Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Summer 2017

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

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

Summer 2017

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

We are now 30 years old, which is just a little worrying…


Cover of issue no.1
back when we were
print in 1987.

EDITORIAL COMMENT

It was 30 years ago today that the Concatenation band began to play! We've been going in and out of style, and are almost guaranteed to raise a smile…  Yes (as outreach to Eastern European fans following the fall of the Iron Curtain; press work for three Eurocons; SF non-fiction publishing; and numerous SF con programme item contributions among much else (see our history in brief here).  Along the way we have somehow gathered a few puffs such as co-joined winners of three of the British Eastercon's former MacIntyre Awards (co-joined because the 1970s to early 1990s MacIntyres were for zine artwork and their reproduction with both the art and zine judged) and four Eurocon Awards, we suspect that such accolades were more for our stubbornness in continuing for so long than anything else (even when we were ten a decade is a long time for sustained effort in fandom), but them's the breaks and we are grateful.
          All sorts has happened over the three decades including a number of coincidences and synergies: some recently.  Our interactions over the years with various in the respective science and SF communities continues and it is pleasing to continue to see occasional happenstances and, indeed, one happened this season. It's a bit of a story…
          You see, years ago, two of our three founding editors had the pleasure to be involved with the college SF society PSIFA's interaction with the Galaxy's greatest comic, 2000AD, in its earliest years (1978-'83).  Two PSIFAns, a physicist and a biologist were part of the core team that established the SF² Concatenation.  Then, over a quarter of a century later (2006), SF² Concatenation came to an arrangement with the weekly science journal Nature to seasonally re-post what we consider are the best of its weekly SF 'Futures' short stories which were back then hidden behind a pay wall.  (Hope you are still following this.)  So you can imagine our pleasure, in this our 30th year, to see the science journal Nature last month ingeniously tip its hat to 2000AD in its 40th year.  Marvellous.  And we cover this last in more detail in a below news item within our Science & SF Interface subsection.
          There is further 2000AD news in 'Staff Stuff' immediately below and a separate conrep on 2000AD's 40th bash elsewhere this edition.  Meanwhile, the now more elderly SF² Concatenation hobbles towards its one-third-century mark: bullets can't stop it, phasers wont halt it, what will happen?  Find out in forthcoming seasons…
          Though we will continue (for a while at any rate), our SF² Concatenation celebrations, let alone 2000AD's, our founding editors' PSIFA peers and Nature 'Futures' partners, are tinged with a little sadness due to absent friends.  As the good Doctor knows all too well, time travel incurs a cost on companions, and we will all spare a thought for those who are no longer with us this anniversary year.  These souls include:  2000AD's Tom Frame (the Galaxy's greatest letterer), Jan Shepheard and John HicklentonNature's John Maddox (who's mid-symposium outside ciggy-break discussions were invariably illuminating);  Old Age PSIFAns Peter Gilligan (also a fan fixture at 1980s British Eastercons) and Chris Cooper (who provided tech' support for many British Eastercons of the 1980s - 2000s);  and very close to home our Harry Nadler (Eastercon organiser and regular 1960s-1990s Eastercon attendee and founder of the Festival of Fantastic Films, which is still going today!).  We will raise a glass to those we miss as we cut our birthday cake.  +++ See also below even more 2000AD news with Judge Dredd – Strontium Dog timelines being harmonised.
          And lest we forget, this September sees the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner. (We wonder if we can encourage a British channel to re-broadcast?)  Be seeing you.

 

STAFF STUFF

The past season been quite a Spring. Recent events in London have mirrored those the past few years of our mainland European cousins.  Seven of the original print and early web SF² Concatenation team members have worked in London, so we know it extremely well.  Indeed, one of us spent many years representing biological concerns and the bioscience professions to Westminster and Whitehall and so is intimately familiar with the scene of the outrage.  But we are not phased: Londoners have endured far worse: the Blitz, the terrorist bombings of the 1980s and '90s.  Be assured, London is unchanged and open for business, culture and fun for all. And it showcases some of the best science as well as SF in the world.
          And then came the Stockholm incident.  Stockholm was the venue for the 2011 Eurocon and so is known by the regular Eurocon contingent, as well as it being a frequent venue city for Sweden's natcon.  But that was not all. Just before we posted there was yet another incident, this time in Dortmund the venue for this year's Eurocon.  But no city deserves such outrages by a handful of malaligned individuals.
          Now, on to more pleasant matters…
          The spring also saw Simon develop a website, www.jigforakiss.band, for his folk band's songs – also see the below video.  Some of the rest of us wonder whether they might be up for some filk?

          One of our book reviewers – Duncan L. has started a new, quarterly space magazine Space and Scotland from www.actascio.org. The magazine also dips into SF… Science and SF, our kinda thing.  See the news item below
          Then a week before this edition was finalised for posting one of our core team members had a bit of a worrying health incident which, had it progressed, would have affected our ability to keep this site going given we have already lost one of our other founding editors to health.  The good news. Despite symptoms being similar to the side effects of a fairly intense night out (or at a con), hence might be dismissed as trivial, the doctors said it was the right thing to go to hospital. Apparently, many men do not and this can lead to complications, potentially very serious ones. (Men, especially if aged over late 50s, please note this!)  Fortunately, the situation was not as bad as it could have been.  Yet complications may still set in but apparently this happens only one-in-fifty times; so a 98% chance that all will be fine. An examination to ensure that this is so will take place over the summer. If the 2% chance of bad news does come to pass, they've caught the problem early and so hopefully only a minor laser surgery will be needed.  (Still a concern for our person who has seen lasers in Star Trek.)  Much thanks to the wonderful NHS.
          Looking forward, two of our founding editors -- Graham and Jonathan -- are anticipating the summer's 1987 British Eastercon 30th anniversary reunion of nearly all of that event's organising committee. (Coincidentally, this year also is the 70th anniversary of the World's first SF convention which itself was held in Britain.)  Meanwhile, a few of our friends attended 2000AD's 40th bash back in February on which Anthony has just provided a short report with YouTube video links.  +++ See also below Nature sends 2000AD anniversary greetings.
          Splundig.

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 27 (3) Summer 2017) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists by SF author and mathematician Ian Stewart
          SF Film recommendations from the 20th Century -- Part 3: The Space Age (1960-69)
          The 2016 Eurocon – Barcelona by Jim Walker
          2000AD's 40th anniversary event by Anthony Heathcote.
          2016/17 (year to Easter) SF Film Top Ten Chart and Other Worthies
          Gaia 2017 - Annual whimsical SF and/or science snippets and exotica
Plus over thirty (yes, over 30!) SF/F/H standalone book reviews and non-fiction & science reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 30th year.

 

Your good deed possibly?

We wonder if some of our site's visitors can kindly help. If you have any social media followers in the London area (even if you live farther away) could you kindly let them know of a new London SF group so that they in turn might let those of their followers living in south-east London know. The new group meets in a local pub the 2nd Thursday of each month for informal SF book and film chat. See https://www.facebook.com/northheathscifi/ and www.concatenation.org/n-heath-sf.html. Thank you to all who can help in any way. Your reward will be in silicon heaven.

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

Summer 2017

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

This season's major award news includes:-

The nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards for 'SF achievement' covering the year 2016 have been announced. The nominations for the principal Hugo categories (those categories attracting 1,000 or more nominators) were:-
Best Novel (2,078 ballots):-
          All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
          A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
          Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
          Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
          The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
          Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
Best Novella (1,410 ballots):-
          The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
          The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
          Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
          Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster; Bujold
          A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
          This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Best Novelette (1,097 ballots):-
          Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock
          'The Art of Space Travel' by Nina Allan
          'The Jewel and Her Lapidary' by Fran Wilde
          'The Tomato Thief' by Ursula Vernon
          'Touring with the Alien' by Carolyn Ives Gilman
          'You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay' by Alyssa Wong
Best Short Story (1,275 ballots):-
          'The City Born Great' by N. K. Jemisin
          'A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers',by Alyssa Wong
          'Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies' by Brooke Bolander
          'Seasons of Glass and Iron' by Amal El-Mohtar
          'That Game We Played During the War' by Carrie Vaughn
          'An Unimaginable Light' by John C. Wright
Best Related Work (1,122 ballots):-
          The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
          The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
          Traveller of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
          The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
          The Women of Harry Potter posts by Sarah Gailey
          Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1,733 ballots):-
          Arrival
          Deadpool
          Ghostbusters
          Hidden Figures
          Rogue One
          Stranger Things (Season One)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1,159 ballots)
          Black Mirror 'San Junipero'
          Doctor Who 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio'
          The Expanse 'Leviathan Wakes'
          Game of Thrones 'Battle of the Bastards'
          Game of Thrones 'The Door'
          Splendor & Misery [album] by Clipping
Best (book) Series (1,393 ballots)
          'The Craft Sequence' by Max Gladstone
          'The Expanse' series by James S. A. Corey
          'The October Daye' books by Seanan McGuire
          'Rivers of London' series by Ben Aaronovitch
          'The Temeraire' series by Naomi Novik
          'The Vorkosigan Saga' by Lois McMaster Bujold
Discussion.  Members of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 World Science Fiction Conventions were eligible to nominate works and people as appropriate for respective categories.  Some 2,464 valid nominating ballots were received. As good as this was, it was down on last year's record-breaking 4,032 submitting nominations but nonetheless the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon did see the second highest number submitting nomination ballots.  However, despite the second highest numbers nominating, this year was different to last year in despite the high nominations this year they were spread more thinly over far more works/people being nominated. Consequently, while last year we upped our threshold for the principal categories to those attracting over 2,000 ballots, this year we have reduced it back down to those categories receiving over 1,000 ballots.
          Best works? As our regulars know, each January we (the SF² Concatenation team) have a bit of fun citing the best books and best films of the previous year.  Usually one or two, or even three, of our choice of books and also films end up also being successful nominations on the Hugo Award shortlist, but do remember that we only do this as a bit of beginning of year fun and it is just interesting to see how our views chime or not with the Hugo nominating community.  This year is a it unusual for us in that not one of our best books for 2016 ended up on the Hugo shortlist. However we were on form and had two of our choice of best films Hugo shortlisted: Arrival (trailer here) and Deadpool (trailer here): the possibly smart money is on Arrival. The former has a SF-literate take on first contact along with an academic protagonist in the lead (makes a change from the eccentric scientist). Conversely the latter, while an entertaining film (hence on our list) it is little more than the usual agonised hero based on a comic strip that Marvel churns out, albeit well made. This last will not lose it Hugo voter support (Hugo voters have been known to support US comic strip characters before) but as Deadpool has some Puppy lobbying this year it will probably lose support from the Worldcon attending members voting on the Hugo shortlist.
          Arguably good news in that this year new Hugo rules came into force limiting the number of episodes of a single show that can be on the short list for Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form to just two. This stops a single show dominating the shortlist (and it goes a long way to addressing a concern that Jonathan raised a couple of years ago): George R. R. Martin said of this rule change: 'it's been needed for years'.  Had this new rule not been introduced then there would this year be three Game of Thrones fantasy episodes on the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form shortlist.
          More good news. The Sad/Rabid Puppies seem to have been more muted this year. So we'll likely have less ranting from some pundits of varying persuasions this award season.
          Even more good news. The new category of 'Best (book) Series' in attracting over 1,000 ballots is proving popular and so may well last. (A previous experiment with a Best Computer Game category came to nothing.)
          The full list of all category nominations (including those that received less than one thousand nominating votes) can be found on www.thehugoawards.org.
          Final points of interest. Most years the Worldcon is held in North America, while we only get it over here in Europe just one or twice a decade. (The last time the Worldcon was on mainland continental Europe was when it was in The Netherlands in 1990.)  So it is interesting to see how many, or rather how few, Europeans, or even the number of this year's host-nation Finns, are on the shortlist.  Is this a good thing?  Well, yes if you take a Bayesian probabilistic approach based on the size of the North American SF market versus that of Western Europe's.  But as any biologist – or even your partner – will tell you, size isn't everything and one value of the Worldcon moving between nations is that it is a chance for different nations' fans to showcase the SF they rate from their own country.  Is there that little mainland European or even Finnish SF worthy of being considered as works of SF achievement?  Is this a good thing, or not? Discuss.
          One last thing possible worthy of Hugo constituent discussion is the nomination of that excellent film Hidden Figures.  The thing is that this film's focus – the work of marginalised (race and gender) mathematicians calculating orbital trajectories for the early NASA missions – is not exactly science fictional.  Now, the Hugo's have voted for real-life space-related dramatic presentations before: notably with a Hugo (1970) for TV coverage of the Apollo 11 landings. But manned space travel is a core SF trope and a film (visual coverage) firmly focussed on such an event (or the trope) that turns SF into science fact is arguably one of science fiction note.  Conversely, does a film about mathematicians with the focus on their racial and gender discrimination – even if the problems they work on – orbital trajectories – have an SFnal connection – merit the accolade of being one of 'science fiction achievement' (which is what the Hugos are recognising)?  Some would passionately say yes; others might not be so convinced: it deserves other recognition.  It is possible that the support for this film will be divided, but the fact that it has been nominated does suggest that we should at least have a rational conversation as to what it is we think it is that the Hugos are recognising.  (Either way Hidden Figures is a great film so do check it out.  Trailer here.)
          This short list will be voted on over the summer by those with attending memberships to this year's Worldcon in Finland.
          Last year's principal category nominations on the Hugo short list here

Russia's 2016 Big Zilant has been awarded at the 26th International Festival of Fantasy and Role-Playing Games 'Zilantkon' in Kazan. Zilantkon is a large Fantasy convention regularly attracting a few thousand. The Zilant is a juried award. The Big Zilant is awarded for significant SF books. This year there was a Little Zilant awarded (some years do not have a Little Zilant for an artist or to a young author for a major SF/F work or person who has made a significant contribution to Russia's SF community). This year also saw some special Zilants and an anti-Zilant. The wins were:-
          Big Zilant: Golden Reed by Yaroslav Kuznetsov
          Little Zilant: Lyudmila Smerkovich
          Special Zilants: Vadim Kazakov, Alina Nemirova, and Daniel Herman
          Anti-Zilants: Nadezhda Kuzmina for Dragon Heir
Last year's Zilants 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.) This year it was held in Meshersky Forest Park (Peredelkino village), near Moscow. The principal category wins were:-
          Sword of the Bastion (main juried award with 10,000 roubles prize money): Dmitry Fedotov
          Bowl Bastion (attendee voted award):-
                    1st place: Jaroslav Verov, Igor Minakov for the story 'As he was far away from us'
                    2nd place: Natalia Irtenina for the story 'Russia on the Murman'
                    3rd place: Victoria Balashova for the story 'A woman from the morgue'
          Ivan Kalita Award (a cash prize raised by a voting fee): Olga Eliseeva for the story 'Exam'
+++ See here for last year's Bastkons.

