Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Summer 2019

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

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

Summer 2019

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

SF² Concatenation now has an entry in the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia.  This surely is something of a coming-of-age moment for little old 32-year old SF² Concatenation.  Having said that, we arguably own an apology to the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia as it was actually a few years ago one of their staff members requested information on Concatenation and this has only now just been provided…  The entry can be found at SF-Encyclopedia.com/entry/science_fact_and_science_fiction_concatenation.  (It is also more substantive that the one already existing at the Fancyclopedia.org.)

Meanwhile in the real world here in Blighty Brexit has turned the news into some weird, Kafkaesque monster born of Orwell's Ministry of Truth.  It is arguably fair to say that regarding the public, whichever side folk are on, everyone agrees that the politicians simply do not have grip on matters and are failing the people.  Fortunately for us, and possibly you, the below news page is a largely Brexit-free summation of the season's SF and science news. (The only exception being a single item on how book publishers are preparing for Brexit.)

Having said that our eastern European team members are amazed at goings on in the Ukraine.  In addition to part of it being invaded by Russia, its domestic politics have itself taken something of an SFnal turn with the post-modern subversion of its political system by a fictional character.  Volodymyr Zelenskyi (Vladimir Zelensky in Russian transcription) is a very successful comic actor and show producer who created many popular shows including the recent Science Fiction series Starnauts.  Volodymyr Zelenskyi created a TV show called Public Servant about an ordinary school teacher, Holoborod’ko, who somehow ended up being nominated for the president of Ukraine. (Largely because he made an emotional speech recorded and posted to internet.)  The show is very popular in Ukraine and the third season is on air right now.  It is in fact a political satire on the current reality of Ukraine.  It was quite a joke of Zelenskyi to take part in the election campaign. But things turned when the joke was accepted widely in country and the electorate decided to genuinely nominate Zelenskyi (or rather the beloved Holoborod’ko) for President.  And then he won the election with a landslide victory!

Zelenskyi/Holoborod’ko is arguably more sane than Trump/Brexit.  The Chinese have a curse: 'may you live in interesting times'.  It very much looks like we are!

See also what the novel Dune has to offer on current world politics in the short video linked at the end of the film section below.

 

STAFF STUFF

Another rollercoaster season of ups and, sadly, downs for us.  First off, as we were posting last season's edition, we said our farewells to our founding co-editor Graham.  Bearing in mind that Graham had been in chronic ill health, and largely housebound, the past decade, the gathering was pleasantly well-attended with family, close friends, some first generation PSIFAns, core SF² Concatenation team members and a good number of former work colleagues present.  All a testimony to the regard in which he was held.

Elsewhere on this site, this 2019 summer edition, we have a tribute article on Graham's life in science, science fiction and space.  Accompanying this is a re-posting of a 1998 article of his on science communication and the need for honesty. This piece's message still stands today.

As we suspected last season, we have cancelled the proposed 15th June Hatfield PSIFA pub, 40-year reunion.  Instead this event will now be a gathering for all those that knew Graham.  If you knew Graham, even if years ago, and wish to attend then you'd be most welcome to this get-together which we hope will be celebratory of his time with each of us all.  Just contact us.  Meanwhile, apologies to the one hundred plus who registered interest in the event on Facebook.  If something else is organised next year to mark over four decades of PSIFA then it will be announced on the 'PSIFA Alumni' Facebook page as well as here. (Note: the PSIFA Alumni page is different to the current PSIFA Facebook page.)

Meanwhile, PSIFA (Hatfield SF) held its own 40th anniversary event at the Hertfordshire University (formerly Hatfield Polytechnic) campus.  In addition to a few Old Age PSFIAns from student generations over the decades getting together for a catch-up, there was an SF quiz followed by reminiscing in the students union. (There is a PSIFA alumni page on Facebook if you want to keep in touch and be made aware of any future reunions.)  Sadly, the lack of much communication prior to the event meant that numbers of Old Age PSFIAns were down on the 30th anniversary bash organised by previous current Hatfield PSIFAns 10 years ago (back when PSIFA was still a broad church SF group as opposed to a specialised gaming club).  Nonetheless, a few commented on social media that it was good to see the old place.

Duncan Lunan, one of our book review panel members, has successfully had his stones moved.  The Sighthill stone circle he was central in creating in Glasgow back in the 1970s (completed 1979) now has a new home not too far away following housing re-development at the original site.  Both the stones and Duncan are doing well.  Excellent news.

By the way, the stones have astronomical alignment. Duncan says, “On its specially created platform, this time the stones will stand at their true height, and several additional features have been added that were planned back in ’79.”  He added, “Using the observations compiled over the last 40 years, and computing methods which weren’t available back then, the alignment of the stones will be still more accurate than before.”

Finally, another one of our book review panel members has a non-fiction science & SF book published.  Arthur Chappell has a book on SF & science pub signs out.  Well, done Arthur. We raise a glass to you.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 29 (3) Summer 2019) we have stand-alone items on:-
          Graham Connor – A life in Science Fiction & Space
          Sanity Blues: Science Needs to be Honest - Graham Connor (a re-post from 1998 in memory of Graham - its message still stands today!)
          My Top Ten Scientists – Eric Choi (aerospace engineer and SF author)
          2018/19 (12 months to Easter) SF Film Top Ten Chart and Other Worthies  (All archive annual film charts here)
          SF Film recommendations from the 20th Century -- Part 1 (re-posting with trailers freshly check-linked) - Tony Chester
          SF/F/H book reviewers wanted
          Gaia 2019 - Annual whimsical SF and/or science snippets and exotica
          Plus well over a score SF/F/H standalone fiction book reviews as well as an additional few non-fiction SF and popular science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 30th plus 2 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 2019

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

This season's major award news includes:-

The nominations for the 2019 Hugo Awards for 'SF achievement' covering the year 2018 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, as per last year, this year the numbers nominating in each category were not included in the information release. So what we have done is provide coverage of the 2017 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 Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
          Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
          Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
          Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
          Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
          Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Best Novella:-
          Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
          Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
          Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
          The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli Clark
          Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
          The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
Best Novelette:-
          'If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again' by Zen Cho
          'The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections' by Tina Connolly
          'Nine Last Days on Planet Earth' by Daryl Gregory
          The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
          'The Thing About Ghost Stories' by Naomi Kritzer
          ' When We Were Starless ' by Simone Heller
Best Short Story:-
          'The Court Magician' by Sarah Pinsker
          'The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society' by T. Kingfisher
          'The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington' by P. Djeli Clark
          'STET' by Sarah Gailey
          'The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat' by Brooke Bolander
          'A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies' by Alix E. Harrow
Best Related Work:-
          Archive of Our Own by the Organization for Transformative Works
          Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee
          The Hobbit Duology by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan
          An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000 by Jo Walton
          The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio
          Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):-
          Annihilation (trailer here)
          Avengers: Infinity War (trailer here)
          Black Panther (trailer here)
          A Quiet Place (trailer here)
          Sorry to Bother You (trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (trailer here)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
          The Expanse 'Abaddon's Gate '
          Doctor Who 'Demons of the Punjab'
          Dirty Computer
          The Good Place 'Janet(s)'
          The Good Place 'Jeremy Bearimy'
          Doctor Who 'Rosa'
Best (book) Series
          'The Centenal Cycle' by Malka Older
          'The Laundry Files' series by Charles Stross
          'Machineries of Empire' by Yoon Ha Lee
          'The October Daye' series by Seanan McGuire
          'The Universe of Xuya' series by Aliette de Bodard
          'Wayfarers' by Becky Chambers
Comment.  Some of you may remember that at the beginning of each year we (the SF² Concatenation team) have a bit of fun selecting what we think are thebest works of the previous year and we post these with our spring edition in January.  Regarding our best books, this included the Hugo novella short-listed Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.  Regarding our best films three of our 8 choices made it to the Hugo 'Best Dramatic Presentation: long form' short-list: A Quiet Place, Sorry to Bother You and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
          The full list of all category nominations (including those that fewer votes) can be found on www.thehugoawards.org.
          The awards will be presented mid-August at the 2019 Worldcon (World SF convention) which this year is in Dublin.
          Last year's principal category nominations on the Hugo short list here.

Th awards e 2019 British SF Association (BSFA Awards) have been presented at the 2019 Eastercon in London. The shortlist for Best Novel consists of:-
          Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Dawn (Solaris)
          Yoon Ha Lee – Revenant Gun (Solaris)
          Emma Newman – Before Mars (Ace Books)
          Gareth L Powell – Embers of War (Titan Books)
          Tade Thompson – Rosewater (Orbit)
And the winner is the author Gareth L Powell and Embers of War.
Other categories (and this year's winners) are for artwork (Likhain for 'In the Vanishers’ Palace'), non-fiction (Aliette de Bodard for 'On motherhood and erasure: people-shaped holes, hollow characters and the illusion of impossible adventures') and short stories(Ian McDonald for 'Time Was').
          The awards are presented annually by the BSFA, based on a vote of its members and on and off over the years – currently on – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon.

The 2019 Nebula Award nomination shortlists have been announced for 2018 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 May. The nominations are:-
Novel
          The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
          The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
          Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
          Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
          Witchmark by C. L. Polk
          Jade City by Fonda Lee
          Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Novella
          Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee
          The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark
          The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
          Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
          Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
          Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Novelette
          The Only Harmless Great Thingby Brooke Bolander
          'The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections' by Tina Connolly
          'An Agent of Utopia' by Andy Duncan
          'The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births' by Josériarte
          'The Rule of Three' by Lawrence M. Schoen
          'Messenger' by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
Short Story
          'Interview for the End of the World' by Rhett C. Bruno
          'The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington' by Phenderson DjeiClark
          'Going Dark' by Richard Fox
          'And Yet' by A. T. Greenblatt
          'Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies' by Alix E. Harrow
          'The Court Magician' by Sarah Pinsker
The Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Presentation
          The Good Place “Jeremy Bearimy” (trailer here)
          Black Panther (trailer here)
          A Quiet Place (trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (trailer here)
          Dirty Computer (trailer here)
          Sorry to Bother Yo (trailer here)
The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult (Juvenile) SF/F Book
          Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyem
          Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
          A Light in the Dark by A. K. DuBoff
          Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
          Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
          Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
The winners will be announced in May.  Discussion: One of the 'Best Novel' nominations, Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Novels of 2018.  Three on the Dramatic Presentation award shortlist -- A Quiet Place, Sorry to Bother You and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Films of 2018.

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 win was for the Sword of the Bastion (main juried award with 10,000 roubles prize money) which this year went to Dmitry Kazakov.  +++ See here for last year's Bastkons.

Russia's FantLab Awards have been announced.  The principal awards of interest to our non-Russian regulars are:-
          Best Book: Sakhalin Island by Edward Verkin
          Best Foreign Book: Memory of all Words by Robert M. Wegner

The 2019 Kurd Laßwitz Preis shortlist has been announced.  Kurd Laßwitz (1848-1910) of whom the German SF excellence awards are named, was a philosopher, historian of science, and SF writer. He kind of holds the same regard in Germany as H. G. Wells does in the British Isles. The awards were established in 1981.  The prize is Germany's equivalent of the Nebula's in the US in that it is voted on by German authors, agents, editors and other SF professionals. There are a number of categories but the one of most interest to our largely English-speaking regulars is likely to be the 'Best Foreign Science Fiction Book' as it is intriguing to see how other nations view which mainly Anglophone titles they consider as worthy SF. Here the short-listed titles were:-
          Die Gabe [The Power] by Naomi Alderman
          Zwischen zwei Sternen [A Closed and Common Orbit] by Becky Chambers
          Walkaway [Walkaway] by Cory Doctorow
          Eiswelt [Early Riser] by Jasper Fforde
          Autonom [Autonomous] by Annalee Newitz
          New York 2140 [New York 2140] by Kim Stanley Robinson
          Ich bin viele [We Are Legion] by Dennis E. Taylor
          Die Kinder der Zeit [Children of Time] by Adrian Tchaikovsky
          Central Station [Central Station] by Lavie Tidhar
The award winners will be announced November.

