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[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases for Summer 2005 | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
Hugo SF achievement Award nomination news -- start following the web-trail here.
Best SF offerings of 2004 -- jump to see the best 2004 films below or see the best books.
Enterprise cancelled -- fans rush to support -- jump to more below.
Space probe Deep Impact hits comet -- July -- jump to more below.
Essential SF: A Concise Guide is now out. -- jump to more below.
The other sub-sections within SF News to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Artist News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
The Science Fiction Writers of America have launched a new SF Award for 'Young Adult', or Juvenile, Science Fiction. It will be called the Andre Norton Award. Andre Norton, of course, being the US author who entered SF writing through children's SF. The Award will first be presented in 2006 along with the Nebulas that the SFWA also administer. It will be a panel judged award. Further to last month's news of Andre Norton herself, she has failed to improve and was hospitalised in February with flu complicated with pneumonia - which at 93 is serious. She has now been transferred to hospice care. STOP PRESS: - Andre Norton dies see obit list.
Votes for the 2005 Hugo nominations have now closed. Voting on the resulting nomination for the Hugo - the World 'Science Fiction Achievement Awards' - is now open to members of the 2005 World SF Convention which this year makes one of its very rare appearances in Europe, Interaction in Glasgow and which is also combined with this year's Eurocon. Some 5,000 are estimated to ultimately register for the Worldcon but less than a thousand are likely to exercise their right to vote for the Hugo. The winning Hugos, in categories that effectively cover books, film, magazine, TV and fan categories, will be announced at the Worldcon in August.
More on Hugo nominations! Want to get a feel for the strengths of various Hugo novel nominations? Then check out Nicholas Whyte's Hugo nomination meta-review.
Meanwhile here are some hot tips for your reading (irrespective of whether they get Hugo nominated) from last year...
Of Hugo book nomination form relevance... US-based Locus has announced its recommended reading list of 2004's SF works. As usual there is some agreement with Concatenation reviews but because few US books are simultaneously published in the UK, and a fair number simply are not, so the overlap between Locus recommended and our European-based Concatenation is limited. Nonetheless both rate: The Algebraist by Iain Banks; Abarat by Clive Barker; a cautious recommendation on our part for The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah by Stephen King; White Devils by Paul McAuley; River of Gods by Ian McDonald; and Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson.
There is zero overlap between Locus and us of non-fiction reviews which is largely due to little (quality) non-fiction SF being published in the UK so that the bulk of our non-fiction is either science or SF art. However with this last we both rated: Digital Art for the 21st Century: Renderosity and Futures: 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars. One other possibility might have been What Does a Martian Look Like? by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart. This is the paperback release of their 2002 book Evolving the Alien which discussed exobiology in the context of SF books and films. Alas the authors misremembered some stories and mis-attributed them, though the science points remained germane. Equally alas the publishers, Erbury, failed to distribute review copies to key magazines like Locus - we got ours due to one of the authors pressing Erbury's PR bod. We are not sure if the name change for the 2004 edition was accompanied by SF corrections. If it was it should be eligible and worthy; if not it wont be eligible and not be worthy of an SF Award despite other merits.
For likely strength of film nominations for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (long-form) see see below.
Also of Hugo nomination relevance for best SF film -- check out top ten films and videos/DVDs of 2004.
+++ STOP PRESS: +++ Nominations announced. +++ See Hugo nominations below.
The 2005 James Tiptree Award is to go to Joe Haldeman for Camouflage and the Finn author Johanna Sinisalo for Troll: A Love Story. It will be presented at the Gaylaxicon SF convention in Boston 1st-4th July. The Award is given for exploring gender in SF and name after the pseudonym of US author Alice Sheldon (1915-'87) who was for much of her career widely assumed by readers to be a man.
This year's Seiun Award for English books translated into Japanese categories will be presented at the NASFic, CascadiaCon in Seattle, Sept 1-5. Presumably this is due to either timing or because the winners are likely to be from North America, otherwise the Glasgow Worldcon would have been more appropriate. (NASFics are only held when the Worldcon leaves North America. The Seiun Award is the Japanese equivalent of the British Science Fiction Award.
The first major new production of Orwell's dystopian classic 1984 will premiere on 3rd May in London with 1984: The Opera. Its initial run will take place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, just a quarter of a mile from the BBC building that inspired Orwell's Ministry of Truth. Indeed when the BBC broadcasted Nigel (Quatermass) Kneale's adaptation there was much criticism and even questions raised in the House of Commons. Perish the thought that today anyone might draw 1984 parallels with contemporary issues such as weapons of mass destruction as a raison d'etre for war...
British SF & Fantasy cinema sees the end of an era with Rank closing its final link with the film business. Founded in 1933 by a Yorkshire flour magnate who equipped Methodist halls with their own projectors, Rank went on in the 1940s - '50s to become one of any Hollywood studio's strongest overseas competitors. Rank were behind the almost surreal Ealing comedies, classic Gainsborough productions, and even distributed the Carry On films (and producing them from 1967). It even had a 'charm school' that taught diction and deportment, whose alumni included genre actors that would convey little 'charm' such as Christopher Lee. The 1960s saw the beginning of the end when Rank merged with a US company to become Rank Xerox. Subsequent managers did not view investing in British talent as worthwhile - a self-fulfilling prophecy for without investing in talent, no talent is nurtured. These so-called 'managers' effectively asset-stripped the organization and even refused an early 1980s UK film industry buy-out for £600m, even though US financed films such as Star Wars, Alien and the first of the '80s Superman films were being made in the UK! Now the UK only has small film makers. We can only console ourselves with the notion that they can - if not compete with Hollywood - at least punch above their weight, as recent genre offerings such as the SF film 28 Days Later or the spoof Shaun of the Dead demonstrate.
The Spring sadly saw us lose the following scientists and SF personalities:
James Avati died aged 93. Artist whose work included many 1950s and '60s SF book covers.
Zdzislaw Beksinsk died aged 76. A much respected Polish artist of the surreal and fantastic who was tragically stabbed in his home on February 24th just two days after his birthday. Relatives, wondering why the phone was not being answered, found the body and alerted the police. There was no sign of a break in and the police are investigating. Zdzislaw's art sold for high prices and some Hollywood patrons, it is alleged, have paid up to US$50,000. His wife died some years earlier as later so did his son.
Fraser Brockington, died aged 91. A professor of social and preventive medicine at Manchester University, he is probably best known by cognoscenti for work that led to the Free School Milk Act of 1946, under which a third of a pint of milk was provided to all British school children. He also campaigned to have the uptake of school lunches increased to the point where, after the second world war, it became unusual for a school not to provide meals: before WWII less than half did. His hobby, which he developed during retirement, was book binding.
John Brosnan, died aged 59. An Australian writer who has been living in England for many years. Best known for his non-fiction books on fantastic films including Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction (1978) and The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film (1991) both of which are sound reference works. He also wrote occasional SF both with others, under a pseudonym and his own name. He was involved in parts of Brit fandom since the 1970s. Sadly found dead in his London flat.
Francis M. Busby, died aged 84. A US author and fan who won the 1960 Hugo for his fanzine Cry of the Nameless. He had been in hospital for a couple of months but recently moved to a nursing home.
Jack Chalker, the well-known US fantasy and SF author died 11th February after some months illness but fortunately after the 2004 Worldcon. He was twice nominated for the Hugo: once for best amateur magazine and once for best non-fiction book.
Philip DeGuere Jr., died aged 60. He is best known in SF circles for being the executive producer of 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone and of the 1987 series Max Headroom.
Will Eisner, died aged 87. Comics artist credited with virtually defining the graphic novel with A Contract With God but who reputation was largely established with The Spirit. His name is given to the Eisner Awards given at Comic-con International. He died 3rd January following heart by-pass surgery. The film version of Will Eisner's The Spirit is being adapted by Jeph Loeb.
Walter Ernsting died aged 84. German author, editor and translator who, under the pseudonym Clark Darlton, co-founded the Perry Rhodan franchise. He was known in German fandom as the grand old man of German SF.
Frank Kelly Freas, died 2nd January aged 82. One of the World's most famous SF artists, who for virtually all of his professional life focussed on SF-type material be it for Weird Tales or Astounding. But his non-SF credits include working for several years at Mad magazine and doing the NASA Skylab patch. He also did album covers for 'Queen'. He was a member of first fandom and the Dorsai Irregulars, won 11 Hugo Awards and a Fellow of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. Most recently an example of his work, a picture of a werewolf, was seen by millions in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Debra Hill died on 7th March aged 54. Film producer whose credits include Escape From New York and The Fog.
Eduard Kellenberg, died aged 84 in December, just missing our last update. A physicist, he helped establish the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and nurtured Werner Arber's work - Arber then won a Nobel in 1978 for the discovery of restriction enzymes (as subsequently used in 'DNA fingerprinting' for example).
Maclyn McCarty, died 2nd January aged 94. He was one of the three-man team that discovered that DNA carried genes (remember Watson, Crick, Franklin and Wilkins only elucidated its structure). Maclyn McCarty and colleagues published three papers from 1944 demonstrating that genes were in DNA.. There work in turn was built on that of Fred Griffith who in 1928 physically transferred genes from one bacterium to another. On the shoulders of giants...
Ernst Mayer, died 3rd February aged 100. German ornithologist with an international reputation who settled in the States. He wrote 14 science and popular science books on biology and evolution and had 731 scientific papers published. An example of his many achievements is that he effectively answered Darwin's question as to the origin of species: namely the genetic isolation of part of a source population that then speciated (allopatric speciation). His sense of humour touched SF. Once in new Guinea on an expedition he saw from his diary that a solar eclipse was due and so decided to play out the scene from Mark Twain's fantasy A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. So Mayr told the locals that the Moon was about to go dark, but a chief replied, 'Don't worry my son. It will get soon light again.' He also continued to drive the 16 miles commute to Harvard until aged 99 when his relatives confiscated his car keys. He had 17 honorary degrees including from Oxford and Cambridge.
Andre Norton has died aged 93. SF & fantasy author of over 100 novels, including many for a teenage audience, Norton became the first female Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master in 1984. However she died after the creation of the Norton Award - See above.
Dame Miriam Rothschild HonFIBiol [a.k.a Miriam Lane] died aged 96. Being one of the Rothschild family means that you have more of an opportunity to carve out the life you would like. In Miriam's case this included entomology and, despite little formal scientific training, she was an acknowledged expert in the flea and its various species. These she documented in six volumes between 1953 and 1983 and which are now housed in the Rothschild Collection at the British Museum. She has 8 honorary doctorates and was a Fellow of the Royal Society (the Government-sponsored, but independent, learned society of Britain's top science researchers).
Sven Christer Swahn died aged 71. A major Swedish SF author, critic, and book translator.
Thomas Scott Winnett. We were sorry to learn in the new year that this past Locus staff member (1989-1994) and reviewer died, 12th Dec, aged just 42, in Texas.
SF BOOK TRADE NEWS
The new US Science Fiction book imprint, Pyr, now has a website, www.pyrsf.com. We have a review of their new title Here, There, & Everywhere elsewhere.
Happy birthday Voyager. One of Britain's leading SF & fantasy imprints celebrates its 10th birthday in August.
J. K. Rowling's next offering, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is due to be launched on July 16th in the UK, Australia, Canada, S. Africa, and the US. The recommended price will be £16.99 but Amazon and some of the British supermarkets have already set a discount price of £9.99. Bookshop owners whose sales made the 'Potter' series a success are very annoyed. It is clear the book will sell, so why such heavy discounting?
What do the Scottish like to read? The Scottish Book Trust, Orange and The List aim to find out over the summer and announce the results on 27th August at Edinburgh's Book Festival. You can nominate your favourite Scottish SF book before then.
A third of UK adults do not buy books and a quarter do not feel welcome in bookshops is the result of research published in a Bookseller Market Supplement. 33% of adults do not buy books, 27% are light buyers (1-5 books a year), 16% medium buyers (6-10 books a year),and heavy buyers (11+ books). Women tend to buy slightly more books than men and those who go to work by public transport read significantly more than those who do not. Interestingly, placing this in some sort of context, in 1980 some 18% of UK library budgets were spent on books but today it is just 9%. One of the report's recommendations is that publishers should not hype books with exaggerated claims. Book promotions should give "straightforward descriptions of what is actually in books."
