, M. K., et al. (2021) Emergence and expansion of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.526 after identification in New York. Nature, vol. 597, p703-708.)

Could SARS-CoV-2 have had two intermediate animal sources?  SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes CoVID-19 could have had more than one intermediate animal host.  SARS=CoV-2 is a Coronavarus evolved from a strain in bats having mutated in an intermediate species.  However, could there have been more than one intermediate species?  New research on the virus' genome reveals that the earliest variants had two distinct lineages (A and B) that have key genetic differences.  Lineage B has become the dominant Lineage globally.  It could be that one lineage evolved from the other? However research on 1,716 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, of samples collected before 28th February 2020, show distinctiveness to lineages A or B but not both. (One would expect this last to crop up if one lineage evolved into the other.) This suggests that there were two distinct routes to SARS-CoV-2, hence the possibility of two different intermediate animal hosts. This contradicts other studies that imply one lineage did evolve from the other. This might have been because of sequencing errors. If the virus did jump between animals and people on several occasions, the fact that lineages A and B are linked to people who visited different markets in Wuhan suggests that multiple individual animals, of one or more species, that were carrying a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 could have been transported across Wuhan, infecting people in at least two locations. More work is needed. (See Mallapaty, S. (2021) Did the coronavirus jump from animals to people twice? Nature, vol. 597, p458-9.)

The closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 has been found in bats in northern Laos. Researchers have found three viruses in bats in Laos that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. The researchers say that parts of their genetic code bolster claims that the virus behind CoVID-19 has a natural origin — but their discovery also raises fears that there are numerous coronaviruses with the potential to infect people. In three horseshoe (Rhinolophus) bat species, they found viruses that are each more than 95% identical to SARS-CoV-2. Previous studies have found SARS-CoV-2-like viruses in bats and also jn the UK. This new study demonstrates that southeast Asia is a “hotspot of diversity for SARS-CoV-2-related viruses. Alas these viruses do not contain the furin cleavage in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Also the study doesn’t clarify how a progenitor of the virus could have travelled to Wuhan, in central China, where the first known cases of CoVID-19 were identified, or whether the virus hitched a ride on an intermediate animal. (See Mallapaty, S. (2021) Laos bats host closest known relatives of virus behind CoVID. I>Nature, vol. 597, p603.)

A research consortium has been created to map the epitope landscape of the SARS-CoV-2 spike. SARS-CoV-2 variants can possibly impact on the effect of treatments and vaccines. Changes in the parts of the virus vaccines target (its epitopes) could possibly render a vaccine less effective. Fortunately, some convergent evolution seems to be going on with variants. The virus' spike protein is a key epitope and so mapping how it changes as variants arise will be fundamental to developing treatments and vaccines that are effective against a number of variants. This is what the new research consortium will do. A preliminary analysis of variants has already been completed. ( See Hastie K. M., et al. (2021) Defining variant-resistant epitopes targeted by SARS-CoV-2 antibodies: A global consortium study. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abh2315.)

Africa has become a reservoir for CoVID-19 variants. While the official figures for Africa are good, random surveys for antibodies indicates substantial under-reporting. A year of genomic surveillance to May 2021 has revealed how the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic unfolded in Africa.  Over 8,000 CoVID genomes from patients were analysed. It shows that the CoVID epidemics in most African countries were initiated by importations predominantly from Europe, which diminished after the early introduction of international travel restrictions. As the pandemic progressed, ongoing transmission in many countries and increasing mobility led to the emergence and spread of many variants of concern and interest, such as the Kent B.1.351 Alpha, S. African B.1.351 Beta, as well as the B.1.525 Eta English, A.23.1, and C.1.1 variants. Although distorted by low sampling numbers and blind spots, the findings highlight that Africa must not be left behind in the global pandemic response, otherwise it could become a source for new variants. (See Wilkinson, E. et al. (2021) A year of genomic surveillance reveals how the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic unfolded in Africa. Science, vol. 374, p423–431.)

New ο (Greek Omicron) variant arises in Botswana. Barely weeks after the Wilkinson et al research (see the previous item – Africa has become a reservoir for CoVID-19 variants) a new highly infectious variant is thought to have arisen in Botswana and quickly spread to S. Africa where it was first sequenced and then Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong. The variant has over 30 mutations in the spike protein, twice as many as the Delta variant and this has raised concerns that the current vaccines may not confer as much immunity. The S. Africa /Botswana Omicron variant is the most infectious variant to date.
          The World Health Organisation (WHO) list of key variants of concern now include among others:
  - Kent (scientifically called B.1.1.7) to be now known as Alpha
  - S. African (scientifically called B.1.351) to be now known as Beta
  - Brazilian (scientifically called P.1) to be now known as Gamma
  - Indian (scientifically called B.1.617) to be now known as Delta
  - Californian (scientifically called B.1.429, B.1.427 and CAL.20C) to be now known as Epsilon
  - Philippines (scientifically called P.3) to be now known as Theta
  - New York (scientifically called B.1.526) to be now known as Iota
  - Peru (scientifically called C.37) to be now known as Lambda
  - Colombia (scientifically called B.1.621) to be now known as Mu
  - S. Africa / Botswana (scientifically called B.1.1.529) to be now known as Omicron

Omicron variant properties begin to be seen. Initial research reveals that the variant is more infective and existing vaccines do not confer quite as much immunity so necessitating boosters (preferably of a different vaccine to first shots). The good news is that there are fewer hospitalisations in the UK and the fast majority of those are by unvaccinated patients. (See  Wolter, N. et al (2021 pre-print) Early assessment of the clinical severity of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant in South Africa. doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.21.21268116,  Ferguson, N. et al (2021 pre-print) Hospitalisation risk for Omicron cases in England. Imperial College London (22-12-2021), doi.org/10.25561/93035,  and  Meng, B. et al (2021 pre-print) SARS-CoV-2 Omicron spike mediated immune escape, infectivity and cell-cell fusion. doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.17.473248.)

Artificial intelligence helps tell border staff who to test for CoVID. Because testing has a cost, some countries have not been able to test all new arrivals: it is never possible to test 100% of any population 100% of the time. A new system has been deployed at points of entry into Greece that uses a form of artificial intelligence called 'reinforcement learning' that notes which country a passenger is from and where they have been prior to travel. Knowing this and knowing the results of those that have been tested, it is able to guess the likelihood of infection. The system picks up 1.85 times as many asymptomatic, infected travellers as random surveillance testing, with up to 2–4 times as many during peak travel, and 1.25–1.45 times as many asymptomatic, infected travellers based on CoVID policy based on where authorities think most infections stem. (See Bastani, H. et al (2021) Efficient and targeted COVID-19 border testing via reinforcement learning. Nature, vol. 599, p108-113  and  Obermeyer, Z. (2021) An algorithm to target CoVID testing of travellers. Nature, vol. 599, p34-5.)

Asia has become the dominant source of CoVID related plastic waste in the oceans. We know that 8.4 million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated from 193 countries as of 23rd August 2021, with 25.9 thousand tons released into the global ocean representing 1.5% of the global total river plastic discharge. Researchers have now modelled where this waste comes from and will go. hospital waste represents the bulk of the global discharge (73%), and most of the global discharge is from Asia (73%). Here, ocean currents will carry most of this up into the Arctic. The top three rivers for pandemic-associated plastic waste discharge are Shatt al Arab (5.2 thousand tons, in Asia), Indus (4.0 thousand tons, in Asia) and and Yangtze River (3.7 thousand tons, in Asia) followed by Ganges Brahmaputra (2.4 thousand tons, in Asia), Danube (1.7 thousand tons, in Europe which enters the Black Sea), and Amur (1.2 thousand tons, in Asia). The Arctic Ocean appears to be a dead-end for plastic debris transport due to the northern branch of the Broecker global thermohaline circulation. (See Peng, Y. et al (2021) Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean. Proceedings National Academies of Science, vol. 118 (47), e2111530118.)

We may not know when the SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 pandemic ends! Despite intense television news coverage on our screens, it is likely that we will not know when the pandemic ends until sometime after it finishes. Respiratory pandemics of the past 130 years have been followed by annual seasonal waves fuelled by viral endemicity that typically continues until the next pandemic. What has happened is that strains weaken, or immunity increases, until there is no serious threat. But how weak a variant or how strong an immunity is required? What metric does one use? Although many biomedics describe the “Spanish flu” as occurring across three waves from “1918 to 1919,” references to the “1918 to 1920” pandemic are also abundant, usually capturing what some call a “fourth wave.”  Similarly, the mid-century “Asian flu” pandemic is generally described as a two wave event from 1957 to 1958, but others include a third wave, placing the pandemic’s end in 1959. As an extraordinary period in which social life was upturned, the CoVID-19 pandemic will be over when we get fed up of waiting for yet another wave that this time never comes, so we turn off our screens and decide that other issues are once again worthy of our attention. Unlike its beginning, the end of the pandemic will not be televised! (See Robertson, D. & Doshi, P. (2021) The end of the pandemic will not be televised. British Medical Journal, vol. 375, e068094. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-068094.).

