Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Summer 2015

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

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

EDITORIAL COMMENT

It is always depressing compiling the R.I.P. obituary section of this seasonal news page, but recently particularly so.  This past season has seen us lose five giants of SF at the national level and two of whom are internationally recognised.  Michel Jeury, a writer universally known by the French SF community, will be missed not just by French fans but also his mainstream reader following.  Inge Eriksen equally as well known by her own country's genre community in Denmark.  Valentin Nicolau is arguably the least known of the five. Least, not just internationally but, nationally too as those heading up publishing houses are invariably never as well known as the top writers they publish. But nonetheless, in not just being the head but also in founding Romania's leading SF/F publishing Nemira, Valentin has made a profound contribution to his nation's late 20th and early 21st century SF/F industry as Romania's SF/F professionals and sercon fans are all too aware.  Leonard Nimoy is, of course, internationally known as the actor who made the character of Star Trek's Spock virtually iconic and as such was hugely adored.  And finally we lost Terry Pratchett. Terry was, naturally, well known internationally and his work much loved: within 24 hours of his demise some 23.1 million saw the news on Facebook. In recent years his media appearances campaigning for Alzheimer's research, and also the right to die, brought him to the attention of a wider public and great respect. Yet to the British SF community Terry was not just a well-known author and public figure, he was also an SF fan who enjoyed the genre and attended conventions long before Discworld cons came about to celebrate his own work: he went to his first con aged 13 and met Arthur C. Clarke in the gents. And so many who regularly attended the British Eastercons (Britain's annual national SF convention) in the 1960s and 1980s did not just knew Terry – remember back then British Eastercons were only a few hundred strong – but in all likelihood at least had personally had a chat with him: he was one of us. For those this undeniably makes the loss that little bit the greater.  And of course in Romania the same goes for Valentin Nicolau; after all the publisher-writer, and indeed publisher-bookseller, relationship is a close one.  The other thing is that both Terry and Valentin were taken from us well before their time. If their longevities had been more average then we could have reasonably expected to have at least another decade, if not more, of SF/F from them.  And we are very painfully aware that it is not that long ago since we lost another grandmaster, Iain Banks equally well before his time.  For Britain's older generation of avid SF & F book readers, this spring has seen a final goodbye to Ted Ball of the London's (former) Fantasy Centre.  Finally, this season has also touched two of us on the core team more directly with the loss of Peter Gilligan who was active in our student SF society, PSIFA. True Pete was a few years older than us, but just a few years for goodness' sake! Like Iain, Terry and Valentin, he too left the planet early.  As you know, most of us of the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation  core team are scientists and engineers who love science fact as much as science fiction. And yet despite our passions, as these events amply demonstrate, biology is completely and utterly heartless.

 

STAFF MATTERS SF/F/H Book reviewers wanted

We need a new book reviewer as one of our reviewers, Duncan, after several years has decided to stop reviewing fiction for us. This happens – our losing a reviewer – comparatively often as Concatenation has been around for decades and book reviewers tend to put in a 'just' few years before life throws them a curve or they want a break from the relentless deadline grind. (Yes, even being only seasonal we have deadlines.)
          Duncan's last fiction review for us is Reynolds' On the Steel Breeze.  Fortunately, we are not losing Duncan completely as he will still be reviewing the occasional non-fiction, astronomy and space science title for us.  But this does mean that we do need to bolster our review team…
          And so, if you are based in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and are an SF/F/H reader and fancy having a go at being a reviewer then do consider joining us.

One of our reviewers, Arthur, has made a horror radio-stage play. Called Wendigo Water it lasts about 25 minutes and went out live from Manchester's Three Minute Theatre in February. You can also hear it here https://soundcloud.com/john-topliff/wendigo-water-by-arthur-chappell.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol 25 (3) Summer 2015) we have stand-alone items on:-
          … the SF Film Recommendations From The 1950s (with trailer links)
          … the 2014 Worldcon, Loncon 3 reviewed.
          … the SF Box Office Film Chart 12 months to Easter (with trailer links)
          … an invitation to review some of the latest SF/F books for Concatenation
          … plus SFnal oddities and whimsy with Gaia
And additionally we have:-
          … twenty-six (yes, 26!) new, stand-alone, fiction book reviews,
          … as well as a few non-fiction book reviews.
See our What's New page for a full listing of articles and reviews recently posted.
          Fantastonderous.

 

Help support Concatenation: Get Essential Science Fiction which is also available from Amazon.co.uk. In addition to helping this site it makes a great present and helps you do your bit to spread the genre word. See also news of signed copies from Porcupine Books (who can send you copies cheaper than Amazon...).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

This first subsection quickly links you to the major items of news.  For more detailed coverage go direct to the principal subsections that interest you (see the blue subsection index above as well as between each subsection).

SF/F news last season includes: Spain is doing a special anthology of its SF in English;  P Machinery in Germany celebrates its 10 anniversary;   the SFWA is to self-published authors;  Superman gets a new superpower;  and the Sad Puppies take the Hugo nominations by storm.

SF/F Awards presented over the spring (2015) included: Australia's Ditmar Awards, Britain's BSFA Awards, New Zealand's Julius Vogel Awards, Rusia's Bastkon Awards, the Philip K. Dick SF Film Fest prizes in the US, and also the announcements of the Hugo Award nominations, the Nebula Award nominations and Britain's Arthur C. Clarke [Book] Award shortlist.

Book news of the season – Includes : SF Gateway now includes Orbit, Headline and Hodder titlesOrbit is a candidate for the book trade's imprint of the yearthe Borderlands SF bookshop in the States escapes closurethe UK big five publishers sales performances of the year are revealed.

Film news of the season – Includes: that of: seasonal box office highlightsAlien sequel newsBladerunner sequel newsthird Star trek re-boot filmThe Hobbit films get a very welcome fan-edit;  and the Stargate trilogy of films get a scriptwriter.

Television news of the season – Includes: The X-Files are returningMinority Report is having a TV seriesKim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy is coming to TVPick TV upsets Trekkers;  and the 1960s Batman television series is to be an animated film (POWWWW!).

News of SF and science personalities includes that of: Ray Bradbury; Harrison Ford; Stephen King; Paul McAuley; George R. R. Martin; J. K. Rowling; Charles Stross; David Tennant; and Kurt Vonnegut

Last season's science news includes: 2014 being the warmest year3,000 atoms successfully entangled;   Surprisingly cosmologically ancient planetary system foundReally super-giant black hole discoveredOur galaxy discovered to be much biggerEbola – the season's latest statusH7N9 virus outbreak newsMeningitis new concernBritish Isles ancestral genetic map outlinedNew class of antibiotics;  and Alzheimer's possible breakthrough.

Major last season SF event: Germany's Dortmund convention.

Major forthcoming SF events include: the 2015 Worldcon, forthcoming Worldcon bids, the 2016 Eurocon in Russia, the 2016 Eurocon in Spain and the 2017 Eurocon bid. Plus, the Gollancz fest is back again both physically and on-line.

Our short-video clip links section this season includes:  .... Star Wars re-boot light sabres are silly;  Short film Leonard in Slow MotionSelf/less trailer outThunderbirds re-boot;  and a tasteful Dr Who 10th anniversary of re-boot tribute.  See the section here.

Notable SF books due out over the Summer 2015 include: Brian Aldiss 1960's shorts anthologyMother of Eden by Chris Beckett;  the mass-market paperback release of A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install;  welcome reprint of The Night Mayor by Kim Newman;  The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter;  Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds;  Seveneves by Neal Stephenson;  the mass-market paperback release of The Martian by Andy Weir;  and the mass-market paperback release of Echopraxia by Peter Watts.

Notable fantasy due out over the Summer 2015 include: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker;  Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes mass-market paperback release;  Skin Game by Jim Butcher;  and the mass-market paperback release of Kill Baxter by Charlie Human.

The Summer saw us sadly lose many SF and science personalities. These included… Scientists: Yves Chauvin; Carl Djerassi; Val Fitch; Hubert Markl; and Charles Townes.  And SF/F personalities: Inge Erikson; Michael Jury; Valentin Nicolau; Leonard Nimoy; and Terry Pratchett.

 

Jump to other specialist news using the section menu below or else scroll down to get everything…

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION NEWS

Two genetic diversity and evolution researchers win 2014 Crafoord Prize. Richard Lewontin (Harvard U.) and Tomoko Ohta (Mishima, Japan) have been awarded the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences prize worth 6 million Swedish kroner (£465,000, US$735,000). The Crafoord was establish to recognise work not usually covered by the Nobels.

British volcanologist, Stephen Sparks (Bristol U.) wins Vetlesen Prize The prize is one of the most prestigious in the Earth sciences and is worth US$250,000 (£158,000). The Vetlesen Prize goes to those whose work has seen significant contributions to the workings of the Earth system and its place in the Universe.

The 2015 Abel Prize for mathematics goes to work on geometrical shapes. John Nash (US) and Louis Nirenberg (Canada) win the Nobel equivalent for mathematics with their work on partial differential equations which has, among things, enabled them to further geometrical analysis that concerns the shapes of objects and surfaces. The Award is given by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo and comes with 6 million kroner (around £500,000 or US$766,000).

The first Turing prize has been awarded to Michael Stonebraker of MIT. The US$1 million (£670,000) prize is given by the Association of Computing Machinery. Michael Stonebraker is noted for his work on databases as they apply to 'big data' applications.

The nominations for the 2015 Hugo Awards for 'SF achievement' covering the year 2014 were announced at the British national Eastercon convention as well as a couple of cons in N. America. The nominations for the principal seven Hugo categories (those categories attracting 1,000 or more voters) were:-
Best Novel (1,827 ballots):-
          Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
          The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson
          The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
          Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
          Skin Game by Jim Butcher
          The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
          (STOP PRESS 15th April: Lines of Departure withdrawn by author due to Sad Puppies controversy
          The Three-Body Problem added.)
Best Novella (1,083 ballots):-
          Big Boys Don't Cry by Tom Kratman
          'Flow' by Arlan Andrews Sr.
          One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright
          'Pale Realms of Shade' by John C. Wright
          'The Plural of Helen of Troy' by John C. Wright
Novelette (1,031 ballots):-
          'Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium' by Gray Rinehart
          'Championship B'tok"' by Edward M. Lerner
          'The Journeyman: In the Stone House' by Michael F. Flynn
          'The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale' by Rajnar Vajra
          'Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus' by John C. Wright
          (STOP PRESS 13th April: The above previously appeared online the previous year and so has been replaced by...)
          'The Day the World Turned Upside Down' by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Short Story (1,174 ballots):-
          'Goodnight Stars' by Annie Bellet
          'On a Spiritual Plane' by Lou Antonelli
          'The Parliament of Beasts and Birds' by John C. Wright
          'A Single Samurai' by Steven Diamond
          'Totaled' (sic) by Kary English
          'Turncoat' by Steve Rzasa
          (STOP PRESS 15th April: 'Goodnight Stars' withdrawn by author due to Sad Puppies controversy
          'A Single Samurai' added.)
Best Related Work (1,150 ballots):-
          'The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF' by Ken Burnside
          Letters from Garnder by Lou Antonelli
          Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright
          Why Science is Never Settled by Tedd Roberts
          Wisdom from my Internet by Michael Z Williamson
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form (1,285 ballots):-
          Captain America: The Winter Soldier
          Edge of Tomorrow
          Guardians of the Galaxy
          Interstellar
          The Lego Movie
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form (1,285 ballots):-
          Dr Who: 'Listen'
          The Flash: 'Pilot'
          Game of Thrones: 'The Mountain and the Viper'
          Grimm: 'Once We Were Gods'
          Orphan Black:: 'By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried'
The full list of all category nominations (including those that received less than a thousand nominating votes) can be found on www.thehugoawards.org.
Comment. Well, this has been an odder than usual year, arguably for reasons explored immediately below. For the first time since we started listing our choice of 'Best Books' and 'Best Films' at the beginning of each year not one of our team's selection of either 'Best Books' or 'Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)' – that is films to you and us – are in the nomination list!  Now, of course there is no reason why we should every year see one or more of our beginning-of-year 'Best of…' choices in the Hugo nomination list (after all what SF expertise we have is not infallible) and also our 'Best of' choices are largely British Isles based (whereas the Worldcon community is largely seated in N. America), but it is still a little surprising to have none of our beginning-of-year list in the Hugo nominations for 'novel' and 'long-form dramatic presentation' (film).  Of course, our 'Best Films' invariably include some non-American offerings and also even of the American movies we select there are usually independent and small studio productions in the mix. Conversely, the Hugo nominators in the past couple of decades nearly always go for BIG Hollywood blockbusters, as if somehow they were the epitome of 'SF achievement'… but let that pass. Yet in this sense the Best Dramatic presentation Long Form list this year is little change. Nonetheless, we come back to the fact that, in addition to the 'Best Novel' category, we still usually see a couple of our 'Best Films' nominated for a Hugo. This has been an odder than usual year!
          Of course, SF2 Concatenation is not the only SF site to come up with 'Best of… lists at the beginning of each year. Indeed most of the longstanding such sites predict one or two of the 'Best Novels' and 'Best Films' that end up getting Hugo nominated and all such sites (including ourselves) have far more success with the Hugo long list (which you may not be aware of as for some strange reason it is quietly revealed the same day as the winners are announced, and not before the shortlist nominations). And surely this is what you might reasonably expect of sites whose contributors know a little something of their genre.  All of which begs the question as to whether this year something different really is going on?  Well, have a gander at 'Sad Puppies' below.

The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies take the Hugo nominations by storm.  If you have never heard of the Sad and Rabid Puppies then all you really need to know is that they are groups of (N. American-based) fans who feel that the Hugos do not speak to them. Well, fair enough; the Hugos can't speak perfectly to everyone and, for example, certainly no established SF site always perfectly predicts the popular Worldcon fan support in Hugo Award nominations (see the Hugo comment above).  But the difference here, this year, is that these 'Puppy' groups feel that something actively needs to be done, and so they have created their own Hugo recommendations for nomination.  (And here Nathaniel Givens has provided Puppy data and a basic analysis.)  The important thing to note here is that these Sad and Rabid Puppy recommendations are not just short 'best of…' lists, that fans can consider along with others such lists, but are actually specifically put forward for the precise purpose of folk considering them for Hugo nomination as titles that would otherwise be unlikely considered.  There does seem to be an element of it-you-don't-like-the-'normal'-Hugo-choices-then-nominate-these-instead.  Furthermore, supporters of these groups are encouraged to acquire nomination and voting rights if they have not engaged in the Hugo process before.  Remember, anyone  who takes out a 'supporting' membership to a Worldcon (currently around US$40, or £27 in her Majesty's currency) gets you the con's publications as well as Hugo voting rights and so can nominate and vote for the Hugos: getting Hugo nominating rights is easy.  This Puppy action is not just suggesting worthy works of the year which one might add to other's selections of commendable offerings for consideration: this is the specific targeting and lobbying of a few works for Hugo nomination.
          So, does this lobbying work? Well, the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies lists have been online for all to see and, yes, they have been successful. Indeed, only two of this year's 'Best Novel' Hugo Award nominations are not on either Puppy list, and some of this year's Hugo categories solely consist of Sad and Rabid Puppy suggested works.  And so we have a rather odd situation this year of some writers being nominated multiple times within a category, and in some cases even as well as for multiple categories! The only good news – if it really is good news – as that this year we actually have a meaningful choice of television shows in the 'Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form' category.
          The only thing Worldcon fandom can respectively do is to read each nominated work and vote in all honesty for what each voter genuinely considers is the best work irrespective of how it came to be shortlisted. (And in some instances this might – as it should every  year – necessitate considering the 'no award' option.) Anything else would be to further undermine the Hugo's integrity.
          And that is the only  thing the Worldcon community can do, because irrespective of whichever nomination wins in each category, the Sad and Rabid Puppies will claim that they have proved their point. If one of their slate wins in a category then they have a result. If none of their slate wins then they can claim that there is some sort of Worldcon cabal controlling matters; this too would be a result for their cause. So all the Worldcon community can do is vote with honesty and put up with the resulting Puppy jubilation on the 22nd August when the Hugo results are announced.  Having said that, there has been much wailing and gnashing as to what to do including from the strident PCs: remember, there are extremists at both ends of any spectrum. Fortunately there are rational voices. Arguably one of the most prominent of these within the SF/F community is the author George R. R. Martin.
          Meanwhile, this year the Hugo long list will be doubly of interest to see which works narrowly missed out. (And expect there to be 'no awards' in some categories if none in the Puppies lists appeal to the broader Worldcon community. And possibly [albeit unlikely] 'no awards' in categories when neither  Puppies nominations nor  those of others are considered truly of being worthy as being classified as works of 'SF achievement'. This year, more than ever, Hugo voters will really need to think.)

The 2015 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Fest Prizes were announced a the 3rd Philip K. Dick International Film Festival of Science, Science Fiction, Fantastic Film and the Supernatural in New York (US). The principal category winners were:-
          Best Philip K. Dick Feature: Nightmare Code (2014) – Trailer here.
          Best Science Fiction Dramatic Feature: Inverse (2014) – Trailer here.
          Best Supernatural Feature: 21 Days (2014) – Trailer here.
The awards are decided upon by a core group. The award criteria are based on: story, originality, production design, and thematic connection to the ideas of Philip K. Dick, which in turn are: dystopia, parallel realities, ambivalence, humanity and technology. One category for 'Best Philip K. Dick Short' (not included in the principal categories above) was selected based on audience voting. There are plans for another fest next year, only this time it will be longer lasting five days.

The 2015 Robert A. Heinlein Award recipient will be Jack McDevitt. The silver medal award is given for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space. Jack's oeuvre of work includes over 21 novels and 81 short stories. Many of the former are space opera. The award will be presented on Friday, May 22, 2015 at opening ceremonies during Balticon 49, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention. Balticon and the Robert A. Heinlein Award are both managed and sponsored by The Baltimore Science Fiction Society. A grant from the Heinlein Society funds a quarter of the costs. Jack's latest novel was Coming Home (2014).

The 2015 Nebula Award nominations have been announced for 2014 works. The Nebula Awards are run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The Awards themselves will be presented at the Nebula Weekend on 4th – 7th June at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, Chicago. The principal category is for novels and here the nominations are:-
          The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor)
          Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
          Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
          The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
          Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (Ace)
          Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
Full details of nominations for all the categories can be found at www.sfwa.org.

The British SF Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented. The winners were:-
          Best Novel: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
          Best Short Fiction: 'The Honey Trap' by Ruth E. J. Booth
          Best Non-Fiction: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and the First World War by Edward James
          Best Art: Tessa Farmer for her sculpture The Wasp Factory after the Iain M. Banks novel
Well done one and all.  Last year's BSFA winners here.