Robert Sawyer has won this year's Heinlein Award. The Robert A. Heinlein Award, is given annually to an author of outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space. It is managed and sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and has a jury of SF writers.

The British SF Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented. The 2017 winners for the 2016 year were:-
          Best Novel: Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
          Best Short Fiction: 'Liberty Bird' by Jaine Fenn
          Best Non-Fiction: 100 African Writers of SFF by Geoff Ryman
          Best Art: Sarah Anne Langton for the cover of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
Well done one and all.  No voting statistics were released this year.  Last year's BSFA winners here.

Australia's Aurealis awards have been presented. The Aurealis is a panel judged award that was established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine. The principal category wins this year were:-
          Science Fiction Novel: Gemina: Illuminae Files 2 by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristof
          Science Fiction Short Story: 'Of Sight, of Mind, of Heart' by Samantha Murray
          Fantasy Novel: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
          Fantasy Short Story: 'Where the Pelican Builds Her Nest' by Thoraiya Dyer
          Horror Novel: The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren
          Horror Short Story: 'Flame Trees' by T. R. Napper
Second year win for the Best Novel winners.  Full details of all the Aurealis Awards categories are at https://aurealisawards.org.  +++ The 2016 Aurealis principal category winners are here.

Other SF news includes:-

More on the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona.  In addition to our previous coverage of this event (Spain's first Eurocon), elsewhere this issue (vol. 27 (3)) we now have a standalone review. And also we have a review of the first English translation of the Catalan SF classic novel given out at that Eurocon.  (And of course previously we had an article introducing Spanish science fiction.)

Eurocon SF in Germany.  If you are going to Dortmund this year for the Eurocon – or even if you are not but have wondered about that country's SF – then don't forget that elsewhere on this site we have reviews of German SF before 1945 and German SF since 1945and some German SF classics.  And of course Dortmund was also the venue for a previous German Eurocon.

The 2017 Finland Worldcon folk have announced the Hugo Award nominations on the short list.  The news sent us this season concerned the Hugos and as usual we list the most popular categories on the shortlist (those garnering over 1,000 ballots) which we detailed above.  +++ Last year's nominations on the short list are here.  +++ If this will be your first Worldcon on mainland continental Europe then we have elsewhere on this site Unseen Mainland European SF Classics among many other European SF articles.

The New Zealand 2020 Worldcon bid is homing in on Wellington.  (You may want to read this.)  The bid was launched in 2010 at Au Contraire (that year's NZ natcon) and now have just one year before decency says they need to firm up their bid. ('Decency' because NZ is currently the sole bid for 2020 and if they drop out others will need a year to mount an alternate for the 2020 site selection to take place at the 2018 Worldcon.)  The NZ Worldcon bid team seem to be homing in on Wellington as their preferred venue. Up to now the bid organisers have been split between three sites and more recently two: Auckland and Wellington.  The decision to go for Wellington has yet to be confirmed but it does look as if that's the way things are moving.  This is good news as compact Wellington is far more tourist and Worldcon friendly than – as good as it is – spread out Auckland. And there's plenty to see in Wellington.
          The reason why you may have wanted to read this news item is that this is NZ's first Worldcon bid and if you have ever wanted to visit NZ then going for a fortnight's holiday with a 5-day Worldcon thrown in (7-day with pre-convention meet-ups and a post con day of dead dogging) is quite possibly almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let's face it, if us Europeans are going to NZ then we're going for at least a fortnight to make the travel cost worthwhile. (Even if NZ runs a great con then their next one will be unlikely to happen for at least one-and-a-half decades, so this really is a rare opportunity.) We mention this now in time for you to save up over the next three and a half years.

Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy is a new webzine.  Strange Fictions Zine focuses on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry and aims for a punishing twice a week posting schedule.  Strange Fictions is the latest project from the editors of The Battered Suitcase, launched in 2008. The editors add: “Working with a broad range of authors is just too addictive, and it’s exciting to be back to publishing short fiction again. We really missed the ability to reach new readers on a frequent basis." New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.  Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website: www.strangefictionszine.com.

FandomRover is a new convention fandom website. It is a blog site about fandom & conventions run by a Polish fan, Alqua (who regularly provides SF² Concatenation with Polish awards news), but FandomRover a broader European perspective than just Polish fandom. The first post is about Polish conventions in general. Next will be about Swecon and this year there should be multiple other posts about conventions. Check out fandomrover.com.

Compelling Science Fiction completes first year. In this age of website fast turnover it is hard to tell from web design alone whether or not a particular site will make the distance. However the first year is a landmark and Compelling Science Fiction short-story site has survived it so deserving of a bit of a puff in case you missed its formation. The site is run by scientists who are into SF short fiction that not only have a good stories but a firm science basis. (Sound familiar?) In this instance those concerned are based on the other side of the Pond. You can check it out here compellingsciencefiction.com (Meanwhile, if you can't wait for the next edition of compellingsciencefiction.com you can check out our own back list of Best of Nature 'Futures' here.)

Strange Horizons' editor Niall Harrison is standing down. Niall took over as editor at the end of 2010.

2000AD's 40th anniversary special edition sells out necessitating a second printing. The 40th anniversary special edition was an extra in addition to the usual weekly and it sold out remarkably quickly. Rebellion (2000AD's publishers) promptly ordered a second printing. Sales have been good. A Forbidden Planet London Mega-store staff member told SF² Concatenation that many buying the 40th anniversary edition also bought a few weeks' worth of 2000AD and speculated that a number of former 2000AD readers were returning to the fold having heard of 2000AD's 40th.  The edition itself featured anniversary themed stories of the comics' more popular characters including Dredd, Ro-Buster, and Strontium Dog (Durham Red): the latter two of course originally originated in StarLord which merged with 2000AD in the late 1970s.  between the stories there were filler one-page strips with 40th anniversary messages from some of the characters. In the background of this mix there was even the Gronk (Hatfield PSIFA's and Cambridge U. SF's mascot).  Splundig.

2000AD's Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog timelines are to be harmonised.  As 2000AD marks its 40th year a few of us who were back there at the beginning in 1977 remember that Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd actually originated in two quite separate comics: Starlord and 2000AD respectively. Both were set in the future, but in Strontium Dog Britain was more Britain as is – with Scotland, Milton Keynes and London – that in Judge Dredd Scotland was 'Cal Hab' and all the SE England was Brit Cit. And then the two comics merged and Strontium Dog (along with other strips such as Ro-Busters) migrated to the new combined 2000AD. Jump forward a decade or so and in a 1992 summer special we saw Strontium Dogs, mutant Johnny Alpha and Wulf, time-jump back to Dredd's Mega City 1 in pursuit of a criminal. This was the first time Dredd and the two Strontium Dogs met.  Alpha and Dredd joined forces again in Judgement Day and it became clear that Alpha's present was Dredd's future.  Which brings us up-to-date and the March (2017) edition of the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine which saw the end of a two-part Dredd adventure which revealed how Nelson Kreelman (who would eventually become a leading figure in Britain and Alpha's father) came to hate mutants. As Dredd notes, 'Best keep an eye on that one'.  It looks like we may well eventually see some Brit Cit Strontium action.

Rebellion (2000AD's owners) has secured copyright to some of Britain's 1970's and '80s comic strips. They now have the copyright to some old Fleetway and IPC Youth (IPC previously owned 2000AD) strips. Rebellion will now be publishing some of these old strips as graphic novels. First up in June will be One-Eyed Jack a kind of cross between Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd. (As it happens a poll of 2000AD readers in the 1980s as to whom might pay Judge Dredd (this was pre-Stallone) revealed a clear favourite in Clint Eastwood (who played Dirty Harry).  The next graphic novel, The Leopard from Lime Street, follows in July.

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

Summer 2017

Film News

 

The spring's SF/F/H films appearing within the top five of the weekly box office top ten charts (which of course also include other non-genre offerings which we ignore) were, in the British Isles (Great Britain, NI and Irish Republic), in order of their appearance:-
          Logan (Trailer here)
          The LEGO Batman Movie (Trailer here)
          Kong: Skull Island (Trailer here)
          Life (Trailer here)

Sci-Fi-London Film Festival 2017 has a great line up.  Its astronomical 17th annual programme will run from the 27th April until the 6th May 2017 across London with ten days of amazing film, live music, immersive experiences and more. It will showcase a fantastic line-up with 6 world film premieres, 13 UK film premieres, 11 world short premieres and 13 UK short premieres. It will host 25 features, 51 shorts and 4 VR shorts alongside its regular classic cult events such as the 48 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE and SCI-FIDO, the world’s only cosplay for dogs!  Opening this year’s festival on the 27th April at the Rich Mix is the UK Premiere of Caught – a film that returns us to the great days of British Science fiction, directed by Jamie Patterson (Fractured), written and produced by Alex Francis (Moon).
          The fest’s Closing Night, on the 6th May at Stratford Picturehouse, sees the World Premiere of The Rizen directed by Matt Mitchell and Taliesyn Mitchell. The year is 1955. NATO and the Allied Forces have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. Now, they have finally succeeded but what the Army has unleashed threatens to tear our world apart.
          SF2 Concateneers always like some science to enhance their SF and this year Sci-Fi London is not going to disappoint.  This year SFL have teamed up with the Science Museum and their fantastic blockbuster Robots exhibition, to present a movie double-bill focusing on the world of artificial intelligence with A.I. and Ex Machina.  +++ You can view the SFL film trailers here.

Three Body Problem film due out from China.  The English translation of the Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, which of course is old news.  However the novel was originally published in China in 2006 where is soon became a huge seller.  As such it was almost inevitable that a film would be made. Here the good news is that the Chinese are doing it themselves before Hollywood got a chance to get hold of it. Double good news, the author Liu Cixin is cited as the film's producer.  Filming of the human actors began and ended in 2015. It then went into post-shoot production for all the special effects and non-human scenes. It was slated to come out in 2016 but was delayed – presumably so they could do a good job – to this year (2017). It is due to be launched in China on 21st July (note 21.07.2017, the numbering as Liu loves to play with numbers. Apparently it is due to be launched later here in the West. Whether or not it goes to general release (rather than a restricted release to art house cinemas) will be down to public interest and that's where we the SF community come in to blog, cross-link (for example just click on this paragraph's opening words link to get this news item's link), social media etc, anything to make a noise and create a buzz.  As for the trailer?  Well, currently we only have the Chinese early trailer to view but you still might like to see it.

Batgirl may be made and directed and written by Joss Whedon.  Joss Whedon – best known for his creating the girl power series Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- has apparently been asked by Warner Brothers to write and direct the Batgirl film. Batgirl is the daughter, Barbra Gordon, of police Commissioner Gordon. Reportedly Whedon is in discussions with Warners.

Paramount with CBS and the Axanar Star Trek film makers have settled their case out of court. It is agreed that the film can go ahead provided that the fans stick to the Paramount Star Trek fan film guidelines (that came out after the Axanar venture got going. Paramount and CBS were not going to get any money from Anaxar's crowd-funded US$1.4 million (£1.15m) as it had been largely spent on set construction and personal expenses.

Sylvester Stallone, the Demolition Man, is suing Warner Bros for ~US$18.75 million (~£15m). He says the SF film Demolition Man made at least US$125m (~£100m) at the box office, and under his contract he is entitled to at least 15%.  +++ Previously back in 2007 NewLine reneged on a deal with Peter (Lord of the Rings Jackson.

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

Film clip download tip!: Tears in the Rain is a Blade Runner inspired short film.  -- You can see the 11 minute film here

Film clip download tip!: Caleb is a short SF film. Single child Caleb is lonely and so decides to make use of the family's 3-D bio-printer, much to the consternation of his mum and dad… -- You can see the 15 minute film here

Film clip download tip!: Anthem is a short SF film which was a finalist back in 2007 for Steven Spielberg's FOX show On the Lot. It was posted toy YouTube in 2015 but failed to get much traction – we certainly did not pick up on it. But it has just (March 2017) been re-posted. In the distant future two explorers uncover a time capsule buried by the people of Earth on the eve of its destruction… Neat end twist. You can see the 10 minute film here

Film clip download tip!: The Surface is a short SF film set in a grim apocalyptic future where mankind lives underground, a woman struggles to save her son from dying of mechanical lung failure. After all other options fail, her only hope is to venture to the desolate surface and face the ferocious monsters that drove mankind below! -- You can see the short here

Film clip download tip!: The science of Arrival is examined with stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, author Ted Chiang and screenwriter Eric Heisserer. To evaluate the science there is Mathematician creator Stephen Wolfram, SETI astronomer Seth Shostak and linguist Jessica Coon.  -- You can see the video here

Film clip download tip!: Enigma is a proposed new web-series.  (Not to be confused with the Enigma web-series of a few years ago.) Though filmed last year (2016) the makers have just released the pilot and are requesting feedback.  As for the plot, it is set in the unspecified future (but judging from the dress, technology and speech, it is the relatively near future).  Our planet has become uninhabitable. Facing extinction, our governments came together to build "human preservation bunkers" in efforts to save our species. These mysterious bunkers have a hidden and dark past that will soon be discovered…  The vid is 8 minutes long and (in our opinion) the first two minutes are not that hot, but things pick up after then…  Agree/disagree?  Check it out for yourself here.

Film clip download tip!: Helio short SF film (19 minutes) and Best SF short winner at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con. Reminiscent of some 1960s written SF shorts (there's a twist) and indeed novels (one Philip Dick one springs to mind) this is another set in a dystopic future (sort of).  Check it out for yourself here.

Film clip download tip!: Sci Fi Mixtape of various films and television series to beat music mixed with the TV/films' audio track clips.  This 26 minute Brit offering from Eclectic Method is a bit of fun and neatly mixes audio and visuals.  Arguably well worth your while sitting down to with a mug of tea.  (Love the 2001 and Back to the Future segments.)  Treat yourself to a break, settle down and enjoy.  See the video here.

