Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Summer 2018

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

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 2018

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

H. G. WellsThe Shape of Things to Come (1936) drew upon the horrors of WWI chemical warfare, projecting it into the future.  Yet who today would have thought that in the early 21st century a nerve agent would be employed in a hostile act in peace-time Britain.  And yet here we are.  Things were bad enough last year with terrorist violence affecting two cities with which SF² Concatenation team members have close links.  This year it is no comfort that the assassination attempt using a state-developed nerve agent took place somewhere where none on our team has intimate connections.  Salisbury is a quiet, quaint, rural city not far from the ancient Stonehenge; it does not deserve such attentions.  What with this, the previous news, chemical warfare in the Middle East, nuclear weapon development in the Far East, let alone anti-science politics inN. America, and the sense is that this is not the 21st century we wanted nor one we need.

To one side 1984, next month (May 2018) sees a re-vamping of Data Protection law in both Britain and Europe. But is the SF community globally aware or even ready?  The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) becomes enforced in May, 2018.  GDPR is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.  What it does in effect is to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data.
          You'll need to hang on, there is much with which to get to grips, but the question for the SF community globally -- yes, this affects data processors outside Europe who process EU citizen's data – is is it aware of what it needs to do?  Here, the answer is that some within the SF community are but equally, make no mistake, some are not.  Up to now it has been bad enough that some conventions had their registrants' data supposedly hidden behind password secure online spreadsheets, but in fact in some instances easily hackable. Now, all SF event organisers need to get their act together.
          The new regulations mean that SF event organisers, and others that use third parties to process data, have to provide an alternate, data-friendly method of delivering their service unless such data sharing is absolutely necessary.  So, for example, if someone wants to pay by debit or credit card then it is allowable to accept their card number and details (otherwise their card payment request cannot be fulfilled). However an alternative data-friendly payment method must also be available (such as cheque, bank transfer, cash etc) for those that want it.  It also means that SF event organisers using third parties who do not have a clear, protective data policy (privacy policy) must provide an alternative data-secure route.
          Two examples are perhaps illustrative.  This year's Worldcon is using 'regonline.com' for their accommodation booking. A cursory examination of their privacy policy suggests that it is one of the more data protective companies, and it is possible that it might even be fully GDPR compliant, and as such it may be that this year's Worldcon does not need to provide an alternative. (The Worldcon's data protection officer would need to check that out. Oh, and the Worldcon does need a designated, publicly identifiable data protection officer if itself is to be GDPR compliant, which it needs to be from May 2018 if it is processing EU citizen's data: it could be sued if something goes wrong and the person's data ends up elsewhere; their defence would be marred if it were not GDPR compliant.)  And if the Worldcon wishes to share its information on its European members with others (say the Hugo Award administrators or next year's Worldcon) it has to get its European members to 'opt in' to sharing in each individual instance: a blanket share permission covering everything is most firmly not allowed.  So there are a few things that conventions will from now on need to do.
          The second example relates to third parties. There are companies (such as, say, EventBrite) who will harvest and process data on event organiser's behalf.  Make no mistake, such companies are (currently) perfectly legal (in their current form): they have a privacy statement and in EventBrite's case it is currently (March 2018) found at the very bottom of their lengthy home page and it is up to users to check this and accept or not using their service. This statement (as currently (March 2018) seen) is in turn quite lengthy and the issues of possible concern only occur after repeated statements that the company will not 'sell' its users' personal data.  Get beyond that and you discover that they will 'share' it with their (undisclosed) business partners: which could be said to mean they will 'give it away'.  Furthermore, they will match any element of the data they glean about you – which could include your name, e-mail postal and IP address, banking and purchasing details – with any overlapping historic data their business partners happen to have on you. They will then use this to build up a likely profile of yourself and this too they will share (giveaway).  Now, there is nothing illegal with such and similar companies doing this (even under the new GDPR), provided users click the accept button (or 'buttons' post GDPR). (And if you do be it on your own head. Now you know the reason for those pesky marketing e-mails and cold phone calls -- You, yourself.)  However, the new regulations will require SF event organisers to provide an alternate, data-secure, method of providing their service for those Europeans that request it who do not want to share their data with third parties who in turn share with fourth parties.  Fortunately, here currently most SF event organisers are doing this. : Equally some, including a few higher-profile event organisers, are not.
          As demonstrated by this month's news of millions of Facebook users having their personal details harvested, let alone a plethora of past data protection examples, and even fake news (including in March reportedly that FaceBook promulgated news of William Shatner's supposed demise), data protection for the unwary is weak.  So for some of us, notwithstanding the current FaceBook backlash (or that FaceBook may even have your phone number even if you do not use the site but one of your friends/colleagues does), the new regulations are a decade overdue: but then politicians tend to be a decade behind the times in terms of the socio-political implications of science and technology (good thing we scientist SF fans have science fiction in addition to the science to inform us).  The bottom line of all this is that now everyone in the SF community gathering the data of SF fans has to get their act together.
          All this is good news for us average members of the SF community: our data can only be better protected.  Meanwhile the good news for SF event organisers is that there is help at hand in the form of guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (and analogous bodies in other countries).  And, to get anyone who needs it going, here are some useful links:-
          wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Data_Protection_Regulation
          ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf
          ico.org.uk/for-organisations/resources-and-support/data-protection-self-assessment/getting-ready-for-the-gdpr
          ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr

 

STAFF STUFF

The spring saw us get on with life. Other than four of our team plus several of our friends attended the British Eastercon.  Meanwhile, great news from our Polish correspondent, Macin (Alqua) Klak, win the Get Under Fan Fund (GUFF) which sees him go to Australia for the Continuum SF convention in Melbourne in June (2018). This is a most deserved win.  Hopefully he'll write us something to share with you.
          One of our book reviewers and con-reporters has a non-fiction SF book out next year from a genre-respected small press.  We are all agog with anticipation here at SF² Concatenation mission control and will bring you news as and when.
          The only other news is that one of our other reviewers has had another house move (the second in quick succession), while two others are re-locating in the summer.  This may mean we are a little lighter on the stand-alone reviews next season.  Meanwhile next season hopefully sees a new member to our band of book reviewers.  Onwards and upwards.
          And that's it.

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 28 (3) Summer 2018) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists - Peter Watts (biologist and SF author)
         2017/18 (12 months to Easter) SF Film Top Ten Chart and Other Worthies  (All archive annual film charts here)
         Follycon 2018 - The 2018 British Eastercon – Arthur Chappell
         Gaia 2018 - Annual whimsical SF and/or science snippets and exotica
          Plus over two score (yes, 40+!) SF/F/H standalone and non-fiction & science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 30th plus 1 year. For full details of the latest contents see our What's New page.

 

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 2018

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

This season's major award news includes:-

The nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards for 'SF achievement' covering the year 2017 have been announced. We normally only give the results for the principal categories: unless they are diehard SF reader fans, few are interested in the best editor (normally voted from a small poll of US editors) and this is reflected in the numbers nominating in each category. However this year the numbers nominating in each category were not included in the information release. So what we have done is provide coverage of last year's principal Hugo categories (those categories attracting 1,000 or more nominators). This year's short-list, principal category nominations were:-
Best Novel:-
          The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
          New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
          Provenance by Ann Leckie
          Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
          Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
          The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
Best Novella:-
          All Systems Red by Martha Wells
          'And Then There Were (N-One)' by Sarah Pinsker
          Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
          The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang
          Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
          River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Best Novelette:-
          'Children of Thorns, Children of Water' by Aliette de Bodard
          'Extracurricular Activities' by Yoon Ha Lee
          'The Secret Life of Bots' by Suzanne Palmer
          'A Series of Steaks' by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
          'Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time' by K. M. Szpara
          'Wind Will Rove' by Sarah Pinsker
Best Short Story:-
          'Carnival Nine' by Caroline M. Yoachim
          'Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand', by Fran Wilde
          'Fandom for Robots' by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
          'The Martian Obelisk' by Linda Nagata
          'Sun, Moon, Dust' by Ursula Vernon
          'Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™' by Rebecca Roanhorse
Best Related Work:-
          Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn
          Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction) by Paul Kincaid
          A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison by Nat Segaloff
          Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal
          No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin
          Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Liz Bourke
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):-
          Blade Runner 2049
          Get Out (trailer here)
          The Shape of Water
          Star Wars: The Last Jedi
          Thor: Ragnarok
          Wonder Woman
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
          Black Mirror 'USS Callister'
          The Deep [song] by Clipping
          Doctor Who 'Twice Upon a Time'
          The Good Place 'Michael’s Gambit'
          The Good Place 'The Trolley Problem'
          Star Trek: Discovery by Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
Best (book) Series
          'The Books of the Raksura' by Martha Wells
          'The Divine Cities' series by Robert Jackson Bennett
          'InCryptid' by Seanan McGuire
          'The Memoirs of Lady Trent' series by Marie Brennan
          'The Stormlight Archive' series by Brandon Sanderson
          'World of the Five Gods' by Lois McMaster Bujold
Comment.  As our regulars know, each year for a bit of fun in January we put forward a few titles for best book and best film, and it is then interesting to see as the award season comes around if any get shortlisted. Well this year the team did average in our selection for 'best books' of 2017 with two titles -- New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin – shortlisted for this year's Hugo 'Best Novel'.  with regards to our selection of four titles for 'best films' of 2017, an incredible three were short-listed for the Hugo: Blade Runner 2049, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman. It is rather amazing that our bit-of-fun straw poll is so predictive.
          Though the numbers nominating for each category were not made this year with the short list information release, the overall numbers nominating were.  There were 1,813 valid nominating ballots (1,795 electronic and 18 paper) were received and counted from the members of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 World Science Fiction Conventions. As with last year this was down on the previous year's 2,464.It would appear that in recent years more nominate when the Worldcon is outside the US. (Possibly this is because the most dedicated of N. American Worldcon fans are the ones that both nominate and travel to Worldcons beyond the US?)
          +++ See below for Kerfuffle over Hugo short-list announcement timing at the end of this section.
          The full list of all category nominations (including those that fewer votes) can be found on www.thehugoawards.org.
          Last year's principal category nominations on the Hugo short list here

New Zealand's Julius Vogel Awards for 2017 were announced at the 2018 NZ national convention 'Conclave 3'. The category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Hounds of the Underworld by Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray
          Best Youth Novel: The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward
          Best Novella / Novellete: Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body by Simon Petrie
          Best Short Story: 'Crimson Birds of Small Miracles' by Sean Monaghan
          Best Collected Work: Mariah’s Prologues edited by Grace Bridges
          Best Artwork: Teleport cover by Kate Strawbridge
          Best Professional Production/Publication: Mistlands by Laya Rose
          Best Dramatic Presentation: The Changeover
          New Talent: Gareth Ward
          Best Fan Publication: LexiCon convention booklet
          Best Fan Writing: 'Pass the Rules' by Jo Toon
          Best Fan Artist: John Toon, contributions to Phoenixine and LexiCon convention booklet
          Services to SF/F/H: Darian Smith
          Services to Fandom: Jan Butterworth
The Julius Vogel Award is given to citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand and is voted on by members of the New Zealand National Convention (including this year overseas attendees). The awards are administered by SFFANZ (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand).  +++ Last year's Vogels are here.

The 2018 Philip K. Dick Award winner has been announced.  The winner for the distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first time during 2017 in the US is Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn.  A special citation was given to After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun.  The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust with the award ceremony being sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society and taking place at Norwescon.

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 a core goal of this event), editors and critics founded in 2001. Around 150 usually attend. (If you are one of our Western SF community regulars then think of this as Russia's version of the Milford weekend workshops.) The principal category wins were:-
          Sword of the Bastion (main juried award with 10,000 roubles prize money): Sergey Sizarev
          Bowl Bastion (attendee voted award):-
                    1st place: Dmitry Kazakov for the story 'The Facade'
                    2nd place: Grigory Eliseev for the story 'Minor numbers'
                    3rd place: Juliana Lebedinskaya for the story 'Angel Cat'
          Ivan Kalita Award (a cash prize raised by a voting fee): Vadim Panov for the story 'Reflection'
+++ See here for last year's Bastkons.

The 2018 Nebula Award nomination shortlists have been announced for 2017 works. The Nebula Awards are run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The Awards themselves will be presented at the Nebula Weekend in June. The nominations are:-
Novel
          Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
          The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
          Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
          The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
          Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
          Jade City by Fonda Lee
          Autonomous,by Annalee Newitz
Novella
          River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
          Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
          'And Then There Were (N-One)' by Sarah Pinsker
          Barry’s Deal by Lawrence M. Schoen
          All Systems Red by Martha Wells
          The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang
Novelette
          'Dirty Old Town' by Richard Bowes
          'Weaponized Math' by Jonathan P. Brazee
          'Wind Will Rove' by Sarah Pinsker
          'A Series of Steaks' by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
          'A Human Stain' by Kelly Robson
          'Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time' by K. M. Szpara
Short Story
          'Fandom for Robots' by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
          'Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience & trade;' by Rebecca Roanhorse
          'Utopia, LOL?' by Jamie Wahls
          'Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand' by Fran Wilde
          'The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)' by Matthew Kressel
          'Carnival Nine' by Caroline M. Yoachim
The Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Presentation
          Get Out (trailer here)
          The Good Place (trailer here)
          Logan (trailer here)
          The Shape of Water (trailer here)
          Star Wars: The Last Jedi (trailer here)
          Wonder Woman (trailer here)
The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult (Juvenile) SF/F Book<
          Exo by Fonda Lee
          Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
          The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller
          Want by Cindy Pon
The winners will be announced in May.  Discussion: One of the 'Best Novel' nominations, The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin, we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Novels of 2017.  Two on the Dramatic Presentation award shortlist -- Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Films of 2017.

The Horror Writers' Association Bram Stoker Awards were announced at the World Horror Convention that was held this year at the Biltmore Hotel, Providence, RI, US. GoHs: Ramsey Campbell, Craig Engler, Caitlín R. Kiernan and Victor LaVall.  The awards are named in honour of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The principal category wins were:-
          Novel: Ararat by Christopher Golden
          Debut Novel: Cold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen
          Collection: Strange Weather by Joe Hill
          Anthology: Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities & Undefinable Wonders by Doug Murano
          Graphic Novel: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffey and Octavia E. Butler
          Non-Fiction: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix
          Screenplay: Get Out (trailer here)
Full details of all the category wins can be found at www.horror.org.  +++ Last year's principal category 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: From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
          Science Fiction Short Story: 'Conversations with an Armoury' by Garth Nix
          Fantasy Novel: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
          Fantasy Short Story: 'The Curse is Come Upon Me, Cried' by Tansy Rayner Roberts
          Horror Novel: Soon by Lois Murphy
          Horror Short Story: 'Old Growth' by J Ashley Smith
This is a second year Aurealis win for Jay Kristoff.  Tansy Rayner Roberts has previously won a number of awards including two Ditmars in 2016 and a short story Ditmar.  Full details of all the Aurealis Awards categories are at https://aurealisawards.org.  +++ The 2017 Aurealis principal category winners are here.

DC Comics launches new 'DC Black Label' imprint.  The imprint will focus on giving characters standalone stories that are off the beaten path, and outside of current timeline.  The first title will be released in August, Frank (300 and Sin City) Miller’s three-part origin story Superman: Year One (clearly building on Miller's popular 1987 Batman: Year One.  Following will be Batman: Last Knight on Earth which puts the world's greatest detective in a Mad Max like desert.  And then there will be Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons and Wonder Woman: Diana's Daughter.

A dozen, worth around £100,000 (US$130,000), of rare, mostly fantasy, books have been stolen! The theft was from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, England. The stolen books included: a hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone worth about £40,000; a first edition of The Hobbit (1937); a set of four first editions of Winnie the Pooh; a hardback signed first edition of The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett and valued at about £9,000; and two first editions of The Gunslinger by Stephen King each worth around £2,000. Also included was the non-fiction A Brief History of Time (1983) with a thumbprint signature by its author Professor Stephen Hawking. Police have called on specialist book dealers, and those working in genre book shops, to be vigilant in case they are offered for sale.  +++ Another Potter stolen. Thief caught.  A bookseller of all people, Rudolf Schonegger (55), stole a signed, first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire worth over £1,600 (US$2,000). Rudolf Schonegger, 55, of Bayswater, London, swopped the book with a copy of Late Call by Angus Wilson, at Hatchards bookshop, Piccadilly, London. CCTV footage caught him doing the act.  he was found guilty of theft and two charges of handling stolen goods. He received a suspended prison sentence and 150 hours of unpaid community work.

The San Diego Comic-Con and Salt Lake Comic Con legal conflict continues.  The court case ruling reported last season has dissatisfied both parties.  San Diego believes that Salt Lake wilfully used its trademark name and seeks bigger damages.  Meanwhile Salt Lake feels that as San Diego had not historically protected its trademark so that the trademark was now generic with so many using it that it cannot be protected by trademark law. Also Salt Lake are concerned as to the propriety of some of the court's proceedings.  All this means is that the battle continues and as the US is a very litigious society, this could run and run.  +++ It is worth noting that 'Comic Con' and 'Comicon' have been the names of conventions in Britain in the 1960s – 1980s before the San Diego Comic-Con.  We at SF² Concatenation do not know whether or not the San Diego Comic-Con is a registered trademark in the UK (nor do we care), but if so the organisers of those events, and/or other Comic-Cons that took place prior to San Diego registering the term 'Comic-Con', can continue to do so under the right of prior use.  The World SF Society (WSFS) has protected the term 'Worldcon' in the US (though you can still find some non-WSFS usage when searching the term on the net). Conversely, the European SF Society (ESFS) has not protected the term 'Eurocon' and that has seen considerable use by others easily found on the net, including notably by a Christian evangelist group.