The 2019 Seiun Award shortlist has been announced.  The award is voted on by a major Japanese convention's registrants.  There are a number of categories but the one of most interest to our largely English-speaking regulars is likely to be the 'Best Foreign Science Fiction Book' as it is intriguing to see how other nations view which mainly Anglophone titles they consider as worthy SF. Here the short-listed titles were:-
          Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas
          Artemis by Andy Weir
          We Are Legion by Dennis E. Taylor
          Provenance by Ann Leckie
          Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
          Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
          Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
+++ Last year's Seiun Award principal category wins are here.

The Philip K. Dick Award winner has been announced.  The winner for the distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first time during 2018 in the US is Theory of Βastards by Audrey Schulman.  A special citation was given to 48K by Claire North.  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 judged by a small panel and 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.  +++ Last year's Dick winner here.

The Gemmell Awards are no more.  The awards for works of fantasy, named after the British author David Gemmell, is to cease in the absence of a new generation of volunteers to run them.  +++ Related news previously reported on this site include: The Entire Works of David Gemmell are Coming to Audio for the First Time.

 

Other SF news includes:-

Sci-Fi London film fest – Some change.  This year the event has moved to mid-month and will now be on Wednesday 15th - Wednesday 22nd May 2019.  Also, there is a partial move back to the West End. In addition to the Stratford (east London) venue that has been used in recent years, there will also be screenings at Prince Charles Cinema in central London.

Liu Cixin sparks controversy in China.  Currently China's most famous SF author, Liu Cixin, has sparked controversy saying that he did most of his SF writing when at work as a software engineer at a state-owned power plant.  Actually, apparently he made the comment a few years ago in an interview, but this has recently gained more traction in social media – re-posted more than 3,000 times in hours on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter– following the success of the film adaptation of The Wandering Earth: it took in 2 billion Yuan (£230 million, US$300 million) in just a week.  A China state department response followed: "Mr. Liu, this phenomenon you mentioned – more workers than available work -- is exactly why we are deepening reforms.  The reforms are good, so the enterprises can focus on their business, and you can focus on writing novels."  Reported by Bloomberg www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-13/chinese-scifi-writer-sparks-debate-on-slack-in-state-economy.  +++ See also in film subsection below Wandering Earth film does well in US.

The 2019 Dublin Worldcon, membership rate has increased.  The Dublin 2019 Attending Membership Rates rose in February.  Full Adult Attending membership rates rise to €235 from €210.  Irish First Worldcon rates, for adults from the island of Ireland attending their first Worldcon, rise to €150 from €130.  Young Adult Attending membership rates rise to €150 from €130.  As part of the convention's policy to encourage families and children to attend Dublin 2019, discounts of up to 10% for Adult-Child families of three or more members are available.  Dublin 2019 - An Irish Worldcon will take place in the Convention Centre Dublin from 15th August to 19th August 2019. Activities will include the Hugo Awards presentations as well as a masquerade costume display. At Worldcons there are typically 650 to 800 separate programme items, including: author readings and autograph sessions, films and videos, academic presentations, and panel discussions.
          The Hugo Award nomination short-list has also been announced. See the news item earlier above.

And finally….

Glasgow now is the proposed venue for the bid for the UK to hold a Worldcon in 2024.  From four potential venues, last summer the bid team had whittled them down to two: Glasgow and London, for which we outlined the pros and cons.  Previously known as the SECC, the Glasgow SEC (Scottish Event Campus) has already hosted two Worldcons - Intersection in 1995, and Interaction in 2005.  The SEC has seen considerable growth in the last few years, including new onsite hotels and reworking and expansion of the spaces inside the convention centre. The SEC has recently announced a further £200 million (US$260 m) development plan to support the growth of conventions around the campus.  Let's hope this new development includes lecture theatre space for smaller (100 – 250) specialist programme items as recent European hosted Worldcons have seen many unable to get into programme items due to the lack of space.  It should be stressed, this not the British SF community's fault: there is no ideal conference venue in the British Isles for either a Worldcon type convention or a major international science conference underpinned by breakout programme items.  Nonetheless, it will be good to see the Worldcon return (it was last in Britain in 2014) to the UK in 2024 should it win the bid.  Bidding voting will take place in 2022 and the result announced at that year's Worldcon.

 

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 2019

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:-
          Glass (Trailer here)
          Alita: Battle Angel (Trailer here)
          How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Trailer here)
          Captain Marvel (Trailer here)
+++  And just up our annual analyses of 52 weekly box office charts or the 2018-9 year to Easter.

The Wandering Earth does well at the US box office despite opening at just a few cinemas.  China's first, domestic SF blockbuster, based on Cixin Liu's short story'The Wandering Earth', only opened in 29 US cities, but it has taken US$3,883,544 (£2.9m) in two weeks, even though it is subtitled.  It is one of China's most expensive films to date, and certainly the most expensive SF film, apparently costing around £38.5 million (US$50 m).  In China is where it really took the box office by storm. In China it opened over the Spring (Chinese new year) holiday and in six days took 1.94 billion Yuan or £221.5 million (US$288 m) and in two weeks globally made 4.07 billion Yuan or £463 million (US$603 m): the film quickly became very profitable.  Netflix has now bought the rights to screen the film.  See the trailer here.  Meanwhile Cixin Liu's Hugo winning novel The Three-Body Problem is itself currently being made into a film that is slated for a 2020 release.  +++ See also above Liu Cixin sparks controversy in China.

The 2019 British Arts Film and Television Awards have been presented for 2018 works.  The BAFTA's are often considered as likely predictors for the US Oscars.  The BAFTA category wins of genre-related importance were:-
Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Trailer here and first 9 minutes)
Special Visual Effects: Black Panther (
Trailer here)

Black Panther wins the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for 'Best Film' of 2018.  It accrued an average weighted score of 97% from 447 reviews. (Trailer here.)

Also…

Sorry to Bother You wins the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for Best 'SF/F' Film of 2018. (Trailer here.)

A Quiet Place wins the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for Best 'Horror' Film of 2018. (Trailer here).

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse wins the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Award for Best 'Animation' Film of 2018. (Trailer here)

Note:  Back in the New Year we cited the above Rotten Tomato winners -- A Quiet Place, Sorry to Bother You and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse as our SF² Concatenation team's choices as to being among the possibly Best SF/F films of 2018!  (Just saying, you know.)

See also Best Rotten Tomato TV in the television subsection below.

 

Avatar sequel filming has wrapped.  The four sequels will be thematically linked (the theme being human greed) but apparently not just the last two, but all, can be considered as standalone.  It is thought that the first sequel will focus on the oceans of Pandora and may be called Avatar: The Way of Water and is currently slated for a December 2020 premiere.  The remaining three films are thought to be titled Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.

Ghostbusters re-boot slated to screen in 2020.  The re-boot will reference the original film. It will be directed by Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman of the 1984 original.  The 2016 female led Ghostbusters, directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, got a tepid reception and making 'just' (in Hollywood terms) US$229m (£178m) worldwide.  Sony therefore were reluctant to continue with that particular reboot, instead return to the original source material.

Morbius, the Spiderman spin-off, is slated to screen in 2020.  Jared Leto is to star as the scientist turned vampire.  Former Doctor Who Matt Smith will also be in the cast.

Wonder Woman sequel to be set in the 1980s.  This will be obvious from the follow-up's slated title, Wonder Woman 1984.  The Director Patty Jenkins apparently feels that the 1980s – the decade in which she grew up – was not only one of funny trends and questionable fashion choices, but a pre-9/11 era of comparative optimism.  The film is due to première the summer 2020.  Original film's trailer here.

World War Z&nbsap 2 pre-production halted.  The sequel has already seen a directorial change from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s J. A. Bayona to Gone Girl’s David Fincher.  It looks like the proposed budget was too big for Paramount who have called a halt to work. The film had been tentatively slated for a 2020 release, but that now seems unlikely. So it is development hell for the film for the time being.

Bill & Ted to go on a third time travel adventure  The second sequel will be released 31 years after the 1989 first film that featured two school slackers travelling through time to get help from historical figures for their homework assignment.  It will be called Bill & Ted Face the Music and is currently slated for an August 2020 release.  Bodacious!  +++ Long-time coming sequels have been something of a trend with SFnal examples including:  Blade Runner 2049 released 35 years after Ridley Scott's 1982 original;  Mad Max: Fury Road was released nearly 30 years after the last (the third) Mad Max film, Mad Max: Beyond the ThunderdomeGhostbusters reboot came out some 27 years after the 1989 Ghostbusters IIIndependence Day II came out two decades after the original;  and Incredibles 2 came out 14 years after the original.

Guardians of the Galaxy will be back for the final in the trilogy says star, and the director returns  Chris Pratt has affirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy vol.3 will happen.  Production was due to start last year (2018) but did not due to Disney sacking director James Gunn despite appeals from fans and cast.  Apparently Gunn's script was to be used.  Then it was announced that Disney had re-hired James Gunn.

And finally…

Stan Lee cameos, to continue for a while.  The folk behind the Marvel films have revealed that they still have some Stan Lee cameos in the can.  So, though Stan has sadly passed he will be appearing in a few more Marvel films, though they don't have that many.  Meanwhile, here is a compilation of Stan Lee Marvel film cameos.

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

Film clip download tip!: The YouTube channel Extra Sci-Fi is back for a third season.  First up is Tolkien and Herbert - The World Builders.  Mythic world-building and intentionality just were not staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published…  You can see the 6-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: How The Lord of the Rings shaped science fiction.  YouTube's Extra Sci Fi demonstrates that Tolkien's masterpiece has shaped a lot of SF with its themes of passing the baton between generations and concomitant successive generation diminution necessitating re-booting.  You can see the 6-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: How did Dune get into print?  It was a far from a smooth ride as YouTube's Extra Sci-Fi notes.  Frank Herbert's epic novel began as a photograph of the Oregon coastline--literally, the dunes themselves. From there it grew into a poem, then three books, then a serial in John W. Campbell's Analog magazine, and then at last... a car repair manual publisher..?  You can see the 7-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Dune's plots analysed?  Plots within plots. It is a many layered book that is the opposite of the confident man trope often found in Golden age SF: all the characters are wrong. The Emperor is wrong about the Harkonnen, Paul is wrong about his ability to avoid his purpose, the Harkonnen are wrong about their plot's consequences… etc.  Extra Sci-Fi notes that Herbert deconstructs the competent man by carefully demonstrating how all of the characters make bad assumptions on faulty premises... This is the first of three warnings Herbert has for us in Dune.  You can see the 6-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Dune's ecological message analysed?  Dune is a 'quasi' ecological novel. Nature is not just the background setting, but firmly integrated into systems of the world.  Frank Herbert explores big ideas around environmental conservation, through the spice that must flow. ('Quasi' ecological because the ecology of Dune is nonsensical and unbelievable to a qualified ecologist or environmental scientist. It is though intriguing.)  You can see the 6-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Dune's charismatic leadership.  How charismatic leaders can take followers to disaster.  Author Frank Herbert lived through the rise of the Nazis in Germany an the communist revolution turn into a dictatorship. He has warnings based on charismatic leaders embedded in Dune. (Of relevance to the era of Trump and Farrage? You decide.)   You can see the 6-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien: Containment short film.  To celebrate Alien's 40th anniversary and in partnership with Tongal, 20th Century Fox is releasing new Alien-universe short films. Written and directed by Chris Reading, Containment concerns four survivors from a ship that has just blown up and who find themselves stranded aboard a small escape pod in deep space. Trying to piece together the details around the outbreak that led to their ship's destruction, they find themselves unsure to trust whether or not one of them might be infected…  You can see the 9-minute short here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien: Night Shift short film.  To celebrate Alien's 40th anniversary and in partnership with Tongal, 20th Century Fox is releasing new Alien-universe short films.  Written and directed by Aidan Brezonick, Night Shift concerns a missing space trucker who is discovered hung-over and disoriented, his co-worker suggests a nightcap as a remedy. Near closing time, they are reluctantly allowed inside the colony supply depot where the trucker's condition worsens, leaving a young supply worker alone to take matters into her own hands…  You can see the 9-minute short here.