Australia's Ditmar awards have been presented. The Ditmar is voted on by those attending Australia's national convention and have been presented since 1969. The Ditmars are named after Martin James Ditmar (Dick) Jenssen, a founding member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. The Ditmar Award wins this year were:-
          Best Novel: (tie) The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke and Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan
          Best Novella or Novelette: 'The Legend Trap' by Sean Williams
          Best Short Story: 'The Seventh Relic' by Cat Sparks
          Best Collected Work: Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
          Best Artwork: Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein
          Best Fan Writer: Tansy Rayner Roberts
          Best Fan Artist: Kathleen Jennings
          Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: The Writer and the Critic edited by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
          Best New Talent: Helen Stubbs
Note: Cat Sparks also won a Ditmar in the 'short story' category last year and in 2010. She also had a tie win for best short story in 2011.  Kathleen Jennings also won last year in the 'best artist' category as she also did the year before that too. Tansy Rayner Roberts also previously won best fan writer in 2013.  Last year's Ditmar winners here.

Russia's Bastkon Awards were presented at Bastkon in January. Bastkon is an SF/F litcon for authors (especially young ones as encouragement and nurturing embryonic talent is behind this event), editors and critics founded in 2001. Around 150 usually attend. (If you are one of our Western SF community regulars then think of this as Russia's version of the Milford weekend workshops.) The principal category wins were:-
          Sword of the Bastion (main juried award with 10,000 roubles prize money): Fyodor Berezin
          Bowl Bastion (attendee voted award):-
                    1st place: Natalia Irtenina for the story ' Hillfort Chudskoye'
                    2nd place: Anna Vetlugina for the story 'Release us Home!'
                    3rd place: Dahlia Sergey .Aaleksei for the story 'Snakes and crosses'
          Ivan Kalita Award (a cash prize raised by voting fee): Juliana Lebedinskaya for the story 'White Dove, Gray Dove'

Russia's Mir Fantastika [Fantasy World] magazine 'Best of the Year' works appearing first in Russian in 2014 were listed in its No. 138 February (2015) edition. The principal category results were:-
          Book – SF: The Martian by Andy Weir
          Book – Fantasy: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
          Book – Best Juvenile: Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones
          Book – Mystery and Horror: 2014 Greatest Horror by M. Parfenov
          Book – Best Anthology: Vedmaci Tales by Wojtek Sedenko & Pawel Laudanski
          Book – Best Collection: Body you Serve by Yevgeny Lukin
          Book – Most Anticipated of the Year: Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling

The Arthur C. Clarke [Book] Award shortlist has been announced:-
          The Girl With all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
          The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
          Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
          Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
          The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
          Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The finalist will be announced, and the award presented, at a special reception at the Sci-Fi London Film Fest.

New Zealand's Julius Vogel Awards for 2014 were announced at the 2015 NZ national convention. The category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Engines of Empathy by Paul Mannering
          Best Youth Novel: The Caller: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
          Best Novella / Novellete: 'Peach and Arax' by Celine Murray
          Best Short Story: 'Inside Ferndale' by Lee Murray
          Best Collected Work: Lost In The Museum edited by the Makaro Press
          Best Artwork: Lost In The Museum cover by Geoff Popham
          Best Professional Production/Publication: Weta Digital: 20 Years of Imagination On Screen by Clare Burgess with Brian Sibley
          Best Dramatic Presentation: What We Do In The Shadows directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
          New Talent: A. J. Fitzwater
          Best Fanzine: Phoenixine by John & Lynelle Howell
          Best Fan Writing: Rebecca Fisher
          Best Fan Artwork: Keith Smith for contributions in Novazine
          Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Hugh Cook
The Julius Vogel Award is given to citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand and is voted on by members of the New Zealand National Convention (including this year overseas attendees). The awards are administered by SFFANZ (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand).   Notes: Hugh Cook, who died from cancer in 2008, was a fantasy author who was nominated for his body of work – some 17 novels over his 25-year career.  Juliet Marillier also won Best Juvenile Fiction as well as Best Short Story last year. Phoenixine also won Best Fanzine the previous three years in a row as well as in 2010.  +++ Last year's Vogels are here.

A tiny alley in London is proposed for renaming to 'Triffid Alley' in honour of John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. In the book the protagonist, Bill Masen, uses the alley to escape the triffids after they surround him in a grocery store near Hampstead Heath. Before the triffids strike, he arrives in South End Green to find an eerie silence hanging over the area – and dead bodies strewn about the streets. The alley is off Pond Street, behind the shops of South End Road, while the grocery store was a Co-op at the time, but is now a Starbucks. If approved, the alley would stand as the first memorial of any sort to Wyndham or his work in England, after three failed attempts to get a Blue Plaque erected at his former home in Bloomsbury.

The SF Gateway now includes works copyrighted to Orbit, Hodder & Stoughton and Headline. This is a significant development that means that the oeuvres of authors such as: Iain M. Banks, David Brin. Terry Brooks. Orson Scott Card, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ken MacLeod and Jack McDevitt, among others, are included.  Also some authors only have a few works already in the Gateway and this moves helps brings some missing titles, such as Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, into Gateway. This development is arguably long overdue. The SF Gateway is an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group who do Gollancz. But the Orion Publishing Group is in turn also owned by the Hachette UK Group, which also owns Little, Brown, Hodder & Stoughton and Headline publishers, among others, and they have specialist SF imprints such as Orbit, Hodder & Stoughton and Headline whose works are now available to the SF Gateway.  This move is most valuable and makes the SF Gateway all the more important to e-book readers seeking out past SF classics and best-sellers of yore.  Gateway is the digital imprint of the Orion Publishing Group focussing on classic science fiction and fantasy. It was launched in 2011 with over 800 e-books and is now home to almost 3,000 titles and well over 200 authors, and has enjoyed double-digit growth in every year of its existence. The Gateway website collects and curates this large catalogue of titles, offering readers multiple starting points, and it operates in partnership with the award-winning Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction website, which Orion built and hosts.

Castles in Spain is a Spanish anthology of shorts by leading Spanish genre writers. This bilingual anthology brings together the stories that have served as milestones in Spain to English-language readers. Successfully crowd-funded US$4,147 from 111 funders to pay for its translation. The book should come out at the end of the year and seeks “to bring some new voices to English and to the ongoing discussion in our genre.” More information is at the campaign site, http://igg.me/at/CastlesInSpain.

Germany's SF/F imprint P. Machinery has celebrated its 10th anniversary with the anthology P. Grafitti (sic). P. Machinery was established in 2004. To mark its decade P. Machinery, with the SF Club Deutschland, has produced an 'AndroSF' anthology, called P. Grafitti, of short stories that reflect much of Germany's contemporary SF/F writing. There was a limited run of hardbacks that were available up to December (2014) but there is also a paperback edition. Authors include: Paul Sanker, Vincent Voss, Arno Endler, D.J. Franzen, Gabriele Behrend, Marianne Labisch, Frederic Brake, Axel Kruse, Sven Klöpping, Achim Stößer, Tedine Sanss, Christian Künne, Arndt Waßmann, Galax Acheronian and Enzo Asui.

Science Fiction Writers of America allow self-published writers to membership. In a referendum with a third of voting members participating and over 6 to 1 in favour, the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has approved bylaw changes that enable SFWA to accept self-publication and small-press credits for Active and Associate memberships in the organization. It should be firmly noted that the SFWA are using existing levels of income but are now allowing a combination of advances and income earned in a 12-month period to rise to the qualifying amounts. The basic standards are US$3,000 (£1,950) for novel, or a total of 10,000 words of short fiction paid at 6 cents a word for Active membership – US$600 (£390). A single story of at least 1,000 words paid at 6 cents a word will be required for Associate membership. The SFWA currently has 1,800 members and is responsible for the Nebula Awards. +++ See also below Holly Lisle resigns SFWA/

Superman gets new super-power and costume! Followers of fashion might just cringe at the outfit. And as for the new power? Well, it is 'super flare', a kind of explosive outpouring of energy. Shhh… The new Supergirl has been using it for a little while now.  This is not the first time Superman obtained a new power. He acquired: super speed in 1931; strength 1938; hearing, invulnerability and x-ray vision in 1939; flight in 1941; and heat vision in 1949. And then we had the golden decades of superman with the 1950s through to '80s with good stories and no new powers. But around the turn of the millennium things got silly with the DC universe crisis and they never got better. (OK, the Batman Dark Knight re-boot was great). This new power exemplifies everything wrong with DC. Their writers seem incapable of coming up with engaging stories, so, hey, lets give Kal El a new power. (Sigh.)

Omni re-boot on-line magazine has a worrying contract for writers. The Writer Beware group have been alerting folk considering writing for the Omni re-boot to consider carefully their standard contract that seems to hand over all copyright control of the writers material in perpetuity and internationally to Omni without limitation… Which leaves the potential Omni writer with????  Omni say that this was meant to be their writers-for-hire contract. See http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/03/rights-grab-omni-reboot.html

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Ray Bradbury's home has been demolished! We reported last autumn that Ray's home was being sold. The new owner, Thom Mayne (an architect no less), bought the house for US$1.765 million (£1.11m). Demolition took place in early January as the owner considered (not unfairly) that the house was one of the least maintained. Thom Mayne was unaware of the previous owner and that he had lived there for over half his life. Here in Britain we have the blue plaque scheme to alert people as to historic and notable people who used to live in dwellings. The US – which admittedly does not have the length of history of Blighty – has no similar scheme. To his credit, when Thom Mayne was made aware of his new home's history he decided he would construct a wall with the title's of Ray's books on it in memory of the SF grandmaster.

Charles Coleman Finlay has taken over the editorship of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He takes over from Gordon Van Gelder, who will remain publisher. The latter took over as editor from Kristine Kathryn Rusch in 1997, and he then bought the magazine from publisher Edward L. Fermanin

Harrison Ford has been in a plane crash. He was flying a light aircraft, an 1942 Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR, out of Santa Monica Airport when it developed engine trouble. He could not return to the runway and so made a crash landing on Penmar Golf Course half a mile away. He sustained minor injuries. Ford took up flying when he was in his 50s and is also trained to fly helicopters. In 1999, Harrison Ford crash-landed his helicopter during a training flight in Los Angeles but both he and the instructor were unhurt. A year later a plane he was flying had to make an emergency landing in Nebraska. Again he and his passenger escaped unhurt. Good to see that at 72 years of age he is evidently still capable of doing his own stunts.

Stephen Hawking™ has registered his name as a trademark with the UK Intellectual Property Office. Clearly what is good enough for the SF grandmaster Harlan Ellison™ is good enough for Cambridge University's leading cosmological physicist.

L. Ron Hubbard's school reports released. A Freedom of Information Act request to the Food and Drug Administration, which investigated L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology 1963 and then eight years over health claims made by Scientology for its 'E-meter', uncovered his school reports. These revealed that in 1927 his grades were:-
          Advanced algebra II: C
          Commercial geography: C
          Elementary algebra I: grades D & C
          English I: D
          English II: C
          French I: C
          Physiography (sic): B
          Spanish I: C
          World history II: C

Stephen King has called on Maine's Governor, Paul LePage, to 'man up and apologise' for saying – it is reported – that the horror grandmaster left the state to avoid paying taxes. LePage made the accusations during one of his weekly radio addresses. While Stephen does have a second home in Florida, he told The Portland Press Herald that he still lives in Maine and pays taxes there.  Apparently, he and his wife, novelist Tabitha King, paid US$1.4 million (£900,000) in Maine taxes in 2013 and they expect to pay about the same for 2014. Stephen also told the newspaper that he donates between US$3 million and US$5 million per year to various causes, many within Maine. "Governor LePage is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green. Tabby and I pay every cent of our Maine state income taxes, and are glad to do it," King said. "We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given. We see our taxes as a way of paying back the state." Then LePage's office issued a revised version of the address that removed the comments about Stephen King as well as similar remarks about Maine businesswoman and conservationist Roxanne Quimby. King tweeted: 'No apology from Governor LePage. Some guys are a lot better at dishing it out than taking it back.'

Ursula K. Le Guin was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 programme to mark her 85th year. Naomi Alderman talked to the SF novelist about her life and work and heard from literary fans including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. The programme included a discussion of gender and how her work The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) was prescient of today's more tolerant view of multiple gender views. The BBC separately in April also broadcast the first radio dramatisation of that novel (again on Radio 4). +++ Announced – timed to tie in with this broadcast – was Gollancz's new publishing project for Ursula K. Le Guin. Gollancz has acquired UK and Commonwealth Rights to five significant novels, two short story collections, a volume of selected non-fiction, as well as e-book rights to twelve widely-acclaimed novels including A Wizard of Earthsea and The Dispossessed amongst others.

Holly Lisle has resigned from the SFWA (America's SF/F writers association) as it has changed the US state in which it is incorporated so as to get tax dollars enabling it to give grants. Holly is concerned that tax dollars are in effect going to individuals and not to pay for infrastructure, public services and national security. Her stance is logical and even understandable, especially given the magnitude of both the US government budget deficit and also the size of the nation's debt. Grants, she says, should be donated by SFWA members and not come from tax dollars.

Paul McAuley has revived his first website www.omegacom.demon.co.uk. It is fairly basic as Paul coded it himself in HTML; none of those irritating bells and whistles, Paul is a man after our own hearts. He also threatened to, "bite the bullet and finally set up [his] own domain name, something [he has] never gotten around to because of a) free web hosting and b) the last time [he] looked, someone was still cyber-squatting [his] name." +++ He reveals that he has completed his second draft of Into Everywhere the follow-up to Something Coming Through. Yes, there is to be a follow-up!

George R. R. Martin has warned his readers not to be alarmed over news that the latest novel, The Winds of Winter, in the A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones for TV-only junkies) is not in HarperCollins 2015 publishing schedule. True it isn't, but then George never commits to a schedule just submits the manuscript whenever it is ready.  +++ Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, who stars as Night's Watchman Jon Snow on the show, has spoken out against the internet abuse of author George R. R. Martin. He said: "As far as George R. R. Martin goes, there's a lot of fan pressure on him; a lot of nasty, manipulative, quite vicious fan pressure that's aimed towards him, about his health, and about when he is producing the next book. I get quite angry about that." +++ George makes reasoned comments on the Sad Puppies fiasco on his blog.

Larry Niven is to be the recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Larry is best known for his series of hard-SF space operas, both short stories and novels, of the 1960s and '70s, that collectively form his 'Known Space' stories, and especially the 1970, Hugo-winning novel Ringworld concerning an alien-created big-dumb-object habitat that encircles a star. He is also noted for a few books with Jerry Pournelle, especially the 1974 novel A Mote in God's Eye about an isolated star system whose life cycle mystifies and then terrifies visiting human explorers with its Malthusian boom-and-bust cycles. The title will be conferred at the 50th Annual Nebula Awards weekend, 4th – 7th June (2015) at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, US.

William F. Nolan is to have conferred the title 'Grand Master' by the World Horror Society at this year's World Horror Convention in Atlanta in May. Nolan's novels include Logan’s Run and its sequels. Among his most recent books is the Bram Stoker Award-winning Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. Previously he has been voted Living Legend in Dark Fantasy by the International Horror Guild in 2002, Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the Horror Writers Association.

J. K. Rowling responded to a readers tweet querying that to her Dumbledore does not appear gay.  J. K. Rowling's much re-tweeted reply was 'Maybe because gay people just look like ... people?'

Robert Silverberg has – just as we posted last season's news – turned 80. A belated happy birthday from us.

Charles Stross announced on 1st April that after considering the implications of Clean Reader the app that removes swear words and other 'offensive' material from e-books, that he is fundamentally opposed to blue-nosed bowdlerizing gοbshites, puritanical prudes, and nattering slobberdonkeys who advocate censorship. 'And piss on you if you want to conscript my books into fighting your culture war'. He announced that he has negotiated an exclusive e-book distribution deal for all of my titles. 'Henceforth my titles will only be available for purchase through the new e-book reader app Dirty Reader. Dirty Reader uses advanced NaughtyWords™ artificial intelligence technology to scan a corpus of text and detect the optimum location in which to insert a metric fυcktοn of cυntybοllockspoοfacefυcknuggets to enliven your reading experience.' So there.

Neal Stephenson has a new two-book contract with Harper Collins. The first title, Seveneves, is set for a May 2015 release from the imprints Borough Press in the British Isles and Australia/New Zealand and by William Morrow in the US and Canada. Seveneves concerns the survivors of a global disaster which nearly causes the extinction of all life on the planet.  The second title will be written with Nicole Galland, who previously collaborated with Stephenson on The Mongoliad.

David Tennant, the former Dr Who star, made his debut appearance on BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute on 9th February. He amazed the audience by being the first person in the show's history to succeed in his first ever attempt to speak on a topic for a minute without interruption for hesitation, repetition, or deviation. The audience was ecstatic. It was a bit of media history made.  That this last was so was affirmed the next day with the story being covered by a number of Britain's leading newspapers. Even BBC Radio 4's Today programme (Britain's leading early morning news radio show) covered it, rebroadcasting the performance. Today also reported that a listener had e-mailed noting that Tennant had in fact repeated the word 'stage', but the other panellists had not spotted it. Either way, this Time Lord had clearly demonstrated that he was master of the minute.
          Actually they always record two episodes of Just A Minute back-to-back and the second with Tennant (together with other guest Stephen Fry and regulars Paul Merton and Julian Clary) was broadcast 30th March. Here, David's first attempt was challenged just a few seconds from the complete minute with an accusation by Merton of repetition of the word 'daub' but this was dismissed when it was found that Tennant previously used the word 'daubs'. In short he nearly twice, and in his first two shows, completed a whole minute without interruption for hesitation, repetition, or deviation. Later in the show the chair, Nicholas (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) Parsons, gave Tennant a turn following his successful challenge, saying, 'you have seventeen seconds to go.' When – before David could speak – Merton challenged with 'hesitation'. Parson refused to accept that this constituted hesitation and allowed David to continue saying '16 seconds to go' at which point Merton again interrupted pointing out that there must have been a hesitation as it was now only 16 seconds, exclaiming, 'get out of that Time Lord.'  What larks. (Of course, perhaps you have to be British to truly appreciate it, but we share such gems with the world regardless.)

Kurt Vonnegut had an interactive mobile exhibit, called 'Vonnegut's Voice', of his work created last year by US students, and this is helping mark this year's 70th anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. An estimated 25,000 people died in the British and American 37-hour firebombing that created a firestorm that left 12 square miles of the city in ruins. The exhibit packs into six containers that in total weigh 125 kg. The exhibit is based on handwritten letters, marked-up manuscripts, personal photos, and audio recordings of the author. Last year it even made an appearance at Dresden Public Library. Dresden was where Vonnegut, as a young Allied soldier, was imprisoned by Germans and placed with other POWs inside an underground meat locker named 'Schlachthof Fünf', or 'Slaugherhouse-Five'. This locker helped Vonnegut survive the firebombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945 and inspired his semi-biographical novel of the same name. Meanwhile the Military History Museum has its own exhibition entitled 'Slaugtherhouse-Five: the destruction of Dresden in literary witnesses' to mark the 70th anniversary. The 70th anniversary itself was marked in Dresden by leading German politicians and was attended by Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury who spoke at the ceremony.