Zilantkon, the International Fantasy & Gaming Convention sees declining numbers and a change of focus.  For over a quarter of a century (since shortly after the dissolution of the USSR) Zilantkon has been a fixture of Russia's, indeed the Russian Federation's, SF/F calendar and arguably the principal Russian Federation fantasy convention.  From small beginnings it grew so that by 2010 it regularly attracted around 1,500 or so.  Shortly after there were concerns with local day memberships needed to take numbers over the 1,500 mark. Nonetheless, 1,500 begins to rival small Worldcons and exceeds most large Eurocons; Zilantkon has a standing within the global SF community even if it is little known in western Europe or the Anglophone SF community (especially N. America and Australasia).  The concerns seem to stem from the post-2008 global recession which by 2010 was affecting fans being able to afford to travel to, and stay at hotels for, the event.  Russia's subsequent conflict with Ukraine and resulting international economic sanctions only served to make travel and accommodation costs more prohibitive for those coming from beyond Kazan.  The convention runs the Zilant Awards and these were regularly presented up to 2016, but these were not presented in 2017 and that event saw far fewer from outside the Kazan region. The convention seems to have dropped part of its literary strand and now seems to be more purely fantasy cosplay and role play gaming in its nature.  The question remains as to what the future will hold.

Sci-Fi London programme announced.  The first week in May sees one of the British Isles major, annual SF film fests take place: arguably the most important in terms of recent international releases as opposed to a mix with older offerings.  Check out their website (see our con diary page for the link if you are reading this in 2018) for the full programme. However, examples of offerings include:-
          Nothing Really Happens.  You’re having a conversation with someone... and neither of you cares... know that feeling?  Dave Stimple, an unfocused mattress store owner, is having issues connecting with everyone around him.  He arrives at the shop one morning to find the local health and safety people have shut him down. Bugs, huge bed bugs and lots of complaints are cited as the reason.  Dave is really confused and his relationships with his wife, friends, and his own humanity seem to be devolving and increasingly distracting anomalies begin to take over his reality. But his issues may not be as internal as they seem.  This is a proper WTF movie that you will enjoy unravelling. Sometimes, modern life makes us all feel like mattress sellers at times. Trailer here.
          Hidden Reserves.  The corporation sells ‘death insurance’. Those who don’t have it are forced to remain alive in body only as repositories of other people’s consciousnesses until any ‘life debt’ they had is repaid.  This is the film's UK premiere.  Trailer here.
          Violentia.  Adam Anderson is a nano-tech engineer who has found a way to interact with our memories.  Following his daughter’s death in a high school shootout, Anderson wants to use his tech to scan through the criminal’s memories in an obsessive quest to understand why he did it and find a cure for violence.  Enlisted into a government program he’s given access to a psychopath’s memories as testing ground, leading him down a dark path where the lines between reality and memory begin to blur….  This is a very smart and eerie film with some great ideas, Violentia takes us one step nearer to the potential of mind control and its consequences.   This is the film's international premiere and there's a Q& with the director after the screening.  Trailer here.
          Cygnus.  This is a Mexican offering.  Fabian, is an astronomer on a quest to discover the nature of an unknown object near the Cygnus constellation 30,000 light years from Earth.  One night, a strange signal gives him hope that he might be close to solving the mystery of Cygnus. His colleagues say he is wasting his time, but he thinks the signal is targeted at Earth rather than a random discovery. His superior’s attitude changes and Fabian becomes fearful that they will steal his discovery. He becomes more paranoid and strange things begin to take place in the observatory.  Did he really find something or was the signal waiting to be found?  Amazing landscapes and great performances make this a solid sci-fi tale.   Trailer here.
          The Gateway.  This is an Australian film.  Jane is a particle physicist working on the fringe, trying to create a teleportation device: “you know, like in Star Trek” as she says. But the machine they have built opens a route not to elsewhere but a parallel dimension.  The excitement about this is cut short however, as Jane receives an odd call from her husband saying he loves her before hanging up. Later she discovers him dead. Like Another Earth or Random Quest, The Gateway takes us through to another universe in search of Jane’s husband - perhaps he still lives there.  In the parallel world she finds him again, bringing him across to our world, but no one guessed there would be dire consequences for her and her family.  Trailer here.
          Hostile.  Juliette is one of the few survivors left and part of a small organised group. She spends her days looking for supplies in the dry wastelands, using a van that has seen better days. Her two-way battery powered radio keeps her in contact with home base.  One day, as she travels back to base, an incident causes her to crash. She radios base but they can’t get to her for hours and darkness is closing in.  As she tries to get through the night she remembers the life she had before. By turns both romantic and terrifying, Hostile is an emotional roller coaster.  Trailer here.
          Precognition.  Ripe technologies are a pseudo-governmental organisation which appear to be trying to create a safer and fairer world with new implant technology. Negative thought and memories have been removed, people are given careers and relationships they ‘deserve’ based on an in-app Karma rating system.  This world in which every citizen lives connected to Ripe’s system seems almost perfect, at least on the surface. But the digital utopia is not without its ghosts. Soon the reality with which the characters surround themselves starts to unravel, as the true nature of the world surfaces.  Samantha, who secretly works for Ripe and manipulates memories, discovers her husband James beginning to experience visions of a woman he doesn’t recognise.  Unable to correct James’ visions, Samantha puts her life on the line.  Trailer here.
          In addition to a number of other films, this year's fest includes a day of Frankenstein to mark SF's 200th anniversary.  The screenings consist of:  Young Frankenstein, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Subject Two, Bride of Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
          Finally, there are the usual extras including the '48 Hour Challenge' competition in which film makers are given a couple of lines of dialogue and a prop to include in a film they must make in just two days.  The results are then screened at the fest and the winner gets help in the industry.  The maker of the film Monsters was a previous Sci-Fi London '48 Hour Challenge' winner.  Entries for this year include: On My Watch, Army of No-One, FaQt or FiQtion, Seasoned Traveller, Cardboard, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Turn of Phrase, Collision Course.  And then there's the Pub Quiz where teams can compete for prizes in a mind-bending SF quiz.  Most certainly at Sci-Fi London there's something for every cinematically literate SF fan.

 

Other SF news includes:-

No Eurocon news this season – Something of a first for us.  Our team members have been involved with Eurocons since the 1980s, including providing a press liaison operation for three, among other things such as programme items for several and team members attending getting on for a score.  Yet this season no news has been sent us from either extant forthcoming Eurocons or bids!  What is going on?  Some key questions arguably need to be addressed including… How the three-month rail strike will affect this year's Eurocon which is located far from an international airport? How Brexit will affect the post-Worldcon Eurocon with fans travelling from the EU to the UK? Let alone what is the progress on future events and bids?  Hopefully the silence is not a sign of a lack of interest in, as well as on running, these events. (For Eurocon-runners, you can contact us here. :-))

The San Jose 2018 Worldcon has released its progress Report 2  In brief:-
          The Chair's introduction confirmed our report last season's news that there had been a rush for accommodation: apparently, 5,400 room nights were booked in 36 hours and the rooms at the Marriott and Hilton hotels reserved by the convention are sold out, but there are rooms still available at the Fairmont and AC Hotels.
          If you want to register for the Worldcon online then be advised that they are using 'regonline.com'. You may want to read their privacy policy (the good news is that it is not nearly as bad as some other booking providers – See above).
          World SF Society (WSFS) business. This includes changes in the WSFS constitution for the Hugo Awards categories 'Best (book) Series' and the not-a-Hugo 'Young Adult (juvenile fiction') as well as Retrospective Hugos.
          And then there are details relating to: the exhibition hall (including art show, cos play and charity auctions); and the dealers' hall.
          And finally, this year's Hugo Award nomination short-list has separately been released, though the voting for this has now passed and the nomination short-list released.

The Dublin 2019 has increased its attending membership rates.  The rates which should hold over the summer, went up on 3rd April 2018.  They are now;-
Adult Attending Membership Rate (26+ years of age on August 15, 2019) will increase from €160 to €180,br> First Worldcon will increase from €100 to €110
Young Adult (13 - 25 years) will increase from €100 to €110
Child (6 - 12 years) will increase from €60 to €65
The Infant (under 6 years) rate will remain unchanged at €5, and the Supporting Membership rate will remain unchanged at €40.
          As part of the convention's commitment to supporting families and children to attend, Dublin 2019 has introduced a family plan and an instalment scheme. The convention's James Bacon said, "Joining now offers you the cheapest rate for attending the event and gives us the income visibility needed to plan with confidence."  The scheme enables members to spread the cost of their attending membership over an extended period, while also protecting themselves against future rate rises. It spreads the cost of an Adult, Young Adult or First Worldcon Attending Membership over a number of bi-monthly payments. Under the Plan, you first buy a Supporting Membership and then pay the amount for conversion to Attending Membership in instalments. The charge for your Attending Membership will be frozen at the time your application to join the Plan is received and accepted. Applications for new Instalment Plans will be accepted until the 31st January 2019. Instalment Plans must be paid off in full by the 31st May 2019 at the latest.
          The family plan gives 10% off the total costs for the included memberships. This new plan can be used in conjunction with the recently announced Instalment Plan as long as the Family Plan is set up first.  The family plan will consist of 2 'Major' and at least 2 'Minor' Individuals. A 'Major' membership is an individual born on or before 15th August 2001 (18+ on the first day of the convention). “Minor” memberships are individuals born between 16th August 2001 and 15th August 2013 (ages 6-17 on the first day of the convention). There is also a single parent variation.
          See the Dublin Worldcon website (linked off our con diary page only for this and next year).

The World Fantasy Convention has had its Easter spring rate rise.  Attending membership has risen from US$200 to US$250.  Members joining in April and early may will be able to join existing members to nominate for the World Fantasy Awards, the deadline for which is the last day of May.

And finally….

Hugo nomination short list announcement timing upsets some.  No, seriously, this has actually come up before with concerns previous years relating to Saturdays, especially Easter Saturday, for when the Hugo nomination short-list is announced as these are news slow days and apparently this – so some say – means that the awards will get less press coverage.  This year there has been additional clamour from some of the Orthodox Judaist community. This year's Worldcon chair has made it clear that in deciding the timing of the announcement it "was not our intention to show disrespect". And that "being nominated by your fans and peers is the honour of a lifetime, and I hope the joy of being so honoured can outweigh the distress caused for some of our community by timing of the announcement".  The reason Easter has been a frequent date of Hugo short-list announcement is because a number of SF events and conventions are typically held at that time including national conventions which don't attract religious ire. (Natcons took place this year in: Australia, Britain, Russia and New Zealand. None attracting religious complaint.)  And as for the Easter Saturday undermining the award, well the figures speak for themselves. Over the recent years when the announcement has been made simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, and at a time that it could be picked up by other SF conventions, the numbers both nominating and then voting on the short-list have increased on that from over a decade ago. (Last year's data here.)  +++ Members of the SF² Concatenation team have over the decades provided a press liaison service for a number of SF conventions (including two Eurocons). So we know that slow news days can work to advantage: there's less competing news.  The key to getting press coverage is forging relationships with journalists. Simple as.

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 2018

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:-
          Insidious: The Last Key (Trailer here)
          Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Trailer here)
          Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Trailer here)
          The Shape of Water (Trailer here)
          Black Panther (Trailer here)

Black Panther has second highest opening 4-day box office take.  In N. America (Canada and US) Black Panther took US$242m (£173m) which was double that its studio anticipated. This means that the film has the second highest-grossing N. American four-day opening of all time: only beaten by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that took US$288m (£206m) over its four-day opening in N. America.  Over here, Black Panther has had the all-time greatest February British Isles box-office take.  After two weeks, by 1st March, worldwide it had taken £557,687,926 (US$$770,000,037).  By the end of March its global box office earnings had topped £700 million ($US1 billion).  Expect it to be likely shortlisted for either a Hugo, Nebula or both next year.

Our top films of the 2017/8 Easter-to-Easter film chart may raise some eyebrows. And so perhaps a word of clarification is needed for this year's top ten film chart.  For instance given Black Panther's record-breaking opening month take (see the previous item above), how come it came second?  And how come films like Blade Runner 2014 and the Oscar- and BAFTA-winning The Shape of Water failed to get in our top ten but only made the worthies that slipped through the net... list?
          Had the chart been based purely on box-office take then the Black Panther would certainly have been number one. However, the year-long chart is based on the number of times each film appears in the weekly top ten and weighted by its position within each week (a number 1 position scores 10 points and a number 10 position 1 point).  This year's chart's number one position going to Paddington reflects its being in the weekly top ten charts for 9 weeks and in the top two each week for six weeks. Perhaps Paddington being based on the British author Michael Bond's children's novels, which have been popular with generations of Brits, also helped boost it.
          Meanwhile, the films like Blade Runner 2014 and The Shape of Water did not stay in the weekly charts for long enough to accrue sufficient points. Yes, they burned brightly in the charts, but only for a shorter while than the films that made it to the year's top ten.  For these reasons we always include a the worthies that slipped through the net... list beneath the top ten. These offerings are varied and so there's usually something to attract almost every SF/F/H film enthusiast seeking to rent, stream or buy the DVD, for the weekend. Our adding links to the trailers helps in deciding.

The 2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival Award Winners have been announced.  Since 2013, the festival has held international gatherings in France, Poland and Germany and many domestic screening events throughout the year. The 2018 festival was held at Village East Cinema, New York, US.  The principal category winners were:-
          Best Film: Alterscape (trailer here)
          Best SF Feature: The Child Remains (trailer here)
          Best Horror Feature: Black Wake (trailer here)
          Best Dramatic Feature: The Wanderers: The Quest of The Demon Hunter (trailer here)
+++ 2016 winners here. (For some reason we missed this last year.)

The British Academy for Film, Television and Arts awards (the BAFTAs) have been presented.  The SF/F related wins were:-
          Director: The Shape of Water - Guillermo Del Toro (trailer here)
          Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer: I Am Not a Witch
          Original Music: The Shape of Water - Alexandre Desplat
          Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049 - Roger Deakins (trailer here)
          Production Design: The Shape of Water - Paul Austerberry, Jeff Melvin, Shane Vieau
          Special Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049 - Gerd Nefzer, John Nelson
And this year's BAFTA Fellowship for lifetime achievement went to Ridley (Alien, Blade Runner & The Martian) Scott.
          Something that caused some eyebrows to raise was the omission from the roll call of the previous year's cinematic and television personalities departed of the late, great Barry Norman. A shame for one who did so much to promulgate interest in cinema.

The US Oscars have been presented.  The SF/F related winning films were:-
          Best Picture: The Shape of Water
          Cinematography: Blade Runner 2019 (trailer here)
          Directing: The Shape of Water (trailer here)
          Music (Original Score) : The Shape of Water
          Production Design: The Shape of Water
          Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
          Writing (Original Screenplay): Get Out (trailer here)

The first Planet of the Apes film went on general release 50 years ago and they still hold their own today.  Based on the Pierre Boulle novel (1963) La Planète des Singes (Monkey Planet), the original five films not only took the story into a time loop (something not envisioned by Boulle) and an alternative future, but each story tackled substantive social issues including: animal rights, racism, feminism, celebrity, revolution, weapons of mass destruction among others.  Film pundit Mark Kemode explores some of these wondering whetherStar Wars will look as good in half a century's time.

New Fahrenheit 451 film to launch 19th May.  Based on the 1953 novel, that won Retro-Hugo Award in 2004, by Ray Bradbury (tribute song here), it is set in a not-too-distant future in which books are illegal and burned on sight by 'firemen'.  It was famously previously, stylishly, brought to the big screen by Francois Truffaut in 1966.  Now, Ramin Bahrani is having another go with HBO. His version is released on HBO in May. Trailer here.

Yet another new Star Wars trilogy of films to be made.  Only last season it was reported that a new trilogy of films had been green lit helmed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and his long-standing collaborator Ram Bergman as producer.  Now Disney have announced that they are commissioning another new Star Wars trilogy of films. As with the new Johnson / Bergman trilogy, this will stand alone from the Skywalker series. The latest new trilogy will be helmed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss who worked on the Game of Thrones television series.

Star Wars' Snoke has a backstory. Actor Andy Serkis has revealed that Snoke does have a backstory and – non-committedly – that there's no telling where the Star Wars storytellers might use that information but "there's room for him to come back."

Dune to be two new films.  Last season we reported that Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is to be made into a film, again.  The reboot will span two films and take at least two years, says Denis (Blade Runner 2049) Villeneuve.  He has also said that it will be the Star Wars film he never saw, a Star Wars for adults.

Annihilation accused of whitewashing.  Annihilation is Alex Garland's recently released film and based on the Jeff VanderMeer novel which we rated at the beginning of 2015 as being one of the best SF novels of 2014 and which went on to receive Locus as well as recognition. (Trailer here.)  The film has been accused of whitewashing predominantly by elements in Hollywood. ('Whitewashing' being the term for replacing film or television characters originally portrayed in the source material as of N. American and European ethnic minorities with those of white ethnicity.) In the Jeff VanderMeer 'Southern Reach' trilogy, of which Annihilation is the first book, two of the principal protagonists belong to ethnic minorities – Asian and Native American – but which in Garland's film are portrayed as white.
          Alex Garland is not known for being racist, either consciously or unconsciously, and so the accusations came as a surprise.  Here importantly, it should be noted that Alex Garland based the film on a on a pre-publication galley proof of the first book in the series.  This is key as the trilogy's two characters' ethnicity is not described until book two of the trilogy,Authority; Garland had no way of knowing how these characters' ethnic background would eventually be revealed.
          Accusations need to be meaningful and founded on a valid happenstance of an incident of concern: if not the self-righteous accusers can only undermine issues that legitimately deserve attention.  As recent major cinematic offerings such as The Ghost in the Shell (trailer here) and Doctor Strange (trailer here) suggest whitewashing is a genuine minority representation problem.