Will we have to face a wave of more than one variant? As omicron dominates many countries' SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 waves, the question arises as to whether we may face a future wave consisting of more than one variant?
          Though we cannot be certain, it seems as if the answer will be 'no'.  This is for two reasons: 1) So far only in large countries such as the USA or India has a wave consisted on two or three variants in broadly equal parts (this is because large countries see one variant dominate in one area and even here there is a progression from one variant to another), and 2) because of what variants are, mutations of CoVID-19 with many variants exhibiting some of the same mutations but are a different combination of mutations. There is even convergent evolution going on. (See Callaway, E. (2021) Beyond omicron: what’s next for SARS-CoV-2 evolution? Nature, vol. 600, p204-7.)

A small outbreak of pig coronavirus has been discovered to have taken place in Haiti in 2014 and 2015. Samples of plasma taken from school children reveal that three had a coronavirus caught from a pig giving them respiratory distress and diarrhoea. We dodged a bullet there. (See Lednicky, J. A. et al (2021) Independent infections of porcine delta coronavirus among Haitian children. Nature, vol. 600, p133-7.)

Related SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 news, previously covered elsewhere on this site, includes:-
  - Global fatalities top 4 million but could have exceeded 8 million!
  - Boris Johnson's CoVID 'Freedom day' – Scientists had grave fears
  - UK's third wave of CoVID-19 sees young affected more
  - WHO investigation too slow and unclear about pandemic onset
  - A SARS-like virus has been detected in a horseshoe bat suggesting a potential SARS-like pool
  - Do coronavirus genes merge with human chromosomes
  - WHO changes the common name nomenclature for SARS-CoV-2 variants for snowflakes
  - Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant of SARS-CoV-2 more lethal
  - Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant of SARS-CoV-2 more transmittable
  - Some convergent evolution is taking place with SARS-CoV-2 variants
  - California variant has simple mutation similar to India variant
  - Both Oxford-Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines effective against the Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant
  - India Delta variant B.1.617 now dominant in that country
  - India Delta variant B.1.617 diverges to two further two sub-variants
  - Why is the India Delta variant B.1.617 so successful?
  - Do vaccines work against the India Delta variant?
  - Pfizer-BioNTec vaccine is effective against the South African Beta SARS-CoV-2 variant
  - Novavax vaccine is effective against the S. African SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant
  - Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against the S. African SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant
  - WHO optimistic of vaccines to protect against current early-summer 2021 coronavirus variants
  - China's CoronaVac vaccine has been approved by WHO
  - ZyCoV-D is the first DNA vaccine against CoVID-19
  - Russia's Sputnik V (vaccine) may be safe, it is beginning to look
  - Can you mix vaccines?
  - The mRNA vaccines are safe for pregnant women
  - Breast feeding and SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 vaccines
  - Engineered immunoglobulin antibody promises to be an effective treatment
  - Over 100,000 lives had been saved in England due to the NHS vaccine roll-out
  - Overseas holidays were behind the 2020 autumnal wave of CoVID
  - Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
  - Those with asymptomatic CoVID-19 express as many viruses
  - People who have had CoVID-19 probably only need just one shot of two-shot vaccines
  - Vaccine trials tend to miss seχ detail
  - Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 could be long-term
  - Long CoVID affects 38% of those who have had CoVID and more of those hospitalised
  - Long CoVID affects children
  - Lead vaccine scientist receives Albert Award
  - Pros and cons of single shot vaccine strategy
  - More is being learnt about the new SARS-CoV-2 mutations
  - What makes the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant more transmissible?
  - China's Coronavac vaccine has a disappointing Brazil trial
  - The new Novavax vaccine has near 90% efficacy
  - Hospital worker study of the Pfizer vaccine shows strong results
  - Elderly protected by Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
  - Scottish phase IV trial reveals high vaccine effectiveness
  - Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective according to a US study
  - Britain's Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine seems to reduce, and possibly prevent, transmission
  - Pfizer vaccine may suppress transmission of SARS-CoV2
  - The US approves third vaccine
  - Fake Sputnik V vaccines received from Russia
  - Vaccines may reduce long-CoVID-19
  - The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine side effects are rare and minimal
  - European nations temporarily ban Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine
  - Is the planet heading for a second peak?
  - UK dexamethasone steroid treatment for CoVID-19 successful
  - Worry less about SARS-CoV2 contaminating surfaces; worry more about aerosol transmission
  - First vaccine deployed - BioNTech's BNT162b2
  - The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine
  - The Janssen Ad26CoVS1 vaccine
  - The AstraZeneca Oxford ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine
  - Russian SARS-CoV-2 vaccine data is suspicious
  - Vaccine unknowns
  - Life will not return to normal in spring 2021
  - An alternative to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine
  - Synchronising lockdowns
  - Masks not only reduce viral load…
  - Racoon dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2
  - Pet dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of owners
  - Minks can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of farm workers
  - A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged in the south-east of the UK
  - A second new variant
  - So, what is the situation with vaccines and the new strains?
  - Two viruses related to SARS-CoV-2 (not variants of SARS-CoV-2) have been discovered outside of China in horseshoe bats
  - The spikes from the SARS-CoV-2 virus have now been directly seen
  - No symptom transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is less significant than symptomatic
  - Kenya has a surprisingly low death toll for its infection rate
  - Those who have more Neanderthal genes are at greater risk of severe CoVID-19
  - Some people may be naturally immune to SARS-CoV-2 and so do not get severe CoVID-19
  - Why men are more prone to CoVID elucidated
  - Healthcare workers and their households are at greater risk from SARS-CoV-2
  - Restaurants are high risk places for the spread of SARS-CoV-2
  - Big data and a simple epidemic model estimates SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 transmission rates
  - Hydroxychloroquine use against SARS-CoV-2 does not work
  - 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 2022

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

A new form of dark energy has possibly been detected.  Cosmologists have found signs that a second type of dark energy — the enigmatic force that is pushing the Universe’s expansion to accelerate — might have existed in the first 300,000 years after the Big Bang.  Two separate studies have detected a tentative first trace of this ‘early dark energy’ in data collected between 2013 and 2016 by the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) in Chile.  If the findings are confirmed, they could help to solve a long-standing conundrum surrounding data about the early Universe, which seem to be incompatible with the rate of cosmic expansion measured today. But the data are preliminary and don’t show definitively whether this form of dark energy really existed.  However The two latest studies find that the ACT’s map of the cosmic microwave background polarization fits better with a model that includes early dark energy than with the standard one.  (See Castelvecchi, D. (2021) New dark energy could solve universe expansion mystery. Nature, vol. 597, p460-1.)

The first exo-planet has possibly been detected outside of our Galaxy.  The exoplanet was discovered in the Whirlpool Galaxy -- the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51) 28 million light-years away -- by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.&bsp; The planet is Saturn-sized orbiting its binary star at twice the distance between Saturn and the Sun. One of the binary pair the planet is orbiting is a small neutron star that gives of x-rays that Chandra can detect. Indeed, because neutron stars are small, when the planet came between it and the Earth, the x-rays Chandra detected went down to zero.  Nearly 5,000 exo-planets have been discovered so far but all to date have been within our 200,000 light-year diameter Galaxy.
++++  Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:
  - Chandra detects many black holes orbiting the Galaxy centre's supermassive black hole.

Giant planet pictured orbiting far from a twin star system. The planet has a mass about 11 times that of Jupiter. It is orbiting the twin sun system, b Centauri, at a distance roughly 500 times that between Earth and the Sun and 100 times the Jupiter – Sun distance. This orbit is comparable to that of Sedna, the dwarf planet orbiting at the edge of the Solar System, but the newly discovered planet’s mass is a million times greater than Sedna’s. (See Janson, M. et al (2021) A wide-orbit giant planet in the high-mass b Centauri binary system. Nature, vol. 600, p231-4  and  the review piece  Kratter, K. (2021) Giant planet imaged orbiting two massive stars. Nature, vol. 600, p227-8.)

First ever image of a multi-planet system around a Sun-like star captured. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, Sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and — until now — astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The new ESO’s VLT image is the first direct image of more than one exoplanet around a Sun-like star. ESO’s VLT was also the first telescope to directly image an exoplanet, back in 2004, when it captured a speck of light around a brown dwarf, a type of ‘failed’ star. The star TYC 8998-760-1 is just 17 million years old and located in the Southern constellation of Musca (The Fly).  The research was presented in the paper 'Two Directly Imaged, Wide-orbit Giant Planets around the Young, Solar Analog TYC 8998-760-1' in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aba27e.

