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EDITORIAL STOP PRESS: Due to our former, and dastardly, internet service provider (serverspace.co.uk) doing a runner and leaving all their customers (including us) in the lurch, the Concatenation site was down for virtually all of February. This has meant that our anticipated site development scheduled for that month was delayed. Although everything is now back to what passes for normal, thanks to: our IT guy Dan, ascertaining what happened, and our webmaster Alan pulling our various back-ups together, while our new member of the team, Boris Sidyuk from Ukrainian fandom kindly provided webspace for the site (well Jonathan happened to be liaising over the Eurocon). Meanwhile thank you for bearing with us, and if you tried to contact us during February and never got a reply then do e-mail us again. This page relies on being sent news.
EDITORIAL MATTERS: The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is pleased to announce that it has teamed up with the leading multi-disciplinary science journal Nature to reproduce some of its SF 'Futures' short stories. Nature runs a short story each week on its final page as a science fictional counterpoint to the science fact coverage and research papers that are the journal's raison d'etre. There are therefore 51 of these SF stories each year. However to see these you either have to subscribe to Nature or have access to a university or research institute library terminal that subscribes to Nature-online. Consequently many SF readers, including those who may have trained in science but who are not based at universities or research institutes, miss out on these excellent stories. That this is so is evident from there not being a 'Futures' story nominated for the Hugo, or cited (for example) in the Locus recommended review of last year. So, in order that the broader SF community gets a taste of what they are missing, Concatenation has come to an arrangement, with Nature and the relevant authors, to make examples of these stories freely available on the web. Consequently we will be posting one story each season between each of our three main news and reviews uploads (Spring, Summer and Autumn). To kick off though, we have already posted three one-page stories in PDF format from last year and an additional one to allow for our earlier Spring upload. You can access these four stories from our SF Futures Index. Enjoy.
In-house project news: Essential SF is now available from Amazon.co.uk. Do your bit to spread the genre word. Makes for a great birthday present.. See also news of signed copies.
NEW CONCAT' SITE UPDATE ALERT SERVICE: Now you can receive e-mail alerts (only every other month) letting you know when this site has a major update. This alert service is free and your e-mail addresses will not be passed on to other parties. For details see the bottom of this news page.
Stansilaw Lem and Octavia Butler sadly die -- see below for Octavia and here for Stanislaw.
Understanding the Universe: The Standard Model is wrong! -- see below.
European SF Award winners and Hugo Award nominations announced.
Eisner Award archives saved -- see below.
Iain Banks brainstorms TV -- see below.
Kurt Vonnegut visits UK to promote autobiography -- see below.
Amazing Stories magazine folds (again) -- see below.
Judge Dredd Megazine changes editor and slashes price -- see below.
Estronomicon a new free monthly eZine is launched, and Cosmos SF announce a free backlist.
Star Wars is to become a new TV series -- see below.
Pluto and Mars space probe news -- see below.
300 year old theft of Robert Hooke's Royal Society notes uncovered -- see below.
SF Author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge contemplates a new digital Gaia -- see below.
Gollancz releases "the 10 greatest SF novels of all time"-- see below.
The other sub-sections within SF News to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Professional News; R.I.P; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
NEWS IN MORE DETAIL
Eisner Award archives are saved. The (Will) Eisner Comic Industry Award is to be housed at the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, US. The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the premier awards for the comics industry, are presented every summer at Comic-Con International in San Diego and are in their 17th year. The awards archives consist of books and comics that have been nominated for the Eisner Awards since 1992. The material so far has been tucked away in storage. The James Branch Cabell Library was chosen since it already houses one of the largest collections of materials (over 23,000 items) related to the comic arts.
The 2006 Locus Awards top finalists have been announced: though if you are reading this after June the actual winners will have by then been announced. Those making the top of the main categories of SF interest are:-
Best SF novel
Accelerando, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit)
Fifty Degrees Below, Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins UK; Bantam Spectra)
Learning the World, Ken MacLeod (Orbit; Tor)
Olympos, Dan Simmons (Eos; Gollancz)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin's)
The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, Harry Turtledove & Martin H. Greenberg, eds. (Del Rey)
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: 18th Annual Collection, Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, eds. (St. Martin's)
The Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin's)
Year's Best SF 10, David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, eds. (Eos)
Visit the the Locus site for the full list of all categories. It is also interesting to see how this compares with this year's Hugo Award nominations.
The Australian Ditmar Awards for 2006 have been announced. Of the various categories arguably of principal interest is the 'Best Novel' which went to Sean Williams & Shane Dix for Geodesica: Ascent. For details of the other Ditmar categories see The Australian SF Bullsheet.
The British SF Association Awards for 2006 have been announced. Of principal note the 'Best Novel' went to Geoff Ryman for Air.
The Philip K. Dick Award for 2006 that goes to the best original US paperback went to M. M. Buckner for War Surf.
Amazing Stories goes! Current owners, Paizo Publishing, of the Amazing Stories magazine first published in 1946, have announced that they will formally cease publication of both Amazing Stories and Undefeated magazines. Problems began a year ago and Paizo (better known for its war gaming products) had been exploring avenues to keep them going. Co-owner and CEO of Paizo Publishing, Lisa Stevens, said: "We worked hard to find alternative means to keep these titles viable, including moving them to other companies. However, our efforts ultimately met with no success. We felt that it was time to fold our hand and let our customers know the final outcome."
The following history is taken from Essential SF: A Concise Guide -- First published in 1926, Amazing Stories has had a colourful history. Though not the first pulp magazine to publish SF, it is generally agreed that science fiction came of age as a genre when Hugo Gernsback published the first issue in April 1926. Founded on the work of Wells, Verne and Poe, Amazing was briefly ascendant before facing the competition from others such as Astounding Science Fiction Gernsback lost control of the title in 1929 and founded, in direct competition, Science Wonder Stories, through which he is effectively credited with creating fandom by the inclusion of letter columns which published correspondents' addresses. Amazing in over 70 years has, as one can imagine, had its fair share of ups and downs. Amazing has had several editors including Raymond Arthur Palmer (a.k.a. RAP) who reputedly boosted its circulation from 27,000 to over 100,000. However it was soon to face competition from other 'pulps' such as Astounding Stories. By the late 1950s and early 1960s Amazing had a US circulation of about 50,000. However by the year 2000 its circulation had slumped to around 10,000 when the magazine previously folded.
London Cartoon Museum opens. The Cartoon Centre covers three centuries up to yesterday and includes graphic novels, comics and posters. It is in Little Russell Street near the British Museum.
The 2006 Aurealis Awards for (2005) Australian science fiction and fantasy have been announced. Among the various categories the award for Science Fiction Novel went to K. A. Bedford for Eclipse.
Judge Dredd Megazine cuts its cover price by 33%! The May issue is down from £4.50 to £2.99. No better time to check out the Big Meg. This follows a change in editor to Matt Smith who tells us that: "The Megazine will be permanently dropping to £2.99, and its page count is being reduced to leaner, meaner 64pp." To put this into context, the price goes down a third (33.3%) and the page count is reduced by less than a quarter (24%) We suspect that part of this saving is because Matt Smith doubles up as both Megazine and 2000AD editor. Subscription details are on www.2000ADonline.com.
Star Wars is to become a new TV series, reports BBC. 100 episodes are to be scripted and filming is due to commence in 2008 (so plenty of time for development hell). The series will apparently be set in the years between the two film trilogies as Luke Skywalker grows up. Apparently it will be darker than the recent Star Wars trilogy (which has been lambasted by seasoned fans) and so might possibly be a welcome return to the atmosphere of the original trilogy. Reportedly Lucas will not work on the series until the latest Indiana Jones film is complete.
The SciFi.Com website has announced that it will focus on developing the broadband dimensions to the site. Video related material (presumably trailers and so forth) will be emphasised. As previously reported SciFi.Com has already closed its original written fiction, SciFiction, part of its site.
Marvel and DC enforce trademark of the term 'Super Hero'. Reported in the comics website Newsarama, the editors of Super Hero Happy Hour have now changed the comic's name dropping the 'Super'. The comic centres around a bar super heroes use. The name change followed a letter sent to the comic's owners, GeekPunk, advising that the two giant comics companies were owners of the 'super heroes' trademark and variations thereof. This has not entirely inconsequential ramifications. Not only will it affect what some comics will put on their covers, but any non-fiction titles such as 'An Encyclopaedia of Super Heroes' will be unlawful unless you get Marvel and DC's permission.
Don't forget the US superhero stamps are out this summer. -- see last season's news item.
Specialist sub-sections within this news section: SF News; SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Professional News; R.I.P; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
The Spring sadly saw us lose the following scientists and SF personalities:
Lisa A. Barnett, died aged 48 after battling with a brain tumour. She and her partner wrote three fantasy novels together.
Brian Burley the US conrunner who was involved with both Trek and Worldcons (b.1942) died peacefully aged 61.
Octavia Butler, the US, Hugo and Nebula awards-winning SF writer, died aged 58. She first came to marked SF attention with her 'Patternist' sequence books that began with Patternmaster (1976) which spans the millennia from the 17th century to thousands of years into the future and which features near immortals and (artificial) human evolution tropes. Her last novel, Fledgling published last autumn, was vampire related and her first novel for several years. Reportedly she died following a fall outside her house. +++ Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund created. Warner Books, Seven Stories Press, Beacon Press, The Carl Brandon Society, Writers House and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame have come together to create the 'Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund'. The first awards will be made in 2007. The Carl Brandon Society will administer the fund and would welcome additional contributions.
Ronald Anthony Cross the US author died in early March aged 68.
Scott Crossfield, the US super-sonic and high flying test pilot, died aged 84 after his Cessna light plane crashed during a thunderstorm. Most famously he will be remembered for flying the X-15 (that in turn possibly inspired Gerry Anderson to name Fireball XL5). The X-15 craft (in the hands of others) eventually reached Mach 6.72 (4,520 mph) and to a height of 354,200 feet (67 miles / 108 km). From 1967-'73 he was an executive with Eastern Airlines and from 1974 for a year with the British company Hawker Siddeley in Washington before spending 16 years as a consultant for the congressional committee on science and technology. He died as he lived, and his friend General John 'Jack' Dailey is reported as saying, 'he would not have wanted it on a front porch in a rocker.'
Dan Curtis, theHollywood producer/director probably best known in genre circles for late sixties tv series Dark Shadows, died aged 77.
Howard DeVore the US fan, conrunner, book dealer, and editor of many editions of History of the Hugo, Nebula and International Fantasy Awards, died aged 80 at the very end of 2005. He was to be a guest at this year's Worldcon in LA. Ansible has posted a supplemental obit.
David Feintuch the US SF author died aged 61.
Richard Fleischer, the US film director, died aged 89. His SF & fantasy films included 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954); Fantastic Voyage (1966); Doctor Dolittle (1967); Soylent Green (1973); Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonja (1985).
Torkel Franzen the Swedish fan and SF translator has died aged 55.
Charles Garvin the US book dealer and small-press publisher, died aged 59.
Andreas Katsulas, the actor who played G'Kar on Babylon 5 died of lung cancer aged 59. Of genre interest he also played the Romulan Commander Tomalak in Star Trek: The Next Generation,a Vissian captain in an Enterprise episode as well as appearing in Alien Nation and Max Headroom.
Noel Kerr, the Australian fan and Ditmar Award winner, died aged 71.
Stanislaw Lem, the Polish writer of over a score of novels, has died aged 84. Such is the way of the world that many might be forgiven for thinking that the language of SF is English, but in fact there is much, much more to the genre than its Anglophone component. Of non-Anglophone SF authors, Stanislaw Lem is one writer who made a greater contribution than most. Apparently some 27 million copies of his books have been sold which is impressive by anybody's standards even in the Soviet bloc. As importantly his work has been translated into 40 languages (though not everything made it into all 40). His most famous work in 'the west' is probably Solaris (1961) of which there was an overly long 1972 film (of which he was not entirely happy) and a more recent (2003) Hollywood version. It concerns a research station orbiting, and monitoring, a water world but the crew are subject to all too real hallucinations... Stanislaw Lem trained as a medical doctor but his studies were interrupted by World War II during which he quietly worked on car repairs. He completed his studies after the war before studying philosophy and science but continued after to have an interest in the philosophy and history of science as well as cybernetics. He started the main part of his writing career with his first book Astronauci [The Astronauts] (1951) of which a number of commentators have said that Lem was finding his feet as a writer but that themes (state control, identity and global catastrophe) that were later to develop can be found. His writing also had a more humorous dimension and The Cyberiad (1965) has in places a feel into which one could imagine Douglas Adams might have tapped. SF encyclopaedist John Clute said of Lem, his lesson in a nutshell: 'What can be understood, and what cannot, must be clearly understood. All else is merely cheap sleight of hand.'
Though many of Lem's books have been translated into English, not all have came out on both sides of the Atlantic and multiple editions and reprints are few and far between. However they do surface at second hand and antiquarian bookshops, and you can always check out SF experts and dealers such as www.porcupine.demon.co.uk and fantasycentre.biz.
Al Lewis, the US actor best known in genre terms as Grandpa from The Munsters, died aged 95.
Darren McGavin the US actor died aged 83. He famously played a journalist investigating paranormal events in the delightful 1974 TV series Kolchak which was itself spun off of two TV movies Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Kolchak: The Night Strangler (both starring McGavin). See also news of the new Night Stalker series.
John Morressy the US author died aged 76. He wrote mainly space opera and developed a number of interesting alien societies.
Nicholas Shackleton, palaeoclimatologists, died aged 68. Shackleton made a major contribution to the use of oxygen isotope analysis in geological strata specifically with relation to glacial-interglacial ice volumes. With John Imbrie and James Hays he was able to test the Milankovitch idea of solar energy on the northern (land dominated) hemisphere as being the pacemaker of our current ice age (and subsequently found to affect the timing of temperature and rainfall cycles in much geological history). In addition he made significant contributions to carbon cycle science. As such his contributions were fundamental to our modern understanding of global climate. In his spare time he was an enthusiastic clarinettist.
Kurt von Trojan, the Australian Ditmar-winning author, has died aged 68.
Angus Wells the US author, also known as Ian Evans, has died aged 62.
J.N. (Jerry) Williamson the US horror author died in December aged 73. He wrote over 30 novels and was the recipient of the Horror Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.
The other sub-sections within SF News to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Professional News; R.I.P; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS
The Da Vinci Code trial concludes -- for the back story see last time's science fiction news. In the run up to Easter Dan Brown conceded that The Da Vinci Code character 'Sir Leigh Teabeing' is a deliberate anagram of the authors who are suing his publisher Random House for plagiarism. Bit of a giveaway that... However notwithstanding this the judge, Peter Smith, ruled that Brown had not infringed copyright as passages had not been copied and the use of an anagram by Brown of the authors' names (Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh) who are suing Brown is in fact a compliment. Sales of Baigent and Leigh's non-fiction book have soared but probably not enough to offset the £1 million plus legal costs they now face unless sales continue and their new book does well. +++ Now a Russian sues Brown! Mikhail Anikin, a Leonardo expert, threatened sue Brown unless he apologises and gives up half his royalties. Dr Anikin claims that Brown stole his ideas from his book Leonardo Da Vinci: Theology in Paint and that he originated the title The Da Vinci Code.