Film clip download tip!: Hyper Jump is a short SF video.  A spaceship is to make mankind's first hyperspace jump. It is a momentous occasion… See the four-and-a-half minute video here

Film clip download tip!: The Osiris Childis a new film that was reasonably accepted at some film fests.  Set in the future in a time of interplanetary colonization, an unlikely pair race against an impending global crisis and are confronted by the monsters that live inside us all.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Beacon Pointis a new supernatural wilderness horror trailer shortly due out.  There's something lurking deep in the wooded wilderness. Best not to go there but, guess what, some do…  This is due out on video on demand in July and also on DVD. It previously has been screened at a number of film fests.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: War for the Planet of the Apes 2nd trailer is out. The film opens mid-July (). -- See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Atomica is a forthcoming feature film. In the near future, when communications go offline at a remote nuclear power plant isolated in the desert, a young safety inspector, Abby Dixon, is forced to fly out to bring them back online. Once inside the plant, inklings and strange behaviours cause Abby to have doubts about the sanity, and perhaps identities, of the two employees onsite.  -- See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien: Covenant.  Just in case you can't wait until mid-May (2017) here is a new extended trailer. -- You can see the clip and extended trailer here…. See also below…

Film clip download tip!: Alien: Covenant the last supper film clip. -- You can see the clip and extended trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Spiderman: Homecoming is due out in July.  Now you may be a bit jaded given that we have had two Spiderman re-boots the past one-and-a-half decades and we now have our third cinematic star in this time… but this new incarnation does seem a bit of fun with some of The Avengers thrown in for good measure.   -- See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is due out this July. It concerns a pair of young Spatio-Temporal Service agents in the 28th century. The film is directed by Luc Besson whose previous film The Fifth Element had imagery inspired by the creators of the original French Valerian and Laureline comics (1967-2010). Last season we linked to the first trailer. Now the second trailer is out.   -- See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Prisoner marks its 50th anniversary this September! Arguably the most thought-provoking SF series to be made, and one that after half-a century still stands on its own feet.  Huge thanks to the FreeView True Entertainment channel for recently re-broadcasting the series this spring.  If you have not seen the series (only 17 episodes) then it is downloadable from YouTube (if are to be, you will be hooked by the end of episode 1 'Arrival'), but you must watch them in order.  For fans of the series we present a link to the series' final five minutes.  (Newcomers note that this clip is not representative of the whole series (it is very allegorical) but it does sum up the series arc message. (Which is an achievement given McGoohan said that he could not come up with a coherent ending.)  Don't let the symbolism trip you up, including: It doesn't matter which way youth goes they will get to wherever they are going; Parliamentarians are as much prisoners and we all vote for them; The little people, quietly going about their work (not our so-called leaders), are the ones who really look after us; We are all connected; There is no escape.)  Enjoy the 5-minute clip here.  Be seeing you.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2016/7 (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 2017 see our film release diary.

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

Summer 2017

Television News

 

The Big Bang Theory is to have a spin-off series. Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro, the executive producers behind the original show, are behind the sequel which is to be called Young Sheldon. It will star Iain Armitage as a nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper; Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, will narrate the new show as the adult Sheldon.  +++ Previously it had been mooted that the series would end with its 10th season which is the current season. However we now understand that discussions with the show's stars are underway for two further seasons.

Game of Thrones season 7 to air in July (2017).  The first episode airs in Britain on 17th July, a day after the US. It is airing later in the year than previous seasons as the makers wanted to shoot in more wintery conditions. It is hoped that George R. R. Martin's 6th book in the series will see print later this year.

Marvel's Inhumans is to have a US Labour Day IMAX launch. The 8-episode series will centre on Black Bolt and other members of the Royal Family. The television series will have an IMAX launch?  Yes, the first two episodes that form the launch are being shot on IMAX film. The series is apparently unconnected to a proposed Marvel film based on the characters. US Labour Day is at the start of September and the show in the US will be broadcast on ABC.

Dracula to have a new television series, Dracula Unbound. Dracula Now is not based directly on Bram Stoker's Dracula but on Icelandic writer Valdimar Åsmundsson.  Åsmundsson effectively re-wrote Stoker's novel just three years after it was published, turning it into a darker (if that is possible) and more gung-ho horror dramatic than the original. The series sees Dracula with ambitions to take over Europe in a reign controlling people through blood. The mini-series will be 10 episodes long.

Peter Capaldi is to step down from Dr Who. Peter Capaldi took over in 2014 so he will have had a four-year run by the time of his final run of episodes that will end with the 2017 Christmas special this December. The news confirms previous mutterings. Also leaving (but which we already knew – see previous link) the show at that time will be the senior writer Stephen Moffett.  +++ The Doctor's next companion will be gay. Bill Potts will be the Doctor's first openly gay companion.  +++ The new series began just prior to our posting this seasonal news page on 15th April (2017).  +++ Teach your toddler to read with Dr WhoDoctor Who Mr Men now out A series of short, illustrated booklets each featuring a different Doctor. Makes learning to read great fun and introduces Doctor Who to the next generation of fans. The books were launched to tie in with the start of the 2017 season of the show: the first new season (two Christmas special editions excepted) since 2015. Four booklets have been launched featuring the first, fourth, eleventh and twelfth Doctors. More to be released this August (2017).

BBC scheduling of Dr Who  is to step down from Dr Who continues to undermine the show's ratings. Previously we have noted the show's poor scheduling.  Sadly, this is continuing!  The show's 2017 season debut was first shown at early evening peak time which is all well and good, but the repeat is being broadcast at 3.55 am! Who will watch? (Well the good Doctor might as he has time travel.) The problem is that the degree of any show's following varies with distribution curve Few fans are absolutely die-hard who will make a firm point of watching (regardless of life's other temptations/commitments), and a few more will – if they miss the first broadcast – will make a point of setting the time to record the show if the repeat (a this is) is broadcast ad some god-forsaken hour.  But most will watch it if it happens to be on when they are in and awake and not worry unduly if they miss it. With the show's repeat at nearly 4am in the morning the main value will be those who have been prepared, setting the time, to record in advance, there will be next to no 'casual' viewers. Past David Tennant and Matt Smith era episodes were first broadcast with a repeat a few days later at a sensible time: these attracted a reasonable number of viewers (often in excess of a million); these new repeats will not. And so the decline in Doctor Who viewing figures becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of which begs the question as to what the show's many British fan groups are doing about it? They can muster significant lobbying power and after all BBC4 regularly repeats its new programmes days or a week later in peak time!

Decision to withdraw Walking Dead T-shirt by Primark gets backlash criticism. The decision by Primark to withdraw its Walking Dead T-shirt has itself been criticised as being an example political correctness gone mad.  The shirt features a baseball bat wrapped in wire with the slogan the rhyme "eeny meeny miny moe" some consider racist. The T-shirt actually refers to a season-end final scene in which one character is deciding which person in a group they are going to kill with a baseball bat. Primark's decision to withdraw the T-shirt in the face of political correctness criticism itself has been condemned as political correctness gone mad by the show's fans as there was nothing racist in the scene.&nbps; Apparently some Primark customers can seek offence where none was intended and are less concerned about the working conditions of some of Primark's clothes manufacturer workers.  +++ Walking Dead makers agree to tone down violence (presumably human on human violence and not human on zombie) in the next season to be shot.

Orphan Black's final season will reveal the story of the clones' origins. With the threat of Neolution having carte blanche access to clone biology, Sarah is desperate to gain control, but realises she must change tactics to pursue a long game. Protecting both her families, and the host of clones she has yet to meet, Sarah and those still fighting the fight will uncover the missing pieces of the conspiracy behind the clones creation. Orphan Black returns in June on the BBC and in N. America BBC America.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is 20 years old. Buffy was first broadcast in 1997 having first been a Joss Whedon scripted film (1992) that was taken in a different direction by its director Fran Rubel Kuzui who wanted a pop culture view of vampirism and not a fantasy comedy horror about female empowerment: as we now know, the series was a huge success while the film is largely forgettable. Joss Whedon became the show's Executive Producer through all of its seven seasons to 2002.  Happy Birthday Buffy Summers.

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

Summer 2017

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

'His Dark Materials' follow-up trilogy is coming from Phillip Pullman. The new trilogy is called 'The Book of Dust' and the first novel will come out in October, 17 years after the final book of 'His Dark Materials' whose books have all-told sold more than 17.5 million copies and having been translated into 40 languages. 'The Book of Dust' is neither a prequel or a sequel but will straddle 'His Dark Materials' and apparently begins 10 years before the events of Northern Lights -- the advance press notification so far has been a little confusing.  It is out 19th October 2017 from David Fickling Books in the British Isles and Random House in N. America (both publishers will be cooperating in advance of publication on publicity.

Stephen King's next novel will be Sleeping Beauties and co-authored with his son. It will be written with his son Owen King (not his other son Joe Hill).  It looks at what might happen if women effectively disappeared from the world.  In a near-future, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. However one woman, Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? The book will be the first time that Stephen and Owen King have published together. It is due out in September (2017).

Joanne M. Harris' next novel will be A Pocketful of Crows. This is a dark, psychological, coming-of-age tale of a nameless, wild girl who follows her heart into a fairy-tale relationship. Exploring themes of being an outsider, and of discovering who you are and what you can achieve… It will be published in October by Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22218-2.

Forthcoming author signings at Forbidden Planet Mega Store London include:-
          Christian Ward signing Black Bolt 2nd May 6pm – 7pm
          A. Paknadel & S. Myers signing Dr Who free four Doctor comic 6th May, 1pm – 2pm
          Paul Cornell signing Saucer State and Chalk 10th May 6pm – 7pm
          Cory Doctorow signing Walkaway Tuesday 23rd May, 6pm – 7pm

Best book Christmas in 2016 since the recession following 2007. Britain's book trade had the best 7-day period up to December 24th in 2016 since the financial disaster of 2007 and resulting global recession.  £83 million was spent on physical books (not e-books) over the 2016 pre-Christmas week period.

UK book sales to US rise! Following Brexit (Britain's exit from the European Union) referendum result the pound (£) fell from US$1.63 to around US$1.22. This has made books published in Britain more competitively priced in the US and this in turn has resulted in an increase in the number of books being shipped over the Pond.

Physical book sales saw continued growth in 2016. According to Nielsen BookScan data, 2016 saw Britain's physical book sales reach £1.591 billion which is up 4.9% over 2015. The number of units (copies) sold was 195.1 million units (up 2.3% over 2015).  2016 saw the best UK physical book sales since 2010.  This physical book sales growth of 4.9% for the year 2016 is down on the 7% sales growth for 2015 but still ahead of inflation. The 2.3% units sold growth for 2016 is down from 3.3% seen in the year 2015.  Taking this 2016 and 2015 sales value and units sold data together and it is clear that 2016 saw less discounting of unit price compared to 2015 which points to a robust book market.  Having said that much of this growth can be put down to the first half of 2016. It could be that the UK European Union referendum and Brexit put the dampers on the physical book trade. However the good Christmas (see previous above) is a sign that the medium term prospects for UK's physical book market are not bad.

The popular science sector is more healthy than the fiction sector. The popular science book sector in Britain in 2016 was only worth £16.8 million but it grew by an amazing 28%.  This compares with just 1.6% growth in British sales of fiction (which includes non-genre fiction).

Harry Potter topped 2016 fiction chart. J. K. Rowling's Harry potter and the Cursed Child topped Britain's mass market fiction chart for 2016 with 1.46 million copies being sold for £15.96 million. (At this point it should be remembered that this £15.96m represents the value as sold to the customer and not Rowling's income from these sales: the publisher typically gets 33% less than the retailer sells it for – a bigger discount goes to the online heavy eight Amazon – and the author gets a percentage [typically 10% for physical books] of publisher receipts.)
          This was reflected in the US where 4.35 million copies were sold.

Top authors sold more in 2016 but bottom authors less even than last year.  According to Nielsen total consumer market (TCM) data for 2016 some 109 authors selling in Britain sold over £1 million for their UK sales. These £million+ Brit sales authors collectively sold £299.2 million in 2016 which is up 4% over 2015 (and they would have also had additional sales in other countries too but remember retail price sales are not authors' income which are usually a royalty on publisher receipts). This is the fifth year in a row that top authors sold more.  However this 109 number of £1mllion+ British selling authors for 2016 is down from 124 in 2015. Further, these 109 authors represent just 0.01% of all authors with Nielsen BookScan sales in Britain, which means that there are over a million authors with titles selling in Britain (remember non-Brit authors too sell in Britain). This compares with just 45,000 in 2015: there are an awful lot of (awful?) authors independently publishing, or effectively vanity publishing through Amazon, selling just a dozen or so copies.

The top-selling genre authors in Britain remain the same. The top selling SF/F/H authors in Britain in 2016 (with percentage change over 2015 sales) were:-
          J. K. Rowling £29,042,248 (+252%)
          Roald Dahl £6,063,263 (+57%)
          George R. R. Martin £3,234,834 (-37.3%%)
          Terry Pratchett £2,768,564 (-48.7%)
          Stephen King £2,266,818 (-17%)
(Out of interest, for comparison William Shakespeare's 2016 sales were £272,703 up 49%)
+++ See also 2015 top earning genre authors.  +++ See 2015 news that top 5% of authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers and in 2013 authors earned on average £11k.  +++ Also see previously Best selling genre books of 2014.

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

Summer 2017

Forthcoming SF Books

 

Iron Gods by Andrew Bannister, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07650-7.
The Spin, an ancient artificial cluster of eighty-eight planets and twenty-two suns – is in decline. The boundaries of the formerly prosperous Inside have shrunk to a mere eleven planets, their trade routes are cut off, and their last remaining source of income comes from selling the services of their vast industrial slave-colony – The Hive. A group of Hivers escape. Led by Seldyan, they steal the last legacy battleship and leave. Their destination: the free colony of Web City. However when they arrive they realise all is not well – a new green star has appeared in the sky…  This is Andrew's second novel and is set in the same universe as his Creation Machine. Jonathan says that there is more than a little hint of Iain Banks' voice in his writing.

Xeelee: Vengence by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21717-1.
The alien Xeelee are back and this time they want to re-write history. This relates to a long-standing series of occasional stories. See also Xeelee Endurance.

Take Back the Sky by Greg Bear, Orion, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-575-13398-3.
Military SF. The final in the 'War Dogs' trilogy that began with War Dogs and Killing Titan.  Venn and his platoon of humans joins forces with a rebel band of hostile alien Antags who realise that the so-called friendly Guru aliens have been playing one species off against the other.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett, Atlantic, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-782-39241-5.
Click on the title link for a standalone review. This is the final, climactic novel that began with the Clarke (book) Award-winning Dark Eden.

Lucky Ghost by Matthew Blakstad, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64275-7.
Journalist Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard. He thanks her. They’ve both just earned Emoticoins in a new game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoins are changing the face of the global economy – but someone controlling the game for their own purposes. As Alex begins to pick apart the tangled threads of the virtual game she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. It seems there’s only one person who has answers. Someone who hides behind the mysterious name ‘Lucky Ghost.’ But who is Lucky Ghost . . . and can they really be trusted?