Potential interstellar outlined for NASA. Traveling far beyond the Sun’s sphere of influence, Interstellar Probe would be the boldest move in space exploration to date. This pragmatic near-term mission concept would enable groundbreaking science using technology that is near-launch ready now. Flying the farthest and the fastest, it would venture into the space between us and neighbouring stars, discovering uncharted territory. It would provide the first real vantage point of our life-bearing system from the outside, allowing us to better understand our own evolution. In an epic 50-plus-year journey, Interstellar Probe will explore the interstellar medium now that the Solar system is about too leave the local interstellar cloud it has been in the past 60,000 years. It would use the latest atomic batteries that are mush longer lasting than, say, Voyagers. It would travel at speeds of six-to-seven astronomical units (the Sun-Earth distance is one AU) per year: a billion km a year. The aim would be to reach 1,000 AU (or five light days) in a little over 135 years. The estimated cost is £1.2 billion (US$1.6 bn). (See McNutt Jr., R. L. et al (2021) Interstellar Probe: Humanity’s Journey to Interstellar Space. John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.)

A large but Mercury-like planet has been detected orbiting very close to a small red dwarf. It is an odd planet of about 0.7 Earth-radii, with a very high density suggesting it is largely metallic iron and it orbits close to its star in just 7.7-hours. It is so close to its star that the daytime side will be a furnace heated to 1,400°C, such that even rock would be molten. The type of planet was able to be determined because its orbit took it between its sun and us and so (from the star's dimming) its size could be calculated. From its orbit's period, and its distance from its star, the planet's mass could be calculated. Linking this in to its size enabled its density to be deduced. The planet has a very high density and it thought to largely made of iron and so the best part of it is a planetary core with hardly any mantle. As such, it is much like our own system's planet Mercury. However Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days and, despite our Sun being hotter than a red dwarf the daytime, bare rock on Mercury is heated only to 430°C. (See Lam, K. W. F. et al (2021) GJ 367b: A dense, ultrashort-period sub-Earth planet transiting a nearby red dwarf star. Science, vol. 374, p1271-1275.)

Small exoplanet, as well as a possibly habitable super-Earth, detected.  Large planets orbiting other stars outside our Solar system (exoplanets) are easier to detect than smaller exoplanets. Also large planets around small stars are easier to detect than large planets around large stars: large stars are less affected by the gravity of planets than small stars and one way of detecting exoplanets is to look at the way stars wobble as their planets orbit.  But the detection limits have improved and a few years ago we began to detect the first Earth-sized exoplanets.
          Now, a collaboration of mainly mainland continental Europeans using the European Southern Observatory, have detected a planet half the mass (about a quarter the size) of Venus orbiting a (small) Red Dwarf (L 98-59) some 34.5 light years away.
          If this were not enough, the collaboration has also detected a super-Earth in the system's habitable zone. More good news, this system lies within the field of view of the forthcoming James Webb telescope and so it is likely we will soon learn more about these exoplanets. (See Demangeon, O. D. S., et al. (2021) Warm terrestrial planet with half the mass of Venus transiting a nearby star. Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol. 653, A41.)
++++  Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:
  - How many alien worlds could detect our Earth?
  - Exoplanet survives red giant phase
  - How many Solar system type planetary systems are there?
  - Quiet star holds out prospect for life near Earth
  - European Space Agency's CHEOPS launched to study exoplanets
  - NASA's TESS finds exoplanet in habitable zone
  - NASA's TESS finds its first planet orbiting two suns
  - Two more twin sun planetary systems found
  - Rocky planets with the composition similar to Earth and Mars are common in the Galaxy a new type of analysis reveals
  - Water detected on an exo-planet large analogue of Earth
  - 2019 and the number of exoplanets discovered tops 4,000!
  - A new technique probes atmosphere of exoplanet
  - European satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres
  - The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launch
  - Seven near Earth-sized planets found in one system
  - Most Earth-like planets may be water worlds
  - Earth's fate glimpsed
  - An Earth-like exo-planet has been detected
  - Exoplanet reflected light elucidated
  - Kepler has now detected over 1,000 exoplanets and one could be an Earth twin
  - and Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star.
  - Winston Churchill wrote about the possibility of alien life: documents found

Debris from a moon-forming impact explosion detected.  The Earth's Moon formed from a Mars-sized impactor on the proto-Earth that then glanced off into orbit. Now, astronomers think they have detected the debris from a similar impact in a star system 93 light years away. The star is young, just 23 million years old (by comparison, the Solar system is 4.6 billion years old), and a short-lived, hot, white coloured, A-type. Its planetary system hosts large amounts of dust in the terrestrial planet region. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international team of astronomers has detected a carbon monoxide gas ring co-orbiting with dusty debris. The astronomers say that is from a planetary-scale collision, analogous to Earth's Moon-forming impact. The idea is that the carbon-dioxide in the impacted planet's atmosphere became superheated to partially dissociate into carbon monoxide. This then left the planets surface along with the impactor having given the planet a glancing blow. (Schneiderman, T. (2021) Carbon monoxide gas produced by a giant impact in the inner region of a young system. Nature, vol. 598, p425-8.)

Venus may never have been habitable researchers say.  Recently, there has been much interest in life possibly existing on Venus due to the detection of a possible phosphine biosignature. The idea being that life evolved in a primordial, Venusian ocean now long gone before being carried high into the cooler Venusian atmosphere where it lives today. The idea for such a primordial ocean comes from modified climate models of an early Venus under a cooler, early Sun. However, researchers have now used a more sophisticated 3D climate model. This suggests that the planet never cooled enough following its formation for oceans to condense out. This was because the steam atmosphere had high altitude clouds on the Venusian night side that kept heat in (much as cloudy nights are warmer on Earth than cloudless nights). (See Turbet, M. et al. (2021) Day–night cloud asymmetry prevents early oceans on Venus but not on Earth. Nature, vol. 598, p276-280  and the review piece  Kasting, J. F. & Harman, C. E. (2021) Venus might never have been habitable. Nature, vol. 598, p259-260.)
++++  Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site included:
  - Venus may have mini-plates even if no plate tectonics as on Earth

The Perseverance lander has confirmed a Martian lake geology.  The 28 mile wide Jezero Crater on Mars, which NASA’s Perseverance rover is now exploring, was once home to a calm lake as well as powerful flash floods. The lander has now pictured a delta fan of a water flow into the former lake around 3.7 billion years ago showing layers laid down by repeating surges in incoming water flow. There are also some boulders that could only have been moved by highly energetic water inflows. (See Mangold, N. et al (2021) Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars. Science doi.org/10.1126/science.abl4051)

China's Chang'e-5 Moon samples reveal a puzzle. The Chang'e-5 mission landed on the Moon took samples and returned them to Earth.  The mission landed on the Oceanus Proccellarum ('Ocean of Storms') which is a large plain created by a sea of lava to farm a basalt plain. Samples of this basalt plain have now been radioactively dated to when it was molten lava some 1,963 ± 57 million years ago. However, the basalt does not contain enough of the radioactive elements needed to keep the Moon's mantle warm even 2 billion years (2,000 million years) ago! The Moon is some 4.5 billion years old and today its mantle is geologically cool. The lack of heat generating radioactive elements in the basalt is a puzzle as there should not have been lava beneath the crust 2 billon years ago. Alternative explanations are needed. (SF² Concatenation suspects a more radioactive core from which heat could be transported 2 billion years ago and/or greater tidal core warming from being closer to the Earth in times past.)  (See Che, X., et al. (2021) Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by Chang’e-5. Science, vol.374, p887–890 DOI: 10.1126/science.abl7957.)
++++  Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site included:
  - China has landed its 'Jade Rabbit' Lunar rover
  - China has landed a probe on the far side of the Moon
  - China has Moon mission - Chang'e-5

A double impact could have formed the Moon?  The currently accepted theory of the Moon's formation is that a Mars-sized planetesimal (baby planet or very large super-asteroid) called Theia, collided with the proto-Earth with ejecta containing material from Theia and the proto-Earth going into orbit and coalescing into the Moon. This explains the isotopic similarly of the Earth and Lunar crust. All well and good, but it does not explain the Moon's small core and to get a good mixing a low-speed collision is required otherwise the ejecta would not be retained in Earth orbit. Also, if there were plenty of planetismals around (and there must have been as that is how planets are built) why doesn't Venus have a Moon? Nor, if Theia came from elsewhere (further out) in the Solar system, it would have collided with a high velocity either destroying the Earth or glancing off and escaping.
          A new idea gets around these problems. It was developed by Erik Asphaug, Alexandre Emsenhuber, Saverio Cambioni and colleagues. First, it is a much rarer event: which explains why Venus doesn't have a moon. Second, it creates a low velocity impact which enables ejecta to go into Earth orbit and not escape. Third, it gives twice the opportunity to mix material.  The idea is that the Earth was impacted twice with a glancing blow. This would be an unlikely – but not impossible – event. The first blow would send the proto-Moon with some material from Earth off into space in an orbit not dissimilar to that of the proto-Earth and shed some of its velocity. It would then have a second, lower-velocity, glancing collision somewhere between 100,000 and a million years later. Modelling this formation of the Moon scenario gives an outcome more like we see today. Of course, while this is not proof as to what actually happened, it is an interesting notion. (See Asphaug, E. et al (2021) Collision Chains among the Terrestrial Planets. III. Formation of the Moon. The Planetary Science Journal, vol. 2, 200. doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/ac19b2.).
          ++++ Previously covered elsewhere on this site: The Earth-Moon system is about 4,470 million years old.