The Shape of Water is accused of being a plagiarised production.  The family of the late Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel is suing The Shape of Water (trailer here) director Guillermo del Toro and the Fox Searchlight studio for allegedly plagiarising the play Let Me Hear You Whisper (play segment here).  Up till now The Shape of Water had been doing well on the film fest circuit and has been nominated in 13 Oscar Award categories.  The plagiarising claim is that there are at least 61 similarities between the two works, including that both are 1960s Cold War stories that an unmarried cleaner and her friendship with a marine creature. In the play it is a dolphin, and in the film it is a gilled, humanoid creature.  The case also refers to an interview in which del Toro said author Daniel Kraus told him, in 2011, of an idea "about a janitor that kidnaps an amphibian-man from a secret government facility". Apparently, Kraus is said to have come up with the idea as a teenager and that would have been in 1990, the year a television version of Zindel's play was broadcast.  +++ This is the second time that The Shape of Water has been accused of being a plagiarised work. A few months ago the Netherlands Film Academy and dismissed the case that The Shape of Water plagiarised from the film The Space Between Us (short film here) and The Shape of Water makers agreed to not to pursue the case. (Trailer here).

Solo film posters accused of copying artist Hachim Bahous album cover designs.  The Han Solo film's promotional posters by Disney do look very similar in terms of design to Hachim Bahous album cover designs: including similar fonts, colour schemes and picture styling. The similarities have been discussed in the social media and notably on Facebook

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

Film clip download tip!: Beyond is time travel story and biotech thriller film.  From Joe Penna, and lasting 40 minutes (longer than most of our vid links), this 2015 offering has only now come to our attention.  You can see it here.

Film clip download tip!: A Quiet Place apocalyptic horror just out in cinemas as we post this season's news. Apocalyptic science/fantasy horror as the Earth is invaded by things that hunt and kill people when they hear them: they hunt by sound. Soon the population is decimated. To survive you have to stay quiet.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Westworld season 2 trailer.  Live without limits in a world where every human appetite can be indulged at the dawn of artificial consciousness.  Season 2 begins around the time we post this seasonal news page.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Higher Power is a new film out May (2018) in N. America. However it will simultaneously be available in Europe and elsewhere through iTunes and various on-demand platforms.  When the Universe decides what it wants, it's pointless to resist. With his family's life at stake, Joseph Steadman finds himself the unwilling test subject of a maniacal scientist in a battle that could save the world, or destroy it.  This is directed, and with a screen story written, by Matthew Santoro. Santoro is better known for his special effects work on films such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk (2008).  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Future World is a new film out May (2018) in N. America.   In a Mad Max post-apocalyptic style future where water and petrol are scarce, a prince from the oasis (one of the last known safe-havens) must venture out to find medicine for the ailing queen (Lucy Liu), but along the way he gets mixed up with the warlord (James Franco) and his robot Ash (Suki Waterhouse), which leads to a daring journey through the desolate wastelands.  Also stars Milla Jovovich.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom the second trailer.    It has been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles.  And then the island's volcano threatens to erupt. Should the scientific marvel of the dinosaurs be saved…?  The film goes on general release 22nd June 2018.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Altered Hours trailer.  Altered Hours is a North American time travel film.  A young insomniac's black-market sleep aid sends his mind time-travelling one day into the future, where he's the suspect in the disappearance of a girl he hasn't met -- yet.  It is not yet being released outside of N. America but should be available soon on DVD.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Perfect trailer.  Perfect is a North American art house SF film. What if you wanted your son to be perfect?  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Altered Hours trailer.  This actually came out in 2016 but has only mainly been seen at a few fantastic film fests. It now has a limited N. American release but the rest of us may pick it up on DVD.  A young insomniac's black-market sleep aid sends his mind time-travelling one day into the future, where he's the suspect in the disappearance of a girl he hasn't met -- yet.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Upgrade trailer.  This action adventure is set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down following a street attack that leaves him paralysed, his only hope is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.  However, this does not only repair his spinal cord so he can walk, but it can tie into an artificial intelligence that can control his movements with ninja-like precision.  This film had a preview at the US South by Southwest Film Festival and has a general release in the US early in June. After this we should be able to get the DVD over here in Europe.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Incredibles 2 trailer.  Yes, the sequel to the 2005 Hugo winning film, The Incredibles (2004) will be out this June.  Stonkingly funny, this animation follows the antics of a family of superheroes.  We have had two short teasers and now the first trailer is here.

Film clip download tip!: Solo: A Star Wars Story Official Teaser.  You can see the short trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Venom official teaser.  The latest Marvel Comics superhero franchise to hit cinemas in October.  You can see the short trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald official teaser. This is the second instalment of J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" franchise which follows the adventures of Newt Scamander. The powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was been captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.  You can see the short trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Michael Moorcock talks about the new graphic novel adaptations of his work.  You can see the short video here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2017/8 (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 2018 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 2018

Television News

 

Lost in Space re-boot series just launched.  Season 1 of the series has just become available on NetFlix as we post this season's news page. Loosely based on the much-loved 1965 series, this new version is grittier.  In the year 2046, The Robinson Family and the spaceship Jupiter 2 encounters a rip in space-time to crash on an unknown planet. Stranded light years from their intended destination, the Robinsons face a strange new alien environment…  Trailer here, 2nd trailer here and 3rd here.

The 100 fifth season commences after Easter.  The season launches on 24th April (2018) and sees in the storyline six years having passed.  Teaser trailer here.

The City and the City mini-series is half-way through. Try to catch the last two episodes broadcast and stream the first two on BBC i-Player.  The four-part series is based on the novel (2009) by China Miéville. Two cities (1970s style Beszel and the modern Ul Quoma) co-exist, intertwined with blocks and sectors of one amidst the other. Yet the people in each must not acknowledge the existence of the other lest the incur the wrath of the secret police keeping the two apart. (Think of it as a spatially more complex version of the cold war Berlin type set-up but without a physical wall.)  An investigation of a murder in one city suggests that the deed was committed in the other…  And if you are confused as to the set-up then check out this short Beszel Tourist Orientation: a crash course for anyone visiting Beszel... Your life could depend on it..

Neil Gaiman on The Big Bang Theory!  Just four days after we post this season's news, on 19th April (2018) Neil will cameo as himself – the author of the Sandman graphic novels – in Stuart's comic shop on The Big Bang Theory.  And Sheldon's not a happy bunny.

The Rain is a new Danish-US series out this May.  The world as we know it has ended.  Six years after a brutal virus carried by the rain wiped out almost all humans in Scandinavia, two Danish siblings emerge from the safety of their bunker to find all remnants of civilization gone.  Soon they join a group of young survivors and together set out on a danger-filled quest through abandoned Scandinavia, searching for any sign of life.  Set free from their collective past and societal rules the group has the freedom to be who they want to be. In their struggle for survival, they discover that even in a post-apocalyptic world there's still love, jealousy, coming of age, and many of the problems they thought they'd left behind with the disappearance of the world they once knew.  You can see the short trailer here.

Filming the 5th season of Black Mirror has begun.  The news that Netflix had ordered a fifth season came in March and just a few weeks later writer Charlie Brooker announced that shooting had commenced. Clearly Brooker had a couple of stories all lined up and ready to go. One was already being filmed and a second with filming to commence around Easter. Meanwhile he was writing the next story… Expect the premiere next year (2019).

A Conan the Barbarian television series green lit. The series is based on the Robert E. Howard series of books and short stories concerning a dark ages (a mythic 'Hyborian' age) type warrior on a quasi parallel Earth by Crom. Robert E. Howard created a rich, sword and sorcery world peopled by heroes and villains other than Conan, so there is plenty for a TV series of several season's to mine.  The bad news; it is the perishers at the Amazon channel behind the series.

The 1980s alien invasion series V is to return as a film and possibly a trilogy. Created by Kenneth Johnson, the original miniseries concerned an alien invasion of reptiles disguised as humanoids who invaded the Earth to create a totalitarian super-state for their own nefarious purposes. The show was popular in the US; there was less appetite for it over here in Europe, possibly as for many WWII was still in living memory. Leaving aside the plot, one of the show's other weaknesses was the poor state of televisual special effects at the time. Kenneth Johnson left the original franchise during the V: The Final Battle episodes apparently due to'creative differences'.  Now, Kenneth Johnson wants to makea high budget trilogy of films and it looks like this might happen with Desilu Studios the studio founded by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz, that produced the first to season's of the original Star Trek. The studio is now under new management and the V film is, as far as we know, its first project.

'The Culture' to come to the small screen through Amazon.  Following last season's news that Amazon was to adapt The Lord of the Rings for television, it now looks like Amazon TV will be adapting Iain Banks widescreen space opera Culture series of an ultra-advanced civilisation amidst a galaxy of races at various levels of development.  This immediately raised a number of questions by members of the online SF community and media as to how capable would be the adaptation?
          First up was whether the adaptation would be another example of whitewash?  It was made clear in a number of the Culture novels that members of the Culture were generically humanoid in shape but coloured light brown. So will the cast be a mix of Asian, Oriental and Middle Eastern? Or will it be whitewashed Caucasian?
          Second, how will the proposed series portray the free loving, seχually liberated, drυg-taking Culture: Iain himself described the Culture as hippies in space.  Beings of the Culture: could gland drugs at will; have seχ as they wanted with consenting partners including with other species; and even change gender and species.
          Finally, would Iain have approved of the Culture being adapted to a visual medium? While Iain was happy for his mundane fiction to be adapted to the television, he commented a number of times that he was not sure wheher cinema or television could capture the spectacle of the Culture, which was probably best left to the imagination.  And even if he was, would he be happy with a company like Amazon undertaking the venture? Iain's politics were decidedly left of centre and Amazon – with its apparent attitude to its staff, debatable tax issues and treatment of book publishers and rival sellers -- is arguably an unlikely partner with which to adapt his work.
          Expect this series to come under some scrutiny from the SF community.

George R. R. Martin's Nightflyers trailer now out.  The new TV series, as we reported last season, takes us away from sword and sorcery fantasy (like The Game of Thrones) to space science fiction.  It will be coming to us via Syfy this (northern hemisphere) summer.  George R. R. Martin describes it as a cross between a ghost story and Psycho in outer-space.  You can see the trailer here.

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast to be adapted to TV by Neil Gaiman and script writer Akiva Goldsman.  FreemantleMedia is producing: FreeMantle previously worked with Neil on his own American Gods television adaptation.  Previously the BBC adapted the gothic fantasy Gormenghast in 2000 with Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the lead. Gormenghast originally consisted of four books: Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950), Boy in Darkness (1956) and Titus Alone (1959). There was an additional book only half written by Peake and completed by his widow posthumously in 2009.

The classic Brit 1960s television series The Prisoner is to be re-incarnated in comic strip form.  The Prisoner had its 50th anniversary last year and this prompted the Brit publishers Titan Comics to consider the project.  And now it has come to fruition. The comic series will be written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Colin Lorimer and will be out this summer.  Having missed the 50th anniversary of the show's first broadcast (Great Britain and Canada), Titan are saying that the series release will mark the 50th anniversary of its first US broadcast. Spin worthy on Number 2 himself.

Film clip download tip!: 'The Curse of Fatal Death' BBC Comic Relief Special – Doctor Who.  Actually this was first posted to the net by the Beeb Beeb Ceeb last year but we missed it.  Rowan Atkinson as Doctor Who from the 1999. Still, better late than never, we post it now to mark the forthcoming first, …er, second female Doctor...  You can see the 20-minute video here.

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 2018

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

The UK Science Fiction and Fantasy book sector grew by over 10% in value in 2017 compared to the previous year!  Total SF/F book sales (as defined by BookScan) in 2017 were £29.46 million of which £2.31m was growth.
          The 'as defined by BookScan' is important as it does not include categories such as 'Superhero Graphic Novels', 'Historical & Mythology' or 'Juvenile Fiction' (Young Adult).  'Superhero Graphic Novel' sales through BookScan in the UK in 2017were £7.51m (down £2.01m) and 'Juvenile Fiction' (Young Adult) £28.26m which is down £1.87m on 2016.  So it is good, old SF/F that is doing well.

Top British SF/F authors did not do as well in 2017 compared to 2016. This is hardly surprising as we have now lost the J. K. Rowling effect: she had no new book in 2017 and did not generate anything like the £29 million worth of sales (remember, compared to royalties which are typically 10% of publisher receipts) she generated in 2016.  Consequently the top SF/F selling author in the UK in 2017 was Philip Pullman with his return to 'His Dark Materials' sequence and his backlist that generated some £5.6 million worth of sales.  Margaret Atwood also had a good year in 2017 with her UK sales: The Handmaid's Tale flourishing from the Channel 4 TV series, and Alias Grace contributing substantially.  She saw sales of some394,459 books generating some £2,767,343. Atwood is Britain's leading 'literary' author as the book sector defines it (not our sleight against Pullman) in terms of sales. George R. R.Martin also didwell, but BookScan strangely sometimes defines his books as 'Historical and Mythology' as opposed to SF/F.

Mid-list authors drive 2017 growth in British book sector. According to an analysis by The Bookseller on UK bookselling in 2017, it is the mid-list authors that are behind the sector's 2017 growth; this is a change from recent years in which it was the big-selling authors driving growth.
          First a word about the figures which come from BookScan who are used by most UK retailers and publishers. BookScan does not provide a complete picture of UK publishing but, rest assured, does provide a good snapshot of most selling by the large and mid-to-large publishers as well as shops and the main on-line retailers.  Mid-list authors here are those who had 2017 sales of their titles between £10,000 and £100,000. Remember, these are sales: the publisher typically gets 50% - 66% of this and the author typically gets 10% of publisher receipts. So mid-list author earnings here would be getting in 2017 around £600 - £6,000.
          In 2017 collectively in the UK there were some 9,093 authors.  Of these 5,093 had sales exceeding £10,000 (the rest were bottom list authors) and some 3,147 were such mid-list authors.  Collectively, the 9,093 each with over £10k sales together were responsible for £893.4m (or 56%) of the total UK BookScan sales of £1.59 billion in 2017.
          Moving up the author ranks we come to those writers generating sales between £100k and £250k (so each earning somewhere between £6,000 and £15,000) in 2017.  Here there 1,233 such authors, which is up 128 authors more in this bracket compared to 2016.  But here's the thing, authors generating sales of over £100k (individually earning over £6k and including the top selling authors) overall saw a 6.6% drop in sales in 2017 compared to 2016. It is the former mid-list authors' sales that have kept the UK book sector going and are behind the sector's small growth.
          But what of the top supper authors, you may well cry?  Well, the top 50 selling authors in the UK in 2017 generated £199.97m of salesvia BookScan.  This represents a 13% drop on what 2016's top 50 authors sold.  It really is the mid-list authors that are keeping things going.

The Government's latest threat to British science publishing.  Over a decade ago the House of Commons Select Committee on Science & Technology noted that science book writing was being actively discouraged by universities as it did not contribute to the then Research Assessment Exercise's university department scores that are used to attract government funding for research. Indeed, it has long been known that scholarship activities (which includes academic book writing) have been heavily eroded.  This along with the past decade of public library closures and it is almost as if the government in its penny-pinching has a war on knowledge.
          The latest move comes from the HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England which helps distribute core (non-project based) research funding (and which will soon become Research England).  They are saying that once again writing science books, unless they are (free) open access, will not be included in the next research assessment to be called the 2027 research Excellence Framework.
          The HEFCE's argument is superficially attractive. Science books written by university staff are written by people who are paid for by the tax-payer and so their output should be free to the public.  It also has two other arguments: health patients should be able to read free health science books, and free books will help students become researcher.
          Ignoring these argument's facile approach to publishing economics – the author only receives 10% of publisher receipts with 90% going on editing, artwork/graphics, marketing, and producing the physical artefact – the academic and university presses at a recent conference complained that they had not been consulted. To which the HEFCE head of policy, Steven Hill, as reported in The Bookseller, said that the HEFCE primarily communicates with university staff (the authors) and that it was up to authors to communicate with their publishers. He also said that he did not "think that cutting costs is a driver particularly".  Really!(?)  The science publishers asked how science book publishing would be funded, to which the answer was that new funding models would have to be sought. As for what these might be, what did he have to say? "Not very much really."
          A fear is that if British science publishers decline, then the few researchers who will continue to write will have to go to US science publishers instead.

Gender pay gap less in publishing than the British economy on average.  Now that large British companies have to reveal their median and mean per capita pay by gender, we can see the gender pay gap in British publishing.  Remember, this has to put in the context of on average in great Britain women being paid 18.4% less than men.  Hachette UK (whose SF imprints include Gollancz, Jo Fletchers Books, Hodder, and Orbit) at first seems to have a whopping 30% pay gap but this is only if you count just the editorial staff; include the distribution staff (mainly men not paid much) and the pay gap almost vanishes.  Meanwhile Harper Collins (whose SF/F imprints include Voyager) has a 16% gap (which is less than the national average).  Turning to science and Springer-Nature also has a slightly less than national average gap at 17.6%.  A survey by the Publishers Association suggests that 69% of publishing sector staff are women.  Hachette UK, which has 66% of staff female but which are mainly in lower pay-grade positions, has a target of two-thirds of its staff in its top pay quartile being women by 2020.

Gardner Dozois to edit The Very Best of the Best: 30 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction.  Authors of the short stories to include: Charles Stross, Ian McDonald, Paul McAuley, Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Robert Charles Wilson, Stephen Baxter, Ian MacLeod, and Gwyneth Jones.

New Icelandic urban fantasy author has been signed by Gollancz.  Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson has signed with Gollancz for the 'Hrímland Saga' duology.  It set in a strangely familiar alternate Reykjavík where wild and industrialised magic meet.  Gollancz says it is perfect for fans of China Mi&ecuteville, Lev Grossman and Paulo Bacigalupi, this is a strange and wonderful tale of damaged characters forging a revolution against an oppressive government.