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22115-4.
Michael Crichtonesque. Flesh-eating spiders munch their way through the major cities of the world…

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52368-6.
Techno-thriller that has potential mundane SF riffs. The CEO of Rosneft, the world’s largest energy company – arrives in London after triggering a violent insurrection in Tanzania to destroy a potential rival in the oil market. In the Sahara, an air convoy on its way to deliver billions of dollars of drugs and weapons to Ansar Dine jihadis crashes and is lost. A year later, having spent months in hiding, Shakiso travels to West Africa. She is there to lead the relief effort that are hoping to stop the 200 million refugees fleeing war and environmental collapse heading for a fortified and fragmented Europe. As the myths of these millions seeking new lives across the Mediterranean intrude into reality, Shakiso is drawn into the brutal clandestine fight against Rosneft’s domination of European energy supplies being conducted by the mysterious Simon Adaro. And, deep within the disorienting Harmattan storms of the desert, a group of jihadis have gone in search of the crashed convoy of planes - and a terror that could overwhelm them all.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62147-3.
This is a standalone sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (but with more plot) in which a ship's AI starts over in a synthetic body. It has been nominated for a Hugo Award. Given that Worldcon voters for the Hugo seem to have a thing for ships' AIs in bodies (cf. the 2014 Hugo winner for Best Novel) it could do well.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chat, Doubleday, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52368-.
Techno-thriller.  It is the fairly near-future and there are jihadis, refugees, environmental collapse plus a giant energy multinational is behaving badly…/P>

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett, Macmillan, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-509-83352-8. This is actually a romance tale set against a post-apocalyptic, widescreen space opera background. It is a novel of love, the choices we make, and what it means to be human. It's also a dramatic road-trip across the stars. A woman journeys across a plague-ravaged universe to the place she once called home, and the man she once loved. After a virus wipes out most of humanity, Jamie leaves her isolated posting on the planet Solitaire and heads for Earth. She must reach the Northumberland coast, to see if her ex-partner Daniel is still alive. Joining a band of misfits and fellow survivors, each with their own agenda, she struggles to survive while wrestling with loss and heartache. You may want to check this one out? Debut novel.

The Tourist by Robert Dickinson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50818-4.
It is the near future and time travel is real. The 21st century is a popular tourist destination for those from the 23rd and the 21st century locals are happy for the boost this brings to their economy. But then one tourist goes missing… We cited this as one of the Best SF Books of 2016 and this is the first release of the mass market paperback edition. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69305-1.
Hubbert, Seth and Natalie are way to old be at a Communist meeting but in a world wrecked by climate change and in a society owned by the ultra rich,, they have nowhere else to be and nothing to do.  But there is another way!  Now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter – from a computer 3-D printer, there is little reason to moil within the system. So, like thousands of others in the 21st century, they simply walk away.  Except it is dangerous out there in the empty lands, hiding predators, animal and human alike… But the numbers of walkaways grows. So when one of them discovers a way to extend life – something the ultra rich have never been able to buy – it is war…

Lament for the Fallen by Gavin Ghait, Black Swan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16132-0.
A craft falls from the sky outside a W. African village…

Survival Game by Gary Gibson, Pan Macmillan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-444-724289-5.
Gung-ho SF thriller in which pan dimensional beings are wiping out alternate Earths... This is a standalone follow-up to Extinction Game. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey, Scribner, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-471-1146-6.
Three astronauts train for a Mars mission.

Frontier Worlds by Scott Harrison (ed), Snowbooks, £9.99, trdpbk, iSBN 978-1-911-39001-5.
An anthology of shorts with stories set 600 years in a future in which humanity struggles to survive.

Shattered Minds by Laura Lam, Macmillan, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-447-28690-5.
Near-future thriller and a neuroscientist who craves to kill self-medicates with 'zeal', an addictive drug that allows her to satisfy her murderous urges in her dreams.

Death's End by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97165-6.
This is the first mass paperback publication (the hardback and trade paperback have previously come out) of the final in the 'Three Body Problem' trilogy that follows The Three-Body Problem(that won the 2015 Hugo for Best novel) and The Dark Forest.  The film of the trilogy (at least the first book) is due to be released in China this summer and elsewhere late in the year.

United As One by Pittacus Lore, Michael Joseph, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-718-18489-6.
This is the final in the Lorien legacies series and the Magadorian Invasion has come to Earth.

The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-316-36374-7.
Final in trilogy that began with Dissidence.  Actually this mass market edition is out in late September but we thought you'd like an early heads up.  Ruthless corporations vie over a remote Earth-like planet hundreds of light years from human habitation, and war is in full swing. But soldiers recruited to fight in the extremities of deep space come with their own problems: from A.I. minds in full rebellion, to Carlos 'the Terrorist' and his team of dead mercenaries, reincarnated from a bloodier period in Earth's history for one purpose only – to kill.

Void Star by Zachary Mason, Jonathan Cape, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-224-09824-3.
Set in a violent near future San Francisco with AI. Irina is not rich but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall and lets her act as an intermediary between her various employers and their AIs. She earns just enough to keep from aging… Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Wastelanders: Raid by K. S. Merbeth, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-035-60773-6.
A bounty hunter gets mixed up with a raider crew in a post-apocalyptic US. This is set in the world of Bite.

Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50628-9.
Space opera. A space shuttle is brought down in hostile territory.

The Takeshi Kovacs Collection by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £26.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22108-6.
This is a collected volume of the three Kovacs novels: Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. Altered Carbon is to become a 10-episode NetFlix mini-series.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvian Neuvel, Penguin, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-92188-6.
Dr Rose Franklin discovers a buried, large metallic hand that seems to pre-date human history… This is currently being made into a film. (See also next item below.)

Waking Gods by Sylvian Neuvel, Penguin, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-10-718-18170-3.
See previous item.

Blue Shift by Jane O'Reilly, Piatkus, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41659-5.
The rich hide from reality while the rest must do what they have to to survive.

From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21475-0.
A man gathers all the data, images, video, recordings etc., of his dead wife so as to create an AI simulacrum which he hope will help him uncover the truth behind her death…

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65221-7.
Science fantasy.  The dark net is an online shadowland for criminals to operate anonymously, but when a demonic force begins to hack the minds of its users there is nowhere left to hide. Twelve-year-old Hannah has had her sight restored, but now she can see shadows everywhere. Lela, a technophobic journalist, stumbles onto a story nobody wants her to uncover. Mike suffers demons – real and literal – and keeps an arsenal of weapons to fight them. And Derek, a hacker dedicated to changing the world for the better. It falls to these strangers to stop the rising darkness.

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, Corgi, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-552-16937-0.
This is the last in the SF series concerning a string of parallel Earth's that can be 'stepped' between. And it is also the last Terry Pratchett we will have.

Beyond the Aquila Rift by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21636-5.
A collection of shorts from this dazzling hard-ish SF author. His previous collections include Galactic North and Zima Blue the latter of which includes the title story of Beyond the Aquila Rift.

The Revelation Space Trilogy by Alastair Reynolds, Orion, £26.99, trdpbk box set, ISBN 978-1-473-22109-3.
This is the first in a series of box set reprints of the hard-ish SF widescreen space opera series. Brilliant stuff.

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-575-13398-3.
First UK mass market paperback edition.  It is the far future (possibly) and humanity is spread out across the planetary system orbiting the Old Sun (possibly our sun), living in some 20,000 'worlds' for which read a variety of mega-large space stations as part of some 50 million artificial objects in what is called 'the Congregation'. Humanity has seen its civilisation rise and fall many times with many, many dark ages in between each iteration of civilisation. The current iteration of a planetary system wide civilisation has lasted some 18 centuries.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50536-7.
Billed as James Bond meets H. P. Lovecraft and The X-Filesmeets The Big Bang Theory.

NK3 by Michael Tolkin, Grove Press, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-611-85518-0.
A panoramic vision set in a near-future California that has been devastated by NK3, a memory-destroying virus from North Korea. In post-NK3 Los Angeles, a sixty-foot-tall fence surrounds the hills where the rich used to live. Inside the Fence, life for the Verified, those with the power of memory, is a perpetual party. Outside the Fence, the Verified use an invented mythology to keep control over the mindless and nameless Drifters, Shamblers and Bottle Bangers.

Yesterday by Felicia Yap, Mulholland Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-316-46525-0.
In a stratified society where classes are divided not by wealth or religion, but by memory – where upper-class Duos have two days worth, and plebeian Monos only one day – Claire and Mark are a surprising mixed-marriage. Claire is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-MP Duo on the political rise. But when a woman turns up dead, and is revealed to be Mark's mistress, their perfectly constructed life begins to fall apart.

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89484-3.

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

Summer 2017

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

The Unholy Consult by R. Scott Baker, Orbit, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50871-9.
This concludes the 'Aspect Emperor' sequence.

Heart of Granite by James Barclay, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20244-5. and a dragon pilot learns a secret… Click on the title link for a standalone review.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, 978-1-784-2918-2.
This concludes the 'Devine Cities' sequence.

The Sorcerer's Daughter by Terry Brooks, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50224-3.
Popular fantasy

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29761-9.
Welcome to the town with no maps, guidebooks or history…

The Erstwhile by Brian Catling, Coronet, £20 hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63638-5.
This follows on from The Vorrh.  The Vorrh is a vast, mysterious jungle in Africa. No-one comes out of it in one piece. Survivors report strange, mind-bending phenomena and horrific monsters. It is rumoured that the Garden of Eden still exists somewhere in the middle. In The Erstwhile it transpires that some angels have escaped Eden and the Vorrh and are living in hiding in London, some in disguise as lunatics in Bedlam. It’s also revealed that William Blake, a character in these novels, is interacting with these angels. Good and evil angels and humans, including William Blake, are heading towards a final, Miltonic apocalyptic battle for the soul of humanity.

A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64186-0.
Private Investigator, Charlie Parker, goes on the trail of a missing detective who had been tracking disappearances and murders linked to hauntings… This is the 15th in a popular series.

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, Orion, £7.9, pbk, ISBN 978-0-752-88334-2.
This is the final in the trilogy that began with The Passage.

Saint's Blood by Sebastian de Castell, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-681-44487-1.
Third in the 'Greatcoats' quartet. How do you kill a Saint? Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend. The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors—a move that could turn the country into a theocracy.

Tyrant's Throne by Sebastian de Castell, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-782-06683-5.
Final in the 'Greatcoats' quartet. After years of struggle and sacrifice, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead king's dream: Aline, the king's daughter, is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But in the neighbouring country of Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies that have long plagued Tristia's borders—and even worse, he is rumoured to have a new ally: Trin, who's twice tried to kill Aline to claim the throne of Tristia for herself

City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, Orion, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-752-88334-2.
The conclusion of the apocalyptic series that began with The Passage.

The Watcher of Dead Time by Edward Cox, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20037-1.
The conclusion to the trilogy that began with The Relic Guild. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont, Transworld, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07473-2.
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. The chaos in the region extends to the metaphysical planes also as a young priest of D'rek starts to question the rot at the heart of the worship of the god of decay.

Infernal by Mark de Jager, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03335-3.
This is a dark magic thriller. Straus wakes up with no memories other than his name and that he is not human, He must travel across a world with dark magic while hunted by enemies…

Goldenhand by Nix Garth, Hot Key Books, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-471-40446-7.
The fifth in the 'Old Kingdom' sequence.

Heresey by Christie Golden, Penguin, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-718 18698-2.
Ninth in the 'Assassin's Creed' series.

Ararat by Christopher Golden, Headline, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-23430-8.
From the author of Dead Ringers, Snowblind and The Tin Men. On Mount Ararat an ancient ship – possibly Noah's Ark – is found. Inside is a horned cadaver.

The Kings Justice and The Auger's Gambit by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21530-6.
The Kings Justice and The Auger's Gambit combined into one book.

The Many Lives of Katherine North by Emma Green, Bloomsbury, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 78-1-408-85845-5.
Kit, who has been projecting into other species for years, is starting to get the feeling that when she does so she is not alone…

Apocalypse by Graham Hancock, Coronet, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-444-78841-9.
This is the final in the 'War God' trilogy.

Haunted by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-848-66963-5.
This is the third in the 'Cemetery Girls' trilogy.

The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-007-56313-5.
This is the final in the 'Fire Sermon' trilogy. (Dreamworks has optioned the film right.)

Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21706-5.

Runelight by Joanne M. Harris, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-2-473-21708-9.
Fantasy and magic with Norse mythology.  This is the hardback re-issue of the sequel to Runemarks above.

The Fireman by Joe Hill, Orion, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-575-13073-9.
This sees a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous human combustion.

The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50669-2.
What would happen of the concepts of good and evil were replaced by a more dynamic system such as sound economics…

The Fatal Gate by Ian Irvine, Orbit, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50523-7.
This is the second in the 'Gates of Good and Evil' epic fantasy sequence.

The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50777-4.
This is an epic fantasy debut to professional publishing: it had previously been self-published.  Self-publishing is very much a last ditch venture to reach a potential public. Yet surveys reveal that over 12% the more commercial e-books are self-published though half self-publishers fail to get US$500 which relates to half of self-published titles sell less than 1,000 copies and that the bottom 20% of self-publishers actually lose money.  But the tiny few who do make significant sales will get picked up by a commercial publisher and this title sold over 100,000 copies when self-published.

Bound by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50719-4.
An urban fantasy set in London featuring the probability mage Alex Versus who also featured in Chosen.

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, Bantam, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-50249-0.
The conclusion of the Tearling trilogy. A film adaptation is being made starring Emma Watson.Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, Hodder, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62813-7.
Click on the title link for Karen's standalone review. Kay is a World Fantasy Award-winning author.

Dragonmark by Sherrilyn Keynon, Little Brown, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41325-9.
This is the latest in the Darkhunter series that has so far sold 23m copies worldwide.

Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger by Stephen King, Hodder Paperbacks, pbk, 87.99, 978-1-473-6555-6.
Ties in with this summer's film and later a companion TV series to Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass.

End of Watch by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, pbk, £7.99, 978-1-473-64237-9.
Conclusion to the Bill Hodges detective trilogy.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirahk, Grove Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-611-85527-2.
An internationally bestselling coming-of-age story set in Estonia, mixing magical realism, reinvented national myth and satire. A wild comic swoop through the histories of Estonia, magic, human-powered flight and man-bear relations. At once fantastic and emotionally engaged, underneath the narrative high jinks lurks a deeply serious novel about how Europe became the way it is. The author is one of Estonia’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, a journalist known for his satirical newspaper columns and bestselling novels.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, Harper Fiction, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-17998-4.
Mia, who is destined to destroy empires, must become a weapon without equal.

The Sun's Domain by Rebecca Levene, Hodder, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-444-75379-0.
This is the third in the 'Hollow God' sequence.