The US-European The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched on ESA's Ariane 5 rocket from the Agency’s French Guiana launch site. This £7.5 billion (US9.7 billion) venture is a landmark event in international astronomy. The JWST has been in development since the mid-1990s when the astronomy and astrophysics community began thinking about the next great observatory to follow the Hubble Space Telescope. Its launch has already been delayed twice (the second time due to CoVID-19.  use a 6.6-m segmented primary mirror to detect near- and mid-infrared wavelengths of radiation. The large size of the mirror, and its even larger sunshade, require it to be tightly folded to fit inside its rocket fairing for launch. The configuration is so intricate that deployment will take about 1 month after a 30-day, 1.5-million-km journey to the second Sun–Earth Lagrange point (L2). This will be a nail-biting time. Over 300 steps are necessary to deploy the mirrors and sunshade in deep space at L2, far beyond human reach.  Science operations should begin about 4 months later (after we post our next - summer season – edition), but the highly anticipated first images could come sooner.
          The JWST will rival Hubble in terms of revolutionary data. The Hubble telescope helped scientists confirm the existence of supermassive black holes, determine the age of the Universe (approximately 13.7 billion years), and realise that galaxies formed in the Universe much earlier than expected, among other discoveries. Some of the most exciting results will come from observing the atmospheres of planets around other stars and assessing their potential to harbour life. (See Stofan, E. (2021) Hubble’s successor, at last. Science, vol. 374, DOI: 10.1126/science.abn3947)
          Hubble had a 2.4 metre diameter mirror giving it a collecting area of 7.5 square metres, by comparison the JWST has a diameter of 6.5 metres giving it a collecting area of 20.4 square metres: over three times the collecting area.
          The JWST looks in the infra-red. The reason why, and not visible light, is that visible light from very distant – hence receding – galaxies gets Doppler stretched into the infra-red. So actually, from distant galaxies it is seeing visible light but light that has been stretched. Infra-red also means that it should see nearby exoplanets that do not shine of their own visible light but do in infra-red.

Britain has another approved spaceport.  The SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Isle is to use Skyrora rockets to launch satellites later this year. The approved deal could create 210 jobs and by 2030 see 16 launches a year.
          Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - Britain's role in space examined and a spaceport is needed
  - Britain's first domestic spaceport announced!
  - Britain's first spaceport approved

 

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 2022

Science & Science Fiction Interface

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

 

Vampire microbes may be the most biodiverse microbial life! Life can be found in even the most unpromising of Earth’s environments. A series of hypersaline alkaline lakes on the north-eastern Mongolian plateau is home to several unique communities, including extremophile bacteria. All well and good, but some of these bacteria not only have to contend with the extreme environment but other vampire-like microbes that pierce their victim's bacterial wall to sip at the fluids inside. Researchers have found in the most saline of these lakes anaerobic, the purple sulphur photosynthetic bacterium Halorhodospira. But is also preyed by another microbe. Unusually, this ultra-small organism has been successfully cultured and observed to attach to cell walls of the bacterium. By sipping its host’s cytoplasm (it is related to Vampiricoccus species). The researchers say that this type of vampire bacterium may constitute up to half of the Earth’s bacterial diversity. (See Yakimov, M. E. et al (2021) Cultivation of a vampire: Candidatus Absconditicoccus praedator. Environmental Microbiology. doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.15823)

Another prototype tractor beam has been developed.  This one can manipulate any metallic object using a magnetic field even if the object is not magnetic or magnetisable, as long as it conducts electrons. A small collaboration of researchers from the University of Utah and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both in the US, have developed a method that allows magnets to grab non-magnetic objects from a distance. Magnetic fields can be used to push, pull and turn magnetic objects from a distance — this principle is used in electric motors to rotate the motor’s shaft. Sophisticated motion control using magnetic fields is also possible, allowing magnetic objects to be manipulated in three dimensions with dexterity and speed. The non-contact manipulation method allows a non-magnetic object to be pushed, pulled and turned in three dimensions, as long as the object is made from an electrically conductive material such as metal. It makes use of a phenomenon known as magnetic induction, in which a fast-changing magnetic field induces an electrical current in a conductor, thereby turning the conductive object into a magnet. The device consists of a rotating magnet (which induces a current and magnetic field in the object to be moved) and also other magnets which then manipulate the object.
          The researchers hope that a scaled-up version could be used to clear up space junk. The rapidly increasing quantity of space debris threatens to make the highly useful low Earth orbit — the area of space up to an altitude of 2,000 kilometres, where most satellites and all crewed spacecraft orbit — unusable if a method to clean it up is not found. (See Pham, N. L. (2021) Dexterous magnetic manipulation of conductive non-magnetic objects. Nature, vol. 598, p439-443  and the review piece  Diller, E. (2021) Non-magnetic objects moved by electromagnets. Nature, vol. 598, p421-2.)  ++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - New sonic tractor beam
  - New ultrasound tractor beam
  - New water based tractor beam
  - New laser optical tweezers tractor beam developed
  - New laser light tractor beam.

First all-civilian crew orbits the Earth.  SpaceX has sent a crew of four civilians into orbit: Jared Isaacman (who paid Elon Musk a reported £72 million) and amateur astronauts Hayley Arceneaux (29), Sian Protoe (51) and Chris Sembroski (42).  They had five months intensive training for the flight which lasted three days. They achieved an orbital altitude of 363 miles (590 km) which is higher than the International Space Station and which made the mission the furthest to carry humans from the Earth since the last Apollo Moon mission in 1972. Their Dragon capsule was remotely controlled from the Earth.  The in-flight cuisine consisted of Mediterranean lamb, pasta, pizza and sandwiches.  SpaceX said that the mission showed that space is for all. (Though we at SF² Concatenation can't but help feel that being a billionaire helps a tad.)  ++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - First fully crewed Virgin Galactic trip to the edge of space has been undertaken
  - Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went to space in Blue Origin's New Shepherd rocket
  - The Starliner test capsule fails to dock at the International Space Station
  - Dragon capsule successfully delivers human dummy to the International Space Station

William Shatner treads boldly with trip to space.  Shatner famously played Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk. With his SpaceX, Blue Origin New Shepard rocket trip to the edge of space aged 90, he became the oldest person to leave the Earth's atmosphere. (You can see a short video coverage here.

Japan's fashion billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, goes to the international space station. He was conveyed there by Soyus as the first of the resumption of Russia's space tourism operation used to help fund Russia's space programme. He stayed at the space station for 12 days. He will undertake 100 tasks determined by the public including: blowing bubbles, flying a paper plane and playing golf. How this last will take place goodness knows… Fore!

Challenge becomes the first feature film shot in space. Shot on the International Space Station over 12 days, it tells the story of a surgeon who has to operate on a sick cosmonaut in space because the cosmonaut’s medical condition prevents him from returning to Earth to be treated.  The film is being made under a commercial agreement between Roscosmos and Moscow-based media entities Channel One and studio Yellow, Black and White.

Orbital Reef commercial space station plans announced. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin is teaming with Boeing to construct Orbital Reef which can crew up to ten people. It will operate as a 'mixed-use business park'.

Asteroid deflection test launched – Shades of Armageddon. Deflecting an asteroid from a collision with a planet is a concept used a number of times in SF including in Star Trek: The Next Generation to the feature film Armageddon (1998). Now NASA is attempting it for real with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). It will travel some six million miles to a double asteroid system (two asteroids orbiting each other). It will then collide with one at four miles per second with the aim altering its orbital period by several minutes. If this is successful, it should be possible to deflect an asteroid destined to collide with the Earth, much like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. An asteroid need only deflected by a very small degree, if done sufficiently far in advance, for it to miss Earth.

A mysterious radio signal has been detected near the Galactic centre but it does not correspond to any known astronomical phenomena…!  Astronomers have detected an intermittent source of radio waves near the centre of the Milky Way that doesn’t seem to fit the profile of any known astrophysical phenomenon. Ziteng Wang at the University of Sydney in Australia and his collaborators first spotted the unusual radio emissions in January 2020, using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Murchison.  The source, dubbed ASKAP J173608.2-321635, was seen repeatedly over a period of about three weeks, then vanished. When the pathfinder array looked for it again, there were times when it was on and times when it was off.  The team also spotted the source using the MeerKAT array in South Africa’s Northern Cape region. Several explanations for such a source seem implausible, the astronomers say. Unusual activity from a red dwarf star would produce not only radio waves but also infrared radiation, and a strongly magnetic type of neutron star called a magnetar would probably release both radio waves and X-rays — but no such counterpart emissions were seen.  Could it be aliens? (It's never aliens, until it is.)  (See Wang, Z et al (2021) Discovery of ASKAP J173608.2–321635 as a Highly Polarized Transient Point Source with the Australian SKA Pathfinder. The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 920 (45), 1598.)