Film clip download tip!: MIB: Men In Blues short film.  The Blues Brothers are back… as Men In Black!  Another delightful mash up from the fabulous Fabrice Mathieu.  See the short film here.

Film clip download tip!: Star Trek: Temporal Anomaly is a new two part film.  It has been several years in the making by Trekkie fans by arrangement with CBS.  It is billed as the first fan film to combine all of the Star Trek eras into one project.  However, note, these are Trek fans actng.  See the part one here.

Film clip download tip!: The Big Bang Theory's second half of the final series has aired.  Still time to reminisce on a couple of highlights including a William Shatner cameo.  See the 3-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: And here's William Shatner meeting the The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper for the first time.  See the 3-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: And here's clips and the celebrities' real-life reaction.    See the 2-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: The Big Bang Theory is over. How did the cast take it?  Ellen (a US show spin-off character), of EllenTube.com, interviews the cast.  See the 5-minute interview here.

Film clip download tip!: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a teaser trailer for the film due out this Christmas (2019) has been released.  See it here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2018/9 (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 2019 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 2019

Television News

 

Daredevil is Rotten Tomatoes fans' best 'Superhero' TV show of 2018!  Despite, or maybe because of, the show's recent cancellation, season 3 picked up the Golden Tomato Awards Fans’ Choice winner for Audience Favourite TV Show of 2018.  It beat: season 3 of the 2018 Hugo-winning The Good Place; season 1 of Cobra Kai; season 5 of BoJack Horseman; and the debut season of The Haunting of Hill HouseDaredevil season 3 trailer here.

Doctor Who is Rotten Tomatoes critics' best 'TV SF/Fantasy' show of 2018!  Rotten Tomatoes awards are divided into two: the audience (all Rotten Tomato users who gave a score, see previous Daredevil item above) and critics (their panel of reviewers).  It is important to make this distinction. By 31st December 2018 (so before the New Year special) it had attracted a weighted average critics' score of 93%.  However its audience score was only a paltry 22%.  This discrepancy is not common on Rotten Tomatoes: the runner-up show, Westworld garnered a critics score of 85% and an audience score of 73%, and Daredevil (see previous item above for best 'superhero' show) received a 96% critics score and 95% audience score.

See also Rotten Tomatoes 'best film' of 2018 in the film subsection above.

 

Love, Death & Robots recently launched.  The series launched ten days prior to posting this season's news on Netflix.  It is an anthology series of 18 short stories each 10 to 15 minutes long. It is a combination of animation and live action.  Think, flash versions of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.  See the trailer here.

Also new to Netflix – a series reminiscent of A Quiet Place and also more zombies.  It is called The Silence. A Quiet Place was out last summer.  Also new to Netflix is Black Summer. It is a zombie type show and season 1 is available now.

The Game of Thrones episode uploaded to Amazon early.  The second episode of the final series was uploaded early so that Amazon Prime members were able to watch it several hours before it was scheduled.  This followed the previous week when DirecTV Now customers saw the first episode four hours early!

The Walking Dead has been renewed for a 10th season.  OK, so this is no surprise: last season we reported that The Walking Dead creative team and AMC had been talking about the future of the show.  Well, now it's official: the show has been renewed. This despite the show seeming to have passed peak viewing figures.

The Walking Dead's Michonne (Danai Gurira) is to cease being a regular on the show.  The dreadlocked, the katana-wielding Michonne joined the show in season 2. She will appear in season 10 but only in a few episodes spread across the season.  The reason for her leaving is apparently career related: outside of The Walking Dead Danai Gurira plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje (the Wakandan secret service in the Black Panther films) and other parts beckon.  Yet, if she is not killed off in The Walking Dead storyline, it may be that she returns in some of the proposed Walking Dead filmsThe Walking Dead right now is just finishing its 9th season.

A brand new The Walking Dead series has been commissioned.  The new series will be set in the future and feature the next generation of survivors: those who have been born into the post-apocalyptic world.  Its principal protagonist will be two female survivors.  The first season of the yet-to-be-named series will consist of 10 episodes. Shooting will begin in a few weeks time.  +++ Meanwhile the extant companion series to The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, will see season five begin in June on AMC in the US.

Red Dwarf to return with series 13.  Baby Cow Productions are currently filming series XIII and Dave of UKTV will screen the series in Britain later this year (2019).  Series XI and XII were filmed back-to-back but so far only series XIII has been green lit.  Doug Naylor is again scripting.  All thecast are back – Robert Llewellyn as Kryten, Danny John-Jules as Cat, Craig Charles as Lister and Chris Barrie as Rimmer.

The film of Heinlein's classic novel, Starship Troopers (1959), could be back as a television series?  Some of the Paul Verhoeven 1997 film's cast are apparently willing should the proposal go ahead, though Paul Verhoeven himself is not onboard.  Ed Neumeier, the 1997 film's screenwriter is behind this news, though things are still tentative.

The Lost Boys film (1987) to be a TV series?  Well, a pilot has been commissioned by CW in the USA. Warner Brothers, the original film's studio, will be producing in conjunction with Gulfstream TV.  The original film's trailer here.

Arrow to end with season 8.  Currently in season 7, Arrow will end at the end of a short, 10-episode, season 8.  Though the show's ratings are not that bad, they have been declining, plus it becomes more expensive as time continues to contract actors to the cast.  Arrow's home is the US channel CW and Warner Brothers.  The show, is based on the DC hero, the Green Arrow.  CW has a major involvement in televisual adaptations of DC characters such as The Flash with shows subsequent to Arrow including Supergirl, Black Lightning and Legends of Tomorrow. The next to join this cannon could well be Batwoman that has had a pilot made and a cameo in a Flash/Arrow/Supergirl crossover.  CW's DC-verse maestro has apparently signed a multi-million dollar deal with Warners to stay on as a producer until 2024.  In the British Isles such shows currently tend to be aired on FreeView 11, Pick.

Krypton season 2 to feature Lobo.  Lobo is a fringe character in the DC comics universe.  He first appeared in Omega Men #3 (1983). Having made a few guest appearances, in 1990 he had his own four-part comic mini-series.  His origins have changed a little since his first appearance. He is the last Czarnian after killing every other member of the species.  He enjoys mindless violence and intoxication, and killing is an end in itself. He is arrogant and self-centred, focusing almost solely on his own pleasures, although he proudly lives up to the letter of his promises – but always no more or no less than what he promised. He has a strict personal code of honour in that he will never violate the letter of an agreement and a fondness to protect space dolphins.  Krypton season 2 will air later this year.

Stranger Things season 3 airs in July (2019).  It will appear on Netflix.  Trailer looks good.  Trailer here.

Paddington to be a new TV series.  The series is to come from StudioCanal who made the recent films: Paddington 2 came top of our Easter-to-Easter SF/F/H box office top ten for 2017/8 (trailer here).  Both the original Michael Bond books, TV series and the two films, have been extremely popular. Indeed the original 1958 book came 4th in a 2017 all-time most popular children's book poll.  Ben Whishaw, who voiced Paddington for the two recent films, will do the same for the new TV series.  The series will be completely CG animated (the films were a mix of CG and live action) and, featuring a younger Paddington than the recent films, will be aimed at younger pre-schoolers.  It will air on Nickelodeon's networks in both Europe and N. America in 2020.  Meanwhile a third Paddington film is currently in production.  +++ Previous related stories: The last Paddington book was published in 2018 and first new Paddington Bear book for 30 years helps mark the bear's 50th anniversary.

The Dark Horse Resident Alien comic to be a new TV series.  Not to be confused with the Alien film franchise, the Dark Horse comic concerns an alien who landing on Earth takes the identity of a small-town Colorado doctor named Harry Vanderspiegle.  This leads him to question his perspective of humans.  Dark Horse Entertainment are one of the executive producers, so expect a firm connection with the original source material.  It will air first on SyFy.

Worzel Gummidge: unbroadcast animated series pilot discovered.  Worzel Gummidge was a scarecrow that came to life and the central character for a kids' fantasy TV show that ran for four seasons from 1979 and which starred Jon (Doctor Who) Pertwee and Una (Till Death Do Us Part & Sherlock) Stubbs.  The claymation animation pilot was made but then Jon Pertwee died in May 1996 which put paid to the series being developed. +++ Meanwhile, the BBC is considering re-booting the series.

Marvel ''What If' animated TV series forthcoming.  The series is inspired by Marvel's 'What If' comic series of the 1970s.  The original 11-volume comic series imagined what would happen if certain key events in the Marvel-verse happened differently. For example, what might have happened if Loki originally found the hammer and not Thor? Or, what if Spiderman had joined the Fantastic Four (effectively an alternate version of Amazing Spiderman no. 1 (1963)), or Captain America had not vanished during WWII?  The series will launch on the new, forthcoming Disney+ streaming service.

Wild Seed novel to be adapted by Amazon.  The 1980 novel by Octavia Butler and scripted by author Nnedi Okorafor and Wanuri Kahiu.  The novel concerns a time-spanning (1690 – far future) 6,000 year old body changer who engages on his own breeding programme to create superior humans. This is part of Octavia Butler's 'Patternist' sequence.

Britain's BBC and ITV to create rival to create to Netflix.  The BBC, of course, created Doctor Who, Sherlock and Blake's 7, while ITV gave us The Avengers, The Prisoner, Gerry Anderson series among others.  Both the BBC and ITV already have their BritBox streaming service in N. America with some 500,000 subscribers.  The plan now is to have this in the British Isles and also to expand it to make the respective companies' back-catalogues available as box sets.  It is hoped that the service will be launched later this year (2019) with a monthly charge that might be as low as £5 (US$6.50¢).

UK computer gaming worth more to economy than film and music combined!  OK, so this is not television SF but this is the closest fit news section on this page.  With science fiction and fantasy a mainstay of computer gaming, the sector is now worth £5.7 billion (US7bn).

Disney+ streaming service launch announced.  It's official!  Disney+ will launch in November in N. America. Insomeprt of the world folk may have to wait longer as Disney secures global streaming rights to some content.  The new streaming service will include Dinsey related companies works including Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and Star Wars, for a monthly subscription price of US$6.99 (£5.60p), or annual US$69.99.  In India. Disney already owns the streaming service Hotstar with its 300 million subscribers. In Britain there already is the Disney Life streaming service.  Presumably there will be some sort of merger with these services when Disney+ arrives? Another question – given we already have Netflix and now Apple TV+ – is how many streaming services will people be prepared to subscribe?