Sigourney Weaver, the star of the Alien franchise and who had roles in Avatar and the recent Chappie, has opined that science fiction "is a genre that I think doesn't get enough respect when you consider how many issues sci-fi brings up that we need to deal with." Asked why the genre is so often overlooked for Academy Awards, she told Digital Spy: "I think part of it is the Academy is mostly people like me who are over a certain age and they're still probably looking for the more conventional movie… I think all that's going to change because some of the work being done in sci-fi is some of the most interesting, provocative work out there."

 

For SF author websites click SF author links.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

FILM NEWS

The spring's SF/F box-office hits included in order of release…:-
          Ex Machina, the thoughtful artificial intelligence film was the first blockbuster of the year with a brief flourishing in the box office top ten on both side of the Atlantic. See the trailer here.
          Chappie , the gung-ho artificial intelligence film, came top its debut weekend but this feat is not that remarkable given that that week saw fewer people attend than usual: that weekend saw takings 38% down on the same time last year. See the trailer here.
          Yes, this spring has been a quiet season.

Neill Blomkamp is to direct the new Alien sequel. And it is a huge sigh of relief that it is out of the hands of Ridley Scott who decidedly lost the plot with Prometheus.  If you do not know who Neill Blomkamp is, he is the director of District 9, Elysium, and the forthcoming Chappie (an artificial intelligence, robot film).  As for the storyline, apparently this new Alien film is a kind of sequel to Aliens involving Hicks and Newt, but how they resolve this with information given in Alien 3 is currently hard to fathom.

Harrison Ford to be in Blade Runner II The 72-year-old will reprise his role as police officer Rick Deckard. We reported of the possibility of a Blade Runner sequel back in the spring of 2011 and that Harrison might be returning back in the spring of 2014. The screen story is being created by screenwriters and the 1982 film's director Ridley Scott and not the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. Scott is not directing this sequel but is producing it. Filming is currently slated to commence in the summer of 2016. +++ Later this year Harrison will reprise the role of Han Solo in the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The third Star Trek re-boot film gains a launch date but loses a script. The next film is currently slated for 8th July 2016. All well and good, and 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the first time Star Trek was broadcast when it debuted on NBC on 8th September 1966. (The British Isles premiere was 12th July 1969 but those who read the TV21 cousin comic Joe 90 saw Star Trek strips before the British televisual launch.) All well and good. However, leaving aside that Paramount does not seem to have any plans to mark Trek's 50th (and that is a BIG aside), the original re-boot director – J. J. (lens flare) Abrams – left the venture after the first film to do Star Wars and the first two film's producer and co-scriptwriter, Roberto Orci, have dropped the script that had been developed for the third offering. But there is a new director: Justin Lin, from the Fast and Furious (car chase) franchise! Whether or not that is a good thing is for you to decide. Meanwhile scripting duties have in part been picked up by Simon Pegg who will co-write along with TV writer Doug Jung. Simon Pegg is an SF fan and will also reprise his role as engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott. He previously scripted Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End - his 'cornetto trilogy' of British comedies with director Edgar Wright. He also co-starred in the very SFnal comedy Paul.  +++ Leonard Nimoy dies: see obiturary below in R.I.P. subsection.

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit re-edited down to 4 and a bit hours. The fan – who goes by the moniker 'TolkienEditor' – was irritated by Peter Jackson turning Tolkien's single, short-ish book into three very long films and so decided to cut it down to the equivalent of two medium-sized features. He felt that the story was spoiled by an interminable running time, unengaging plot tangents and constant narrative filibustering. What especially saddened him was how Bilbo (the supposed protagonist of the story) was rendered absent for large portions of the final two films. So TolkienEditor decided to condense all three instalments into a single 4-hour feature that more closely resembled Tolkien’s original novel. Well, okay, it is closer to 4.5 hours, but those are some long-arse credits! Now, we at SF2 Concatenation do not want to encourage you downloading this non-Peter Jackson edit, but you can find out more about TolkienEditor's reasoning here:-
https://tolkieneditor.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/i-have-recut-peter-jacksons-hobbit-trilogy-into-a-single-4-hour-film

Stephen King's short 'The Jaunt' optioned by Plan B. Plan B has not yet got a studio onboard but King adaptations have a commercial rep. The short story was originally published in Twilight Zone Magazine, but gained prominence in his short-story anthology Skeleton Crew, published in 1985. It is a futuristic tale that takes place in the 24th century, as a father explains the ground rules for “Jaunting,” a form of teleportation the family will be using shortly to go to Mars. The key is that travellers must be under anaesthesia for the short journey, or the minds of those being jaunted break.

Amended lawsuit against Gravity film makers is filed. Tess Gerritsen wrote a book called Gravity (1999) that deals with an astronaut in a space station biolab that has a breach infecting the crew, leaving them stranded in space surrounded by infection. We previously reported that Tess Gerritsen was suing Gravity makers Warner Brothers on the basis that they had optioned her novel. In January (2015) the court dismissed the case but Judge Margaret Murrow cited 'deficiencies' in the first complaint and allowed the author to re-file an amended complaint. This she did in February. The amendment was necessary because Gerritsen's novel was optioned in over 15 years ago with then New Line-owned Katja Productions for the rights to her novel and not Warner Brothers. However because Warner Brothers bought New Line in 2008, the larger studio now holds the contractual obligations to her. “This is why every writer in Hollywood should be alarmed,” Tess Gerritsen says on her blog. As is, the situation “means that any parent film company who acquires a studio, and also acquires that studio’s intellectual properties, can exploit those properties without having to acknowledge or compensate the original authors.”  This US$10m claim (£6.4m) case therefore potentially has considerable implications for authors' rights.

Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen will not appear in the next X-Men film. X-Men: Apocalypse is due for release in 2016 and will look at the X-Men earlier in their lives. It will be directed by Bryan Singer.

Stargate reboot gets writers? Plans for a new Stargate trilogy of films was announced last summer. As per previous, the original Stargate (1994) director Roland Emmerich and former co-writer and producer Dean Devlin are behind the re-boot. The re-boot writers have been announced as Nicolas Wright and James A. Woods who, though newcomers to Hollywood writing, have just completed writing Independence Day 2 for Roland Emmerich.

Jupiter Ascending rejected by fantastic film buffs at Sundance. The Wachowski brothers latest offering is 'sci-fi' space opera. Already its trailer release has not exactly set the blogosphere on fire. Now, its pre-premiere screening at Sundance fell flat. Indeed, it fell flat even before the screening started; the auditorium did not attract many and was only half full. Then during the screening a number walked out. Finally, at the film's end when Sundance enthusiasts usually clap, there was no applause.  As for the film's plot… a young destitute human woman gets targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe, and begins her destiny to finish the Queen's reign... Jupiter Jones was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning toilets and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along - her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos. This is the Wachowski brothers latest. And if you think its plot of a person leading a hidden life on Earth being sought out by rebels to lead the good fight, with spectacular effects and slow-motion fighting is familiar (The Matrix anyone?) then remember that this time it is a woman.  To be generous, 15-year olds might like it but general release box office takings have not been brilliant.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Star Wars: Modern Lightsabre Battle. With the new Star Wars due out complete with a ridiculous new lightsabre design, this fun short looks at what might happen with future lightsabres.  See it here.

Film clip download tip!: Critters short. Warner Brothers are purportedly proposing to develop a Critters web-series. This short is one die-hard (and surely they are all 'die-hard') Critters fan's pitch to be the series' director. It is not bad, and if this fan was given a good script he seems to have the technical skill to deliver. What do you think? If you like it do re-Tweet or Facebook support.  See it here.  Click to Tweet: http://ctt.ec/ly6TA   Post to Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1CpBkFM

Film clip download tip!: Leonard in Slow Motion: 7-minute short. Leonard is a little slow. Literally, Leonard lives his life in slow-motion while everyone around him lives active, normal lives. It is tough being Leonard. A bathroom break now lasts 20 minutes, and that doesn't include wiping or washing. He redefines the term 'slow eater'.  See it here.

Film clip download tip!: Robert (Iron Man) Downey jnr. has presented a working prosthetic arm that looks just like Iron Man's to a seven-year-old boy.   See the clip here.

Film clip download tip!: Self/less -- the forthcoming SF film this summer – concerns a rich man's technological attempt to cheat death. It stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Parallels is a multiverse film in which a deserted city tower block moves between alternate Earths every 36 hours. The film has had reasonable ratings albeit early days and a US release, though it does have plot holes that need filling. Consider this, then, as an offering similar to a reasonably good pilot for a Sliders-type TV series (in which plot holes might have been resolved over a season). In this light it is quite a reasonable offering.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Thunderbirds is back, in case you did not know it, 50 years after the original series from Gerry Anderson was first broadcast! We reported a year ago that ITV was considering re-booting the franchise and this has now happened. The news series, Thunderbirds Are Go, is being screened in the British Isles (just as we post this season's edition of Concatenation) on ITV (Independent Television), TV2 in New Zealand and Nine/GO in Australia.  (And the word is apparently that a second season of 26 episodes has been commissioned by ITV Studios.)  The new series has some continuity with the original with the character Parker still being voiced by David Graham. One episode also has the voice of Sylvia Anderson (former wife of Gerry) who originally voiced Lady Penelope and now in one episode plays Lady Penelope's aunt. There is a hugely nostalgic scene in which Parker says "'ome m'lady," and both Lady Penelope and her aunt in quick succession say, "Home Parker."  (The opening two-parter's title might be a reference to the 1966 Thunderbirds novel by John Theydon, Ring of Fire.)  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Dr Who re-boot is now ten years old (2005-2015) and this quite tasteful three-and-a-half minute fan tribute is worth checking out.  See the it here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien Tampon is a short spoof trailer for a fictional film. A UFO crashes leaving gunk that transforms humans… Delightfully tasteless.  Enjoy…  See the it here.

 

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2014/15 (and earlier years) then check out our top Science Fiction Films annual chart. This page is based on the weekly UK box office ratings over the past year up to Easter. You can use this page if you are stuck for ideas hiring a DVD for the weekend.

 

For a forward look as to film releases of 2015 see our film release diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

SF Gateway sees key development. -- See the story in the Major SF News section earlier.

SF/F imprint Orbit nominated for 2015 book industry award. One of Britain leading SF imprints has been nominated for a Bookseller Industry Award in the 'Imprint of the Year' category. SF/F/H publishers and booksellers rarely get nominated for, let alone win, Bookseller Industry Awards. The closest last time SF/F/H got recognition was in 2013 with a double win: for Random House (which that year won 'Publisher of the Year' and Random runs the Del Rey SF/F imprint and BBC Books which does Dr Who titles), and Pottermore (J. K. Rowling's own e-book publisher) which won 'Digital Strategy of the Year'.  So Orbit's nomination is more than a little special for the genre.  So why was it nominated?  Well, its sales have been strong, but in 2013 it also published some notable titles that went on in 2014 to some success, including in the 2014 Hugo nominations for three out of five of its lead category of 'Best Novel': Neptune's Brood, Parasite, and Ancillary Justice. (The latter, of course, went on to win.)  Our congratulations to Orbit.  The results of this year's Bookseller Industry Awards will be announced on 11th May (2015) at a gala dinner at the Hilton Park Lane Hotel in London.

Borderlands, San Francisco's SF bookshop saved from closure by its customers! It started off all very sad, especially for San Francisco's SF fans, and doubly annoying as 2014 had been a good business year for the specialist bookshop: the bookshop announced that it was to shortly cease trading! Two reasons were cited by owners Alan and Jude for its closure. First, the rise in San Francisco's minimum wage from US$10.74 (£6.80) in 2014 to US12.25 (£7.75) in May 2015, an increase of 14%. The minimum wage is set to rise to US$15 an hour by 2018 meaning that Borderlands salary bill will increase by almost 40% between 2014 and 2018.  Secondly, the rise of Amazon which secures major discounts from publishers. This constrains Borderlands' book margins. (Borderlands say that their bookshop café could survive as their café competitors on a level playing field also have to face the rise in the minimum wage, but Amazon constrain their bookselling margins. Now, the pressures arising from this last are not new. We have previously reported for some time now on: the decline of British independent bookshops due to Amazon; Amazon bullying small publishers; and not least there was the publisher giant Hachette conflict with Amazon. Not a pretty picture of Amazon's impact on the book trade, which of course is separate to Amazons tax questions and their being being lambasted by Parliamentarians. A pity more are not prepared to stand up as did J. K. Rowling.
          Such was the customer reaction to the news that the bookshop would have to close that the owners decided to hold a meeting to discuss the situation. It soon became clear that there was much customer support for the shop and that it might just stay open. The owners came up with a plan. If 300 customers could sponsor the bookshop for a year with US$100 (£60) then that would pay for the minimum wage shortfall without non-sustainably tapping into their book-selling margins (due to giant on-line retailer competition dominating the market).  Roughly a month later this target had been reached and it was announced that Borderlands was safe (barring acts of God) until 31st March 2016. At that point, if enough sponsors renewed then it could continue for another year.
          The owners are now thinking of ways to repay their sponsor customers for their support. Their preliminary list of benefits includes:-
         - Reserved seating at author events
         - The ability to rent the cafe and / or bookstore outside of normal operating hours for private events at our cost
         - Invitations to a quarterly gathering at the cafe where you can socialize with other sponsors, members of Borderlands' staff and occasional special guests
         - Access to preview sales of rare and collectable books whenever we make a large acquisition
         - The opportunity to purchase occasional items produced by us for sponsors and not offered to the general public (such as limited Ripley prints, chapbooks, and so forth)
         - A selection of unique apparel and accessories showing your status as a sponsor and not available to the general public
         - Invitations to sponsor-only events, like small gatherings with authors, exclusive writing workshops, and more.

The 'Best Selling' genre books of 2014. The British Isles best-seller chart for 2014 and for all mass market books (based on BookScan recorded sales used by the major publishers and retailers) has been published. Of the top 50 titles sold, just two were genre:-
          24) A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin whose mass market paperback edition sold 217,739 units in 2014 alone.
          44) The Maze Runner by James Dashner who mass market paperback edition sold 151,722 copies.

The best selling graphic novelist in 2014 was Robert Kirkman. Robert was the best-selling graphic novelist of all graphic novel genres in the British Isles in 2014. His graphic novels sold 119,148 copies worth £1,318,526. Robert is best known for his The Walking Dead graphic novels.  The next best-selling genre-related graphic author came 3rd of all graphic novelists and was Herge (Tintin) selling 79,657 copies with a street value of £646,896.  Coming 6th is Alan Moore selling 34,806 copies worth £449,597.  And 8th Mark Millar whose titles sold 29,435 copies in the British isles worth £329,226.

The 'big five' British publishers' sales (copies sold) were up in 2014. The 'big five' are Penguin/Random (whose genre imprints include Del Rey, Arrow, Lucas Books and Hammer), Hachette (whose genre imprints include Gollancz and Jo Fletcher), Harper Collins (whose principal genre imprint is Voyager), Pan MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster.  The total number of 'big five' print books sold in 2014 was 101,904,080 in the British Isles. By comparison, e-book sales were 49,065,682 copies: print books sold over twice as many copies as e-books in 2014.  Unit sales of print and e-books combined were up by 2.1% in 2014 over 2013.  But drill down further into the data and the 15.3% growth in e-books masked a decline in print sales by just under 2%.  But before you go citing this as a sign of the eventual demise of print, we need to bear in mind that this 15.3% growth of e-book copies sold in 2014 over 2013 is itself less than 18.2% growth of e-book sales for 2012/3 which itself is a long way behind the staggering 105% growth of e-book copies sold in 2012 over 2011.  It looks like we might be approaching a steady-state balance of print to e-book copies sold.

The British science journal Nature's publisher is to merge with Germany's Springer Science. Nature's publisher is Macmillan which in turn is owned by Holtzbrinck Publishing in Germany and the London-based BC Partners owns Springer. Holtzbrinck Publishing and BC Partners have signed the deal that will create a new company that will publish all Nature and Springer Science journals, and it will employ some 13,000 with an estimated annual turnover of €1.5 billion (£1.25 billion) with a company worth (should it be sold) estimated at €5 billion (around £4 billion). It will be the fifth largest science, technology & medicine publisher in the world.

 

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in September 2015. Meanwhile check out the forthcoming SF and forthcoming fantasy book lists sections (see the mini-index immediately below…).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

TV NEWS

Twin Peaks new season in jeapordy. And it was all looking so positive when we reported this last season. Now David Lynch has pulled out saying that the studio has not budgeted enough for the project.

Fox wants to bring back The X-Files it is rumoured. Now, this is only an executive spread rumour; the last one four years ago that a third X-Files film was being planned came to nought. Fox TV Group chairman, Gary Newman, used the US TCA Winter Tour presentation to announce plans to revive Chris Carter’s classic series. He added that Fox would like to bring back the show's original stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but that is unsurprisingly not confirmed. +++ Stop Press: It is confirmed: The X-Files is to return to TV after a 13-year hiatus. A six-episode limited series is planned.

Minority Report confirmed coming to television. Last autumn we reported that TV series was being considered, now it is confirmed as green lit by 20th Century Fox TV and Paramount TV. As we previously reported it is being written by screenwriter Max (Godzilla) Borenstein and a supporting team. Set ten years after the film, the series is intended to be a direct sequel. The story follows one of the three precogs after PreCrime has been disbanded. He struggles to readjust to society and have something that resembles a normal life, which is not easy because he’s haunted by horrific visions of events that have not happened yet. After meeting a troubled detective, haunted by her own demons, he may find a use for his gift and a purpose for his life. The original 2002 film was based on a 1956 Philip K. Dick short story.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy to be scripted by J. Michael (Babylon 5) Straczynski. Given that a few episodes of Babylon 5 featured Mars and that, as with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, there was a revolution there, so he could be an ideal person to script the forthcoming TV series that Spike TV is proposing.

Lauren Beukes Broken Monsters could be coming to television? The production company Additional Dialogue has acquired the rights to develop Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters as a television series. Scott Aversano and Tom Gormican are reported as slated to serve as executive producers.

Jenna (Dr Who) Coleman planned to leave the show last year it has been revealed. This confirms what a number of fans had suspected, and blogosphere discussion opined, given the dual ending to the 2014 Christmas episode called 'Last Christmas'. Now the show's senior writer, Steven Moffat, has confirmed to Doctor Who magazine she had asked to be written out at the end of the 2014 season and its final scenes with her walking away did seem to bring her era as Dr Who's assistant to an end. Steven said, "Then she asked me if she could be in [the] Christmas [episode]. So I said, 'OK, I'll write you out in Christmas… She came to the read through and did the 'write out' version - and again changed her mind… But the truth is I never wanted her to go. And with 'Last Christmas', I'd already written the alternative version where she stayed, and I preferred that version."  The show will be returning to the BBC this autumn (2015).

Pick TV channel upsets Trekers with Enterprise run. Pick, which is a British FreeView channel run by Sky, had been screening all the episodes of Enterprise, which was all well and good and then, for some absurd reason only they know, they suddenly stopped the last four episodes despite their being scheduled.  This was doubly irritating as the episodes were part of a themed story arc. Pick has not bothered to explain its actions, but then it is run by Sky.