An alien signal turns out not to be alien! Breakthrough Listen is a privately funded US$100-million effort to search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and has been using radio telescopes since 2016. A mysterious signal was received by the 64-metre Parkes Murriyang radio telescope in south-eastern Australia in 2019 but not noticed until the data was analysed in 2020. It seemed to come from the direction of Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to the Sun, just 4.2 light years (1.3 parsecs) away. Proxima Centauri is of intense interest to SETI researchers, not just because it is nearby. The star has at least two planets, one of which orbits at the right distance for liquid water to be present. The signal, named BLC1 for ‘Breakthrough Listen candidate 1’, was the first to pass all of the programme’s initial screening tests to rule out obvious sources of interference. However, a more stringent analysis comparing the signal with others that were ruled out at the time, reveals it to have certain harmonic similarities with radio interference from Earth. One lingering mystery is why the signal seemed to appear only when the telescope was pointed at Proxima Centaur but that might just simply be an unfortunate coincidence. (See Sheikh, S. Z. et al (2021) Analysis of the Breakthrough Listen signal of interest blc1 with a technosignature verification framework. Nature Astronomy, http://doi.org/10.1038/  and  Witze, A. (2021) Mysterious ‘alien beacon’ was false alarm. Nature, vol. 599, p20-1.)

A framework is needed for alien life detection!  Six US astronomical researchers, mainly based at various NASA institutes, have highlighted the need for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth. You may recall that methane has been detected on Mars and that on Earth life can generate methane but so can other things (such as types of mineralization) but then again oxygen has also been detected and nothing other than life does that in the quantity detected.  Also you may remember the detection of phosphine in Venus' atmosphere and the musing that this might be a biosignature. Though this detection was subsequently thought to be much less. And then came the news that there was not enough water in the Venusian atmosphere for microbes and the recent news that there may never have been an ocean on Venus for life to start (see the story earlier, above.
          So what is needed – the researchers argue – is a tiered system of various levels, with increasing certainty of the detection of possible alien life at each successive level. It might begin with a detection of a possible biosignature, and – having ruled out contamination, demonstrated theory of the possible biosignature in that particular alien environment, ruled out non-biological alternative explanations, found a second biosignature – come to independent follow-up detections. (See Green, J. et al (2021) Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth. Nature, vol. 598, p575-9.)

Dune's world of Arrakis could exist, sort of  Alex Farnsworth and fellow British climate modellers have managed to create a fairly reasonable model of Arrakis: yes, a largely dry, dessert and hot tropics and temperate zones is possible. The researchers based their model on the description given in Frank Herbert's novel and in Dune Encyclopedia. Finally, they told the model what the atmosphere was made of. For the most part it is quite similar to that of the Earth today, although with less carbon dioxide (350 parts per million as opposed to our 417 ppm). The biggest difference is the ozone concentration. On Earth, there is very little ozone in the lower atmosphere, only around 0.000001%. On Arrakis it is 0.5%. Ozone is important as it is around 65 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year period. (This, admittedly, is something of a cheat.)
          The books and film describe a planet with unforgiving sun and desolate wastelands of sand and rock. However, as you move closer to the Polar regions towards the cities of Arrakeen and Carthag, the climate in the book begins to change into something that might be inferred as more hospitable. In the computer model of Arrakis, the warmest months in the tropics hit around 45°C, whereas in the coldest months they do not drop below 15°C: similar to that of Earth. The most extreme temperatures would actually occur in the mid-latitudes and polar regions. Here summer can be as hot as 70°C on the sand (also suggested in the book). Winters are just as extreme, as low as -40°C in the mid-latitudes and down to -75°C in the poles. The warmer-than-tropics temperate summer seems counter intuitive as the equatorial region receives more energy from the sun. However, in the model the polar regions of Arrakis have significantly more atmospheric moisture and high cloud cover which acts to warm the climate since water vapour is a greenhouse gas.
          The book says that there is no rain on Arrakis. However, the model does suggest that very small amounts of rainfall would occur, confined to just the higher latitudes in the summer and autumn, and only on mountains and plateaus. There would be some clouds in the tropics as well as polar latitudes, varying from season to season. The book also mentions that polar ice caps exist, at least in the northern hemisphere, and have for a long time. But this is where the books perhaps differ the most from the model, which suggests summer temperatures would melt any polar ice, and there would be no snowfall to replenish the ice caps in winter.  Unlike the book, the mid-latitudes, where most people on Arrakis live, are actually the most dangerous in terms of heat. In the lowlands, monthly average temperatures are often above 50-60°C, with maximum daily temperatures even higher. Such temperatures are deadly for humans.
          It is important to remember that Herbert wrote the first Dune novel way back in 1965. This was two years before recent Nobel-winner Syukuro Manabe published his seminal first climate model, and Frank Herbert did not have the advantage of modern supercomputers, or indeed any computer. Given that, the world he created looks remarkably consistent six decades on. (See Farnsworth, A., Farnsworth, M. & Steinig, S. (2021) Could humans survive on Dune’s Arrakis? TheConversation.com.)

A Welsh dragon was Britain's oldest meat-eating dinosaur.  This dinosaur was discovered, by palaeontologist Angela Milner, from four fossil fragments that had been in the wrong drawer in the (Kensington) Natural History Museum's collection. The fossils are over 200 million years old and the species has been named as Pendraig milneraePendraig is Welsh for 'chief dragon'. Milnerae honours Angela Milner, the former deputy keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum, who sadly died mid-way through analysing the fossils. (See Spiekman, S. N. F. et al (2021) Pendraig milnerae, a new small-sized coelophysoid theropod from the Late Triassic of Wales. Royal Society Open Science, vol. 8, 210915.)

Orwell's 'newspeak' alive and well in US police performance metrics.  How well the US police perform is measured by the CompStat system. All well and good, and in any democracy (as opposed to police state) police performance needs to be measured and results conveyed to the electorate. However, this is only of value if the measurements truly reflect performance.  In Orwell's novel 1984, the authorities blatantly manipulated public perceptions through its Ministry of Truth and the practice of newspeak (altering facts). Research has now shown that the CompStat system in 47 large US cities is being gamed in a war reminiscent of 1984.
          In the American Journal of Political Science, and using national crime reporting data spanning from 1990 to 2013, Laurel Eckhouse reports that that police departments can reclassify rapes (but not other violent crimes) as “unfounded,” concluding the reported crime did not occur. The paper states that CompStat is associated with at least 3,500 additional minor arrests per city-year, substantial data manipulation, and no decrease in serious crime. (See Eckhouse, L. (2021), Metrics management and bureaucratic accountability: evidence from policing. American Journal of Political Science. http://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12661)

1984 by George Orwell has been rebranded by a security company as 2021. Avast undertook the SF classic's rebranding so as to highlight the danger of online surveillance. They also hired former Doctor Who, Matt Smith, to read excerpts. Other publishers are not rebranding so you can still buy 1984 as 1984.

The first 100+ qubit quantum computer has been developed. It has 127 quantum bits (qubits), making it the first to reach 3-figures. It is made by IBM who have an ambitious goal of creating a 433-qubit quantum processor next year, followed by one with 1,121 qubits, named Condor, by 2023.

An artificial intelligence (AI) has demonstrated that it can form conjectures. AI is already helping scientists in discovering patterns and/or anomalies in patterns, but it has been thought that the formation of a hypothesis or a conjecture is creative and firmly in the domain of human thought. Researchers at DeepMind in London have now demonstrated that an AI can help mathematicians formulate a conjecture. They use the example of the mathematical properties of shapes. The having looked at a hypothesis and demonstrated that it does not work, the AI was able to refine it and test it again, continuing with iterations of this process until it refined the conjecture.
          By way of explanation, to take an analogous example it is possible to model/describe two basic shapes: a pyramid and a cube. One might then see if there were some properties linking these two shapes. These might include its number of faces, edges and vertices (corners) and volume. Here the AI then extrapolated it to objects with more faces, corners and vertices. Here, it is as if the AI quickly discounted volume as a critical criterion and ultimately came up with the formula that Vertices minus Edges plus Faces always equals 2 for any regular object of any number of faces.
          The actual experiments related to knots and symmetries. The AI was able to deduce what is known as Kazhdan–Lusztig (KL) polynomials: these – the AI discovered but mathematicians did not know – can be applied to the topology on knots. (See Davies, A. et al (2021) Advancing mathematics by guiding human intuition with AI. Nature, vol.600, p70-4  and the review pieces  Stump, C. (2021) AI aids intuition in mathematical discovery. Nature, vol.600, p24-5  and  Castelvecchi, D. (2021) Untangle the mathematics of knots. Nature, vol.600, p202.)

Micro-3D fliers have been created, inspired by small plant seeds.  The idea of ultra-small robot fliers is a concept that occasionally crops up in SF. Now, researchers have created for real passive, helicopter-style fliers four centimetres across. One of these vehicles contains a simple circuit to detect airborne particles and can be used as a battery-free wireless device for atmospheric measurements.  But they go further producing even smaller fliers and they outline a framework to produce fliers on the micro-scale (smaller than 1 mm).  Their work also paves the way for the integration of complex integrated circuits to increase the fliers’ capabilities.  (See Kim, B. H. et al. (2021) Three-dimensional electronic microfliers inspired by wind-dispersed seeds. Nature, vol. 597, p503-510  and a review Helbling, E. F. (2021) Seed-inspired vehicles take flight. Nature, vol. 597, p480-1.)