SFX magazine with Gollancz have launched a 'new writers'competition. Which by definition is for unpublished authors.
Gollancz releases "the 10 greatest SF novels of all time"! August sees this release and so give SF book readers the chance to fill in some key gaps in their collection. Though the Gollancz sales hype of "10 greatest novels of all time" may be a little over the top, some of the Concat team (and two in particular) know how difficult it is to define great SF works as was done recently with Essential SF. However while Essential SF explained its methodology, how Gollancz chose its top ten is somewhat veiled in mystery but possibly has more to do with worthy possibles' copyright availability. Nonetheless all the 'authors' of the Gollancz 10 greatest SF novels of all time are in Essential SF, 8 out of the 10 book 'titles' are cited and 5 out of the 10 titles have individual entries in Essential SF as 'core' works. So there is fair agreement between Gollancz and Essential SF, and the titles in this Gollancz selection are, by any aficionado's standards, all 'great' books, even if 'greatest' may be an epithet too far. It is therefore very welcome to see Gollancz give these works another airing and provide an opportunity for SF readers to get these gems, especially for those whose collections are only starting. The books are:-
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Cities in Flight by James Blish
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Gateway by Frederik Pohl.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
and The Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
+++ Longstanding SF book collector alert: Seasoned SF readers may well have read most, if not all, of the afore books, but how many are actually in your collection as opposed to those you read borrowed from a friend or a library? Don't be like our lads when compiling Essential SF who found out that though they had read all the titles, many of them several years ago, that they had numerous key gaps in their collections. What's more when they checked with others on the team, lo, they too had unsuspected holes! So check your collections for these titles and fill them appropriately. The Gollancz greatest will be £7.99 each and out from August.
Solaris is to be a new SF/fantasy imprint from BL Publishing, (which is related to The Games Workshop's Black Library). It will launch in the Spring 2007.
The US specialist SF & fantasy imprint Pyr celebrates it 1st birthday. Pyr's editorial director, Lou Anders, reflected, "From its inception, science fiction has always been the genre concerned with change. As the 21st century promises even greater change than the 20th, fuelled by the ever-accelerating pace of technological development, science fiction in general - and Pyr in specific - is poised to imagine the brave new world, in all its wonders and perils, and in so doing, to help usher tomorrow into today." Which is all very well, however at Concatenation we have over the past year reviewed a number of Pyr titles and can say, from this independent position, that they do tend to be rather good. Others seem to think so too -- see last time's science fiction news Let's see what the coming year brings. Meanwhile happy birthday.
Of genre interest out of all the top UK selling books for 2005 were: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (children's edition) which came in at number 1 with 2.86 million sold. The adult edition came in at number 7 with 655,212 sold. This just beat Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife at 8th with 627,302 sold. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was 29th with 273,423 UK sales. Terry Pratchett also did well with Thud! at 75 and Going Postal at 95 with respective sales of 174,183 and 150,310. However it has to be remembered that both Terry's books in the UK came out late in the year in October.
On the popular science front the book with the most UK sales in 2005 was Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It came 27th in the book sales chart with 282,291 UK sold.
The best selling 'original fiction' book in the UK for the Spring was the genre-related Stephen King's Cell from Hodder & Stoughton. Stateside it also appeared on the Publishers' Weekly and New York Times bestseller lists and by Easter had three US printings totalling 1.18m copies.
The best selling genre title in the UK for the year's first quarter was Velocity by Dean Koontz from Harper Collins.
www.LittleBig25.com are hoping to produce a 25th anniversary edition of Little Big. John Crowley's modern fantasy has had considerable critical acclaim from those into the 'literary' end of the genre. The 25th anniversary idea is that if enough people subscribe then they could produce the edition. Alas numbers aren't quite there yet and so they are extending the subscription for another year. Former Concat' webmaster, Matt Freestone, assures us: "It's not a scam - they have an agreement with Crowley and the publisher to produce this edition, and I know Ron Drummond (who's behind this idea) slightly from the Gene Wolfe mailing list." Apparently they "don't seem to have mastered the art of publicity." The concept itself is a worthy cause so even if you are not into Little Big you could do your bit perhaps by posting this news on your own blog, chatroom or whatever?
David Tennant is to narrate 3 Dr Whotitles for BBC Audio Books. This is the first time Tennant will be the new Doctor outside of TV.
The Random House group is to launch a UK manga imprint. It has acquired the rights for 45 titles from its cousin company Del Rey in the US. 15 titles are to be launched in August at £5.99 with the remaining 30 titles coming out by Christmas. As with most other manga books you have to read them from the back to the front.
The French group Hachette Livre has effectively become the largest mass market publisher in the UK and the third largest (in terms of financial turnover) book publisher on the planet. Its parent, the French multinational Lagardre, has bought up Time Warner for £309m (US$537.5). Hachette now has about 16% of the UK mass market which makes Random (at 14%) its closest competitor. Lagardre through Hachette already owns Hodder Headline and Gollancz/Orion. (See also previous news from the Spring 2005).
A consequence of the above is that Little Brown returns to the UK. The name Little Brown was lost a few years ago when Time Warner took over, but now that Hachette Livre has control they are reinstating the name which was originally registered back in 1837 by the Boston Booksellers Charles Coffin Little and James Brown.
More on UK book chain takeovers further to last time's news. You'll have to check our past coverage for the story to date, but suffice to say it includes takeover bids and Government Office of Fair Trading concerns... Now Waterstones' parent HMV (which is already involved in a Competition Commission inquiry over its attempt to buy out rival Ottakars) is now itself considered an attractive target for takeover! Book readers can only pray that W. H. Smiths does not get its hands on any of these bookchains, as the very real fear is that Smiths will shut down bookshop branches near its existing newsagent chains (that only sell a limited number of best seller books). +++ Hot tip: If Smiths does expand then buy shares in on-line booksellers as that will be where the UK market will likely go.
...And further to the above, the news is in that Waterstones and Ottakars can merge. The Competition Commission says it is all right for Waterstones' parent HMV to buy Ottakars and so effectively allow Waterstones and Ottakars to merge. The UK book trade is apparently in "robust health". Notwithstanding large town high streets, concerns exist in the trade as to the viability of smaller bookshops and specialist outlets. UK university bookshops as well as SF/fantasy specialists continue to struggle.
Heard in a UK bookshop. Two staff. "Put the two Trollopes in the window." "The two Trollopes?" "Yes, Joanna and Jordan." (Source: The Bookseller 3.2.06).
More book trade news in mid-September. Meanwhile...
The other sub-sections within SF News to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; Major SF Author and Professional News; R.I.P; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Film, Graphic Novel + TV News.
MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS
Forest J. Ackerman, who has been referred to as the World's No. 1 SF fan and who reputedly coined the term 'sci fi', made had a short cameo walk-on as the flustered man in the horror film The Naked Monster. Not bad for 89.
Iain Banks had a publicly playful, pre-recorded New Year. First he took part in the University Challenge BBC2 1st Jan celebrity edition with writers vs actors. (Normally the teams are from individual universities.) Iain captained the 4 strong writers' team that won 185 to 109. This took the writers through to a follow-up heat the next day against a team of TV and radio news journalists. Despite a slow start in the first 5 minutes in which the news team led, the writers soon took command with Iain Banks contributing strongly to accruing points. By the end of the show the writers' lead was unassailable and they won most convincingly with 190 to 45. + + + The same day on the other national BBC TV channel (BBC1) Iain Banks also took part in a special New Year's celebrity edition of the quiz Mastermind. This competition consists of two rounds. The first is on the participant's own specialist subject of choice. Iain Banks' was on Scotch whiskey a topic about which he even has written a book. At the end of this round he had accrued 12 points putting him in second place. However by the end of the second, general knowledge, round he had more than doubled this giving him a total winning score of 26 points (five ahead of the runner-up). In the gap between rounds the quizmaster asked Iain about whether he is a different writer when writing his mainstream books compared to his science fiction? In reply Iain used a metaphor. "[It is] like a carpenter who one day builds a chair and the next day makes a table." He added that the two types of work both use "exactly the same skills, exactly the same material, and exactly the same tools, though the finished results are profoundly different." He also revealed at the show's end that he had only been drinking mineral water for the previous 12 hours and that something (alluding to his specialist subject) may be added to it after the programme. +++ More Mastermind SF subject news.
John Barrow wins prize. Barrow is the Cambridge U. mathematician and cosmologist, and author of over 15 books, including co-authoring The Anthropic Cosmological Principle which we reviewed way back in Concatenation No. 1 (when we were only in print form). He has won this year's Templeton Prize worth £795,000 (US$1.4m). The prize recognises 'discoveries' that "expand human perceptions of divinity". This is a little ironic as Barrow's fanciful and fun speculations have been Fairly firmly science based rather than theological. Previous winners have included Mother Theresa and Billy Graham as well as physicist Charles Townes and cosmologist George Ellis.
Michael Crichton has received the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Journalist Award for 2006 at the AAPG annual convention in Houston. The award is specifically for his book State of Fear of which one of its central themes is that climate change is not significantly happening beyond natural variation and that human emissions of greenhouse gases is not significantly affecting climate. The award is controversial and given the thumbs (arrow) down on the science journal Nature scorecard (v439, p773).
Robert (Jim Rigney) Jordan, it's been reported in the April Ansible has sadly been diagnosed with amyloidosis. The condition is serious but bravely he is determined to beat the odds.
Harry Harrison received the 'Philosophical Stone' Award at the opening of this year's Eurocon from the "Star Bridge" convention committee from Kharkov, the Ukraine's second city in the country's east. Harry then took the opportunity to give his own award to his Russian agent Alexander Korzhenevsky. Though US born, writer Harry has spent many years living in the British Isles, first in Ireland and then England. The author of over two score novels, he is perhaps best known for his Stainless Steel Rat novels along with Make Room! Make Room! which was filmed (sort of) as Soylent Green. However he has also done much else including: writing a number on non-fiction books on SF, drawn SF / fantasy art, and scripted a couple of Jeff Hawke strips, not to mention compiled a number of anthologies of SF short stories (frequently with Brian Aldiss). +++ At the Eurocon's end Harry was awarded the title European Grandmaster along with the Strugatski brothers.
Paul McAuley says he has just signed a three-book deal with Gollancz. His previous White Devils (2004) and Mind's Eye (2005) were with Simon & Shuster, though his Red Dust (1993) was with Gollancz. The first book in the new deal will be Cowboy Angels. It will be a sort of multiple alternate reality thriller with cloak and daggers operating across multiple continua.
Michael Moorcock has been in the UK promoting his latest book and has given many media interviews. Among the many things discussed, he says that work on the 'Elric' film, from Universal, is progressing and that shooting will take place in Arizona. Subsequently (and unrelatedly) back in Texas his website http://www.multiverse.org/ was hacked and brought down. Moorcock blames either hobbit-habit fiends or natural democrats who don't like his opinions.
Alan Moore gave a very rare interview appearing on BBC 2 TV's The Culture Show. Among the points raised, he said he liked to influence the artists drawing his stories as much as possible while still trying to remain a very nice guy. Among his early sources of inspiration he mused that early on he thought there was a lot of mileage to be got out of putting superheroes in ordinary situations. He cited one of his greatest sources of inspiration as his lifelong hometown of Northampton. As for the films of his work, he says that he no longer wants his name on them. The only similarity of the film to his graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the title and Alan Moore was not particularly enthusisatic about the film V For Vendetta (though this may be more to do with the way the studio treated him than the film per se). Moore is not alone in this criticism of his film adaptations as we have covered in previous science fiction news (also a concern echoed more recently in quotes reported in the Judge Dredd Megazine).
Roberto Quaglia, doyen of the European SF Society, has been in touch and delighted that after a gap of a few years his SF has appeared in an English-language publication. Though his writing is most commonly published in Italian and Romanian (the two countries in which he has a home) he has only had one novel (Bread, Butter and Paradoxine published in English. Now one work, a short story jointly written with Ian Watson, appears in the latest incarnation of Weird Tales. Furthermore their story, "The Grave of My Beloved", gets a mention in an article on that magazine in The Washington Post. At the time of Roberto getting in touch he was in Russia following the country's national convention and preparing to attend the 2006 Eurocon in Kiev. Apparently the writing partnership of the two may continue in other projects. +++ SF magazine Weird Tales has been completely taken over by Wildside Press.
J. K. Rowling having found her notebook (she had lost it in her Edinburgh home) has started writing the seventh and probably final Harry Potter book. She has already completed a non-Potter book that has yet to be published but probably will be under a pseudonym.
Robert Sawyer has announced that he now has a blog on-line at www.sfwriter.com/blog.htm. He also reminds us that he now edits books for Canada's Red Deer Press called Robert J. Sawyer Books and the fifth book is now out.
Matt Smith takes over from Alan Barnes as editor of the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine. The Megazine if you did not know it, is just about Britain's only high-street commercial SF comic whose readership does not just consist of juves. Yes, many of the stories are from the 2000AD stable including, of course, the Judge Dredd universe, but there are others too. Many of the strips are of good quality. The Megazine's downsides were in recent years largely restricted to some ill-informed articles on SF TV and film of yester-year (some with unnecessary colourful language) that frustratingly alternate with rather excellent and informative articles on the same. We will soon see if Matt Smith is up to sorting matters out. Meanwhile his first editorial said that he would for the time being keep things largely as they are (this was soon to change - see addendum link at the end of this piece). The job is a difficult one, as he has to balance editorial interests with commercial ones and the owners' wishes. The owners are the computer games company Rebellion whose own lead staff appear to be 2000AD fans (i.e. good eggs) but who do not appear, or have a desire, to be well connected with the UK SF community. (For example, where were they at last year's UK Worldcon?) This means The Megazine's profile is not what it should be, and as far as little old Concatenation's small part of UK fandom is concerned, we get our 2000AD news by a variety if circuitous routes if at all... Still, best of luck to the new boy as well as to the old in whatever beckons next. +++ Cut price for the Megazine - see afore link
Arkady (deceased) and Boris Strugatski were awarded the title of 'European Grandmaster' at this year's Eurocon in Kiev. Better known in their homeland Russia, SF cognoscenti in the west have welcomed the few translations made of the Strugatskis' work (and they were guests at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK, where much fun was had prising their KGB minders away). Among their best known books (in the west) are The Tale of Troika (1962) and Roadside Picnic (1972) which was adapted (with major changes) into the film Stalker (1979): the book though remains one of the best alien 'encounter' stories in the genre. +++ Harry Harrison was also awarded the title 'European Grandmaster' at the same time.
Vernor Vinge has had an essay published in Nature (v440, p411) on the future of computing -- see the piece in the science & SF section below. His essay is appropriate given that in addition to being an emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University, his latest novel, Rainbow's End (from TOR in the US) contemplates a possible internet of the year 2025.