 

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 2019

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

The European Parliament approves copyright reform. Search engines and news aggregate platforms should pay to use links from news websites. Larger technology companies to be responsible for material posted without a copyright licence.  We reported on this proposal back in the autumn last year and now it has gone through the EU Parliament.  Article 11, requires online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content. Article 13 gets websites to enforce copyright and it could mean that every online platform that allows users to post text, sounds, code or images (such as Facebook, Amazon, Scribd or YouTube) will need some form of content-recognition system to review and potentially filter if deemed a copyright violation, all material that users upload.  Some say that this will hinder freedom of passing on news and spreading music and disseminating information; others, that it will protect artists' incomes.  There are sound arguments on both sides.  The next step will be for member nations to approve the EU Parliament's decision and then they have two years to implement it.  However, there as there is not the filter technology capable of implementing it, it could mean that sites like YouTube will have to radically change.

Data Protection complaints against Amazon as well as Apple, Google, Netflix and Spotify have been filed with the European Union.  The data privacy campaign group NYOB has filed the complaints believing that these firms (and others) are not fully compliant with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  GDPR requires data holders to provide the information the hold on people to those respective people in a machine readable and readily understandable form as well as letting them know with whom they have shared the data.  NYOB says that Amazon and others are not fully compliant.  +++ Google has also recently been fined 50 million euros (£44m) by the French data regulator CNIL, for a breach of the EU GDPR.

Amazon leaks 540 million Facebook user details.  This is the latest leak from Amazon servers in which Facebook user details were left open to public access.  It occurred on Amazon S3 servers. The data included account names, ID numbers, comments and reactions but not passwords. A smaller non-Facebook database of 22,000 people that listed names, passwords and email addresses was also discovered and deleted.  This latest news builds on a previous Facebook leak in September 2018, of information on 50 million users that was exposed by a security flaw.  Also, earlier last year (2018), Facebook revealed that data on millions of users had been harvested by data science company Cambridge Analytica.

People's e-books held on Microsoft’s eBook store to be deleted.  Microsoft is closing its eBook store down, and with it any books bought through the service will no longer be readable.  Users will see their book collection disappear because the company has decided it’s no longer worth keeping the store running. Microsoft says it will provide compensation. Reported by the BBC notes that e-book stores from Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes and Noble all follow broadly the same rules. You’re buying a licence to read, not a licence to own.  Separately, those storing data on internet clouds may also want to pay attention: back-up your data yourself on a drive or USB you control.  +++ see also 12 years worth of music uploads lost in cyberspace story later below.

British publishers prepare for Brexit.  In the run up to Easter, many of the large publishers have been making preparations for a 'no deal' Brexit as British politicians shout at each other in the biggest debacle since they caused the financial crash in Britain back in 2007/8. (Our Chancellor said regulation of the financial sector 'with a light touch' while the opposition said even less regulation. A policy that worked really well when US banks incorrectly valued sub-prime mortgage packages).  Measures publishers are taking to prepare for Brexit include some of them identifying mainland continental printers for books likely to sell well in mainland Europe. Attention has also been given to paper supplies with some publishers stocking a few months worth. Book runs are also being made a little longer with a view to warehousing until sales remove them. Some publishing houses are ensuring that they have a good stock of their long-running, best-selling backlist titles.  Finally, some titles, where authors submit their MSs early, are being brought forward in their publishing schedule.

E-book sales from Britain's big five publishers sees 3% growth in 2018 over 2017.  The big five are: Hachette (whose SF imprints include Gollancz, Orbit, Headline, Hodder, Quercus and Jo Fletcher books), Penguin Random House (whose SF imprints include Transworld, Bantam, Del Rey, BBC, Century & Arrow), Pan Macmillan (whose SF imprints include Tor) and Simon & Schuster.  Together, they account for nearly half of UK book retail (BookScan) sales.  Looking at e-book sales valued at over £2 per unit (i.e. excluding heavily discounted promotional loss leaders or remaindered titles) then the total number of e-books sold in 2018 was 49.6 million copies.

Preliminary data on last year's book trade from key countries around the world is now out:-
          France:  Retail book sales (more or less equivalent to BookScan in the UK) are down 1.7%.  Since 2009, France has only seen one year of growth.
          Germany:  Marginal growth seen.  However, this masks that sales from bricks & mortar bookshops (as opposed to online) saw unit sales down 2.3%; online sales continue to grow.
          Spain:  The data here is currently less complete but suggests that a 2% growth in the sales of print books.  If so 2018 will be the 5th year in a row for the growth of print book sales.
          Italy;  Sales from bricks & mortar bookshops are down, but add in sales from online Amazon and Italy's book trade has seen some growth.
          Australia:  The book trade sector remains steady, but print book sales are up. Digital sales now occupy 18% of the market (from a peak share of 29%in 2013).
          USA:  The first 11 months of 2018 saw near zero growth in the book trade; the trade was almost flat. But the unit sales of print books, for the 6th year in a row, were up 1.3% on 11 months of 2017.
          China:  As its economy has boomed in the 21st century so this has been mirrored in China's book trade sector.  Overall (both print and e-books) retail sales were up 11.3% in 2018. This continues the recent trend of double-digit growth.  However, bricks & mortar bookshop sales were down 6.7% while online sales were up 24.7%.  Of note, China is experimenting with a few unstaffed bookshops that rely on self-service, motion detection and face recognition.

US authors' income falls, largest survey reveals.  The Authors Guild and the 14 other writers organizations poll received responses from 5,067 authors, half of whom for which writing was their principal occupation. The responses were received in 2018 and relate to 2017 income.  Of the authors responding: 56% write fiction (18% write 'literary' fiction and 38% write genre fiction); 22% academic; and 18% write general non-fiction.
          The results were that authors' median income was US$3,900 to $3,100, down 21% from four years ago with the last Authors Guild survey.  However, exclude the part-timers and full-time authors' median income was full-time was US$20,300 in 2017, up 3%.  Literary writers experienced the biggest decline (down 27% in four years), followed by general nonfiction (down 8%),.  Importantly, roughly 25% of all authors surveyed earned US$0 in book-related income in 2017; 18% of full-time authors earned US$0 in book-related income during the same time period.  Self-published authors as a whole still earned 58% less than traditionally published authors in 2017, which demonstrates the value of the traditional publishing route.  Excluding non-earning authors, the top 10% of earning authors earned a median of earned a median of US$305,000.
          The Authors Guilds conclusions are stark.  They say that full-time mid-list and literary writers are on the verge of extinction.  There are two factors behind this.  The first is that Amazon dominates the publishing scene selling nearly half of new books in the US and has a share of 72% of the online book retail market.  Publishers therefore focus on tried and tested authors but have to pay them bigger advances and bigger promotion budgets to recoup the said advances. This squeezes the resources publishers can devote to mid-list and new authors.  Also Bowker reports more than 1,000,000 books were published in the US in 2017 (up from 300,000 in 2009); two-thirds of those books were self-published earning the authors on average even less than professionally published authors.
+++ Previous related stories includes:-
          British authors' income continues to decline and sparks vigorous dialogue between publishers and authors' bodies
          Top British SF/F authors did not do as well in 2017 compared to 2016
          Mid-list authors drive 2017 growth in British book sector
         Top authors sold more in 2016 but bottom authors -- given there are more of them -- each earn less even than in 2015
          The top-selling SF/F/H genre authors in Britain remain the same in 2015
          The top 5% of 2014/5 authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers and a consequence is that publishing may reach a 'breaking point'
          Bad news for authors – Author royalties squeeze continues
          Amazon bullying small publishers
          British book buyer backlash against Amazon that Christmas
          the European Commission ruling Amazon contracts with publishers are anti-competitive and potentially illegal
          Amazon tax concerns in the face of increased turnover and profits
          more tax concerns
          …and Amazon continued tax concerns despite another great profit increase.

The SFWA increases its word rate to 8 US cents.  In January the day after we posted last season's news, the Science Fiction Writers of America (who run the Nebula Awards among other things) increased their recommended word rate for short SF/F fiction from six to eight US cents per word. The SFWA supports fair compensation for writers. They hope the new Professional Rate will encourage short fiction publishers to increase their payment rates. The change is the result of market analyses conducted by SFWA Board members combined with inflation since 2014 when the SFWA last amended its recommended pay rate.

Neil Gaiman is going to take up writing in his retirement.  Shock!  Drama!  Probe!  Whoa! What? Who How? Why…?  Steady on, we'll explain.  Neil has for the past year been working solidly with Amazon TV on the adaptation of Good Omens. This will premiere shortly (May, 2019).  He has also had a remote hand in the American Gods adaptation. What this has meant is that for around a year Neil has not written anything.  Which brings us up to date and now Gaiman reportedly saying: "I'm gonna be a retired showrunner. And in my retirement, I'm thinking about taking up writing."  Which is all very good news for us.  +++ Meanwhile, elsewhere on SF² Concatenation there's an article by Neil written for us back in 1990 and our print days before Neil became Neil Gaiman: Quorn versus the Microwave Popcorn!.

Neil Gaiman thanks supporters of the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund.  The Comic Book Legal Defence Fund (CBLDF), a non-profit body that counters censorship of comics by providing free legal counsel and other assistance to creators, writers, and artists.  "Over the past century, almost every piece of pop culture that we love, has been attacked and censored by people looking for something 'dangerous' they can control," says Neil. He adds: "It started with comics. This kind of censorship nearly destroyed comic books when I was a small boy and those old ideas about comics being bad for you continue to this day."  His YouTube thank you – with a little more about the fund's work – is here.

Margaret Atwood is to have a British Isles tour this autumn.  The tour is to promote the release of her The Handmaid's Tale sequel, The Testaments.  Atwood says: "Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in."  Events include: Waterstones, Piccadilly, London, 9th Sept;  National Theatre, London, 10th Sept;  Sage Gateshead, 26th Oct;  The Lowry, Salford, 27th Oct;  Birmingham Symphony Hall, 28th Oct;  New Theatre, Oxford, 30th;  Brighton Dome, 31st Oct;  and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, 2nd Nov 2019.

Stephen King's forthcoming novel concerns the child abuse of young mutants.  The book will be out this autumn (northern hemisphere) from Hodder & Stoughton. The advance publicity says:-

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents — telekinesis and telepathy — who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and 10-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
          In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extra-normal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

 

'Haunted Library of Horror Classics' novel and collection series of old greats is coming.  It will be published by the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Poisoned Pen Press (an imprint of Sourcebooks).  The first off the block will be Gaston LeRoux’s Phantom of the Opera.  Subsequent titles will include: The Beetle (Richard Marsh);  Vathek (William Beckford);  House on the Borderland William Hope Hodgson;  The Parasite and Other Tales of Terror (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);  and The King in Yellow (Robert Chambers).

Philip Pullman's second instalment in his 'Book of Dust' series will be out in October (2019).  The first volume of the 'Book of Dust' was the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy that was a worldwide hit being translated into 40 languages and selling over 17.5 million copies.  That was 17 years ago.  The first in the new series will be The Secret Commonwealth and set is set 20 years after the first book, La Belle Sauvage, and 7 years after the end of the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy.  Lyra and Malcolm find that their lives are helplessly entangled again. They embark on a journey to a mysterious desert in Central Asia, where they hope to find, at last, the secret of Dust… The book is being published ahead of a BBC 1 adaptation of 'His Dark Materials', starring Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Given that the first book, La Belle Sauvage in its first year sold 305,705 copies in the UK in hardback(!) and over a million worldwide, thie new book is likely to do well.