1960s Batman TV show to become a new animated feature film with voices of Adam West and Burt Ward. Reportedly Ward made the reveal at a convention in the US.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

2015 Worldcon: Sasquan in Spokane (USA) has Progress Report 3 out. PR3 affirms that over 3,000 have attending memberships. There is also news of science at the con. While Sasquan will have science items all Worldcon long, we’re going to focus on science on Saturday with SuperScienceSaturday. The convention has teamed up with Discworld fans around North American and beyond to create a variety of program elements and events that will honour Sir Terry’s work. The PR also contains some hotel information.

Future Worldcon bids. Worldcons are chosen two years in advance. We covered current bids last season.

 

Links to current Worldcon websites can be found from the World SF Society on www.wsfs.org.

For links to Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.

 

Meanwhile over in Europe… A potentially worrying Eurocon plus the promise of further two good Eurocons

The 2015 Eurocon will be held in St Petersburg in April (2015). Now, alas to say, one wonders how this bid at all managed to win the right to be a Eurocon? The answer is that most (and 'most' is what counts) Eurocon voters tend to vote uncritically, a bit like they do in the Eurovision song contest. Here the European SF Society business meeting at which the 2015 Eurocon site selection took place was at the 2013 Eurocon in Kiev (prior to the 2014 Russian troubles with the Ukraine), and traditionally Russian Federation nations vote for Russian Federation nations irrespective of Eurocon-running merit.  Well, we have been remarkably restrained in not commenting at all so far about this Eurocon. In part this is because of unofficial rumblings which we did not want to share unless we had good corroboration, and in part because we could not establish an official channel of communication (despite our trying in a number of ways back in 2013) so as to bring you news and information direct from the convention's organisers.  Since then we have been deafened by the silence coming from St Petersburg. However, we do speak up now as since the convention is only a few weeks away anything we say will not hurt their attendance figures but there is the vague chance that the organisers might notice and recognise (hence address) genuine concerns.  So what are these concerns? Well, the fear is that St Petersburg will be like the 2008 EuRoskon Eurocon, which to quote one European Union member who went "was a bit of a disappointment for non-Russian speakers. Beyond the Opening and Award ceremonies there were very few items in English…"  So at St Petersburg expect the 'European' programme track to be separate, minority, and distinct, from the Russian speaking track with little, if any, mixing of panellists and speakers from Russian Federation nations and the rest of Europe.  Of course, those going will be able to see St Petersburg and, in all probability, watch with amusement the Russian media spin whatever the western European Guests of Honour say.  You can check for yourself the St Petersburg Eurocon website and see that a month (end of March) before the event it is hardly inspiring.  If you are going, our advice, is to: triple check that you have absolutely the correct visas and travel papers to get into Russia (remember that previous experience here shows that if you don't you will be assumed guilty by the authorities until proven innocent); arrange to travel in a group from the airport to hotel and back again; do not wander around St Petersburg alone or in groups of just two or three and when you do then go with a local Russian (the chances are you will be safe but incidents do happen especially to foreign tourists); be prepared to make your own entertainment at the con; finally, read your own nation's Foreign Office (foreign ministry or whatever) advice on visiting Russia in advance of travelling.  With all this in mind you may well have a very good time and we sincerely hope that anyone going does. Meanwhile, if the organisers can positively help with non-Russian Federation visitors visa paperwork in advance of the event, and ensure that there is a fully integrated European thread running right across the programme, then that would be very welcome.  +++ The site selection for the 2016 Eurocon will also take place at the St Petersburg convention.

B-Con, the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona, Spain, has released its second Progress Report. This contains a preliminary look at some of the accommodation that will be on offer and gives an indication of the likely price range prospective participants can expect. Particularly recommended for those on a tight budget are apartments at around Euros 60 per night for 2 to 4 persons. There are half a dozen available. If you e-mail info[-at-]eurocon2016[-dot-]org they will put you in contact with the apartments' agent (first come, first served). For the rest, formal accommodation booking will take place in the autumn.  Regarding the programme, there will be an academic track. Members of the University of Nice (France) and of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona will be collaborating on topics. And they hope to have a panel on Stanislaw Lem's philosophy of science. The curator of literature of European Capital of Culture Wroclaw (Poland) 2016 is interested in building cooperation between Lviv, Wroclaw, and Barcelona as regards celebrating Lem's writings during this Eurocon.  The Romanian editor of Europa SF and of Fantastica.ro is interested in a panel on "What is the place of European speculative fiction within the world?" Anyone interested in joining this panel should get in touch.  There is also the promise of a climate extremes talk mixed in with an evolution of life and planet theme (wonder who possibly could be doing that?). Further suggestions and volunteers for the programme would be most welcome.  The Progress Report also gives some suggestions of tourist places you might want to visit.  Meanwhile, we covered Progress Report 1 last time. This really looks like it truly is shaping up to be a very good Eurocon. If you have never been to a Eurocon, or even Spain, then you could do worse that go to this one.

Germany's bid for the 2017 Eurocon confirms Dortmund as the venue. Dortmund, long-term Eurocon regulars will recall, was the venue for Germany's Eurocon (Trinity) in 1999. Dortmund is very central on mainland continental Europe and is is part of the network of Touring/Eurolines which means it can be reached cheaply by international coach. The mainline station is also bang in the centre of town. Dortmund also has its fair share of museums and parks so there are plenty of places for tourist activity. It is also the home of various brands of beer and there is even a special beer museum! The DORT.con-committee is experienced in offering an interesting English-language programme. It also has a now long lasting tradition in entertainment. The Saturday evening shows, which are often parodies of well known TV formats, are famous. Filk music is also a part of the programme. Eurocon in Dortmund will be some kind of a party indeed. It is proposed that there will be two levels of membership: one with, and a cheaper one without, publications.
          What does this Eurocon bid have to offer foreign fans thinking of going to Germany in 2017?  Well, in common with what have turned our to be some of the more European, and better, Eurocons (as opposed to simply being a slightly bigger version of what the host nation would have run for themselves) Dortmund is thinking of the foreign fans it hopes to attract right from the get go. This means that for foreign fans arriving as strangers in a strange land there will be a welcome gathering the night before the event starts. There will be at least three and possibly four programme streams. Here they want to attract panellists from all over the continent to hold discussions on the regional situation of European Science Fiction in different regions (Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-western Europe and well as central countries such as Austria and Switzerland). The idea is to have these discussions in English and translated also into German. Another programme track will deal with 'German classics' - books, movies, dime novels and TV shows any German fan knows already very well but which might be interesting for other Europeans. These panels are to be held by Germans in English only.  For more details see www.dortmund-in-2017.com. The bid will be voted on in April (2015) in St Petersburg. +++ Dortmund has just run its own regional convention (see below).

A reminder that France hopes to bid for the 2018 Eurocon. This bid will be presented at, and voted for, during the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona.

Links to current/forthcoming Eurocon websites can be found from the European SF Society on www.esfs.info.

 

For a list of national and major conventions, check out our convention diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

DORT.con 2015 took place on 21st and 22nd of March (2015). Among the guests of honour was British writer Chris Beckett (author of the Clarke [book] Award-winning Dark Eden) who was very popular with the convention's attendees. The convention had 226 attendants which to the committee is a strong signal of stability. DORT.con always has an elaborated programme and provides the basis for the 2017 Eurocon bid for Dortmund. Also from the financial viewpoint the future looks bright.

The US convention Gen Con is threatening to move venue to a new State to protest against gay rights threat Indiana legislature has passed a bill subject to Executive approval that permits businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. The Gen Con conrunners have sent Governor Michael Pence a letter threatening to move out of Indiana if he approves the law when their contract expires in 2020. Gen Con brings 56,000 gamers to Indianapolis annually and an estimated US$50 (£33m) million economic benefit.

The London SF Circle's monthly meeting venue is being refurbished during May and June. A temporary, stand-in venue has been found for the first-Thursday-in-the-month meetings these months: the upstairs bar of The Castle (34-35 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6DB) a stone's throw from Farringdon Tube. It has real ale and good pub food. As usual the informal London SF Circle meeting is just a social gathering for folk turning up any time from around 6pm.  (Ahh, 'a stone's throw from Farringdon tube', back to those One Tun days.)

The Gollancz Festival is back, both online and physically in the space-time continuum. You can share the news @gollancz #gollanczfest15.  Leading SF publishers Gollancz have announced a global strategy for The Gollancz Festival 2015 working in conjunction with Waterstones and Future PLC, the publisher of SFX and Total Film magazines and the website GamesRadar+. The Gollancz Festival 2015 will showcase more than 70 authors across 48 hours of action-packed book shop events and creative digital programming. It will take place over Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October (2015). Physical festival events will be held at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, from 6 - 9pm on Friday 16 October, and at Waterstones Manchester Piccadilly, from 2 - 5pm on Saturday 17 October.  Online events will be scheduled across all 48 hours of the festival to make it truly planetary global - specifically working with Hachette Australia and New Zealand to connect with SF&F readers in Australasia. Entertaining, interactive content will be shared on established as well as developing platforms, allowing readers to interact with #GollanczFest on the platform of their choice. Tickets for the physical events at Waterstones will be affordably priced, and include collectible festival exclusives. The virtual events will be free to join and easily accessible retrospectively at gollanczfestival.com.

2017 bid for French national convention announced. Those behind the bid ran the 2010 French natcon. For 2017 they are proposing that the 44th French national convention will be near Grenoble. The 2017 site selection vote will take place at this year's French natcon, Valcon, in August near Avignon.

Sci-Fi Chick now 10 years old. She posted, "I’m so grateful for having such a fun outlet to share my geekiness for science fiction." Adding: "Thanks to all of you visitors! It’d be pretty pointless without fellow genre fans and readers." See her at scifichick.com.

 

For a list of current national and major conventions and their web links check out our convention diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

NET WATCH

SF Signal gets new look and a new associate editor. This style change is style version 5, though version 4 was only an interim one lasting a few months. It is designed to look good on mobile phones. SF Signal also has a new associate editor in Kristin Centorcelli. John DeNardo remains managing editor. If you do not know SF Signal (surely not) then it is a cracking site that is exactly the opposite of Concatenation: SF Signal has bells and whistles and looks at the SF world largely through a N. American prism on a daily basis, whereas SF2 Concat is simple html that looks at the SF & science world on a seasonal basis largely through a British Isles and European prism. The wonderful thing about this universe is that such disparity almost complements itself. If you haven't already, you can check out SF Signal at www.sfsignal.com.

New digital SF magazine Forever launched. It is a monthly, digital-only magazine of notable SF story reprint available for subscription. Each issue will feature a novella and two short stories. Of note to hard SF readers, issue one includes a story by the Canadian, Hugo-winning author Peter Watts. The editor is Neil Clarke whose other magazine is the established Clarkesworld. Forever is available through subscriptions (via Weightless, and Direct) and also as standalone issues (from Apple, B&N, and Kobo). See http://neil-clarke.com

New digital SF magazine Diodati launched. It has a focus on the Gothic: the darker end of horror, science fiction, steampunk or speculative fiction. Diodati is quarterly, with three E-zines a year which are a non-paying market. The fourth quarterly is different, paying contributors at a non-professional rate, but allowing writers to gain that first paid for publication. The magazine is named after Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Genève where writers – including Mary Shelley, Percy Bysche Shelley, John Polidori and Lord Byron – met in the summer of 1816. The results of this meeting were some of the greatest works of fiction: Frankenstein and The Vampyre. The name was chosen as the editorial team wanted the magazine to be a place where the boundaries between different styles and genres might become a little blurred, and great things result. The editors are interested in receiving short stories and flash fiction up to 5,000 words, science fiction, speculative fiction, steam punk and horror. Anything with a Gothic twist. See www.diodati.com.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

British police accused of Big Brother use of biometric data. Members of Parliament of the all-party Commons Science and Technology Select Committee were 'alarmed' that police in England and Wales had collected the mug shots of innocent and guilty people alike, have begun uploading these custody photographs of people to the Police National Database, and been using facial recognition software, all without any regulatory oversight - some of the people had not even been charged and others subsequently acquitted. The MPs said there had been a 'worrying' lack of government oversight and regulation of the use of biometrics by public bodies. They highlighted a 2012 High Court ruling that the police's policy on retention of people's pictures at that time was 'unlawful', but that nothing had changed as a result. The MPs recommended that the police's maintenance of its database and associated use of facial recognition technology should be brought into the jurisdiction of the Biometrics Commissioner, Alastair MacGregor QC. The commissioner had previously expressed worry as to the implications of the police's system for privacy and civil liberties. The committee also called on the government to open a public debate about how public bodies used biometric data. It further said it was 'inexcusable' that a government report into the risks and benefits of using the data had not yet been published, despite it being due back in 2013.

Destiny – the futuristic, SFnal shooter game – sees over 16 million people register! The game was one of last year's (2014) big launches. US-based Activision Blizzard spent about US$500m (~£327m) developing and marketing the game.  Activision also released extensions and additional versions of existing games last year and over that time accrued revenues of US$4.81bn (£3.14bn).

Talk Talk customer data stolen. It transpires that a third party with legal access to Talk Talk systems illegally took thousands of customers personal data and these found their way into the hands of scammer. Between October and December (2014 Talk Talk saw a massive rise in customer complaints. It ignored these at first but by the end of February (2015) Talk Talk sent a warning e-mail to its four million customers warning them that customers were being called by scammers and duped into buying unnecessary and dubious security software and handing over personal banking details. Talk Talk is now taking legal action against an unnamed third party.

Ramnit botnet closed by Britain's National Crime Agency. It is thought that three million PCs had been affected worldwide, including about 33,000 in the UK. Ramnit gave thieves access to people's PCs and, if stored on them, their banking details. Ramnit was spread by phishing e-mails and also on social networking sites.

Sim card maker Gemalto suggests GCHQ and NSA connected to hack attack. The Dutch sim card maker at the centre of NSA-GCHQ hacking claims has said it believes that the US and UK cyber monitoring agencies did launch attacks on its computer systems. The thinking is that in 2010 and 2011 the agencies were after encryption keys that would enable it to listen in to mobile phone conversations. However The company has severe doubts as to whether the agencies got hold of any encryption keys.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

2014 was the warmest year on record. The previous most warmest had been 1998. The caused global warming denyers to point to this 'pause' (or 'hiatus') in warming as evidence that global warming did not exist. (Actually, that argument was fallacious as what is being measured is the Earth's surface temperature [it ignores ocean heat which had continued to accrue]). The 2014 temperature was 0.69°C above the 20th century average. Average Earth surface temperatures have increased by 0.8°C since records began in 1880. The 2014 record-breaking temperature is all the more remarkable as it took place in the absence of an El Nino year and El Nino years often warm the Earth's surface.

Quantum 'no-cloning theorem' broken. The no-cloning theorem has it that it is impossible to perfectly copy a quantum particle perfectly. For instance, it should be impossible to copy both a photon's spin angular momentum (its polarization) and its orbital angular momentum (its field distribution). The first photon so-called teleportation (actually property copying) just transferred its spin angular momentum (its polarization) from one photon to another back in 1993. (Which is a bit like copying a block of wood's height but onto another block but not bothering with the block's width.) Now Chinese physicists have come up with an elegant way to get around the problem and transfer the two properties of photon's polarization and its orbital angular momentum. This involves further entangling one of the entangled pair with a third photon and then measuring that. Because two measurements need to be made (and because the measurement takes finite time even if tweaking one photon theoretically alters the other photon instantaneously) it is impossible to discern both properties instantaneously. Nonetheless this getting around the 'no-cloning theorem' is yet another step towards developing practical uses and technology based on quantum entanglement. (See Wang et al (2015) Nature vol. 518, p516-519.) +++  Previously Faster-than-light communication naysayers further confounded by robust, long-lived and high fidelity entanglement reading.

Three thousand atoms have been successfully entangled by a photon. Researchers from Harvard (US) trapped three thousand atoms between two highly reflective and only partially transmissive surfaces. They then introduced polarised photons which bounced back and forth between the reflective surfaces and through the atoms before being transmitted through one surface to a detector. The authors show that this is quantum (not classical) physics and that nearly all of the three thousand atoms must be involved. This work helps explore the boundary between the quantum atomic world of atoms to the classical macroscopic world of objects. If larger numbers of atoms could be involved then we might be able to develop technology such as quantum sensors. (See Nature vol. 519, p439-442, and a short review article vol. 519 p420-422.)

World's first science journal celebrates 350th anniversary. Philosophical Transactions first appeared on 6th March 1665 as a personal venture of Henry Oldenburg, the first Secretary of the Royal Society in London. Nearly a century later and the Royal Society formally took it on, In 1887, such was the volume of science being covered that it split into two: Phil. Trans A which covered the physical sciences and mathematics, and Phil. Trans B which covered the biosciences. Today there are over 40,000 peer-reviewed scientific journals. All great news. Pity we have climate and evolution denialists in the US, GM crop destroyers in Britain, and Assyrian heritage bulldozers in Iraq, to cite but a few anti-science and enlightenment movements that abound in our technological and supposedly knowledge-driven early 21st century.

Lawrencium confirms Einstein relativity effects on atoms. The problem with elucidating the chemistry of very heavy elements such as Lawrencium (atomic number = 103) is that they radioactively decay very fast: lawrencium's half-life is just 27 seconds. Consequently, our knowledge of their chemistry is theoretical. Now, an international team, from institutes ranging from Japan and Switzerland to Germany and New Zealand, has measured its first ionization potential: the energy required for a neutral atom to lose an electron. Very heavy elements have a higher positively charged nuclei than lighter elements. This greater charge cause the inner electrons to 'orbit' faster to speeds closer to the speed of light at which, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, they should become heavier. These heavier inner electrons therefore theoretically orbit more closely to the atom's nucleus. If this is so, such tightly packed inner electrons provide increased electron shielding for the outer electrons. This in turn loosens the nucleus' grip on the outer electrons. Such theoretical considerations provide a calculated first ionization potential of 4.963 +/- 15 eV. Now, the researchers have made a measurement that gives a figure of 4.96 eV. Such a close match between real measurement and theoretical calculation gives credence to the theoretical chemistry such heavy elements would have if they were longer-lived and we could work with them in test tubes. It also is further valediction of Einstein's relativity. (See Sato, T. K. et al, 2015 Nature vol. 520, p209-211 and a review by Andreas Turler vol. 520, p166-7.)

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

Time to rethink… 1) When the first stars got going2) How long a star with a planetary system can exist3) How big a black hole can get4) Our Galaxy's size5) That planets close to a star but with an atmosphere become tidally locked.  (Click on the links to jump to the stories immediately below.)