Gollancz acquires the space opera Seven Devils by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam.  Seven Devils and its sequel is a widescreen, military space opera by established authors Laura Lam and Elizabeth May.  It is diverse sci-fi that features a kick-ass group of unlikely heroes worthy of Star Wars: Rogue One or Becky Chambers novels.  Eris and Clo are two resistance fighters for a rebel group, caught up in a battle to put a stop to the pitiless Tholosian Empire conquering planet after planet, ruling people via a mind-control programme called the Oracle.  Elizabeth May is the author of the fantasy trilogy 'The Falconer'.  Laura Lam’s previous books include the BBC Radio 2 Book Club section False Hearts, the companion novel Shattered Minds, as well as the award-winning 'Micah Grey' series. The books will be published next summer (2019).

Gollancz acquires the book adaptation of retro-SF BBC radio series The Quanderhorn Xperimentations by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall.  The novel The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is based on the soon-to-be-broadcast, six-part BBC Radio 4 series of the same name.  Rob Grant is the co-creator of Red Dwarf and was head writer of Spitting Image. His previous books include Red Dwarf novels, Fat and Incompetence. Andrew Marshall wrote and sometimes produced the comedies 2point4children, Dad, Health & Efficiency and the supernatural drama Strange for the BBC.

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 2018

Forthcoming SF Books

 

American War by Omar El Akkad, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-85221-5.
Post-apocalyptic set in the wake of the 2nd American Civil war that began in 2074.

The Soldier by Neal Asher, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86239-9.
This is the first in the Rise of the Jain space opera sequence. A distant region of the galaxy is abundant with lethal, alien technology…  The latest from the author of the Cowl, Dark Intelligence, The Departure, The Gabble, Jupiter War and The Line of Polity.

Gridlinked by Neal Asher, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86838-4.
One of a number of Asher re-prints Pan are releasing over the summer. If you like Neal, but came to him relatively recently, then this is your chance to catch-up.

Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet edited by Mike Ashley, British Library, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-712-35240-6.
This is a collection of 10 shorts from the Golden Age of SF all concerning Mars. A must for those interested in the previous generation's SF.

Moon Rise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures edited by Mike Ashley, British Library, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-712-35275-8.
This is a collection of 10 shorts from the Golden Age of SF all concerning the Moon. A must for those interested in the previous generation's SF.

The Redemption of Time by Baoshu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54220-3.
This is a companion to Cixin Liu'sThe Three-Body Problem sequence.  A man's brain is removed and inserted into a spacecraft that is sent to intercept, in a century's time, the incoming Trisolarian First Fleet…

Minecraft #2 by Tracey Baptiste, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89776-9.
Apparently, worldwide there are 100 million players of the computer game. This book is the follow-up to Minecraft: The Island.

Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-17019-5.
The alien Xeelee are back and this time they want to re-write history. This relates to a long-standing series of occasional stories.  Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Xeelee: Redemption by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £209, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21721-8.
This follows on from the above widescreen space opera. A must for Baxter fans, and for those into space opera you will want to check out his Xeelee sequence.

Adrift by Rob Boffard, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51043-9.
Space opera, In the far reaches of space, a group of tourists board a small vessel for what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one…  They are embarking on a tour around Sigma Station – a remote mining facility and luxury hotel with stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula. During the course of their trip, a mysterious ship with devastatingly advanced technology attacks the station. Their pilot's quick evasive action means that the tour group escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realise they may be the only survivors.  Adrift in outer space, out of contact with civilisation and on a vastly underequipped ship, these passengers are out of their depth. Their chances of getting home are close to none, and with the threat of another attack looming they must act soon – or risk perishing in the endless void of space…  Ian quite liked Boffard's previous Tracer.

Buying Time by E. M. Brown, Solaris, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-781-08508-0.
No info received.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait, Black Swan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16132-3.
This is set in the near future and some 2000 million flee across borders from environmental disaster and war… relevant to today's issues.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chamber, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64762-6.
Hundreds of years ago the last humans left the Earth. After centuries of wandering empty space, humanity was welcomed – mostly – by the species that govern the Galaxy and their generational journey came to an end.  But this is old history. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. And hen a disaster rocks an already fragile community, those Exodans who have not left for alien settlements struggle to answer the question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?  The latest space opera from the author of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet that has attracted some attention.

Everything About You by Heather Child, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22389-9.
This sees a world in which people can be digitally recreated from their on-line life's worth of data.  Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister's. It adopts her sister's personality, recreating her through a life lived online. This data ghost knows everything about Freya's sister: every date she ever went on, every photo she took, every secret she ever shared. In fact it knows things it shouldn't be possible to know. It's almost as if her sister is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that's impossible. Isn't it?

Mirage by Somaiya Daud, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, iSBN 978-1-473-67262-8.
Space opera.  In a star system dominatedby the brutal Vathek, 16-year old Amani dreams of life before the occupation: she dreams of travelling beyond her isolated moon. When adventure comes, it is not what Amani expects.  Juvenile SF for teenagers and a debut novel from a former bookseller in a bookshop's children's section.

Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-92191-6.
This is the official prequel to the Star Wars: The Last Jedi film.

Doctor Who: Myths and Legends by Richard Dinnick, BBC Books, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-785-94250-1.
Time Lords are storytellers – they use stories to explain the universe around them, both to each other and to the beings from other worlds they meet. Myths and Legends is a collection of the most enduring of these tales: stories Time Lords have told for thousands of years that explain their culture, their history, their hopes and fears. A collection of epic adventures from the Time Lords’ mist-covered past, Myths and Legends is a unforgettable gallery of Gallifreyan heroes and villains, gods and monsters.

Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-786-8603-5.
Space opera. When a heist goes wrong, Orry Kent goes on the run with a stolen pendent originally crafted by the mysterious civilization that once lived on the Shattermoon.

The Quanderhorn Xperimentations by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22402-5.
Rob Grant is, of course, known for being the co-creator of Red Dwarf. Now he is back with a new novel which is in fact a novelisation of a forthcoming, six-part BBC Radio 4 series.   Gollancz has just signed…  England, 1952. Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it is familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world. Few have noticed it has been 1952 for the past 65 years. Meet Professor Quanderhorn: a brilliant maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. Assisted by a motley crew of outcasts – a recovering amnesiac, a brilliant scientist with a half-clockwork brain, a captured Martian prisoner adapting a little too well to English life, the professor’s part-insect 'son' (reputedly ‘a major breakthrough in Artificial Stupidity’), and a rather sinister janitor – he’ll save the world. Even if he destroys it in the process. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleets of Monkey-Driven Lorries, he's not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit. And far, far beyond…  With England under attack from both the Martians and the Mole men.  Only, perhaps, the maverick genius of professor Quanderhorn can save the day.

Shelter: Tales of the Aftermath by Dave Hutchinson, Solaris, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-781-08504-2.
Survival in post-apocalyptic rural England.

Stealing Life by Anthony Johnston, Abbadon Books, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-781-08520-2.

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69468-3.
When Chen's parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to the study of the phenomenon. The more he learns, the more he comes to realise that the lightning is just the tip of a new branch of physics. But the military are also interested, and involved…  From the author of The Three-Body Problem.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97158-8.
This is the second mass paperback edition release of the second in the 'Three Body Problem' trilogy that began with The Three-Body Problem (that won the 2015 Hugo for Best novel.)  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Death's End by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97162-5.
This is the second mass paperback edition release 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.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97162-5.
This is a new mass market edition of the award-winning first novel in a trilogy.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Noumenon by Marina Loestetter, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22339-7.
A multi-generation spaceship sent to investigate an anomalous star is crewed by clones who evolve…

Knaves Over Queens edited by George R. R. Martin, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-28359-9.
This is a collection of science-fantasy shorts by various authors, set in Martin's 'Wild Cards' universe in the aftermath of World War II and the Earth's population being decimated by an alien virus leaving the survivors strangely changed…

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Head of Zeus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54010-0.
Four female scientists invent time travel in the1960s and then one of them has a breakdown. In 2017, Ruby knows that her grandma Bee was a pioneer, but they never talked about her past. Time travel is now big business, though Bee has never been a part of it. Then they receive a message from the future…  The author is a psychologist and this is her debut novel.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51002-6.
After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, it has started to crumble under the weight of its own decay – crime and corruption have set in, a terrible new disease is coursing untreated through the population, and the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside deepest poverty are spawning unrest. Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor – a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will lead to unprecedented acts of resistance. Miller is known for his fantasy and have been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Awards plus he is a winner of the Shirley Jackson Award. Now he turns to SF. From the competitive pricing, and that this is one of the few hardbacks Orbit are publishing this spring, the publishers must reckon that this could do well.

Halo Jones by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson, 2000AD, £9.99, pbk, 208pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08635-3.
The 2000AD classic graphic novel from 1984 reprinted in small format. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

One Way by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, trdpbk, £13.99, ISBN 978-1-473-22256-4.
Frank is serving a life sentence for murdering his son's drug-dealer. So when he is offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations, the company that runs the prison, he takes it. He has been selected to help construct the first base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty as he.  As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply. Until Frank begins to suspect that they might not be accidents at all…  S. J. Morden is a past winner of the P. K. Dock Award and is a planetary geoscientist.  We suspect this could be a rather good. Hard SF thriller.

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuval, Penguin, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-92191-6.
This is the sequel to Sleeping Giants.  Rose Fuller tries to discover the mysteries of an ancient technology before the Earth is lost forever. As a child Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery - a huge metallic hand, buried deep in the earth. She has since focused her scientific career on uncovering everything she can about the hand and the other gigantic body parts found scattered about the globe. When another robot is discovered and lashes out, Dr Franklin is closer to learning its secrets than ever before.  But as more machines appear, Earth looks set for an invasion for which it is colossally unprepared. Mankind's only chance is for Rose and her team to uncover the mysteries of this ancient technology before the Earth is lost to them forever. The last part of the trilogy, Only Human, is to be released in hardback on the 3rd May. No publication details on this last provided.  Sony, the producers of Jurassic Park, are making a major feature film of Sleeping Giants.

84K by Claire North, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50737-8.
Theo Miller works in the criminal audit office carefully assessing each crime and making sure that the debt to society is repaid in full. But when his ex-lover is killed he can't let it go… This is a vision of a world where nothing is so precious that it can't be bought. What if your life were defined by a number? What if any crime could be committed, so long as you could afford to pay the penalty fee? Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full. But when Theo's ex-lover Dani is killed, it's different. This is one death he can't let become merely an entry on a balance sheet. Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don't add up.

Before Mars by Emma Newman, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22389-9.
Set in the Planetfall universe this standalone is a dark tale of a woman stationed on Mars who slowly starts to doubt her own memories and sanity. After months of travel, Anna Kubrick finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. She’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team. Then Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, she can’t remember writing. The note warns her not to trust the colony psychologist. Her wedding ring has also been replaced by a fake…

Norma by Sofi Oksanen, Atlantic, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-782-39978-0.
Norma has a secret: her hair is supernatural, sensitive to changes in her mood – and the moods of those around her. And so it is her hair that alerts her to the possibility that her mother may not have taken her own life, after all… A dizzying mash-up of feminist X-Men, gothic fairy-tale and biting social-criticism.

Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69954-1.
This is the follow-up to the acclaimed Too Like the Lightening.

The Will To Battle by Ada Palmer, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69955-8.
Part three of the above. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

From Distant Stars by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, 978-1-473-21478-1.
The sequel to From Darkest Skies off-world thriller. Keon Rause has finally put the ghost of his dead wife behind him. Now he’s trying to return to his old job as FBI agent on a distant colony planet. But someone impossibly is killing in a pattern, and Keon’s investigation might lead him to uncomfortable truths about his wife.

Genome by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54131-2.
After surviving one of the deadliest epidemics in history, Dr. Peyton Shaw has uncovered a global conspiracy that will change humanity forever.  Thirty years ago, Dr. Paul Kraus found a code in the DNA of one of humanity’s lost tribes. To protect the secret, Kraus hid his work and disappeared. Now the technology exists to finally understand the mysterious code buried deep in the human genome.  Dr. Peyton Shaw has obtained part of Kraus’s work – and a cryptic message that could lead to the remaining pieces. She believes his work is the key to stopping a global threat. For Peyton, finding it may come at an unacceptable price: she must weigh the lives of strangers against those she loves.

Pandemic by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54129-9.
The previous book to the above, now out as a mass market paperback.

Twelve Tomorrows edited by Wade Rorsh, MIT Press, £14.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-262-53542-7.
An anthology of shorts visioning the future by both new and established writers.

Free Chocolate by Amber Royer, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-857-66750-2.
Chocolate is the Earth's only valued export and the whole Galaxy will kill for it…

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21826-0.
This is a debut novel and space opera with a Dune or Book of the New Sun riff.  Hadrian Marlowe, privileged first son of a Duke was destined for greatness, and he has become a legend. The Sun-Slayer. The Breaker of Sieges. The Crusher of Civilisations. His is a story which defined the course of worlds. This novel is not that story – not the one laid out in the history books, charting the 300 years of his life. Rather, this is Hadrian’s story, told in his own words. Of being passed over by his father for rule in favour of his younger brother, and sent to a military academy against his wishes. Of being kidnapped in transit and abandoned on a planet on the edge of our war against the Cielcen… and of how he used every opportunity to claw his way into and through the dangers of politics and into the history books.

Head On by John Scalzi, Tor, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83510-2.
This is a near-ish future police procedural thriller. Hilketa is a violent sport in which players attack with words and hammers in order to get their opponent's head and carry it to the goal posts…  Good job then that all the players are 'threeps', that is robotic avatars controlled remotely by people.  This is a standalone novel but also a follow-up to Scalzi's 2014 Lock In.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, Harper Collins, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22560-5.
From the pre-publicity, this looks like science fantasy. It is the near future and a global phenomena is threatening humanity: people's shadows are disappearing and then their memories… This is an authorial debut.

Hunted by G. X. Todd, Headline, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-23312-7.
Over seven years have passed since the world ended in a three-week, blood-red period when people started hearing voices in their heads compelling them to kill themselves, or kill other people – family, friends, strangers, anyone – before they turned on themselves. Now there is hardly anyone left and those that are left are clinging on, trying to survive, especially against those who have discarded any vestiges of humanity and will take anything, do anything, to anybody to survive… This follows on from the rather good Defender.

Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Head of Zeus, £18.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69390-7.
Rex is a good dog and faithfully devoted to his master. Rex is also genetically engineered, 7-foot tall to the shoulder and bullet proof. But what happens when his master is tried as a war criminal? Tchaikovsky is more associated with Tor at Pan Macmillan so we are not quite sure what this change of publisher to Head of Zeus heralds…

NK3 by Michael Tolkin, Grove Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-611-85506-7.
A panoramic vision of a near-future California that has been devastated by NK3, a memory-destroying virus from North Korea. Those who retain their memories live behind a 60-foot wall in the hills…

The Tropic of Eternity by Tom Toner, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21142-1.
The oldest immortal still alive has returned from self-imposed exile, and laid claim to the throne of humanity’s descendants. He has a plan that might destroy the few remaining humans. Their slave races have risen in revolt, some in support of the Ancient, some just out for themselves. On the outskirts of human influence various alien species are massing, ready to take what they can get. And one inventor has created a device which might change the course of the war. But nobody knows quite where it is.

The Vestigial Heart by Carme Torras, MIT Press, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-262-03777-8.
A 13-year old girl awakes in a future in which human emotions are extinct and people rely on personal assistant robots to navigate daily life.  Now, you may be wondering what on Earth a university press is doing publishing science fiction? Good question. The answer may very well be that the author is a researcher into artificial intelligence. This could be one to check out?

The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada, Portobello Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-846-27670-5.
Set in a future in which the old live almost forever while children die young.

Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances by Timothy Zahn, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89866-7.
This follows the rise of Grand Admiral Thrawn. This is the sequel to Star Wars: Thrawn to which Allen gave a good review (see link) and apparently this was matched by healthy sales.

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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 2018

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-475-3-20781-3.
The latest and seventh PC Grant fantastical police procedurals in his popular Rivers of London series of novels.

Slenderman by Anonymous, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-23004-3.
Horror based on the internet's Slenderman motif.

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard, Orion, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-409-17598-8.
The fourth and final in the Red Queen series.

Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51083-5.
This is the second in the Books of Babel series following Selin Ascends. Selin continues to search for his wife but finds that getting back into the Tower of Babel is as difficult as it was leaving it. Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Selin and his eclectic crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship. Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower: the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx does not come cheaply, and one of his crew already knows the terrible cost.

Inquisitor by John & Carole Barrowman, Head of Zeus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-781-85644-4.
Rémy, Matt and Em are battling to save the world as we know it.  All have superpowers -- Rémy can alter reality with music and Matt and Em can bring art to life. But will their powers be enough?  John and Carole are brother and sister, with John known to the sci-fi community as the actor who played Jack Harkness in Doctor Who.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Rockport, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-631-59565-3.
A welcome reprint of the classic novel, with illustrations.

Barren by Peter V. Brett, Harper Voyager, £13.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-23412-6.
A new novella set in his Demon sequence world.

The Skaar Invasion by Terry Brooks, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51019-4.
This is book 2 of 'the Fall of Shannara' series. Tensions in the Four Lands are high. The mysterious force that laid waste to Paranor has revealed a more human face. While some gain a new understanding of the invaders and what they are after, others continue their existing quests even as the peril rises. For what looked to be a formidable invading force proves only the forerunner of a much vaster army – one that is now marching against the Four Lands in all its fury.

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51168-9.
This is a collection of shorts but all relate to Harry Dresden, Chicago's only wizard P.I. This will delight the huge number of Dresden fans.

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21767-6.
Aranthur is a student. He showed little magical talent, studies at the local academy, and is nothing particularly special.  Others are smarter. Others are more talented. Others are quicker to pick up techniques.  But, he is the one who breaks his journey home at an inn. He steps in to help when a young woman is thrown off a stagecoach into the snow at the side of the road. And he is the one drawn into a fight to protect her.  Others might have realised she was manipulating him all along…

The Wolf by Leo Carew, Wildfire, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-24700-1.
Epic historical fantasy debut. There's rivalry between the Anakim and the Sutherners.