Spock's ears have been donated to the Smithsonian. The half-human, half-Vulcan science officer, first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek the original series and subsequent films, was known for his shrewd intelligence, his cool logic, and his pointed ears. His prosthetic ears have now been donated by the Nimoy family to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

 

And to finally round off the Science & SF Interface subsection, here are a couple of short videos…

How to find alien Dyson spheres? This is the question PBS Space Time asked and answered just before New Year.  We at SF² Concatenation ponder: 'Alien Dyson spheres', are there any non-alien Dyson spheres….?  PBS Space Time examines what is being done to detect big dumb Dyson objects (that incidentally were inspired by Olaf Stapledon's SF in the short 'Star Maker'...  On our search for alien lifeforms we scan for primitive biosignatures, and wait and hope for their errant signals to happen by the Earth.  But that may not be the best way. Any energy-hungry civilisation more advanced than our own may leave an indisputable technological mark on the Galaxy.  And yes, we are very actively searching for those also.  Time to update you on the hunt for galactic empires.  You can see the PBS Space Time 15-minute episode here.

Challenges and predictions for the next 100 years.  Every year has new challenges, every generation faces its own unique crises, and as we move into the New Year, Isaac Arthur Futures looks at the challenges facing us in the next century and their 'Top 10 Predictions' for life in the year 2121…  You can see the Isaac Arthur half-hour episode here.
          He also makes ten predictions for 2121:-
    1) We will make digital back-ups of the brain
    2) We will have nanomachines in our bodies
    3) We will have a million people either visiting or living off planet
    4) We will have sent a probe out of the Solar system at over 1% the speed of light
    5) There will be an abundance of cheap, clean energy
    6) The population will exceed 10 billion
    7) Average life span will exceed 100 years
    8) We will still have both polar caps and an ozone layer
    9) We will be de-extincting species
    10) There will be no World War III
          Isaac notes that predictions for the future are always tricky and that he will count it as a success if half of his are right. He also made a final prediction that some of his many current viewers will still be around in 2121 and challenges them to set a reminder on their devices to look up his predictions.

Could distinguishing between science fact (what is possible) and science fiction (what is not) be a new 'Constructor' way of doing physics? Today's physics can be derived from two theories: General & special relativity, and quantum theory. But we cannot seem to unify the two. Have we come to an impasse in doing science?  A new way of doing science is 'Constructor theory'.  PBS Space Time explains how.  This is for those firmly into physics.  You can see the PBS Space Time 16-minute episode here.

 

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

Spring 2022

Rest In Peace

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

 

Peter Aykroyd, the US screenwriter and actor, has died aged 65 just a couple of weeks before his 66th birthday. He was the who co-creator of the TV series Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (1996-2000). He was the younger brother of comedian and actor Dan Aykroyd.

Lou Antonelli, the US author, has died aged 64. In addition to being a journalist, he began writing fantasy stories in 2003. Many are tall tales set in a fantastical Texas. A number have been collected in Fantastic Texas (2009). His first novel, Another Girl, Another Planet (2017), was and alternate history where the US and USSR cooperated in the space race. His Letters from Gardner: A Writer’s Odyssey (2014) was short-listed for a Hugo but this was arguably tainted due to being part of the Sad Puppy slate. He was a controversial figure who often came into conflict with authors. For example, he warned the police of a 2015 convention's Guest of Honour, something for which he later reportedly apologised to the author concerned.

Bob Baker, the British screen writer, has died aged 82. His genre contributions include Wallace and Gromit. But his most notable genre contribution was co-creating Doctor Who's robotic dog companion K9 as well as villains Omega and the Axons. His classic episodes include: 'The Claws of Axos' (1971), 'The Mutants' (1972), 'The Three Doctors' (1972–1973), 'The Sontaran Experiment' (1975), 'The Hand of Fear' (1976), 'The Invisible Enemy' (1977), 'Underworld' (1978), 'The Armageddon Factor' (1979) and 'Nightmare of Eden' (1979).

Douglas Barbour, the Canadian SF scholar, has died aged 81. His PhD thesis in 1976 was Canada's first on SF. He is noted for Worlds Out of Words: The SF Novels of Samuel R. Delany (1979) and co-editing Tesseracts 2 (1987) with Phyllis Gotlieb. His reviews appeared in Algol, Foundation and Vector among other publications.

Miquel Barceló, the Spanish SF author, critic and translator, has died aged 73. He was responsible for the ran Ediciones B ‘Nova’ SF imprint.

Aaron Beck, the US psychiatrist, has died aged 100. He is best known for devising cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). He was cited as one of the "Americans in history who shaped the face of American psychiatry", and one of the "five most influential psychotherapists of all time" by The American Psychologist (July, 1989). CBT is now used to treat a wide variety of disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, drug abuse, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.  He also developed, as a way to measure degree of depression, the Beck Hopelessness Scale.

Alexander Besher, the China-born US writer, has died aged 70. In addition to novels, screenplays and teleplays, he is a journalist and a consulting futurist on Pacific Rim affairs.

Anders Bodelsen, the Danish SF author, has died aged 84. His novels include Villa Sunset (1964) and Frysepunktet [Freezing Point] (1969). The former concerns glacial climate change, while the latter sees a sick person put into cryogenic suspension to wake in a radically changed world.

Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, the French science & SF eccentric twins, have died aged 72 of CoVID-19.  Their television series on matters science and SFnal made them household names. The first of these was Temps X [Time X],1979 to 1989, introduced several British and American science-fiction series to the French public, including The Prisoner, Star Trek and Doctor Who.  In 2002 they had a weekly popular science show Rayons X [X Rays].&nsbp; Mid career they turned to science academia and in 1999 Grichka Bogdanoff obtained a PhD in mathematics and in 2002, Igor Bogdanoff got his PhD in theoretical physics: both from the University of Burgundy.  In 2001 and 2002 they published five papers in peer-reviewed journals. One, 'Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime' in Classical and Quantum Gravity was later considered to be a spoof, thought the twins denied it. The journal later admitted that it slipped through their peer-review and said that it had strengthened its review process.  The Chinese Journal of Physics published Igor Bogdanoff's 'The KMS state of spacetime at the Planck scale', while Nuovo Cimento published 'KMS space-time at the Planck scale' but the validity of this paper has been debated. The New York Times reported that the physicists David Gross, Carlo Rovelli, and Lee Smolin considered the Bogdanoff papers nonsensical. While the Nobel laureate Georges Charpak later stated on a French talk show that the Bogdanoffs' presence in the scientific community was "nonexistent". Their scientific careers were never far from controversy.  Their SF includes the novel La Mémoire Double (1985).  In December (2021) the twins were hospitalised with CoVID-19. Despite being in their early 70s, they had not been vaccinated as they thought that their general good health and fitness would see them through.

Denise Bryer, the British voice actress, has died aged 93. Her genre contributions included being Impedimenta in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (English version, 1976), in Gulliver's Travels (1977) Bllina in The Return to Oz (1985), the Junk Lady in Labyrinth (1986) and voicing Noddy in Noddy (1998-2000). Perhaps her most notable contributions was to various Gerry Anderson series including:  voicing Twizzle in The Adventures of Twizzle (1957–1958);  voicing Martha Jones, Makooya the Little India Boy and additional voices in Four Feather falls (1960) alongside her then husband Nicholas Parsons;  and voicing Mary Falconer and Zelda in Terrahawks (1983-'86).

Ed Buckley, the British space artist, has died aged 80.  He was a Scottish fan artist who taught himself to paint following the launch of Sputnik in 1957, although his career as a fan artist didn't take off until he stopped working as a bus conductor and took a job working security at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. Around that time, he also discovered science fiction conventions. He was a regular as the Glasgow SF group, Resurgence of Trout (the successor body to the Fans of Kilgore Trout). His art appeared in a number of books and magazines.

Jeremy Byrne , the Australian SF fan, has died aged 57. He was a founder and co-editor of Eidolon, administrator of the eidolist and Australian SF website sf.org.au. For a while he edited the fanzine Piffle and Other Trivia.

Donald Caspar , the US crystallographer, has died aged 94. He was a pioneer in elucidating how proteins came together around viruses, hence provide viruses' structure. At one time he worked independently of, but parallel to, Rosalind Franklin. His wife of half a century was Gwladys, who was an early biosafety officer at Harvard. Her quick guide to biosafety levels 1–4 (don’t eat it, don’t touch it, don’t breathe it and don’t do it here) is still referred to today.

William Contento, the US bibliographer who is noted for compiling the Locus SF index (1990-2008) with Charles Brown.

Frank Denton, the US fan and SF writer, has died aged 91. Based in the Seattle area, his fanzines included Ash-Wing (1968-'78) and The Rogue Raven (1975-'97). He was GoH at MileHiCon 6 (1974), Westercon 30 (1977), Moscon II (1980), Intervention Gamma (1981), and Rustycon 7 (1990).