Ancient stars inferred by Europe's Planck satellite (microwave telescope). Planck's new data (released on ESA's website) now indicates the great ignition was well established by some 560 million years after it all got going: by 560 million years there were enough stars clumped into strings of galaxies that were massive enough to affect the cosmic microwave background. This means that the first star formation began before 560 million years after the Big Bang.  In 2006 microwave observations by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) had suggested the first generation of stars were bursting into life by about 420 million years after the Big Bang. "This difference of 140 million years might not seem that significant in the context of the 13.8-billion-year history of the cosmos, but proportionately it's actually a very big change in our understanding of how certain key events progressed at the earliest epochs," said Prof George Efstathiou of the Planck Science Collaboration.  Taken together it does seem as if comparatively soon after the universe got going some 13.8 billion years ago the first stars formed. It is thought that these were very large, pure hydrogen and short-lived stars that exploded creating heavy elements (elements heavier than hydrogen). This in turn leads is to the conjecture that there were the materials for planetary systems comparatively early in the Universe…  (See the next item…)

Ancient planetary system implies that complex life could have abounded for billions of years. NASA's Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 with the goal of detecting planets the size of Earth in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars and determining the frequency of these planets. Now a team of researchers from Birmingham University have elucidated from Kepler data that an ancient star has five planets ranging in size from Mercury to Venus. The star, Kepler-444 some 117 light years away, formed 11.2 billion years ago. That means it and its planets were older than the Earth is today back when the Earth formed some 4 billion years ago. (See Astrophysical Journal doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/799/2/170.) Though it is unlikely that there is life on these planets (they are too close to its sun) it does demonstrate that planets could form early in the galaxy's history. This in turn means that there could be complex life out there that has been around for billions of years.

Ancient black hole detected and it is a mega-giant! The biggest black holes at the centre of galaxies have a mass some 10 billion times that of the Sun. (For comparison, the black hole at the centre of our galaxy is only 4 – 5 million Sol masses.) But big black holes take time to grow. And so the discovery of a really ancient black hole, from a time when the Universe was only 875 million years old (that's 6% of its 13.8 billion year age) is remarkable. It means that the black hole must have been absorbing matter at the maximum theoretical rate through its lifetime: the faster matter falls in the greater the outward radiation and a point comes when the two balance. However this in turn means that such early massive black holes accreting matter very fast are also very bright and appear to us today as quasars. Our study of nearby galaxies reveals that the size of their central black holes correlates with its galaxy size. If this holds true for this whopping big black hole then the accompanying galaxy must be 4 – 9 trillion stars big, roughly 30 times as big again as our galaxy. (See Xue-Bing Wu (2015) Nature vol. 518, p512-5 and review article by Bram Venemans vol. 518, p490-1.)

The Galaxy is 50% bigger than previously thought, data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey reveals. It had been thought that the Galaxy was around 100,000 light years across. Furthermore the Galaxy was assumed to be largely flat across the Galactic plane with a central bulge. It now appears as if the Galaxy is 150,000 light years across and is corrugated (not flat). The implications of this in turn are that the number of stars in the Galaxy could well be double or more than we thought. A Monoceros ring of stars further out from the Galaxy's centre than our Sun had been previously detected and the new data now confirms this. However, in addition, a new ring of stars called the TriAndromeda ring has been detected. The reason these have previously escaped notice is because to detect the outer ring we need to look through the inner rings. Only by carefully determining star distances has the Sloan Digital Sky Survey managed to elucidate that there was this outer ring. That the Galaxy is corrugated does fit in with the notion that a dwarf galaxy passed through our own sometime in the past. (See Astrophysical Journal vol. 801, p105.)

New theory of Moon formation (and implications for complex life). This new theory has it that the Mars-sized Theia that crashed into the early Earth did not come from further out in the Solar system, as the current preferred theory has it, but from closer to the Earth. A team of two researchers, from Israel and one from France, looked at previous computer simulations that present an angle and velocity of a theoretical in-coming Mars-sized body that would impact the Earth to successfully bounce off and form the Moon. They then back-tracked the object to see where it came from. They conclude that some 20% of likely impactors could come from a Mars-sized body that formed near the Earth (a similar distance from the Sun) and not from further away in the Solar system. This alternative hypothesis goes a long way to explaining some of the similar isotope signatures we find on the Earth and Moon (it negates the need for such a comprehensive late veneer to provide such a complete isotopic similarity and so is a simpler theory – Occam's Razor and all that). The researchers' discussion focuses on the strength and weaknesses of their theory compared to the current model: only one can be right. (See Mastrobuono-Battisti, Perets & Raymond, 2015, Nature vol. 520, p212-215, and review by Robin Canup, vol. 520, p169-170.)  Unspoken, but implicit, is that if there is more than one way to get an Earth-Moon pairing of what is effectively a binary system (which confers obliquity stability on the Earth hence is beneficial for complex life), then this increases the theoretical chances of this happening elsewhere in the Galaxy: there are exobiological implications!

Tidally locked planets (with one face permanently facing its star) are rare provided they have even just a thin atmosphere. Canadian and French astronomers have found, using a global climate model, that the thermal dynamics of even a relatively thin atmosphere can drive such terrestrial planets’ rotation away from synchronicity. They found four equilibrium states, two being stable, when the amplitude of the thermal tide exceeds a threshold that is met for habitable Earth-like planets with a 1-bar atmosphere around stars more massive than ~0.5 to 0.7 solar mass. So many recently discovered terrestrial exo-planets could exhibit asynchronous spin-orbit rotation, even with a thin atmosphere. This mechanism explains thick-atmosphered Venus's rotation but this new work demonstrates that it may well work with far thinner atmospheres. (See Science vol. 347, p632-635. DOI: 10.1126/science.1258686.).

Some Neptune-like planets could end up like Earth it is postulated. Neptune-like planets that drift into the inner system of M-dwarf (red dwarf) stars early in the system's history could experience hydrogen evaporation from the early star's X-ray/extreme ultraviolet. Such Neptunes could leave behind ‘habitable evaporated cores’. The evaporation of small migrating mini-Neptunes could be one of the dominant formation mechanisms for volatile-rich Earths around these stars. (See Astrobiology vol. 15(1), p57-88.).

NASA's Curiosity has discovered nitrogen compounds on Mars. Curiosity is in Gale crater that was thought once to have been a lake. Curiosity's internal lab has detected nitrogen oxygen given off heated soil samples and this suggests the presence of nitrates. This makes the conditions for life (at least in the past) all the more likely. (See also PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1420932112.)  Curiosity also detected traces of carbon compounds similar to fatty acids. However, as with the nitrogen, there are possible alternative explanations other than life.

The Dawn probe has gone into orbit around Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA's Dawn has taken 7.5 years to reach Ceres, getting there via the asteroid Vesta. Vesta has a diameter of 320 miles (525km); Ceres is the bigger with a diameter of 590 miles (950km) and is classed as a dwarf planet. Calculations suggest that both Vesta and Ceres would easily have had vulcanism for a while during their periods of formation. It is hoped that Dawn will resolve the question as to whether there is water on Ceres. Dawn has enough fuel for around 14 months of operation.  The first results show light glinting in a couple of craters; a possibility of fresh ice?  +++ Turning to another dwarf planet, NASA's New Horizons probe is due to make a close flyby of Pluto in July. New Horizons was launched in 2006. Also in 2006, the Pluto-Charon binary systems was found to have two small moons.  New Horizons passed, getting a slingshot assist, Jupiter in 2007.  Pluto is currently thought to have methane ice on its surface.  To the annoyance of Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory), Pluto was demoted from full planet to dwarf status at an international astronomy meeting in 2006 following the discovery that UB313 (Xena) was bigger.  +++ There have been a number of asteroid missions the past half-decade.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

NATURAL SCIENCE

Ebola: State of the epidemic. It is a year on from the first confirmed case recorded on 23rd March 2014 when a a two-year-old toddler died on December 2013 in Meliandou, a small village in south-eastern Guinea. Since then more than 10,250 people have been reported as having died from the disease in six countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali. The total number of reported cases is more than 24,740.

Total H7N9 avian influenza cases have again doubled over twelve months, but transmission fortunately low. Since we last reported this this time last year a total of some 560 people in China have been infected since the virus was first discovered in March 2013, of which 204 resulted in fatalities. The good news is infectivity among people is low but the worry is that this could change if the virus mutates. Data as to the 2015 winter season outbreak has yet to be finalised.

Meningitis W cases rise sharply. Meningitis W cases are rare but they are twice as deadly as Meningitis B. Cases in Britain have risen more or less each year since 2010, and the strain seems to be similar to one in South America. (The British cases are not related to travel: it may be that a case came from S. America and then the strain diverged as it spread in the UK.) Biomedical scientists have advised that the UK government vaccinate 14 – 18 year olds.

Skin cancers increase by around a thousand per cent since 1970s. In the UK 5,700 over-65s are diagnosed with the condition each year, compared to just 600 in the mid-1970s. The reason, says Cancer UK, is put down to the rise in package holidays in the 1970s with people going to the Mediterranean and getting sun burnt. This increased the chances of them developing skin cancer three decades on in later life. Prolonged exposure to the sun makes skin leathery: see the skin of those who work outdoors in southern Europe. Getting severe sun burn each year for several years increases the likelihood of skin cancer in later life.

Darwin's Finches gene sequenced. Darwin's Finches of the Galapagos Islands played an important part in Darwin synthesising his theory of evolution. They showed how an ancestral population of finches (Geospiza spp.) migrated to other islands in the group, developed local feeding habits and evolved different traits. In all 14 species evolved from a common ancestor to occupy different niches on the Galapagos Islands. Now 120 individual finches from among all 15 species and 2 close relatives have been gene sequenced. Surprisingly, the analysis reveals that breeding between species has continued throughout their adaptation, contributing to their evolution. (See Lamichhaney et al (2015) Nature vol. 518, p371-5 and summary review Skipper vol. 518, p308.)

A genetic sketch map of indigenous Brits has been created. 2,039 Brits with known long-term British ancestry, and who had all four of their grandparents living close to each other in a rural area, were DNA-tested for their single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) make-up. These were compared with 6,209 from continental western European mainland. When the genetic similarities and differences are plotted geographically there are striking similarities between regional identities and the past kingdoms of AD 600. Other features include: the distinctiveness of those of West Yorkshire; that people in the north of England being genetically more similar to people in Scotland than they are to those in the south of England; that people in North and South Wales are more different from each other than the English are from the Scots; and that there are two genetic groupings in Northern Ireland. The surprise is that Celtic groups in Cornwall, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had such different genetic patterns (so that although those from Cornwall have a Celtic heritage, genetically they are much, much more similar to the people elsewhere in England than they are to the Welsh). The finding is the first genetic evidence to confirm what some archaeologists have long suspected: that Celts represent a culture rather than a genetic or racial grouping. The genetic similarities and differences reflect the pattern of migration over the past 10,000 years (since the end of the last glacial [ice age]) up to the beginning of medieval times. (See Leslie et al (2015) Nature vol. 519, p309-314.).

Wheat was consumed in Britain some 2,000 years before it was grown there. British researchers, working a submarine archaeological site off the Isles of Wight, have found wheat microfossils dating from the Mesolithic 8,000 years ago. Yet pollen analysis of the marine sediment reveals that the environment (which had a lower sea-level back then) was a mixed habitat of oak forest and herbaceous plants. Also wheat was not known to be grown in Britain until 2,000 years later. Furthermore, wheat is not known to have been grown on nearby mainland Europe until four centuries later. This research therefore suggests that 8,000 years ago wheat was being traded some considerable distance across Europe. This provides further evidence for long-distance trading links during the Mesolithic. (See Smith et al (2015) Science vol. 347, p998-1001. DOI: 10.1126/science.1261278.)

European Black Death associated with Asian gerbils and climate. The second plague pandemic in medieval Europe started with the Black Death epidemic of 1347–1353 and killed millions of people over a time span of four centuries. It is commonly thought that after its initial introduction from Asia, the disease persisted in Europe in rodent (rat) reservoirs until it eventually disappeared. Now a Norwegian and Swiss team of researchers have shown that climate-driven outbreaks of Yesinia pestis in Asian great gerbils (Rhombomys opimus) plague reservoirs are significantly associated with new waves of plague arriving into Europe through its maritime trade network with Asia. Further, that Plague prevalence among great gerbils in Kazakhstan is strongly positively affected by warmer springs and wetter summers, and this correlates well with the population density of the gerbils and fleas themselves. This association strongly suggests that the bacterium was continuously re-imported into Europe during the second plague pandemic, and offers an alternative explanation to that of persisting European (rat) rodent reservoirs maintaining the disease enabling it to have persisted in Europe for so long. (See Schmid et al (2015) PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1412887112.)

Guinea worm, getting close to global eradication. The Atlanta, Georgia (US) based Carter Center has announced that the parasitic guinea-worm disease is getting closer to being eradicated. When the Carter Center first launched its guinea-worm campaign in 1986 global cases numbered around 3.5 million. In 2014 there was a 15% drop in cases from the previous year to just 126 and all of these were in just four African countries with just over half (70) from South Sudan.

A new class of antibiotic has been discovered from soil. N. American researchers cultivated some 10,000 soil bacteria (from one of the researchers garden) and then tested each to see which inhibited the growth of Streptococcus aureus. This revealed that a Gram-negative β-proteobacterium, which the researchers call Eleftheria terrae, produce a compound that kills S. aureus. We desperately need new antibiotics given that nearly all current antibiotics have become ineffective to new resistant strains of bacteria (such as MRSA). But finding new antibiotics has proven very difficult. This is dramatically illustrated by considering that while 19 new drug applications were approved by the US in the first half of the 1980s, that dropped to just 3 in 2005–2009, and just one 2010-2012. The new antibiotic discovered is teixobactin. (See Nature vol. 517, p455-459, and a review article B>vol. 517, p442-3.)

Tuberculosis genome reveals TB history. Researchers from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris analysed 4,987 samples of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from patients in 99 countries and analysed their DNA. They found that it originated in East Asia an estimated 6,600 years ago with the rise of agriculture. From there it spread throughout the world in the nineteenth century and the most where there were concentrations of human population. Genetic diversity growth coincided with the First World War and the AIDS HIV epidemic. The drug-resistant strains that now affect Asia appeared when the Soviet Union's health system collapsed in the 1990s. (See Nature Genetics dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3195 (2015).).

Alzheimer's could well be immune related. Conserved epigenomic signals in mice and humans reveal a likely immune basis of Alzheimer’s disease say the researchers. The research also suggests possible compounds for treatment. It is all very early days for this line of investigation. (See Gjoneska et al (2015) Nature vol. 518, p365-9.)

New Alzheimer's drug hopeful. The pharmaceutical Aducanumab targets amyloid-B plaques, high levels of which are found in the brains of those with Alzheimer's. An initial small trial of 166 patients, lasting over a year showed that after 54 weeks patients had reduced levels of the amyloid. This is the first time an Alzheimer's drug has shown a statistically significant effect. The drug is thought to be safe but at higher doses there were side effects. The researchers caution that the results are preliminary. Nonetheless, even if this particular pharmaceutical does not pan out, its modus operandi could be useful and be the basis of other drugs.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

FORTHCOMING BOOK RELEASES

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

The following 'forthcoming' listings (SF, fantasy/horror, and popular science/non-fiction SF/fantasy)
relate to UK releases (with just a few exceptions).
It aims to let you know the main English language genre and popular science books currently coming out for the European market.
It is not a complete listing and depends on us being given details.
We only occasionally include titles from N. American major publishers and only where we know there is European distribution.
If you wish for a more complete listing then Locus publishes occasional British listings in its magazine.

 

A Few Words for the Dead by Guy Adams, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95318-8.
This is the third in a series about a forgotten branch of British intelligence. Espionage SF.

The Complete Short Stories – Part 2: The 1960s by Brian Aldiss, The Friday Project, £19.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-007-5638-7.
If you were reading British SF in the 1950s through to the 1990s then you will certainly know of Brian who is one of those few authors who has built both an SF as well as a mundane, literary following. He is also known for his non-fiction books on SF. So old timers will certainly be seeking this out if they have Aldiss gaps in their shelves of his short story collections. Conversely, if you are younger but into so-called 'literary SF' (think J. G. Ballard or the more recent Geof Ryman, etc) then take advantage of this The Friday project venture to re-issue all his shorts in a few volumes, one for each decade.  See Arthur's review of The Brian Aldiss Collection – The Complete Short Stories: The 1950s.

Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L. Allen, Jacanaranda, £11.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-909-76217-6.
In a dystopian future 'oafs' keep 'mans' as pets…

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50174-1.
Las Vagas and Phoenix fight for the dwindling water supplies of Colorado.

Devotion by Ros Barber, One Word, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-74728-6.
Grief, religion and science come together in this near-future literary novel.

Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-39235-4
(Click on the title link for a standalone review.) This follows on from the amazing, and even Clarke Award-winning, Dark Eden and is what was to have been called Gela's Ring. Generations after the break-up of the human family of Eden, survivors of a hijacked interstellar craft that crashed on a far-flung world, the Johnfolk emphasize knowledge and innovation, the Davidfolk tradition and cohesion. But both have built hierarchical societies sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favoured children of a long-dead woman from Earth that all Eden knows as Gela, the mother of them all. When Starlight Brooking meets a handsome man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition. She has no idea that she will be a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s ring. And she has no idea of the enemies she will make, and that a time will come when she, like John Redlantern, will choose to kill…  (Note Gela's Ring was published electronically on the on-line magazine Aethernet and served as the proto-novel for Mother of Eden. Mother of Eden's publication was originally slated for the Spring but was then delayed to the Summer. SF2 Concatenation's pre-publicity copy has arrived so we can be assured that it will be available in June (2015) along with a trade paperback edition, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-782-39234-7.)

Dark Run by Mike Brooks, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95664-6.
Ichabod Drift is the commander of the Keiko, a man bound up by secrets from his past, and not too particular about the kind of jobs he and his crew take on. There's one rule aboard the Keiko and one rule only: nobody has to speak of their past. They make their living as bounty hunters and soldiers of fortune in a Universe where faster-than-light travel has been conquered and Earth's colony worlds are wild, lawless frontiers, where the hard truths of civilisation come at a great cost. When a contact from Drift's old life suddenly appears and compels Drift to take up a contract by threatening to expose his former identity, there is no other choice but to acquiesce… This is a debut from a new author.

Beyond the Frontier by Jack Campbell, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-16468-6.
The fifth in the 'Lost Fleet' series with protagonist Black Jack Geary.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28923-4.
Remarkable short stories. (Regulars may recall that we previously published one of his shorter shorts, What's Expected Of Us in our Best of Nature 'Futures' series.)

Virtues of War by Bennett R. Coles, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29420-6.
Debut by a Canadian author with a military SF novel and the start of a trilogy.

Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50537-4.
Romantic comedy SF that is billed as being The Big Bang Theory meets Bridget Jones.

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50422-3.
Wide screen space opera. A new human order struggles to establish itself… This is the fifth in the 'Expanse' series that began with Leviathan Wakes. (See Duncan's review of Abaddon's Gate which is part of the same series.)

Deep Time by Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-0621-8405-4.
Book six of the 'Star Carrier' series.

Extinction Game by Gary Gibson, Tor, pbk, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-24272-7.
This is the first mass market paperback release of last year's novel that our Jonathan liked (see title link for standalone review). The last man on Earth is kidnapped and taken to be with a team of survivors' all taken from doomed parallel Earths. There they are sent on missions to other Earths where civilisation has been wiped out in a myriad of ways…

Tin Men by Christopher Golden, Headline, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-01-472-20987-2.
Billed as Avatar meets Robo-Apocalypse in a high-octane, near-future thriller.