New black author SF/F book list launched by the independent publisher Onwe Press.  The list will feature SF/F works primarily by black authors as, the publishers say, "black women diversity is important to us."  The first title will be released this summer and written by Reni Amayo, co-owner of Onwe Press. It is an ancient African fantasy.

 

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 2019

Forthcoming SF Books

 

British Library SF Classics: vol. 7 – Menace of the Machine edited by Mike Ashley, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-712-35242-0.
Anthology of short stories from across the years.

British Library SF Classics: vol. 8 – The End of the World and Other Catastrophes edited by Mike Ashley, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-712-35273-4.
Anthology of short stories from across the years.

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07742-9.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili (physicist) combines storytelling and mind-expanding high-concept science in his debut thriller.  2041, and for all the advances science and technology have brought, our world is under attack from rampant climate change, uncontrollable mass migration, cyber-terrorism, fragmenting societies and insidious governmental secrecy and paranoia. And then the unthinkable happens - the Earth, our planet, seems to be turning against itself – it would appear that the magnetic field, which protects life on Earth from deadly radiation from space, is failing . . .  Fearful of the mass hysteria that would follow if the truth were to become known, world governments have concealed this rapidly emerging Armageddon. But a young Iranian computer genius stumbles across what is really going on, the secret is out, and it's a race against time to put in place an outrageous, desperate last ditch plan to save the world: to reactivate the earth's core using beams of dark matter. As a small team of brave and brilliant scientists - each a maverick in his or her own way - battle to find a way of transforming the theory into practice, they face a fanatical group intent on pursuing their own endgame agenda: for they believe mankind to be a plague upon this earth and will do anything, commit any crime, to ensure that the project fails - and so bring about humanity's end...

The Warship by Neal Asher, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86250-4.
Orlandine has destroyed the alien Jain super-soldier by deploying an actual black hole. And now that same weapon hoovers up clouds of lethal Jain technology, swarming within the deadly accretion disc’s event horizon. All seems just as she planned. Yet behind her back, forces incite rebellion on her home world, planning her assassination.  This is the second in the 'Rise of Jain' trilogy from the author of Cowl, Dark Intelligence, The Departure , The Gabble, Hilldiggers, Jupiter War, Line of Polity, Line War, Orbus, Prador Moon, Shadow of the Scorpion, The Technician, War Factory and Zero Point

The Stone Clock by Andrew Bannister, Bantam, £9.99, ISBN 978-0-857-50337-4.
At some point in the far future mankind has come across a most unusual sector in space; whereas most stars are, literally, astronomical distances apart, the area which they name the Spin is only thirty light-days across yet contains twenty-one stars with about ninety planets. There is one individual, Zeb, who divides his time between the real and the vrealities he tends. Meanwhile, in a remote star system, an ancient insectoid, called Skarbo the Horologist, observes The Spin. He has been doing so for several lifetimes trying to work out the Spin's purpose...  This follows on from Creation Machine and Iron Gods.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Redemption of Time by Baoshu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54220-3.
Companion volume to the 'Three-Body Problem' trilogy by an award-winning Chinese author. At the end of the fourth year of the Crisis Era, Yun Tianming, riddled with cancer, chose to end his life. His decision was the first step in a journey that would take him to the end of the universe and beyond.  His brain was extracted from his body, flash frozen, put aboard a spacecraft and launched on a trajectory that will intercept the Trisolarian First Fleet in a few centuries. It is a desperate plan, almost certain to fail. But there is an infinitesimal chance that one day Tianming may, somehow, be able to send valuable information back to Earth.  This is Tianming’s story. It reveals what happened to him when he was intercepted by the Trisolarians. It reveals the secrets of faster-than-light propulsion. It reveals the true nature of the struggle that has created the universal ‘dark forest’, and the ultimate fate of the universe…

Xeelee: Redemption by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, pbk, £9.99, ISBN 978-1-473-21722-2.
This is a spectacular, hard-ish, widescreen space opera that follows on from Xeelee Vengeance.  From the author of Xeelee Endurance and Raft.  The Xeelee are back for the last time . . . Michael Poole finds himself in a strange landscape – the centre of the Galaxy where the Xeelee have built an immense structure. The Belt has a radius ten thousand times Earth’s orbital distance. It’s a light year in circumference and rotates at near lightspeed. The purpose of the Belt is to preserve a community of Xeelee into the very far future, when they will be able to tap dark energy, a universe-spanning antigravity field, for their own purposes. But it has attracted populations of lesser species. And Poole, at last, finds the Xeelee who led the destruction of Earth...

Pinion by Elizabeth Bear, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22451-3.
Book one of the 'Jacob’s Ladder' trilogy.  On a broken ship orbiting a doomed sun, dwellers have grown complacent with their ageing metal world. but when a serving girl frees a captive noblewoman, the old order is about to change…  Ariane, Prince of the House of Rule, was known to be fiercely cold-blooded. But severing an angel’s wings on the battlefield – even after she had surrendered – proved her completely without honour. Rien is the lost child: her sister.  Soon they will escape, hoping to stop the impending war and save both their houses. But it is a perilous journey through the crumbling hulk of a dying ship, and they do not pass unnoticed.  See also below.

Sanction by Elizabeth Bear, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22452-0.
(See also the previous book above.)  Book two of the 'Jacob’s Ladder' trilogy.  sometimes the greatest sin is survival. The generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has barely survived cataclysms from without and within. Now, riding the shock wave of a nova blast toward an uncertain destiny, the damaged ship – the only world its inhabitants have ever known – remains a war zone.  As Tristen and Benedick play a deadly game of cat and mouse in pursuit of a traitor through a ship that is renewing itself in strange and dangerous ways, an even more insidious threat is building in a place no one ever thought to look.

Beneath the World, a Sea by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49155-8.
South America, 1990. Ben Ronson arrives in a mysterious forest to investigate a spate of killings of a local species called the Duendes. The crimes have taken place in the Delta and to reach it Ben has crossed the Zone, a territory which wipes the memories of all who pass through.  Ben is uneasy about what he may have done in the Zone and avoids opening the diaries he kept whilst there, busying himself with the investigation. He becomes fascinated by the Duendes, but the closer he gets, the more the secrets of the unopened diaries begin to haunt him . . .  From the A. C. Clarke (book) Award-winning author of Mother of Eden.

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46202-1.
Prequel novel to the rather nifty TV series.

Control S by Andy Briggs, Orion, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18464-5.
Technothriller in the near future where virtual reality can be used for crime.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang, Picador, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01448-8.
A collection of shorts from the nifty SF writer. Stories include that of an alien scientist who makes a shocking discovery, and a women who nurtures a pet AI for 20 years that becomes something rathermore…

The Crying Machine by Greg Chivers, Harper Voyager, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-30877-3.
Debut novel concerning a powerful religion ad an artificial intelligence, set in a near-future Jerusalem.

Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22234-2.
This is a very welcome 2019 reprint of Arthur C. Clarke's 1953 novel (that was later reworked intoThe City and the Stars (1956)).  It comes as part of the new, and very excellent, new Gollancz, Golden Age Masterworks' series that also features Clarke's The Sands of MarsAgainst the Fall of Night is set in the far future – half a billion years hence – and Earth's last city on an increasing desertified planet.  It begins with the city's population looking up to see the last cloud dissipate…

Revolution by Megan DeVos, Orion, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18388-4.
Part three of the anarchy series, apparently read by 30 million readers worldwide – includes a never-before-seen bonus chapter. You fight, you kill, you steal, you lie... or you die.  As war breaks out between Blackwing and Greystone, Grace’s allegiance becomes clear. But that doesn’t make her task any easier. Hayden knows that war is coming. That these raids are just the beginning, and there is something else coming for them. But can he save his camp and free himself at the same time? Has been compared to The Hunger Games meets The Road.  Has special appeal to teenagers.  See also below.

Annihilation by Megan DeVos, Orion, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18390-7.
Follows on from the book above.  The final part in the epic anarchy series, includes a never-before-seen bonus chapter. For Hayden and Grace, the threat of war has become a reality. The world is running out of resources, driving the survivors to drastic, inhuman measures. Blackwing is the obvious target, and physical attacks from enemies are accompanied by the devastating mental turmoil that cannot be fought off with weapons. This is life impacted by war with enemies, allies and oneself. Now, not much is certain, but a few things are guaranteed: There will be pain. There will be death. There will be annihilation.

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, Head of Zeus, £10, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54109-0.
Four dystopian novellas set in the near-future. In these new novellas, corporations provide welfare, but only if you use their DRM’d devices: toasters that won’t toast third-party bread, dishwashers that won’t wash third-party dishes. Fresh out of a refugee detention centre, Salima is housed in the exclusive Dorchester Towers. For the first time in months, she has her own bedroom and a bathtub she can lie down in if she squinches her legs and tucks her chin. But it’s a tower block divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’: elevators with a poor-door and a rich-person-door. Then one day Salima’s Boulangism toaster won’t accept her overpriced Boulangism-approved bread. So she hacks into the toaster – with its USB ports and Ethernet jacks – to reprogramme and toast unauthorised bread. If she can hack a toaster, then maybe she can hack an elevator. Now it’s a tower block that has decided to fight back.

Morhelion by Dominic Dulley, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48606-6.
'The Long Game' book 2.  Space opera.  An alien exile. A lethal secret…  When a dying agent of the emperor’s shadowy Seventh Secretariat tells Orry Kent there’s a traitor at the highest levels of the Ascendancy, she has little choice but to take on the mission. Which is why she finds herself stranded among the floating bubble habitats of Morhelion, where pollution spewing smokers ply their trade in the beautiful but toxic atmosphere. The hunt is on...

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, Hodder, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-444-76360-7.
Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies close to death, while the Winter Consuls watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens. Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen from the academy by a Winter Consul to accompany him to remote Wales to investigate a dream which is going viral, causing paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic episodes as it spreads. Though trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters, Charlie is in no way prepared for what awaits in Sector Twelve.

A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher, Orbit, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51044-6.
Billed as being reminiscent of The Girl With All the Gifts and Station Eleven.  Man stole my dog. I went after him.  Bad things happened. I can never go home.  Griz is a boy who has never met enough people in his life to play a game of football.  He’s heard about football. And schools, and friends.  His parents have told him what the world used to be like, before all the people went away. But Griz isn’tlonely – he’s got his family, and his beloved dog.  One day, a stranger visits, to trade with his father.  But the man leaves in the middle of the night, taking the boy’s dog. As Griz chases the stranger out into a world devoid of people – a world without us, he discovers there may be more both to the history of how the world ended, and what his family’s real story is. He begins his hunt searching for a stolen dog, but finds himself on the trail of something bigger and more personally important – the truth.  Not to be confused with the Harlan Ellison story (and its film adaptation).

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51044-6.
For Teagan frost, sh*t just got real.  Teagan Frost is having a hard time keeping it together. Sure, she's got telekinetic powers – a skill that the government is all too happy to make use of, sending her on secret break-in missions that no ordinary human could carry out. But all she really wants to do is kick back, have a beer, and pretend she’s normal for once.  But then a body turns up at the site of her last job – murdered in a way that only someone like Teagan could have pulled off. She’s got 24 hours to clear her name. And if she isn’t able to unravel the conspiracy, then the city of Los Angeles may be ripped apart.