The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51062-0.
This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage.  Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.

Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-782-06684-2.
The final in the Greatcoat quartet.

The Cloven by Brian Catling, Coronet,£20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63642-2.
A welcome reprint of the third in the Vorrh trilogy.

Book of Swords: Part 1 edited by Gardner Dozois, Harper Fiction, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-27469-6.
An anthology of shorts from various authors that includes a new George R. R. Martin 'A Song of Fire and Ice' tale.

Shadow Keeper by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-349-41975-6.
The next in the Shadow series.

Kings of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist, Harper Voyager, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-007-26485 8.
First in an epic series called Firemane, with four great kingdoms on the brink of war.

The Charmed Life of Alex Moore by Molly Flatt, Macmillan, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62918-9.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, Hodder & Stoughton, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65022-0.
Imagine a world where all humans hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies close to death while the Winter Consuls watch over the vulnerable sleeping. Charlie Worthinbg is a novice, chosen by he Consul to accompany another Consul to remote Wales, Sector 12, to investigate a dream that has gone viral…

Seven Stories to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-75109-8.
A collection of shorts all set in the 'Outlander' world.  Note: This was previously published as A Trail of Fire but this contains two new stories.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber, Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62918-9.
Sequel to Caraval.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-28187-8.
Epic fantasy loosely inspired by King Lear.

Night of Sorrows by Graham Hancock, Coronet, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-444-78840-2.
The 'War God' trilogy concludes.

Runelight by Joanne M. Harris, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21710-2.
This follows on from Runemarks.

The Testimony of Loki by Joanne M. Harris, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20239-9.
This follows The Gospel of Loki.  Asgard has fallen, and the gods are stranded between worlds… not powerless, but searching for a new home. Which Loki, through the power of dream, may have found. Drawn to the bright lights and brighter people of earth, he’s about to take the gods on a whole new adventure.  Everyone’s favourite trickster, Loki, takes centre stage as he and a young woman join forces to save the gods.

Scourged by Kevin Hearne, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50448-3.
This 9th and final book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. The Norse gods face-off in a battle to determine the fate of mankind.

From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-80770-3.
This is the sequel to Between the Blade and the Heart.  Now there is a lot of stuff and nonsense (mainly by would-be professional authors) that much good work is rejected by commercial publishers. (Really, why would they turn away work that would potentially sell?) Yet as the Shallcross' book below indicates, very few (one in one-and-a-half thousand in Shallcross' case) actually make it bypassing the traditional author-to-agent-to-publisher route.  Amanda (Freeks) Hocking is another of these extremely rare cases. She originally self-published her work as an e-book and had not sold anything before 2010 after which her e-book sales were a million copies of her 17 novels within a year of her finally releasing them. She was then signed by commercial publishers. Pan now say that she has just had her millionth copy commercially sold!

Marked by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50721-7.
Alex Verus is tracking down dangerous magical items unleashed into the world by Dark Mages – however, when the Light Council decide they need his help in negotiating with the perpetrators, Alex must use all his cunning and magic to strike a deal.

The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James, HQ, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-848-45720-1.
This is a ghost story with a bit of a gothic feel to it. Set in a grand, Cornish house, something is waiting in the mirror behind a closed door.

War Secrets by Phil Kelley, Black Library, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-96709-3.
The secretive Dark Angels battle the might of the Tau Empire alongside new allies.

Death Doesn't Bargain by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41219-1.
This is the second in the Deadman's Cross historical fantasy sequence. The Demons have broken out of their eternal prison and are bent on mankind's destruction.

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-18006-5.
A ruthless young assassin continues her quest for revenge… This is the second in the 'nevernight Chronicles.

The Poppy War by Rebecca Kuang, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22980-0.
This is the first in a historical military fantasy trilogy inspired by 20th century China and filled with treachery and magic.

Old Earth by Nick Kyme, Black Library, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-96712-3.
The immortal primarch, Vulkan, makes a dangerous journey to the heart of the Imperium.

R. A. Lafferty Omnibus by R. A. Lafferty, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21341-8.
Acclaimed as one of the most original voices in modern literature, Raphael Aloysius Lafferty drew more from traditional oral storytelling techniques than from the usual pulp roots of SF. Writers of the calibre of Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe acknowledge him as a major influence and force in the field. This volume contains three of his early novels: the Hugo- and Nebula-shortlisted Past Master; space opera re-telling of The Odyssey, Space Chantey, and the Nebula-shortlisted Fourth Mansions.

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-15234-5.
Following Red Sisterthis is the second in the Book of the Ancestor sequence.

Jade City by Fonda Lee, Orbit, pbk, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-356-51051-4.
Jade is the lifeblood of the city of Janloon – a stone that enhances a warrior's natural strength and speed. Jade is mined, traded, stolen and killed for, controlled by the ruthless No Peak and Mountain families.  When a modern drug emerges that allows anyone – even foreigners – to wield jade, simmering tension between the two families erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all in the families, from their grandest patriarch to even the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets.

Generation One: Book 2 by Pittacus Lore, Michael Joseph, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-718-18877-1.
Teenagers are always a hassle, so you can imagine what folk think when they start developing, not acne but, strange new powers called legacies…  Apparently the first book sold rather well.

Princess of Blood by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21321-0.
This is the start of a new heroic fantsy series.

The Fifth Ward: Friendly Fire by Dale Lucas, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50938-9.
Humans, orcs, mages, elves and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of the city of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line. In the most dangerous district in the city, Rem and Torval have been perfecting their good cop, bad cop routine. But when a perplexing case of arson leads to a series of gruesome murders, the two partners must challenge their own assumptions and loyalties if they are to wrest justice from the chaos and keep their ward from tearing itself apart.

Blackwing by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22203-8.
The Empire is contemplating crossing the wasteland known as The Misery, to march on the Republic. Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Wrath of Empire by Brian McCellan, Orbit, £9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50931-0.
This is the second in the Gods of Blood and Powder series and set in the same universe as the Powder mage trilogy. It follows Sins of Empire.

Ravencry by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22205-2.
This is the sequel to Blackwing, of which Allen says will appeal to fans of grimdark.  The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint's soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not… Captain Galharrow has survived the worst the Misery – a blasted, magical plain which stands between his city and the dangerous Deep Kings – can throw at him, but there is always a new mission for him and his team of mercenaries – whether it’s a retrieval, a rescue, or trying to solve the mystery of a magical, powerful and unexplained new appearance in town.

A War in Crimson Embers by Alex Marshall, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50574-6.
This is the third in the 'Crimson Empire' trilogy.

Blood of the Gods by David Mealing, orbit, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0356-50897-9.
Book 2 of the Ascension Cycle.  The battle for the city is over, but the aftermath of a revolution is never simple . . . Sarine begins to experience visions, ones which make her dragon companion sicker every day. She ventures into the wild, chasing the only person who might know how to save him. Erris pushes towards conquest and the need to expand her territory and restore her power. But the armies of the Old World are waiting. Exiled from his tribe, Arak'Jur apprentices himself to a deadly master. Despite the enormity of the dangers ahead, he vows to protect the world from the shadows to come…

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-256-51156-6.
A tale told over five generations of a family of witches whose genetic inheritance is both dangerous and an extraordinary gift.

Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £5.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22280-9.
When a grizzly murder threatens to change the paranormal balance of power-and bring an end to years of peace between humans and supernaturals – a new generation must fight for Chicago.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuval, Michael Joseph, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-718-18953-2.
The final in the Themis Files trilogy. It follows Sleeping Giants and apparently Sony may be turning this into a film.

Witchsign by Den Patrick, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22813-2.
People are on the lookout for children born with the mark... This is the first in a new trilogy.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell, Raven Books, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-408-8803-2.
This is a ghost story in which a recently widowed woman sees out her pregnancy in her husband's crumbling estate.

Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20327-3.
It is 1958. The Second World War never happened. In the 1930s, the armies of the afterlife – known as Summerland – conquered the world of the living. How do you start a revolution against rulers you cannot escape even in death?  In 1938, death is no longer feared but exploited. Since the discovery of the afterlife, the British Empire has extended its reach into Summerland, a metropolis for the recently deceased. Britain isn’t the only contender for power. When SIS agent Rachel White traces a Soviet mole, blowing the whistle risks her career. The spy has friends in high places – she will have to go rogue to bring him in. But how do you catch a man who’s already dead?  Now this book has been a long-time coming. We reported back in 2013 that this was due to be delivered in the autumn of 2014 presumably for a 2015 release. Indeed we have twice since put this in our forthcoming books list. Third time lucky?  This is the first in a new trilogy. Here's hoping that Gollancz held off to enable books 2 and 3 could come out in a reasonably timeous way. Hannu's Quantum Thief trilogy's first book came out to critical acclaim, albeit the next two books were challenging, but rewarding if you could stick with them. It will be interesting to see how this new trilogy plays out.

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-4753-22346-2.
A standalone novel involving the sorcerer Geralt de Rivia.

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66870-6.
Set in 17th century France, this is a magical re-telling of Beauty and the Beast from the point of view of the Beast…  This is a debut novel that arose from Hodder's occasional open submissions process and was the only one of some 1,500 submissions that the Hodder folk all agreed they should publish.

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21761-4.
This is the next in the paranormal, romance, psy-changeling 'Trinity' series.

The Glass Breaks by A. J. Smith, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69688-5.
Seventeen-year-old Duncan Greenfire is alive. Three hours ago, he was chained to the rocks and submerged as the incoming tide washed over his head. Now the waters are receding and Duncan’s continued survival has completed his initiation as a Sea Wolf. It is the 167th year of the Dark Age. The Sea Wolves, like all Eastron, can break the glass and step into the void, slipping from the real world and reappearing wherever they wish. Wielding their power, they conquered the native Pure Ones and established the Kingdom of the Four Claws. Walking between the worlds of Form and Void, the Sea Wolves glorify in piracy and slaughter. Their rule is absolute, but young Duncan Greenfire and duellist Adeline Brand will discover a conspiracy to end their dominion, a conspiracy to shatter the glass that separates the worlds of Form and Void and unleash a primeval chaos across the world.  Then a strange, pale man arrives from the distant void...  This is the first in a new trilogy from the author of The World Raven.

A Guide for Murdered Children by Sarah Sparrow, Blue Rider Press, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-524-74383-3.
The pre-publicity word on this is intriguing.  It is set in a world where the souls of murdered children are able to briefly return to inhabit the bodies of adults, where they can seek their revenge…  An ex-NYPD detective investigates the decade old disappearance of a brother and sister.  This is a debut novel.

Darksoul by Anna Stephens, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-215941.
Grimdark sequel to Godblind.

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN978-0-008-28875-4.
Part three of the Ember quartet and the blood shrike, Helen Aquilla, is assailed on all sides…  The film rights have been bought by Paramount.

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22346-2.
The Witcher returns! a new novel set in the early days of the Witcher saga – the inspiration behind the bestselling series of games.  Geralt – the witcher whose mission is to protect ordinary people from the monsters created with magic. A mutant who has the task of killing unnatural beings. He uses a magical sign, potionsand the pride of every witcher – two swords, steel and silver. But what would happen if Geralt lost his weapons?

The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83026-8.
This is the final in the Echoes of the Fall trilogy that began with The Bear and the Serpent and which follows the British Fantasy Award-winning The Tiger and the Wolf. The soulless people have returned…

Little Eve by Catriona Ward, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-297-60967-4.
This is the follow-up toRawblood that won the British Fantasy Society's Award for Best Horror Novel in 2016.

The Hobbit: Facsimile Gift Edition by J. R. R. Tolkien, Harper Fiction, £50, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-25954-9.
£50 for a not-very-long novel! Well yes, but it is worth it for serious Middle Earth buffs. Not only is the first edition of The Hobbit very rare – only 1,500 copies were printed in 1937 – there was a major text revision in 1947. What Harper Collins have done here is to reproduce the first edition as close as they can to the original. Make the most of this opportunity.

The Thief by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-40923-8.
This is the 16th in the vampires series of warriors and the women who love them.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Taylor Whitesides, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51100-9.
Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief - master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.  When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he'll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.  But it soon becomes clear there's more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilisation.

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams, Hodder &Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-60328-8.
This follows on from The Witchwood Crown.  From the author of The Dirty Steps of Heaven and Sleeping Late on Judgement Day.  George R. R. Martin gives it the thumbs up.

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21844-2.
Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop.  But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect his people, but to enslave them. Revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.  The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings. Only with the Ember Blade can their people be inspired to rise up, but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land.  All they have to do is steal it…

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 2018

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Fantasyland – How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen, Ebury Press, £.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03867-9.
If you want to understand Trump's America, how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you have to go back to the very beginning and take a dizzying road trip across five centuries of crackpot delusion and make-believe from Salem to Scientology.  From the Pilgrim Fathers onward America has been a place where renegades and freaks came in search of freedom to create their own realities with little objectively regulated truth standing in their way. To invent and believe what the hell you like is in some ways an unwritten constitutional right. Every citizen is more than ever gloriously free to construct and promote any vision of the world he or she devoutly believes to be true. That do-your-own-thing freedom - run amok since the individualism and relativism of the 1960s and later the unprecedented free-for-all world of the Internet, is the driving credo of America's current transformation where the difference between opinion and fact is rapidly crumbling.  Fantasyland is a journey that joins the dots between the disparate crazed franchises of true believers – America’s endless homespun rebooting of Christianity from Mormons to charismatics, medicine shows to new age quacks, conspiracy theorists of every stripe, showmen hucksters from P. T. Barnum to Trump himself, Creationists to climate change deniers, extra-terrestrial obsessives to gun-toting libertarians, anti-Government paranoia, pseudoscience, survivalists and satanic panic. Along the way Kurt Andersen has created a unique and raucous history of America and a new paradigm for understanding our post-factual world.

What is Real The unfinished quest for the meaning of physics by Adam Becky, John Murray, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66135-6.

We Have No idea: A guide to the unknown universe by Jorge Cham & Daniel Whiteson, John Murray, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66020-5.

How to Live in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains by Julian C. Chambliss & William, L. Svitavsky, McFarland, £40.50, pbk, ISBN 978-1-476-66418-7.
A comprehensive perspective that also notes how the Marvel films have distorted US culture.

The Ascent of Gravity by Marcus Chown, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60188-7.
Covering gravitation science from Newton to Einstein and finally the recent discovery of gravity waves from the New Scientist journalist.

The Equations of Life: The Hidden Rules Shaping Evolution by Charles Cockell, Atlantic, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49302-6.
Charles Cockell is Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh. A remarkable account of why life is like it is. Why do gazelles have legs and not wheels? Why is all life based on carbon rather than silicon? Why do humans have eyes on the front of their heads? And beyond earth, would life – if it should exist – look like our own? The puzzle of life astounds and confuses us like no other mystery . But in this groundbreaking new account of the process of evolution, Professor Charles Cockell reveals how nature is far more understandable and predictable than we would think. The key is understanding how fundamental physical laws constrain nature’s direction and form at every turn. From the animal kingdom to the atomic realm, Cockell shows how physics is the true touchstone for understanding life in all its extraordinary forms.

Science in the Soul: Selected writings of a Passionate Rationalist by Richard Dawkins, Black Swan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-16201-6.
Non-fiction essays from the biologist author of The Selfish gene and The God Delusion.

A Crack in Creation: The new power to control evolution by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg, Vintage, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-70276-2.
This is a very important book on the new CRISPR genome editing tool that is revolutionising biology.

Science: A history in 100 experiments by John& Mary Gribbin, William Collins, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-23617-5.
Illustrated with over 200 photographs.

The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth by Rob Hanson, Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-81782-6.
This is a highly speculative but nonetheless fascinating 'thought exercise' as to the implications and possibilities of electronic minds. Here specifically think of organic human minds being copied and run electronically. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Mars Manual by David M. Harland, J. H. Haynes, £22.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-21138-6.
A comprehensive guide to the Red Planet.

Strange Stars: David Bowie, pop music and the decade that sci-fi exploded by Jason Heller, £22, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-612-19697-8.
An examination of the impact of SF on popular music…  Now if the name Jason heller sounds vaguely familiar it is because he is the non-fiction editor of the Hugo-winning semi-prozine Clarkesworld.

How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age by Andrew Keen, Atlantic, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49164-0.
This book is the result of extensive travels around the world, from India to Estonia, Germany to Singapore. The author examines the best (and worst) practices in five key areas – competition, innovation, oversight, self-regulation and social responsibility – and concludes by examining whether we are seeing the beginning of the end of the America-centric digital world. Throughout he shows that the stakes could not be higher: how can we remain human in an age of digital machines?

The Dawn of the New Everything: A journey through virtual reality by Jaron Lanier, Vintage, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-70153-6.
This is written by a computer scientist who has helped develop the technology.

Human Errors: Pointless Bones, Runaway Nerves and Other Human Defects by Nathan Lents, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60833-6.
We like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we’re so great, why do we have the worst eyesight of any ape? Why do we catch colds so often? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? As professor of biology, Nathan Lents explains the evolutionary history of the human body is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. Some of our flaws are familiar, from blind spots to back pain to bad knees. But many others are hidden deep inside our anatomy. Taken together, these quirks offer a tour of humans’ four-billion-yearlong evolutionary saga, and an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success. 

Seeds of Science: Why we got it wrong on GMOs by Mark Lynos, Bloomsbury, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-94698-0.
A campaigner explains how he started out against genetic modification and then changed his mind.

The Art of Ready Player One by Gina McIntyre & Earnest Cline, Titan, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65856-3.
Concept art, sketches and storyboards from the Steven Spielberg film.