The Tabit Genesis by Tony Gonzales, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0575-09322-5.
Two starships carry mankind's hopes for the future following an alien invasion, and are seeking out a new home…

Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28599-1.
A re-print of one of his earlier, weighty space operas, with a new cover.

Spark by John Twelve Hanks, Corgi, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-17057-4.
In the future there is an assassin whose medical condition means that he has no emotions.

Valedor by Guy Haley, Black Library, £9.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70852-4.
Part of Warhammer 40,000.

The Return of the Discontinued Man: The Burton & Swinburne Adventures by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95066-8.
Burton and Swinburne return in a new wildly imaginative steampunk adventure, and this time they’re facing their greatest foe…  Leicester Square, London. Blood red snow falls from the sky and a strange creature, disorientated and apparently insane, materialises out of thin air. Spring Heeled Jack has returned, and he is intent on one thing: hunting Sir Richard Francis Burton.

The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats: The Burton & Swinburne Adventures by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95067-5.
Having returned from his expedition to the future, Burton reveals to the authorities what he witnessed there. In response, Prime Minister Disraeli initiates a programme whereby the empire's elite have their consciousnesses transferred into mechanical bodies, thereby ensuring eternal rule. As a brutal plutocracy emerges, Burton and Swinburne find themselves leading a revolution. The Sixth and final Burton and Swinburne Adventure!

The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66455-5.
When the air starts to thin it starts a race against time.

A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install, Doubleday, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52302-0.
A stay-at-home husband who does not want children, finds something rusty in the garden. When his wife leaves him he realises that he has no friends. Except perhaps one…

Decoded by Mai Jia, Penguin Classics, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-141-39148-9.
Literary thriller with a science trope together with just a hint of a loose SFnal riff. A mathematical savant becomes a code-breaker but when he makes a mistake he begins a slide into madness… This has apparently sold some three million copies in China!

Dark Hunters: Umbra Sumus by Paul Kerney, Black Library, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70844-9.
Military SF with space marines.

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, Abacus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-14014-8.
Set in a far future and dystopic US, Baltimore is now known as B-Mor and a fish tank driver sets out to find the man she loves somewhere in the open counties…

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29042-9.
Sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds which our Mark liked.

Warriors of Ultramar by Graham McNeill, Black Library, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70840-8.
The second in the 'Ultramarines' trilogy.

Gods of Mars by Graham McNeill, Black Library, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70848-7.
Final in the 'Ultramarines' trilogy.

ABC Warriors: Return to Mars by Pat Mills, 2000AD, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-781-083437.
Full colour graphic novel. The military robots recount a past mission on Mars that ultimately led them back to Earth. Some of the art work is brilliant. The hard-ish SF story is mixed with science fantasy and has a wide-screen, almost space-operatic, feel to it.

The Night Mayor by Kim Newman, Titan Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-16566-9.
This is a re-issue of Kim's 1989 award-winning debut novel in which a prisoner escapes by inventing a computer-generated world. Kim Newman is better known as being a fantastic film critic and has been around the British SF book convention scene for years; so he knows his SF tropes.

The Book of Phoenix (2015) Nnedi Okorafor, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61794-0.
She is an experiment, an abomination, but she is Phoenix, an 'accelerated woman' grown in Tower 7, the only home she has known. Only two years old she has the body and mind of an adult. She lives happily in love with Saheed, another accelerated human. Then Saheed makes a discovery so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated, Phoenix searches for answers… The author has previously won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for 'Best Novel'.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy, Hodder, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-77003-2.
In a post-apocalyptic world, devastated by a virus, a group of survivors have built a fortress. But then a traveller arrives informing them of a green place that has escaped ecological disaster and he can lead them to it. But is all he says true and can he be trusted?  The pre-launch, advance word on this is quite positive.

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, Doubleday, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52176-7.
This is the fourth in the hard-ish SF series about a line of parallel Earths. The series began with The Long Earth and continued with The Long War and The Long Mars .  Sadly, will be the second last in the series due to his recent demise.

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, Corgi, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-16935-6.
Click on title link for a standalone review. This is this title's first mass market paperback edition release. A string of parallel Earths has been explored but is there a similar line of alternate Marses (if that is the plural of 'Mars')? Of course there is! Written at a fairly standard level, this is nonetheless jam-packed with concepts.

Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09049-1.
(Click on the title link for a standalone review.) This is Reynolds' latest, hard SF, widescreen space opera. Humanity has reached and established a colony on Crucible, a world orbiting a nearby star which itself had an 'alien' intelligence already there. Then the human colony receives a targeted transmission from the system Gliese 163 addressed to one of the colonists: could it be from this person's parents or even a more older relative?  Meanwhile on Mars, humanity has made peace with the rogue machines and has an embassy there with three ambassadors (the only human presences on the planet), when other humans – apparently seeking to make a political statement as to humanity's sovereignty of the planet – crash a ship onto its surface…  This completes the 'Elephant' ('Poseidon's Children saga' as it is officially being marketed) loose trilogy (each book can be read as a standalone title) that began with Blue Remembered Earth and continued with On the Steel Breeze. And yes, if you have read these then, you'll be pleased that we have elephants in the mix. This novel is of Hamiltonian proportions at over 700 pages, which is nearly 50% bigger than either of the first two books.  All those of our team who have reviewed Reynolds' work love it: he writes state of the art widescreen space opera. Previous Reynolds' books reviewed (among a number) on this site include: Blue Remembered Earth, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, Galactic North, House of Suns, The Prefect, Pushing Ice and Revelation Space.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds, Tachyon Publications, £10, pbk. ISBN 978-1-616-96193-0 .
Publication of this title has been delayed since the first trade pre-publicity in Britain and there is still no firm news on this, and Tachyon is US-based, but we like Reynolds and this is bound to be good. (In fact, given it is from a US publisher, we wonder why the British trade gave teaser coverage of this at the end of last year…? Or are Gollancz saving their powder for Poseidon's Wake above?)

The Blood Red City by Justin Richards, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95599-1.
The Germans have lost control of their most deadly discovery. The alien Vril have awakened and are scouring the Earth for ancient relics. From the Hollywood lights of LA to the bloody devastation of Stalingrad, Major Guy Pentecross and the team at Station Z must uncover the mystery and stop the Vril and Nazis alike. Failure will mean the end of life as we know it.

The Atlantis Gene by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97009-3.
Humanity is under threat of pandemic from a 70,000 year old pathogen. Reportedly this has sold 600,000 copies in the US.

Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-575-13443-0.
Inspired by the Jules Verne classic.

Bete by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12769-2.
Animals are injected with artificial intelligence by the animal rights movement… And they begin to speak back…

Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20339-6.
This is a cyberpunk debut novel billed as being in the vein of William Gibson and Neil Stephenson.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0356-50036-1.
A voyage beyond the Solar System... Kim is, of course, very well known to dedicated SF readers and this is his latest. At the moment the pre-publicity is scant but keep an eye out for this.

Binary by Stephanie Saulter, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780—87895-9.
This is the second in the series that sees humans turn to genetic modification to avert their own extinction. But their creations, 'gems', now fighting to be treated as equals. (See also below.)

Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06022-2.
Genetically modified humans are thriving but an old enemy threatens the peace. (See above.)

Synthesis Weave by Deane Saunders-Stow, Forcefield Publishing, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-993-17732-3.
Tenebrae station served as a pleasant stop-off during long-haul space trips … until the explosion…  A tsunami on a space station. An explosion with no trace of the bomber. Sebastian knows evidence doesn’t magically disappear, yet when he and disabled ex-marine Aryx travel the galaxy to find the cause, there seems to be no other explanation. Can he unravel the mystery before his family, home, and an entire race succumbs to an ancient foe?  Normally we do not list independently, self-published books (there are too many and the quality is mainly very low). However whether or not this is genuinely good, or whether there happened to be some lucky marketing, this title was recommended as one of the Bookseller magazine's editor's choice of the month: he normally selects just half a dozen titles each month. We thought you might want to know.

Sky Pirates: Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwarz, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95073-6.
Eleanor Chance has made it her mission to find her husband who has been cursed to roam the netherworld. But her plans are scuppered when a band of sky pirates attack, led by a man hell-bent on revenge. And rumour has it the Council of Warlocks has fallen under the sway of the nefarious Shadow Master – who wants her dead at any cost.

Devlin Waugh: Red Tide by John Smith, 2000AD, £19.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-781-08344-4.
Full colour graphic novel about a camp, demon-hunting agent working for the Vatican in the 22nd century of the Judge Dredd universe. Action and outrageous dark humour. A great, science fantasy, Dredd spin-off.

No Harm May Come To A Good Man by James Smyth, Borough Press, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-54193-5.
Set in the future where the future can be predicted by software (Asimov's Foundation anyone?). Here, one man who wants to become the President is instead told that he is going to do the worst thing imaginable…

Way Down Dark (2015) J. P. Smyth, Hodder & Stoughton, £13.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-79632-2.
17 year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly not to draw attention to herself against violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to return the starship 'Australia' to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and murderers who control life aboard the ship… This looks like it is juvenile SF, bit possibly appropriate for a more adult readership too? The author has previously been shortlisted for a Clarke Award.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, The Borough Press, £22, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-008-13251-4.
When a catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb, it triggers a feverish race against the inevitable. An ambitious plan is devised to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere. But unforeseen dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain…  Five thousand years later, their progeny – seven distinct races now three billion strong – embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (vol. 9) edited by Jonathan Strahan, Solaris Books, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-781-08308-6.
Anthology of contemporary shorts. If your genre tastes are wide, spanning the full spectra of fantasy and SF, then this well could be for you.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-27328-8.
Two civilizations battle to be the true heirs of Earth…

Your Servants and Your People by David Towsey, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06439-8.
This follows on from Your Brother's Blood. Set many decades in the future, humanity is still chugging along nicely thank you, amidst the occasional ruins of a past technological age. Of course there are the undead, but they are not the flesh-eating hordes recounted in other popular fiction…

The Mechanical by Ian Tregellis, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50232-8
Little known about this one so far other than the protagonist, Jax (presumably the 'mechanical' of the title) is determined to be free of his (its?) human masters. The early buzz, and not just from the publishers and publishing trade, about this title is positive.

The Mammoth Book of Diesel Punk by Sean Wallace (editor), Robinson, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-11875-2.
An anthology of shorts. 'Diesel punk?' we hear you cry. Well, apparently it is a hybrid of Edwardian First World War culture with late 20th century science and technology.

My Real Children by Jo Walton, Corsair, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-11563-8.
An old lady with Alzheimer's can more easily remember her distant past than recent events… The only thing is that she seems to be remembering two distinct lives! This came out last year in the US and this is its first British, mass market paperback edition. We think it will do well over here and have included it as one of our Best SF novels of 2014.

The Martian by Andy Weir, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03113-7.
This is early notification the much awaited release in the autumn of the British mass market paperback edition of the novel we cited as one of the best SF books of 2014.  I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah, I’m screwed…!  Surprisingly this was not shortlisted by the British SF Association for its awards this year; such a lapse says more about the BSFA Awards than it does about this remarkable novel. Simply, this is a great mundane SF story.  And there is a feature film on the way which, if it half as good as the novel, will certainly pick up awards and hopefully turn folk onto the original novel.  Unfortunately it may well have been ousted from this year's Hugo nominations by the Sad Puppy slate. (Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.)

Barricade by John Wallace, Gollancz, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11813-3.
Billed as an SF thriller, this focuses on a taxi ride across a devastated, post-apocalyptic Britain. And it is a debut novel. Sadly we missed out on the hardback and trade paperback releases, but the publicity blurbs sound interesting.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-08048-8.
This is the follow-up to the Hugo Award winning Blindsight. We are not sure from the pre-publicity whether or not this is like Firefall and is a duology containing Blindsight, or whether it is Echopraxia by itself. If it is the latter and you have not read Blindsight then it works reasonably well as a stand-alone as the backstory behind Blindsight is explained. This is rock hard SF: the author is a marine biologist who has an interest in reading psychology research. It is a first contact story packed with science insights. If you are not into science you may find this hard going. Conversely, if you are really seriously into science (or are a science graduate into SF) then you could very well thoroughly enjoy this novel. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

 

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author off the reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-55025-8.
The second in the 'Shattered Seas' series.

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21017-2.
Billed as a standalone novel set in the world of the 'First Law', this is actually more rooted in the series than the trade publicity makes out. Dark and humorous, this is another – note another – mass market paperback release of this 2012 novel, and that by itself is a testimony as to Abercrombie's popularity. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Yarrick: Imperial Creed by David Annandale, Black Library, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70846-3.

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-26698-3.
The last of Earth's magicians are living in fear. The Cenobite Hell Priest Pinhead is killing them off, gorging on their knowledge to enhance his own magical powers as part of a quest to takeover hell. P. I. Harry D'Amour must pass through the gates of hell to rescue his friend (who is a medium) from Pinhead…  It seems to have been quite a while since we had a new major release from this master of fantastical horror. This novel at least loosely ties in with his previous novella The Hellbound Heart and the Hellraiser films.

The Incarnations by Susan Barker, Black Swan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-16000-5.
A Beijing taxi driver is taken back in time by a series of letters from someone who claims to have known him for a thousand years.

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-66441-9.

The Demons: Welcome to the Park of Illusions by Elran Black'mor, Insight Editions, £22.50, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-608-87534-4.
A paranormal journalist arrives in London to find the city has almost a parallel dimension or version of itself…

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Harper, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-46461-6.
Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback edition.

The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett, Harper Voyager, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-42568-6.
Is mankind strong enough to unite against the massing demons?

Touched by Joanna Briscoe, Hammer, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59083-5.
In 1963 Douglas and Rowena leave London for the country with their five children. But their new house seems to resent their presence. It does not want to be renovated and there is this strange pervading smell. Then one of the daughters goes missing… The pre-launch word on this title has been quite good.

The High Druid's Blade by Terry Brooks, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50218-2.
A standalone novel set in the Shanara universe. Notably this is the first Shanara standalone for some 20 years. MTV has a Shanara TV adaptation in the works.

The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks, Orbit, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50219-9.
A new standalone Shanara novel.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-556-50096-6.
The latest adventure with Chicago's only Private Investigator wizard. Click on the title link for Ian's review of the hardback. This has just been Hugo nominated and while our reviewer (click on title link for the standalone review) gave this book a decided thumbs up, the Hugo nomination has unfortunately been tainted by being on the Sad and Rabid Puppies slate.

Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0356-50112-3.
In an alternate world, magic powered the Industrial Revolution. An archaeology student discovers a sentient book.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95647-9.
Everybody loves a ghost story… The heir to Axton House and his companion are delighted to find themselves living in one. With it come nightmares, a secret society and a curse. A ghost may soon be the least of their worries…  Edgar Cantero is an established name in the Spanish SF/F/H scene (and someone to look out for at the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona.

Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13016-6.
Sequel to Dreams and Shadows.

Pure Blooded by Amanda Carlson, Orbit, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50406-3.
Urban fantasy. A Jessica Blake tale.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, Faber, £10.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-571-28865-6.
Graphic novel anthology consisting of five dark fantasy fairy tales billed as in the vein of Grimm and Gaiman.

The Vorrh by Brian Catling, Coronet Books, £22, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-60661-6.
Dark, mythical surrealist fantasy. The Vorrh is a forest that suck souls and wipes minds.

The Floating City by Craig Cormick, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-66423-5.
The Floating City is in turmoil and its Council members are being assassinated one-by-one.

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25238-2.
An ancient city faces possible revolution…

The Splintered Gods by Stephen Deas, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10058-9.

Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee, Hodder, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-144-466855-7.
The final in the 'End of Days' trilogy that began with Angel Fall. Set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

Assail by Ian Esslemont, Bantam Books, £5.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-553-82475-9..
The 6th and final in this Malazan Empire sequence.

Gleam by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66255-1.
The first in 'The Factory' trilogy in a world ruled by alchemists and astronomer priests…

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, Hodder, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-76358-4.
Stand-alone novel with Fforde's usual imagination and wit.

Lord of Ashes by Richard Ford, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-755-39409-8.
Steelhaven Book three and the final in the trilogy.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord, Del Rey, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03094-9.
Billed as a gothic coming-of-age tale for modern times.  When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn't have guessed she would escape her small and peculiar hometown. As a well-behaved and over-achieving teenager, she fell beneath the sway of her community's darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident 'breaches' during the full Moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path. But Lumen resists. She is different. Her mother never breached and she knows she won’t either. As she investigates the secrets behind the community's traditions and unearths the stories buried in her family's past, we realize we may not know Lumen – or Anne as she now calls herself – at all…  The author also writes zombie novels under the pen name Alden Bell (such as The Reapers are the Angels).

Ruin by John Gwynne, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25962-6.
The third in the 'Legends of the Fallen and the Faithful' sequence.

Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour, Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-062-28673-4.
This is a re-telling set in modern times of the Tam Lin legend. Debut author.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-755-38479-2.
This concludes the 'All Souls' trilogy that has sold well. The protagonist is a historian who is a witch and a scientist who is a vampire. They are now back in the present.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09286-0.
This is the mass market paperback release of a new series from the creator of Sookie Stackhouse. Again this is set in a small town with supernatural goings on.

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09288-4.
We think this follows on from Day Shift above, though the brief Books-in-Print pre-publicity bills it as a 'standalone' fantasy mystery set in a small Texas town.

Spira Mirabilis by Aiden Harte, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87155-4.
This is the last in the 'Wave' trilogy.

A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton, Bantam Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-50177-6.
Another in the Princess Merry Gentry series.

Devastating Hate by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-066591-3.
Book 2 in the 'Legends of the Alfar'.

Hellhole: Inferno by Brian Herbert, Simon & Schuster, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-83032-4.
The people of Hellhole and the Shadow Xayans scramble to rally against the threat posed by the rogue Xayans.

Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13060-9.
Set in an alternative Russia. Stone angels fall from the sky. This follows on from Wolfhound Century which itself is being re-released as a paperback with matching livery.

Radiant State by Peter Higgins, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0575-13064-7.
Final in the 'Wolfhound Century' series.

Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25682-3.
The second n the Kanin trilogy.

Kill Baxter by Charlie Human, Arrow, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-58078-2.
This follows on from Apocalypse Now Now. Baxter is packed off to a magic school which would all sound a bit like Hogwarts were it not for the school having drugs and better internet access. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09207-5.
Steampunk and a the start of a new series in which air nomads abduct the ground-based population as slaves.

Foul Tides Turning by Stephen Hunt, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09210-5.
The second in the 'far-Called' series.

Starborn by Lucy Hounsom, Macmillan, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-26845-1.
First in the 'Worldmaker' trilogy and this is a debut novel for the author. Kyndra unleashes a chain of events when she breaks a sacred artefact.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguru, Faber & Faber, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-571-31503-1.
Two elderly, Iron Age brothers live in a land covered by a strange mist that makes people forget their past…

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66798-3.
There has been a murder in the city, a city where reality has folded in on itself after the gods were destroyed.