SF/Fantasy and science topped UK library borrowing for fiction and non-fiction in 2004. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was both the most borrowed book and (it follows) the most borrowed fiction title, while Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything was the most borrowed non-fiction title. Of the most-borrowed classic authors (for which one presumably means dead), J. R. R. Tolkein came top followed by A. A. Milne.
Blackwells is now stocking magna books at 25 of its stores as they are popular with students.
Simon & Schuster announced a first profit for 10 years. Turnover was up in 2004 some 8% over 2003 when it announced a loss of £500,000. Conversely its profit last year was £800,000.
Dorling Kindersley (or DK), Britain's highly illustrated large book publishers, are to see heavy job losses. Output is to be cut by 10% and 44 staff will leave. DK are known for their education and science books while on the SF front they recently produced Star Wars related titles (cf. Inside the the Worlds of Star Wars Trilogy). They are part of the Penguin group which is seeking to expand supermarket sales with 'commercial' fiction such as crime thrillers.
London genre bookshop, Murder One, has moved across the Charing Cross Road. The building of its former home is to be pulled down. Unfortunately the New Worlds SF section is closing down due to the smaller space.
Toronto's SF & F bookshop, Bakka-Phoenix Books, has moved early March to 697 Queen St., West.
The UK Arts Council will not consider new writer grant applications until 2008. Since 2002 some £5.4m (~US$9m) book projects per year have been funded through its 'literary portfolio'. However as science fiction does not tangibly benefit from the Arts Council, this is of little genre consequence.
The 2006 London Book Fayre (or 'Fair' as they now like to call it) will be held in the Docklands' Excel Centre. This is in part due to numbers having increased in recent years. This year they were up a further 4% to 15,000. The Excel Centre has better facilities that the Olympia in Earl's Court, but it is stuck in London's ultra (post?) modern business district with few surrounding restaurants, bars and far from London's entertainment West End and Kensington hotels. So will the move work?
Lifted from the February Ansible: John Ordover, the former Pocket Books Star Trek novel editor, who now runs Phobos, is interestingly exposed in Time Out New York for 6-12 January -- which reveals, complete with nude group photo, his spare-time activity of running Clothing Optional Dinners for NYC naturists. `The unofficial motto of the COD is "No Hot Soup".'
A brief look back at 2004 as a publishing year in Britain. The final week of 2004, which had two more shopping days than 2003, saw that week's book sales 34% up on the final week of 2003. This was enough to nudge 2004 year as a whole ahead of 2003. However bookshops lost out to a 10% growth by internet and supermarket bookselling.
Last year's UK children's top book list has been released. 16 of the top 60 are genre related, virtually all being fantasy. (The sales figures below relates to the principal edition only)
2. Harry Potter & the Phoenix by J K Rowling (£5.4m)
5. A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly (£2.99m)
9. Flanimals by Ricky Gervais (£2.6m)
10. Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (£1.55m)
12. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (£2.5m - fewer hardback sales accrued more revenue than Wee Free Men)
13. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (£1.3m)
20. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer (£751k)
26. Saga of D Shan: Sons of Destiny by Darren Shan (£517k)
34. The Lion,, Withc & Wardrobe by C S Lewis (£462k)
36. My Secret Unicorn: Special Friend by Chapman/Hull (£328k)
39. Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (£962k other editions of some of the above titles boosted their chart rating)
40. Mermaid Magic Byres/Hudson (£402k)
46. The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman (£800k)
47. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (£433k)
55. Muddle Earth by Stewart/Riddle (£405k)
58. Lirael byGarth Nix (£458k)
What do you call erotic fiction? The Bookseller's Bent has begun using the term VicLit to cover all the Victorian set books that have recently been published, however one bookshop (following a typo) now calls erotic fiction 'function'.
Which is Britain's most haunted bookshop? Bent ventures Waterstone's Leicester Market Street branch. Many odd things have been reported including, apparently spontaneous window breaks.
More book trade news at the end of the summer in September. Meanwhile...
MAJOR SF AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS
Margaret Atwood is developing a device for remotely autographing books. The device follows pen movements from another device connected by the internet. Consequently this differs from the automatic signature machine George Bush's staff used to sign his letter to the relatives of deceased soldiers. Those wishing their book autographed put it in a holder and at the touch of a button the device reproduces either a stored autograph or the signature of a writer writing the other side of the world. Atwood said that, far from estranging the author from their readership, it was"a democratising device" that would help authors who were not stars and who often missed out on promotional tours.
Ian M. Banks is to receive (15th June) an honorary degree from Glasgow University for being an acclaimed author and an ambassador for Scottish literature.
Greg Bear's latest novel, Quantico is to be out in the UK in November (and so will be listed in our next 'forthcoming SF books' section in September). A memory plague is destined to wipe out history's age-old hatreds and who knows what else...
Gregory Benford was interviewed by Edward Teller (the physicist behind the H bomb), Benford revealed in an end of year Nature essay (v432, p 955). He said that 'Teller just wanted to do physics and have fun'. He also talked of FTL communication (which tends to cause paradoxes) and Teller echoing Fermi (on aliens) asking where are our messages from the future? Physcists Bill Newcomb and Davis Book wrote a paper with Benford (Physics Reviews, 1971, D2, p263-265) that demonstrated the difficulty in removing paradoxes and that later he wrote his Hugo-winning novel Timescape.
Gregory Benford and his brother James, if all goes well, will around the time this summer 05 newssheet is posted, fire a 450 kilowatt microwave beam from the Mojave Desert to an orbiting spacecraft, Cosmos 1. Cosmos 1 will be launched from a Russian sub for the US Planetary Society whose budget for the project is just US$4-million. In orbit it will unfurl a 600 square metre solar sail. The Benford brothers hope that their beam will accelerate the craft. The earliest NASA could, in its current plans, fly a solar sail would be in 2009 on the Spece Technology 9 mission. A successful Cosmos 1 run is likely to affirm a NASA follow-up.
Arthur Clarke survived the Boxing Day tsunami that affected Indian Ocean states. Arthur lives overlooking the sea in Sri Lanka. At first it was not known if his associates had made it, but two days later all were accounted for alive. However much of Clarke's diving kit did not survive. As far as we know, he was on land at the time.
+++ The family of friends and associates of Concatenation, Chitran, Daya and Mohan, living in Sri Lanka also survived, though the first week of January was worrying. Unfortunately the same is not true of a number of their own friends. Our sympathies to all affected.
The afore explains how Concat has in the past managed to get a Christmas card hand delivered to Clarke's door.
The previous Arthur C. Clarke survival story was also apparently reported in a Popbitch gossip site according to Ansible in February. It's too Machiavellian for us to resist passing it on: `Famous Sri Lanka resident Arthur C. Clarke has survived the terrible floods. He was found in the sea clinging on to a buoy ...' 'What', asks Ansible, 'can this possibly mean?'
Arthur Clarke wins an 'Additional Award' it was announced at the first Sir Arthur Clarke Awards presentation (not to be confused with the Clarke(book) Award) at this year's conference of the British Rocketry Oral History Programme. The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards are intended to provide recognition and tribute to those who have worked for the advancement of space exploration. Arthur's own win was down to the organisers who wanted to mark the 60th anniversary of a certain paper on global communication by satellite in the October 1945 edition of Wireless World. More news of the Awards and other categories in the science news review section below.
Michael Crichton has caused a stir among climate scientists with his insistence that global warming over the next century will be a fraction of a degree and not nearly as serious as scientists say. Ironically such statements may hinder debate within the climate science community. He also implies that scientists have 'an agenda' by saying that he does not. Full story in the science section below.
Samuel Delany had acute appendicitis in March. Following discharging after surgery, a post-operative infection necessitated a return to hospital.
The late Robert Heinlein is to have a 46 volume set of his novels, short stories, non-fiction and some correspondence and key speeches. The Virginia Edition: The Definitive Collection of Robert A. Heinlein is to be published by Meisha Merlin Publishing who are producing just 5,000 sets and, we understand, sold only as a set. The first volume will be I Will Fear No Evil and will come out in the autumn.
Stan Lee the creator of numerous Marvel Comics characters, following a court case has been awarded a 10% of profits from films and television productions based on his characters. He stands to receive US$10m (UK£5.4). Lee took legal action following the success of the first Spiderman film which grossed more than $830m worldwide. Marvel made a profit of $50m on that film alone. Spiderman 2, which last year grossed $775m, was not addressed in the ruling. In 1994 Marvel was declared bankrupt but the Spiderman movie changed that. Marvel owns 4,700 characters.
Further to last time Ursula LeGuin has gone in to detail as to her complaints over the producers of Sci Fi Channel's treatment of her Earthsea books. This has been posted on the Locus site at www.locusmag.com/2005/Issues/01LeGuin.html. For news as to the Earthsea series success see below.
The paperback of Doris Lessing's new book Time Bites, a never-before collection of essays, is to be published in the UK in October by Harper Perennial. (Full details will be in our next 'SF non-fiction & science forthcoming books' section in September.)
Terry Pratchett has made a contribution to Einstein Year (marking the centenary of three ground-breaking Einstein papers) with the ditty: "Away beyond the speed of light, I'll write a novel in one night." The British Association (for the Advancement of Science) has run an Einstein poetry competition.
Philip Pullman joins Japanese illustrator Ryoji Arai as winner of the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), established by the Swedish Government in 2002, is the World’s largest children’s and young people’s literary award. The annual international prize of SEK 5 million (equivalent to approx. £400,000, US$ 730,000, 545,000 Euros). The award will be presented, like previous years, by HRH Crown Princess Victoria at the prize ceremony on 25 May at Skansen, Stockholm.
Geoff Ryman, whose book Air was just nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, has said his next project is non-SF novel set in Cambodia called The King's Last Song.
Ringo Starr - yes, the Beatle - is teaming up with Stan Lee to create a new superhero based on the drummer himself! Lee is reported telling the press: "Our Ringo superhero character will combine these qualities [of commitment to people and wit], along with Ringo's secret powers, which people generally didn't know about because he has kept them secret, until now." A DVD is planned with the new character for release in early 2006, and Ringo is apparently adding a musical soundtrack to his adventures.
Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson are touring North America in April and May to promote the release of their new Tor novels, Mindscan and Spin respectively. (Mindscan being a kind of moral/legal wrangle over rights between a downloaded-to-android human and the human original (shades of his Illegal Alien possibly?). Spin being an astrophysically-rich story of a space-time semi-isolated Earth. (Perhaps a different take on Egan's Quarantine we hazard a guess?))
Steven Spielberg has donated US$1.5 million to the South Asia tsunami relief.
Bryan Talbot's The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, the classic SF comic strip that first (we think) appeared in Near Myths no.1 (1978) and which subsequently appeared in collected graphic novel editions (probably most popularly known being the 1990 Dark Horse version), is being adapted in audio by Big Finish. It is out this summer. Meanwhile tentative discussions are being held with the Australian, KouKou Productions, as to a cinematic version.
The 2005 Interaction Eurocon-cum-Worldcon in Glasgow (4-8th August) has had Progress Report 3 mailing delays. Hold-ups have been felt outside of North America. Apparently what happened was that as (up to January at least) most of the registrants were from North America, the Progress Reports, that are sent every 6 months to registrants, were printed and mailed from the US at the surface rate. Though PR3 was published before the new year, copies to the UK arrived at varying times from January to the end of February. In January this caused some, knowing that friends had had theirs, to wonder whether they were left out. (Indeed even Concatenation received some enquiries.) However explanations were posted on the Interaction website and, as far as we know at any rate, nobody missed out on being able to nominate Hugos. The Eurocon-Worldcon team told Concat that every effort will be made to ensure that folk get PR4 on time. (Worldcon regulars will know that sometimes this does not happen and some overseas registrants to Torcon 3 (the 2003 Worldcon) got their PR4 after the event.)
STOP PRESS: 2005 Worldcon Progress Report 4 was posted on 6th April. It contains the Hugo Ballot, the deadline for which is 8th July. If you have not received your PR4 by the end of June, or simply cannot wait, then those with internet access (i.e. virtually everyone in the west) can download PR4 electronically.