Kurt Vonnegut has been in the UK promoting his autobiographical A Man Without A Country: A Memoir of Life in George Bush's America (from Bloomsbury). He has spent part of his Brit time skirting around whether or not he his an SF author though said he was influenced by SF writers H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Bernard Shaw (not Bob) - Yes, Kurt reminds us that some of Shaw's work was science fantasy. Kurt himself considers that he is more of a 'war writer'. The SF in his work he, in no small part, attributes to his education as a chemist (though at Cornell U. he worked as much on the college newspaper). The 1972 film of his book, Slaughterhouse 5, came out on DVD just before Christmas. Interestingly his UK promotion included an appearance on BBC Radio 4's 'Front Row' arts programme that dominates the early evening schedule and whose lead presenter is (ahem) somewhat SF genre antagonistic. (Allegedly the presenter tried to be away on holiday when the Lord of the Rings films came out so as not to have to review them...) Kurt survived but then he is a literary writer and does not pen that nasty SF stuff... Perish the thought. Anyway, it was good to see and hear the man in the Britain. Quotes from his Radio 4 interview include: on fossil fuel, "we are in a state of denial" about running out; on religion, it is "the asprin of poor people" and "I wouldn't wish eternal bliss on my worst enemy." With regard to this last, Kurt is President of the American Humanist Association, a post he took over from the late Isaac Asimov; not that Isaac ever wrote SF... +++ Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan is re-released in the August as part of Gollancz 10 greatest SF novels of all time.
Liz Williams fell from a horse and has a fractured rib. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Diana Wynne Jones will receive an honorary D.Litt. from Bristol University this summer. The news comes on top of the film (based on her story), Howl's Moving Castle, being nominated for a Best Animation Oscar and the film now being out on DVD. Our congratulations.
For SF author websites click SF author links.
The 2006 Eurocon was held in Kiev (Ukraine's capital) over Easter weekend. Further to advance details previously given in our autumnal SF news, some 500 attended together with many others who went to the parallel-run International Book Fayre. 22 European countries were represented plus the USA and Israel. Other than the Ukrainian locals, the next largest nationality represented was Russia. A small but reasonable number came from Western and Central Europe including the UK, Germany and Hungary. Somewhere in the mix were half a dozen Concatenation team and/or past Concat contributors. In addition to the stalls of the exhibition that seemed reasonably busy throughout, there were about four parallel programme streams loosely scheduled. Nearly all the items were in Ukrainian or Russian but if there was not dual English translation up front, there was one-to-one translation provided by a team of 40 translators (language students getting in effect free tuition and work practice). So nobody had language problems, which potentially could have been doubly difficult for western Europeans as the Ukrainian written form uses the Cyrillic alphabet. (Very well done committee and students.) Harry Harrison proved a very popular Guest of Honour but consequently had to spend a bit of time away from the convention participating in several media interviews and programmes. The event was largely very successful despite the committee having problems with some sponsorship falling through. (It would have been better for them had their nation's general elections been held after the event not before -- something that could affect the Russian Eurocon in 2008.) The downsides were very few. The convention largely dissipated in the evenings and the thin programme booklet did not reveal how/where average Ukrainian fans socialised and so this somewhat limited grassroot east-west fan interaction. However there was a local restaurant guide posted on the internet in advance and local author Sergey Slyusarenko opened his flat for a couple of room (or should it be apartment?) parties that were attended by a number of western fans. The Hotel Sport where a number of the westerners together with some Russians stayed, saw a few room parties including a Hungarian and Russian (the latter living up to its nation's fan reputation). In addition to the media there was also political interest with two Ministers no less making short welcoming speeches at the opening ceremony. All told the Kiev Eurocon therefore had a bigger impact beyond the event in the Ukraine than the Glasgow Eurocon cum Worldcon did in the UK: which itself says something (and not to Glasgow's detriment). To round it off, the event just preceded the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy and so the committee arranged (through a fair bit of bureaucracy) for a coach to take over a score of fans into the Chernobyl zone. All in all the Ukrainian Eurocon organisers can sit back in the knowledge that their country's first Eurocon was, from a western perspective, successful. +++ There will be a more substantial convention review in the Autumn with our September upload. Meanwhile you can see some pictures from:-
o Roberto Quaglia - of the convention and Kiev
o Ellen Datlow - both a series run and grouped into Eurocon, Kiev and Chernobyl
o The Infinite Matrix - the April 2006 editorial on the Chernobyl visit.
The 2006 Eurocon Awards went to:-
- Best Author: H. L. Oldie (Ukraine)
- Best Translator: Asta Morkuniene aka Anita Kapociute (Lithuania)
- Best Promoter: Vladimir Borisov (Russia)
- Best Magazine: Mir Fantastiki [Fantastic World] (Russia)
- Best Publisher: Hekate (Latvia)
- Best Artist: Robert Odegnal (Hungary)
- Best Author of Performance: Alexei Fedorchenko (Russia), for The First on the Moon (see also the item on its UK premiere)
- Best Fanzine: Shaltay-Boltay [Humpty Dumpty] (Russia)
- Sergey Slyusarenko (Ukraine)
- Camilla Wandahl (Denmark)
- Angelina Ilieva aka Johan Vladimir (Bulgaria)
- Marian Coman (Romania)
- Jana Juzlova (Czech Republic)
- Yulia Galanina (Russia)
- Tamas Szalai-Koscis (Hungary)
- Dmitri Gradinar (Moldova)
- Dusan Fabian (Slovakia)
Honorary Awards: European Grand Master:
- Harry Harrison (Ireland)
- Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (Russia)
The 2007 Eurocon will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Guests include author Anne McCaffrey and space artist David Hardy. See our SF conventions list for details and a link to their website.
The 2008 Eurocon will be held in Moscow, Russia. Russia won the bid for 2008 at the Kiev Eurocon European SF Society business meeting following competition from the Czech Republic and especially Hungary. The Czech bid got only nominal support possibly because the presentation was so media SF dominated with barely a mention of SF's literary dimension. The Hungarians gave a solid presentation and so it ended up being a tight race with Russia. The ESFS delegate ballot came to a draw and so a ballot of all those attending the meeting came into play. Given that this year's ESFS meeting was in the Ukraine, there was a good Russian contingent present and of course Ukrainians also speak Russian (in addition to their own language) not to mention there is a certain affiliation. So Russia won this second, open, ballot with great ease. The Hungarians accepted the result with good grace. The event will probably be held in March 2008 so as to capitalise on pre-general election sponsorship. The registration cost for Moscow will be high but will include meals and perhaps accommodation. Details to follow.
Italy, Hungary and Spain all put down markers for future Eurocons. This is the second time that the Italians have put down a future marker (they signalled this last year in Glasgow) but their lack of presence to date means that when they want to firm up the bid they will need to do some stiff campaigning. The Hungarians' own national convention (like next year's Danish convention) regularly sees guests from other European countries and so it will be comparatively easy for them to turn their natcon into a Eurocon. Meanwhile, Spanish fandom has seen a bit of a comeback in recent years though last year's Spanish natcon was, according to reports, a bit of a flop. Concatenation was told that this was due to the committee being over-stretched and not asking for help available elsewhere in Spanish fandom. However the Spanish have enough active fans, they think, to put on a Eurocon. What's more there is talk of the Eurocon being run jointly with Portuguese conrunners. If so, it potentially could be a fascinating convention and, depending on where exactly held, might be the most western-sited Eurocon (just as this year's was the most eastern) to date. In short the future of Eurocons looks bright.
The 2006 Worldcon, L.A.Con IV, has released its Progress Report 4. This penultimate PR is a large one at 44 pages and contains all the key information in the run-up to this year's Worldcon other than things like arrival details/maps etc., which will no doubt appear in PR5 in July just before the convention (23rd - 27th August). All solid stuff, PR4 features:-
- an appreciation of their Artist Guest of Honour, James Gurney;
- details of the forthcoming ratification of the (perhaps slightly controversial) changes to the World SF Society constitution splitting the Hugo best editor into long and short forms for book publishers and magazine editors respectively (see last autumn's science fiction news;
- details of a novel idea of taster membership for three hours plus programme schedule for just US$20 (£12) so as to encourage first timers;
- adverts for the bids to hold the Worldcon in 2008 (the voting for which will take place at this year's convention) for our more European take on these all US bids see our autumn'sWorldcon news;
- The 2008 Worldcon location ballot see the below Site ballot note;
- an impressive list of programme participants (which includes a sprinkling of scientists and the committee have a couple of people dedicated to brining science to the programme);
- A Hugo voting ballot form (which must be sent in by 31st July) see the below Hugo nominations.
- Child care and children's entertainment details;
- Adverts for the 2009 Worldcon see our previous news Worldcon 2009 news.
As of Easter the 2006 L.A. Worldcon had 3,681 members and so it is more than likely that the total membership will top 5,000. As of Easter registrants came from: USA 3,180; Canada 192; U.K. 74; Japan 41; Australasia 39; and the Netherlands 9, with smaller numbers from 18 other countries.
The 2006 Hugo nominations have been announced by the Worldcon, L.A.Con IV. The nominations in the principal categories (each having over 350 nominating) are:-
- Learning the World by Ken MacLeod (the afore link is for details of the UK paperback now out)
- A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (UK paperback now out)
- Old Man's War by John Scalzi
- Accelerando by Charles Stross (the afore link is for details of the UK paperback now out)
- Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Best Dramatic Presentation -- Long Form
- Batman Begins
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
For details of nominations for all the Hugo Award categories see www.laconiv.org/2006/hugos/nominees.htm. Not too surprisingly, the special category of 'Best Interactive Video Game' (decided on by this year's Worldcon Committee) was dropped due to lack of interest.
Comment on the principal category Hugo nominations.
With regards to 'Best Novel', our previous Spring Science Fiction News featured an analysis of the best SF novels of 2005. These included -- hence we rated as top reads of the year -- Spin and Learning the World (the core team's views of the latter slightly diverged from our reviewer - see the afore link). Our book news compilers did rate A Feast for Crows but as a work of fantasy we did not include it in last time's list of best SF novels of 2005. (Conversely the Hugo Award for SF achievement does allow fantasy nominations.) However if you do like fantasy the UK paperback is out over the summer. John Scalzi's Old Man's War has not to our knowledge yet (Spring 2006) been published in the British Isles, nor do we have information links with Tor in the US (largely because we have enough difficulty keeping track of things this side of the Atlantic and because professional Locus does things so much better than volunteer us, not to mention they're Stateside). Charles Stross' Accelerando we missed out on as Orbit apparently seems not to have sent us anything (and we unashamedly focus our paltry efforts on the mailbag). However our reviewer did like Stross' Singularity Sky.
With regards to 'Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form', back in the Spring we gave our choice of the best SF films of 2005 we did recommend Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. We did not list either the Narnia or Harry Potter films as these are not SF but these are not surprising Hugo nominations (which as said allow fantasy works) and all the Long Form Hugo nominations made our 2005/6 genre film top ten for the year to Easter (based on UK weekly box office takings). However a number of us are surprised that we did not pick up on Serenity... Well, we do these things over a drink or two. And we also missed out spotting the Saturn Award winning film Batman Begins (though Graham and Jonathan tried watching it over Christmas but their DVD died halfway through.) King Kong we had listed but it was not nominated. Whether this was because it came out so close to the year's end affected matters we cannot say. We did express reservations over The Fantastic Four and War of the Worlds so no surprises in those not making the Hugo shortlist. The failure of The Descent to make the Hugo's we strongly suspect is due to Hugo film nominators largely having a Hollywood focus (smaller independents naturally, especially outside of N. America tend to accrue less of a profile).
Dr Who has been nominated three times for the 'Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form Hugo! -- Before leaving the (above) topic of Hugo nominations, below last time's choice of top films (so scroll down once your hit the afore link) we did make a single prediction specifically for the 'Best Dramatic Presentation -- Short Form' Hugo in citing the new Dr Who TV series. Well, as it transpires three Dr Who episodes have made the seven-item Hugo shortlist, namely: 'Dalek', 'Father's Day' and the two-part single adventure comprising of 'The Empty Child' and 'The Doctor Dances'. Now, normally the short-list consists of just five nominations, so that there are seven would at first suggest that three Dr Who nominations could have been counted as one but because the Award is for a specific episode, and to allow for a spread of other short-form nominations to make the final running, it appears the shortlist was extended to seven. However, at the time of posting this news page, the www.laconiv.org/2006/hugos/nominees.htm web page says that 'there are seven nominees due to a tie for fifth place'. Which is a little strange because in the 'Best Professional Artist' category there is apparently a similar set of circumstances but only six nominations presented! Leaving this little mystery aside, the World SF Constitution is clear that episodes and not series are what should be voted for and so this year those supporting Dr Who may be in a bit of a quandary in that circumstances might conspire to split the Dr Who vote between the three nominated episodes so causing Dr Who to lose out. The alternate view would be that Who fans have a three out of seven chance as opposed to a one in five weighting. Much will depend on the voting system this year's Worldcon chooses. (In recent years a preference ranking system (known in Worldcon circles as the Australian system) has been used as opposed to any other system such as first-past-the-post.) Fortunately for this year's Worldcon team if there is some debate then it will be less than that which would have taken place if some analogous circumstance arose with the 'Best Novel' category as 430 votes were cast for that as opposed to 261 for Dramatic Presentation Short Form. Also, who cares? (Pun not intended.) Given that members so far registered to attend this year's L.A. Worldcon and those that had attended last year's Glasgow Worldcon who could have made nominations then the number submitting nominations had the potential to reach around 6,000 - 7,000. This is over 10 times that which did. That the largest Hugo category only attracted 430 to nominate is a little worrying. Yet this is true to form and, if matters continue true to form then, more will exercise their right to vote on these nominations in the final ballot. The results will be announced at the Worldcon at the end of the summer and we will report them in our next season's science fiction news page, which is due out around then.
Other Hugo Short-form news. Interestingly the three Dr Who episodes are not only up against two 'professional offerings -- an episode of Battlestar Galactica and Jack-Jack Attack -- but also a fan play Lucas Back in Anger performed at last year's (Glasgow) Worldcon, and also up against last year's Hugo Awards Ceremony continuity bits. On one level this could be considered as the SF community engaging in a bit of navel gazing: after all a fan play and an awards ceremony are hardly SF works of such achievement that they've caused ripples worldwide. On another, signals are being sent. It would be nice if some professional theatrical (or even a TV station) decided to put on the excellent Lucas Back in Anger, but do such folk take the Hugo that seriously? With regards to last year's Hugo ceremony continuity nomination, this is a clear signal to prospective Worldcon committees that they ensure that the Hugo Awards ceremony is properly organised with a dash of panache, fronted by good Master(s) of ceremonies who put a bit of thought into it, and finally keeping the ceremony to a reasonable time limit. (Most Worldcon committees, it has been said, don't properly plan and so their Hugo ceremonies drag on and on and on...) Given that a high proportion of those who nominate for the Hugo also attend the ceremony, future Worldcon Committees should take note, but do such folk take the Hugo that seriously? (This last was a wry comment reflecting that earlier, in case anyone takes this news page that seriously.)