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12400-2.
Five new Republic pilots change from being hunted to becoming hunters as they track down a mysterious shadow wing…

Star Wars: Master and apprentice by Claudia Gray, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89988-6.
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi feature in a story set before The Phantom Menace.

Breakthrough by Michael C. Grumley, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54881-6.
Deep in the Caribbean Sea, a small group of marine biologists are quietly on the verge of making history. Alison Shaw and her team are preparing to translate the first two-way conversation with the planet’s second smartest species. But the team discovers much more from their dolphins than they ever expected when a secret object is revealed on the ocean floor – one that was never supposed to be found.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63124-3.
A near-future thriller set in an America addicted to consumerism where gun violence, climate change and unemployment have ravaged the nation, and an online retail giant named Cloud reigns supreme. Cloud brands itself not just as an online storefront but a sort of global saviour. However beneath that sunny exterior is a grinding, soul-sucking machine which will stop at nothing to make a buck.

Tangle's Game by Stewart Hotson, Abaddon, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-781-08715-2.
Technothriller based on the rise of block chain software, encryption and social media.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Expanded edition) by Mur Lafferty, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46207-6.
Adaptation of Solo: A Star Wars Story expands on the film to include scenes from alternate versions of the script and other additional content, giving deeper insights into Han Solo’s years in the Imperial Navy, Qi’ra’s past, and the beginnings of the rebellion.  Young Han dreams of someday soaring into space at the helm of his own starship and leaving his home, the gritty industrial planet Corellia, far behind. But as long as he’s trapped in a life of poverty and crime – and under the thumb of the sinister Lady Proxima and her brutal street gang— reaching the distant stars seems impossible. When Han tries to escape with his girlfriend and partner-in-crime, Qi’ra, he makes it out—but she doesn’t. Desperate for a way to find his own off-world vessel and free her, Han enlists in the Imperial Navy – the last place for a rebellious loner who doesn’t play well with others. When the Empire clips his wings, Han goes rogue and plunges into the shady world of smugglers, gamblers, and con artists. There he meets the charming and cunning high roller Lando Calrissian and makes an unlikely friend in a cantankerous Wookiee called Chewbacca…

Fugitive Six by Pittacus Lore, Penguin, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-93425-1.
It has been a year since John Smith and Lorien Garde helped defeat the Mogadorian invasion of Earth. Now, all over the planet, people are developing new powers. But this terrifies everyone else. Those with 'Legacies' are forced to register themselves. They are cast out of families. Hunted down. Murdered. But perhaps there is a way these talents can be used…

The Passengers by John Marrs, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03588-4.
SF thriller.  Someone is hacking into self-drive cars that now kill… Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide. When someone hacks into the systems of nine self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course. The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife - and parents of two - who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

Low Chicago by George R. R. Martin, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-28358-2.
The latest 'Wild cards' novel that follows the aftermath of an alien virus that leaves people changed.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22312-9.
Wide-screen, sci-fi, Star Wars-ish space opera.  Mahit Dzmare, ambassador for her people, is thrilled to visit the City – capital of many worlds. But she’s unprepared for the chaos that awaits. Her predecessor has been murdered, but no one will admit it wasn’t an accident. So she must navigate the capital’s deadly halls of power to hunt down the truth, discover what he gave up to save his people and also prevent the empire from forcibly annexing her home – while staying alive herself.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuval, Penguin, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-93570-8.
The final in The Mis Files trilogy. It follows Sleeping Giants and apparently Sony may be turning this into a film.

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22392-9.
Following Planetfall, After Atlas and Before Mars (this last we thought as one of the best SF books of 2018), a return to the 'Planetfall' universe with a novel about a woman deciding if she can become a murderer to save the future of humanity.  Having left Earth, and living on a vast spaceship, Dee spends her time playing video games.  When a character she kills resembles a man who dies suddenly in the real world – one of those responsible for the nuclear strike that destroyed Earth – she needs to know why. But she’s unprepared for the answers she finds.  What she learns will affect the colony, and she realises that, in order to save humanity, she might have to relinquish hers in the process.

Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51222-8.
Sanda and Biran were siblings destined for greatness. Her: a hard-nosed marine with the skills to save the universe. Him: a savvy politician with ambitions for changing the course of intergalactic war.  However, on a routine manoeuvre, Sanda’s gunship gets blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later upon an empty enemy smartship who calls himself Bero. The war is lost. The star system and everyone in it is dead. Ada Prime and its rival Icarion have wiped each other from the universe.  Now, separated by space and time, Sanda and Biran will find a way to put things right.

From Divergent Suns by Sam Peters, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21481-1.
The conclusion to the SF-crime trilogy set on a distant world, in which the nature of AI is questioned within a haunting story of love, loss and grand politics.  Inspector Keon’s life has flipped upside down once again. This time by the revelation that his wife is alive, and may be playing a part in the grand conspiracy involving the ancient Masters and the forces of Earth. While the AI construct of his wife he created searches for her own place in this world, Magenta faces an existential threat, and Keon is torn between the wife he loves and the AI who loves him…  This follows on from From Darkest Skies and From Distant Stars.

Episodes by Christopher Priest, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22600-5.
A collection of shorts. Priest's first for nearly 20 years.

Waste Tide by Chen Quifan, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-784-97793-21.
Mimi is a waste girl on silicon isle, the global capital for electronic waste recycling when a ship arrives with a dangerous cargo. It unleashes a terrible, futuristic virus. In a gritty near-future Chinese landscape, in a world of body modifications and virtual reality, a war erupts – between the rich and the poor; between ancient traditions and modern ambition; between humanity’s past and its future.

Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20329-7.
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.  See the title link for Karen's standalone review.

In Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21829-1.
The Hadrian Marlowe’s galaxy-spanning story continues in this fusion of space opera and epic fantasy.  The galaxy remembers Hadrian Marlow as a hero, who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. The man remembers how he tried to save them – and how his attempts were frustrated by his own side and creatures stranger than any Cielcin he’d encountered.  Defying his orders at the cost of love, position and power, Hadrian Marlowe’s path might have ended in fire… But the road to it was winding, and leads through intrigue, and battle, to war…

Doctor Who: The Revealation of the Daleks by Eric Saward, BBC Books, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94433-8.
On the planet Necros, Davros is haled as the Great Healer. However the Doctor uncovers his real plan…  Nearly 35 years on from this adventure first broadcast in 1985, the original screenwriter has written the novelisation.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54724-6.
Humanity clings to life on a dying Earth. Epic, far-future SF arguably with something of a fantasy riff.  The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity. Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in the verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will meet with monsters, madmen and mutants.  The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86583-3.
Before the fall of Earth, its voracious terraforming programme had attempted to colonize nearby stars. One team travelled to a planet they would call Nod, to prepare it to receive life. But they made a startling discovery. Nod already had life; the first alien ecosystem ever discovered. Scientists decided to preserve their find, turning to an ice-world further from the sun. They warmed it into an ocean paradise – while investigating Nod and its fauna. Then humanity’s great empire dissolved into anarchy, isolating Earth’s outposts. Colonizers discovered, too late, that life on Nod transcended the primitive forms they’d discovered. And as they’d been watching Nod, they’d been studied in turn.  Now, thousands of years later, the Portiids and their humans have sent an exploration vessel – following fragmentary, desperate, radio signals. They discover Nod and a system in crisis. Here, warring factions are attempting to rebuild, following an apocalyptic catastrophe. For those early terraformers woke something all those years before – something better left undisturbed...  This is set in the same universe as The Children of Time.

The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51137-5.
This is the follow-up to Rosewater.  The year is 2067. The city of Rosewater is chaotic, vibrant and full of life – some of it extra-terrestrial. The charismatic mayor, Jack Jacques, has declared Rosewater a free state, independent of Nigeria. But the city’s alien dome is dying. Government forces await its demise, ready to destroy Rosewater’s independence before it has even begun. And in the city’s quiet suburbs, a woman wakes with no memory of who she is – with memories belonging to something much older and much more alien.

The Tropic of Eternity by Tom Toner, Gollancz, "9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21143-8.
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.

Across the Void by S. k. Vaughn, Sphere, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-751-56822-6.
A woman floats alone in space. She is the only survivor of the first manned mission to one of Saturn's moons. Her only hope is her husband, a NASA scientist…

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-881864-9.
Verne’s classic (1870) tale of Captain Nemo and the submarine the Nautilus has left a profound mark on the twentieth century. Its themes are universal, its style humorous and grandiose, its construction masterly. William Butcher’s unabridged translation conveys the range of this seminal work; it has now been revised, and appears with a distinguished introduction and notes that discuss the very first study of the manuscripts, together with revelations about the artistic and scientific references. A great edition for serious (sercon) genre readers wit useful appendices, notes and a Verne timeline.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51229-7.
Sally Jansen was NASA's leading astronaut but retired following a disastrous mission to Mars.  Later, when a huge alien object enters the Solar System she is called out of retirement to head an expedition…

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells & illus. Alessandro Lecis, Rockport, £19.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-631-59728-2.
The latest reprint of this classic tale by Britain's early grandmaster of science fiction. This edition is illustrated. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Emily Eternal by M. G. Wheaton, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68195-7.
It is the near future and there's bad news: the end of the world is barely a year away! Somehow, our sun which we thought to be in its mid-life as a main-sequence star is actually close to the beginning of its red giant phase. The bottom line is that all life on Earth is doomed. However, it is the near future and one university has developed an artificial intelligence called Emily. Long story short, it seems that the US President has a plan to save the heritage of humanity but it will require Emily's help even though there are ethical questions… Click on the title link for a stand alone review.

The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams, Simon & Schuster, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-471-7114-7.
A century after a mysterious pulse of energy destroyed technology across the universe, a group of super-soldiers tries to restore order…

Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances by Timothy Zahn, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46064-5.
The sequel to Star Wars: Thrawn. Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader team up against a threat to the Empire. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favour, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there is more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

 

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Summer 2019

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, 312.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22431-5.
a brand new stand-alone novella in the Rivers of London series. Tobias Winter has been assigned to the Abteilung KDA – the Department for Complex and Unspecific Matters.  Despite the intriguing department name, as Winter explains, dealing with the strange and the supernatural is ‘actually 90% paperwork’. But this is a story about the other 10% of the job: the life-threatening danger part.  This is a tale about the Queen of the Harvest, the October Man, and the little-known time the vineyard around Trier started to eat people…  Winter may be PC Peter Grant’s German counterpart, but surviving this investigation is entirely down to him.

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 9780-356-51183-2.
Enter the Hundred Isles, where ships made from the bones of extinct dragons battle for ascendency on the high seas. Our hero, Meas Giryn, must unite a crew of condemned criminals for a suicide mission when the first live dragon in centuries is spotted in far off waters...  From the author of Age of Assassins.

The Soul of Power by Callie Bates, Hodder, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63885-3.
Return to the lush world of Caeris in this stunning third novel in 'The Waking Land' trilogy. Sophy Dromahair is Queen of Eren, but as the illegitimate daughter of a rebel and an overthrown king, she has always felt like an outsider. And as she struggles to hold on to control of a country only superficially united and live up to the expectations of leadership her adoptive father instilled in her, she comes to realise that when Elanna woke the land’s magic, she may have also woken something lying dormant in Sophy.

Nightblood by Elly Blake, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63524-1.
Conclusion of the 'Frostblood' trilogy.