The 2005 Worldcon SF book programme has been developing well compared to other areas. Many authors (as in a score or two) have agreed to be on the Worldcon programme. However, of interest to our Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation regulars, there has, up to Easter, been little news announced as to the science programme, though we are aware that some panels and talks are being considered. The Worldcon team will have to have much up their sleeves if they are to come close to last year's excellent science programme. The good news is that they have recently announced one major coup (see the next item). Meanwhile the film programme is slowly coming along: this dimension is a notoriously difficult one for Worldcons (at least in recent decades) to be innovative. Nevertheless efforts are being made. (cf. Call to Festival of Fantastic Film competition winners below.)
Prof David Southwood, ESA's Science Director, is to give a keynote address at the Glasgow Euro-Worldcon. This is a major coup from the Worldcon Science Prog team and, as far as any of the scientists on the Concat team are aware, Southwood is the most senior scientist, at least in terms of budget responsibility, ever to appear at either a European Worldcon or a Eurocon (the latter of which have in the past (and in the past decade regularly) seen learned society fellows and even a cosmonaut speak). It is also most appropriate to have European frontier science represented as this year the Worldcon is also this year's Eurocon. Southwood will be speaking on the ESA-NASA mission Cassini-Huygens which we have previously covered as well as below. David Southwood has overseen a number of successes at ESA but a couple of year's ago was caught between a rock and a hard place when asked to support the brave, but rushed and under-funded, Beagle-II Mars lander. Last year this caught the attention of the House of Commons (all-party) Science & Technology Committee which held an inquiry.
Lord of the Rings artist to attend Glasgow Worldcon. In addition to the main guests and numerous speakers from SF & science, the Worldcon has announced that the Oscar winning artist Alan Lee will be attending the convention on its Saturday and Sunday. This happening has been part-enabled by the Tolkein 2005 Conference. (Nice one folks.) Meanwhile this appearance will be on the eve of Alan Lee's new book.
STOP PRESS The World SF Society Hugo Award 2005 nominations for 'science fiction achievement' were announced just prior to the posting of this summer news bulletin. The nominations for the principal categories were:-
The Hugo nomination's announcement was made at the UK Easter SF convention and, a first, paralleled with real-time web-blogs. Colin Harris, 2005 Worldcon co-chair, told Concat: "This gave a real sense of excitement especially when we came to the all-UK novel list. The con then ran an impromptu panel to discuss the nominees the next day which packed out the room it was scheduled in. Everyone was very positive and there was much talk about the announcement."
How representative is the Hugo? Numbers voting for the Hugo can be far smaller than the thousands registered for a Worldcon. Arguably when the Worldcon is outside the US, because other countries rarely get the experience, voting runs the risk of being low. Worse, a straw poll among Concat team members going show we are divided and our intentions cancel! (Fortunately no antimatter explosion resulted (phew).) So all we can do is to remind those good folk registered and urge each and every Worldcon member to take part and vote for as many of the Hugo categories in which they are knowledgeable - which for most will probably be one or more of the ones reported above. Just think what Tony Benn would say to you and remember, no hanging chads in good old Blighty.
HOT LINK: For the complete list of Hugo categories and nominations see the "http://www.interaction.worldcon.org.uk" 2005 Worldcon website.
In terms of the strengths of the best SF books and films 2004 had to offer see here for best 2004 films below or above for best books.
Hugo Award bash - Critic Kim Newman and author Paul McAuley will be the 2005 masters of ceremony for the presentations in August.
The Hugo winners will, of course, be reported in Concat's autumnal update in September.
Essential SF: A Concise Guide is to be at the Glasgow Worldcon. The word is slowly spreading and some touching reviews are beginning to appear. The latest at time of posting being..."This is a great book for every SF fan from the seasoned enthusiast to compare notes or (especially) for a newcomer to the genre who wants to make up some ground and get started." - Contact SF Newsletter. Porcupine Press (of Porcupine Books) will be at the Worldcon in the Dealers Hall. Because Porcupine do not know whether it will be dozens or scores (or even hundreds?) interested in copies, prospective Worldcon attendees are advised to register their interest with Porcupine at sales [-at-] porcupine.demon.co.uk. Porcupine will then reserve a copy for you at a discount price and hold it for the first two days (only) of the convention, after which they will sell it to others.
Less touching is the first report of a theft of a copy of Essential SF at its first outing from a stall at an SF convention (March) in West London.
Worldcon -- Festival of Fantastic Film Competition winners may be able to have their films DVD/video screened at the Glasgow Worldcon. If you won a Fest Award (or were a runner up) then e-mail Concatenation before mid-June and our webmaster will forward the message (so allow a few days for a reply). Alternatively if the Festival already has a copy of your film you can contact them asking them to forward it. The Worldcon is only once a decade in the UK and a chance for SF pros and fans to freely showcase their work to the SF community at large.
PSIFAns at Glasgow Worldcon A handful of first generation Hatfield PSIFAns will be at the Glasgow Worldcon. There's a suggestion for any PSIFAns there to get together for a drink one evening (probably in a Glasgow pub that does food). If interested then e-mail Concatenation and our webmaster will forward the message (so allow a few days for a reply and state which year(s) you were a PSIFAn).
Preparations for the Ukrainian Eurocon, Kiev in 2006, gained stability with the resignation of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, in the final hours of 2004. Some Eastern European Eurocons rely to a significant degree on some state, or state agency, support. Notwithstanding this, the 2004 election(s) debacle for a while threatened to turn into revolution. Viktor Yanukovich has given way to an opposition led by Viktor Yushchenko. The 2004 Eurocon in Bulgaria had some support from the State and even a letter of welcome from that country's President (a Eurocon first (possibly a Worldcon too)). Will Kiev, 2006, see the same?
As we said would happen last time, the Ukrainian Eurocon website is now up and running on www.eurocon.kiev.ua. The convention will be run together as an international version of its host country's nat-convention, International Assembly Portal, and alongside the 4th International Computer Game Show Igrograd and an international film fest KinoExpo-Ukraine-2006. The convention will be held from April 13th to 16th, 2006, in Kiev the capital of Ukraine. The first Guest of Honour announced is the artist Sergey Poyarkov who may well be exhibiting at this year's Worldcon - hopefully minus gun and gas-guzzler. The first Special Guest announced is Ellen Datlow (US), the former fiction editor of Omni magazine, and who continues to be a commissioning editor of short story and novella anthologies. Other GoHs from both western and eastern Europe will be announced shortly along with special guests. This will be the most eastern Eurocon to date and promises to be quite an SF experience.
Bid preparations for the 2007 Eurocon are well underway with two fairly strong potential bids from Denmark and Ireland (N & S). The potential Danish bid is being led by those who have recently organised their recent stream of successful Spring-time national conventions, see below. These (importantly for a Eurocon) have often included guests from both west and east Europe. Currently, the Danish will have just had (20-23 April) their big annual convention and this itself had guests and attracted fans from a number of European countries with a roughly 50-50 split between English and Danish language programme items. It also covered many aspects of speculative and fantastic genres including: science fiction, fantasy, horror, live role playing, comics, movies, publishers, fans, special effects, music, science café. In short they are already a long way on the path to providing a sound Eurocon bid. If they decide to present their bid at this year's Eurocon (Glasgow) then the possible venue city may be Copenhagen. This has a good international airport and is a sea port.
Conversely, so far the Irish have bags of sheer enthusiasm but have been partly hampered by their Chairman working as a staff member on Glasgow's Interaction at which the 2007 Eurocon bid will be made. They too have yet to announce a venue with good European transport links. It is likely that if the Irish Eurocon bid wins, that it will be combined with their national convention Octocon traditionally held in October, see below. Updates can be followed on slovobooks.com/irishsfnews/index.php (though of course Irish SF News is independent of the Eurocon bid).
Further to Japan winning the Worldcon bid, see last season's news, the Guest of Honours are: Sakyo Komatsu the Japanese SF writer with a reputation that extends into the mainstream; US author David Brin who has had a number of his books translated into Japanese; the Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano who is also respected for his contributions to anime; Hugo-winning US artist Michael Whelan; and fan guest Takumi Shibano who actually is a professional and who has been translating Anglophone SF into Japanese for many years. More information on the www.nippon2007.org/eng/GOH/goh.html Nippon site.
The Geneva Convention is a bid for the 2008 Worldcon. Well, sort of. It is actually a spoof bid which almost had our editor, largely because it was such a nice idea humorously presented. Details from www.thegenevaconvention.org.
FANDOM &: OTHER NEWS
Our best wishes go to Concatenation's former (indeed first) webmaster, Matthew Freestone, and his partner Hazel for the birth of their second daughter, Eleanor. Eleanor is already sleeping five or six hours a night so parental sleep patterns are not as bad as might be.
A belated 'happy birthday' to The Los Angeles SF Society - 70 years and still going strong. The LASFS had its birthday celebration 28th October with a gathering of 100. It is the World's oldest SF society that has met every Thursday, reportedly without missing a single week.
The Farringdon Arts Festival (4-10th July) is to focus on SF on Saturday 9th July . Authors Brian Aldiss, Gwyneth Jones, and Juliet McKenna will be appearing. Farringdon is a small village in Berkshire about 10 miles west of Abingdon (which in turn has a mainline connection to Paddington, London). For further information do a Google search nearer the time as local sites are bound to feature it.
Late announcement from the Vikings. The 2005 Danish National Convention, Fantasticon, will be held on 22-24th April and organised by the Danish club Fantastik. In case you can't wait for the Worldcon, this year it will feature the guests of honour, authors: Christopher Priest and Imants Belogrivs. The fan guest of honour is Brit media TV and film buff Dave Lally. Special guests include: Marcus Hammerschmitt, Sabina Marinova, Michael Marrak, William J. Maryson, and Erik Simon. Details from their website. At the time of compiling this news, once again this year's Fantasticon looks like being a strong convention which bodes well for a sound Eurocon bid, see above. Concat's European correspondent was told that: "Fantasticon 2005 involves people from at least ten (probably even 12 or more) European countries, and we assume that approximately 50% of the programme items will be in English (the rest will be in Danish/Scandinavian). We will have four parallel programs (including the movie track which will show things that cannot be seen anywhere else), and a separate market place - with dealers' room and special events happening." The only problem the Danes seem to have had is that the transfer of their website between servers has meant that e-mails were bouncing in February and March but hopefully normal communications have been restored.
Meanwhile Concat' itself apologises for being late with this year's convention diary.
The Spring has seen the Festival of Fantastic Films have computer problems effectively placing the committee in e-communication limbo. Both the principal Fest contacts off of the Festival website had major computer problems and so had no e-mail. Notwithstanding this, a bottleneck in the committee meant that information was slow in getting through to the Progress Report compilers who were therefore in no way to blame for the late first PR for this year's event. An incidental knock-on effect has been that moves for the Festival to cooperate with the Glasgow Worldcon film programme were effectively scuppered despite enthusiasm by a number on the Fest Committee and those involved with the Worldcon film programme: both parties would have benefited hugely had co-operation been achieved, one with innovative genre films and the other with publicity. Nonetheless, there will be a Fest this year and Concat' hopes to have a review in its New Year news posting. +++ STOP PRESS: This year's Festival of Fantastic Films will be on 2nd - 4th September in Manchester, UK. The organisers say that because of the Worldcon they will try to have more vintage SF movies in their SF/horror/fantasy mix.
The Irish National SF Convention, Octocon 2005, has yet to make its announcement. Because times is marching on, there has been a certain amount of rumour, gossip and speculation. Michael Carroll has retired as chairman, and apparently is also stepping down from the committee. A few more of the committee are said to be leaving, too. In the meantime, the con are waiting for confirmation from a potential Guest of Honour before announcing things like dates and a location. There has also been a certain amount of speculation about where the con is to be held this year, with a certain leaning towards the previous venue, the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth. Website: www.octocon.com/2005/. Northern Ireland conrunners recognise the importance of their getting their act together well in advance of the Glasgow Eurocon-Worldcon (that will feature the next Eurocon bidding session) if they are to demonstrate that they have the ability to deliver on any bid promises for a possible 2007 Eurocon, irrespective of the fact the 2005 team may not be completely synonymous with the 2007 team..