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97327-8.
From the writer of The Paper Menagerie , this is the second in the 'Dandelion Dynasty' trilogy.

The White Road by Sarah Lotz, Hodder, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62457-3.
Paranormal thriller.

The Truants by Lee Markham, Duckworth Overlook, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-715-65176-6.
This is a contemporary vampire thriller.

Blackwing by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22201-4.
The Misery is a wasteland: a dangerous corrupted frontier between the Republic and the Deep Kings. It's the place where villains go and as often as not it is Captain Ryhalt Galharrow's job to bring them to heel beneath fractures skies… Now, this is a debut and Gollancz are really raving about this one. OK, so publishers do rave about their own products, but the clincher as to whether or not such promotional utterings have an merit is with the price: if a publisher truly expects it to sell well then they will price it competitively and at £12.99 for a hardback this is competitive (trade paperbacks are usually that price): Gollancz are putting their money where their mouth is.

A Knight of Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin, Harper Fiction, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-23809-4.
A prequel to A Song of Fire and Ice.

Wild Cards: High Stakes edited by George R. R. Martin, Orion, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22198-7.
Further to news announced last season, this anthology based is based on George R. R. Martin's set-up. A television series is being developed.

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-5757-13050-0.
This is the final in 'The Falconer' trilogy.

Soul of the World by David Meading, Orbit, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50895-5.
First in an epic fantasy trilogy. This is a debut novel.

The Census-Taker by China Miéville, Picador, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-81213-4.
From the author of The City and the City, Embassytown, Kraken and Railsea. But no info sent on this one.

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer, Simon & Schuster, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-471-14655-8.
Beginning in 1348, two desperate, plague-infected brothers, are offered a deal: they can live for six more days but each of these will begin 99 years after the last… This is a debut fiction from a non-fiction writer.

The End of the Day by Claire North, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50734-7.
From the author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August that recently won a Spanish Ignotus. At the end of the day, Death visits everyone. Right before that, Charlie does. You might meet him in a hospital, in a warzone, or at the scene of a traffic accident. Then again, you might meet him at the North Pole - he gets everywhere, our Charlie. Would you shake him by the hand, take the gift he offers, or would you pay no attention to the words he says? Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden, Bantam Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-06127-5.
This is a re-working of the Grendel myth. To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind—the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days…

The Eternal Kingdom by Ben Peek, Macmillan, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-44-25189-7.
Final in the trilogy following The Godless and Leviathan's Blood. A young Californian girls discovers her granddad is friends with the Devil.

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-681-44435-2.
A woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters—she is the middle child of five—have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. When her siblings have all gone she is left alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it – the dark and nameless, the impossible presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house – comes calling.

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky, Hodder, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63428-2.
From the author of Those Above.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-552-17361-2.
A reprinting of Terry's 47th Discworld novel in which Discworld does steam trains. It was one of the top genre sellers of 2013.

Fallen by Tarn Richardson, Duckworth, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-715-65172-8.
See also below.

Risen by Tarn Richardson, Duckworth, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-715-65170-4.
The antichrist ascends in an alternate World War I timeline.

Dead Man's Steel by Luke Scull, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-781-85161-6.
This is the final in the 'Grim Company' series.

Wild Embrace: A Psy-Changling Collection by Nalini Singh, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22160-4.
Four paranormal romance novels.

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, Grove Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-611-85526-5.
A witty and inventive story of a Handmaid’s Tale-esque welfare state where women are either breeders or outcasts, addicts chase the elusive high of super-hot chilli peppers, and one woman is searching for her missing sister.

Extinction End by Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-316-55815-0.
Almost seven weeks have passed since the Haemorrhage Virus ravaged the world. The remnants of the United States military have regrouped and relocated Central Command to the George Washington Carrier Strike Group. It's here, in the North Atlantic, that President Jan Ringgold and Vice President George Johnson prepare to deploy a new bioweapon and embark on the final mission to take back the country from the Variants. With his home gone and his friends kidnapped, Master Sergeant Reed Beckham and his remaining men must take drastic measures to save what's left of the human race.

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-82295-9.
This is a standalone novel set in the 'Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne Chronicles' series.

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50828-3.
This is another in the 'Laundry' run of standalone novels involving the British secret service protecting Britain from supernatural nasties.  The series also includes The Fuller Memorandum.

Players of the Game by Graeme K. Talboys, Harper Fiction, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-00815380-9.
The third in the 'Shadow in the Storm' series.

And the Rest is History by Jodi Taylor, Accent Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-15239-8.
Eighth in the 'Chronicles of St Mary's'. This is a mix of historical fiction and fantasy humour.

Born by Jeff Vandermeer, Fourth estate, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-15917-7.
In a future cite a scavenger finds a creature entangled in the fur of a giant bear…

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian Walker, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03572-2.
Linekar is a happy-go-lucky mongrel from Peckham who finds that the day the world ends is a chance to prove his loyalty to his owner…

Blood Vow by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-40931-3.
This is a spin-off from the 'Black Dagger brotherhood' series.

Pendragon by James Wilde, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, 978-0-593-07604-0.
Here is the beginning of a legend. Long before Camelot rose, a hundred years before the myth of King Arthur was half-formed, at the start of the Red Century, the world was slipping into a Dark Age.  It is AD 367. In a frozen forest beyond Hadrian’s Wall, six scouts of the Roman army are found murdered…

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-60320-2.
From the author of Sleeping Late on Judgement Day book one of the 'Last King of Ostan Ard' sequence. This continues the story of the servant boy made king and his queen, Miriamele, thirty years after the events of the concluding part of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales edited by Jack Zipes, Princeton University Press, £24.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-691-17265-1.
An anthology exploring magic and the relevancies of/to the original The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

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

Summer 2017

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF & Popular Science Books

 

Bad Choices: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier by Ali Almossawi, John Murray, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-473-55076-3.
Why is Facebook s good at predicting what you'd like? How can we express ourselves better in 140 characters? Plus other questions answered and suggestions given.

Einstein's Greatest Mistake by David Bodanis, Abacus, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-14202-9.
Learn a bit about Einstein's life and his consternation over the cosmological constant.

Happy by Derren Brown, Corgi, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-552-17225-6.
The hardback was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. Derren Brown is a hugely popular magical psychologist in Britain. This book examines what it takes to make one happy.

Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee? A Mind-bending Menageries of Animal Psychology by Ben Ambridge, Profile, pbk, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-781-25573-5.
Dolphins understand grammar and parrots can add up. The animal kingdom can provide more than a match for any single human.

The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force That Explains Everything by Marcus Chown, Weidenfeld, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60186-3.
The story of gravity from Newton to Higgs.

A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing by Clare Christian, Red Door, pbk, £8.99, ISBN 978-1-910-45311-7.
We have not seen this and so do not know how balanced this is.  Surveys reveal that over 12% the more commercial e-books are self-published though half self-publishers fail to get US$500 which relates to half of self-published titles sell less than 1,000 copies and that the bottom 20% of self-publishers actually lose money.  But the tiny few who do make significant sales will get picked up by a commercial publisher (cf. The Martian).  However the author is a former Orion, Hodder and Harper Collins staff member (all these publishing houses have SF/F/H imprints).

The Reality Frame: Relativity and our Place in the Universe by Brian Clegg, Icon £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-78208-4.
Overly hyped by the publisher as 'The Ascent of Man for the 21st century', but don't let this put you off.

Darwin and Women: A Selection of Letters by Charles Darwin with Samantha Evans (ed.) Cambridge University Press, £30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-107-15886-3.
A collection of previously unpublished correspondence between Darwin and the women in his circle of family and friends.

Science in the Soul: Selected Shorter Writings by Richard Dawkins, Transworld, hrdbk, £20, ISBN 978-0-593-07750-4.
The biologist writer of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion presents an anthology of his short non-fiction. this new collection make an unanswerable case for the wonder of scientific discovery and its power to stir the imagination; for the practical necessity of scientific endeavour to society; and for the importance of the scientific way of thinking – particularly in today’s ‘post-truth’ world. More than forty pieces are gathered here, with an introduction and new commentary by the author in dialogue with himself across the years. They range over subjects from evolution and Darwinian natural selection to the role of scientist as prophet, whether science is itself a religion, the probability of alien life in other worlds, and the beauties, cruelties and oddities of earthly life in this one.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Norton, £14.50, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0393-60939-4.

What We Cannot Know: Exploration at the Edge of Knowledge by Marcus du Sautoy, Harper Collins, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-007-57659-3.
A mathematician explores concepts ranging from consciousness to infinity.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance by Robin Furth, Hodder & Stoughton, £20, pbk, ISBN 978-1-444-76469-7.
An edition of the guide to the book series for the first time in one volume.

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-20802-6.
Bound to be popular with a number of this site's regulars.

A Day in the Life of the Brain by Susan Greenfield, Penguin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-97634-1.

How to Make a Spaceship by Julian Guthrie, Black Swan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16237-5.
The story of the US$30m Google Prize. There is a forward by Richard Branson and an afterword by Stephen Hawking.

You Win or You Die: The Ancient World of Game of Thrones by Aylet Haimson, I. B. Taurus, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-53699-2.
The classical history elements that are in the TV show (and one presumes the George R. R. Martin books).

Vampires and Zombies by Dorothea Gischer-Hornung and Monika Mueller, University Press of Mississippi, £30.50, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-496-81324-4.

The History of Torture by Brian Innes, Amber Books, £19.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-782-74519-8.
This is a re-release but slightly updated. Covers torture from ancient Greece to today.

Celestial Empire: The Emergence of Chinese Science Fiction by Nathaniel Isaacson, Wesleyan University Press, £21, pbk, ISBN 978-0-801-957668-2.
More substantive than our coverage of Science Fiction in China (2008) and Science Fiction, Globalization, and the People's Republic of China.

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer's by Joseph Jebelli, John Murray, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-43-63573-9.

4th Rock From the Sun: The Story of Mars by Nicky Jenner, Bloomsbury £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-92249-4.

The Science of Game of Thrones by Helen Keen, Hodder & Stoughton £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63234-9.
Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback; this is the cheaper mass market paperback release.

Quantum Physics in Minutes by Gemma Lavender, Quercus, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-681-44174-0.
Covers everything you need to know about quantum physics, condensed into 200 key topics. Each idea is explained in clear, accessible language, building from the basics, such as Planck's exploration of black-body radiation, Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect, and the Schrodinger equation to electroweak force, quantum electrodynamics, and loop quantum gravity.

Destination Mar by Andrew May, Icon, £6.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-78225-1.
The history of our fascination with the Red Planet, through the various probes and landers sent to it, to the current debate about a possible manned mission.

1, 234 QI Facts to Leave you Speechless by John Lloyd, John Midhinson and James Hawkins, Faber & Faber, £4.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0571-32983-0.
This is the forth in the book series based on the hugely popular BBC TV series that so far has sold over a million copies worldwide.

What Really Happens When You Die? by Andrew McLauchlin, Arcturus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-28590-6.
A physicist explains and debunks ancient and modern fallacies.

Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World by John Man, Transworld,£20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07759-7.
The Amazons, an elusive tribe of ruthless, hard-fighting, horse-riding female warriors. Equal to men in battle, legend has it they would cut off their breasts to improve their archery skills and routinely killed their boy children to purify their ranks. Following new research and a series of groundbreaking archaeological discoveries, we now know these powerful warrior queens did indeed exist…

Science and Islam by Ehsan Masod, Icon, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-97634-1.

The Enigma of Reason: A Natural History of Human Understanding by Hugo Mercier and Don Sperber, Allen Lane, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-846-14557-5.

How Writing Works by Roslyn Petelin, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-925-26691-7.
A lively and practical introduction to the elements of grammar, sentence structure and style required to write well. It covers social media and writing for online publication, as well as the most common documents in any writing-reliant workplace.

Once Upon A Time Lord: The Myths and Stories of Doctor Who by Ivan Phillips, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-5326-3
How the Doctor came to be and his life (lives) outlined through to the present.

Liquid Space: Science Fiction Films and Television in the Digital Arts by Sean Redmond, I. B. Taurus, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-780-76187-9.

The Memory Illusion by Julia Shaw Cornerstone, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-847-94761-1.
A psychologist who has worked with police explores false memory.

Science Fiction and the Mass Cultural Genre System by John Rieder, Wesleyan University Press, £19, pbk, ISBN 978-0-819-57716-0.

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong: And the New Research That's Re-writing the Story by Angela Saini, Fourth Estate, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-0-008-17202-2.
Eye-opening discrimination uncovered.

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth, Souvenir, £5.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-285-64368-0.
The history of toilet paper from China 589AD. Today some 270,000 trees are used each year to make toilet paper.

The 15-minute Einstein by Robert Snedden, Arcturus, £6.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-28537-1.
Einstein made easy.

DNA by James Watson, Cornerstone, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1784-75804-2.
The co-elucidator of DNA's structure updates his book Nature (2003) with two new chapters.

10 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Catherine Whitlock and Rhodri Evans, Robinson, £13.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-13743-2.

Half Earth by Edward O. Wilson, W. W. Norton, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-631-49252-5.
The renowned US biologist (biodiversity specialist) publishes this environmental science perspective between Earth Day and World Environment Day… (We leave you to Google these dates.)

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
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Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
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Summer 2017

General Science News

 

The 2017 Turing Prize for computing and computer science has been won by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Britain's Sir Tim Berners-Lee is widely credited for inventing the world-wide web. (Note: the www is not the internet – which carries other stuff such as e-mail.) Tim Berners-Lee was cited by the award's administrators for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale. The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” carries a US$1 million (£820,00) prize, with financial support provided by Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. The first-ever World Wide Web site went online in 1991 so it has only taken the Turing Prize over a quarter of a century to determine whether Tim was worthy of the award.  +++ The idea of an extensive network of terminals exchanging data and used by individuals has been a specialist trope for a number of years including John Brunner's novel The Shockwave Rider (1975) and even Mark Twain's 1898 story that featured an international exchange of information using the telephone network called the telelectroscope.  +++ See also Tim Berners-Lee concerned by US and British plans to weaken internet privacy below in science and SF.

The 2017 Abel Prize for maths has been won by Yves Meyer. The Norwegian Prize worth 6 million kroner (£582,000) is one of the world's most prestigious maths prize.  Yves Meyer is noted for playing a significant part in developing wavelet theory in the 1980s. Wavelet theory has many applications including signal processing, file compression and data analysis. It was used in 2015's gravity wave detection.

2016 was the hottest year on record says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The mean global surface temperature (which ignores heat transported into ocean depths) was 0.06° above the previous record hottest year 2015 since records began in 1880. The UN's WMO calculated this from three sets of data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Britain's Met Office Hadley Centre.