Carole Nelson Douglas, the US author, has died aged 76. She has over sixty novels under her belt. Her best known mystery series were the Irene Adler Sherlockian suspense novels and the Midnight Louie mystery series about “the twenty-pound black tomcat with the wit of Damon Runyon.” Her genre contributions included the high fantasy, Six of Swords (1982) and its sequels. She became a fulltime fiction writer in 1984. Her genre series included Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, and the 'Sword & Circlet' fantasy series.

Greta Edwards (née Tomlinson), , the British comic strip artist, has died aged 94. She worked in the Frank Hampson studio and helped draw Dan Dare for Eagle (1949-1953) and was also the model for Dare’s colleague Professor Peabody.

Edmond Fischer, the British television director, has died aged 84. His most noted genre contribution was working on and directed episodes of Doctor Who, including the first episode to feature the Daleks. Then, he became one of the few directors to work with all of the Time Lord’s first three incarnations: William Hartnell, battling a self-thinking computer in 'The War Machines' (1966); Patrick Troughton, taking on the Ice Warriors in 'The Seeds of Death' (1969); and Jon Pertwee, in both 'The Ambassadors of Death' (1970) and 'The Claws of Axos' (1971).

Edmond Fischer, the Chinese born US citizen biochemist, has died aged 101.  He discovered reversible protein phosphorylation, a process that regulates most aspects of cell life.  His discovery has applications to cancer and his work has saved millions of lives. It also earned Fischer, and his collaborator Edwin Krebs, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1992. In recent years Fischer was the oldest living Nobel winner.

Diana Gallagher, the US author, artist and fan, has died aged 75. She wrote tie-in novels for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed. She was also a fliker. Her art garnered her Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1989.

Allen Gardner, the US psychologist, has died aged 91. He is known for his work with his zoologist wife (Beatrix Tugendhut who died in 1995) on animal communication. They became the first to teach sign language to a non-human primate, the chimpanzee Washoe. Apparently Washoe had learnt as many as 350 signs, and was able to combine them. Their work is described in The Structure of Learning: From Sign Stimuli to Sign Language (1998).

Walter Gratzer, the German-born, British biophysical chemist, has died aged 89. In addition to his research work, He was the first Nature news correspondent appointed by editor John Maddox. He produced a number of publications including Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes, and was the editor for The Longman Literary Companion to Science (1989).

Judith Hanna, the Australian born UK fan, has died aged 67.  Having been a member of the Sydney University Tolkien Society, she moved to Britain in 1982 and married fellow fan, Joseph Nicholas, the following year. Back in the 1980s she was a member of the Interzone editorial collective. Her fan writing included contributions to Nutz, Prevert, Wallbanger, BoSFA Reviews Shallow End. In 1988 she served as President of the Fan Writers of America.

Alan Hawkshaw, the British composer, has died aged 84. He was responsible for much TV and film music and jingles, including for the Countdown TV quiz show and Channel 4 News. His genre contributions included: the music for Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1980), and incidental music for Doctor Who Online Adventures (2012/3) and The Fog (1980). He also worked on four episodes of Spider-Man TV series (1968/'70).

Antony Hewish, the British radio-astronomer, has died aged 97.  His research student Jocelyn Bell (later Bell Burnell) made the first detection of a strange scintillating radio source that they subsequently showed was the first identified pulsar. During the war he worked on a device to jam the interception radar of hostile night-fighter aircraft in Malvern. After the war he used radio astronomy to study space weather (solar wind). He was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “decisive role” in the discovery of pulsars. He headed up the Cambridge radio-astronomy group from 1977–89, and was head of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory from 1982–88.

Toshihiro Iijima, the Japanese director and writer for Ultraman (1966/7) and related franchises, has died aged 89.

Andrey Izmailov , the Russian SF author, has died aged 68. he is noted for several X-File novelisations.

Langdon Jones, the British author and editor, has died aged 79.  His fanzines included Quotecards Anyone? and Tensor  He edited the New Wave anthology The New S.F. (1969). He was short-listed for a Hugo in 1970: 'Best Professional Magazine' for New Worlds.

Mary Kay Kare, the US fan, has died aged 69. Based in the Bay Area, she was a conrunner and worked on a number of Worldcons. She also ran the Hugos for Denvention 3 (2008). Her fanzines included Red Dust.

Miroslaw Kowalski, the Polish editor, has died aged 67. he ran Poland's ‘Supernova’ SF/F imprint.

Erle (Mel) Korshak, the US fan, has died aged 97.  He was a well-known fan and one of the leaders of the Moonstruck Press publishing house.  He was one of the organisers – with Mark Reinsberg and Bob Tucker – of Chicon I, the second World Science Fiction Convention (1940).  After World War II, he established a used-book business, which led in 1947 to Shasta Publishers, one of the first hardback SF speciality presses.  After graduating from law school, he became successful as a lawyer and businessman but GAFIAted for around 30 years.  In the late 1980s, he began attending conventions again. With his son, Stephen D. Korshak, he built the Korshak Collection, one of the finest SF art collections ever and revived the Shasta imprint (as "Shasta-Phoenix") in 2009 to publish collections of classic SF art.  In 996, he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. He was to be a GoH at Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon).

Richard Leakey, the Kenyan palaeoanthropologist and wildlife conservationist, has died aged 77. Though he had no university degree, he is known for discovering the first fossils of archaic human species in Kenya. Perhaps his most famous fossil find was that of a near-complete Homo erectus skeleton.  He was also the Director of the National Museum of Kenya, founded the NGO Wildlife Direct and was the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service. He famously, publicly torched 12 tons of elephant tusks confiscated from poachers. He was awarded an FRS by the Royal Society. In June 2013, Leakey was awarded the Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association.

Richard Lerner, the US clinician cum immunologist, has died aged 83. He his noted for his work on catalytic antibodies. He became president of Scripps Research from 1987 to 2012. Following being president, he returned to the laboratory to continue his research which he did up to his passing.

Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper, the English translator of French, has died aged 97. She spoke four or five languages but other than her native tongue was arguably most fluent in French. After World War II she worked on the Nuremberg trials. She went on to becoming Publishing Director at the Open University at Milton Keynes. However, on the way she provided Michael Turner a first draft of translations of Tintin adventures, both undertook the work at Herge's request.

Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper, the US conservation biologist, has died aged 80. He worked on regional extinctions due to habitat loss and climate change and helped restore fragmented systems. He also helped with the creation of the Nature television show in the US. In later years he became the director of the Institute for a Sustainable Earth, and the Amazon Biodiversity Center, at George Mason University.

Shirley McGreal OBE, the primate conservationist and activist, has died aged 87. She became concerned about animal welfare of animals being transported, particularly primates. This led on to her monitoring the transportation of animals and the illegal animal exporting. She is particularly noted for establishing the International Primate Protection League with the support of macaque biological researcher Ardith Eudey. Of the awards she garnered, she was proudest of one from the Interpol Wildlife Crime Group and the Dutch Police League in 1994 for exposing an international ring of primate smugglers.

Ugo Malaguti, the Italian SF author and editor, has died aged 76. He was a prolific and respected author whose first story was 'Sleep of Millennia' back in 1960. He was also the editor of editor of Galassia magazine.

Elizabeth Miller, the N. American Dracula academic, has died aged 82. Her works include: A Dracula Handbook (2005), Reflections on Dracula: Ten Essays (1997), Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow (1998), Dracula: Sense & Nonsense (2000), Dracula, a Documentary Volume (2004), and Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula (2008, with Robert Eighteen-Bisang). She co-edited The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (2012, with Dacre Stoker). She was the founding editor of the Journal of Dracula Studies. She won two Lord Ruthven Awards, and she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dracula Society in 2012. The Transylvanian Society of Dracula, Romania declared her a “Baroness of the House of Dracula” in 1995, and the mayor of Aref, Romania named her a “Daughter of the Town of Aref” in 2000.

Denis O’Brien, the US film producer, has died aged 80. He co-founded HandMade Films which was behind Life of Brian (1979) and Time Bandits (1981).

Henry Orenstein, the US inventor, has died aged 98. he was the inventor behind the Transformer (cars to robots) toys. During the Toy Fair in Manhattan in the early 1980s, he saw a Japanese-made toy — a tiny car that could easily change into an airplane — and recognised more elaborate possibilities. The toys were launched in 1984.

Anne Rice, the US author, has died aged 80. Her books have sold over 150 million copies. She is perhaps best known for her debut novel Interview with the Vampire (1976) and its sequel The Vampire Lestat (1985) that together began her 'Vampire Chronicles' series of 14 novels. She wrote nearly 40 books in all, including four under the name A. N. Roquelaure that riffed on The Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

Michael Rutter, the Lebanese born British psychiatrist, has died aged 88. With World War II, he moved to the North America with his parents aged seven and then trained in Britain as a clinician..  He greatly improved our understanding of autism. Back in the 1960s the behaviour of autistic children was blamed on mothers failing to bring up their children properly. His work using both identical and non-identical twins showed an 82% correlation of behaviour with identical twins, but not in non-identical twins that strongly suggested that autism had a genetic component. He also worked on dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He retired less than a year before his passing.

