SF News for the Summer 2003

Science Fiction Fan and Convention News

and Forthcoming Science Fact and Fiction Books

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

This news builds on the Spring 2003 SF News, November 2002 News and the Forthcoming book news to December 2002.

[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film tie-ins | Science News]

SF News

Arthur Clarke is hard at work on his latest novel The Last Theorum for Gollancz UK. As of the time of reporting the US rights had yet to be sold. More news as and when but expect it out in 2004. Which of course means it can be voted on this side of the pond at the European Worldcon (Glasgow) in 2005.

Look out for Polaris by Jack McDevitt later this year from Ace Publishing in the US. As Concat regulars know (and new-comers can see from our reviews section) we rate McDevitt quite highly. Polaris we have special hopes for as it is related to one of his previous great works A Talent for War.

Time to challenge the Hugo... Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have shown themselves not only to be successful in book form but also on the big screen. No mistake, they are great works! But, given that they are works that are clearly of fantasy (with no discernible science fiction content), are they worthy of the World Science Fiction Achievement Award, the Hugo? Now we at Concat recognise that this is a issue that others have raised and is contentious (so much so that it has not been resolved) but bear with us. Their eligibility for nomination for the Hugo comes from the Worldcon Hugo rules (laid down in the Constitution of the World SF Society) which do allow for works of s'cience fiction or fantasy'. Some of the Concatenation team have debated whether or not a Hugo win is truly appropriate for works of pure fantasy. Our Tony Chester has in the past charitably suggested that this indicates that SF is truly a broad church, but even he recognises that the breadth of such a church stretches credibility. And so Jonathan Cowie has now formally written to the Hugo Administrators as he is a member of this year's Worldcon, hence eligible to vote for the Hugo, suggesting that the rules be changed. It seems to us that the spirit of the Hugo rules is to allow border works that could be classified as either fantasy or science fiction to be eligible for nomination. An example of one such Hugo 'Best Dramatic Presentation' win was for the 1978 film Superman. Superman can be clearly considered to be fantasy for Superman's abilities of flight break Newton's laws of motion not to mention those of thermodynamics: as such Superman is not strictly science fiction. On the other Superman is not fantasy as his powers do not come from, say, magic but the explanation is given in pseudo-scientific terms in that Superman is an alien whose powers are derived from exposure to Earth's yellow sun (the Kryptonian sun was red and Superman's people had no powers in their original home system. This lends Superman to being SF. It seems to us that the spirit of the Hugo rules is to grant Hugo eligibility to such border works of science fantasy. But should this spirit be stretched to include works of pure fantasy? We suggest not, for SF does need an award determining World-class recognition for the genre. Yes it should include border works with fantasy, but not - we feel - works of pure fantasy which are eligible for their own World Fantasy Award. The change we are now suggesting is that the Hugo rules be changed from works of 'science fiction or fantasy' to 'science fiction and science fantasy'. This would still allow works such as Superman eligibility while works of pure fantasy such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings would remain in the running for the World Fantasy Award. We hope that you agree. Should you, you can write before mid-August 2003 to the Hugo Administrators at Torcon 3 Hugo Awards, Post Office Box 3252, Merrifield, VA 22116-3252, United States of America, or e-mailing them at 'hugoadmin[to]torcon3.on.ca' - the discernible of you will recognise that these are two separate addresses (one in the US and one in that great British Commonwealth country Canada). So if you are really keen you can do both and get two bites at the cherry. You might also include the World SF Society administrator on your e-mail at 'WSFbusiness[at]torcon3.on.ca'. Meanwhile a number of us on the Concat team have discussed this and are separately enquiring as to what is going on. In anticipation of a helpful response we will let you know what the good folk managing the Award on our behalf say in our autumnal update.

Talking of Worldcons, if you are thinking of going to the Canadian Worldcon later this year then why not check out our guide to Toronto. Many professionals and fans combine Eurocon and Worldcon participation with a day or two's worth of holiday. However while the convention pack usually contains details of local sights and restaurants these are only given to you after the convention begins and so you do not benefit from them if you arrive a day or two early. So we thought it might be an idea to give you an idea of some of Toronto's highlights as well as dos and don'ts. Consequently we went to great pains (or his mum did) to ensure that Bill Parry was born and grew up in that city! His article may well prove useful for those arriving a day or two early. If this proves popular (we check our various page vists each month) then we may run another such piece on Glasgow in advance of 2005.