Carbon dioxide emissions in 2016 were flat for third year in row The International Energy Agency (Paris) says that this is mainly due to increased renewables, increased energy efficiency and some new nuclear. However halting the growth in emissions will not stop continued global warming: over two thirds of our current emissions need to be cut before we can begin to contemplate keeping warming below 2°C.

The Earth's first continents did not form by subduction!  Now, this may seem obvious as before the Earth's first continents there were no continental plates and so no plate subduction.  Yet old crustal rock contains a type of mineral – tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks (TTGs) – that resembles the continental crust produced in modern subduction.   How come?  Well, some old Earth crust can be found in East Pilbara Terrane, Western Australia, and now some Australian researchers led by Tim Johnson and Michael Brown have chemically modelled what may have happened.  They conclude that such TTG continental crust formed near the base of thick (a score of kilometres), plateau-like basaltic crust that provided the pressure as if it formed in a deep subduction zone.  The early (before cooling) Earth's warmer mantle would have provided the temperature.  So subduction was not required to produce TTGs in the early Archaean eon.  This work is particularly interesting as it looks very much as if life on Earth started in such a pre-plate tectonic environment and if this is so (and it is likely despite debate as to exactly when) then there are implications for life on exo-Earth's: it could have got going before plate tectonics.  +++ See also the Earth's first life item in the natural science subsection below.

Earth's oceans have, since hey formed, become more alkali. Ocean acidity has been fundamental in maintaining Earth's habitability and allowing the emergence of early life. Despite this we know little about deep past ocean pH. Now researchers Halevy and Bachan have modelled of seawater chemistry and pH over deep time scales. They conclude that billions of years ago seawater pH in he early Archaean was around 6.5 to 7.0 which compares with more recent values the past few million years around 7.5 to 9.0. The early Earth's oceans were more acidic due to far higher carbon dioxide concentrations.

A new phase of matter has been created that acts like a clock. Two teams of researchers – a US one and an international one – have independently created what until now was purely theoretical. These involve crystals of dipolar spin impurities: one impurities in diamond at room temperature, and the other up to 14 trapped ions in Raman laser beams.  These systems flip regularly like a clock due to one of its atom's spin generating a magnetic field that affects its near neighbour's which change and the interaction ultimately returns to the first one causing it to flip back. Such systems – previously only hypothetical – are known as Floquet time crystals.  These flips are quantum changes and it is thought that they could play a role in aspects of quantum computing. The creation of the impurities in diamond at room temperature Floquet time crystal suggests that possibly such systems might occur naturally. (See Zhang, et al. (2017) Nature vol. 543, p217–220, and Choi, et al (2017) Nature vol. 543, p221–225. Plus there is a review the same issue by Chetan Nayak, Nature vol. 543, p185-6.).

IBM is to launch a cloud accessed quantum computing service. IBM say they plan to do it this year (2017): roll out the world’s first commercial ‘universal’ quantum-computing service that can be accessed (for payment) via the internet and will be called IBM Q. Only a few qubits will be available so don't expect mind-bending calculations, rather the system will mostly be used by those learning to program quantum computers.

USA science in decline following President Trump's cuts. The Trump science budget has yet to be finalised (that will likely happen sometime around May) but Trump is proposing a number of cuts. NASA it is proposed is to lose 1% (more in real terms taking into account inflation), the National Institutes of Health to lose 18% to US$25.9 billion, and the Environmental Protection Agency 31% from US$8.1 billion, among other science cuts. +++ See also Trump's profitable science cut below.

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Summer 2017

Natural Science News

 

First life on Earth could have begun between 3,770 million and 4,280 million years old.  Researchers led by Matthew Dodd from University College London have discovered strata in Nuvvuagittuq rocks that contain features microorganism-like structures (filaments and tubes).   Nuvvuagittuq rocks in Quebec, Canada, are the oldest in the world and date from 4.28 billion years ago (bya).   These structures resemble those in modern hydrothermal vent communities of microorganisms, some of which are Fe-oxidizing bacteria that form distinctive tubes and filaments.(See Dodd et al. (2017) Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. Nature, vol. 543, p60—4.)  This fits in with the Nuvvuagittuq strata geology that was formed in a submarine vent environment.  Additionally, these rocks contain isotopically light (depleted in carbon-13): photosynthesis preferentially selects for carbon-12 (against carbon-13).  And, of course, for photosynthesis you need life.
          The date of the rocks is critical. The Nuvvuagittuq rocks have previously been established to be that old; it is the discovery of life-like mirco-structures that are also carbon light that is new.  However, assuming that the inferred conclusions from these observations are correct (and, though not definitive, the evidence is reasonably strong) this means that life got going during or towards the end of the late heavy bombardment (3.8 – 4.1 bya).  +++ Concatenation discussion. Because evidence of life's rise has kept being pushed back earlier and earlier in the Earth's history – we reported on other research just last season that life could have begin before 3.7 bya – there has been previous speculation that as the entirety of the Earth was never completely destroyed during the bombardment, that early life had it got going could have survived the bombardment with in just a few million years of the oceans forming. ( See Abramov, O. & Mojzsis, S. J. (2009) Microbial habitability of the Hadean Earth during the late heavy bombardment. Nature, vol. 459, p419-422.)  And if  this is the case, then the case for life having arisen on Mars during its primordial warm wet period becomes far more compelling.  And if this, yet again, in turn is true then the seasonal methane plumes on Mars could be of biological origin!  Life could be really very common in the Galaxy.  You read it here.

Future life expectancy in developed nations to continue to increase. A study in The Lancet (Kontis et al.2017, doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32381-9) on demographic trends looking forward just two and a half decades, suggests that the already long-lived developed nation citizens will have an even longer life in 2030.  Japanese citizen on average currently live the longest, but the new research reveals that South Korean women are likely to live the longest by 2030 with nearly a 60% chance that they will live to 90 years old or more.  US citizens currently trail the developed nation longevity list (very markedly so considering the nation's wealth and health spend) and will lag even further behind by 2030 with men unlikely on average to live to see 80 and US women unlikely to reach 85. This is due to a mix of obesity and the financially inefficient health spend of their largely privately financed health system. (Much US health finance is wasted on the health insurance business, legal fees for the US wealthy, while the US poor get little health care cover.) Conversely, their British counterparts on average will live longer than this. (Thank you NHS (National Health Service).)

Gene therapy may restore hearing! gene therapy was one of the promises human genome research was meant to deliver in the early 2000s. Over a decade on progress has been slow though there have been developments with for eyesight and Parkinson's. Now, research at the Boston Children's Hospital on mice with type-1 Usher syndrome used an artificial virus carrying the gene for the protein harmonin that is found in the hair cells of the inner ear and found that their hearing was restored.  Another study, also in Boston at the Schepens Eye Research Institute fond that the same virus delivered genes to a large number of target hairs in the mouse inner ear.

Human gene editing permissible says US National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine! The US science academies (which are sort of equivalent to Britain's Royal Society) has produced a report that concludes that it is ethically permissible to edit the human genome for health/disease reasons. Transparency and openness must be the watchword along with patient/subject confidentiality. Even altering the human germ line (genetically inheritable alterations passed on to future generations) is allowable. What is not ethically permissible are alterations purely for enhancement: boosted strength, IQ etc. (See Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance, ISBN 978-0-309-45288-5 and DOI: 10.17226/24623, free PDF available from www.nap.edu/24623.)

GM rat-to-mice pancreatic transplants reverse diabetes. This idea is not new and attempts have been previously made to transplant modified mice pancreases to rats but they only grew to the size of mice pancreases.  Now the reverse has been attempter: rat pancreases to mice. But it is not a straightforward transplant.  Long story short… The rat early embryos are injected with mice pluripotent stem cells and so these rats grew to contain a mix of mice and rat cells. The rats did not grow their own pancreas as the embryos were genetically modified without the Pdx1 gene that regulate pancreas development and so the rats pancreases were largely mice pancreases. The mice pancreases from the rats were then removed and their islets of Langerhans (featuring the cells that secrete insulin) were isolated. These were then transplanted into mice with type-1 diabetes and successfully secreted insulin preventing high concentrations of blood glucose. (See Yamaguchi et al (2017) Nature, vol. 542, p191-6 and also a review in the same issue by Qiao Zhou, p168-9.)  There is an obvious (but not entirely easy) research route from here to transplant treatments for human diabetes.

Wheat, genetically modified for improved photosynthesis, goes to field trials in Britain. The wheat has been genetically modified with a gene from stiff brome grass (Brachypodium distachyon). Improved photosynthesis was demonstrated in greenhouses and now Rothamsted (Harpenden, Hertfordshire) is attempting to demonstrate that this is so in field trials.

The last mammoths before extinction were riddled with genetic errors. DNA sequencing has allowed for complete genome sequencing for two specimens of woolly mammoths. One mammoth specimen is from a mainland population 45,000 years ago when mammoths were plentiful. The second, a 4,300 yr old specimen, came from an isolated population on Wrangel Island (between Alaska and Russia) where the last mammoths lived. The genome of this specimen had an accumulation of detrimental mutations, which is what you would expect from a mall in-bred population. One faulty gene gave this mammoth a translucent satin fur coat. (See Rogers R.L. et al, 2017, PLoS Genetics, 13(3): e1006601. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006601.)  It is thought that these mammoths also faced pressures from modern humans.

Ancient, pre-European, humans in the Amazon bain shaped its present biodiversity.  The Amazon basin is known to be a planetary biodiversity hotspot, but a few years ago it was established that just a few tree species were dominant in the Amazon and this had been assumed to be some natural quirk: why not as, for example, naturally few species are at the top of food chains, so couldn't this be something vaguely similar?  Now, a huge team of researchers have found that that species used for food or building materials were far more common near ancient settlements. By comparing data on tree composition from more than 1,000 locations in the Amazon with a map of archaeological sites, eighty-five species that produced Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, aecia or rubber were five times more likely to be dominant in mature forest than non-domesticated species. Some 10 million people lived in the Amazon region before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The ancient peoples of the Amazon left their mark in the forest. (See Levis et al. (2017) Science, vol. 355, pp. 925-931.)

Neural crown hints at seat of consciousness.  A new digital reconstruction of just three single mouse neurons reveals that they encircle the mouse's brain. The brain's shape is known to be a convoluted surface on which regions are responsible for different things. Christof Koch, of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and his team injected just three neurons that leave a small central area of the brain and then traced these to find that after they leave the central area (the claustrum) and out to branch over the surface of the brain and one wraps entirely around it. It is likely that more neurons do the same.  Koch previously hypothesised that the claustrum – a thin, irregular, sheet of neurons that is attached to the underside of the neocortex in the centre of the brain – may be the seat of consciousness in humans and mice. (Announcement reported by Reardon, 2017, Nature, vol. 543, p14-15 on paper currently undergoing peer review.)  Francis Crick (Nobel DNA structure winner) and Christof Koch have previously compared the claustrum to the conductor of an orchestra, referring to its regulatory role in consciousness and cognition.

What can make bird flu infect humans?  A one letter change in the RNA!  Honglin Chen at Hong Kong U. and colleagues compared the genome of the human-infecting bird flu H7H9 with a range of other flu genomes. They found that a single nucleotide alteration in the strain H9N2 made it become H7N9. It is thought this took place in 2000. (Nature Communications vol 8, 14751.). So if politicians do not think that a human infecting strain will again arise in the future (as biologists do) then this research might convince them that the threat is not just real but likely.

Memories are formed twice! It had been thought that all memories start as a short-term memory and are then slowly converted into long-term ones. Now a US-Japanese research team have found that both long and short-term memories are formed at the same time: memories are formed twice.  Long-term memories are stored in the cortex – that's the big outer part of the brain you see – whereas short-term memories are formed in the hippocampus – that's a smaller bit in the base near the centre of the brain. The short-term memories slowly degrade in time and make way for new memories. The work was done on mice but is thought to apply to humans. (See Kitamura et al (2017) Science, vol. 356, p73-78.)

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Summer 2017

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

Seven near Earth-sized planets found in one system. Since the first exo-planet was discovered in 1992, discoveries have been made at almost an exponential rate with the number found topping 1,000 in October 2013. And so when three were discovered in one system last year (See Gillon, M. et al. (2016) Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star. Nature vol. 533, p221–224.) we did not even bother reporting it.  Now, an international team of largely Europeans (plus some N. Americans and others) led by Michaël Gillon have refined their survey of the ultra-cool dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1 (after the TRansiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope in Chile). They followed up their original discovery with the Spitzer Space Telescope as well as numerous ground-based observations. Their conclusion is that there are at least seven planets with sizes and masses reasonably similar to those of Earth revolve around TRAPPIST-1. Importantly, the seven planets likely have equilibrium temperatures low enough to make possible the presence of liquid water on a number of their surfaces! TRAPPIST-1 is located only 39 light years (12 parsecs) away and is a very small star about the size of Jupiter. Were TRAPPIST-1 our Sun then the seven planets would all be well inside the orbit of Mercury, but TRAPPIST-1 is cool and so all but its innermost two of its planets are not excessively warmed. The innermost five planets are roughly the size of the Earth and the outermost two an intermediate size equivalent to being between that of the Earth and Mars. Water might exist in theory on a number of these worlds: in the innermost mainly as vapour (but possibly lost as happened to Venus) and the outermost as ice and, of course, there would be latitude and altitude variations on each. The most Earth-like in both temperature (assuming it has a thick atmosphere conferring a natural strong greenhouse effect) and mass is the fifth planet. The outermost planet is too cool for water to exist in anything but as a liquid. (See Gillon, M. (2017) Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Nature, vol. 542, p456 - 460. Also a review piece in the same issue Snellen, I., A., G. Earth’s seven sisters. p421 - 423.)  +++ SF² Concatenation loose fun discussion as to the possibilities for complex, oxygenic life (multicellular, oxygen generating plants) hence animals. TRAPPIST-1 is cool and therefore most of its spectrum is in the red and infrared and not yellow, which in turn means that its peak spectrum photons have a much lower energy than those from our Sun. Earth's plants bootstrap two separate photosystems into one to energise an electron sufficiently to crack water releasing oxygen, and while life on Earth got going quickly, it took at least a quarter or possible half a billion years to evolve this oxygen-generating trick. If oxygenic photosynthesis takes place on the TRAPPIST-1 world then it would need to have three photosystems bootstrapped which is harder to envisage taking place. Conversely, TRAPPIST-1 is ultra cool and so does not burn fast. This, in turn, means it has a long life (far longer than our Sun's expected lifetime). Bringing these two strands of thought together and while it is less likely for a TRAPPIST-1 world to evolve oxygenic photosynthesis, there is far more time available for this harder evolution to take place and if it did (note the 'if') animals would then surely evolve. Conversely, a hypothetical alien exobiologist from a TRAPPIST-1 world might contemplate our Solar system and consider its Sun's photons ionisingly toxic and its stellar longevity too short for complex life to evolve. Our Earth exobiologists will be waiting to see results in a couple of year's time from the James Webb Space Telescope that could reveal these worlds atmospheric composition. If free oxygen (especially free oxygen with methane) is present on any of them, then we will know that life exists. Similarly, an alien TRAPPIST-1 exobiologist would see oxygen and methane in the Earth's atmosphere and wonder what strange evolutionary path life took here. Finally, there are far more cool stars than Sun-like stars in the spiral arms of our galaxy. If the planetary arrangement of Jupiter-sized TRAPPIST-1 is common (and it is not hugely dissimilar to our Jupiter moon arrangement) then there could be many more worlds capable of having liquid water on its surface in the Galaxy than even recently we had dared contemplate.