The Consolations of Physics: or the solace of quantum by Tim Radford, Sceptre, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65816-5.
In an age of uncertainty, we can console ourselves with the fundamentals of physics and the wonder of the Universe… For those with a memory of the 1979 SF Worldcon, Tim covered that event for The Guardian.

Who Watching Series: Once Upon a Time Lord – The myths and stories of Doctor Who by Ivan Phillips, I B Taurus, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-53267-3.

How to Change Your Mind: Exploring the new science of psychedelics by Michal Pollan, Allen Lane, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-29422-2.

Other Minds: The octopus and the evolution of intelligent life by Peter Godfrey Smith, WilliamCollins,£9.99, pbk, iSBN 978-0-008-22629-9.
The octopus is the closest thing we have to alien (in this case non-vertebrate or even non-chordate) intelligence. What can we learn?

Life on Mars: What to know before we go by David A. Weintraub, Princeton U. Press, £24.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0691-18053-3.

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Summer 2018

General Science News

 

The 2018 Abel Prize for maths has been won by Robert Langlands. The Norwegian Prize, worth 6 million kroner (£582,000), is one of the world's most prestigious maths prize.  The Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands has been awarded the prize for his work on connecting algebra and number theory.  +++ Last year's prize-winner here.

2017 was one of the top three warmest years on record. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA – which use different data sets – both ranked 2017 as one of the top three warmest years on record. Both agree that, so far, that 2016 was the warmest but NASA has 2917 as the second warmest year, but the NOAA ranks 2017 as the third warmest behind 2016 and 2015.  Both data sets have the five warmest years on record, so far, as all having taken place since 2010.  Yes, the planet is slowly warming.

A loophole in quantum theory allows light emitting triple states which could lead to brighter light-emitting diodes.  To get the technical bit over with first… Simple quantum theory has it that triplet states are dark because of the spin electron rule that angular momentum or spin cannot change during an optical transition (a light emitting or absorbing change of an atom's orbital energy state). While this is true life is more sophisticated and there is another form of angular momentum than spin namely orbital momentum and this provides a loophole.  Now, a Swiss and US team of researchers led by Michael Becker, have taken theory and then practically demonstrated a new type of light-emitting semiconductor using a triple state transition (which usually emits little light) based on a caesium lead halide and this at cool (cryogenic) temperatures releases considerable light 1,000 times more at cryogenic temperatures than conventional LEDs, and 20 more light-emitting events per unit of time at room temperature. So if you thought the past decade light emitting diodes had revolutionised highly efficient, bright illumination, it could well be that we ain't seen nothing yet! (See Becker et al, 2018, Nature, vol.553, p189-193, and a review piece in the same journal by Michel Saba, vol.553, p163-4.)

Ice from the Earth's mantle suggests our planet has much more water. Four years ago we reported news that there may be as much water in the Earth's oceans bound up in rocks carried down into the mantle by plate tectonincs.  Now, new research has found ice trapped in diamonds that formed around 400 miles (640 km) deep.  The ice is not your normal ice but a form of ice called ice-VII. What the researchers found was ice-VII trapped in diamonds. As diamonds only form under extreme pressure (hence depth) water must have become trapped inside them. The water is likely to be very salty with minerals within it. The pressure would have become a little less, and the temperature cooled, as the diamonds were transported towards the Earth's surface allowing ice-VII to form. Ice-VII in diamonds points toward fluid-rich locations in the upper (crust-mantle) transition zone and around 400 miles (640 km) deep. (See: Tschauner et al, 2018, Ice-VII inclusions in diamonds: Evidence for aqueous fluid in Earth’s deep mantle. Science, vol. 359, p1136-1139.)  +++ For a science fiction take on their being more than twice as much water in the Earth and what would happen if it was all released see Stephen Baxter's Flood.

US science gets another record funding rise (contrary to president Trump's plans).  Early last year, the US President originally laid out his plans for US governmental investment in science.  NASA would lose 1%, health (NIH) 18% and the environment (EPA) 31%.  In science policy terms, governmental expenditure on science is often not referred to as 'expenditure' but investment, as it leads to economic gains. Indeed, Trump's plans last year seemed so absurd that it led us to include a separate news piece in that season's 'Science & Science Fiction Interface' rather than in the 'General Science' subsection where such news usually goes.  Now we can report that for the second year in a row Congress has denied Trump the cuts he sought. Institutes relating to health, general science, space, energy, environment and geology all have been given substantially more than Trump wanted. Arguably the best news goes to the Environment Protection Agency whose funding Trump had wanted to cut by 30%: its budget gets frozen instead. Meanwhile the extra funding NASA gets will enable a lander to go to Jupiter's moon Europa (though the biologists here at SF² Concatenation sincerely hope that it will be most thoroughly sterilised due to the prospect of contaminating possible exo-biology on that moon).  Also saved is a an Earth-orbiting carbon-dioxide monitoring satellite and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) that will look for exoplanets and dark matter.  The question is whether US politicians can keep this up in future years: the US still has a big spending deficit which Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy (including himself?) don't exactly help.

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Summer 2018

Natural Science News

 

The last northern white rhinoceros has died so condemning the species to extinction. The 45-year old, called Sudan, the last male member of the species Ceratotherium simum cottoni, leaves behind two females – his daughter and granddaughter of the species in Keyna. There is a possibility of using stem cell technology and in vitro fertilisation to keep the species going, but there are problems, not least of which is the lack of genetic diversity with which to work.  +++ previous news coverage includes just four northern white rhinos remain and one of the last four alive in the World, has died in a US zoo.

Modern humans left Africa 80,000 years earlier than thought, analysis of remains suggest.  Israeli and European researchers have analysed a jaw bone from the Misliya Cave, Israel.  It was dated to 177,000 to 194,000 years ago, suggesting that members of the Homo sapiens clade left Africa earlier than previously thought. Previous Recent palaeoanthropological studies have suggested that modern humans migrated from Africa as early as the beginning of the Late Pleistocene, 120,000 years ago.  Leaving Africa at least (it is unlikely that these are the remains of the very first African leavers) 177,000 to 194,000 years ago means that humans could have left two glacials ago (when sea levels were lower providing more land bridges) or possibly a little earlier to two interglacials ago when the world was more like the warm today. (See Hershkovitz & Weber et al 2018, Science, vol 359, p456-459, and a review piece in the same issue by Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham, p389-390.)  +++ Previous related news includes: Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years agoHow humans eat meat before fire has now been revealedModern humans had seΧ with Neanderthals 100,000 years agoFirst stone age tools now 71,000 years not 40,000 years agoFirst humans in Australia arrived 10,000 years earlier than thought;  and Earliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years ago among a raft of early human science news.

Human's survived the Toba super-eruption in S. Africa 74,000years ago.  An international (Australian, S. African, US, and British) team of arcaeologists have discovered both human remains and volcanic glass shards at two sites, 5.5 miles (9 km) apart on the S. African coast dated to 74,000 years ago.  This was the time of the Toba super-volcanic eruption in Indonesia nearly 5,500 miles (9,000 km) away.  Human remains were found at both sites both before and after as well as during this time.  The Toba eruption had an impact detectable on both Antarctic and Greenland ice cores and so is firmly established to have had a global effect.  It is thought to have plunged the world into a Little Ice Age (with glaciers advancing) for around a decade.  The research raises the question as to whether the modern human population on the south coast of South Africa was the sole surviving population through a decade or more of volcanic winter, or whether populations elsewhere in Africa thrived through event?  (See Smith et al, 2018, Humans thrived in South Africa through the Toba eruption about 74,000 years ago. Nature, vol. 555, p511-515.)

Early Britons had dark skin and blue eyes ancient DNA reveals.  Think of north-western Europeans and the image of blonde or red or brown haired blue or green eyed, pale skinned humans come to mind. But now DNA from the skeleton of Cheddar Man who lived some 10,000 years ago reveals that at least some early Britons had dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes. It seems that the early Britons still had to lose their tropical African melanin. The DNA also revealed thatCheddar Man was lactrose intolerant as an adult: which is what you might expect pre-agricultural domestication of goats and cows.  The remains were found in Gough's Cave in Somerset's Cheddar Gorge. Other remains in the cave show that humans lived there 15,000 years ago after the end of the last glacial but then left during the Younger Dryas cold snap to return when the current warm (Holocene) interglacial began over 10,000 years ago.  +++ There has been some social media chatter urging the researchers to call Cheddar Man 'George'.

The first primates have been cloned. Chinese researchers led by Sun Qiang and Liu Zhen successfully cloned two long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) using the same technique as British researchers did for the sheep Dolly back in the 1990s.  Ethical concerns are that cloning a primate such as a macaque is uncomfortably close to cloning a primate such as a human. However, the Chinese biologists say that macaque clones will provide a reliable model for human disease.&anbsp; +++ Previous related news includes that Dolly the sheep is ten years old.

Genetic progressive deafness may be cured by CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing.  Beethoven famously suffered from progressive deafness. One of the most common forms of this deafness comes from a genetic defect that results in a malformed TMC1 protein. Researcher Xue Gao and colleagues mainly from Harvard University, US, have used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, injected into the ear, to cure TMC1 protein deafness in mice.  The genetic defect causing TMC1 protein related deafness comes from a single nucleotide difference in a single gene: the animal's TMC1 protein coding DNA. More than 5,000 diseases are connected to single genes. Consequently, this research not only has important implications for treating this form of deafness but for very many other genetic diseases. For prospective human patients (once human trials have begun and been completed) the treatment is relatively simple and the total surgery time was approximately 20 min, including a 6-minute injection period. (See Xue Gao et al, 2018, Treatment of autosomal dominant hearing loss by in vivo delivery of genome editing agents. Nature, vol. 553, p217-221, and a review piece in the same journal by Fyodor Urnov, Nature, vol. 553, p162-3.)  +++ CRISPR-Cas gene editing has taken biology by storm the past three years progressing work on antibiotic resistance, gene drives and even human gene modification (only in few-day old embryos for ethical reasons). Only last season (spring 2018 we reported on a new CRISPR single nucleotide editor, a CRISPR-based gene switch and a new, more sophisticated RNA editor.  Expect the 2020s to see a huge number of new medical treatments based on CRISPR become almost routine as well as new strains of crops and biotechnology industrial processes.

The domestication of the horse elucidated.  An international team (mainly from Europe and the Middle East) have sequenced the genome of 42 ancient-horses.  The Eneolithic Botai culture of the Central Asian steppes provides the earliest archaeological evidence for horse domestication, ~5,500 years ago, but the exact nature of early horse domestication remains controversial.  Compared to 46 published ancient- and modern-horse genomes, the data indicates that the small Przewalski’s horses of the Asian steppe are the feral descendants of horses herded at Botai and not truly wild horses. The horses from Botai some 5,500 years ago are thought to be among the earliest domesticated horses.  (See Gaunitz et al, 2018, Ancient genomes revisit the ancestry of domestic and Przewalski’s horses. Science, vol. 360, p111-4.)

Diminishing ice is affecting polar bears.  Less sea ice means less ice rafts from which polar bears (Ursus maritimus) can hunt. Researchers have monitored the behaviour and metabolic rates of nine free-ranging polar bears over 2 years. They found that high energy demands required consumption of high-fat prey, such as seals, which are easy to come by on sea ice but nearly unavailable in ice-free conditions. As sea ice becomes increasingly short-lived annually due to global warming , polar bears are likely to experience increasingly stressful conditions and higher mortality rates. (See Pagano et al, 2018, , vol. 359, p568-572.)  The irony of this work is that in 2007 a British court ruled that while Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth may be shown in schools some of its science was wrong (see point 6 here).

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Summer 2018

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

European satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres will be led from Britain.  Yes, the UK may be leaving the European Union, but Britain is still a major member of the (separate) European Space Agency.  ESA has just confirmed that its forthcoming Ariel satellite observatory due to be launched in 2028, will have its science team led by British astronomers based the University College London.  The Ariel satellite will be orbiting about the L2 Lagrange point on the far side of the Earth directly away from the Sun where it will point out of the Solar system.  Ariel will look for the light from other stars shining through the atmospheres of eclipsing planets.  Then, using spectral analysis, it will be possible to elucidate each planet's atmospheric composition.  Atmospheres with significant oxygen together with methane (albeit that one of these is trace), are most likely to signal the presence of life (otherwise one gas would mop up the other were not life replenishing the gas).  Ariel might be the way we first detect the likely presence of life beyond our Solar system.  +++ There are other space telescopes being launched over the coming decade see the short video here.

Oumuamua asteroid from outside the Solar system has now had a considered analysis.  Further to last season's report of the first detection of an interstellar object in our Solar system there has been a more detailed analysis by European astronomers of the optical data. 1I/‘Oumuamua's unusually elongated in shape, with an axial ratio exceeding 5:1, is confirmed.  Its Rotation period estimates are inconsistent and varied, hence chaotic, with reported values between 6.9 and 8.3 hours: in short it is tumbling. The the timescale to damp 1I/‘Oumuamua’s tumbling is at least one billion years. 1I/‘Oumuamua was therefore probably set tumbling within its parent planetary system and will remain tumbling well after it has left ours. (See Fraser et al,  2018, Nature Astronomy, doi.org/10.1038/s41550-018-0398-z.)

Mars' big northern ocean formed earlier than thought.  Astronomers from the University of California have come up with a plausible hypothesis. It had been thought that the ocean formed during the Hesperian Period (named after Hesperia Planum) 3.7 to 3.0 billion years ago (bya). Instead the researchers think that the ocean formed 3.7 bya or earlier in the Noachian Period (named after Noachis Terra).  The problem with the ancient ocean theory is that the coastline visible today does not follow an equal altitude but goes up and down by as much as a few kilometres!  The researchers can explain this with their new theory that the ocean formed earlier than thought and that the coastline subsequently became elevated and depressed due to the formation of the Tharsis bulge (which also – along with the volume of water – caused true polar wander).  The ocean at its largest (called the Arabian ocean) probably came into existence 4 bya and had a volume of 41 million cubic kilometres (or 11 times the Mediterranean). By the time the smaller Deuteronilus shoreline formed 3.6 bya the northern ocean had shrunk to the volume equivalent to 3 Mediterraneans.  (See Citron et al, 2018, Timing of oceans on Mars from shoreline deformation. Nature, vol. 555, p643-646, and a review piece by Maria Zuber, 2018, Oceans on Mars formed early. Nature, vol. 555, p590-1.).

Dwarf galaxies movement throws doubt on astronomers' models of dark matter.  It is ironic that it was the rotation of galaxies that was the key to the existence of dark matter: galaxies rotated too fast and so should fly apart, therefore more matter generating gravity must be holding them together.  Now a team of three European and one US astronomers have looked at the many dwarf galaxies surrounding the Centaurus A galaxy.  Of the 16 Centaurus A dwarf galaxies, 14 follow a coherent velocity pattern. Yet in 99% of In standard cosmological simulations, only less than 0.5% of Centaurus A–like simulated systems show such behaviour.  It looks like astronomers cosmological models are wrong. (See 'A whirling plane of satellite galaxies around Centaurus A challenges cold dark matter cosmology', 2018, Science, vol. 359, p534-537.)

Galaxy found with little dark matter.  Dark matter is thought to exist because galaxies rotate too fast to be held together unless there is more matter gravitationally binding them. But this extra matter cannot be seen as either stars or dust: hence dark matter.  Dark matter has always been associated with galaxies and thought to concentrate around matter. However US astronomers have found a galaxy (NGC1052-DF2) that does not seem to have any (or much) dark matter. Dark matter clearly is not always associated with matter on galactic scales. (See Dokkum et al, 2018, A galaxy lacking dark matter. Nature, vol. 555, p629-632.)

There may be thousands of black holes orbiting the Galaxy centre's supermassive black hole.  Black holes are, in the main, effectively invisible. However when they pair up with a normal star, matter from the star trickles into the black hole releasing energy and making it more visible.  Now, US and Chilean astronomers have analysed the archive data from the NASA Chandra X-ray telescope and have detected a dozen such black holes partnered with a star within a parsec (roughly 3 light years) of the Galaxy centre supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*).  Given we can't detect isolated black holes, the astronomers use a model to predict how many solo black holes may be orbiting Sgr A*.  They say there could be as many as 20,000 black holes orbiting Sgr A*.  The idea of a swarm of black holes orbiting Sgr A* is not new, but this is the first observational evidence supporting that theory.  (Hailey et al, 2018, A density cusp of quiescent X-ray binaries in the central parsec of the Galaxy. Nature, vol. 556, p70-3.)

A super-massive black hole quasar has been detected that illuminated the early Universe. New infra red detectors are enabling fresh discoveries.  Eduardo Banados and his international colleagues have been examining the data from three large-area surveys: the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer6 (ALLWISE), the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) Large Area Survey7 and the DECam Legacy Survey.  And they have now detected from the data a massive black hole (~800 million times the mass of the Sun) from the very early Universe (5% of its current age) and this discovery tells us a bit about the early Universe.  The Universe began and cooled allowing matter to form.  For a while neutral hydrogen formed which is opaque to UV light and so the Universe became dark.  Then as the interstellar medium got more dilute with continue Universe expansion and stars began to shine emitting radiation, the neutral hydrogen was then re-ionised so making the Universe transparent to UV.  The UV from this massive black hole has been travelling so long to reach us that it is now red-shifted into the infra red and this is what we now detect. The intergalactic medium around the hole's absorption spectrum suggests that the proportion of hydrogen that was neutral at the time was about 10%.  The hole's size suggests that it began as a smaller hole of around 1,000 Solar masses and subsequently grew to that size (its rate of growth being constrained by the Eddington limit) starting from when the Universe was only roughly 65 million years old. So there must have been enough stars back then to allow the formation of this 1,000 Solar mass seed (be it matter from stars or gas).  For the hole to grow so big it must have existed for an extremely long time which is unusual for quasars.  From this discovery, the implied conditions of the intergalactic medium at this early epoch of structure formation in the Universe provide useful constraints on cosmological models of this era if, that is, we find a few more such early quasars for verification.  This result (if verified by other discoveries from this time) could rule out models in which black-hole seeds were created from the deaths of the first massive stars, and instead favour models in which these seeds formed from the direct collapse of primordial gas.  (See Banados et al, 2018, Nature, vol 553, p473-6 and a review piece by Eilat Glikman the same issue p410-411.)  +++ Previous related news includes: the massive black at the heart of our galaxy glimpsed; a new population class of black hole suggested by gravity waves; and Einstein's relativity holds true for colliding black holes.