Also talking of the Canadian Worldcon, if your going why not check out our SARS article ?

Still on Worldcons, continuing on silent running is the proposed Japan 2007Japanese Worldcon (2007)... Following on from the Spring News earlier this year, and indeed last year's reporting, we now have mixed news to share. The first is that the Japanese have still not updated their website with UK members. It has been well over a year now and many UK registrants, having parted with their dosh, have still heard nothing - though apparently one or two attending this year's UK Eastercon were given a pack. Concat, or one of its friends, usually attends the Worldcon and we can categorically say that our man registered for 2007 has still has had nothing to date. However our reach is long and a check of the 2007 database revealed that our chap was indeed registered and his correct address details logged. So what is going on? Apparently Japanese fans have not heard of the need to communicate. Literally that is it. Honest. This was the explanation given us. Meanwhile the Columbus, Ohio, bid for 2007 continues to truck along. Japan really has to get its act together if it wishes to win the bid. Concatenation will be on hand at this year's Worldcon business meeting to check on fair play. May the best bid win.

As for that small gathering the 2nd International Week of Science and SF, well we had a great time. No less than brilliant. Our Alan and Jonathan arrived the previous week to make a fortnight of it. In between Jonathan with Antuza waiting at customs for boxes of books and con materials to arrive from the UK, Alan managed to take in a local beer festival. (And not a drop of real ale in sight, shhh our Alan is a CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) member... but the local lagers were good.) Dan Heidal who occasionally gives us tips for the site wowed everyone with his presentation on the internet, candles up the marble stairs at the book launch, and the men and Antuza with flowers at the end-of-week banquet. You can check out our report. There are also pictures on Pictures of the 2nd International Week can on Roberto Quaglia's web page. A shorter version of Concat article but with pictures of the book covers of the publications being launched is being published by the US magazine Locus. Finally, a short report of the event, written by Ian Watson, has appeared in the June 2003 issue of Ansible. For the timetable for the 2nd International Week click here and the Progress Reports click here

As some of you know, the leading lights (if that is an apt term) of the Concatenation team have drafted a concise guide to good SF with 'good' being defined, not by us but, as works recognised by large surveys (such as awards and polls) of SF buffs and fans. The appendix check list of the early draft of this guide appears elsewhere on this site. The basic idea for this is not new. Roger Robinson (friend of Concatenation and fellow former BECCONeer of one of us) has produced a similar checklist for books only based on award winners. Now Chicago's Dr Bob Blackwood is undertaking something similar for films by surveying World SF members registered for Worldcons between 2000 and 2005 (arguably allowing for overlap some 20,000 fans and professionals) for their suggestions for the best ten SF films of the 20th century. This is an interesting project. However from experience when we looked at a range of surveys for our guide we noticed that people tend to rate more recent films higher. A better way might have been to break the 20th century up by decade. Notwithstanding this we suspect that 2001, Bladerunner, and one of the Alien films will make it into Blackwood's top ten. We hope Bob lets us know the outcome, meanwhile (providing you have your Worldcon membership number to hand for any Worldcon between 2000 and 2005 you can vote up to the end of July on www.blackwood.org.

Meanwhile as for our own 'concise' guide to good SF (books, films and TV) with its checklists and cross-referenced paragraphs on each entry, not to mention author and producer profiles of additional works for those who already have multiple entries, has not yet seen print. Shock, Horror, Drama, Probe!. The SF commissioning editors of more than one UK publishing house had expressed a positive interest only for their sales team to say 'we don't know how to market non-fiction...' Another publisher said that the idea was great but a pity that we diluted our coverage of film and television SF with SF books, and perhaps we should try a book publisher. Meanwhile US publishers are just plain rude. One requested a copy of the MS. None replied having seen the manuscript. (This hardly helps the rejection slip collection.) So where to from here? Well we have had enough of a positive response from those UK commissioning editors (despite their sales teams), as well as SF pros and fan friends of the Concat team, not to drop this idea. So we are in the process of joining forces with someone in the trade to publish the guide as a small press production, with a view to launching it at the 2005 Worldcon. Much depends on the costings, so we will have to see whether this route is a runner. More news when it comes.