NOTE - WERE YOU REGISTERED FOR LAST YEAR'S (2005) WORLDCON IN GLASGOW?: If so then you are entitled to influence matters this year's (2006) Worldcon. You may recall that there was no Worldcon venue vote in 2004 due to 2003 changes in the World SF Society constitution from three-year in advance bidding to two-year in advance. However all 2005 Worldcon Interaction members will be eligible to vote this year to choose the site for 2008 even if they are not going to next year's Worldcon in Los Angles (so if you went to Interaction keep your membership number safe). If in doubt check the Los Angles Worldcon website for news. See worldcon.org for the L.A. Con 2006 link. NOTE: If you do want to vote then you have to pay a voting fee, but you get this back if in future you register for the 2008 Worldcon (irrespective of whether you voted for the winner or not). If you want a quick summary of the bids then see our report in last season's news.
The 2003 (Torcon 3) Worldcon Committee have just reimbursed overseas programme participants. Some two and a half years after the Toronto (Canada) Worldcon, the organising committee have now reimbursed overseas programme participants' membership fee. (North American participants were reimbursed last year and this year's overseas participant reimbursement is particularly welcome as they had higher travel costs.) The delay is due to the Torcon 3 accounts apparently being in 'a bit of a mess'.
For links to Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.
For a list of 2006 national and major conventions, check out our convention diary for 2006.
FANDOM &: OTHER NEWS
Late news in of India's 7th National Science Fiction Conference. It was held at Centre for Information Science & Technology, University of Mysore, India, in December. Its three days saw some 200 participants attend a programme of 24 talks divided among thematic sessions covering: Health Science; Popular Science; Science Fiction; Fantasy; and Information Science & Technology and the release of the latest edition of the Indian Journal of Science Fiction Studies. One highlight was a video conferencing session with other SF luminaries on the subcontinent.
The 8th National Science Fiction Conference, is scheduled to be held at Aurangabad (between the cave temples of Ellora and Ajantha) in Maharashthra, India, during the second week of November 2006. Details from sciencefiction_India(at)yahoo.com
Dell magazines, including Analog and Asimov's can be bought electronically for nine months from the issue of the paper edition. Previously the electronic window was one month but sales were not enough even to pay for the electronic conversion. Unlike science journals (where most of the high impact ones have been electronic for a few years with no electronic purchase window) authors' commercial rights are affected. So the SF Writers of America's board has agreed that Dell can proceed to nine months but with the provision that the magazine's electronic rights are not exclusive after the first month (which means that the author is free to sell the stories electronically again).
Estronomicon is a new free monthly eZine. Issue #1 contains short fiction by Peter Crowther, Tony Richards and Sean Woodward, plus artwork by Frank Wu, David A. Hardy and Edward Miller. Also articles by Jane Frank and Sarah Crabtree, plus an interview with author/publisher Sean Wright. Issue #2 features stories by Dave Cook, Sean Wright, Marie O'Regan and Harald Heim, plus artwork from Roz Eve and Mark Allen. With further regular columns from Jane Frank and Sarah Crabtree, plus an interview with author Paul Kane. The cover artwork and production standards are high. It is available from www.screamingdreams.com/ezine.htm.
The Australian magazine Cosmos SF is placing its backlist fiction free on the internet. The move may well be a precursor to the magazine developing its distribution overseas. Past Cosmos SF authors include Haldeman and Stross (so it attracts good hard SF writers). Check out www.cosmosmagazine.com/sf.
European Reader is a new website for readers and writers in Europe and beyond. The new website includes news and reviews in English. The site's editor is Hungarian SF writer Ilona Hegedus who created another site, the EU Writers group, after searching for a community like that but not finding any. The aim of the European Reader website is to provide the readers with news about the European literary scene, not only in Europe, but also in the United States, in Britain and in other parts of the World, as the Internet and the increasing use of English as a world language, at last, makes this possible.
Why you should like and hate the film V For Vendettais revealed in an apparently (we are told) informative article, 'Who Was That Masked Man?' by Pádraig Ó Méalóid, in the April on-line edition of Emerald City. This issue also features an interesting piece on Judge Dredd, 'A History of Judgement', by Joe Gordon. +++ See also our news of Alan Moore.
The London SF Circle celebrated its 60th anniversary. As near as can be deduced, the March regular '1st-Thursday-of-the-month' meeting of the London SF Circle marked the 60th anniversary of when London fans first got together after WWII into a grouping that then became the London Circle. The meeting, at the current venue, The Melton Mowbray basement pub, High Holborn (near Chancery Lane) was also literally around the corner from the Circle's first regular venue. The London Circle's highly informal gatherings (of 100 or so fans and writers for an evening drink and chat) were of course immortalised in Arthur C. Clarke's collection of short stories Tales From the White Hart. True to the meetings' informality, the occasion was marked only by a short one-minute announcement lest drinking and chat be unduly interrupted. +++ And then April saw the 60th anniversary of the actual Circle's first meeting at 'The White Horse' (again cf. the Clarke collection.) Nothing marked the occasion other than it did not take place at The Melton Mowbray. There was as usual a sign outside the basement pub saying 'Private Function' but it was not for the London Circle but someone's work leaving do. There was nothing to signal what was happening (a note beneath the sign would have been helpful). However those who sought out the right member of staff found out that the Circle had decamped around the corner to The Printer's Devil and its slightly smaller upstairs bar.
The British Fantasy Society (UK) is to hold an open night Friday 1st September at the Devereux pub, Essex Street (off the Strand) in London from 6.30pm to closing time. (Nearest tube Temple - Circle/District lines.) These are largely informal gatherings of fans and half a dozen authors. A number of small press representatives and their publications are also usually evident. All welcome.
Television SF fans in/around London still meet most (but not all) 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month at the Horseshoe Inn (Melior St, 4 mins walk SE from London Bridge tube and rail station) from 18.30 to closing) under the banner of The League of the Non-Aligned (LOTNA). All welcome. Exceptions to the rule will include 21st October 2006 when the group will be away at Cult TV.
Possible collision alert: LOTNA and Plokta events have both been advertised for Saturday 27th May. The April edition of The Contact newsletter affirms the monthly 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month LOTNA meetings with a generic advert, but a flier circulated at the April London SF Circles also promotes a mini-convention for Saturday 27th May! The former LOTNA regular meeting is free while the latter costs £3 to attend. The venue, the Horseshoe Inn (Melior St near London Bridge rail/tube station) does not appear to be large enough to hold both events. Matters no doubt will be resolved but those expecting to attend one or other (or both) are advised to double check with the respective organisers.
The 2006 FFANZ (Fan Fund of Australia and New Zealand) winners were Barbara and Peter Clendon. They represented the New Zealand fan community at this year's Australian national convention, Conjure. The race is now on the other way with nominations now open for the 2007 FFANZ trip, for Conspiracy 2, the Natcon run over the New Zealand Queen's Birthday in June 2007. Details of the FFANZ can be found on sffanz.sf.org.nz.
Conflux 3 is not this year's Australian national convention but arguably it might as well be! We don't normally plug conventions other than Eurocons and Worldcons in this news col, but the advance publicity for Conflux 3 reveals it to be something else. Its guests alone are a formidable range: Ellen Datlow (International Editor Guest); Kate Forsyth (Australian Guest); Steve Jackson (Gaming Special Guest); Joan D. Vinge (author) and James Frenkel (Special Guest Editor (Tor US)); Sara Douglass (Special Guest); Jackie French (Invited Guest); Jason Paulos (Invited Comic Artist); Queenie Chan (Invited Manga Guest) and then there are the Exhibiting Guest Artists Nick Stathopoulos, Greg Bridges and Les Petersen. Notwithstanding this there will be an SF film festival in addition to over 100 other programme sessions over four days. Are the organizers mad? With so much choice this more like one of the larger Eurocons or a small Worldcon! To cap it all, with just a dash of overkill, there will be two Honoured Guests appearing via a telecommunications link: Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury... Conflux 3 is clearly a serious convention which will require serious preparation and training to attend. So, so as to limber up you can always attend the New Zealand national convention the previous week and get a head start with Joan Vinge, Steve Jackson and Jim Frenkel. This will enable you to concentrate on the others a few days later in Australia. See our convention diary for summary details and website link.
The Clarion South writers' workshop will be held over a 6-week period 8th January - 16th February 2007 at Griffith University in Brisbane. Lee Battersby, Simon Brown, Gardiner Dozois, Rob Hood, Kelly Link & Janeen Webb will be tutors. Details from www.clarionsouth.org.
The Dublin-based 'SciFiClub' has been renamed The Unlikely Society and moved. The new venue for all future meetings, at least for the time being, will be in the upstairs of the Westmoreland Inn on Westmoreland Street, just off O'Connell Bridge, Dublin city centre. The society will continue to meet on the first Tuesday of the month. Information about forthcoming meetings should be available on www.lostcarpark.com/sfclub.
The Belfast SF Society has also moved. After some 19 years they are going to the quieter Errigle Inn on Ormeau Road. Meetings are fortnightly on every other Thursday from 8.00 pm. +++ SF News from Ireland can be found on the Irish SF News website, see our SF links page.
The British SF Association's AGM is to be held Saturday 13th May 10.00- 17.00 at the Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square (near Russell Square tube). In between the accounts and officers' reports, authors Bruce Sterling, Stephen Baxter and Juliet McKenna will give talks. The meeting is free.
Romance and 'sci fi' fandom is blossoming due to Trek Passions a fairly new website that has recently seen a bit of media coverage. Trek Passions told Concat that they were, "officially launched a little over a year ago as part of the Passions network of dating sites. The idea behind the development of our network was to create online dating sites that allow people to congregate with others who share their interests, or share some similarity mainly as a way to break the ice in the development of new friendships or even romance. (With over a hundred different sites in the network, we cover a broad range of interests and/or similarities)." The site appears less commercial than most dating sites and seems to be doing well.
The US SF bookshop 'Dangerous Visions' asked fans to choose a new shop name. Apparently Harlan Ellison made the request of this 25 year old enterprise through his lawyers. (For more see the March Ansible.) It seems that there are good legal reasons for Ellison to 'be seen' to defend his rights even though there may well be a case for the bookshop and internet site to argue for prior (to registration) use. It may well be now that Ellison can be seen to have done this that an arrangement can be made with the bookdealers to continue freely to use the name.
Leroy Kettle, the Brit SF and fanzine (True Rat circa 1970s) fan, who in real life is a senior policy adviser on Disability Rights at the Department for Work and Pensions, received an OBE in the New Year's Honours List.
Fans and the press speak out against choice of new James Bond. Pierce Brosnan has been one of the most popular Bonds since Connery but Barbara Broccoli's decision not to give Bronsan another outing (he was willing) and to give the role to one Daniel Craig has caused an uproar with the press publishing negative public reaction surveys and now a fan campaign. There is a call for cinema-goers to boycott the forthcoming Bond film Casino Royal (though of course David Niven remains the ideal Bond for that particular film). For details of the press and fan hub-bub see www.craignotbond.com. +++ Bond producers strike back by granting Britain's high-circulating 'popular' paper The Sun (9.3.06 p32-33) exclusive access to the Bond set with a front page teaser headlined 'Relax, girls, he's a real Bond after all'. The Bond team also released stills and some film rushes to the rest of the media. The film is due out in November.
SF once more becomes a specialist subject in BBC's Mastermind. Further to SF author Iain Banks New Year outing on the BBC show the new series saw episodes with genre-related specialist subjects. One episode's specialist subjects included Anne McCaffrey's 'Pern' novels and also the Blackadder series. Maths teacher Katie Holman led the first round answering questions on the dragon riders with 14 points, and so was ahead of Nick Duffy on Blackadder with 11 points. However by the end of the contest, following the general round, Nick won with 22 points with Katie coming a close third with 20 points. During the 'between round' chat, Katie said how Anne's writing focussed more on relationships than the hard science that dominates many male writers' SF stories. She also mentioned Anne's novella Hugo win Weyr Search.
Conclave, the British national convention (the UK Eastercon) was held in Glasgow over the Easter long-weekend. Some 700 registered in advance but there were around 200 walk-in registrations and day-registrations. Guestimates, given at the May London SF Circle meeting, put the warm body count at any one time at around 850. A programme high was a welcome return after a long absence to an innovative film and media stream that focussed on rarely seen and often commercially unobtainable (in the UK) material. Much credit here goes to Mark Slater. Individual programme highs included the science panel on RFD chips that are geographically trackable. The spoof play Captain Tartan (on the Anderson Captain Scarlet TV show), directed by David Wake, also went down well. The convention was a success and this started, even before the convention actually began, with a meeting in the Ingram Bar of 100 or so the night before of the Glasgow Kilgore Trout group with a few authors, including Charles Stross, present. The high numbers attending are reasonably typical for a UK Eastercon following a UK Worldcon, but this year's attendance has been the highest since the 1993 Eastercon cum Eurocon in Jersey that saw over 1,000. Old-time fans will, of course, remember that Eastercons of the late 1980s all had attendances over 1,000 save for (again as is typical) the Eastercon preceding the Worldcon (1987). UK Eastercon numbers sharply fell away after 1990 following the twin Eastercon/Elydore split of film and media fans. Could Conclave have signalled a return to the UK Eastercon being the annual gathering of British SF fans?
Space has run out on the Doc Weir Award for good UK Eastercon folk. In fact there was no room for the 2005 winner's name (Dave Lally). The base on which winners' names are engraved clearly needs extending and a new box made so that the larger-based award will fit. This should have been done for last year's 2005 UK Eastercon... This year's winner, announced at Easter, was Steve Lawson. Reportedly the committee have got around the problem by sticking new name plates on the box.
Into TV related Sci-Fi memorabilia? Our other Tony is parting with a substantial chunk of his collection amassed over many years. Check out uk.geocities.com/captaincardigans. Probably only practical if you are London or home-county based (Tony goes to LOTNA), but if a serious collector and further a field you could arrange to do an international money transfer and add on the cost of shipping. (Concat team members are generally trustworthy types.)
FILM, GRAPHIC NOVEL + TV NEWS
The 5th Sci-Fi London, the British Isles SF film week, was another success. Held April 26th - 30th, it featured around a score of films, a pub quiz, short film competition and the Douglas Adams Memorial Debate. With regards to this last, this year's debate looked at technology that could shape our future and would it or we do the shaping? Slated for the discussion were Michael Hanlon ('science' editor of the Daily Mail who, nonetheless, did write the rather good The Science of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy) and Sandy Starr (film reviewer for that well known cinematic publication The Sun). Ken Macleod provided the science fictional perspective. One of the fest's attractions, other than it covers the full range of SF and fantasy and not just 'sci-fi', is that you get to see a number of UK premieres if not World ones. Of note this year's included: First on the Moon (sometimes translated as First Men on the Moon) a Russian offering that uses a fictional Russian space programme, but based on the real one, as an allegory for the contradictions of Stalinist Russia -- the film has also won a Eurocon award; Project two about a researcher into immortality repeatedly killing and resurrecting a willing volunteer; and the Austrian film Aiona, where in a post-holocaust future some believe that the female android Aiona is destined send back into the past a message to warn of the coming nuclear armageddon. She goes on a journey to find the 'Oracle' that will enable her to reach back in time. Sci-Fi-London, while not the only British SF film festival, now has a standard and longevity that probably makes it the most significant SF film event in the country. Roll on next year. A must for BritCit fantastic film fans.