An exo-Earth's atmosphere has been detected. Observations at the European Southern Observatory in Chile detected the atmosphere GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of our planet and lies 39 light years away, as it passed in front of its sun/host star. The observations of the planet suggest that it has a thick atmosphere containing either steam and/or methane. Though the planet is orbiting a cool star it is close to it and it has a surface temperature of 370°C. (See Southworth et al (2017) The Astronomical Journal vol. 153 (4).)

At least 66% of Mars' atmosphere has been lost since it was formed. This broad brush estimate was derived from measuring argon isotope in Mars' atmosphere at its surface (NASA's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on board the Curiosity rover) and high in the atmosphere by from NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) spacecraft.  They looked at two minority but stable isotopes of argon Ar38 and Ar36. Now, the lighter isotope preferentially leaks – due to Solar wind interactions – from the Martian atmosphere compared to the heavier isotope. Knowing the different ratios at the top and bottom of the Martian atmospheric column it is possible to calculate how long it took for leakage to bring the composition to this level. And so the researchers conclude that Mars has lost at least 66% of its Argon. (See Jakosky et al, 2017, Science, vol. 355, p1408-1410.) It is possible to look at other heavy molecules such as carbon dioxide but there are other mechanisms (such as the formation of carbonates) that can remove it from the atmosphere.  +++ Some Concatenation staffers note that oxygen and nitrogen molecules are a lot lighter than argon and so they would escape faster especially as there are other mechanisms for its atmospheric loss other than being stripped by Solar wind. This means that the early Mars atmosphere is almost certain to be more than 66% thicker than it is today. Others have estimated that Mars has lost 99% of its atmosphere. Indeed, Mars' atmosphere today is less than 1% the pressure of Earth's at sea level.

Organic compounds detected on Ceres. Further to the confirmation of water on Ceres NASA's Dawn space probe has now detected organic compounds. Organic compounds occur in some chondritic (stony) meteorites, and their signatures on solar system bodies have been sought for decades. Spectral signatures of organics have been ambiguously identified on the surfaces of asteroids, but not on cometary nuclei. Data returned by the Visible and InfraRed Mapping Spectrometer on board Dawn show absorption bands associated with aliphatic (non-aromatic/benzene ring type) organic matter and is mainly localised within a broad region of ~1,000 square kilometres close to the ~50-kilometer Ernutet crater. Combining this with last season's news of water on Ceres does lay open the possibility of some pre-biotic chemistry. (See Science, vol. 355, p719-722.)  It should be remembered that asteroids only a few tens of kilometres across will get a molten centre during its formation and their interiors may remain warm for a number of years (decades, centuries? (Remember asteroids are vacuum insulated.) Ceres, the largest of the asteroids, has a diameter of some 500 miles (800 km). Also, as the location of the Earth makes it too high a temperature for water to form in the interplanetary medium (the Earth's atmosphere evens things out between its day and night side cooling things markedly but its natural greenhouse effect warms it a little above this chilly average), so it is thought that Earth's water may have been delivered by planetesimals and asteroids from further out both before, and again during, the late heavy bombardment.

Ancient galaxies lack dark matter. An international team of mainly German astronomers has discovered that early galaxies (when the Universe was about 20% of its current age) have much less dark matter. The amount of dark matter is inferred by galaxy rotation: present day galaxies rotate too fast and so must have hidden matter holding them together otherwise they'd fly apart. However a study of these ancient galaxies reveals that they do not have such a high spin. Explaining this dark matter deficit could be that these early galaxies were still accruing gas from the thin filaments of matter that make up the large-scale cosmic web and momentum transference had not sufficiently taken place, or the dark matter and matter equilibrium had not yet become established (See Genzel et al (2017) Nature, vol. 543, p397-401 and review vol. 543, p318-9.)  Or even, as we at SF² Concatenation like to speculate wildly, dark matter or dark matter influences enter our 3-D universe from a rolled up dimension as the universe expands; a variation of 10 dimensional Kaluza-Klein theory.

Space and Scotland is a new magazine that aims to cover all aspects of the astronomy and space scene in Scotland. The magazine is produced by the charity ACTA SCIO (Astro Cosmic Terran Association Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), which was set up in 2011, initially to manage the stone circle campaign to regenerate (now, to recreate) the astronomically aligned Sighthill stone circle in Glasgow, and also runs the Astronomers of the Future Club in Troon. The first four magazine issues, to be published at the solstices and equinoxes of the 12 months to December 2017, during which it's hoped to demonstrate the need for the publication and to attract the support of advertisers which will allow it to remain free of charge. First responses have been very positive and paying adverts have already begun to appear with issue 2. More information will be appearing shortly on the charity's website, actascio.com and Facebook.

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

Summer 2017

Science & Science Fiction Interface

 

Arthur C. Clarke's 100 anniversary celebrated by Nature. The weekly science journal has marked the century since Clarke's birth with an article on his prescience by Andrew Robinson, Clarke's editor at the Times Higher Education Supplement (1994-2005).  The SF grandmaster, who died in 2008, is also well known for developing the concept of the geostationary communications satellite network.  The Nature article (vol. 541, p286-8) notes that his impact still has relevance today and that the recent film biopic Steve Jobs begins with an interview of Clarke with the interviewer's young son present and Clarke opining that by 2001 – indeed before that – the young boy's home will have a console with which he can talk to his friendly local computer and get all the information he needs for everyday life.  His non-fiction book, Interplanetary Flight (1950), inspired a young Carl Sagan, and Werner von Braun used Clarkes Exploration of Space (1951) to convince President John Kennedy the feasibility of going to the Moon.  Clarke may be gone but we still have his novels and share in his sense-of-wonder that straddles both science and fiction.

2000AD 40th anniversary marked by leading science journal Nature. This year sees the 'Galaxy's greatest comic', 2000AD (as we noted last season) 40th year (just as we at SF² Concatenation mark our 30th) – see also this season's editorial at the top of this pageNature deftly acknowledged 2000AD's 40th in an editorial of its own on bot wars.  ''Deftly' because while today scientists with a fondness for science fiction can be more open about their genre interests, one still has to be careful lest a critic opines one's 'science fact' as 'fiction' (just a few decades ago such low balls were rife and scientists into SF tended to be firmly in the closet). And so the March 2nd issue of Nature neatly weaved an editorial (Editorials (2017) Thrill power: After 40 years sci-fi comic 2000AD deserves to be known for more than Judge Dredd, Nature, vol.543, p6.) congratulations to 2000AD with news of a science paper (Tsvetkova et al. (2017) PLoS ONE vol. 12, e0171774.) on warring internet bots.  Apparently, some internet bots – programmes that wander the web – have conflicting programming and so keep undoing each other's work. The parallel was drawn with 2000AD, whose staff are fictionally referred to as droids. But many online ventures have real bots working for them. One instance, explored by the researchers, is Wikipedia (who helped with the paper) as its bots can work against each other. This typically happens when bots working for one of Wikipedia's language editions undoes the work of an editing bot for another Wikipedia language edition (so now you know why British and English articles sometimes contain US American spellings).  The research suggests that even relatively 'dumb' bots may give rise to complex – sometimes conflicting – interactions, and this carries important implications for Artificial Intelligence research. Understanding what affects bot-bot interactions is crucial for managing social media well, providing adequate cyber-security, and designing well functioning autonomous vehicles.
          As the Nature piece points out, 'duelling droids is a tale straight from science fiction. And that 2000AD addressing such matters along with mutants and the far future, can address issues considered off-limits to mainstream cultural and political debate.  2000AD, Nature says, in other words 'is an influential science-policy publication'.  We hope that 2000AD will use that attributional line from Nature in its promotional blurbs.  +++ see also Judge Dredd – Strontium Dog timelines to be harmonised.

Winston Churchill wrote about the possibility of alien life: documents found. In addition to famously being Britain's WWII leader (and much else) Winston Churchill also wrote articles for magazines and the press, and was reasonably well read in the sciences (he was the first prime minister to employ a science adviser). Astrophysicist Mario Livio, when visiting the archives at the US National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, was given a typed article MS by the museum director Timothy Riley. The article was a draft, possibly for the News of the World, likely typed in 1939 just prior to him being distracted by Adolph's antics. The article demonstrates Churchill's use of the Copernican Principle (that we are not special hence life could be elsewhere), the likelihood of liquid water as life's solvent, that stars have a 'habitable zone' (a Goldilocks region), and that a life bearing exoplanet must be large enough to retain and atmosphere. He concludes, a large fraction of extrasolar planets may have the right conditions for life. (See Nature, vol. 542, p289-291.)  +++ Of course Churchill was not the only person to consider alien life. Among such previous thinkers were Robert Hooke in 1665, John Wilkins (1638), the 2nd century's Lucian of Samosata, Epicurus in the 1st century BC, and Archelaus and his student Xenophanes in the 5th century BC.

Breakthrough Starshot to go 4.26 light years in 20 years. Breakthrough Starshot, backed by US$100 million from Russian investor Yuri Milner, aims to send an interstellar probe to triple star Alpha Centauri constellation star Proxima Centauri 4.26 light years away at a cost of around US$10 billion (£800 m) and taking just 20 years t complete the journy.  Last year it was discovered that Proxima hosted an Earth-like planet, Proxima 'b'. Starshot will consist of a craft, or many craft, of Solar sails just 6 metres wide with a chip in the centre with each craft weight just a gram. Laser beams will help accelerate the craft the first couple of million miles but the laser required will need to be one hundred gigawatts: a million times what we can do today. Such an idea has been mooted before, including by the SF author Robert Forward in the late 1980s.  However the problem with this approach is that they would whizz through the Proxima Centauri system in just a few hours. Two Germans, René Heller and Michael Hippke, propose to angle the sail so as to use Proxima and star light to slow the craft down so it can go into orbit about Proxima. But this presents another difficulty: in order to do this the craft's approach velocity must be slower and so the journey would not take just 20 years but a century!

Fast Radio Bursts could be alien civilisation light sail boosters.  Two US astronomers, Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb, have examined the characteristics of fast radio bursts (FRBs). Their analysis shows that beams used for powering large light sails could yield parameters that are consistent with FRBs. Indeed, the optimal frequency for powering the light sail they show is similar to the detected FRB frequencies. They suggest that a civilization capable generating energy as we on Earth currently do (a Kardashev I class civilisation) could make these powerful radio lasers and that these are extragalactic. They estimate that there could be a billion such civilisations within a hundred gigaparsecs (320 billion light years) which covers hundreds of thousands of galaxies. They estimate that the chance of us detecting such a light sail power beam in our galaxy would take around 300 years and, being in our galaxy, it would be picked up by household radios.  This striking event could reveal everything that can be known about the true origin of FRBs, and thereby settle this FRB origin debate once and for all.  It should be pointed out that the authors wrote this paper not so much to promulgate an extraterrestrial hypothesis but to determine the characteristics to rule out possible alternatives to the natural origin of FRBs. (See Lingam & Loeb The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 837 (2), L23.)  +++ FRBs are puzzling phenomena. A number of detections in 2015 were of repeating FRBs which rules out a cataclysmic origin (such as a massive astronomical body falling into a black hole). Currently there is generally no accepted explanation for FRBs.

NASA and ESA to conduct Armageddon type mission. An ESA and NASA mission currently slated for a 2020 launch aims to crash a probe into a 525 foot asteroid Didymoon to see if they can nudge its orbit, much like in the film Armageddon (1998). Didymoon orbits a larger, 2,450 foot asteroid Didymos. In 2003 Didymos came within 4.46 million miles of Earth.  STOP PRESS: This may be cancelled due to NASA's 1% budget cut. We should know more over the course f the summer. NASA may also lose its US$115 (£94m) Office of Education. There is also (again currently) silence on Trump's intentions for NASA's manned Moon and Mars aspirations.

Computer like human decision making – Are there advantages? The House of Commons all-party Select Committee for Science & Technology is to investigate how algorithms can be used in human decision-making.  In an increasingly digital world, algorithms are being used to make decisions in a growing range of contexts. From decisions about offering mortgages and credit cards to sifting job applications and sentencing criminals, the impact of algorithms is far reaching. How an algorithm is formulated, its scope for error or correction, the impact it may have on an individual – and their ability to understand or challenge that decision – are increasingly relevant questions. This follows the Committee’s recent work on Robotics and AI.

Britain's robotics and artificial intelligence (A.I.) industries to get £17.3m (US$22m) boost. It is part of the British government's Digital Strategy. This development follows recent all-party Parliamentary criticism as to a lack of strategy and investment.

Identity fraud soars. ID theft has in recent decades become something of a sub-trope of its own from John Brunner's Shockwave Rider to Max Headroom's 'blanks'. But today in reality ID theft is fast on its way to becoming a leading form of crime.  In 2008 there were 77,642 ID frauds in the UK but just 8 years later (2016) this has more than doubled (increased by over 120%) to 172,919. Of these, 9 out of 10 frauds were committed online.  A breakdown of the figures for 2015 compared with 2016 by age of victim is telling. Those aged between 51 and 60 saw an increase of 5%, and those over 60 just half a percent. This last is because the over 60s do not use social media much (SF fans excepted?).  However while those under 21 constituted only 1% of victims, the number of under 21s becoming an ID theft victim has increased by 34% between 2015-6. In addition to moderating one's social media activity (for example, only your real and close friends need to know your birthday), people should regularly update their computer's firewall (at least monthly), anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes (using automatic daily or more frequent logging on updates). Up to 80% of cyber threats can be removed by doing this.  Other things to do: avoid online banking and retail unless you really, really need to (humanity has survived many millennia without online retail and look what online retail has done to bookshops); avoid registering for things online (like conventions and if you do then insist that your details are not added to their database if it connected to the net even if its password only accessed by the con's organisers – European law is explicit about this); and keep your social media profile information minimal (no birthday, no second names, no places of education etc). And double (cross) shred your bills before putting them out with the rubbish. If you don't then you are at risk of becoming part of one of the developed world's fastest growing crime statistics!  Max Headroom's Reg says 'hi'.