Movie news. The proposed Thunderbirds film reportedly now has a cast. Apparently the story has Alan trying to liberate the Tracy island after it has been captured by the Hood. As Festival of Fantastic Film regulars will know, Gerry Anderson (who created and produced the original TV series) complained that the previous film industry attempt to bring Thunderbirds to the big screen in more 007 style failed and that those folk did not attempt to involve Gerry in any creative way. Fest regulars will also know that Brian Clemens was similarly excluded from the dire 1998 movie adaptation (and that he had a great idea for a movie plot) of The Avengers. Anyway, it appears from reports Spring 2003, that Gerry is also being kept away from involvement with this latest Thunderbirds movie. A great shame. Don't these movie folk ever learn? Still apparently the movie has a decent budget at $45 million, so it will be interesting to see what they finally turn out.

Terminator 3 scuttlebutt is all fairly positive (product placement rumours aside). As you know separately we rated S. M. Stirling's spin-off novel as excellent, and elements of the book resonate in the film, such as the new female terminator. The release date is set for early August.

News of Matrix 2 or The Matrix Reloaded, the summer's other release, is also good if you like designer terrorism that is (and can forgive the plot's holes). Check out the trailer currently (spring/summer 2003) on IMDB. It was publicly released during the International Week of SF (was this a causal relationship... we leave you, dear surfer, to contemplate). Much thanks to Jonathan Jones and Sharon Lewis for sponsoring the Eastern Europeans in Timisoara for the SF Week to attend a cinema showing. This attracted the interest of the local press though unfortunately being caught up in the evening nobody noted which newspaper was covering us and so we failed to bring home the cutting. Nonetheless The Matrix Reloaded did cause quite a stir among the resident population in Timisoara. Not since nearly communist times have the cinemas in Timisoara seen people during the day queuing for tickets!

And one final bit of news from our Jonathan himself...

I just wanted to thank those of you (mainly in the science policy world) who have taken time out to send a word of support on my (ahem) promotion. The article - or one page obituary as several of you have called it - in the March Institute of Biology news magazine was unduly kind and somewhat blushful for little old me. What was particularly striking was the SF references at the article's beginning and end sandwiching some unduly favourable comments from those at the Royal Society, Save British Science, Royal Society of Chemistry as well as the Institute itself. Aww, shucks guys. Until now, though, my involvement in the SF world has largely gone unrecognised by my colleagues in science. Is this then some kind of coming out? Well, if nothing else I hope that by now my career and professional credentials are sufficiently firmly grounded that a serious point can be made for science fiction being an appropriate vehicle to help the promotion of appreciation of science fact: something many scientists, and certainly official UK scientific bodies have been reluctant to accept. Nonetheless, as alluded to above, with literally 100,000s of SF readers in the UK and millions of viewers, is it in science's best interests to ignore such potential for SF to inspire interest in science fact? I honestly think not.

[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film tie-ins> | Science News]

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

Warning alert. Kevin Anderson's A Forest of Stars, the second title in the 'Saga of the Seven Suns' is out from Earthlight. As you may recall we were not impressed by the first volume, and our Jonathan literally drew the short straw to review it. However don't let this put you of his 'X-Files' and 'StarWars' spin off offerings which go down very well with media fans.

Incompetence by Rob (Red Dwarf Grant is now out from Gollancz, 12.99, ISBN 0-57-507419-1. Set in the near future where to discriminate against the incompetent is outlawed, a detective has to solve a crime and rise above his own weaknesses. Humorous and fun.

Ray Bradbury's latest collection of shorts is now out. One More For The Road, Earthlight, pbk, 6.99, ISBN 0=7434407-9. Need we say more? Regular genre readers know well of Bradbury's ability with short stories. Recommended. Check out our review of another fairly recent collection The Machineries of Joy.

The Line of Polity by Neal Asher, Tor UK, trade pbk, 10.99. ISBN 0-333-90365-X is now out in Britain from Tor UK. It is a high tech, hard space opera. The destruction of outlink station Iranda by nanomycelium is clearly sabotage and agent Cormac is sent out on a titanic dreadnought (the Occam Razor) to bring the perpetrators to book... The Line of Polity is very much a 'toys for boys' tale and if you like the high tech, wham bam of 007 movies (minus the humor) then this could be for you. The writing focuses much on the hardware and this could have been not a book but a portrayal of some arms promotion film with the description from a weapons catalogue.