Irish SF news... is a useful national newsletter that is almost monthly and which can be automatically sent to you by contacting IrishSFNews [at] yahoo.co.uk but insert '@' for '[at]'. So far about 300 have taken the free subscription. (Note: While IrishSFNews is a good place for now (first half of 2005) to get news such as it is on the proposed 2007 Irish Eurocon bid, though of course IrishSFNews itself is not responsible for the Irish bid.)
Sci-Fi-London, the London SF film fest, had a successful 5th outing in February. The Fest is fast taking up the slack from SF conventions that dropped films in the 1990s and is one of half a dozen or so major SF cinematic events in the UK. In addition to the UK premieres for which it has become noted (see last time), this year there was another surprise, Sci-Fi London reversed its policy to date of not including a sci-fi focus but address broader aspects of cinematic SF. This year sci-fi was included in the mix with a number of Star Trek related offerings. While a cross-genre mix is welcome, let's hope the trend stops here so that the broader aspects of the SF are retained. Too late for our New Year update, we were told at the end of January that Sci-Fi-London would take a mini-version of itself on tour. This it did in February and March to: Edinburgh, Liverpool, York and Exeter.
The Annual SF conference of the Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies was held in collaboration with The Department of English, Pondicherry University, on December 18th and 19th, 2004 at the newly constructed Seminar Hall. Some 80 attended which is a marked increase from just 12 at the first such meeting a few years ago. Contributions from Upinder Mehan, Vandana Singh, Dinakar Charak, Ashok Banker at the global level were highlighted. The support given by foreigners was welcomed including: Andy Sawyer of Liverpool (UK), the reports published by Emerald.com (Aus/UK/US), Locus (US), The Infinite Matrix, and The Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation (Europe), have created sufficient impetus for taking up new projects. A prize was given for the best translation into English of a Tamil language SF novel Alexandarum Oru Koppai Theenirum [Alexander over a cup of tea] by M.G.Suresh. The prize included a cash component that was spontaneously increased on the day by delegates. The conference explored five themes: Genetic Engineering, Science & SF, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology (GRAIN). Sixteen papers were presented. It is proposed to hold the next International SF conference at Mysore, Karnataka State, India on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 9th, 10th and 11th of December 2005.
Clarion there is a move to establish a UK or European version of the US (and Australian) Clarion SF writers' workshop/class.
In the run up to the UK Worldcon some London SF group details. Worldcon visitors planning a Brit holiday with their visit may wish to drop in on a few SF societies in the capital...
The London SF Circle (a.k.a. formerly The One Tun or The Globe meetings) has yet again moved. The SF rendez-vous has been going for some decades now and was effectively immortalised in Clarke's Tales From The White Hart. Attendees are mainly into SF books but those into films and TV also attend. For the past few years most (but not all) meetings have been held at the Nightingale pub near Waterloo, but this is now being pulled down. Meetings are the first Thursday of the month from about 7.00pm. Check out the Ansible site for current details. (Ansible also details the far smaller early Friday evening (6pm-8pm) 'City Illiterate' meetings of a handful of mainly SF book class alumni from the 1980s City of London Institute of Literature (CityLit) SF course.)
The British Fantasy Society occasionally hold open evenings in a central London pub. So far the 3rd June and 2nd Sept are listed but they have changed in the past and may hold one nearer the Worldcon, so check their website.
The London-based LOTNA meetings are bi-monthly. They are usually held (but once or twice a year not) on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month at The Horseshoe Inn, Melior St, which is less than 5 minutes walk SE from London Bridge rail and tube station. Meetings are informal between 6-8pm and then between 8-10pm there is usually some activity such as a quiz or fan film screening. The Horseshoe Inn does cooked food and hand-pump ales. LOTNA members have a TV SF focus but some members are also into films and books. The group also does field trips to films, exhibitions and talks.
Talking of LOTNA, The Contact newsletter has switched from being a group newszine to becoming the "official newszine of the Cult TV Festival". Ably edited by Tony Bailey, this small (16pp A5), monthly publication has been produced to high, full colour, design standards for the past decade. During that time it has been distributed free to the First Contact and the LOTNA (League Of The Non-Aligned) home counties and London SF groups that mainly (but not solely) have a TV 'sci-fi' focus. Its circulation has grown. Not surprisingly, as the convention most attended by these members is the annual Cult TV, The Contact has become that convention's official newszine and now has a subscription of £12 for 12 monthly issues inclusive of postage. Subs to 'Cult TV', PO Box 1701, Wolverhampton, W4 4WT.
The Maryland Court of Appeals in a unanimous opinion, 15th December 2004, reversed the previous judgment of the Circuit Court of Baltimore and restored the earlier findings of the Maryland Tax Court granting the Baltimore Science Fiction Society a property tax exemption for their Baltimore Street Society building. Meanwhile the original judge died in November. Concatenation has no reason to think these two developments are causally connected.
Into academic SF? The Science Fiction Research Association has a new website and several symposia in its diary page. Virtually all are humanities and soft (social) science as academia so far has hardly touched the hard science interface. However some may be of interest to scientists who appreciate SF. Check out www.sfra.org.
Australia's Fantasy and SF Research Network is back. Formerly run by Kim Selling, it has now been resurrected by Anna Hansen, but it is still run from Sydney University.
The FAAN Awards to acknowledge SF book convention-going fan endeavours have been presented at this year's, US book-fan convention, Corflu. The fanzine Chunga did rather well with an award for Best Layout as well as the award for Best Fanzine. Articles relate to SF book fan convention-goers in the US, Europe and Australasia. Check out a recent edition with current issue Chunga number 8 and discover that SF book fandom is full of paradoxes, "why do we travel hundreds of miles to attend a convention only to hang out with fans from our hometown club?" An excellent point for a genre purporting to explore new worlds. It is one reason why we at Concat have been actively involved in small international gatherings where local groups do not have critical mass.
Emerald City has 'apparently' broadened its take on SF to include media appreciation with the group 'The Emerald City Androgums' from Bothell, WA, USA. News compiled 1.4.05.
Sue Griffiths has been 'bumming around the internet' and found 'frugal trek' about cheap ways to make Star Trek costumes. blfrugaltrek.htm.
FILM, GRAPHIC NOVEL + TV NEWS
See Sci-Fi-London film fest above - in case you missed it. We could have as easily placed that news in this section instead..
Star Trek: Enterprise is cancelled - just in case you had not heard the February news. The 98th, the last, episode airs in the US on 13th May. Shades of when the original show was cancelled due to low Neilson TV ratings that ignore subsequent distribution and their audiences, it appears that Enterprise is one of the most internet pirated shows in the UK.
Save Enterprise fans fans purchased a full-page advertisement in the 15th February edition of the Los Angeles Times to call for someone to pick up the show for a fifth season. Come on BBC, you have links with Canadian and Australasian TV: do a joint deal.
Michael (Babylon 5) Straczynski, following Enterpise's cancellation, urged fans to write to Paramount, owner of the Star Trek franchise, in support of a new Trek series idea that he and Bryce(Dark Skies) Zabel came up with last year. However the next day he retracted his call saying that Paramount wanted to give the Trek franchise a rest for a while... and that he had another project lined up. "My apologies for waking everybody up in the night."
All the key Star Trek sites have united under www.trekunited.com and the ambitious plan is to raise public awareness to the extent that the pressure brings back the series. They have already had a small rally outside London TV studios at the end of February and slightly larger ones in the US as well as other countries. A big initial push was required as the Enterprise sets were not guaranteed to survive beyond the end of March. Nonetheless the lobbying continues. Helen Ward is the UK-based Internet Liaison Officer on behalf of the TrekUnited "Save Star Trek Enterprise" Campaign. She is working in tandem with US counterparts and said to Concat "The latest news is that due to the amount of money raised so far, Paramount have approached Trek United and discussions are under way. But it's still early days yet! Trek United Inc has been formed, as you need to be a company to give money to pay for a TV show. So lots of positive steps forward."
+++ And talking of money...
US$3,000,000 donated to save Enterprise. That Science Fiction encourages an interest is science is something that Concatenation has covered before but now three anonymous donors from the aerospace industry whose professional development was inspired by Trek have donated $3m to the save Enterprise campaign. On saveenterprise.com the donors say: "We are in the commercial space flight industry and would like to testify that at least one out of two of all the actual entrepreneurs involved in this industry has been inspired by Star Trek; and we are not only good at watching TV sci-fi , we are also good at writing checks, big checks." +++ some US$36m (£20m) is needed for a complete season of the show.
The most recent attempts for a new Star Trek movie have failed. There was some consideration last year of a possible prequel (before Enterprise even) movie. However the poor ratings of ST: Nemesis as well as those of the TV series Enterprise (which were not as strong as producers would like) have put a complete dampener on the Trek franchise which now has neither a movie in production nor a TV series on the go for the first time since 1986.
So why did Klingon cerebral morphology change between classic Trek and the films? This question has dogged neo-Darwinist fans since - well, not time immemorial but - 1979. Now Star Trek: Enterprise is to reveal all in two episodes called 'Affliction' and 'Divergence'. We think the writers are going down the sympatric GM speciation route...
The crawl text for all the Star Wars movies, including episode III Revenge of the Sith, are now on the official Star Wars website. The episode III text reads: War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. / In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate. / As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor....
All the Star Wars films are to be re-released in 3-D format says George Lucas. Lucas, with James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis and Peter Jackson are lobbying US cinemas to install 3-D technology, a report in The Hollywood Reporter the trade newspaper. Getting the Star Wars films in 3-D will be a neat trick as Lucas will need a second set of film from a perspective just to one side of the original films. This theoretically can be done by computer but the expense! [See also.]
Captain Scarlet has had a successful return to TV in computerised animation form. There are changes. In the main they are for the better. However there was no need to change the Angel design, or have different Cloudbase runways (airports have them formerly for wind direction reasons but aircraft carriers and Cloudbase can turn into the wind). And Lt Green has had a sex change. But over all Scarlet has become more grittier and dynamic. The big problem for us in Britain is the scheduling in a morning kids programme tramples or cuts the credits and there is an annoying logo and occasional cross screen banner with which to contend. Fortunately the video and DVD will be out soon.
Another success with Dr Who's return to TV, and a pre-screen pirate leak to the internet. The first programme in the series attracted a UK audience of over 10 million (which is big for a country of 59 million, five terrestrial channels not to mention access to over 100 satellite and cable channels). Christopher (28 Days Later) Ecclestone acquitted himself well as the new Doctor. The effects were not that bad either. Pity though about the new Tardis interior: very steam-punk and easily-dated retro which with luck (one can but hope) they will drop in the next series... Meanwhile the BBC was pipped prior to broadcast with an episode being placed on the internet. The BBC went schizo. On one hand they sought to track down the culprit (which pointed to someone associated with BBC partners, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). On the other, they gleefully reported the pirating as a sign of Dr Who's huge popularity. Meanwhile the new head of the BBC (who replaced his predecessor who fell foul of the Tony Blair Government over Iraq reporting) who also was the controller of BBC1 years ago who cancelled the series, made comments as to not regretting his cancellation decision and pointedly not being enthusiastic about the return.
Christopher Ecclestone has announced his retirement from Dr Who. The success of the first episode broadcast (above) prompted him to make this announcement before the week was up. He does not want to be type-cast. Apparently his career is bigger on the inside than the outside.
BBC confusion over Ecclestone resignation. Apparently the BBC have apologised for announcing that Ecclestone was to resign. Reportedly this was known before the airing of the first episode of the new Dr Who series but the BBC and Ecclestone had agreed to keep this confidential, according to news posted on www.gallifreyone.com. The question arising is whether greater planning (than might be expected from what we originally thought was a surprise resignation) has gone in to the filming of Ecclestone's transformation into whoever is the new Doctor?
BBC to do second series of the new Dr Who say Gallifrey One.com.
Quatermass returns! Yes, Auntie Beeb brought an old classic back to the small screen for its digital BBC Four Channel. Nigel Kneale's 1954 series The Quatermass Experiment was broadcast live - that is it went out as it is acted. The BBC repeated this feat. Hopefully this time the BBC recorded it for video and DVD release. Equally hopefully they will transmit it terrestrially later in the year. Fingers crossed. More onhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/news/cult/2005/03/03/17357.shtml.