The Rocky Horror Show marked its 33 years (1/3 century) anniversary back where it all began at London's Royal Court Upstairs, for a 'one-night stand' (well it would be wouldn't it). It also happened to be the theatre's 50th anniversary and the whole thing was staged for the benefit of Amnesty International; again appropriately as a number of the activities in the musical are punishable by death in several countries Amnesty monitors. Consequently front row tickets were £350 (US$600) for the good cause. There were six celebrity narrators for this Richard O'Brien's kinky SF classic. Anthony head played Frank N. Furter, Toyah Willcox played Magenta. The time warp continues.
The Hungarian SF short film, Doll Nr. 639, has won awards at two film festivals in Amsterdam (netherlands) and Nashville (US). Doll Nr. 639, directed by György András Dési and Gábor Móray, was awarded the Black Tulip prize for best short at the 22nd Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival (AFFF), held on 19th -26th April. Simultaneously it was also awarded the prize for best short film at the Nashville Film Festival. This is not the first time the short has received critical acclaim. The film was recently received the main prize at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films. +++ Hungarian Attila Szász has received the best director title for his short film Now You See Me, Now You Don't at the Newport Beach Film Festival in California, held on April 20-30. The festival, in its seventh year, boasted 350 films in competition, including nearly 200 shorts. The prize was the third awarded to "Now You See Me, Now You Don't": it received the best short award in Ojai, California, and the jury's special prize in Houston last year. The film will show next at a festival in Indianapolis, then in Winnipeg, Canada.
The new US SF Short Film Fest in February saw some 1,400 attend. As reported before they ran a short film competition. Stephen O'Regan (Ireland) won with They're Made Out of meat based on the Terry Bison short story. Second and Third places went to Red Planet Blues and Microgravity respectively, and the latter also picked up The Douglas Trumbull Award for Best Special Effects. (Details of the 2007 competition are on www.withoutabox.org but though the deadline may have passed by the time you read this you can get a head start on 2008 and the 2007 event seems a must for stateside fantastic film fans.)
AXN starts a 'sci-fi' channel in Central-Europe. The new channel will be available in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and other countries. They are planning to broadcast mainly TV series and cartoons. It is thought that many of the major cable operators will include the new AXN channel into their network.
The new Night Stalker has been axed. Further to last time's news, barely had the show begun. Only six episodes had been aired when ABC cancelled the series. It was given a prime slot but only delivered an average audience of 5.2 million viewers. It had to compete with other major and established shows such as CSI on CBS, one of the other big North American channels: CSI draws an average of 28 million viewers each week. Nine episodes of Night Stalker were filmed. Another reason being cited by fans for the series' failure is that it deviated considerable from the original's Kolchak (McGavin) lone-journalist formulae to one akin to Mulder and Scully (believer and sceptic) partnership, but then this updated version has its creative team X-Files connections.
The Wee Free Men film, based on the Terry Pratchett book, is to be directed by Sam (Spiderman III) Raimi.
Hogwatch by Terry Pratchett is to be adapted for TV. Sky One is producing the £6m, two-part, four hour film which will star David Jason. It will be screened this Christmas.
Masters of Science Fiction is to be a new US television series of stories by big name authors. ABC is behind the move and it is hoped that the first will be screened in 2006/7.  : +++ Harry Harrison is one of the authors selling rights to the series. In Harry's case it is his short story 'A Criminal Act'.
No more TV Firefly says creator Joss Whedon but there could well be another Serenity film following good DVD sales and a not too bad box office. +++ And of course Serenity has been nominated for a Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form.
Futurama is to return as four feature-length straight-to-DVD films. The first will come out in 2007.
Fox has renewed The Simpsons for two more seasons. We are therefore now assured of new episodes at least through to 2008.
Project 880 is to be James (Aliens and Terminator) Cameron's next film. The plot is secret but the current wild rumour (for what it is worth) is that it is about people being able to download into robotic avatars (shades of Brin's Kil'n People) and is an SF love story. Less secret is that Cameron hopes to be able to shoot this in a high-definition 3-D format; an aspiration that depends on at least 1,000 theatres having new digital projection. Shooting is scheduled for 2007. +++ This means that Battle Angel, which was said to have been his next film, will come out later.
The Stargate 10th season will see the show's 200th episode. The season is said to include an important landmark for the series... Also Claudia (Farscape) Black becomes a regular cast member.
BBC's comedy Hyperdrive has been renewed for a 2nd series The series has done surprisingly well, though has not gone down as well as, say, Red Dwarf or Hitch-hikers with SF fans as it is the juxtaposition of standard work conflict with the high tech space setting that gets the laughs while SF tropes are largely simply background scenery.
Battlestar Galactica's 3rd series sees Lucy (Xena) Lawless return. She reprises her D'Anna Biers role in a 10-episode arc. Third season shooting began after Easter in Vancouver. The series will be screened from October.
The Silver Surfer is rumoured to make an appearance in the Fantastic Four 2 (or Fantastic 42 as Hitchhiker fans have it). The rumour was reported in Variety and the script is only now being finalised and treated as confidential. The film is currently scheduled for a July 2007 release.
Prince Caspian will be the follow-up film to the box office successful The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Production will start in 2007.
Henson announces Dark Crystal (1982) film follow-up. Genndy Tartakosky will direct Power of the Dark Crystal which will be set hundreds of years after the first movie with the sun dying. Can the crystal help? (No surprises here.)
Jurassic Park IV is once more rumoured to be made... Yes, yes. We reported this back in 2002 for a proposed 2004 release and how wrong we were! So don't hold your breath this time, it's still development hell, but the word has it that producer Frank Marshall says that the script's in the bag and that filming will start next year for a 2008 release. The lead character is thought to be a young member of the John (Richard Attenborourgh) Hammond family, Lexie.
The 32nd Annual Saturn Awards were presented 2nd May in Universal City, California. The Academy was founded in 1972 to honour and recognise genre filmmaking. The Saturn Awards recognise the most popular and successful film releases of the year. The principal winners were:-
- Best Science Fiction Film: Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
- Best Fantasy Film: Batman Begins
- Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film: Sin City
- Best Network Television Series: Lost
- Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series: Battlestar Galactica
For the full categories visit www.saturnawards.org. +++ See also Saturn Awards for computer games.
Of genre interest, this year's (Orange sponsored) British Academy Film and Television and the Arts Award wins (the BAFTAs) included: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (Most Outstanding British Film); Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (Production Design); and King Kong (Achievement in Special Visual Effects). While the fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe won the award for 'Make Up & Hair'. No doubt Aslan was pleased.
SF and fantasy/horror films have the most continuity blunders according to the Movie Mistakes website. The worst (or best) with most mistakes is Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in which Darth's frail blackened hand is replaced by that of a young stunt double and the migration about his face of Anakin's scar, not to mention the survival of his eyebrows despite his face being seriously burnt.
1. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (142 errors)
2. War of the Worlds (2005) (110 errors)
3. Constantine (66 errors)
4. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (65 errors)
5. King Kong (2005) (41 errors)
6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (40 errors)
7. The Crow: Wicked Prayers (38 errors)
8. The Amityille Horror (35 errors)
9. Miss Congeniality 2 (27 errors)
10. Mr & Mrs Smith (24 errors)
The Russian vampire movie trilogy Night Watch [Nochnoy dozor] is to be completed and have a higher profile in the West. Director Timur Bekmambetov said that the third film may well be shot in the US. This follows Night Watch (2004) being nominated an Oscar for foreign language film. Night Watch was released in the US in February. Day Watch was made back-to-back and is also complete. If Night Watch's US release is successful then the 2nd will be released and US filming of the final instalment virtually assured. Night Watch is based on the best-selling Russian SF novels of Sergei Lukyanenko and involves shape-shifters, vampires and psychics with members of each party belonging to good or evil who have to decide on humanity's fate. The author is much loved in the former Sov Block and all the East Megs, and apparently the first film (or perhaps just excerpts?) has gone down well on the internet. +++ First Night Watch film DVD now out in the west.
The Walt Disney Co is buying long-time partner Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for US$7.4 billion. Steve Jobs, Pixar Chief Executive, will be on the Disney board and will also become Disney's largest shareholder. Pixar was behind last year's The Incredibles that won the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form). If nothing else this puts both Pixar and Disney on a firm footing which Pixar will probably welcome considering recent concerns as to how it presented its profitability. +++ See also Roving Mars below.
Virgin is teaming up with Gotham Entertainment in India to bring comics and TV together. A proportion of their output will be games related.
Dr Who's K9 is to get his own series. 26 episodes of K-9 Adventures for children will feature the new version of K9 and feature both live action and computer animation. The Jetix Europe channel will produce the show, presumably in association with the BBC. Transmission is expected next year.
Finally, more Dr Who news. Dr Who's US debut ratings on SciFi are now out. It drew in 1.58 million with a further .78 million for the repeat later in the evening. What's more viewing figures nudged even further upwards for subsequent episodes. Though not as good as Stargate: Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica that occupied the same time slots, SciFi probably paid less to screen Dr Who.
A film well worth going to see at your nearest IMAX. Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon -- IMAX 3D (U). A Concat site visitor and separately a report to one of the Concat team both say that this film is a fantastic experience. Well we've passed you on the news...
If you are into collecting TV 'sci fi' memorabilia, then check out elsewhere this page.
For a reminder of the top films in 2005/6 and earlier years then check out our top Science Fiction Films annual chart. This page has just been updated and is based on the weekly UK box office ratings over the past year up to Easter.
The other sub-sections within the above SF News above to which you can jump are: SF Book Trade News; R.I.P.; 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, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games| Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
The Mammoth Book of Extreme SF, (ed) Mike Ashley, Robinson, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 1-845-29307-X. 25 stories from the cutting edge of out-and-out SF. Ashley is a fine commissioning editor. Though we've not seen this yet we will be keeping an eye out for it.
The Thousandfold Thought by Scott R. Baker, Orbit, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-841-49411-9. No advance publicity details came our way.
Resplendent by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, hrdbk / trdpbk, £18.99 / £12.99. ISBNs 0-575-07895-2 / 0-575-07896-0. This puts us in our place in the space time continuum and so is central to one of the themes Baxter frequently returns to. A must for his fans. See our reviews of: Coalescent, Origin, Moonseed, Space, Time, Titan, Traces, and Vacuum Diagrams
Quantico by Greg Bear, Harper Collins, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-12979-3. This is the paperback release of last year's hardback. Bear is well known as a hard SF writer but has written a horror and this is his toe in the water with a techno-thriller. See our review.
Titan by Ben Bova. Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-82397-6. This is the paperback release of the Spring hardback. A space habitat with thousands of inhabitants orbits Saturn. Controversially they send down an advanced unmanned probe to Titan; controversial because there is an argument for humans to stay away from Titan to keep it pristine. However the probe goes silent. And then back on the habitat small faults start occurring... See our review of Titan.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07909-6. Gully Foyle is the only survivor of a spaceship wreck. when another craft ignores his distress Gully decides that somehow, sometime he will have his revenge on that crew... One of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
Cities in Flight by James Blish, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07898-7. Amazing what you can do with just two inventions, say antigravity and longevity treatment. Build a galactic empire for example... This is one of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Simon & Schuster, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-416-91655-5. This is a 'young adult' book about time travel and 18th century highway robbery. The publishers have high hopes for this one backed up with some serious promotion.
Sunstorm by A. C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-057-50801-4. This is the paperback release of the recent hardback and the follow-up to Time's Eye of which Jonathan quite liked and Tony was perhaps a little more cautious.
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07681-X. As one of golden oldies, this is a welcome reprint of his 1977 novel which is timed to tie in with the (Keanu Reeves starring) film release. (Other Philip Dick reviews on this site include: Beyond Lies the Wub, Cantata-140, The Father-Thing, Mary and the Giant, Minority Report, Now Wait for Last Year, Second Variety, Solar Lottery, Three Early Novels, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, Valis and We Can Remember it for you Wholesale.)
Ubik by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07921-5. A man dies in an explosion at the hands of his business rivals, but at his funerals his employees are receiving odd messages from him. Meanwhile the very fabric of reality seems to be unravelling. One of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
Infoquake by David L. Edelman, Pyr, trd pbk, US$15. ISBN 1-59102-442-0. We don't normally cover US forthcoming releases but Pyr is a small new independent that seems to focus on quality fiction. So when they publish someone's first novel it's time to sit up and take note. This is one such occasion. Set in far future boardrooms its technological war fought with press releases, product demos and sales pitches. Meanwhile there is the threat of an infoquake, a burst of energy that could plummet the World into a new dark age. UK distribution from Lavis Marketing orders
End of the World Blues by Jon Courtney Grimwood, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £12.99 / £10.99. ISBNs 0-575-07616-7 / 0-575-07777-5. We expect good things of this when it comes out. Our Tony likes his Grimwood. See past reviews of: Effendi, Felaheen and Pashazade.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07908-8. The war against the aliens is fought light years away. For the troops this means that a tour of duty of a year, due to relativity, becomes decades and centuries. After a couple of tours all the troops relatives and friends have long since died back home. After a few more tours home itself changes and ceases to be home. Meanwhile the war goes on... One of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
The Road to Dune by Frank Herbert & Kevin Anderson, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-83746-2. This is the paperback of last year's trade paperback release. Check out Jonathan's Road to Dune review.
The Waking by T. M. Jenkins, Macmillan, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 1-405-08987-3. In the very near future a doctor is murdered and so his distraught wife freezes his body cryogenically. 60 years later he is revived and begins to investigate his murder.
Band of Gypsies by Gwyneth Jones, Orion, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07645-3. This is the paperback release of the hardback and part of the 'bold as love' sequence.
Rainbow Bridge by Gwyneth Jones, Orion, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07714-X. The conclusion to the 'bold as love' sequence.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07920-7. Charlie Gordon has an IQ of just 68 and the target of jokes from his fellow workers at the bakery the floor of which he sweeps. Then one day he is offered a revolutionary new treatment that could make him normal. He would be the first human trial and all looks promising as the treatment on the lab rat Algernon has gone so well. Charlie soon becomes a genius, but, there's always a 'but'... One of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. le Guin, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-5750790-3. Could you survive on a materially rich word but one where nobody actually owned anything...? This is one of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
Icarus by Roger Levy, Gollancz, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-575-07859-6. A deep space opera.
Mind's Eye by Paul McAuley, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-46158-4. The paperback of the hardback previously reviewed.