The first stars got going just 180 million years after the Big Bang: that's when the Universe was a little over 1%of its present age. The first stars were made only of hydrogen and fusing hydrogen takes both a lot of pressure and gives off lot of energy. This means that these early stars (the type of which possibly glimpsed in 2015) were large, very hot, and short-lived with their supernovae producing all the heavier elements needed to make up rocky planets as well as the nitrogen, carbon and oxygen for living things.  Early estimates from the Cosmic Background Radiation in 2006 as to when the first stars formed gave a figure of around 400 million years after the Big Bang but that result had an error of around 2% of the age of the universe which is quite a bit given our universe is nearly 14 billion years old.  Subsequently, in 2015 Planck satellite microwave data demonstrated that by the time the Universe was 560 million years old there were enough clumps of stars to form a web of strings of galaxies: but that does not tell us when the first stars formed.  Researchers have now found a radio signal thatsuggests we have detected these early stars.
          The very hot first stars would be high-energy, ultraviolet blue that would ionise primordial hydrogen with a specific radio frequency that would become stretched as the universe aged to a different frequency, so enabling the dating of the signal. This puts the first stars' age at 180 million years after the Big Bang.  The nature of the signal also suggest the temperature of the hydrogen gas with which the starlight was interacting and this(one theory has it) possibly indicated that the early hydrogen was interacting with dark matter far more strongly that it seems to today. (See Bowman et al, 2018, vol. 555, p67-70 and also Barkana, L., 2018, vol. 555, p71-74 with reportage from BBC.)  It seems as if the Universe began and then very quickly (in cosmological terms) stars formed and even more quickly exploded giving us the elements for planets and life. It is unlikely that humanity is the first technological species the Universe, or even our galaxy, has seen.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launch.  As we post this season's news page tomorrow (16th April 2018) NASA is due to launch TESS which will hunt for exoplanets whose orbits takes them across the front of their parent star as viewed from the Earth. Such transits make the star appear a little dimmer.  This is the same process by which the probe NASA's Kepler operated: Kepler discovered many exo-planets including the first exo-planet capable of having liquid water on its surface.  (TESS), which will look at 200,000 nearby bright stars.  However, while Kepler looked at stars 3,000 light years away in 0.25% of the sky, TESS will only look at stars 300 light years away, but it will survey over 85% of the sky in its two-year mission.  This mission profile is designed to prepare the way for further missions.  NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (slated for a 2020 launch) will conduct spectroscopic studies of the discovered exo-planets’ atmospheres (among other non-exoplanet astronomical observations).  As such it may elucidate the potential atmospheric signatures of life: a disequilibrium mix of gases such as methane with oxygen.  +++ Later this year, ESA will launch its Characterising Exoplanet Satellite that will estimate the size of exo-planets.  ESA will also have two missions in the 2020s: PLATO to look at Earth-sized exoplanets, and ARIEL planetary atmospheres.

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Summer 2018

Science & Science Fiction Interface

 

Dick's Do Androids Dream is given a retrospective by the science journal Nature.  Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) is one of the year's major SF anniversaries.  In Nature, journalist Ananyo Bhattacharya notes that the SF author Peter (Blindsight) Watts (himself a qualified scientist who elsewhere this edition has provided his inspirational scientists) commented on Dick's propensity for coining neologisms such as: 'friendlily', 'disemelevatored' and (famously) 'kipple'.  Bhattacharya then goes on to discuss Do Androids Dream in the context of his other works as well as the intra- and inter- relationships of humans and machines.  The article is currently open-accessed here.

Kubrick and Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey is given a retrospective by the science journal Nature.  2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is one of the year's major SF anniversaries.  In Nature, journalist Piers Bizony makes a good case that the film was very predictive, a still from it even being used in Samsung's court defence against Apple who claimed design copyright infringement. Bizony notes that the film's artificial intelligence HAL has better dialogue that the two humans crewing Discovery and that this reflects the banal human dialogue on today's social media. Also that in the 1960s the assumption was that artificial gravity would be needed. Today, we have had Skylab and now have the International Space Station but this relies on weightlessness for its science, yet reveals how detrimental weightlessness is to humans so necessitating the centrifugal designs prominent in the film.  Finally, the film's theme of alien contact is as relevant today. Today we now know that planetary systems are common (if not almost ubiquitous) and that prebiotic molecules abound in the interstellar medium. This means that life elsewhere, including intelligent life, is almost an odds-on certainty and that some of that must be more advanced than us. Kubric and Clarke's 2001, Bizony concludes, is not stale and as relevant as ever. (See Bizony, P., 2018, In retrospect -- 2001: A Space Odyssey Fifty years on, the masterful science-fiction film looks more prophetic than ever. Nature, vol. 555, p584-5.)

SF auteurs as well as SF/F characters have features on Charon named after them.  The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features, recently approved a dozen names proposed by NASA's New Horizons team.  An initial proposal for features on both Pluto and its moon Charon was made in 2015, and the IAU has now endorsed the following feature names of the surface of Charon.
          Argo Chasma is named for the ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts, in the epic Latin poem Argonautica, during their quest for the Golden Fleece.
          Butler Mons honours Octavia E. Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur fellowship, and whose Xenogenesis trilogy describes humankind’s departure from Earth and subsequent return.
          Caleuche Chasma is named for the mythological ghost ship that travels the seas around the small island of Chiloé, off the coast of Chile; according to legend, the Caleuche explores the coastline collecting the dead, who then live aboard it forever.
          Clarke Montes honours Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the prolific science fiction writer and futurist whose novels and short stories (including 2001: A Space Odyssey) were imaginative depictions of space exploration.
          Dorothy Crater recognises the protagonist in the series of children’s novels, by L. Frank Baum, that follows Dorothy Gale’s travels to and adventures in the magical world of Oz.
          Kubrick Mons honours film director Stanley Kubrick, whose iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey tells the story of humanity’s evolution from tool-using hominids to space explorers and beyond.
          Mandjet Chasma is named for one of the boats in Egyptian mythology that carried the sun god Ra (Re) across the sky each day — making it one of the earliest mythological examples of a vessel of space travel.
          Nasreddin Crater is named for the protagonist in thousands of humorous folktales told throughout the Middle East, southern Europe and parts of Asia.
          Nemo Crater is named for the captain of the Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne’s novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Mysterious Island (1874).
          Pirx Crater is named for the main character in a series of short stories by Stanislaw Lem, who travels between the Earth, Moon and Mars.
          Revati Crater is named for the main character in the Hindu epic narrative Mahabharata — widely regarded as the first in history (circa 400 BC) to include the concept of time travel.
          Sadko Crater recognises the adventurer who travelled to the bottom of the sea in the medieval Russian epic Bylina.
The New Horizons spacecraft is currently (April 2018) 6.16 billion kilometres from Earth, speeding toward a New Year’s Day 2019 encounter with the Kuiper Belt object (486958) 2014 MU69, which orbits about 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto. This flyby will be the centrepiece of New Horizons’ extended mission through the Kuiper Belt, and will be the farthest planetary encounter — with the most primitive object ever encountered — in spaceflight history.

Science Fiction has socio-economic value. Unlike science, SF 'academia' sadly largely ignores quantitative tools and not only does this limit genre studies beyond merely that of artsy criticism, it means its socioeconomic dimensions are rarely examined.  Yet SF does, it has been purported (and we suspect many of you will concur) have such value: Arthur C. Clarke opined that SF helped its readers future proof.  Now, researchers from Stockholm University have presented a paper in the journal Futures that demonstrates that a science fictional (SFnal) approach to develop radical futures that can help individuals, communities, corporations and nations develop a capacity for dealing with the unknown and unpredictable, or the unlikely but possible future.
          Currently, business, politicians and so forth, largely examine trends and extrapolate into the future. The problem with such an approach is that it does not take into account non-linear or critical change, nor does it take into account other factors co-evolutionary dynamics. (An obvious recent example of the latter might be the development of the internet.  Local high street shops had in the late 1990s been threatened by large out-of-town shopping complexes. Yet in the 2010s the rise of on-line shopping is now threatening out-of-town shopping complexes but helping keep local high street shops: sometimes you don't want to shop online and then have to wait for two or three days for the goods to arrive by post, or pay a large fee for same-day delivery.
          The researchers have taken as their example the marine environment and developed four radical, but scientifically plausible SF futures. These futures each have different resource-use, hence economic, implications. (See: Merrie, A., et al, 2018, Radical ocean futures-scenario development using science fiction prototyping. Futures, vol. 95, p22-32.)

Life shown to potentially live under Saturn's moon conditions.  Austrian and German researchers, principally from the Universität Wien, have simulated the conditions of the moon Enceladus.  Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus emits jets of mainly water from its south-polar region. Besides water, the ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS) onboard NASA’s Cassini probe detected methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia, molecular nitrogen, and molecular hydrogen in the plume. This lends credence to the notion that Enceladus may harbour life.  Duplicating Enceladus-like conditions and using the methanogenic archaeon species, Methanothermococcus Okinawensis, the researchers have shown that methanogens (methane-producing bacteria) could live beneath the ice in that moon's small ocean, and that the estimated hydrogen production rates on this icy moon can potentially be high enough to support such life.  However the researchers point out if methanogenic life were indeed active on Enceladus, biological methane production would always compete with abiotic (non-life geological) methane generation processes resulting in a mixed production. (See Taubner, R-S., et al, 2018, Biological methane production under putative Enceladus-like conditions. Nature Communications vol. 9 (748), p1-11.)

Fiction – fake news – spreads faster than factual news due to humans (not bots).  MIT researchers analysed ~126,000 stories re-tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times between 2006 and 2017. They then removed the influence of bots and re-analysed. They found that humans (and not bots as many might suppose) are as responsible for spreading fake news. They found that falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. The reason was likely that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. (See Vosoughi et al, 2018, The spread of true and false news online. Science vol. 359, p1146–1151.)  An implication of this work points to the attractiveness of science fiction and fantasy over mundane fiction (exotic fiction over day-to-day fiction): SF/F is more novel, hence interesting, than mundane fiction.

Antimatter is now being transported by road.  The generation and storage of antimatter has now become sufficiently developed that it is beginning to be considered for transportation by road.  The first transports will take place between buildings on the large site at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.  A storage vessel is being developed that hopefully will be able to store about a billion antiprotons, in a magnetic bottle at 4°K above absolute zero.  It is hoped that the trap will be ready in, or soon after, 2022.

New heavy and re-usable launcher has successful flight. The private firm SpaceX, headed by Elon Musk has launched its new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US.  Echewing something as boring as a block of concrete typically used for new rocket test launches, SpaceX went for putting Musk's old cherry-red Tesla sports car with a space-suited dummy inside, and Douglas Adam's 'Don't Panic' sign on the dashboard. Also on the dash is a small model car with a small model person inside. The launch took place to the accompaniment of a David Bowie soundtrack. Two of the boosters piloted themselves back to a landing pad but the central core rocket ran out of propellant and crashed. The Falcon Heavy is designed to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes – about five London double-decker buses. Alternatively, it can take smaller payloads further. Following an orbital burn, Musk's Tesla car ended up orbiting the elliptically Sun crossing Venus' orbit and out beyond Mars (almost to Ceres' orbit in the asteroid belt. In terms of the technology, the Falcon Heavy has slightly more than double the ability of the world's next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, but does so at just a third of the cost.  +++ Musk's car could orbit for many millions of years. Czech and Canadian researchers calculate that the car has a 6% chance of colliding with Earth and a 2.5% Venus over the next million years. (See arxiv.org/abs/1802.04718.)

Super strong wood with the strength of steel has been made. Ever wondered if those steampunk, space-going galleons such as in Colin Greenland's Harm's Way could have been really made from wood? Well, there is now a new modified wood is as strong as steel. US researchers, mainly from Maryland, have developed a wood densification method that combines a chemical treatment with high-temperature compression, and which produces an unprecedented increase in stiffness and strength. The lignin is removed and then the wood is hot compressed to remove all the gaps and make the wood dense. The result is a heavier-than-water wood that is almost as strong as, but lighter than, steel. The wooden frames at least of steampunk spacecraft may, in theory, be possible… (See song et al, 2018, Nature, vol. 554, p224-8, and a review the same issue by Peter Fratzl p172-3.)

Leaking personal data reveals military bases and operations. SF fandom is currently divided into two distinct camps: a large group who are enamoured with the wizardry of technology and a smaller camp who have noted the genres warnings from works such as 1984, Shockwave Rider and Max Headroom who take precautions to protect heir personal data. Members of the former group will sign up for anything that makes their life easier with techno bells and so sign up for third-party services such as EventBrite happily giving such firms their name, e-mail, and possibly debit card details, as well as unwittingly (unless they have read the firm's privacy statement) their PC or phone's IP address and their location at the time of use. Conversely the latter group never fill in online forms, rely more on cash and have very few apps on their phone which when they do not use they keep turned off. The former get spammed, cold called and contribute to the many millions defrauded each year; the latter don't. Now, another risk has emerged. It transpires that the jogging app Strava generates maps of where people go. So, hack the Strava apps on a universities students phones and it is possible to generate a map of the university campus. More worryingly, it transpires that you can do the same for military personnel jogging along paths and around the perimeter of military bases in places like Afghanistan. The app can even be used to identify covert military patrols….!  (Some further detail here www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42853072.)

Humans are better Daredevil echolocators than previously thought.  A team of two British, a Dutch and a US researcher have tested 8 blind people who echolocate: they use clicks like dolphins or bats to detect where objects are located.  They all successfully detected the presence or not of a 17.5cm circular object placed a metre in front of them with 100% accuracy but only 50% when placed a metre behind them.  Measurements revealed that the echolocators were able to reliably detect reflectors when level differences between echo and emission were as low as 27 dB, which is much lower than expected based on previous work.  The intensity and numbers of clicks improves signal-to-noise ratio and in this way compensates for weaker target reflections. Their results are, it seems, the first to show that human echolocation experts adjust their emissions to improve echo sensing. It looks as if there is something in the Marvel Comics Daredevil sensing after all. (See Thaler, L., et al. 2018, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol. 285, 20172735. dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.2735.)

Bitcoin cryptocurrency mining impacts both computer gaming and the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence.  The use of computers to solve complex mathematical problems creating block-chains generates cryptocurrencies like such as Bitcoin and Ethereum: this is known as 'mining'. Such has been the boom in cryptocurrencies that the price of GPU (graphics processing unit) chips doubled between November (2017) and February (2018). SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) radio astronomers have consequently had to put a hold on developing new programmes at Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia while they re-budget.  This is also affecting computer game console manufacturers.
          The good news is that hopefully this problem will in part be solved by cryptocurrency miners moving to use Asic chips. However it is still possible to use GPUs and miners can recoup the cost of the chips in around three months of mining so the problem may continue for a while.

Bitcoin cryptocurrency mining incurs greenhouse, climate change cost. Concerns are growing that the 'mining' of Bitcoin (using computers to solve mathematical problems) is using energy that results in a fossil carbon footprint.  Some estimate that the combined electricity consumption for bitcoin and ethereum mining, which together represent 88% of the total cryptocurrency market capitalisation has already reached 47 terawatt-hours per year and is on the rise. To put this into perspective, Greece’s population of 11 million consumes close to 57 terawatt-hours annually. Moreover, 58% of all cryptocurrency mining is done in China and is typically powered by coal plants. (See Spyros Foteinis, 2018, Correspondence -- Bitcoin’s alarming carbon footprint, Nature, vol. 554, p169). Consequently, some Bitcoin miners are moving to Iceland, which derives much of its energy from geothermal power. Iceland has a population of only around 340,000 people and in recent years it has seen a marked increase in the number of new data centres, often built by firms wishing to tout green credentials, and some of these mine Bitcoin. It has been estimated that Iceland's Bitcoin mining operations will use around 840 gigawatt hours, more than Iceland's homes consume. It has previously been reported that the electricity demand of the world's total combined Bitcoin mining operations may now exceed the energy use of the Republic of Ireland, though this calculation may not be entirely accurate. (See also Bitcoin energy use in Iceland set to overtake homes, says local firm .)

And finally…

If you want to drive to Gotham City, Narnia or Neverland, then come to Britain.  The website of the monthly newsletter Ansible has in turn linked to a BBC news report of road signs around Didcot on the A4130 in Oxfordshire no featuring these SF/fantasy locations.  A hooded 20-year old was seen adding the names in a similar font to that used on the official road signs.  While the new destinations have been criticised as confusing by some (though no existing information on the road signs was altered), others, including Didcot's Mayor saw the humorous side.

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 2018

Rest In Peace

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

 

Karen Anderson, the US writer, has died aged 85.  Most of her books were co-authored with her late husband, Poul Anderson. She is attributed with coining the term 'filk' (folk music sung by SF fans) having noted a typo error (the 'i' is next to the 'o' on the QWERTY keyboard) in an essay by Lee Jacobs and decided to continue to use the term 'filk' as music sung by fans.

Don J. Arneson, the Brit-born, Canadian, comics writer has died aged 82. He worked on Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf scripts.

Alan Baker, the British mathematician, has died aged 78. His reputation began early with him winning the Fields medal aged only 31. He is known for generalising the Gelfond–Schneider theorem, itself a solution to Hilbert's seventh problem.