...And BBC Four has broadcast an H.G. Wells documentary. Modern personalities featured include TV film review (and quiet genre enthusiast) Jonathan Ross, astronomy TV presenter Patrick Moore, Labour Peer Lord Hattersley (presumably for Wells' socialist activities), and SF author China Mieville. A video/DVD is unlikely but lets hope for a terrestrial broadcast.
A Scanner Darkly is to premiere 16th September (2005). This is the latest of Philip K. Dick SF master author stories to hit the big screen. Previous films include: Bladerunner, Total Recall, Screamers, and Paycheck. The film A Scanner Darkly has the support of Dick fans and so may be closer to the original book than the other films.
V For Vendetta is to premiere 4th November 2005. This is the film version of the Alan (formerly of 2000AD) Moore graphic novel.
King Kong is to premiere 14th December 2005. This is the Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson re-make.
For more SF film premiere dates see the film diary.
28 Days Later, the 2002 British bio-apocalypse movie, is to have a sequel, 28 Weeks Later. Danny Boyle (28 Days director) is reported as saying that he will produce this sequel with an all-new cast. The film will look at how civilization tries to return to Britain. It is thought that this sequel might be launched either in 2006 or early in 2007.
Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson's company is suing New Line Cinema for withholding profits from the first film. So far the first film has grossed US$314.8m in the US and US$556 elsewhere.
A Lord of the Rings musical is on the cards. Apparently the music score is coming from A. R. Rahman, the Bollywood composer of the hit Bombay Dreams. They aim to launch in Toronto in March 2006 and then move to London in the late summer.
The next James Bond movie is to be Casino Royale and to be released in 2006. Martin (Golden Eye) Campbell is to direct this, the 21st film in the franchise, though who will replace the excellent Pierce Brosnan is not known. Pierce wanted to stay on, so his being dropped is a mystery that suggests that someone upset someone.
The sequel of Pirates of the Caribbean will be subtitled Dead Man's Chest. It will be quickly followed by a third film. The two sequels are being shot back-to-back with the first released in the summer of 2006 and the second in the summer of 2007. Me hearties.
There may be a Phantasm 5. Don Coscarelli is close to concluding negotiations with New Line Cinema. Phantasm (1979) quickly became a near-cult film for fantastic film buffs, it being effectively a horror save for a few minutes near the end which transfers it into hard SF about an alien kidnapping humans and bio-adapting them to a high gravity world reached through a portal. It concerned a boy, Michael Baldwin (played by, yes, Michael Baldwin) who lost his brother to a mysterious 'tall man', their town's undertaker who is protected by mysterious flying spheres. Over the years three sequels followed which directed the plot arc more towards steam-punk time-travel. The films are written and directed by Don Coscarelli. The big question is can he keep treading the science-fantasy-horror line and maintain plot coherence?
Unfortunately it looks like the proposed Babylon-5 spin-off film, Memory of the Shadows (see last time) has foundered. Michael Straczynski has reportedly said it has been shelved indefinitely, though apparently he has the rights. We'll keep you posted but will try not to get your hopes up unrealistically.
The UK leads the World in TV pirating with an estimated 80,000 Brits involved in downloading. According to an internet monitoring company, Envisional, TV piracy has increased by 150% in the past year. What may be of interest to Concat regulars is that the list of top pirated shows is dominated by SF:
2. Stargate Atlantis
3. The Simpsons
5. Stargate SG1
6. The OC
8. Desperate Housewives
9. Battlestar Galactica
However this should not be a surprise. SF fans were one of the first social groups to adopt internet technology outside of academia, no doubt because SF is arguably a technophile genre. Nor should it be a surprise that Britain leads pirating. By dint of population demographics and economy, the US has the largest Anglophone TV industry and audience with the UK immediately following second. Because US shows are (for some reason) aired first in the US by several months, there is a large unfilled UK market. Furthermore, Brits do not see TV pirating as much a crime as music pirating because all Brits pay an annual TV licence and many an additional satellite or cable subscription. All the US industry needs to do to knock a big hole in current UK pirating is to release new shows simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.
US Marvel comics made last Christmas came early for France's National Centre for Comic Books when in 2004 it said it would donate vintage back issues. The gift turned into a big problem when 275,000 comics arrived in 1,800 boxes. Most of the comics date from the early 1950s and run through to the 1970s. The Centre based in the city of Angouleme has not yet decided how best to display the comics but key exhibitions of the glory years of major Marvel characters (Hulk, Spiderman etc) are expected starting this year (2005). The donated collection is estimated to be worth £156,000 (approx US$300,000). However assuming that most are in reasonable to good condition (no heavy creased covers and so forth) then Concat considers this considerably undervalued.
2004 saw, Marvel beat DC (the next closest publisher on the US comics and graphics novel market share list) 36.54% to 30.63% in dollars, and 43.19% to 32.23% in units. The US Top 10 comics for 2004 in terms of quantity sold were:
1) Superman #204
2) New Avengers #1
3) Superman/Batman #8
4) Identity Crisis #1
5) Astonishing X-Men #1
6) Superman #205
7) Superman/Batman #10
8) Identity Crisis #2
9) Superman #206
10) Superman/Batman #9
The only non-DC/Marvel title in the US Top 100 for 2004 was Conan. Thank goodness we have 2000AD over here.
The Batman Begins film has a largely Brit cast. Michael Caine plays 'Alfred', Christian Bale 'Batman', and Gary Oldman 'Lt Gordon'. It will premiere in IMAX cinemas as well as normal ones in the US.
The Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation will be announced shortly after we post this news page at Easter. [STOP PRESS: Our summer upload has been delayed so we have actually included the nominations elsewhere.] But just for the fun of it we reckon that hot favourites for nomination include: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I, Robot and the Brit science-fantasy horror Shaun of the Dead (not to mention the non-SF Harry Potter and Van Helsing). 'Sci fi' offerings, the unfaithful and non-logical Spiderman II and the humorous The Incredibles are also likely outside runners, with the former solely due to comics die-hards (the plot was that bad). Really long-shots for the Hugo include: The Day After Tomorrow which despite a sound message was OTT plus had daft protagonist motivation (a suicidal non-rescue attempt); then there's the Gerry Andersonesque and chucklesome Team America; and finally the vintage fantastic-film buff's dream Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This last is a long shot since you really have to be a fantastic film buff to appreciate that Sky Captain has many visual and other references to 1950's US 'sci fi' serials, movies, and TV programmes and cartoons. Perfectly fun if you are unaware of this pedigree, but if you do know the sources then the film almost becomes an academic homage to this sub-genre of SF so catapulting its value. However most Worldcon SF fans are more book orientated so it is doubtful that there will be enough critical mass of old film fans for it to go far Hugo-wise. On the other hand we could be surprised...
To check out the strength of the best books of 2004 then see above.
To check out the year's best films and DVDs as rated by box office and rentals then see our top ten charts.
In advance of the new Muppets of Oz film the Muppets website has had a makeover. See muppets.go.com.
Further to Ursula K. LeGuin's TV adaptation grumbles last time Legend of Earthsea was the highest rated programme in US cable prime time on 13th and 14th December 2004. The second part of the miniseries was the highest-rated programme to air on Sci Fi in 2004. Sci F's ratings for the entire year (2004) show that the channel's audience continues to grow. +++ For latest news of LeGuin's complaints see above.
Battlestar Galactica scripts for a second series are being drafted even though the first series has only just completed its run. It looks like the Cylons will return in force and we get to see more of their society.
Kolchak the 1970s TV series is inspiring a new pilot. The original concerned a reporter who regularly stumbled across vampires, robots, aliens and the supernatural, but whose stories were rejected by his news agency for credibility reasons. The proposed pilot has been commissioned by ABC in the US. (There were also two Kolchak TV movies produced in the 1970s which TV SF aficionados might find worth tracking down.)
Production of 2nd season of The 4400 has begun. It will pick up the story 6 months after the end of the first series with the security agent reinstated in his job to investigate the unaged, returned alien abductees.
ABC have confimed that Lost is to have a 2nd season. Lost has attracted a US audience of over 15 million.
Stargate actress Amanda Tapping has delivered her first child. Tapping (who plays Colonel Samantha Carter) gave birth on 22nd March to Olivia, 9 lb, 4 oz. Tapping is to return to the series' ninth season on the sixth episode.
Further to last times news of Sci Fi Channel's www.scifi.com website time-warping makeover, it now unfortunately appears that some UK local government web filters do not recognise some of SciFi.com's new software lines so freezing viewers. This will affect those looking at the site from UK (and possibly elsewhere) libraries and schools run by boroughs and councils that run such filters. Concatenation alerted SciFi.com's webmaster to the problem.
SF winners of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards (the BAFTAs) included two Awards for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It picked up a Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing awards.
The Oscar film awards have been announced... in case you missed it. Of genre interest The Best Original Screenplay went to Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth, for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Best Animated Feature and also Best Sound Editing went to The Incredibles. Best visuals went to Spiderman II which though visually pretty was the weakest of the Oscar genre winners.
The other sub-sections within SF News above to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Artist News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games| Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07682-8. The paperback edition that was inevitable given the summer film release of the comedy-SF BBC Radio 4 classic. If you have not got a copy then now you have simply no excuse.
Brass Man by Neal Asher, Tor, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-00138-0. An alien adventure. See also: Cowl and The Line of Polity.
The Sunborn by Gregory Benford, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49176-4. Set in the Martian Race universe. Other Benford reviews on site include: Matter's End, Eater and Beyond Infinity.
Approaching Omega by Eric Brown, Telos, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-903-88998-7. Eric Brown is usually a safe bet in providing a sound SF tale. Here the occupants of a colony ship are threatened by its AI. Also by Eric Brown reviewed on site are New York Nights, New York Blues, and Penumbra.
Crash Deluxe by Marianne de Pierres, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49258-2. A Nylon Angel and Code Noir sequel.
Recursion by Tony Ballantyne, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-33042699-0. The paperback of the debut novel from a new Brit author.
The Spider by Ted Cowan, Jerry Siegel and Reg Bunn, Titan Books, large hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-845-76000-X. This is probably the first time the adventures of the 1960s British comics b&w superhero The Spider have been collected. The 2000AD stable did include the Spider in a summer special several years ago. This is far darker than the US para-equivalent Spiderman. The Spider is a tough criminal that uses technology to get his 'powers', but he does have a code of ethics that occasionally surfaces. If your partner is British, over 45, and has been into SF since childhood, then this will delight.
Dan Dare: Marooned on Mercury by Frank Hampson, Titan Books, large hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-840-2384-7. Reprints from the Eagle comic of the absolutely classic, 1960s, SF space opera. If our overseas friends ever wonder why the Brit SF authors have been so good at space opera for the past 20 years then the answer in no small part lies here. Yes, it is a kids comic, but the artwork is brilliant and the SF sound. Dan Dare reprints only seem to surface every 15 years or so and then vanish. So make the most of this opportunity. This adventure features the evil Mekon. See also Voyage To Venus.
Dan Dare: Operation Saturn Part 1 by Frank Hampson, Titan Books, large hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 1-840-23809-7. See above. This volume also includes a past Hampson interview.
The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving & Hester Velmans, Walker Books, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 0-744-58335-7. Whizz-kid Josh someohow ends up transferred from his home in Kentish Town, London, to a parallel universe where a multinational thinks he is a time traveller and wants to use his ability to increase its market share. For a teenage readership.
Pandemic by Barrington James, pbk, £10, Pan Macmillan. ISBN 1-405-04582-5. Germ warfare in this techno-espionage thriller.
River of Gods by Ian McDonald, pbk, £7.99, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-743-40400-9. Also the trade paperback, £10.99, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-743-25670-0, and also a new edition of the hardback, £17.99. ISBN 0-743-25669-7. These are the paperback releases (plus a new hardback release) of last year's hardback. Of last year's hardback Tony says:: "This is probably McDonald's most mature work yet." While on the new paperback Jonathan says: "On the human level the River of Gods is a staggering and bold work that is both complex and sophisticated with a sound plot thread... which delivers on both human and science fictional planes.". +++ STOP PRESSThis has just been nominated for a 'Best Novel' 2005 Hugo.