Learning the World by Ken MacLeod, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49344-9. An Earthship detects an alien, early industrial, civilization. Two viewpoints of the forthcoming encounter are told: the approaching ship's crew view and the aliens' (mainly through one of their astronomers). It parallels and compares the perceptions SF typically had of alien encounters a century ago (the invaders are coming) and now (an encounter with the unknown). Our Tony reviewed this and did not like it as much as he raves over MacLeod's other work (see The Cassini Division, Cosmonaut Keep, Dark Light, The Sky Road, The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal), others on the team have a more positive view. Suggest you check it out for yourself. STOP PRESS: This is one of the 2006 nominations for a Hugo Award 'Best Novel'.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07900-7. Truly a modern, SF (not fantasy) classic vampire story. One of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August. Check out the I Am Legendreview elsewhere on this site.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, Titan, pbk, £???. ISBN 1-845-76132-4. Treat this as advance notice for, though it is scheduled for the summer, word has it that it will be delayed. Indeed that the price has yet (at the time of posting) to be determined corroborates such a view. Nonetheless both Tony and Jonathan liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 respectively.
Gateway by Frederick Pohl, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07899-5. Gateway is an asteroid but inside it is discovered a network of tunnels excavated by long-gone aliens. The asteroid was a base used by the aliens to travel to other parts of the Galaxy in small craft. Many of these craft remain but their courses are pre-programmed in alien code on the alien equipment. To take a ride is to take a trip into the unknown and one's life thrown to chance. For those volunteering for the missions their can be great rewards and also death. This is a gripping tale and one of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
The Brightonomicon by Robert Rankin, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07773-5. Brilliantly eccentric, a humourous science-fantasy, this is the paperback release of the Spring's large format trade paperback and last year's hardback. Rankin is on form (again). See the review elsewhere on this site.
Paragaea by Chris Roberson, Pyr, hrdbk / trd pbk, US$25 / US$15. ISBNs 1-591-102440-4 / 1-591-02444-7. As you know we don't normally announce forthcoming US titles but Pyr is a small press only just a year old but its turned out a series of decidedly above-average fiction: for example both Jonathan and Tony liked Chris Roberson's Here, There & Everwhere. Besides which you can order Pyr through UK bookshops as they have a UK distribution from Lavis Marketing of Oxford. This time Roberson has provided a hard science-fantasy. Astronaut Leena Chirikov falls through a dimensional hole to a parallel Earth, one of three with humans. There she encounters a fantastical culture that transpires to be post-human related. Apparently it reads a bit like fantasy in parts but turns out to be hard SF. UK distribution from Lavis Marketing orders
Fifty Degree Below by Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Collins, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-14891-7. The paperback release of the 'follow-up' to Forty Signs of Rain.
Keeping it Real by Justina Robson, Gollancz, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07862-6. The first book in the Quantum Bomb sequence. Following the detonation of a quantum bomb in 2015, the universes dimensions live side by side so making life on Earth a tad difficult.(Tony enjoyed Robson's Mappa Mundi.)
The Last House in the Galaxy by Andy Seacombe, Tor, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49344-9. Another comedy tale from the limbo science-fantasy sequence.
The Book of Dave by Will Self, Viking, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-670-91443-6. Every now and then we at Concat like to point out one book that you may have missed, it not being on many bookshops SF / fantasy shelves. This new release is one such from the mundane shelves. Several centuries hence in a globally warmed future London, an ancient manuscript is found that was written by a London cabbie (taxi driver) in 2001. Though homophobic and misogynist, it is treated as a religious text... Wicked fun.
Olympos by Dan Simmons, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07882-0. This is the paperback release of last year's hardback that Tony loved Olympos.
Accelerando by Charles Stross, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49389-9. We've not had any news from Orbit but Jonathan enjoyed Stross' Singularity Sky. STOP PRESS: This is one of the 2006 nominations for a Hugo Award 'Best Novel'.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-507902-1. Winston Niles is turned into pure energy by an accident. He only materialises when intersecting the surface of a planet which means he only materialises on Earth every 59 days (assume some sort of frame dragging). However he also appears elsewhere in the solar system and encounters a ship from the stars. This is a wry, quirky comedy and one of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-575-07901-0. On a distant world the humans are ruled by Gods, but are the really Gods? Both serious and humorous, this is a classic and one of Gollancz's greatest SF novels of all-time re-releases in August.
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, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, pbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-0786-7. Abercrombie's debut novel and its about a torturer.
Broken, by Kelley Armstrong, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49342-2. Sixth in the supernatural series that began with Bitten. Her series 'Women of the Underworld' is going strong with the 10th having being sold by the author toBantam Spectra in the US.
A Shout for the Dead by James Barclay, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £18.99 / £10.99. ISBNs 0-575-07621-6 / 0-575-07622-4. The second in the Estorea series that sees the world having to deal with magic for the first time.
Emperor by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £17.99 / £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07432--9 / 0-575-07433-7. The start of a new alternate history series. A woman giving birth in ancient northern England, shouts out in Latin, a language she has never before spoken. One person understands what is being said, a prophecy of the death of the Emperor... This is bound to be very fine but we have to say from our science & SF perspective we like Baxter best when he is on hard SF.
Straken by Terry Brooks, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-743-48396-0. The paperback of the conclusion of the High Druid of Shannara trilogy.
Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49528-X. Another adventure for the modern wizard Harry Dresden.
Scar Night by Alan Campbell, Tor (UK), hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-405-09035-9. Book one of the Deepgate trilogy. This is an urban fantasy somewhat in the Gormenghast vein. There has been considerable interest in this title, and this Scottish-based author, outside the UK in Continental Europe and North America. Fans of more literary fantasy are advised to check this out.
Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn, Gollancz, tdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07800-6. The first in the Kingdom of the Serpent sequence.
The Hounds of Avalon by Mark Chadbourn, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07772-7. The third part of his dark age fantasy sequence.
The Well of Tears by Celia Dart-Thornton, Tor (UK), trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 1-405-04713-5. This is the second volume of the Crowthistle series that has done rather well Stateside. Apparently this comes with a CD.
Undead and Unreturnable by Mary Janice Davidson, Piaktus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-749-93645-6. The third in the gothic and chic-lit sexy series.
The Younger Gods by David & Leigh Eddings, Voyager, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-007-15767-3. This is the final volume in the dreamer sequence. The Eddings have a significant fantasy following. This should do well.
Crystal Gorge by David & Leigh Eddings, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-007-15766-5. The third in the 'elder Gods' sequence. The evil creature from the wastelands is on the way to controlling the world. It is also a time when the Younger Gods to take over the reins from their elders. The land of the short summers is where the majestic Crystal Gorge is located and is set to be the battleground for the forces that are gathering...
Into A Dark Realm by Raymond F. Feist, Harper Collins, hrdbk, £18.95. ISBN 0-007-13377-4. The second in the series that sees Pug continue his journey.
The Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewing, HarperCollins, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-11312-9. The final part of the Tamir trilogy of necromancy and bone-chilling magic.
The Chronicles of Xandim by Maggie Furey, Gollancz, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 0-575-07662-3.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Review, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-755-30509-4. When Fat Charlie's dad dies suddenly of a heart attack in mid-karaoke it is one of those tragic, but not unusual, happenings to be expected by mortals. A few years on and it turns out that Fat Charlie's dad was in fact the legendary, if lesser, African God Anansi (known for quick wit and story telling) and Fat Charlie has a brother. The Anansi boys have to face up to their birth heritage... This is the paperback of the hardback that has done well on both sides of the Atlantic: for example was number 1 on the New York bestseller fiction list. The trade word has it that it has also mainstream market appeal too. See our review of Gaiman's American Gods.
Phantom by Terry Goodkind, Voyager, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 0-007-14563-2. Part of the 'Sword of Truth' series.
Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol by Elizabeth Hand, Beccon Publications, hrdbk, £19.00. ISBN 1-870-8244-0. The first time this novella has been published as a stand-alone. Also illustrated with nine etchings.
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris, Orion, hrdbk, £9.99. ISBN 0575-07883-9. This is a supernatural crime thriller whose protagonist, Harper Connelly, finds the dead telepathically. Apparently her work is reasonably popular in the US.
[Various titles:] Dead Witch Walking, The Good, The Bad and The Undead, EveryWhich Way But Dead, and A Fist Full of Charms, by Kim Harrison, Harper Collins Fiction, pbk, £6.99 each. ISBNs not available at time of posting. We have not (at the time of this page's compilation) been sent the full pre-launch details, but what we have heard is intriguing. So we thought you'd want to know of this Rachael Morgan series of paperbacks that apparently have done quite well in North America. Aside from the author obviously being a Clint Eastwood fan, this series seems to be a rollicking run. When a bio-engineered virus wipes out half the human population, suddenly the small supernatural communities are exposed. It is up to the Inderland Security to track down those who use their abilities for crime. However one investigator, Rachel Morgan, wants to set up her own agency... The series has done well with Harper Collins Voyager in the US.
The Traitor's Sword by Amanda Hemingway, HarperCollins, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-007-715389-9. The paperback release of last year's hardback and second in the Sangreal trilogy.
Hawkes Harbour by S. G. Hinton, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-330-43760-7. This is Hinton's first adult book (he is an established children's author). Crossing paths with a monster enables a lost soul find redemption.
Forest Mage by Robin Hobb, Voyager, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-007-19615-6. Book two of the Soldier Son trilogy. Hobb has acquired a substantial following much to Voyager's delight.
Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 0-007-19614-8. This is the paperback release of last year's hardback and book one in the Soldier Son trilogy.
Black Dust & Other Tales of Interrupted Childhood by Graham Joyce, Beccon Publications & Westwood St. Thomas School, 62pp, pbk, £9.95. ISBN 1-870-82452-0. Stories by Graham Joyce are interleaved with pieces by Mark Chadbourn, Jeff VanderMeer & Jeffrey Ford, and the book has a cover by Tony Baker. The proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to establish a bursary for students at the Nqabakazulu School, near Durban in South Africa. All the contributors to this book, as well as the designer (Michael Marshall Smith), the project manager (Bob Wardzinski), the printer, and the publisher (Roger Robinson), did their work for free for the cause. Roger tells us that the 125 copies of the limited numbered hardcover edition has already sold out. E-mail - BlackDust[-at-]westwood-st-thomas.wilts.sch.uk.
Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-749-93613-4. A vampire romance in the Dark Hunter universe.
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, by Stephen King, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-340-83617-2. This is the paperback release of 'The Dark Tower' the 2004 saga. Clearly there was much to be made from delaying the UK paperback release for a year, such is King's popularity and, indeed, this saga's particular following. Check out Tony's review. See also Bag of Bones, Black House, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, , Dream Chaser, Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Song of Susannah, Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4 and Wolves of the Calla.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Gollancz, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-575-07802-2. This debut novel is apparently doing rather well! Our hero is not tall or good with a sword but is a mouthy but likable young rogue and a con artist. [Have we let you down? No we have a timely review. Click here: The Lies of Locke Lamora.] Scott Lynch's next book will apparently be Red Seas Under Red Skies.
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin, Voyager, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 0-007-24742-9. This is the paperback of the spring hardback release. After a 6-year wait for this book, there was a real buzz about this coming out that was only matched by genre interest. STOP PRESS: This is one of the 2006 nominations for a Hugo Award 'Best Novel'.
GRRM: A RRetrospective by George R. R. Martin, Gollancz, hrdbk, £20.00. ISBN 0-575-07905-3. This is a collection of some of the best fantasy from this highly acclaimed author. His fans simply will not want to miss this so no wonder Gollancz are releasing it as a little-pricey hardback first.
Sorcerer's Moon by Julian May, Harper Collins, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 0-007-12324-8. The conclusion to the Sorcerer's sequence. Mystical realms and power struggles could be resolved but at what price?.
Dragon's Fire by Anne & Todd McCaffrey, Bantam Press, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 0-593-05498-9. This is the latest Pern novel, a science-fantasy sequence that has a faithful following. When a firestone mine explodes, Cristov volunteers to take over the dangerous job of mining...
Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey, Corgi, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-552-15208-0. This is the paperback of Todd's first solo Pern novel without mum Anne.
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, Vintage, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 0-099-45837-5. A group of writers on retreat scare each other with stories....
The Toymenator by Robert Rankin, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £12.99 / £10.99. ISBNs 0-575-07101-2 / 0-575-07774-3. Somewhere over the rainbow and just off the Yellow Brick road is Toy City. But there have been outbreaks of spontaneous toy combustion. Something is up... No argument here, Rankin has a long track record of eccentric humour (and decidedly British in the vein of The Goons and Python). Check out our previous review of The Brightonomicon.
The Smile of the Ghost by Phil Rickman, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-32043815-8. Another mystery for the exorcist Merily Watkins to solve.
The Va Dinci Cod by A. R. R. R. R. Roberts, Gollancz, £5.99, pbk. ISBN 0-575-07771-9. The paperback of last year's hardback of the rather fun spoof of Dan Brown's best-selling hokum.
Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49466-6. It's a debut novel and a supernatural thriller.
Lessek's Key by Robert Scott & Jay Gordon, Gollancz, hrdbk / trd pbk, £18.99 / £10.99. ISBNs 0-575-07608-9 / 0-575-810-3. The second book in the Eldarn sequence. The powerful Laron spell table has lain dormant for a thousand twin moons but is useless without Lessek's key. Our hero races across America to retrive it...
The Ascendancy Veil by Chris Wooding, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-575-07769-7. The third in the Braided Path sequence.
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, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
Earth: A User's Guide by David Baker, Weidenfeld Illustrated, hrdbk, £20.00. ISBN 0-297-84351-6. How did the Earth begin and how will it end plus all the bits in between such as the frequencies of catastrophes. This comes out in October so we hope we will be able to have a more detailed review by then.
Earth: A New Perspective by Nicolas Cheetham, Quercus, hrdbk, £25. ISBN 1-905-520469-8. Around 150 visually stunning pictures of Earth categorised under the themes of earth, water, air and fire. A great coffee table book.
The Brewer's Cabinet of Curiosities by Ian Crofton, Weidenfeld, hrdbk, £10.00. ISBN 0-304-36801-6. This is a book of odds and ends drawn from the well of fable, quotations, news snippets, and tall tales. Find a bookshop, browse this and you could well end up buying it.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 0-199-29572-7. This marks the 30th anniversary of the first edition's publication. It is an eminently readable account of how evolution works and is the explanation for biodiversity as opposed to creationism. Dawkins has been to the public in promoting evolution from the 80s to date to what Prof R. J. (Sam) Berry was to (whole-organism) biology students in the 70s and 80s.
Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology by Daniel Dinello, University of Texas Press, hrdbk, £16.95 / US$24.99. ISBN 0-292-70986-2. Dinello warns that 21st technology is increasing uncontrollably due to technoprophets and god-like genetic engineers. And so the human age will come to an end as a post-human future beckons. Thank goodness then that we have SF to help us understand this... Technophobia is actually quite an enjoyable but very superficial skim of some SF rather than a well-researched speculative science book illuminated by the genre. (Had it been this last then the work would have had far greater value.) It's perspective is, true to its title, one more of the sort of SF that requires technology to enjoy: namely a film projector or a TV screen. SF in its (antiquated?) written form is not proportionally covered so you'll have to go elsewhere for that. Still, it's an interesting read even if the gaps are huge and the premise one-sided.