Sir Roger Bannister, the British neurologist, has died aged 88. While his career in neurology is the raison d'être for his inclusion in this season's obits of those in science and SF, he is more famously known as being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. His knighthood was granted for both his contributions to science as well as sport.

Trevor Baylis, the British inventor, has die aged 80.  He is best known for being the inventor of the wind-up radio. Alas he did not receive the full benefit of his inventions and rallied against “spivs, crooks and vulture capitalists”. Indeed having gone to the City for financial support, he lost the rights to some of his inventions without any financial recompense. He therefore took steps to ensure that his wind-up radio was protected. His other inventions included one-handed bottle and can openers as well as a shoe that generated enough electricity to operate a mobile phone.

David Bischoff, the US author has died aged 66. Originally writing reviews for the zine Thrust he went on to novelise films and television series as well as write novels. His first of over a dozen novels was The Seeker (1976) and his last The Diplomatic Touch (2001). He wrote over a score of novelisations and franchise books. Some of his short stories were collected in Tripping the Dark Fantastic (2000). He also wrote scripts including for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Thomas Joel Bopp, the US amateur astronomer, has died aged 68. He is best known for being the co-discoverer of the comet Hale–Bopp (with Alan Hale) in 1995.

Sir Kenneth (Ken) Dodd OBE, the British comedian, has died aged 90.  As a longstanding comedian from the music hall tradition (that was popular from the mid-nineteenth to mid-20 centuries) he was much loved. He was famous for the length of his shows, and in the 1960s entered The Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours (7.14 jokes per minute).  He had many talents and his song Tears remains one of the biggest British-selling singles.  He came from Liverpool and in the 1960s his popularity rivalled that of the Liverpudlian band The Beatles.  Specifically Ken Dodd was born, lived and died in the same house in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash. It is with this fact that Ken Dodd's SFnal relevance becomes manifest. Knotty Ash sounds like a fictional place but it is very real. Ken Dodd worked with this and built a fantasy world around it. Here Knotty Ash was the home to the tiny 'Diddy men' ('diddy' being an colloquial British term for 'small' or 'diminutive'). The Diddy men worked in Knotty Ashes jam butty (jam sandwich or jam roll) mines, farming the black pudding (fried bread soaked in pigs blood enjoyed especially in the northern half of the UK) plantations, and drawing up gravy from the gravy wells which was then exported from Liverpool across the world in gravy boats.  This world was riffed upon by others such as the fantasy author Terry Pratchett with his treacle mines.  Ken Dodd also appeared in Doctor Who as 'The Tollmaster' in the 1987 story 'Delta and the Bannermen'.  But he did not just perform, he had a virtual academic interest in comedy and humour. He studied the great thinkers such as Freud, but said that Freud never had to play the second house at the Glasgow Empire.  Ken Dodd received two university doctorates.  He could even joke about his interest in the psychology of humour as well as himself. Ken's face would never make him a seχ symbol: a rumour that he was was just a fallacy. ('Fallacy'. 'Seχ'! Oh, never mind.)  Two days before his death, he married Anne Jones, his partner of 40 years.  Ken lived to make people laugh.  A smile has just left Britain's face.

Robert Dowdell, the US actor, has died aged 85. In genre terms he is best known for recurring role of Lt Cmdr Chip Morton (1964-'68) in the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also played Dr Body Banks in an episode of Max Headroom (1987), a visiting doctor in an episode of V (1985), Galen in an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

Michael (Mike) Fleisher , the US comics writer and (importantly for science fact and fiction concateneers) an anthropologist, has died aged 75.  As a comics writer he wrote scripts both for US and British publishers. Working for DC with which he was mainly associated, he drew: Superman, Batman, among other DC staples as well as a variety of horror strips. His DC work is especially notable for Jonah Hex. Comic buffs will note that he scripted the Steve Ditko-created Shade, the Changing Man series in 1977-1978   For Marvel he drew: Captain America, Conan, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Spiderman and Spider woman among others. This period of his career principally spanned the mid-1970s through to the end of the 1980s.  For the first half of the 1990s, though based in New York, he worked for Britain's 2000AD. Here his most creative work was on Junker but in addition he scripted stories on Rogue Trooper and Harlem Heroes. A not insignificant body of other work included work on Vampirella strips and Creepy comics. He also authored three volumes of The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes for Collier Books.  In the late 1980s he also attended college in New York and in 1997 gained a PhD from the University of Michigan in anthropology before becoming an anthropological consultant.

Lewis Gilbert CBE, the British film maker (director, producer and screenwriter), has died aged 97. SFnally, his contributions were three, James Bond technothrillers: Sean Connory's You Only Live Twice (1967), and two Roger Moore's The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).

Prof. Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS CPhys FIoP the British physicist, has died aged 76.  His contributions to physics include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation. This last assuaged fears that if on powering up the CERN collider for a collision a small black hole might be generated that would fall and slowly devour the Earth's core, then nothing would happen: small black holes 'evaporate very quickly due to Hawking radiation.  He also was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. (The Guardian has attempted to explain the core of his ideas in 2 minutes.)  Stephen Hawking did much to popularise science. His book, A Brief History of Time, appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.  Here, especially of SFnal relevance, he was a recipient of the Asimov Memorial Award for popularising science. Not only that, in 2016 the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication was created: it honours members of the arts community for contributions that help build awareness of science.  Sadly and famously, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, or Lou Gehrig's disease, in 1963 when he was 21. The state of biomedicine at that time led doctors to believe that he only had about two years of life left. However, live on he did albeit slowly becoming increasingly incapacitated and wheelchair-bound.  Given his illness, he lent his support to the Assisted Dying Bill, but he always maintained that without Britain's world-leading (average citizen longevity against per capita national health care spend) National Health Service he would not have survived for so long.  Of science-&-SF interest he warned that Artificial Intelligence could become a threat to humanity and was supportive of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.  He also feared that humanity might become extinct on Earth before it could establish another sustainable, permanent home on another world.  Regarding science fiction itself, Stephen Hawking was very supportive, saying that science fiction is useful both for stimulating the imagination and for defusing fear of the future.  Within science fiction he appeared a number of times in The Big Bang Theory -- vid here -- (though apparently did not like being called 'wheels') and on Star Trek: The Next Generation (vid here) and The Simpsons (vid here). He also was name checked as 'The Hawk' in The I.T. Crowd as an elder of the internet.  Co-authoring with his daughter Lucy, he wrote five 'George' SF and science books for children.  Just a week before he died, his voice appeared in the first episode of the 6th series of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy as the voice of 'The Book Mark II'.  He was one of Britain's science, and national, treasures.
          His ashes were interred at Westminster Abbey next to other leading British scientists including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
          We leave you with a short video Stephen's short appearance with Little Britain for the charity Comic Relief -- here.

Jack Ketchum (real name Dallas William Mayr), the US horror author and film director, has died aged 71.  He is best known for the novels Right to Life (1999) and Closing Time (2003) and his anthology of shortsPeaceable Kingdom (2003) all of which won Bram Stoker Awards.  He also wrote the feature films: The Lost (2006); The Girl Next Door (2007); Red (2008); Offspring (2009); andThe Woman (2011) and in most of these he also played a minor role. He is less known in Europe but his novels Joyride (1994) and Stranglehold (1995) were respectively published in Britain as Road Kill and Stranglehold. In 2011 he was awarded the title of Grand Master by the World Horror Convention.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the US author, has died aged 88. She was, in 2003, the first woman to be given the title 'SF Grandmaster' and has with five Hugo and six Nebula awards to her name. A fair part of her earlier work relates to the Hanish or League of All Worlds series that saw a forerunner of humans seeding many habitable worlds with human-related life. The series begins with Rocannon's World (1964) and includes City of Illusions (1967) and The Word for World is Forest (1972).  However the two novels that arguably have garnered her the most regard are also both from the Hanish series: The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974). The former follows an envoy to an alien world in which the superficially human-like dominant species has a lifecycle that moves through the sexes including a 'normal' neuter phase.  The Dispossessed (which is part of the Hanish sequence) sees two inhabited worlds – one a moon of the other – have societies run on different economic principles: one capitalist and the other non-monitory and whose citizens, the dispossessed, in the main borrow what they need only for when they need it.  Both The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed won both Hugo and nebula awards: The Dispossessed also won a Locus Award (one of 19 Locus'; the most any author has so far garnered).  Ursula K. Le Guin is also known for her juvenile fantasy, Earthsea trilogy between 1968 and 1972 and which was added to with a fourth book, Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (1990), a fifth The Other Wind (2001) and the collection Tales from Earthsea (2001). This is a rites of passage story concerning a teenager with embryonic magical powers who goes on to become a powerful magician. It can be considered a more thoughtfully constructed body of work than others of note (such as Lewis' 'Narnia' books) and it garnered something of an adult following in addition to its teenage target readership.  She recently wrote Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 which in 2017 won the Hugo for best non-fiction SF. She received a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 1995.  Gollancz has just published Dreams Must Explain Themselves: The selected non-fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin.  +++ Included in the many tributes to Le Guin was an obituary report in the journal Nature. It noted that her work focussed on human interactions and that this may well have sprung from the influence of her parents, both of whom were anthropologists.

Donald Lynden-Bell , the British astrophysicist, has died aged 82. He is best known for determining that galaxies contain supermassive black holes at their centres, and that such black holes power quasars. Earlier in his career he worked with Olin Eggen and Allan Sandage presenting the hypothesis that our Milky Way galaxy originated through the dynamic collapse of a single large gas cloud.  He was also a member of a group of astronomers known as the 'Seven Samurai' (with Sandra Faber, David Burstein, Alan Dressler, Roger Davies, Roberto Terlevich, and Gary A. Wegner) who hypothesised the existence of the Great Attractor.

Victor Milán, the US author, has died aged 63.  His novel The Cybernetic Samurai (1985) won a Prometheus award. It concerns the raising of an artificial intelligence in the form of a samurai.  In addition to writing under his own name, his pseudonyms included: Richard Austin (post-apocalyptic military SF), Robert Baron (the fantasy 'Stormrider' series), S. L. Hunter (the Donovan Steeleduology) and Alex Archer (the Rogue Angel series).

Peter Nicholls, the Australian SF academic, has died aged 78.  Peter began his academic sties at Melbourne University before moving to the US in 1968 and then relocating to Great Britain. There he became the first administrator of the Science Fiction Foundation (then located in London) in 1971 and in 1974 became editor of its journal. Foundation. He stood down as administrator of the SF Foundation in 1977 and being the journal's editor in 1978.  He is perhaps best known for his compiling, principally with John Clute, the Hugo Award winning Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (1979) and its expanded and also Hugo-winning second edition (1993).  Less known is an absolute gem of a book he edited that is effectively the proceedings of a virtual symposium, in fact a series of talks given over three months at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) in 1975: it, Science Fiction at Large (Gollancz, 1976) reprinted as Explorations of the Marvellous: the science and the fiction in science fiction (Fontana, 1978) with its all-star list of contributors, is a must-read for those into science and SF with its artists' insights into drawing upon science for fiction, and which deserves reprinting today.  His other works include the light but interesting read, Science in Science Fiction (1983) which he edited and which was written by him along with David Langford and Brian M. Stableford, as well as the useful reference work Fantastic Cinema (1984; published in the US as The World of Fantastic Films).  Sadly he was diagnosed with Parkinson's around the turn of the millennium and returned to Melbourne. This however did mean that he could attend the 2010 Australian Worldcon which had as part of its film programme the film of the 1987 Hugo ceremony which Nicholls himself was the master of ceremonies.  He did make a return to Britain in 2014 for that year's Worldcon.  There are very few true academics of science fiction let alone of international standing and here Nicholls was, towards the end of the 20th century, a leading one.  Were it not for his health he would undoubtedly have contributed much more.

Joseph Polchinski Jr., the US physicist, has died from cancer of the brain aged 63.  He is known for his work on Superstring Theory for which he won the Dirac Medal, and D-branes (Dirichlet branes). He also contributed to the discussion around Kip Thorne's work on time travel with Polchinski's paradox: a ball is fired into a wormhole at an angle such that, if it continues along that path going back in time, it will exit the wormhole in the past at just the right angle to collide with its earlier self so preventing it from entering the wormhole in the first place. (Subsequent debate suggested that it is possible to have the ball emerge from the future at a different angle than the one used to generate the paradox, and deliver its younger self a glancing blow instead of knocking it completely away from the wormhole, a blow which changes its trajectory in just the right way so that it will travel back in time with the angle required to deliver its younger self this glancing blow.)  In 2012 he published a paper with James Sully, Ahmed Almheiri and Donald Marolf on black hole radiation with calculations that suggested that either general relativity's equivalence principle is incorrect, or else a key axiom of quantum mechanics is wrong.

Mary Rosenblum, the US author, has died aged 65.  In 1994 she won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for the novel, The Drylands (1993). In 2009 she won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story 'Sacrifice'.  A collection of her shorts is Synthesis & Other Virtual Realities (1996).

Kenneth Seddon, the British chemist, has died aged 67. Ken spent much of his careers at Sussex University before moving to Belfast to become director of the Ionic Liquid Laboratories Research Centre at Queen’s University.  He is best known for his work on ionic liquids: salts that are liquid. Those that are liquid at room temperature provide alternative solvents to organic ones. They also have a use in batteries: batteries with organic solvents are flammable and these have caused mobile phones to combust.

Lars-Olov Strandberg, the Swedish SF fan, has died aged 89.  Lars played a pivotal role in establishing Swedish SF fandom and the Scandinavian Society for Science Fiction in the 1960s and '70s, not to mention the creation of the Stockholm Science Fiction bookshop.  He frequently attended conventions overseas and was a regular at the British Eastercon as well as several Worldcons: he was fan GoH at the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow and was treasurer of the Stockholm in 1976 Worldcon bid. He was fan GoH at Nasacon 5 and Upsala: 1999 (a Swecon).  He will be much missed by the NW European SF community.

Sir John Edward Sulston F.R.S., C.Biol., F.I.Biol., the British biologist, has died aged 75.  He is noted for his work on the genome of the nematode work Caenorhabditis elegans for which he was jointly awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Sydney Brenner and Robert Horvitz).  He went on to work on the Human Genome Project. Here, in addition to the science, he worked to keep the human genome data freely available.

Richard E. Taylor, the Canadian born physicist, has died aged 88.  He is noted for his experiments using the Stanford Linear Accelerator. These showed that high energy beams of electrons hitting atoms resulted in some higher-angle deflection, inelastic collisions, indicating that energy was lost. This provided experimental evidence that the protons and neutrons were made up of particles, later identified to be the up and down quarks, that had only previously been theorised. They also provided the first evidence for the existence of gluons.  He shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics with Jerome Friedman and Henry Kendal for their investigations concerning into inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics.

Dave Thomas, the Coventry-based, longstanding SF fan, has died aged 64.  Back in the 1970s, he was a member of the University of Warwick SF & F Society. He was a regular at both Novacons and the British Eastercons and as such was there for SF² Concatenation's inauguration.  Some of us from the early days remember his fondness for origami.  A gentle, unassuming soul.

Kate Wilhelm, the US author, has died aged 89.  She had been married to the author Damon Knight with whom she established the Clarion Writers and the Milford Writer's workshops.  Her novel The Clone (1965) was shortlisted for a Nebula Award.  She won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and Locus Award for Best Novel for Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang which also was shortlisted for a Nebula.

Isao Takahata, the Japanese film director, animator, screenwriter and producer, has died aged 82. He is especially known for his anime films a number of which include fantasy tropes.

Raymond Wilson, the British physicist, has died aged 89, just over a week before what would have been his 90th birthday.  He specialised in optics and became for 21 years the Head of the Optics and Telescopes Group at the European Southern Observatory. He is especially noted for developing the concept of 'active optics' in which small sections of large mirrors adjust to reduce aberration. Without active optics (not to be confused with 'adaptive optics' used for shorter timescale atmospheric distortion reduction), the construction of 8-metre class telescopes would not have been possible, nor would telescopes with segmented mirrors be feasible.  Raymond Wilson has won a number of awards including, in 2010, the Tycho Brahe Prize.

Peter Wyngarde, real name Cyril Goldbert, the half-British, half-French actor, has died aged 90. He was a cult TV star best known for his role as the suave, playboy novelist cum detective Jason King who spent part of his time as a member of a covert British team 'Department S'. The 1969 series Department S (opening credits here) saw him star in his own spin-off series in 1971, Jason King (opening credits here) which while only running for one season of 26 episodes, saw him briefly have a taste for being an international star. (It has been said that the character was an inspiration for Austin Powers though Wyngarde's Jason King was played more seriously albeit with a clear sense of fun.)  While both Department S and Jason King are at the best peripherally SF (they occasionally drifted into technothriller territory), Peter Wyngarde did play roles in a number of SFnal productions including: The Avengers episode 'A Touch of Brimstone';  Out of This World in the episode 'Cold Equations';  The Prisoner as 'number 2' in the episode 'Checkmate'; 'The Champions in the episode 'The Invisible Man';  the 198 Dr Who adventure 'Planet of Fire' as Timanov;  and notably as the gold-masked Klytus in the 1980 film Flash Gordon.

John Young, the US astronaut has died aged 87.  The news came in as our last season, spring edition went to bed prior to posting.  He was known at NASA for being the astronaut's astronaut and was He was the only person to have piloted, and been commander of, four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module (becoming the first person to fly solo around the Moon), the Apollo Lunar Module (and the ninth person to walk on the Moon), and the Space Shuttle. He was the first person to fly six space missions. He was critical of NASA management following the Challenger disaster and following his shuttle flight was made Special Assistant to JSC Director Aaron Cohen for Engineering, Operations and Safety.

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Summer 2018

End Bits & Thanks

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Autumn 2018 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: Ansible, Graham Connor, Marcin Klaq, Peter Wyndham,   Additional thanks for news coverage goes not least to the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.   If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told). :-)

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