Romanitas by Sophia Mc Dougall, Orion, £12.99, hdbk. ISBN 0-752-86078-X. If alternate history tales set in the past are fantasy, while those set in the present and future are SF, then this is SF. Set in the present day London, with mechanical crucifixes lining the Thames, Rome never fell and Marcus, heir to the throne, begins to wonder whether his parents' accidental death was... well, accidental?
Here, There & Everywhere by Chris Roberson, Pyr, hdbk, US$25. ISBN 1-800-421035-1. Roxanne Bonaventure comes into possession of an artefact that allows her to move across time lines and time zone... In the past couple of years Chris Roberson has been quietly causing a few heads to turn. We do not normally review US releases, but have this time as the new imprint SF and fantasy Pyr (of Prometheus Books) does not have a profile or follow-through in Europe but aficionados this side of the Pond may want to keep track of their offerings. This one is certainly above average.
Star of Gypsies by Robert Silverberg, Pyr, pbk, US$15. ISBN 1-800-421035-1. Out in the US but available from specialist bookshops and Amazon. A rare chance to pick up the SF grandmaster, Robert Silverberg's 1986 space opera and in paperback too. Pyr is a new US SF imprint so European readers will either need their bookshop to get this or order it on-line. We hope to have a review shortly and recommend this for serious collectors. Other Silverberg reviews on site include Roma and Son of Man.
Olympos by Dan Simmons, Gollancz, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07261-X. The sequel to Ilium which we liked.
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor, hdbk, US$25.95. ISBN 0-765-30938-6. Out in the US but available in European specialist shops and Amazon, Robert Charles Wilson further builds on his reputation as a leading light of hard SF with a dash of new wave. Here the Earth gets physically isolated from the rest of the cosmos. Canadian Wilson is less well known in Europe but will be liked by those who enjoy their fiction underpinned by science & science-based hypotheticals. See: Bios and Blind Lake.
In depth reviews of fiction books can be found off the reviews index.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book Releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
Zorro by Isabel Allende, Fourth Estate, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-007-20196-6. The advetures of Diego de la Vega. A timely launch with the summer film The Legend of Zorro.
Children of the Serpent Gate by Sarah Ash, Bantam Press, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-593-04985-3. The final part of the Tears of Artamon trilogy.
First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain, Simon and Schuster, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-40894-2. The sequel to Kristen's debut novel sees her protagonist once more summoned from plain obscurity to face danger...
Conan: The Frost Giant's Daughter by Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord, Titan Books, large pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76098-0. An all-new Conan graphic novel to complement Titan Books archive collections (see below).
American Flagg! Vol 1. by Howard Chaykin, Titan Books, large pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76077-8. This graphic novel has needed a reprint for a while. Chicago 2031 and the citizens need protecting.
Nocturnes by John Connolly, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-89733-3. A collection of horror shorts and two framing novellas.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, HCP, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-14991-3. First in a Viking trilogy. Cornwell has huge appeal to mainstream readers.
See Delphi and Die by Lindsay Davis, Century, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-712-62590-9. The latest ancient Rome crime puzzle for Fako to solve.
The Crystal Gorge by David and Leigh Eddings, Voyager, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-007-15764-9. The ruler of the wasteland challenges the gods...
The Lair of Bones by David Farland, Simon & Schuster, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-671-02851-7.The fourth volume of the Runelord saga. Opportunists attempt to take Gaborn's kingdom which is in ruins...
Hellboy: Odder Jobs by Christopher Golen et al, Titan Books, large pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-845-76019-0. A Hellboy graphic novel.
The Power of Five 1: Raven's Gate by Anthony Horrowitz, Walker Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-8844-28619-3. The paperback of the new horror series, and remember 'Darkness waits on the other side.'
Chimaera by Ian Irvine, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-841-49325-2. The final part of the 'well of Echoes' series.
Band of Gypsies by Gwyneth Jones, Gollancz, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-575-07043-9. More from the Bold as Love arc.
Cast A Bright Shadow by Tanith Lee, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-41309-0. This is Tanith Lee's first adult fantasy for a few years. If you are new to Lee then best not miss this as copies are bound to go soon.
Tom Strong Book 3 by Alan Moore et al, Titan Books, large pbk, £11.99. ISBN 1-840-23900-X. Time travel battle with Tom Strong. That this has been re-printed so soon is a testimony to its popularity. See also Tom Strong and Tom Strong's Terrific Tales: Book 1.
Tom Strong Book 4 by Alan Moore et al, Titan Books, large hdbk, £24.99. ISBN 1-840-23900-X. New adventures of the new popular hero (see immediately above).
Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey, Bantam Press, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-593-05361-3. This is Todd's first by himself without Annie. Meanwhile the human settlers on Pern are running low on technology, yet biomedical needs are as great if they are to prevent future disease.
Firethorn by Sarah Micklem, HarperCollins, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-007-20396-9. Debut novel and first in a trilogy. Healer Firethorn is swept off her feet by a knight only to find that she has swapped one form of servitude for another. Meanwhile the Gods love to interfere.
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuck, Jonathan Cape, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-224-06445-2. 23 short stories are told by a group of writers on an artists' retreat. The publicity hype has it that some readers have fainted with the story Guts.
Viking 1: Odin's Child by Tim Severin, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-42673-7. Severin is known as a travel writer and this is his first fantasy cum historical novel. The first of a trilogy, all of which are expected out by early 2006.
In depth reviews of fiction books can be found off the reviews index.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak by Jayne Lynn Blaschke, Bison Frontiers of the Imagination Series, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-803-26239-6. This could be brilliant or dire. Dire if it is about sci fi speak such as Klingon. Brilliant if it is a compilation of those who create SF speaking out with something meaningful to say. It comes from University of Nebraska Press.
Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, £8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. Well we know these two incorrigible souls. This guide is a strictly systematic (hence other than the Robinson book-only checklist, a unique) attempt to identify popular SF (books, film, TV, & magazines) in which entries had to meet specific criteria which virtual all did on more than one score. A lot slimmer than Clute (which was its portable aim), its core works (and some other supplementary ones) should be familiar to all book and film buffs but some of the detail may not be. Further, early feedback so far suggests that while genre book readers, using the appended checklists, may have read nearly all the 500 titles, few have over 75% in their collections! Entries on the genre, fandom and academia as well as TV SF complete one of the most condensed, yet wide-ranging, and strictly systematically compiled guides ever. Porcupine say that they are making postage and packing free for individual UK direct sales, and a comparable discount to those attending this year's Worldcon. If interested, you are advised to e-mail Porcupine first and they will endeavour to put a copy aside for you for the first two days of the convention. However if you do not collect it and sales are strong then they may sell it after that...
The Earth by Richard Fortey, Harpers Perennial, pbk, £9.99, ISBN 0-006-55137-8. This is a must for those with an amateur interest in geology, and professional geologists will love it too. Fortey goes on a round the World trip visiting key geological sites and recounts what happened there in geological times past and sometimes how the geology affects humans there today. One for geology buffs but written to New Scientist type style.
Who's Watching You? by John Gibb, Collins & Brown, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-843-40292-0. Yes, munchies or not, it's Big Brother paranoia time with an exploration on who and how you are being watched...
Visions of Mars by Oliver Goursac, Abrams Publishing, hdbk, £19.95. ISBN 0-810-95904-6. A visual tour of Mars' principal geographic features. The author had a little help from NASA.
Eclipses 2005-2017: A Handbook of Solar and Lunar Eclipses by Wolfgang Held, Floris Books, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-863-15478-6. Eclipses are brilliant and make a great basis for holidays. You and friends can plan yours with this guide that details all the astronomical details and times and places.
Robots by Daniel Ichbiah, Abrams Publishing, hdbk, £22.95. ISBN 0-810-95906-2. A visual survey of robots and 'artificial intelligence' past and present.
The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook by Alan Lee, HarperCollins Entertainment, hdbk, £20. ISBN 0-261-10383-0. The Oscar-winning conceptual designer on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy discusses his approach to the project. Illustrated with 150 of his sketches plus full colour paintings. This is likely to do well since 100,000 people have bought the recent illustrated Lord of the Rings. Alan Lee will be at this year's Eurocon-Worldcon.
Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs by Richard Lupoff, Bison Frontiers of the Imagination Series, pbk, £10.95. ISBN 0-803-28030-0. This comes from the University of Nebraska Press and - depending on its quality - just could be important to all with an interest in the history of SF & fantasy, such is Burroughs' contribution to the genre.
Surviving Armageddon: Strategies for a Threatened Planet by Bill McGuire. Oxford University Press, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-192-80571-1. How science has helped illuminate threats to our world from super magma eruptions to global warming. Though an OUP title this is for the amateur (non-professional) scientist.
A Secret History of the Illuminati by Lindsay Porter, Collins & Brown, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-843-40289-0. So who exactly is this ancient, long-lived, secret society who still control much of human affairs today?
Darwin's Watch: The Science of Discworld III by Terry Pratchett, Stewart and Cohen, Ebury Press, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-091-89823-4.
Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall, Penguin, hdbk, £20. ISBN 0-713-99699-4. This Harvard prof explains in layman's terms how it all works.
Four Elements by Rebecca Rupp, Profile Books, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-861-97234-2. The science and mythology of the four elements: fire, air, water and earth.
Who Won the Oil Wars? by Andy Stern, Collins & Brown, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-843-40291-2. Well, nobody told Concat that it was over!
In depth reviews of science and SF non-fiction books can be found off the non-fiction reviews index.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins plus Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
FORTHCOMING TV & FILM TIE-INS
Batman Begins by anonymous/various, Titan Books, large pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-845-76067-0. The graphic novel of this summer's film.
Star Trek: To Boldly Go (vol 1) by Mike Barr, Tom Sutton & Ricardo Villagran, Titan Books, large pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76084-0. Star Trek first appeared in the UK in comic form before it was broadcast on TV this side of the Pond. It continued to be produced in comic form on both sides of the Atlantic for much of the time since. Some of these now-out-of-print strips have been collected into this volume.
Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion by David Bassom, Titan Books, large pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76097-2. A guide for the new (as opposed to the original) Galactica series. Photos are b&w.
Ex Machina by Christopher Bennett, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-49285-4. A Star Trek novel where Kirk faces a choice that could decide the face of civilization... and Bush & Blair think they have it tough.
Doctor Who: Monstors Inside by Stephen Cole, BBC Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-671-03702-1. The Doctor and Rose find themselves in a brutal penal space colony.
Dr Who Annual 2006, Panini Books, hdbk. ISBN 1-904-41973-9. A new Dr Who and it is a new annual, indeed the first Dr Who annual for some years.
Ghostbusters: Legion by Andrew Dabb & Steve Kurth, Titan Books, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 1-845-76075-1. Graphic novel.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Attack of the Mousers by Peter David & LeSean, Titan Books, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-845-76092-1. Graphic novel.
Star Trek The Next Generation: Engines of Destiny by Gene Deweese, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-671-03702-1. Alternate timelines confuse.
Batman Chronicles vol 1. by Chuck Dixon et al, Titan Books, large pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-845-76036-0. A must have for all Batman aficionados, this graphic collection reprints the first adventures of the superhero.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Vol II - The Dominion & Ferenginar by David George & Kieth DeCandido, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-48353-7.
Stargate SG-1: The Illustrated Companion Seasons 7 & 8 by Thomasina Gibson, Titan Books, pbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-840-23934-4.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men by Una McCormick, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-49151-3. Guilt and betrayal accompany the deeply spaced niners.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith by Miles Lane & Doug Wheatley, Titan Books, large pbk, £9.99. ISBN 1-845-76058-1. This is the comic strip adaptation of this summer's film.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Suicide King by Robert J. Levy, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-416-50242-4. This is billed as Buffy's first 'interactive' tale.
Smallville: The Official Companion Season 2 by Paul Simpson, Titan Books, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-840-23947-6. Over 150 b&w pics.
The Chronicles of Conan: The Tower of Blood (vol 7) by Roy Thomas et al, Titan Books, large pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-845-76028-X. A collected reprint of the early Conan comic strips but with colour.
VIDEO & DVD RELEASES
Quatermass, three-disc set of the original series including the 2 surviving episodes of The Quatermass Experiment and its re-mastered sequels. From BBC Worldwide, £29.99. (Back in pre-video recorder, single channel days, many Brits adjusted their social life to accommodate Quatermass.)