Brain Matters: Dispatches From Inside the Skull by Katrina Firlik, Weidenfeld, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-297-84807-0. A fascinating account of neuroscience and the brain that is easy to read.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, from Harper Press, hrdbk, £16.99. 0-007-18312-7. Why is it that happiness seems to elude most of us?
The Launch Vehicle Pocket Space Guide by Robert Goodwin, Apogee Books, pbk, £6.95. ISBN 1-894-95928-0. Handy-sized for when you are blatting around the solar system and bump into some old space junk. This is a useful guide to the 259 types of launch vehicle used to date.
Sci Fi Movies by John Grant, Facts, Figures and Fun, hrdbk, £5.99 (plus we think delivery) US $9.95 (plus we think delivery? - and so the bookshop price could be more). ISBN 1-904-33235-8. It has been over a decade since Brosnan's Primal Scream and so maybe about time for something like this? Facts, Figures and Fun is actually a new imprint from the artists and photographers association AAPPL. Check out http://aappl.com/ffnf.
The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution by John Gribbin, Penguin, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 0-141-01570-5. The 17th century's renaissance is reviewed in Gribbin is easy-to-read and scientifically robust style. Over the decades Gribbin has written numerous popular science articles and books but his strength (for us readers) is that he seems to have amassed a good library that is still growing; this his successive works appear to mine at ever greater effect. (The man has even appeared in Concatenation back when we were in print.)
China Syndrome: The True Story of the 21st Century's First great Epidemic by Karl Taro Greenfeld, Penguin, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 0-141-02753-3. A review of the 2003 SARS outbreak that the author (as with Concat's own New Year's prediction for the past few years) thinks this is but the first of other infectious novel disease outbreaks to come.
The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil, Duckworth / Viking, hrdbk, £14.99 / US$29.95. ISBN 0-670-03384-7. We should have listed this last time. Nearer in time (within three decades) computing will have increased so that computers design computers and take science forward without the need of human contribution and our current post-renaissance super-exponential growth in storing and processing data will have leapt to a new state. This point is the singularity (which has been popularised in SF among others by Vernor Vinge) and during which the rate of change is near infinite (cf. gravity and black holes). This is a hugely fun speculation if you do not mind taking the usual exponential assumptions on board (and can forgive a couple of errors in cosmology).
The Man Who Knew Too Much by David Leavitt, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 0-297-84655-8. The story of Alan Turing the decoder of Germany's WWII enigma and the designer of the first electronic computer.
Seen / Unseen by Martin Kemp, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £25. ISBN 0-199-29572-7. This is a science analysis of the visual and pictorial arts and how science and these arts inter-relate. Martin Kemp is an academic who specialises in history and art and science.
Beyond Armageddon by Walter M. Miller Jr., University of Nebraska Press, pbk, £10.95. ISBN 0-803-28315-6. What are the possibilities of a life after a nuclear war? NOTE: Now, the early advance publicity in the UK says that this is a work of 'non-fiction', however we suspect otherwise. Could this be a welcome 20 year-on reprint ofBeyond Armageddon: Survivors of the Megawar (1985) an anthology of SF short stories Miller edited with Harry Martin? (This is probable.) Walter Miller is of course well known for A Canticle for Liebowitz. Those into written SF should make a firm point of checking this out. The University of Nebraska Press should, in turn, check to see that their European trade publicity is being properly delivered. (Even if accurate, as said we think otherwise, UNP has a low-profile this side of the Pond but it produces some fine books.)
The Nature of Happiness by Desmond Morris, Little Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-904-43557-2. Desmond Morris is an anthropologist and a clear sober writer that knows how to make his subject colourful.
Seven Million Years by Douglas Palmer, Phoenix, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 0-753-82084-6. How we became human and how will science and technology change us in the future.
Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall, Penguin, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 0-141-01297-8. Some recent exotic physics theories are discussed.
Einstein in His Own Words by Anne Rooney, Wilfoulsham & Co, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 0-572-03224-2. Some of the great man's writings and interviews have been collected together.
When A Gene Makes You Smell Like a Fish by Lisa Seachirst Chiu, Oxford Univeristy Press, hrdbk, £15.99. ISBN 0-195-16994-8. Bizarre genes handed down by evolution can still manifest themselves in humans. For example, the werewolf gene and lack urine gene.
Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley - Creator of the Electronic Age by Joel Shurkin, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 1-403-98815-3. Shockley was one of those who effectively began silicon valley.
Bones, Rocks & Stars: The Science of Dating by Chris Turney, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 1-403-98599-5. From cutting trees in half and counting the rings to radioactive isotope analysis, this explains how to find out how old things are. (...and is not the sexual sort of dating).
MISS OUT ALERT AS THE REVIEWS CONTINUE -- Old and new review excerpts can be found on the following link, meanwhile the stock is steadily going down: Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, £8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. Also now available from Amazon. Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on. +++ Signed copies... Brian at Porcupine now has a score or so signed copies by the authors. E-mail Brian first to check availability. If these prove popular (news editor pauses due to fit of mirth (well, surely the unsigned copies are worth it alone without the lads' scribble)) then Brian will get more but this may take time as Porcupine and the two compilers live in different parts of the UK/Europe. (Something, the news editor is told, to do with avoiding a build-up of critical mass...)
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, DVD/Video Releases plus Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
FORTHCOMING TV & FILM BOOK TIE-INS
Legacy of the Force 1: Betrayal by Aaron Alstun, Century, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 1-844-13302-8. This is the first in a new Star Wars series of 10.
Star Trek Enterprise: The Last Full Measure by M. Martin & A. Mangles, Pocket Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-416-50358-7.
Dr Who: I am a Dalek by Gareth Roberts, BBC Books, pbk, £2.99. ISBN 0-563-48648-1. Note the price. This release is (was) part of the World Book Day initiative in May. The adventure features the Doctor and Rose.
Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss, Orbit, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 1-841-49524.
Star Wars: Dark Lord - The Rise of Darth Vader, Arrow, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 0-099-49123-0. This follows on from The Revenge of the Sith film and is the start of a new book series.
VIDEO & DVD RELEASES
The Adventures of Superman the B&W 1953 US original TV series is now out from Warner Home Video. The boxed set contains 26 episodes and special features.
Dr Who: The Beginning, the first three stories from the 1960s first (William Hartnell) season. This includes the first appearance of the Daleks and loads of extras. From BBC DVD.
Dr Who: The Dalek Conquests, audio-book CD, £13.99, BBC Audio Books. Narrated by David Briggs, the voice of the new Daleks...
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a blend of action SF and anime and is available for $26 (£35) for the 2-disc version from Sony. It is based on the computer game, but not that bad for it.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from Warner, £22.99. There is also a disc of extra scenes and the usual making-of stuff. The film's cinema release broke first week box office records in the UK (and probably other places too).
The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase. 5.1 Stereo, Dolby Surround Sound, CD, BBC Audio Books £19.99. The final series radio show version.
Howl's Moving Castle, Optimum Asia, £18.99. Spectacular fantasy animation based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel. (Was nominated for a best animation Oscar you know.)
King Kong, Universal, £24.99. This Peter Jackson re-make is out both as a single disc DVD of just the film and also a two-disk version (priced above). This last you get for your extra pennies short documentaries on how they re-created Skull Island and also 1933 New York, as well as the inevitable introduction by Jackson among the three hours of other behind-the-scenes material. +++ NOTE: This is the first film ever to be simultaneously released as an official internet download as well as on DVD!
Lois & Clarke: The New Adventures of Superman the 1990s US series. 21 episodes from Warner Home Video.
Night Watch, Fox, £19.99, (or should the original be translated as Nightwatch?). This film has gone down a storm in the East as has been noted by fantastic film buffs in the west. See news within the film section.
RoboCop: The Series first time complete on DVD with feature length pilot and all 21 episodes, 6 disc set. Not as good as the original film but passable sci fi fare. One for fans who really like TV offerings.
Star Trek Borg is the first in a series of 'fan collective' themed Star Trek collections, the "Borg" set is priced to own at around US$42.99 (standard retail price) in the U.S. and C$39.99 in Canada. European availability currently unknown. The DVD features Borg episodes from Next Gen, Voyager and Enterprise and are in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and English 2.0 Surround. The episodes are presented in full screen format, with the exception of Star Trek: Enterprise episode 49, "Regeneration" which is presented in Widescreen. Unrated in the U.S. and rated PG in Canada, the DVD total runtime is 11 hours and 59 minutes. A time-travel themed DVD is next in the fan collective series.
Other DVDs that may come out sometime over the summer:-
2046 (12A) an Asian, slightly art-house romance with an SF slant. Directed by Wong Kar Wai. Not bad if you like this sort of thing.
An American Haunting (15) horror but lightweight (cf. the '15' certificate) that is exorcist like but set in the early 19th century. Donald Sunderland and Sissy Spacek are high powered stars in, perhaps, a somewhat underpowered film.
The Dark (15) SF / horror (but again only a '15' certificate). Strange goings on in Wales with sheep... (no joke). We have heard mixed things at the time of posting so this Brit offering may be worth checking out?
Zathura: A Space Adventure (PG). A bit like Jumanji this is a family film. Two kids are playing a board game and suddenly their entire house is surrounded by an air-trapping energy field and transported into deep space. They have to keep playing and dodging the micrometeorites, plus other hazards, to get home. Will they make it? No real surprises but it is an enjoyable romp for kids of most ages. Jon Favreau directs.
To see what films we can expect in 2006, check out our forthcoming film diary.
To see our chart ratings for last year's films, nearly all of which are now available for DVD hire, then check out our most recent annual film top ten.
The 2006 Saturn Awards for computer games have gone to:-
- Best Video Game Release (Science Fiction): Star Wars Battlefront II
- Best Video Game Release (Fantasy): God of War
- Best Video Game Release (Horror): Resident Evil 4
See Saturn film awards for the film winners.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, £40 from 2K Games (PC, XBOX360). A fantasy quest game in a rather detailed and absorbing world. Decidedly above average.
Shadow of the Colossus, £40, from Sony (PS2). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to wake up a girl in a trance in a temple. To do this you must seek out and then climb up on mountainous giants (the colossus). And to do that you must solve puzzles. With only your trusty steed for company you set out on your quest amid a beautifully created landscape. But is what you are doing right? This game is a little different from most and all the better for it.
Rogue Trooper from Eidos but developed by Rebellion (PC, PS2, XBOX). Of course Rebellion now own 2000AD and Rogue Trooper is a long-running 2000AD character. So if you like this Brit comic, and every Brit Comic fan is at least aware of 2000AD, then you'll want to check this out. It's an SF warfare game but with a good back story. Rogue is a gene-engineered creation to survive the war-torn planet of Nu Earth. Rogue's fallen comrades were saved from the battlefield and downloaded into biochips in his helmet, gun and back pack. Also see www.roguetrooper.com.
Tomb Raider: Legend, £40, from Eidos (PS2, XBOX, XBOX 360). A distinct improvement on the last Tomb Raider game.
Trapt, £30, from Take Two (PS2). Princess Allura is trapped, sorry, Trapt. Cursed, she is fated to patrol a castle laying fiendish traps for potential victims, and you get to play too. The good Japanese animation is counter-balanced by the poor Japanese translation to English.
Sony's Playstation 3 launch has been put back from Easter to November. The reason given is that they are still beta testing the device and the new format, blue ray DVD, that will accompany it. The new DVD format will have all the other applications in addition to games playing so Sony have got to get it right if they have a chance of winning the VHS-Betamax-Phillips type war that is to come.
Editorial note: Following the lack of interest in the 2006 Worldcon committee's special computer game category for the Hugo, and that only a couple of the Concat team only barely dabble on computer games, we will probably knock this compu-games section on the head. However if there is major computer games news, or something our people really consider interesting, then we will pass the news on.
[SF News | Forthcoming Science Fiction Book releases | Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror | Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction | Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins, DVD/Video Releases and Computer Games | Last Quarter's Science News Summary]
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The Standard Model of the way reality and the Universe works has been found to be wrong! Results from the US-based Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (Minos) experiment have shown that neutrinos (a class of sub-atomic particles thought to have played a key role during the creation of the Universe) have mass! The findings suggest that the Standard Model, which describes how the building blocks of the Universe behave and interact, needs a revision. This does not come as a surprise to the physicist on the Concat team who a couple of years ago foresaw that new discoveries would likely undermine the Standard Model as part of our New Year predictions; well in the spirit of SF we try to keep an eye on possible future developments. The discovery was made using a high intensity beam of these particles that was fired through a particle detector at Fermilab, and then to another particle detector 724km (450 miles) away in a disused mine in Soudan, US. The scientists established that fewer particles were being detected at the Soudan site than had been sent. They had effectively "disappeared" and transformed (transmuted) into another type of neutrino. This means that they have mass. For the Standard Model to work neutrinos should have no mass. This may explain another problem facing cosmologists that part of the Universe seems to be missing mass (galaxies rotate as if they have much more mass than can be seen). This US research builds on work by Japanese physicists.
+++ Universe constants can change! Using UV laser light on hydrogen (the simplest element consisting of a proton and an electron) it is possible to deduce the ratio of the mass of a proton with that of an electron. However the lab results have now been shown to differ from that from quasar light shining through interstellar clouds of hydrogen 12 billion light years away. The change is small: 20 parts per billion over 12 billion years. Again this result is not explained by the 'standard model'. The results have an experimental accuracy of 99.7% (Physics Reviews Letters v96, 151101). Verification by this and other methods is required but the Standard Model, as seen from the previous news item, clearly looks as if heading for the rocks.
Limbed vertebrates evolved from fish, it has now been discovered, with the intermediate species Tiktaalik roseae. It looks a bit like a crocodile with pectoral fins that are almost but not quite forelimbs. This evolution took place about 370 million years ago and the fossils were discovered in northern Canada.
Robert Hooke's notes have been discovered by London's Bonhams auction house. The notes mainly relate to Hooke's work at the Royal Society between 1661 and 1682. They reveal some more of the rivalry between Royal Society folk at the time. The Royal Society believes that the notes were stolen from its archives 300 years ago. Hooke is probably best known by school science pupils for his law of springs (which might very simply be described as increasing weight increases extension). However he contributed more than that. His famous law was part of a greater effort to build a clock that would keep time over months in the rough seas (since determining accurately when midday takes place compared to one's home port is a measure of longitude). He also came up with the term 'cell' as the fundamental building units of life. Not to mention he also argued that water's freezing point should be the zero point on a temperature scale. The notes go to auction later this year. UK law states that if a UK museum matches the winning bid within three months then the papers would stay in the UK. The Royal Society would like to bid but lacks the dosh... (More immediately below.)