Dark Age by Pierce Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64676-6.
The fifth in the 'Red Rising' series.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50091-1.
Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard PI. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don't play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.  But he’s forgotten his own golden rule: magic – it can get a guy killed.  Peace Talks is the sixteenth novel in the Dresden Files series and follows Harry’s adventures after the events of Skin Game.

Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29803-6.
The second in a trilogy that began with Rotherweird, about a town isolated from the rest of England for 400 years to protect a secret. But someone is playing a long game. Everything points to one objective – the resurrection of Rotherweird’s past – and to one date: the Winter Equinox.

Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47376-8.
This follows on from the title above. Gervon Wynter has returned to Rotherweird and has not only taken over the town but is busy destroying the countrysiders’ life too. Can our small band of heroes find a way to outwit a genius whose master plan is five centuries in the making?

The Spider by Leo Carew, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-24706-5.
This is the second in the 'Under the Northern sky' sequence. Game of Thrones-ish with a certain twist.

The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51064-4.
The epic finale to the spellbinding tale of courtly intrigue and dangerous magic that began with The Tethered Mage and The Defiant Heir.

The by Brian Catling, Coronet, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-92578-5.
A very welcome reprint of the third in the 'Vorrh' trilogy. This one comes with an introduction by Alan Moore.

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child, Corsair, £8.99, ISBN 978-1-784-29803-6.
Supernatural investigator Jeremy Logan looks at a murder which rumours suggest is down to a werewolf…

The Ice House by Tim Clare, Canongate, £14.99, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-89481-6.
An old woman, Delphine, remembers another world…

Tomorrow by Damien Dibben, Penguin, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-405-92578-5.
A man and his dog lives on down through the centuries until one day the man disappears. The dog is left questing for the man through the ages.  This is pitched as for fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

The House of the Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22340-0.
The 'Dominion of the Fallen' continues saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war.  Set in a world which merges an alternate Paris with powerful Vietnamese mythology and culture.

The War Within by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22170-3.
It has been twenty years since Prince Bifalt discovered the Last Repository and the sorcerous knowledge hidden there. In return for the restoration of sorcery to both kingdoms, the realms of Belleger and Amika ceased generations of war. Their alliance was sealed with the marriage of Bifalt to Estie, the crown princess of Amika. But the peace – and their marriage – has been uneasy.  Now, the terrible war that King Bifalt and Queen Estie feared is coming.  An ancient enemy has discovered the location of the Last Repository, and a mighty horde of dark forces is massing to attack the library and take the magical knowledge it guards.

The Book of Magic: Part 1 by Gardner Dozois, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-29583-7.
A fantasy compilation of shorts by the late master anthologist, Gardner Dozois. This could well be his penultimate volume.

American Gods: My Ainsel by Neil Gaiman, Craig Russell & scot Hampton (illus), Headline, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-25142-8.
Graphic novel adaptation spin-off of American Gods.

The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26126-7.
TV tie in.

Finale by Stephanie Garber, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66676-4.
'Caraval' series Book 3.  It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, and since Tella last saw Legend after he claimed the empire’s throne.  Tella believes that her mother, currently trapped in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne and is determined to stop him, but she is unaware that her mother’s past has put her and Scarlett in unimaginable danger.  Caraval might be over, but the greatest game of all is about to begin – with empires, lives and hearts at stake.

The Scribbly Man by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-895-4118-2.
Part of the 'Sword of Truth' saga.

A Time of Blood by John Gwynne, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-81298-1.
Angels and demons will fight to the death…  Drem and his companions flee the battle at Starstone Lake. They’ve seen horrors they’ll never forget, like magic warping men into beasts. They also witnessed a demon being raised from the dead – to become a Revenant, and more powerful than before. Now Drem carries a warning to the Order of the Bright Star. But the priestess Fritha has been sent to destroy them. And as she closes on the group, she burns to complete her mission…

Snow White and Other Tales by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-883384-0.
Collection of shorts.  Peopled by kings and princesses, witches and robbers, millers and golden birds, stepmothers and talking frogs, the tales gathered by the Grimm brothers are familiar, fantastic, and frightening. This selection, now in an attractive hardback edition, contains some seventy-nine stories, including all the best-known fairy tales.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke, Bantam Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07918-8.
Ancient spirits awake as witches and assassins seek to take control of a city.

Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn, Penguin Classics, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-241-38127-4.
In this collection of classic ghost stories from Japan, beautiful princesses turn out to be frogs, paintings come alive, deadly spectral brides haunt the living, and a samurai delivers the baby of a Shinto goddess with mystical help. Here are all the phantoms and ghouls of Japanese folklore: 'rokuro-kubi', whose heads separate from their bodies at night; 'jikininki', or flesh-eating goblins; and terrifying faceless 'mujina' who haunt lonely neighbourhoods. Lafcadio Hearn, a master storyteller, drew on traditional Japanese folklore, infused with memories of his own haunted childhood in Ireland, to create these chilling tales. They are today regarded in Japan as classics in their own right.

An Orc on the Wild Side by Tom Holt, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50671-5.
Comic fantasy from the well known comic fantasy author.

Reunited by Colleen Houck, Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69363-0.
Juvenile fantasy.  After surviving her otherworldly adventure, Lily wakes up on her nana’s farm having forgotten everything. Her sun prince, her travels to Egypt and her journey to the Afterlife are all distant memories. But Lily is not the girl she once was. Her body is now part human, part lion and part fairy. And if that isn’t bad enough, she must harness this power of three and become Wasret: a goddess destined to defeat the evil god Seth once and for all. It is time for Lily to find her sunset.

Smoke in the Glass by C. C. Humphreys, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22603-6.
A new dark fantasy series about immortality, war and survival from the historical author Chris Humphreys.  Anyone may be immortal, but there is no way to know until you die. If you are one of the very lucky few, you will live an endless life of pleasure and power, considered to be a God. Only decapitation and the rapid separation of body and head can kill an immortal.  In the cold north, the immortal Luck – clever, tricksy, clubfooted – harbours suspicions that many of the immortals have been killed. When he intervenes in an attack on one of his fellows, he realises something new. Someone is hunting the Gods.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay, Hodder & Stoughton, hrdbk, £19.99, ISBN 978-1-473-69233-6.
In a decadent, violent world in which mercenaries destroy city-states for the highest bidder and women’s lives remain desperately limited, the lives of extraordinary figures play out...  A standalone prequel to Children of Earth and Sky, Kay’s latest offers drama and moving reflections on the nature of memory, the choices we make, and the role played by the turning of Fortune’s wheel.

Death Doesn't Bargain by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41222-1.
Historical fantasy in the 'Deadman's Cross' series.

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-15237-6.
See below.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-15239-0.
The conclusion of the 'Book o the Ancestor' trilogy. Follows Red Sister and Grey Sister.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22356-1.
The classic children's fantasy from the recently passed grandmistress of US SF/F.  A beautiful collector’s edition of the novel, featuring illustrations by Charles Vess.  The first book of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin is a tale of wizards, dragons and terrifying shadows.  The Island of Gont is a land famous for wizards.  Of these, some say the greatest – and surely the greatest voyager – is the man called Sparrowhawk.  As a reckless, awkward boy, he discovered the great power within him – with terrifying consequences. Tempted by pride to try spells beyond his means, Sparrowhawk lets loose an evil shadow-beast. Only he can destroy it, and the quest leads him to the farthest corner of Earthsea.

Knight of Stars by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22461-2.
As a world lurches towards war, a ragtag group of mercenaries find themselves holding the balance of power.  Lynx, Toil and the rest of the Mercenary Deck have a new mission – on the Mage Isles, an archipelago filled with wild magic, powerful wizards, rare treasures and flying lizards. OK, dragons. They’re dragons.  It’s a quick and simple job, but the Mage Isles are a volatile place. Old rivalries linger there still and while the Cards only plan on staying long enough to get answers about what happened in Jarrazir, fate has a different plan.

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50933-4.
The concluding novel in the 'Gods of Blood and Powder' series that included Sins of Empire.

Ravencry by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22207-6.
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.

Crowfall by Ed McDonald, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22209-0.
The story which began with Blackwing concludes in the final epic fantasy in the trilogy.  You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet

A Devil Comes to Town by Paolo Mauresig, World Editions, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-642-66013-9.
An Alpine village that has filled with would-be writers, sees the Devil turn up in a black car under the guise of a hot-shot publisher…

The Love Delusion by Nicola Mostyn, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41571-0.
Sequel to The Gods of Love. The couple, Frida and Dan, the descendents of Eros and the Delphic Oracle, get drawn into an ancient quarrel.

The Gameshouse by Clare North, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51312-6.
From the author of 84K.  Originally published as three e-novellas, this sees a mystical gambling house in which deadly games can seal the fate of emperors…

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, Pan, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89904-5.
Magical fantasy that builds on Rumplestiltskin. This has just been short-listed for a Hugo and also aNebula Award.

Orange World by Karen Russell, Chatto & Windus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-784-74304-8.
A noir collection of fantasy shorts that includes a woman infected by the spirit of a giant tree in a national park, and a mother strikes a deal with the devil.

The Trouble With Vampires by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22534-3.
For close to three thousand years the imposing, impossibly handsome Santo Notte has fought in armies across the world and battled his own, more personal enemies. Of all the places he might expect to encounter his life mate, a quiet corner of upstate New York doesn’t seem likely. But as soon as he makes contact with history professor Petronella Stone, while hunting down a suspected rogue immortal, he knows that she will be the greatest adventure of his eternal life.

We Are the Dead by Mike Shackle, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22520-6.
Brand new epic fantasy: gritty and modern featuring a unique ensemble of characters who will lead a revolution against their overlords.  The war is over. The bad guys won. Now it’s time to fight back.  Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet… there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair-bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby… and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.

The Glass Breaks by A.J. Smith, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69688-5.
An epic feat of world-building, The Glass Breaks is the first volume in a new trilogy from one of British fantasy’s most innovative voices.  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 and their Eastron kin can break the glass and step into the void, slipping from the real world and reappearing wherever they wish. 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.

Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg, Quercus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48781-0.
Twelve hundred passengers have joined the cruise between Sweden and Finland. But this trip is different. Suddenly the ferry is cut off. There is nowhere to escape. There is no one to contact. And no one knows who they can trust.

The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51110-8.
Science fantasy. The ninth in 'The Laundry' series (which includes The Fuller Memorandum) about the British espionage agency that deals with the supernatural. And it seems an elder god has taken residence in Downing Street and has disbanded the Laundry. Meanwhile, there’s something worse in America. If you have not cottoned on, Stross tends to write novels that reflect fairly recent world events. And so Neptune's Brood could be seen as having been inspired by the 2007/8 financial crash and subsequently the problems with Greece's economy and the Euro. In this light, could The Labyrinth Index be anything to do with the 2016 election of President Trump?

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21823-9.
A fast-paced fantasy adventure.  Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare.  The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.  From the author of Black Halo.

Hope for the Best by Judi Taylor, Headline, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-472-26425-1.
The latest in the 'Chronicles of St. Mary' series.

Muse of Nightmares by Liani Taylor, Hodder, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-780-22915-7.
Seven mutilated bodies are found in a stone circle. All are members of a nature cult…

Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Gollancz, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-473-22410-0.
An Icelandic debut, perfect for fans of contemporary fantasy in the style of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or China Mieville’s The City & The City.  Saemundur the Mad, addict and sorcerer, has been expelled from the magical university, Svartiskóli. Obsessed with proving his peers wrong, he will stop at nothing to gain absolute power and knowledge. Garún is an outcast: a militant revolutionary and graffiti artist, recklessly dismissive of the status quo, she will do anything to achieve a just society, including spark a revolution. Even if she has to do it alone.  This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavík fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, inter-dimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

The Shattered Realm of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISNB 978-0-356-51101-6.
The sequel to The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – an epic tale of daring deeds, deceit and dragons

The Poison Song by Jen Williams, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-23523-7.
Ebora was once a glorious city defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now, refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls. The enemy that has poisoned their land will not lie dormant for long…  This is the conclusion to the 'Winnowing Flame' trilogy that began with The Ninth Rain, followed by The Bitter Twins.