United Kingdom by James Lovegrove, Gollancz, 10.99 ISBN 0-57-507386-1, has had a warm reception from SF literati. Indeed the mainstream booktrade seems to have taken to it to with one description of Lovegrove even being that the man 'has become to the 21st century what J G Ballard was to the 20th' (The BooksellerMarch). No pressure now James.

Talking of mainstream reception, Margaret Atwood knows on which side her bread is buttered. Her Oryx and Crake novel is now out and is clearly marketed as mainstream! From Bloomsbury, 16.99, ISBN 0-74756259-8, it is a late 21st century set tale of a world in the middle of profound environmental change. Perish the thought that such is the stuff SF is made of...

Ringworld's Children by Larry Niven, Orbit, 16.99, hdbk, ISBN 1-84-149170-5, is out in August. Now there was a time when several of us would have been panting for a new Ringworld novel. Indeed Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers are extremely worthy, but alas (as you can see from the review of Ringworld Throne elsewhere on the site) we did not rate his subsequent works in the series. The man has lost his hard SF edge and gone all fantasy. Still, while this definitely does not appeal to us we are well aware that it does to many who like fantasy and that that is a BIG market. Indeed the UK mainstream book trade is gearing up for it. So SF's loss is Larry's publisher's (and indeed Larry's) gain. Be unfair to complain about that.

Out from the 2000AD stable is a new collection of old Judge Andersons in Judge Anderson: Triad which features 'Triad', 'Contact', 'Beyond the Void, and the 'The Prophet'. Also just out is the graphic album collection of Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War classic which includes the precursor episodes on 'Block Mania'. To come later this summer is another Dredd classic, Necropolis 2. Now the Necropolis collection has appeared before in 1998, but this edition only claims to be parts 8-26. Could it be that this volume includes the separate, but directly plot-linked, 'Dead Man episodes? Worth checking out.

Fantasy and Horror book releases

Sorry, we've not covered this this quarter. If you are lucky Tony may have reviewed some of the latest offerings(?). Check out the reviews in 'What's New.

Science Fact and Non-Fiction

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time from Thames & Hudson, hdbk, 16.95 ISBN 0-50005116-X. Everyone has heard of the K/T extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs (apart from crocs, birds etc), but that extinction was a tiddler compared to some of the others. This book, written at New Scientist level, reviews the evidence for what happened with one of the biggies.

Talking of biggies, if you like them then get a load of Snowball Earth: The Story of the Great Global Catastrophe That Spawned Life As We Know It by Gavrielle Walker, from Bloomsbury, 16.99, ISBN 0-74-756051-X. Brilliant stuff.

Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and Life, by Leonard Mlodinow, from Allen Lane, 9.99, ISBN 0-71399643-9, is bound to go down well with our Graham Connor. This book is a memoir of the author's relationship when a young physics postdoc with the Nobel Prize-winning Feynman.

Where would our science section be without a mention of John (and Mary) Gribbin? Their latest book How Far Is Up?: The Men Who Measured the Universe is out from Icon Books, 9.99, ISNB 1-84946439-9. Naturally it is about astronomy.

TV and Film Tie-ins and Video

Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans will delight in that her series of 'novels' continues from Pocket Books at 6.99, pbk, each. Latest additions include The Cordelia Collection, Tales of the Slayer, The Lost Omnibus, and Blood and Fog. If that were not enough, there is also a Buffy/Angel crossover series! Two releases so far this year, Monster Island (12.99) and Cursed. Though about half of us on the team love Buffy on TV, we are not that dedicated to read these. So if any of you out there have then do let us know ... have they played the eroticism card?

Science News

Our congratulations go to Michelle and Jayson Whitaker on the birth of their son Jamie. Jamie was genetically screened to be a genetic match for their other son Charlie who has leukaemia and needs a marrow transplant. This has caused much ethical debate in the UK where the procedure is currently against the law, so Michelle and Jayson had to go to the US. Ironically Christopher ('Superman') Reeve has been campaigning in the US over its tight stem cell research regulations compared to the more liberal ones in the UK! This illustrates just how fraught the bioethics debate is. For those who want a readable account of the science and related issues then you could do a lot worse than get Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes.

Meanwhile the Beagle II British probe to Mars has blasted off. See the European Space Agency's site www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMPM75V9ED_0.html.

[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film tie-ins | Science News]

See also: Spring 2003 SF News, November 2002 News and the Forthcoming book news to December 2002.

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