Hooke's notes saved for the nation (see immediately above). It all happened with minutes to go before the auction at Bonhams. In the run-up to Easter, a combination of individual donors (mainly Fellows of the Royal Society) and the Wellcome Trust came up with around £1 million (~US$1,650,00). Meanwhile the British Library smoothed the deal. The 122 Fellows of the Royal Society had come up with half the necessary money before it approached the Wellcome Trust for the other half. However there was still a chance that the auction would top this amount. So a deal was done that the British Library would 'buy' the notes and then permanently 'loan' them to the Royal Society so that those selling the notes would not have to stump up tax. (This tax incentive is a recognised incentive to help keep works of 'national importance' in the country.).
Supernanotube theorised! Could be just what is needed for a space elevator? A Brazilian physicist, Vitor Coluci, has come up with a possibly viable structure of carbon (fullerene-type) nanotubes concentric within larger tubes, so making a super tube. If viable then in theory it could provide the basis for an extremely strong, but comparatively light, cable. Could this be what is needed for a space elevator?
France's 2005 greenhouse gas emissions were below its 1990 emissions. This makes France (along with the UK) on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations. Having said this the UK is having difficulty keeping its emissions down and though not much above their 1990 levels they have just risen to a bit above them.
ASTRONOMY AND SPACE
NASA's Pluto probe, New Horizons, blasted off (18th Jan'). After a gravitational assist from Jupiter in 2007, it will arrive at Pluto in July 2015. Only six months prior to encounter will it, as hoped, provide better pictures than those currently available from Hubble? Much will depend on the one-day fly-by period. After this, in a couple of years, it will hopefully encounter a Kuiper Belt Object. Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh during a search for planet 'X' which was predicted at the end of the 19th century by Percival Lowell. 1978 saw Pluto's moon Charon discovered and then in 1989 Pluto most recently came closest to the Sun. 1992 saw the discovery of the (previously hypothesised) first Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) and it is thought that Pluto might in fact have been (or should be classed as) a KBO (a deep space KBO larger than Pluto was discovered in 2005). In 2006 it was discovered that Pluto's surface temperature is -230°C.
The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter enters into an orbit about Mars(10th March). Launched last August, the 2.18 tonne probe will over the next 6 months move into a lower orbit. By September 06 it should be in a 450 km, 2 hour, orbit and be able to begin both optical and radar (to look for sub-surface water) mapping. In addition to gaining an insight as to how the Martian climate works, the mapping operation will help identify potential future lander sites.
ESA's Venus Express enters into an orbit about Venus (12th April). Launched last November the 1.27 tonne probe will spend over a year and a half studying Venus. It will analyse the atmosphere, take both infra red and ultra violet pictures, map the planet's magnetic field and use radio to study its ionosphere and surface. Venus Express is very similar to the ESA Mars probe which was launched in 2003 and is still operating. The main difference between Venus and Earth is its carbon dioxide rich atmosphere (Earth managed to stabilise its by laying down carbonate geological strata such as chalk). On Venus the atmospheric pressure is the same as being 900m under the sea on Earth and has a temperature reaching 482 Centigrade.
UB313 is larger than Pluto, but is it a planet? Discovered in 2003, UB313 is further-out-than-usual Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). Now a team of French and US astronomers have an estimate of its size derived from knowing: its brightness; distance 97astronomical units from the Sun (the Earth-Sun distance being 1 AU); and theoretical temperature at that distance (around 25 Kelvin (-248°C)). The answer is that it, with a diameter estimated at around 3,100 km, is bigger than Pluto (2,302, km). In fact it is just smaller than our Moon (3,474 km), Titan (5,150 km) and the Solar system's largest moon Ganymede (5,262 km). (The Earth is 12,696 km and Mars 6,790 km.) The argument goes that if Pluto is a planet then so should larger bodies further out. However Pluto's own planetary classification has for some time been the subject of debate. What this size discovery does mean is that there may well be a number of bodies both larger, and further out from the Sun, than Pluto. +++ SNIPPET: Concatenation's definition of an 'Earth-like planet' is any celestial body capable of having a pub with a beer garden on its surface in which folk can enjoy a brew without spacesuits.
A cool planet of 5.5 Earth masses was discovered by gravitational lensing in January. The discovery was made by an international team led by the French and J-P Beaulieu. The plant is about 2.6 times away from its sun as Earth is from Sol. Doppler techniques, the preferred method to date, are limited by the need for the planets to be big enough and/or close to the parent star to cause it to wobble. Gravitational lensing has different limiting factors.
The detailed analysis from the 2001 Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) of variations in the universe's cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation has been published in The Astrophysical Journal. The CMB picture reflects the state of the universe at the time the first atoms 'condensed' out of the primordial high energy dense universe. The temperature differences are tiny (between 30 and 70 millionths of a Kelvin). To improve matters they also looked at variations in the microwave polarization, the variations of which are even less distinct. The results indicate that the first stars formed 400 million years after the Big Bang. The inflation parameter was calculated to be 0.95 +/- 0.02. +++ Variations in the microwave background have also caused some scientists to come up with some science fictional concepts -- see the below piece in the Science & SF section.
Disney releases IMAX Mars film. Better known for cartoons and wildlife movies, Disney now brings us Mars spectacularly on IMAX with Roving Mars. The website http://disney.go.com/dineypictures/rovingmars has a 1.5 minute trailer.
HEALTH AND BIOMEDICINE
The UK biobank project begins. The aim is to obtain DNA samples from 500,000 people aged 40-69 and track their health with lifestyle. This database will be made available to researchers wanting to discover the causes of diseases. The project has been criticised on freedom of information and scientific quality grounds (how accurate will be the lifestyle data). Some bioscientists are afraid to openly express concerns as two of the UK's biggest biomedical research funders, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, are supporting the project.
DNA fingerprinting can give a clue as to surname. University of Leicester research published in Current Biology has shown that, of a small sample of UK citizens Y chromosome DNA, just under a quarter of those with the same surname had similar Y DNA. However, if the surname is rare then the chance of an accurate DNA similarity rose to 34%. (Rare surnames make up around 42% of the UK population.) In the UK there are 25-60 no-suspect murder cases and 300-400 no-suspect rape cases a year. If a DNA analysis suggested a couple of surnames then this would help focus police attention in no-lead cases. The research was conducted by Mark Jobling, and Leicester U. was also where DNA fingerprinting originated. +++ Concat footnote: It is likely that mitochondrial DNA could be used for female suspects.
The European Medicines Agency delivers blow to pharming. It turned down US company GTC Biotherapeutics' anticoagulant antithrombin application to go on the market. The product is made from the milk of genetically modified (GM) goats. The European Agency said that the product had not had enough testing. The next pharming hurdle is likely to come with the Dutch company Pharming's US application for a new antibiotic produced in GM cow's milk. (Note for those not familiar with biology: Pharming and pharming products have been with us for a decade or so.)
The Oak and the Chestnut's common ancestor lived 60 million years ago. A team let by Antoine Kremer of the French Institute for Agricultural Research made the discovery based on comparing the two species' genomes.
Bird flu, H5N1, now infects (or have infected) a large number of cats and dogs in Thailand. This discovery, due to veterinary immunological testing, has potentially serious implications for human health in that infected cats open another front for species-to-human transmission. That the flu has jumped species to cats and dogs is itself disquieting. +++ Meanwhile Spring saw the virus spread to parts of Africa and the European Union. The appearance in Africa represents a large spatial jump.A footnote: As Concat' regulars know, the bioscientists on the team have for several years (well before SARS) been concerned as to the potential for a serious human pandemic. There is a double and synergistic whammy. First, is the growth of the human population (set to peak shortly after 2050). Second, is the increased mobility of humans between the global meta-population and large sub-populations (internationally air-travel linked cities). This concern, especially since SARS, is now transparently shared by health policy-makers. We will continue to keep you informed.
Professor Ian Wilmut did not clone Dolly the sheep in 1996 but managed the research's administration. When asked by a lawyer whether the statement 'I did not create Dolly' was accurate, he replied 'Yes.' He was at an industrial tribunal of one of the researchers who did the actual science on the Dolly project. Apparently, it is alleged in The Guardian (11.3.06 p10), that not only other scientists did the work but they also provided the key creative thinking behind the success. (Concat note: It needs to be pointed out that the role of 'science managers' has long been a bone of contention.)
SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION
Subtle Science Short Story Challenge Wed 10th May, 19.30-21.30, at the Dana Centre, Queensgate (between South Kensington and Gloucester Road tube stations). Aspiring fiction-writers will have the opportunity to take part in a unique workshop to glean inspiration for new ideas and new characters. The informal evening at the Dana Centre will allow hopefuls to chat with four enthusiastic scientists about their research and discover new ways to put science into fiction before they enter a competition to have their story published by GuardianUnlimited. There is a bar in the room but a little pricey. The event is supported by NESTA and SciTalk. Dana Centre events are we understand free but only open to over 18s.
Science comedy with the Punkscience - News Revue, Tuesday 30th May, 18.30-20.30 also at the Dana Centre (see previous item). Punkscience, the resident team of stand-up comics at the Dana Centre, will put a comedy spin on recent science news headlines researched and reported by the Science Museum's Antenna news team. Using a mix of sketch comedy, music, spoof and multimedia, the Punk Scientists will conduct science by stealth - debunking myths and answering those questions you never knew you had.
God's calling card may be discernable, say Stephen Hsu (Oregon U.) and Anthony Zee (California U.), in fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. They calculate that the fluctuations could hold up to 100,000 bits of information, which is enough, for example, to summarise a possible grand unifying theory. Some may say "we are nuts" says Stephen Hsu, but "I think it is a legitimate scientific question." Indeed the technology for which to be able to do so may be with us in the next couple of decades. Past God calling cards postulated in science fictional terms have included a message encoded in the human genome. There are two problems with this CMB radiation one. First, practical, CMB radiation images depend on time and place so either an observational position in space and time would need to be determined or a 3-D map produced of the entire CMB radiation universe so that it could be modelled and perspectives throughout space and time deduced. Second, theoretical, if a whole-universe CMB map was charted then ipso facto it would tell us a lot about how the universe formed and so would conceivably inform us as to physics underlying the universe -- you could say that this in itself might be God's calling card. So is this idea borne of SF or science? Either way what larks on the SF-science boundary... +++ The Spring also saw the publication of the CMB WMAP analysis.
SF author Venor Vinge contemplates a possible future of computing in the journal Nature (v440, p411). Aside for our likely to have 1,000 times greater processing power in 15 years time, he predicts an increase in the number of sensor devices connected to the internet. They will add a layer to the internet of tiny devices that know what and where they are and how to communicate with their near neighbours. This will be a new 'digital Gaia'. Computers plus networks plus people will add up something significantly greater than the parts. The ensemble eventually grows beyond human creativity. "To become what? We can't know until we get there."
Intelligent Design (ID) is not science ruled Federal District Court Judge John Jones III (and therefore is presumably science fantasy). The judge noted that ID: invokes and permits supernatural causation; the irreducible complexity arguments put forward by ID proponents (such as protoctista flagella 'motors') are flawed; and ID's attacks on evolution have not been validated by peer-review publication. The judge ordered that references to ID be removed from the Dover School, Pennsylvania, science curriculum. (The ruling came just prior to Christmas as Concatenation's previous season's news was being coded.)
Proponents of Intelligent Design will not like the new board game 'Bone Wars'. It is based on the late 19th century US dinosaur fossil rush and teaches players how to form and test hypotheses.
A new institute will address big questions like time travel and can intelligence survive in the universe long-term? The Foundational Questions Institute has been set up with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation that promotes research at the boundary of science and religion.
Evidence for bubble fusion is called into question and an investigation is underway. Nuclear engineer Rusi Taleyarkhan claimed that air bubbles in water collapsed by sound waves resulted in fusion but his work has not been corroborated. The journal Science originally brought the work to attention to the broader science community in 2002, but Nature has remained neutral (healthily sceptic even), though the American Physical Society has been supportive (though the cynical might say they may sense the claim attracts media attention). Leaving aside the lack of corroboration (which itself is a fundamental part of the scientific method), Rusi Taleyarkhan needs to actively bolster his position if the faint whiff of possible fraud is to be dispelled.
Some US evangelical Christians have signed support for greenhouse gas controls. 86 prominent US evangelicals have signed the 'Evangelical Climate Initiative'. This is an interesting development given US President George Bush's (ahem) Christian credentials. The move may cause a little unease for some scientists who are neutral to, if not outright against, religion. However such scientists might consider it worthwhile to sup with the devil... (on second thoughts let's not go there).
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) has revealed that its bias and agenda mean more than science in presenting Michael Crichton with its 2006 journalist award. In a move that will no doubt bamboozle many other geologists in a classic demonstration of confounding science fact with science fiction, the AAPG has given Crichton an award specifically for his book State of Fear. The AAPG's own website's book review states that, 'State of Fear is a wide-ranging exposition on the status of climate and earth science,' and, 'the book does make a number of extremely important points concerning the science of global warming,' and, ' Crichton is obviously outraged by the mis-allocation of resources and the human misery and environmental destruction that have resulted from the misuse of science and the misunderstanding of our environment,' and, 'the point to be taken is not whether global warming is in fact occurring, or even whether or not man's activities are having an effect. The point is that at present we simply don't know if the earth's (sic) climate is changing,' and, 'the earth science community has largely stayed on the sidelines during the environmental debate'...
The AAPG Journalism Award is specifically given 'for notable journalistic achievement, in any medium, which contributes to public understanding of geology, energy resources or the technology of oil and gas exploration'. Yet Crichton makes it clear in his fiction book's appendix that he disagrees with the international scientific community's consensus that, "concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and their radiative forcing have continued to increase as a result of human activities," and that, "there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."(Source: UN's InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 report)
Crichton is, of course, entitled to his opinion: after all the US is, like Europe, meant to be a free country with free speech. If Crichton wishes to disagree with the international scientific consensus then fine. What is perplexing is that the AAPG (presumably a scientific body) seems to agree with Crichton's stance that global warming is not significant. Looking at the AAPG book review quotes above, one can begin to see why. The AAPG reviewer seems to have a somewhat unique perspective of the way climate science has developed. Let us be clear. First, the evidence that the Earth's global climate is changing (warming) far outweighs any evidence to the contrary. Second, the IPCC included geologists in its working party report authors and also draft report reviewers. Third, other geology bodies, such as the Geological Society in the UK, accept the IPCC reports and the need to move to a more sustainable mode of energy resource use. Indeed the Geological Society were behind an autumnal two-day seminar held with the chemist, civil engineer and physicist learned societies on greenhouse friendly energy that preceded a pre-Christmas Royal Society-venued policy statement launch. Against all this it is the AAPG that seems unconnected with the broader geological and science community.
SF predicts altering Gulf Stream will affect NW Europe's climate way back in 1908. We are indebted to Erik Arthur of London's Fantasy Centre bookshop for pointing out that SF was well ahead of oceanographer Wallace Broecker in popularising the concept that shutting down the Gulf Stream ((North Atlantic Drift) would affect NW Europe's climate. The idea appears in L. P. Gratacap's novel The Evacuation of England published in 1908 by Bretano's of New York.
Want more Fictional Science lunacy. Check out www.badscience.net.
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