The Fourth Gwenevere by John James, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66413-5.
A new take on the Arthurian legend.

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-66465-6.
This is the follow-up to Stolen Songbird. Cecil must hunt the witch Anushka.

The Scorched Earth: (The Chaos Born 2) by Drew Karpyshyn, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95286-0.
Beset on all sides by mortal and supernatural enemies, The Children of Fire – four mortals touched by the power of Chaos – are in search of the Talismans that can put a stop to an ancient enemy of the Gods.

Chaos Unleashed: (The Chaos Born 3) by Drew Karpyshyn, Del Rey, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95286-0.
Torn apart by the horrors they have witnessed - and caused – the Children of Fire are more vulnerable than ever. The fanatical armies of the Order march across the land, trying to preserve the Legacy with a bloody Purge of any who have the ability to call upon the power of Chaos. And behind the Legacy lurks Daemron the Slayer and his armies of Chaos Spawn.

Finders Keepers by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-69899-4.
The finder of a literary treasure must be protected from a dangerously obsessive fan.

Fall of Machurius by William King, Black Library, £8.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70850-0.
The conclusion to the Macharian Crusade trilogy.

Valkyries' Song by M. D. Lachlan, Gollancz £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12964-1.
An immortal wolf stalks post-Norman invasion England.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £14,99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-53153-0.
The first in a new series set in the same world as the 'Broken Empire' books. The protagonist is Prince Jalen, 'womaniser, gambler and all-out cad'. See also below

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-53156-1.
Hot on the heels of the above, mid-summer, sees this mass market paperback release.

The James Lovegrove Collection: Vol. 2 by James Lovegrove, Solaris, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-08355-0.
Short stories.

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50509-1.
This is the start of a new, epic fantasy trilogy and it is Marshall's debut novel. A queen comes out of retirement seeking revenge…

War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin, Orbit, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50493-3.
The third in the 'Ascendant Kingdom' saga.

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daises by Martin Milar, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40714-2.
An ancient Athenian based fantasy.

The Forgotten Beast of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21203-9.
Reprint of the 40 year old 1975 World Fantasy Award winning novel.

China Miéville Short Stories by China Miéville, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-77017-1.
Shorts from the multi-award-winning urban fantasy novelist.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman, Harper Voyager, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-007-59307-1.
A vagrant walks across a war-torn landscape with a sword and a baby to find the Shining City which is the last bastion of the human race… That is if he can survive that long. This is Newman's debut novel.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page, Harper Collins, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-062-28079-4.
Prequel to The Wizard of Oz.

The Cunning Man by Sara Pinborough, Jo Fletcher Books, £19.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-780-97129-5.
Fantasy tale set in the 16th century of secrets, jealousy, sex and murder.

The Damned by Tarn Richardson, Duckworth, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-715-64954-1.
It is World War I and dark forces roam the trenches…

Words of Radiance: Part One (& Part Two) by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £8.99.pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-0933-1-4 (978-0575-09332-4).
The paperback release of the hardback but, due to its size, split into two volumes.

Sky Pirates by Liesel Schwarz, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-009-195073-6.
This is another in 'The Chronicles of Light and Shadow' steampunk stories that began with A Conspiracy of Alchemists.

Stallo by Stefan Spjut, Faber, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-571-29678-1.
Set in the forests of Sweden, what if trolls existed and wanted to steal human children…

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0356-50252-6.
Supernatural spy for British Intelligence Bob Howard is back and this time takes on vampires in this fifth standalone novel in the popular 'Laundry Files' series.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Iain Taylor, Hodder, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-72275-8.
This is the final in the 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' trilogy.

The Unforgiven by Gar Thorpe, Black Library, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70854-8.
Conclusion to the 'Legacy of the Caliban' series.

The Cellar by Minett Walters, Hammer, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59464-2.
Mona exacts revenge on those who keep her a slave in a windowless cellar. Haunting page-turner.

Immortal by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-749-95725-4.
Jim Hero is up against demon Dovin in this fallen angel tale.

The Eye of Winter's Fury by Michael J. Ward, Gollancz, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09561-8.
Fantasy sword and sorcery. This was originally self-published but made a sufficient splash by itself that Gollancz picked it up for a wider readership.

Clash of Iron by Angus Watson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50262-5.
Bloodthirsty druids are recruited by the Roman army.

The Shadow Throne: The Shadow Campaign by Django Wexler, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95059-0.
The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries. But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and spymaster of the empire. The most feared man in the Vordan will bow his knee to no Queen, unless she is firmly under his influence. Freshly returned from their recent victories in the colonies, Colonel Janus, Marcus and Winter must play a new and far deadlier game than the open warfare of the front, using all their talents, earthly or supernatural.

The Price of Valour: The Shadow Campaign by Django Wexler, Del Rey, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-4-8-14800-4.
The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life.

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-73867-4.
The conclusion to the Bobby Dollar trilogy about a fallen angel.

The Watchman of Eternity by Paul Witcove, Bantam press, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07076-5.
An 18th century-ish styled sequel to The Emperor of All Things.

The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman, Duckworth, £11.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-751-564989-3.
Henry begins to suspect that his neighbour might be a rage-filled demon…

 

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author off the reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

The Human Age by Diane Ackerman, Headline, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-755-36498-5.
As humans have come to dominate the planet, so the genetic DNA base of other species has declined as they and/or varieties of other species have gone extinct. Now, gene banks and seed stores are increasingly valuable. But could genetic engineering synthetic species become necessary?

Batman: Arkham Universe – The Ultimate Guide by Anonymous, DK, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-409-36959-2.

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Anonymous, Princeton University Press, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-691-115705-4

Hubble Space Telescope: Enthusiasts' Manuel by David Baker, Haynes, £22.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-33797-9.

Build Your Own Gaming PC: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by Russell Barnes, Haynes, £22.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-33802-0.

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Stephen Hawking, became loved by Marcia Bartusiak, Yale University Press, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-300-21085-9.

Smashing Physics by Jon Butterworth, headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21033-3.
A CERN physicist gives his account of the search for the Higgs Boson.

Junk DNA by Nessa Carey, Icon Books, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 981-1-848-31826-7.
Just a few decades ago the majority of the (then yet to be drafted) human genome was considered to contain junk DNA. Now we realise that genes (the DNA that codes for protein that makes your eyes brown, hair blonde, etc) are not the only major component of chromosomes information. Epigenetics has revealed that there are many 'switches', our understanding of genetic diseases has increased telling us more, and there have been important developments in the genetic dimensions of sex determination…

The secret Life of Space by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, Aurum Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-31393-0.

The Knowledge: How to re-build our world from scratch by Lewis Dartnell, Vintage, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-57583-2.
Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

The World of Sherlock Holmes by Martin Fido, Carlton, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-97624-2.

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory 100th Anniversary Edition by Albert Einstein and editors Hanoch Gutfund and Jurgen Renn, Princeton University Press, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-691-16633-9.

The Universe in your Hand by Christophe Galfand, Macmillan, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28408-6.

Einstein: His Space and his Times by Steven Gimbel, Yale, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-3000-19671-9.
A great, fresh biography.

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-393-23930-0.
A look at our prospects for venturing into space. It includes China's plans for a space station around 2020, and the prospects for putting a man on Mars.

Science in Wonderland by Melanie Keene, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-199-66265-4.
From E. Nesbit to Hans Christian Anderson, Victorian writers captured the excitement of the then new science breakthroughs. The converted controversial science insights into into introductory explanations through fantasy. Forces could be faeries, dinosaurs dragons, and eve a drop of water could contain a soup of monsters…

The Vital Question by Nick Lane, Profile Books, £25, hrdbk. 978-1-781-125036-5.
The past Royal Society COPUS Book Prize and Biochemical Society Awards winner reframes evolutionary history arguing that all life depends on voltage.

Fat Planet: Why the World has Become Obese by David Lewis and Margret Leitch, Random House, £12.99, pbk. 978-1-847-94728-4.
Over a billion humans today are overweight and half of these so much so that they are classified as obese. Why?

A Rough Guide to the Future by James Lovelock, Penguin Press, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-241-96141-4.
Engineer and polymath James Lovelock came up with the concept of the Earth being a cybernetic system of positive and negative feedbacks, Gaia Theory, that gives rise to environmental stability (within parameters). This notion has gathered currency over the years and is now quite respectable by many scientists. It is now nearly 50 years old and James is 95 years old. With this book he looks forward to what might be the key challenges of the future and presents two ideas for our consideration. This is likely to be James' last major book. For what it is worth, one of the biologists on our team hasmuch time for Lovelock and his ideas regarding life and planet.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs, Quirk Books, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-594-74789-2.
The advance publicity bills this as a 'fun, feminist, girl-power guide to the geek galaxy'.

The Galapagos by Henry Nicholls, Profile Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-25054-9.
The Galapagos was a key stop on Darwin's Beagle voyage; a stop that helped bring his thoughts on evolution by natural selection into focus.

Goldeneye by Matthew Parker, Windmill Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59174-0.
This is the story of what went on in and around the house in which Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels. It draws on material from his family and lover at the time.

The New Wild by Fred Pearce, Icon Books, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-31834-2.
The 20thcentury has seen the retreat of the wild. Now in the 21st century, conservation is more important than ever. Yet some of the concepts that traditionally underpinned nature conservation are dated: balance of nature, alien species, etc.

How We'll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek, Simon & Schuster, £7.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-471-13888-1
Now, if the pre-publicity is to be believed £7.99 for a hardback is good value as it is normally the price of a paperback. However such pricings do happen tough are rare. This could be because the hardback edition sold particularly well?

Missions to Mars by Rod Pyle, Carlton Books, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-97656-3.
All the Mars missions reviewed from Mariner, through Viking, to today's rovers.

The Mysterious World of the Human Genome by Frank Ryan, Collins, hrdbk, £20. ISBN 978-0-007-54906-1.
The author is an evolutionary biologist.

100 Skills for the End of the World as we Know it by Ana Maria Spagna, Storey Books, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-612-12456-8.

Starring Speculative Corpse Tentacles Longer Than Night by Eugene Thacker, Zero Books, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-79889-7.
This book examines the relationship between horror and philosophy.

A Space Traveller's Guide to the Solar System by Mark Thompson, Bantam press, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07333-9.
This combines astronomy with explanations as to what it is actually like to love on a spacecraft.

 

Brian now has autographed copies of -- Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. Also Essential is now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). If you enjoy Concat then you can support us by getting this book either for yourself or a friend and there are postage discounts for getting more than one copy and a further discount is available if buying several for an SF group or SF class.

 

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent non-fiction SF and popular science books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of many science and SF non-fiction books can be found off the non-fiction reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road by Abbie Bernstein, Titan, £24.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29816-7.
The artwork behind the fourth Mad Max film out this year (2015) with Tom Hardy playing Max.

Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion – Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, Arrow, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59426-0.
Han, Luke and Leia, set just after the destruction of the Death Star in the first film.

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp, Century, hrdbk, £19.99. ISBN 978-1-846-05682-6.

Dr Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol. 1 by Robbie Morrison et al, Square peg, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-76177-8.
Billed as the 14th Doctor (including Cushing and Hurt), Peter Capaldi's, first rendition in a graphic novel.

Harry Potter: The Book of Magical Places by Jody Revenson, Titan, £24.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-753-29602-6.
Covers film locations, concept art, illustrations of sets etc.

Star Wars: The Film Memoires and Photographs of Alan Tomkins by Alan Tomkins, The History Press, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-750-95617-8.
Alan Tomkins was the Art Director on The Empire Strikes Back, so if anyone is to tackle this subject then he is qualified.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

SELECTED FORTHCOMING DVD RELEASES

Aftermath £8.50, DVD from Mandala Films.
The film centres on Hunter (C. J. Thomason ) a young doctor who knows something about what to do when the nuclear missiles start to rain. He meets and woman and a young boy along the road. They steal a vehicle, loot a store and seek shelter in rural Oklahoma/Texas… This plays out what it might be like after a nuclear war in the US: a kind of American equivalent of Threads. See the trailer here.

Automata £11, DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment.
What if an AI robot could improve on itself? How would humanity react? See the trailer here.

The Blob (1958) Box set £14, Blu-Ray from Fabulous Films.
This is, we think, the first Blu-Ray release of this 1958 SF pulp classic concerning an extraterrestrial blob of goo that absorbs all living things it engulfs to grow, and grow it does. Stars: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe and Olin Howland. See the trailer here.

Ex Machina (2015) £10, DVD from Universal Pictures UK.
Research takes us to the point of highly developed artificial intelligence indistinguishable from human minds.  Spring 2015's leading SF film. See the trailer here.

Nemesis 1-4 Box set £25, Blu-Ray from 101 Films.
Action films set in a dystopic future where humanity is being marginalised by robotics. 4-disc set. Stars: Olivier Gruner, Yuji Okumoto, Marjorie Monaghan and Nicholas Guest. See the trailer here.

Vice £11, DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment.
SF thriller. An area is set aside (bit like Westworld) where androids are used for vice. Stars Bruce Willis. See the trailer here.

 

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect this year, 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 other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

R.I.P.

The Spring sadly saw us lose the following science and SF personalities:

Ted Ball, the British SF/F book-dealer, has died. Ted, a quietly spoken person, opened London's Fantasy Centre back in 1969 with Dave Gibson, and later Erik Arthur came aboard. Back in the 1970s London, if you were into SF and sci-fi books you went to Richard and Marion's Bookshop East Sheen in southwest London, if you were into SF books, comics and SF&DA/hippy culture you went to Bram's Dark They Were And Golden Eyed in central London, and for second-hand books you went to Ted and Dave's Fantasy Centre in north London: together they really were the substance of London's SF book scene back then and the Fantasy Centre was integral. The Fantasy Centre was for book buffs literally that: a centre for fantastical books. For example, when a few of us on the SF2 Concatenation team organised the 2nd International Week of Science & SF in Eastern Europe, all the GoH books in the attendees' programme packs were either bought from, or kindly donated by, the Fantasy Centre.  The Fantasy Centre finally closed in 2009 when the lease expired and was too expensive to renew, in part due to Ted and Arthur's age and in part due to London rent increases arguably combined with Amazon selling second-hand books, plus Ted and Erik were not getting any younger. Ted died peacefully in hospital following a chest infection. He leaves behind a staggering library of speculative fiction. Erik Arthur has circulated that the Bishopsgate Institute will receive Ted's comprehensive 'Jack the Ripper' collection.

Harve Bennett, the US television and film producer, has died aged 84. SFnally he is best known for producing four Star Trek films and the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and The Gemini Man.

Yves Chauvin, the Belgian borne chemist of French parents, has died aged 84. Yves Chauvin is best known for discovering metathesis, the mechanism by which two double bonded carbon atoms swap their partners in a kind of a dance. Understanding this mechanism has led to the industrial synthesis of a number of plastics and pharmaceuticals. It was a discovery that garnered Chauvin a share in the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

John Cooper, the British comics artist, has died aged 72. He drew many Gerry Anderson TV show related strips for the TV Century 21 stable of comics including: Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope. He also did Blake's 7 and Doctor Who strips.

Suzette Haden Elgin, the US poet, has died aged 78. Though she did write a few SF stories and novels, she is best known for founding the Science Fiction Poetry Association and their Elgin Award is named in her honour.

Brett Ewins, the British comics artist, has died aged 59. He worked on a number of 2000 AD strips including Judge Dredd and Bad Company, as well as also Hellblazer, Skreemer and Swamp Thing. In 1988 he founded the magazine Deadline, a kind of cross between New Musical Express and Time Out with a genre comics magazine for an older readership. It brought the strip Tank Girl to the world. Despite its surviving, and indeed modest success, for a few year, it was struggle to keep going and Brett worked on his own strips including Johnny Nemo. Alas the workload was too much and in 1991 he suffered a breakdown. On medication he returned to draw for 2000AD but he never regained his flare. In 2012 a mental health-induced episode resulted in an affray with two police being injured and Brett spending a short period in jail. This did not help. Despite some appearances at convention he never got back into comics. He died after a short illness at Ealing hospital. The Judge Dredd Megazine #358 carried a one-page obituary and its back cover had a portrait of Brett with some of the characters he drew, drawn by 'Rufus Dayglo'.

Carl Djerassi, the European chemist, has died aged 91. He was best known for being the 'father of' the pill' (but personally preferred 'mother of…') and not so well known as a writer of science in fiction. Born in Austria, he spent some of his youth in Bulgaria. he spent his teenage years back in Vienna but moved to the US with the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. He worked on a new synthesis of cortisone based on diosgenin, a steroid sapogenin derived from a Mexican wild yam. His research team later synthesized norethisterone (norethindrone), the first highly active progestin analogue that was effective when taken by mouth. This became part of one of the first successful combined oral contraceptive pills, known colloquially as the birth-control pill, or simply, the Pill.&nnbsp; He also wrote five novels, four of which he describes as 'science-in-fiction' a genre term some these days trendily refer to as 'lab lit'. In his first two novels, Cantor's Dilemma (1989) and Bourbaki Gambit (1994), he shows how scientists work and think. In Cantor's Dilemma, there is the suspicion of scientific fraud; in Bourbaki Gambit the question of personal achievement stands in the centre. In the third, Menachem's Seed, ICSI and the Pugwash organization are the main themes. In the last, NO (1998) he shows how young scientists develop an idea as far as founding a company to market a product - something Djerassi himself did in the field of insecticides.  He was also a playwright. His first play, An Immaculate Misconception (1998), deals with the in vitro fertilization procedure ICSI. It was followed by two plays about priority struggles in the history of science, Oxygen (co-authored with Roald Hoffmann, 1999) and Calculus (2002).  It seems that it was not that long ago when we were marking progestin norethindrone's 60th anniversary.

Inge Eriksen, the Danish author, has died aged 79. In her early days she was politically active in the left of centre. But from 1975 onwards wrote some three score books (many of which had a discernable socio-political content) and was recognised as a talented genre writer by Denmark SF Circle. But she also had significant recognition from the mainstream mundane fiction community and already had several books published before her The Wind is Not for Sale (1980). Among her most recognised genre works is the tetralogy Rummet uden Tid [Space without Time]: The Space Without Time: Whore from Gomorrah (1983), North of the Time (1985), The Dinosaur Tomorrow (1986) and Paradise Machine (1989) These, among other things, depicted various attempts to save a dying land some two thousand years in the future. On the border of SF is her Gothic romance The Japanese Millionaire (1987), whose plot takes place in Denmark after a stray French missile has hit the country. Her 1988 historic science-fantasy, Benedetto and Lllalinini: an epistolary novel, is about a forbidden, cosmic love between a 12th century pope and an extraterrestrial.  In Anglophone terms her writing might be viewed as a kind of cross between Doris Lessing and Ursula K. LeGuin.

Val Fitch, the US physicist, has died aged 91. Most famously, with James Cronin, he showed that antimatter does not exist as simple mirror-symmetry of counterpart matter particles. This violation of charge-parity explains why the Big Bang did not produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter. The two physicists won the 1980 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery.