Takao Saito, the Japanese author and artist, has died aged 84. His Golgo 13 (1968-current) is the longest-running, extant manga serial.

Myriam Sarachik, the Belgian born US physicist, has died aged 88. Having had a troubled childhood in Nazi occupied Western Europe, she fled to Cuba and then moved to the US where she studied physics. She primarily worked in the field of low temperature condensed matter physics, in which she focused on molecular nanomagnets and superconductivity. She never received the career progression she might have had due to gender discrimination but nonetheless garnered many science awards including the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize, the NYC Mayor's Award for Excellence in Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, and the Sloan Public Service Award. This last was due to her campaigning and activism for the human rights of scientists.

Ned Seeman, the US biochemist turned nanotechnologist, has died aged 75. He is credited with being the first to recognise that DNA can be used to design and build programmable nanostructures and nanomachines. His 1982 paper on making lattices from DNA junctions got little attention unlike his 1991 paper with his grad student, on the synthesis of a DNA molecule shaped like the edges of a cube. He was the recipient of a number of prizes including the Kavil Prize in Nanoscience and the American Chemical Society's Nichols Medal.

Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor, has died aged 81.  He developed the ZX Spectrum microcomputer which arguably launched home computing in the early 1980s. He went on to develop the small C5 electric vehicle in 1985, which was a commercial flop. This forced him to sell his profitable computer businesses to Amstrad in 1986.

Willie Siros, the US fan and bookseller has died aged 69. He chaired the first two Texas Solarcons (1975/6), co-founded the Fandom Association of Central Texas and its ArmadilloCon and chaired the 1985 NASFiC (held in the US the year's Worldcon is outside the US) LoneStarCon in Austin, Texas. He was fan GoG at LoneStarCon III Worldcon in 2013.

Dean Stockwell, the US actor, has died aged 85.  His genre contributions include: two versions of The Dunwich Horror (1970 and 2008 ) as Wilbur Whateley and Henry Armitage respectively, The Werewolf of Washington (1973), and Dune (1984) as Doctor Wellington Yueh.  He appeared in the The Twilight Zone episode 'A Quality of Mercy' (1961) and 'Room 2426' (1989), Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-'92) as the voice of Duke Nukem, and voicing Robin/Tim Drake in Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker (2000), the episode 'Shadow Play' of Stargate SG-1, and 15 episodes of Battlestar Galactica (2006-9).  However, he is best known in genre circles for co-starring as Admiral Al Calavicci in 97 episodes of the series Quantum Leap (1989-'93).

William (Bill) Taylor, the US special effects designer, has died aged 77.  His effects have appeared in: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Aeon Flux (2005), Serenity (2005), Bruce Almighty (2003), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), The Time Machine (2002), Bicentennial Man (1999), Muppets from Space (1999), Batman Forever (1995), Addams Family Values (1993), The Addams Family (1991), Millennium (1989), Red Sonja (1985), Blade Runner (1982), The Thing (1982), The Fog (1980), and Dark Star (1974).  He served a term as a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Visual Effects Branch).

Alexander Tebenkov, the Russian SF author has died aged 76.

Ian Wallace, the British ornithologist, has died aged 87. From 1963 to 1968 he was chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee. He was also a long-time council member of the RSPB and the British Ornithologists’ Union, and a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists, with whom he exhibited his own characteristically distinctive artwork He is the author of Discover Birds (1979), Birdwatching in the Seventies (1981), Watching Birds (1982), Birds of Prey of Britain and Europe (1983) and an autobiographical tribute to Britain's history of bird-watching, Beguiled By Birds (2004).

Edward O. Wilson, the US biologist, has died aged 92. He took his PhD at Harvard after which he remained there for much of his career. A huge figure in whole-organism biology, he is noted for his science communication and is the winner of two Pulitzer prizes: for On Human Nature (1987) and co-authoring (with Bert Holldobler) The Ants (1990): Wilson is credited with discovering 400 species of ant. This led him to work on the biological principles of pseudo-social species. His other awards include the National Medal of Science (1977), the Crafoord Prize and the International Prize for Biology from Japan. His many books include Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998).

Ron Zukowski, the US fan, has died aged 71. He is noted for co-chairing the 1986 Worldcon in Atlanta.

 

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 2022

End Bits & Thanks

 

Well, that is 2021 done and dusted.  2021 was..:-

          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
                    Timescape.

          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.

                    the first Transatlantic broadcast

 

And now we are firmly into 2022 and a number of other anniversaries.  2022 will be..:-

          the 10th anniversary of the publication of:-
                    The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain Banks
                    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
                    Empty Space by M. J. Harrison (Controversial inclusion for some of us. You'll either love or hate it.)
                    Intrusion by Ken MacLeod
                    Transmission by John Meaney
                    Railsea by China Miéville
                    Dodger by Terry Pratchett
                    Demi-Monde Spring by Rod Rees
                    Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
                    2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
                    Kil'n People by David Brin

          the 30th anniversary of the following:-
                    Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
                    Time Like Infinity by Stephen Baxter
                    Anvil of the Stars by Greg Bear
                    Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
                    Fools by Pat Cadigan
                    Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

          and the films:-
                    Alien³
                    Freejack (based on Sheckley's story)
                    Memoirs of An Invisible Man

          and the broadcast of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories

          the 40th anniversary of the following:-
                    Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss
                    Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
                    The Sword of Lictor by Gene Wolfe

          and the films:-
                    Android
                    Blade Runner
                    The Thing
                    2010
                    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

          and the broadcast of:-
                    the 5th Doctor Who
                    Another Flip for Dominick

          the 45th anniversary of 2000AD and Judge Dredd

          the 50th anniversary of the following:-
                    There Will Be Time by Poul Anderson
                    The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
                    The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
                    Again Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
                    The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin
                    The English Assassin by Michael Moorcock
                    Other Days, Other Eyes by Bob Shaw
                    The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
                    The Tale of Troika by the Strugatskis

          and the film:-
                    Solaris

          And the broadcast of:-
                    the 3rd and final season of Doomwatch
                    and The Stone Tape

          the 60th anniversary of the first edition of The Hulk.

          the 75th anniversary of the following:-
                    Pilgrim's Through Time and Space by J. O. Bailey
                    the professional publishing of New Worlds magazine
                    the ENIAC computer
                    the birth of Octavia Butler
                    the birth of Lucius Shepard
                    the birth of John Varely
                    the birth of Vernor Vinge

          the 85th anniversary of the first SF convention. It was held at the Theosophical Hall at Leeds. (Incidentally, SF² Concatenation was founded with its first (print) edition in the 50th anniversary year of that event at the BECCON '87 Eastercon.)

          the 100th anniversary of the film Aelita

          the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hal Clement, Damon Knight, Walter M. Miller and Kurt Vonnegut

          the 100th anniversary of the BBC (that in turn, and in approximate order of broadcast, eventually gave rise to: Stranger From Space, Quatermass, A For Andromeda, Adam Adamant Lives, Doctor Who, Out of the Unknown, Doomwatch, The War Game, The Stone Tape, Moonbase 3, Survivors, Blake's 7, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Flip Side of Dominick Hide, Threads, The Edge of Darkness, Star Cops, Red Dwarf and The Survivors re-boot among much else)

 

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Summer 2022 upload in April
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' summer book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews. (Remember, these season's relate to the northern hemisphere 'academic year'.)

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible (and Dave Langford for mailing paper copies), Fancylopaedia, Simon Geikie, Pat Fernside (for File 770 info), File 770, Ian Moss, Julie Perry (Google Scholar wizard), SF Encyclopaedia, SFX Magazine, Elaine Sparkes and Peter Wyndham, not to mention information provided by publishers. Stories based on papers taken from various academic science journals or their websites have their sources cited.  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 (2021) also saw articles and convention reports from: Mark Bilsborough, Sue Burke, Bill Burns, Jonathan Cowie, Suzie Eisfelder, Ian Hunter, Simon Litten, Duncan Lunan, Ken MacLeod, Ian Moss, Alastair Reynolds, Allen Stroud,   and  Peter Tyers.  Stand-alone book reviews over the past year were provided by: David Allkins, Mark Bilsborough, Arthur Chappell, Jonathan Cowie, Karen Fishwick, Ian Hunter, Duncan Lunan, Jane O'Reilly, Allen Stroud, Peter Tyers, and Peter Young.  (And welcoming for 2022: Steven French , Ash Leaf, Roseanna Pendlebury and Mark Yon.)  'Futures stories' in 2021 involved liaison with Colin Sullivan at Nature, 'Futures' PDF editing by Bill Parry that included 'Futures' stories by: Marissa Lingen, Wendy Nikel, Michael Adam Robson and Matt Tighe.  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 details.)  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 2022 period – needs to be in before 15th March 2022. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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