The Incredibles, one of last year's top SF movies is now out on VHS (£15.99) and DVD (22.99) from Buena Vista, and is a delightful computer animation concerning a family with super powers, whose somewhat past it father wishes to return to being a super hero. Packed with genre references from Bond to Watchmen. The DVD has excellent extras including bloopers, deleted scenes and a couple of shorts about what the baby sitter went through when the others were out being heroes.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Edition vol 1, DVD by ADV films, £19.99. If you are not into Japanese SF Anime but want just one example in your collection then Evangelion is arguably the one to get! Alien (super angels) have taken over the Earth and our last hope lies with super-warbots piloted by children. OK, sod the plot outline: shades of Ender's Game, but as with Ender's it's the execution that counts. With a James Bond type score and homages to Gerry Anderson there are numerous genre references. It is irreverential, occasionally risque, and bold. Hugely popular in Japan for the past decade, it has spawned many limp imitators. An ideal Christmas present for SF film buffs. Definitely worth checking out. (Not worth it though as a present for anime fans as they will already have it.)
Other DVDs newly released include:
The Day of the Triffids BBC 1980s series version
Farscape - The Peacekeeper Wars
The Flipside of Dominick Hyde & Another Flip for Dominick (the early 1980s BBC time travel plays)
The Goodies 2
Red Dwarf 6
Stargate Atlantis 1
Stargate SG-1 7
Constantine, from SCI (PS2 and Xbox), £40. Mediocre opening credits lead into a mediocre shoot 'em up. Disappointing especially for those into the graphic novels. Perhaps less so for those into the film.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Xbox) from Electronic Arts, is not a typical western. As per Oddworld the characters are not human and the weapons are living. Weird and fun.
Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly Directors Cut is now out for Xbox. Originally released on Play Station 2 Project Zero 2 is a suvival horror game where you kill the spirits of ghosts with your camera. The jump to Xbox of this popular game is complete with surround sound.
Resident Evil 4 from Nintendo, £40, for Gamecube enables you to save the President's daughter from the zombie-like 'infected' in rural Spain. Good sound effects.
Xbox may cause spontaneous combustion! Apparently Xboxes made before October 2003 may have faulty leads that can heat up enough to burn floors. Microsoft is replacing leads free of charge. Xbox owners should check the bottom of their Xbox for the manufacture date.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
Scientist Oskar Kaibyshev in Russia has become a victim of Russia's new secret service, the Federal Security Service (FSB). He has been banned from leaving his city (Ufa), been suspended from his job, and had his bank accounts frozen. The FSB say that he sold technology secrets to South Korea. Conversely Russia's Public Committee for the Protection of Scientists say that the technologies had already been exported to India in 1987 and Italy in 1990. Besides, the FSB were, the 66-year old Oskar Kaibyshev said, fully informed of the contracts with South Korea and should have warned if there were problems. The investigation focuses on several years collaboration between the Institute of Metals, of which Oskar Kaibyshev is the Director, and the South Korean tyre maker ASA that is making high pressure tyres. Apparently the Institute used to have access to state secrets but not for the last two decades.
US citizens apparently get 44% of their science and technology news from the TV, 16% from newspapers and 16% from magazines, with only 9% from the internet and 2% from books. But when it comes to finding out about a specific science topic 44% comes from the internet and 24% from books with other categories being magazines (8%), newspapers 4% and TV (6%). The report from Eliene Augenbraun, President of the US organization SienCentral, urges scientists to engage with TV.
US citizens can be thankful that their President's Data Quality Act protects them from poor science undermining their well-being (not!). That the act is beginning to work might perhaps be indicated by US salt-producers (the Virginia-based Salt Institute to be precise) who are calling for data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They want absolutely all the raw source data on a trial that showed that lowering dietary sodium lowers blood pressure in most people. Conversely the researchers say that the industry is trying to slice and dice the data set to find a group whose blood pressure is not responsive to dietary sodium. The Bush-championed Act allows challenges to Government statements and rules that cannot be underpinned by science. But critics of the Act say that it is a tool for unethical industries to attack unwelcome regulations by focussing on isolated bits of science rather than weighing all the evidence from the big picture.
British citizens can be thankful that their Freedom of Information Act does not unilaterally free information. Angela Wright asked Hampshire Constabulary for the details of eligible bachelors between the ages of 35 and 49 together with their pension details. She likes a man in uniform (seriously). The police replied stating that they had 266 such eligible bachelors of whom 201 are in uniform but they refused to divulge their personnel details.
US scientists face an Academic Bill of Rights which effectively forces them to engage in debate over issues that many academics consider resolved (such as evolution and global warming). The fear is that this could be time consuming and present a false image of a greater lack of scientific consensus than there actually is. The Acts are being presented in a number of US states. Tom Auxter, President of Florida's main academic union, is reported as saying: "This would be a right-wing political takeover of the universities."
The (global warming) Kyoto Protocol took a step forward in implementation with the launch of the European Emissions Trading Scheme. However the practice and principle has huge flaws. The idea is that inefficient energy producers can buy carbon permits from efficient producers. This enables firms to delay paying for potentially expensive upgrades or technology switches and so eases the transfer to a low fossil-carbon economy. If there are not enough permits the inefficient energy producers pay a hefty financial penalty so the market is constrained with not enough permits so encouraging lower emissions. This carbon-trading part of the protocol was introduced and championed by the US back at the 1998 Kyoto meeting, but then the US failed to sign up to the protocol. Europe has nonetheless backed the scheme and seems to be leading the way. However: a) the system only is effective if permits are sufficiently limited so that emissions are lowered. The UK Kyoto target (as opposed to political aspirations) is for a 12.5% cut in carbon emissions below its 1990 level by 2012, but a 60% cut is required for climate stabilization; b) countries can use forest planting and soils as carbon sinks in the trading scheme but measuring that actual level of carbon absorption is both fraught with difficulties and reversible (if the forest burns down or the soil is ploughed or climate warmed; and c) the carbon trading scheme has no verification mechanism even for emissions that are easily quantifiable (such as from fossil power stations) and so cheating might go undetected... Politicians, don't you just love 'em.
The oceans are warming, so the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting (February) has been told. Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institute in San Diego that ocean readings taken to depths of 2,300 feet (700 metres) over 40 years had risen by 0.5 degrees Centigrade (0.9F) at the surface and 0.15C at greater depths. This represents some 90% of the extra energy trapped by post-industrial greenhouse gases. So the glacial melt, increased heatwaves, hurricane activity etc. All comes from the remaining 10%. A detailed paper will shortly be published in the US journal Science.
The Royal Society is beginning to open up its archives, of 400,000 items and 70,000 books, to the public. The Royal Society is the UK Government-sponsored learned scientific society founded in 1660. In around 350 years it has just had 8,000 members but these have included notables such as Newton, Darwin, Faraday, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee (who invented the World Wide Web), while its journals, the Philosophical Transactions are the longest, continually-running, scientific publications. The archives could, by 2010, become part of a £10 million (US$1.85m) exhibition. The question for SF enthusiasts is whether documents of interest from the Royal Society's first secretary, the Reverend John Wilkins, will be on show? Wilkins' The Discovery of the World in the Moone (1638) with its concept of aliens on other worlds is an example of early items featuring SF tropes. The Royal Society addressed SF-type concepts early in its history but has tended to shun them in the past century, although its archives contain 20th century information comics on scientific developments. Some consider this aversion to SF strange considering SF's ability to stimulate interest in, and debate on science, and that the Royal Society has an interest in public engagement in science.
Martin Rees, the current Astronomer Royal, is most likely to succeed Robert May as President of the Royal Society. May has had a reasonably strong term as President (for an illustration of see above) and survived a House of Commons, all-party, Select Committee inquiry into the Society. May was (is) a great verbal communicator of science and Martin Rees is not without a reputation in this field. However May, being a physicist turned theoretical ecologist, was equipped to deal with a range of public-politico concerns from GM crops to climate change. The question is how will astronomer Rees fare? Whatever anyone's views, he is likely to be elected in July as he is the only person the Royal Society Council have placed on the nomination ballot. Only person or not, under Royal Society rules the election must go ahead as Council members can vote none of the above.
Michelangelo's sculpture 'David' is squiffy, being asymmetric. Its head and upper body are proportionally larger than the lower body. He also has deviating eyes, with the left eye fixating on the viewer while the right eye seems to be looking at the far distance. An art critic cum ophthalmologist writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (vol 98, pages 75-6) says that the oddly-shaped 'David' - though a "sublime balance of power, intellect and neoclassical beauty" - would probably have had problems successfully disposing of Goliath with a sling. (Of course, some of the Concat team remember that our webmaster, Alan, has a physique that made it to the front cover of an edition of the British Medical Journal in 2003, while Jonathan has legs like a gazelle, Tony bionic blood, and Graham a lock of tousled hair falling over a bronzed forehead. But then, by Kremon, we tread boldly...)
ASTRONOMY AND SPACE
The Deep Impact space probe to analyse a comet is going well with the mission highlight, July. However an out of focus camera from Ball Aerospace ∓ Technologies of Boulder, Colorado, means that some hefty computing will be required to sharpen the images.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is proving most successful with the landing of ESA's Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan on the 14th January as planned - see previous news. It's all there. Seas, river beds, and clouds. The seas appear to be liquid methane as are the rivers. However these may dry up soaking away into the soils. Evaporation causes methane rain. Although far more colder than Earth (or Mars) the mission could provide insights into early anaerobic Earth. The probe survived the 2.5 hour descent and also 70 minutes on the surface.
David Southwood, ESA's Science Director, is to speak at this year's Eurocon cum Worldcon on Cassini-Huygens - see above.
ESA's 'heavy-lifter' Ariane 5 ECA rocket was successfully launched on 12th February to put 3 satellites - a total of 8 tonnes - into orbit. This was the first time the heavy-lifter has flown since its disastrous maiden flight in December 2002 when it veered off course and self-destructed. The rocket is capable of lifting 10 tonnes, 4 more than the standard Ariane 5.
India is offering Europe a ride to the Moon. ESA is considering an offer to place instruments on India's 2007 lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1. If it accepted, ESA is likely want to do a detailed X-ray survey of the lunar surface to look for ice and to use a laser to create a topological map.
ESA's Mars Express has detected geological activity over the past billion years or 20% of the planet's most recent lifetime. Mars Express' high resolution camera has a definition of 10-20 metres per pixel. Using this, and that meteor strikes have occurred at a steady rate over the past billion years, they have tentatively dated geological movement over millions of years. The question is whether the planet is still geologically active in a tectonic sense (as opposed to an ice-gas phase transition sense)? If it is then geology could be the source of the atmospheric methane detected by a US probe in 2004. If it not then the methane is most likely to come from life...
HEALTH AND BIOMEDICINE
Polio could be eradicated outside of the lab later this year Cases are down to a few hundred a year worldwide. However some polio vaccines are mutating into infectious strains of the disease, so it is a little way to go yet.
Tests reveal errors in Vietnam's bird flu monitoring. Re-analysis in Tokyo of patient samples who were declare bird-flu (H5N1) free have shown they did carry the virus. Separately a study has shown that there has been (at least) one case of H5N1 death without the patient exhibiting conventional flu symptoms (New England Journal of Medicine, vol 352, pp686-691). The patient died of encephalitis - brain swelling/inflammation. Human-to-human transmission has also been detected (N. Eng. J. Med. 352, 333-340). As regulars to this column know, the possibility of an avian-flu type global pandemic is very real and, many experts say, overdue.
SARS no longer exists. With no new cases for many months, it is thought that SARS no longer exists (outside of laboratories).
The antibiotic resistant MRSA strain is now been associated with pets and farm animals says the British Veterinary Association. [Well it was only a matter of time...]
A particularly aggressive strain of HIV has been found in New York. AIDS develops between 2 and 20 months after infection (and not about a decade) and is resistant to three of the main drug treatments. However, so far only one patient has this, so the announcement has had some criticism. But New York's Health Commissioner, Thomas Frieden, says, "This case is a wake-up call."