Peter A. Gilligan, the British SF fan, has died. Pete was a leading member of his college's SF society: Hatfield Polytechnic's PSIFA. He read psychology getting a 2.1. (We remember him coming out of a viva apparently having been told that they only award one first class honours a year; something which we thought doubly odd from a psychology department who should be cognisant of the relationship between perceptions and reality.) He went on to do a related MA at Sheffield. After that he spent some time in China, when he gafiated and we lost touch with him. As a PSIFA member he was active and was closely involved in organising its early Shoestringcons. He also taught a few PSIFA members Tai Chi, and indeed much of his later life was spent as a Tai Chi instructor in Belfast. In broader fandom he was for a few years a regular at the London SF Circle's 'One Tun' meetings. He attended the early Unicons as well as the Essex BECCONs, and a few Eastercons as well as the 1979 Worldcon and 1984 Eurocon. He is the author of What is 'Tai Chi'? (2009) from the Singing Dragon imprint of the publishers Jessica Kingsley.

Michel Jeury, the French SF writer, has died aged 80. He wrote both under his own name and the pseudonym Albert Higon. He began writing at the start of the 1960s and had his last novel out in the 1990s. His novels spanned from the mainstream through to SF, and within SF from wide-screen space opera to hard SF. His first two novels were space operas: Aux Étoiles du Destin [Destiny's Stars] (1960), featuring a cosmic battle between the alien races: the T’Loons and the incomprehensible Glutons, and La Machine du Pouvoir [The Machine of Power] (1960), which won the 1960 Jules Verne Award. Conversely, his more literary SF Le Territoire Humain [The Human Territory] (1979) featured an oasis of humanity existing on the borders of a dehumanized megastate. Les Yeux Géants [The Giant Eyes] (1980) theorized that modern-day UFOs are but projections of mankind’s collective unconscious. From 1979 a number of his novels were interconnected that also developed some elements that had already been hinted at in earlier works. Les Îles de la Lune [The Islands of the Moon] (1979), helped establish the notion of a 'Jeury Universe' that included 'chronolysis', space islands, history being manipulated by the 'geoprogrammers', and so forth. That same universe was further developed in the trilogy of the Colmateurs [The Pluggers], starting in 1981 with Cette Terre [That Earth]. This ambitious series told the story of a pan-dimensional corps of monitors set up by 'geoprogrammers' to plug holes between alternate Earths. The Colmateursseries was arguably Jeury’s masterpiece, combining strong, dramatic characters, tightly-paced narration, cutting-edge science and epic conflicts on a truly mind-boggling scope.

John Jones, the US fan and conrunner, has died aged 47. He was into gaming and conventions, especially Star Trek cons. Since 2009 he was vice-chair for Ravencon, his local con.

Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, the Polish palaeobiologist, has died aged 89. She specialised in the palaeontology of the Mongolian Gobi desert, especially that of mammals. Her work challenged the belief that mammals only diversified after the K/T dinosaur extinction. She also discovered new species of lizard, crocodile, turtle, dinosaur and bird.

Mary F. Lyon, the British biologist, died on Christmas day aged 89. She is best known for her discovery of X-chromosome inactivation. This prevents the over-expression of X chromosome genes in (XX) women. This phenomena helps explain why explain why female 'carriers' of X-linked genetic disorders can display mild symptoms. She also worked on radiation and chemical mutagenesis.

Hubert Markl, the German scientist, has died aged 76. Over the West – East German re-unification he was president of the DFG, Germany's major agency dispensing governmental funds for basic and fundamental (as opposed to applied and policy-friven) science research. During this time, he closed the poorer performing West German research institutes and established new ones in the East. He continued between 1996 and 2002 as President of the Max Planck Society and did not shy away from investigating the society's activities during the Third Reich. This lead to him publicly apologising on behalf of the Society for its crimes during the time of the Nazi regime.

Ib Melchior, the Danish SF author, has died aged 97. In addition to a couple of novels, he wrote a number of shorts including 'The Racer' which was used as the basis for the film Death Race 2000, hence also Death Race. He also wrote the screenplays Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and Journey to the Seventh Planet, and two episodes of the Hugo-nominated Men Into Space.

Vernon B. Mountcastle, the US clinician turned neurologist, has died aged 96. Among his discoveries was that any given grey matter neuron responded to only one of three types of stimulus: light touch, pressure or joint movement. These different functional types of neuron, he found, were segregated in a vertical organization, which he called a cortical ‘column’. This high degree of order was unexpected. It led Mountcastle to develop the now widely accepted idea that the neocortex is built of repeated units of the same local circuit type.

Valentin Nicolau, the Romanian publisher, has died aged 54. A geophysicist by qualification, he worked as an educational assistant and research technician at Bucharest University for half a decade before the 1990 revolution; back in those days Romanians were more or less told what career they would have. Following the fall of the communist regime, he founded a magazine and in 1991 established the publishing house and imprint Nemira. It became Romania's leading SF/F imprint (though it also published some mundane fiction) and in 1994, when the Eurocon was held in Romania, it unsurprisingly won a Eurocon Award. Its success enabled it to engage in some less-than-profitable-but-still-very-worthy ventures including a short series of annual bilingual (English and Romanian) anthologies of Romanian short story SF/F. These could have catapulted Romanian SF into the English-speaking world were it not for the extremely poor translations of Romanian to English. (In common with a number of European countries, while Romania has a handful of excellent translators of English to Romanian, it does not have any good translators the other way into English.) However, with good English-to-Romanian translation, Nemira brought a number of Anglophone genre writers (including Aldiss, Anderson, Brunner, Dick, Herbert, LeGuin, Silverberg, Spinrad and van Vogt) to a generation of Romanian readers. In the 2000s Valentin Nicolau helped represent Romania's television industry. In 2007, he launched the Nemi publishing house as a sister to Nemira: Nemi specialised in children's fiction. He also penned a few theatrical plays. Along the way he supported a number of fannish ventures including on a number of occasions the long-running, European SF Society (ESFS) Eurocon Award-winning, annual Anticipatia. At the time of his demise, Nemira was still the largest SF/F publishing house and SF/F imprint in Romania. He died of a heart attack while in his car. An ambulance promptly arrived but he could not be resuscitated; he was unaware that he had a heart condition.

Leonard Nimoy, the US actor, had died aged 83. His iconic role as the Vulcan Spock in the series Star Trek made it undoubtedly one of the top ten media SF characters of 20th century.  Prior to Star Trek he played an number of minor roles including an army sergeant in the Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958).  On television his SFnal programme appearances included The Twilight Zone episode 'A Quality of Mercy' and on Get Smart (1966). Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek co-star William Shatner first worked together on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., 'The Project Strigas Affair' (1964). He also appeared in several stage plays.  Following the seasons of classic Star Trek on television Mr. Nimoy directed the Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, he was also the executive producer and a writer of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However Nimoy was at first decidedly uncomfortable with his Spock character's popularity. His autobiography I Am Not Spock (1975) clearly revealed his disquiet. But over the years he grew to accept matters: his second autobiography was entitled I Am Spock (1995).  When the director J. J. Abrams re-booted the Star Trek film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast including Zachary Quinto as Spock, he included a part for Leonard Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. He also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness.  In his last week he signed off what was to be his final tweet with "LLAP" [the Vulcan farewell - Live long and prosper].  Following his death NASA tweeted: "RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of at NASA were inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go… go.NASA.gov/10F4CiO.  President Obama also paid a tribute. "I loved Spock," he said. "Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his time and talents… And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the centre of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future."  Meanwhile William Shatner said he loved the actor "like a brother". George Takei said, "he was an extraordinarily talented man but he was also a very decent human being." Zachary Quinto, said: "My heart is broken."  Syfy Channel honoured the Leonard Nimoy with a five-hour programming salute on 1st March that ran from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The marathon commenced with his role in an episode of the original Twilight Zone series, followed by his arc on Star Trek: The Next Generation and concluded with the final Star Trek original cast film, Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country.  The Big Bang Theory paid its tribute with one of its end-of-show, final credit vanity cards featuring a black-and-white picture of Nimoy with the caption: 'The impact you had on our show and on our lives is everlasting'.

Terry Pratchett, the British fantasy author, occasional SF writer, and fan, has died aged 66. This is, of course, tragically young for the early 21st century, but not surprising given his 2007 announcement of his 'embuggerance'. But way back in the late 1980s and early 1990s it soon became apparent that Terry was rising to be a giant author and we at Concatenation were delighted that he granted permission to reprint an interview article which appeared way back when we were still producing print editions. Terry went on to write a total of some 70 books including, notably, the Discworld series of humorous fantasy. Without detailing the very long list of his literary achievements – we all know his oeuvre – suffice to say that by 2008 three of Terry's titles had been continually in the British Isles BookScan top 5,000 weekly chart for 12 years: no other author has achieved this. In 2011 he was the most borrowed author from British Libraries. Such was his fame, and popularity, that Local Councils even titled street names inspired by Discworld.  Following his embuggerance announcement that he had a rare form of Alzheimer's (posterior cortical atrophy), Terry lobbied for Alzheimer's research and in 2008 donated £500,000 of his own money before later in the year handing in a petition to the Prime Minister. In 2009 he made a two-part documentary of Alzheimer's for the BBC.  But he had other concerns and these included wildlife. In 2011 he donated a reward for anyone giving evidence leading to the conviction of a killer of swans and in 2013 made another wildlife documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, on the threat to orang-utans.  As his illness progressed his thoughts turned to how his own life would end and in 2010 he gave that year's Dimbleby Lecture, 'Shaking Hands With Death' and went on to publicly criticise the law on assisted suicide. However everyone hoped that we would have more time with him despite the past couple of years his having to dictate his novels: his Alzheimer's had progressed that far. Indeed only as recently as 2009 Terry had had a new 10-book, 7-figure deal with Doubleday and Anchor Books. (All told it is thought that some 75 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide in 37 languages.) But circumstances the last year had grown markedly worse and he even pulled out of attending a Discworld convention. Terry died on 12th March naturally, in bed, surrounded by those close to him and his cat.  Another light extinguished from the British genre's firmament, but one well equipped to meet one of his own character creations.  And so there were the final tweets of words previously dictated by Terry to his daughter, from Terry and Rob's account courtesy of Rob Wilkins:

          AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER
          Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
          The End.

 

Dave Rike, the US fan in the Bay area, has died aged 79. Active in and since 1950s fandom, he was a co-editor (with Terry Carr) of the fanzine Innuendo. He helped popularise the propeller beanie as a symbol of fandom in the US.

Peggy Rae Sapienza, the US fan, has died aged 70. She was active in Balticons andm as Peggy Rae Pavlatm chaired the 1998 Baltimore Worldcon. She was fan guest of honour at the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago.

Eric Scott, the US fan and conrunner, has died. He was particularly associated with Westercons and the Bay Area SF Association.

Melanie Tem, the US fantasy author, has died aged 65. Her debut novel Prodigal (1991) was the winner of a Bram Stoker Award, and in 1992 she won the Icarus award for most promising newcomer, presented by the British Fantasy Society. Meanwhile Desmodus (1996) was long-listed for the James Tiptree, Jnr. Award. Her new collection, Singularities, is coming out later this year.

Charles Townes, the US physicist, has died aged 99. He is best known for, in 1954, developing the maser that works using microwaves. This paved the way for developing a version that used light: the laser (by Theodore Maiman). This garnered him a Nobel Prize in 1964. He also discovered complex molecules in the interstellar medium and found evidence of a black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Townes was also a science advisor to Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. Regarding his personal life, he believed that science and religion were both groping for the answers to similar questions, albeit using different methods, and argued the case for their convergence.

Nick C. Winks, the US fan, died back in December aged 66. He was conrunner, focussing on children’s programming for Marcons, Windycons, and Chicon 2000. He also worked on Context. He is survived by his wife and fellow fan Linda and their five children.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

SF author John Scalzi predicted white M&Ms. Scalzi tells us that in The Android’s Dream, which he wrote over a decade ago now, he reached into the thinky crevasses of his brain to conceive of a thing that no human had dared to dream of: white chocolate M&M’s.  Now, M&Ms have a new white chocolate variety.  Yes! Scalzi was the first! He says: "They came from my very thinkmeat! And people said to me then, "Well, hold up there, Scalzi. Spaceships and aliens are all very well, but white chocolate M&M’s? That’s too radical an idea! And then they laughed, nervously..." He adds: "Yes. Arthur C. Clarke had communication satellites, Robert Heinlein had waterbeds, and now I have white chocolate M&M's. I  predicted this magnificent confection of the future! I did! Me! Alone!"

Google proto-artificial intelligence learns to master video games. The computer program responsible was inspired by the human brain. It learned how to play 49 classic Atari games such as space invaders. In more than half, it was as good or better than a professional human player. Researchers from Google DeepMind said this was the first time a system has learned how to master such a wide range of complex tasks. The researchers tested their system t with 49 different videogames, ranging from classics such as Space Invaders and Pong, to boxing and tennis games and the 3D-racing challenge Enduro. In 29 of them, it was comparable to or better than a human games tester. For Video Pinball, Boxing and Breakout, its performance far exceeded the professional's, but it struggled with Pac-Man, Private Eye and Montezuma's Revenge (see Mnih et al (2015) Nature vol. 518, p529-533 and also a review article by Bernhard Scholkopf Nature vol. 518, p486-7.).  DeepMind was developed by researchers in London whose technology company was bought by Google in the Spring of 2014.  +++ Last year another AI system sort of passed the Turing test.

Intelligent robots must uphold human rights, opines a discussion article in the science journal Nature. Imperial College (London) lecturer, Hutan Ashrafian, notes that we are moving ever closer to sentient artificial intelligence (AI) and it is not too early to take such issues seriously. We should extend, he says, Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to support the nature of AI-on-AI interaction, and suggests a fourth law: 'all robots endowed with comparable human reason and conscience should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood'. Ashrafian points out that biomedical research funders such as the Wellcome Trust already support both biomedical research and that on medical ethics and history, and there are such dual-purpose modules for undergraduates. An analogous course for those studying advanced AI might be CEP – Computer science Engineering and Philosophy. (See Nature, vol. 519, p391.)

Your Facebook 'likes' can predict your personality. Sexuality, political leanings and even intelligence can be gleaned from the things you choose to 'like' on Facebook. The Cambridge University (Britain) research, by the appropriately named psychologist 'Youyou', forms surprisingly accurate personal profile (see 'Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans', PNAS, 2014). Using over 58,000 volunteers, they linked 'likes' to five core personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness. Their results showed that if a persons Facebook page has more than 150 likes their computer model was more accurate than the person's family member, and 300 a person's partner. The average Facebook page has 277 likes. Their model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases.
          This builds on a 2013 study (see 'Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behaviour', PNAS) that used 86,220 volunteers who alongside their Facebook 'likes' and demographic information also provided psychometric testing results designed to highlight personality traits. An algorithm was then derived. This algorithm used the volunteers Facebook 'likes' and checked against demographic information also provided by the psychometric testing results - designed to highlight personality traits. The findings highlight that people’s personalities can be predicted automatically and without involving human social-cognitive skills. If you use Facebook then bear in mind the next time a politician, sales person or other cold caller, calls on your house and seems to uncannily agree with your views, it might be that it is your Facebook page that gave away your personal opinions.

Mars mission fire in desert! The event took place at the end of December (2014) but only now has the news been made public. Four crewmembers simulating a mission on Mars dealt with a greenhouse fire so strong that flames on the first day of their mission. Flames reached at least 10 feet (3 meters) high. It took place at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), in the Utah desert near the small town of Hanksville (US). It took the crew half an hour to control the fire and all the fire extinguishers before it was put out. The cause was deemed to be an electric fire positioned too close to some wooden shelving. The cost of the damage has been estimated at US$40,000 (£25,000).

Warning over 'Big Brother' 'listening' TV. George Orwell's novel 1984 (1949) depicted a dystopic future of a war improvised nation in which the state monitored their citizens through there television as well as CCTV: 'Big Brother is watching you'. Now Samsung is warning customers to avoid discussing personal information in front of their smart television sets. These 'listen' to every conversation held in front of them and may share any details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said. Samsung's privacy policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands are issued. It goes on to warn: 'If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party'. Samsung added, that its system currently did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. Smart-TV owners would always know if voice activation was turned on because a microphone icon would be visible on the screen. So Samsung seems to be playing it ultra safe with its privacy policy.
          Yet in the wake of this story breaking, even if it is a little mover the top, Prof Will Stewart of the Institution of Engineering and Technology said privacy loss was 'intrinsic' to smart technology. Will Stewart said there seemed to be 'little danger' in the Samsung case but added that this may not always be the case as TV sets and other devices got smarter. "Upcoming services, like live translation, do involve wider data sharing and people should be aware of this," he said. In many cases, it was going to be impossible to avoid surrendering private information. "Many more ordinary services like locate-your-friends and car tracking to reduce insurance costs do involve some intrinsic loss of privacy." Despite the Samsung oversensitivity, he may have a point.

METI (Messaging ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) enthusiasts at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science look at benefits and risks. They will consider the merits of sending messages about Earth – including the contents of Wikipedia – to hundreds of star systems. US SF author David (Kil'n People) Brin is though worried. He says: "To be clear, those of us who oppose charging into this arrogant activity, based on unexamined assumptions, aren't aiming to 'stifle humanity forever'. What we want is something that all of you would enjoy! A worldwide discussion of all aspects of this matter, televised and webbed so that all of us can look over the full range of fascinating concepts and evidence — before giving the nod to yelling 'yoohoo, aliens! Lookit us!'"

Climate scientist wins libel case against Canada's National Post newspaper. Climate denialsim is one of the late 20th century's more serious fictions of science. Andrew Weaver, now also a local politician in British Columbia, challenged four Post climate sceptic articles that called him a 'climate alarmist' implying that he was untrustworthy and unscientific. The British Columbia Supreme Court says that the Post should take down the articles and that they 'adversely impact on Dr Weaver's reputation and integrity as a scientist'. He was also awarded Can$50,000 (£26,300).

 

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2015

End Bits

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Autumnal upload in September
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' autumnal book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews.

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Erik Arthur, Arno Behrand, Silviu Genescu, Sue Griffiths and Roberto Quaglia.  Thanks also go to a veritable legion of others including numerous Brits and other Europeans quietly sending in views and unofficial personal comment who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news; these last have their own ventures promoted on this page.   If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told). :-)

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Autumn 2015 period – needs to be in before mid-August 2015. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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

If you have found this page interesting

And you have SF friends on Twitter then do feel free to spread the word twitter.com/SF2Concat/status/587593879442034688

Meanwhile feel free to browse the rest of the site; key links below.


[Up: Science Fiction News Index | Recent Site Additions | Author Index to Fiction & Non-Fiction Book Reviews | Home Page: Concatenation]

[ Year's Film & Convention Diary | One Page SF Futures Short Stories | SF Convention Reviews | SF Film Charts | Articles | Whimsy with Gaia ]

[Originally posted 15.4.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy | Editorial | Site Origins/History]