Tim Berners-Lee criticises UK and US internet plans. Controlling governments are a frequent feature of SF from Metropolis to 1984's Big Brother, but controlling issues are very real. Sir Tim said plans to break internet encryption would be a 'bad idea' and lead to a massive security breaches. Yet politicians want to weaken encryption so as to combat terrorism. Sir Tim has countered: "Now I know that if you're trying to catch terrorists it's really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what - so could other people and guess what - they may end up getting better at it than you are!"  He has criticised Britain's Investigatory Powers Act and that the US may be weakening its principle of net neutrality.  +++ See also Sir Tim Berners-Lee wins Turing prize earlier.

President Trump's fictional view of US science sees a proposed 18% cut to economically valuable science funding agency.   One foundation of Trump's election campaign platform was to cut US governmental spending.  In Britain, scientists are constantly telling politicians that government funded research should not be considered 'spend' but more as 'investment'. Trump clearly does not see it this way. He is proposing a 18% cut (US$5.8 billion (£4.75 bn)) to the National Institutes of Health who are responsible for dispensing government money to biomedical researchers.  All well and good Trump's supporters might say – after all US$5.8 billion is a lot of caboodle – except that a fair bit of the NIH research has commercial applications.  Between 1980 and 2007 some 8.4% of NIH grants directly led to a patent, and a whacking 30.8% of science articles produced as a result of NIH funded research were subsequently cited in a patent be it for a pharmaceutical, device etc.  Science to wealth generation is a long game: it takes time for research to paper, for replication (validation) to theoretical application, and then on to patent, and all that is before commercial product being sold on the shelves.  Trumps' cuts will not damage the US economy immediately, but they are likely to in a decade or so's time, but that will be his successor's successor's problem.  +++ See also Proposed US science cuts item earlier above.

The new head of the US Environment Agency disagrees that carbon dioxide causes global warming., Scott Pruitt has been appointed by climate denier President Donald Trump and seems to have similar views: he "would not agree" carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.  Here at SF² Concatenation mission control, as scientists and engineers who enjoy SF we pride ourselves on being able to make a clear distinction between the two. Mr Trump apparently tweeted in 2012 that global warming was a 'hoax'.  This would be comedic were it not for the seriousness of our changing biosphere. But then Trump and Pruitt are neither into science or SF.., but both possibly are into fantasy.

Australia sees Sharknado for real? The 2013 B movie Sharknado sees tornados fling sharks inland to terrorise Los Angeles.  Now a Sharknado event has happened for real in Australia.  One consequence of cyclone Debbie, that saw wind speeds of up to 160 mph (260 km/h), was that a 5-foot bull shark was carried by the storm (albeit likely by flood waters) 12 miles inland.

It may be possible to grow potatoes on Mars as Watney did in the novel and film The Martian.  See the story within this year's Gaia page.

Science Fictional devices for real! Here are some more new SFnal-type inventions that could have been inspired by SF. OK, the Cicret bracelet we have shown you before, but it's still neat. Included in the seven devices below is a Star Trek style universal translator (though it is a lot smaller than in the TV show and delivers the translation by ear-phones). The inventions are described in this short 12 minute video. Enjoy.

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

Summer 2017

Rest In Peace

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

 

Alexei Abrikosov , the Russian physicist, has died aged 88. he is known for his work developing superconductivity theory and, relatedly, type II superconductors as used in MRI scanners. He shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for physics for his work.

Hilary Bailey, the British writer, has died aged 80. In addition to writing around 15 short stories he co-edited (with Charles Platt) the 1974 New Worlds anthology. She was for a while (1962-'78) married to Michael Moorcock and co-authored with him The Black Corridor (1969): there has been some speculation that she may have been its primary author. Her novels were mainly mainstream but often with a genre spin that uplifted out of mundane fiction. These included All the Days of my Life (1984) that updated the story of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722) with a story that began in1941 and end in 1996. Similarly Frankenstein's Bride (1995) was a take Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) but this time Frankenstein keeps his word and creates a bride for his first creation. Her Fifty-First State (2008) was set in a near-future 2017 that sees Britain taken over by America army with the help of the Conservative Party. Any thoughts that this might resonate with the British PM May's 2017 visit to Trump with him leading her by the hand and her offering a reciprocal visit are pure conjecture.

Edward Bryant, the US author, has died aged 71. He was writer of short stories a number of which were nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Indeed his 'Stone' (1978) and 'giANTS' (1979) won Nebulas. He was well known in Colorado and World Horror fandoms. He chaired the 2000 World Horror convention in Denver. His shorts were collected a number of times beginning with Among the Dead and Other Events Leading up to the Apocalypse (1973) to Trilobyte and Predators and Other Stories (both 2014). Some of his book reviews and conreps appeared in Locus.

Susan Casper, the US author, has died aged 69. She wrote short stories including with her husband of 47 years Gardner Dozois and these were collected in Slow Dancing through Time (1990). She also edited the fiction anthology Ripper (1990) based on the famous London serial killer.

Eugene Cernan, the US astronaut, has died aged 82: He was the last man on the Moon (in the 20th century). In addition to being a backup astronaut for a number of missions, he went into space three times: as Pilot of Gemini 9A (1966), as Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 10 in (1969), and as Commander of Apollo 17 ( 1972) which was the final Apollo lunar landing. He had a BSc in electrical engineering and a Masters in aeronautical engineering. His last words on the Moon were: " I'd like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Börje Crona, the Swedish author and translator, has died aged 84. In addition to two humorous SF novels he also translated SF. However he was best known in Sweden for his many short SF stories which have been collected in five books.

Robert Day, the British director has died aged 94. His well known films included the comedy Two Way Stretch (1960) and his genre films include: First Man into Space (1959); Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963); She (1965); Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) and Tarzan and the Great River (1967).  He also worked in television including as director of two episodes of The Invaders and six episodes of The Avengers (including the cult favourite 'Return of the Cybernauts' (1967).

Martin Deutsch, the US fan, has died. He had been for over three decades the president of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Mike Dickinson, the British fan, has died aged 68. He was active in Leeds SF and co-chaired the 1979 British Eastercon, Yorcon, that was venued in Leeds. He also edited the fanzines Adsum, Sirius, Bar Trek (with with Lee Montgomerie), and Spaghetti Junction (with Jackie Gresham) as well as the British SF Association's Vector.

Ronald Drever, the British physicist, has died aged 85. He is best known -- along with US physicists Rai Weiss and Kip Thorne – for being the moving force behind the establishment in the US of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) that last year detected gravity waves. Ronald Drever first established a gravity wave group back in 1970.

Mildred Dresselhaus, the US physicist and electrical engineer, has died aged 86.  In her early years she studied under studied under Enrico Fermi, the Nobel winner. She was noted for her work on carbon and its allotropes' electrical properties. She garnered numerous science awards including: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, the Enrico Fermi Award and the Vannevar Bush Award. She has named after her the Hicks-Dresselhaus Model for low-dimensional thermoelectrics.  Earlier this year she was the face of a General Electric advertisement in the US to promote women studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths/medicine) subjects.

Thomas Endrey, the US fan, has died aged 77. He frequently went to Lunacons and Boskones. He was an assistant editor for Science Fiction Chronicle in the 1990s.

Eugene Eli Garfield, the US chemist, has died aged 91.  He is known for his fundamental contribution to modern science through developing citation indices. He founded the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in 1956 (it was originally called the Institute for Scientific Documentation). also launched The Scientist -- a monthly magazine for life scientists -- together with indexes in the social sciences and humanities, and services that alerting research scientists to new relevant journals. He also helped establish Current Contents, that tabulated the contents for recent scientific journals. He also developed journal's impact factor scores (the average number of times a paper published in a journal can expect to be cited). However he was also concerned about their misuse.

Richard Hatch, the US actor, has died aged 71. He was the only cast member to appear in both the original series of Battlestar Galactica (1978-9) and its recent (2008-9) reboot; he originally played Captain Apollo and then Tom Zarek. Hi other genre appearances included: Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981), Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983), The Ghost (2001), Alien Hunger (2014), andStarship II: Rendezvous with Ramses (2016).

Sir John Hurt, the British actor, has died aged 77.  He had a long and prolific career on stage, TV and cinema. One of his first television roles that brought him to the attention of millions of Brits was as the psychotic Caligula in the BBC series I Claudius (1976).  With regards to his genre roles he was in: Watershipdown (voice) (1978), The Lord of the Rings (voice) (1978), Alien (1979), The Plague Dogs (voice) (1982), 1984 (1984), Spaceballs (as himself) (1987), Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound (1990), Rabbit Ears: Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (1994), Contact (1997), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), Hellboy (2004) V for Vendetta (2005), Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron (voice) (2007), Masters of Science Fiction (2007), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Outlander (2008), The Gruffalo (voice) (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010), Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie (voice) (2010), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), Immortals (2011), The Gruffalo's Child (voice) (2011), Merlin (voice) (2008-2012), Snowpiercer (2013) and Dr Who (2013).  Hurt's personal quote: "Personal Quote:I remember talking to Olivier when we were doing Lear. He said: 'When it comes to your obituary they will only mention two or three performances, and they will be the ones that defined you early on.' I said: 'What will they write about you?' 'Richard III (1955) and Wuthering Heights (1939)', he replied. And he was right." Meanwhile here is a short compilation of some of his notable performances.

Sir Peter Mansfield, the British physicist, has died aged 83. He failed his 11-plus exam and attended a central school and a secondary modern school before obtaining a degree in physics at Queen Mary College, University of London. He is most noted for leading a team that developed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scanning). MRI scans generate 3D images of the body's internal organs without potentially harmful X-rays by utilising strong magnetic fields and radio waves. Sir Peter shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2003 with the inventor of the technique, US chemist Professor Paul Lauterbur.

Sylvia Moody, the British physiotherapist turned clinical psychologist, has died aged 75. She specialised in dyslexia and dyslexia as detected in adults. In addition she provided guidance for employers on how to make reasonable adjustments and enable dyslexic individuals to flourish in the workplace. Her work helped to raise awareness and helped to improve potential outcomes for very large numbers of dyslexic individuals.  Her books include famously Dyslexia: How to survive and succeed at work and also Dyslexia: Surviving and Succeeding at College.  She also wrote mainstream fiction.

Philip O'Donoghue CBiol FIBiol, the British biologist, has died aged 87. He had been in ill-health for a while. His early career saw him at the National Institute for Research in Dairying (NIRD), coincidentally at the time it was developing the commercial process for UHT milk.  He was an active member of Britain's professional body for bioscientists: the Institute of Biology (which recently, and much after Philip's time, has been re-branded as the Royal Society of Biology).  Philip served on its Council and was for a while an officer of the Institute. In 1982 he joined the staff to lead the Institute as its General Secretary. Philip's time leading the IoB was one of consolidation but he did liberate up its annual symposium from the confines of London to the rest of the UK. This period of consolidation helped prepare the Institute to purchase the neighbouring building in London's opulent and historic South Kensington (down the road from the Natural History museum). He also undertook the initial preparatory for it to receive its coat of arms. He left the Institute in 1989. He was a great raconteur and there was guaranteed to be something of a huddle around him at science receptions.

George Olah (born Oláh György), the Hungarian-born but US-living chemist, has did aged 89. He is noted for his work creating carbocations (carbon cations), unusual positively charged carbon molecules such as CH5+ created by super acids (such as magic acid) billions of times stronger than pure sulphuric acid. His work overturned the then orthodoxy that carbon was not able to bind with more than four other atoms. His work with fluorine chemistry and fluorine acids with carbon enabled the creation of many fluorine compounds and this had pharmaceutical applications: today around a quarter of all pharmaceuticals contain fluorine. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1994 for his contribution to carbocation chemistry.

Hans Rosling, the Swedish clinician and biomedical demographer, has died aged 68. He is known for his visual presentation of biomedical and demographic statistics which influenced policy makers. (See this 4-minuteexcerpt vid from The Joy of Stats - BBC4.

Larry Smith, the US fan and book dealer, has died aged 70. He also ran the bookdealers hall at a number of conventions including a few US-based Worldcons.

Oliver Smithies, the British born / US resident physical biochemist, has died aged 91. He is best known for two things: first, in 1950 introducing the use of starch for electrophoresis (chromatography using electric charge), and secondly a technique of homologous recombination of transgenic DNA with genomic DNA. This last enables a precise and easy altering of genomes and removing individual genes. (Independently Mario Capecchi also developed the technique.) In 2007 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Jiro Taniguchi, the Japanese manga artist, has died aged 69. He is especially known for The Summit of the Gods and The Magic Mountain. In 2011, in France, he was knighted a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Emma Tennant, the British author, has died aged 79. Her work includes the novel The Time of the Crack (1973) and also a depressed near-future (in which the British country houses of old were almost gone) detective novel The Last of the Country House Murders (1974).

Tzvetan Todorov, the Bulgarian born, French resident literary academic, philosopher and sociologist, has died aged 77. He wrote 21 books, but in genre terms he is noted for his book Introduction à la Littérature Fantastique (1970) which was translated as The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to Literary Genre (1973). In terms of "literary theory" the Fantastic, the fantastic uncanny, and the fantastic marvellous.

Igor Volk, the Russian SF author and cosmonaut, died aged 79 prior to our posting last time (but which we picked up from Ansible). With with Valery Anisimov co-wrote the SF thriller Kosmicheskii Kolpak (1990). As a cosmonaut he flew as Research Cosmonaut on Soyuz T-12, the 7th expedition to Salyut 7, before becoming the head of cosmonaut training for the Buran program and after the project's cancellation, as a Flight Tests Deputy at the Gromov Flight Research Institute. He also planned, but never built, a small flying car called the Lark-4.

Harold Boyd Woodruff, the US microbiologist, has died aged 99.  He is known for the discovery, mainly from soil microbes, of a number of antibiotics especially actinomycin. But he also developed fermentation process for a number of compounds including cyanocobalamin (a synthetic form of Vitamin B12).

Hugh Zachary, the US author, has died aged 88. In addition to using his own name he wrote under the pseudonyms Zach Hughes (for much of his SF), Evan Innes, Peter Kanto and Pablo Kane. Some of his books form the series 'Thunderworld' and 'America 2040'.

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

Summer 2017

End Bits & Thanks

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Autumn 2017 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 the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news. These 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 2017 period – needs to be in before the 2nd week in August. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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