More than one in every 100 deaths in the United States can be attributed to sexual behaviour, according to a new study (Sexually Transmitted Infections vol. 81, pages 38-40). Rates of illness and premature death attributable to sexual behaviour in the United States are triple the rates in other wealthy nations, the authors say. Using updated data from the 1996 US burden of disease study, the researchers reported that 29,782 deaths in 1998 could be attributed to sexual behaviour, constituting 1.3% of all deaths in the United States that year.
Plans to clone extinct marsupial dropped. Plans by the Australian Museum to resurrect the dog-like thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) from DNA samples from a preserved specimen, and using a Tasmanian devil as a surrogate mother, have been dropped. The samples are too degraded. The last known thylacine died in 1936. However there may be other options and genomics is advancing. The museum has not ruled out a future attempt.
An application to grow cannabis by a University of Massachusetts researcher to the US Drug Enforcement Administration has been declined. The decision took a paltry three years!. The research was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and for a Massachusetts U. botanist for pharmaceutical research. The DEA has been known to be tardy over such research permission requests and MAPS is expected to appeal.
Now, in addition to restoring sexual function there is the possibility of Viagra mending a broken heart. Mouse models have been used to demonstrate that the heart failure caused by hypertrophy (thickening) of cardiac muscle induced by sustained pressure overload (high) can be reversed by sildenafil (Viagra), returning the function of the heart's chambers to normal. (Nature Medicine (online publication 23 January).)
Britain's General Medical Council is failing its duty to protect the public and is protecting its own (medical doctors) instead. This was the outcome of the 5th report of the Harold Shipman inquiry (the British doctor who murdered scores of elderly patients) and announced the week before Christmas. (Yes, we and many missed it but picked it up in the new year in the specialist biomedical press.) This conclusion of the 1,000 plus page report is not news to many of the public who over the years have complained to the GMC ,or its dental counterpart the GDA, about malpractice. But when will something be done?
The British Medical Journal has appointed a new editor to replace Richard Smith who left last year. His replacement is the journal's first woman editor, Fiona Godlee. The BMJ was founded in 1840 and is the journal of the British Medical Association, the UK clinicians' professional body and trade union. As such its circulation is over 100,000 and it is recognised as one of the top four clinician journals in the World with its only European rival being the (also London-based) Lancet. Apart from a year in the US, Fiona Godlee has been with the BMJ since 1990. She has spent some time working in the area of clinical evidence and so is likely to ensure the journal backs 'evidence-based' medicine, which is surely welcome. This may surprise some non-clinicians (and non-scientists), but a surprising proportion of clinical practice (and even science) is based on past practice and history as opposed to hard evidence. The problem is that past practice may well work and have been accepted for a long time but that in itself does not make it the best of all theoretical options. As an editor with such an interest her appointment is timely as a number of disciplines are beginning to reappraise their knowledge base. In the past some of the Concatenation team have tangentially interacted with the journal and so we are pleased to offer the new editor our congratulations.
A study of work stress and smoking suggests a positive link between the two. The Finnish survey of more than 46 000 workers found that those with lower rewards and those who worked very hard for insufficient reward were more likely to be smokers. Those who smoked most intensely had higher job strain and a bigger imbalance between stress and reward. The authors say that the work environment should be taken into account when creating smoking cessation programmes (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005 v59, p63-9).
On the other hand job satisfaction is good for your health. A meta-analysis in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (vol 62, pp119-123) of 485 separate studies 2005 reports that job satisfaction is highly correlated with physical and mental well-being. Consequently occupational health clinicians might help those who have had psychological problems by critically evaluating their work and to try to find out which dimension is unsatisfactory.
SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION
The 2005 Asimov Memorial Award goes to John Noble Wilford, science correspondent at the New York Times. The Award is given for science understanding through writing and is managed by the New York SF Society: The Lunarians, New York's oldest SF group and has been presented at its annual convention (Lunacon) since 1992. Past recipients have included Hal Clement, Frederick Pohl, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Charles Sheffield, Charles Pellegrino, Arthur C. Clarke, Yoji Kondo (Eric Kotani) and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
NASA has announced a space elevator competition. The space elevator being a concept largely popularised by Arthur Clarke's Fountains of Paradise to lift material to geosync' orbit. There is a prize of US$50,000 for the strongest tether material and a similar prize to whoever can use a light source to push a robot 'climber' to the top of a 60 metre cable in less than three minutes. (Our Simon makes a nifty light sauce, but alas it is unlikely to win this second, or the first, prize.).
The first Sir Arthur Clarke Awards have been presented to promote those who have furthered space exploration. The organising panel included those who hold pivotal positions that can further UK space exploration, such as Colin Hicks (British National Space Centre), and David Southwood (of ESA who is also due to appear at the 2005 Glasgow Eurocon-Worldcon). However the Awards have arguably been undermined in that EADS Space won the 'Best Corporate Achienvement'. Why, some may ask, and others may point to the presence of its Director of Communications on the Award's judging panel, which even if perfectly innocent is certainly not an entirely prudent choice if the Awards are to be viewed as scrupulously impartial. Ditto, possible concern that the 'Achievement in Education' category went to the National Space Science Centre. All of which does not exactly enhance Clarke himself also receiving an 'Additional Award' even though Clarke had nothing to do with the judging, but the 60th anniversary of his Wireless World satellite article deserves celebrating. Raised eyebrows aside, on a brighter note of science & SF interest, Colin Pillinger was a worthy recipient of the 'Outreach Award for the Public Promotion of Space' and ditto David A Hardy & Patrick Moore's Futures - 50 Years in Space for 'Best Presentation - Written' (which of course is also up for a Hugo), as well as BBC's Space Odyssey - Journey to the Planets for the 'Best Presentation - TV & Radio' category. The Awards themselves were presented at a rather nice dinner at London's Charterhouse complete with live music.
The leading multi-disciplinary journal Nature has 'lightened' its pages with a return to including SF. You need to check out the 'Futures' page at the back of the mag (available in nearly all western university libraries both in paper and on-line). These one-page stories are often rather good. Interesting contributions so far have come from Bruce Sterling, Iain Stewart and Ken MacLeod. The 'Futures' short stories are a return to Nature's one-year run of SF it commissioned in 2000 to mark the turn of the millennium and which provided light relief since the Deadalus (spoof invention) column stopped and former editor, John Maddox, wit ceased to shine through the letter page selection. (The new editor has other strengths of which allowing 'Futures' is just one.) However the relegation of 'Futures' to the back page is not welcome. Equally not welcome is a chain story Nature has introduced called Schrodinger's Mousetrap. It is written by scientists unproven in professional fiction writing. Chain stories are also notoriously handicapped from overall co-ordination and plot development due to handing over successive instalments to other writers (a problem doubled in the hands of amateur writers). Still, one has to give big points to Nature for trying and showing (what SF-reading scientists already knew) that sciences' sense-of-wonder contributes to the arts.
+++ Factoid: Nature's original 'Futures' series of SF shorts in 2000 almost picked up a European SF Award but failed to do so as the Eurocon business meeting in 2001 was split into two sessions, the latter of which saw a certain Concatenation team member leave the Eurocon for a personal tour of a nuclear plant. This unfortunately meant that the ESFS business meeting did not have a quorate number of European countries. Had this not happened one of the World's highest impact, science fact journals would have won an international science fiction award... We have since recycled the individual concerned.
The possibility of interfacing with, or even downloading into, cyberspace continues to progress. The British Medical Journal (v330, p30-33) reviewed electronic artificial eye technology. Electronic photo-sensitive devices can be linked to the back of the eye and then directly to the optic nerve. However the picture is very low definition and we are a long way to go before being anywhere comparable with TV. However the research demonstrates that the theory is practically possible. Meanwhile other scientists (doi/10.1073/pnas.0403504101) have come up with non-invasive (a non-direct) brain-computer interface whereby a person wears many electrodes on their head (that are not physically connected to nerves) Electric signals detected from the brain have been transferred to a device's mechanical two dimensional movement. Patients that are paralysed can use this devise to manipulate, say, an artificial arm. Taking both these two their logical long-term future conclusions and it will be possible for a person to directly visually interface with a cyberspace virtual reality and manipulate VR objects in it. Or better still, non-invasively wear specs that project a picture of a VR and also wear an electrode cap that enables you to do things in the VR. Downloading into the VR would come next and the technology could conceivable work in reverse. Greg Egan here we come...
A court in the US state of Georgia has overturned a school's two-and-a-half year old policy of placing an evolution disclaimer sticker on its biology text books. The stickers say: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." 'Theory, not a fact', so, for instance, how does antibiotic resistance arise... Five parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sued the school district. Textbook stickers have been used since the 1970s. Unfortunately this ruling will not see them eliminated. US science educators are continuing to counter the creationists.
Kansas biologists will not enter a 'kangaroo court' to defend evolution from creationists. The State's Board of Education intends to hold a hearing in May to ascertain arguments from creationi8sts and biologists. However the biologists fear that the Board has already made up its mind. "We will not participate in their kangaroo court," said Harry McDonald, President of the Kansas Citizens for Science that in 1999 successfully stopped a move to drop the teaching of evolution in the State. Since last November 'conservatives' regained control of the Board.
Michael Crichton's December attack on climate change science seemingly affirms the former British Medical Journal Editor, Richard Smith's, assertion that clinicians are not scientists. Crichton trained as a medical doctor. (While scientists contemplate (as yet) unproven hypothesis and elucidate evidence, conversely clinicians apply the resulting knowledge with their technical skill.) Crichton's refusal to accept that climate change is a serious problem has driven some scientists to post a "rapid response" website, www.realclimate.org. The problem is that engaging in rapid response means cutting out peer review which is related to 'verification' that is at the heart of the scientific method (of hypothesis, experimentation, conclusion and verification).
But is discussion of science (outside of journals) scientific? Ironically this means that scientists' responses to non-science critiques cannot strictly be considered as scientific even if responses stick to science and steer clear of policy and economics. This dilemma was highlighted in a Nature news item (v432, p937) which also went on to say that it makes it difficult for genuine scientists who dissent from the core consensus to debate their concerns (such debates are not (usually) peer reviewed).
But both Crichton and the IPCC climate consensus could be wrong? After all it may be that Michael Crichton's view and the climate scientists' consensus are both wrong. The reality could be some third scenario.
Members of the Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation core-team discussed this at their Christmas-New Year gathering. Consensual science is constantly being overthrown and needs to be challenged.
The causes of global warming can be tested in the laboratory. However Concat's physicist, Graham, noted that Crichton's claim - that human additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is not affecting the climate - runs contrary to fundamental physical chemistry; you can test that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas in the lab and quantify the heat-absorbing effect.
But the climate consensus view has its own problems. While Jonathan, who already has one university textbook on climate change under his belt and another on the biology of climate change on the way, says that the existing (IPCC) consensus science view has problems of its own and so continued scientific debate and discussion is vitally important, even if the consensus is the best view we have as starting point. For example, the computerised climate models, though slowly getting better, are still so bad as to be useless at predicting what happens at high latitudes around the poles, while estimates of sea level rise barely chime with geological field observations of past rises when the Earth warmed: it is just as likely as not that the short-term (21st century) sea-level response to warming will be a faster, less linear sea rise that is up to 5 to 10 times greater than the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict.
Crichton is helping no-one. So Crichton's comments do not help those with science-based concerns with the IPCC consensus, nor does his mis-representation and interpretation of the IPCC reports help those unfamiliar with those key documents. He has therefore only further muddied the waters. Surely he could have run his arguments against someone with climate expertise to get the basics right before going public? Indeed many scientists are obliged to help authors (like Crichton) and journalists as part of their public understanding of science obligations that come with their grant. Now what has happened is that the climate science consensus is digging in and this is most likely to hinder discussion across the spectrum of views within the climate science community.
Well, perhaps Crichton is helping himself? Crichton is not doing anyone any favours except perhaps to help shift copies of his latest book. According to The Guardian (Dec 11, 04) apparently 2,000,000 have been printed in time for Christmas... Perish that thought as Crichton also says that he has 'no agenda', implying that the scientists have (presumably to get grants?). Until next Christmas: Ho, ho, ho.
More science and SF news will be reviewed in September 2005 plus there will forthcoming book releases for the autumn. Meanwhile ensure you've added the Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation to your favourites. And why not send a message to yourself delay-timed to mid-September alerting you to our Autumnal site update?
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