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-60328-8.
This is book two of 'The Last King of Osten Ard' sequence following on from The Witchwood Crown.

 

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 2019

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Spaceflight: The complete story from Sputnik to Curiosity introduction by Buzz Aldrin, Dorling Kindersley, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-34679-2.
Lavish and highly illustrated. Published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of America being the first nation to send someone to the Moon (SF² Concatenation editorial note: without the use of Cavorite).

The Apollo Mission: the incredible story of the race to the Moon by David Baker, Arcturus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-888523-2.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

The Art of Urban Astronomy: A guide to star gazing wherever you are by Abigail Beall, Trapeze, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-17285-5.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

The Weather Machine: How we see into the future by Andrew Blum, Bodley Head, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-847-92340-0.
The Weather Machine is about a mirror world, and the people who invented it, that allows us to see into the future.  When Superstorm Sandy hit North America, weather scientists had accurately predicted its arrival a full eight days beforehand. Their ability to do so is unprecedented in human history and draws on nearly every major invention of the last two centuries: Newtonian physics, telecommunications, spaceflight and super-computing. In this investigation, Andrew Blum takes us on a global journey to explain this miraculous-seeming feat – from satellites several miles above the Earth’s surface, to ocean buoys thousands of miles from land, through some of the most ingenious minds and advanced algorithms at work today. Our destination: the simulated models they have constructed of our planet, which spin faster than time, turning chaos into science, offering glimpses of our future with some precision.

The Shape of Things to Come by Druin Burch, Head of Zeus, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54338-5.
From birth through to death and covering disease and ageing, biomedical scientist Burch (not H. G. Wells) outlines what he thinks the future may hold for our bodies.

Robots in American Popular Culture by Steve Carper, McFarland, £48.50, pbk, ISBN 978-1-476-67041-6.
They apparently don't come cheap…

Watch The Signs! by Arthur Chappell, Shoreline of Infinity, £10, pbk, ISBN 978-1-999-33310-2.
This is a guide to SF/F/H and some science pubs and their signs. It explores the origins of many science and SFnal pub names including those that relate to dragons, devils, gods and unicorns. So if you wondered where did H. G. Wells sup? Why is George Orwell very important in 20th century pub history? Which pub has a King Kong connection? Which two pubs have a link to Narnia? Which one has a Discworld connection? Then Watch The Signs! has the answer.  If the British SF community largely runs on environmentally friendly alcohol, then this could well be its manual.

The Rationalists: Artificial intelligence and the geeks who want to save the world by Tom Chivers, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60877-0.
Jon Ronson-esque deep dive into the weird and wonderful world of artificial intelligence.  This is a book about AI and AI risk. But it’s also, more importantly, about a community of people who are thinking rationally about intelligence and their insights about the future of humanity. It explains why these people are worried, why they might be right, and why they might be wrong.  It is about the cutting edge of our thinking on intelligence and rationality right now by the people who stay up all night worrying about it.  Along the way, we discover why we probably don’t need to worry about a future AI torturing us for not inventing it sooner, but we perhaps should be concerned about paperclips destroying life as we know it.

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins, Pan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89657-8.
In July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the Moon. Fifty years later, it is still one of the greatest achievements in human history. In this remarkable memoir, a defining classic, Michael Collins conveys, in a very personal way, the drama, beauty and humour of that adventure. He also traces his development from his first flight experiences in the air force, through his days as a test pilot, to his involvement in Project Gemini and his first spaceflight on Gemini 10. He presents an evocative picture of the famous Apollo 11 spacewalk, detailing the joys of flight and a new perspective on time, light and movement from someone who has seen the fragile Earth from the other side of the Moon. Utterly absorbing and truly compelling, Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins is the definitive classic account of what it was like to be a member of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.

The Art of Toy Story 4 by Josh Cooley, Abrams, £35, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-452-16382-6.

Talking to Robots: How AI will shape our future by David Ewing Duncan, Robinson, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-14290-0.
Thirty visions of robot futures: explorations of how different robots and versions of artificial intelligence might play out in the future as they impact on real people and society, for better or for worse.  Visions of robot futures that feature bots such as robot drivers, the bot that will take your job, psychiatrist and doc bots, seχ bots, priest bots, the first robot president and bot servants; also playthings that in some cases bring out the worst in people; synthetic bio bots that are copies of us; and dystopic bots that may treat us like pets, or worse. The book describes how various bots work as machines, but also what they say about us as humans. We are at a pivotal moment when our infatuation with human-like beings with certain attributes or super-powers in mythology, religion and sci-fi or even science fiction, is now coinciding with our ability to build these entities for real, so Talking to Robots comes at the perfect moment. David Duncan has interviewed the likes of Kevin Kelly, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Sherry Turkle, Alex Garland, Stephen Pinker, Dean Kaman, Ray Kurzweil, Michio Kaku, Elon Musk, Craig Venter and others. He has researched the topic Intensively.

Lost in a Good Time: Why we play video games and what they can do to us by Pete Etchells, Icon £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-784481-1.

The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How modern maths reveals nature's deepest secrets by Graham Farmelo, Faber, hrdbk, £20, ISBN978-0-571-32180-5.
Current developments in science and maths could redefine reality as we know it…

Our Planet by Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey & Fred Pearce, Bantam £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07976-8.
This is a lavish, photographic companion to the Netflix series narrated by Sir David Attenborough FIBiol.  Apparently, according to the pre-publicity, the series has had an audience of one billion!

Midnight in Chernobyl: The story of the world's greatest nuclear disaster by Adam Higginbotham, Transworld, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07683-5.
The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research. April 25, 1986 in Chernobyl was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer. Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the western alliance’s victory in the Cold War. For Moscow it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles – at the time equivalent to £14 billion (US$18 bn) – Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy.

The Future Starts Here: Adventures in the twenty-first century by John Higgs, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-474-60939-5.
An eclectic look at the future to make sense of who we are and where we’re going.  John Higgs takes us on a journey to find the regular people who are engaging with the future to find their own sense of purpose.  Through their stories, he explains what technology can and can’t do, in order to see past the hype and headlines. In the process, we will come to a better understanding of what lies ahead and how, despite the upheaval and instability we face, we can imagine a future worth building.

Priest of Nature: The religious worlds of Isaac Newton by Rob Iliffe, Oxford University Press, pbk, £16.99, ISBN 978-0-19-093159-9.
The first major book on Isaac Newton’s religious writings in nearly four decades that negotiates the complex boundaries between the scientific genius’s public and private faith.

A World Beyond Physics: The emergence and evolution of life by Stuart A. Kauffman, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £16.99, ISBN 978-0-19-087133-8.
How did life start? Is the evolution of life describable by any physics-like laws? Stuart Kauffman’s latest book offers an explanation -- beyond what the laws of physics can explain -- of the progression from a complex chemical environment to molecular reproduction, metabolism and to early protocells, and further evolution to what we recognise as life. Among the estimated one hundred billion solar systems in the known universe, evolving life is surely abundant.

All the Ghosts in the Machine: Illusions of immortality in the digital age by Elaine Kusket, Robinson, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-472-14189-7.
So when you die, what happens to all your social media accounts and data: your data legacy?

New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek edited by David Langford, Ansible Editions, $20 from Lulu.com, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-244-15877-4.
This is the second part of David Langford's attempt to bring together all John Sladek's fiction and some non-fiction that had not appeared in the collections published during his lifetime. This second volume New Maps (that follows Maps) is mostly nonfiction plus a few stories and eccentricities discovered since Maps appeared in 2002.

The Future in Minutes by Keith Mansfield, Quercus, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47727-8.
Keith Mansfield is a mathematical physicist from Trinity College, Cambridge (England), who looks at 200 futuristic concepts, technologies and their consequences, explained in an instant. What does the future hold? How will we live, work and entertain ourselves? Will humanity evolve and perhaps live forever? Or are we facing threats that could end us and even the whole universe? The Future in Minutes tackles these and many other fundamental questions, concisely and lucidly explaining everything from cryptocurrencies and world governments to gene therapy, colonising planets and painting our options for utopia or disaster.

Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle Earth by Ian Nathan & Andy Serkis, Harper, £8.99, pbk, ISBN978-0-008-19249-5.
The background to the making of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

Apollo 11: The Moon landing in real time by Ian Passington, Pen & Sword, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-526-74856-0.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology by D. W. Pasulka, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-069288-9.
Based on a six-year, immersive study of communities of UFO believers, including Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and scientists.  It argues that TV shows and films have become for many a means of answering questions formerly answered by traditional religions.  It Examines the mechanisms that foster belief in intelligent extraterrestrial life.  More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. In American Cosmic, D. W. Pasulka (of the University of North Carolina) examines the mechanisms that foster a thriving belief in extraterrestrial life. Her work takes her from Silicon Valley to the Vatican Secret Archive and reveals how media has supplanted religion as a cultural authority that offers believers answers about non-human intelligent life.

The Astronaut Selection Test Book by Tim Peake & the European Space Agency, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46145-1.
Have YOU got what it takes to be an astronaut?  This book will help readers of all ages find out. Featuring 100 real astronaut tests and exercises from the European Space Agency’s rigorous selection process, ranging from easy to fiendishly hard, The Astronaut Selection Test Book goes where no puzzle book has gone before.  Including puzzles and tests on: visual perception and logic; mental arithmetic and concentration; psychological readiness; teamwork and leadership; survival, physical and medical skills; and foreign languages (every astronaut has to know Russian!)

Heroes of the Space Age by Rod Pyle, Prometheus, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-633-88524-0.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

The Making of Alien by J. W. Rinzler, Titan, £44.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09055-0.
Marks the40th anniversary of the film and apparently includes some rarely seen photos.

Manga by Nicole Rousmaniene & Ryko Matsuba (eds), Thames & Hudson, £25, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-500-48049-6.
This is being published in collaboration with the British Museum who are holding a Manga exhibition.

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, Penguin, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-141-98496-4.
The mystery of time is explored by one of the leading champions of loop quantum gravity. This is expected to be a reasonably big seller.

Moondust: In search of the men who fell to Earth by Andrew Smith, Bloomsbury, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-526-61157-4.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The search for what lies beyond the quantum by Lee Smolin, Allen Lane, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-00448-7.
The renowned physicist argues for a radical reinterpretation of reality.  Quantum physics has been, ever since its inception, the golden child of science. It is the basis of our understanding of everything from elemental particles to the behaviour of materials. Yet is has also been a troubled child, beset by controversy and raging disagreement over which formulation best describes our world. It has helped physicists agree that atoms and radiation behave differently to rocks and cats, but often not on much else. The simple reason quantum physics is unsolvable, Lee Smolin argues, is that the theory is incomplete.

Einstein's War: How relativity conquered the World by Matthew Stanley, Penguin, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-37657-7.
How an unknown German and an Englishman on opposite sides of WWI created a scientific revolution. In 1916, Arthur Eddington, a war-weary British astronomer, opened a letter written by an obscure German professor named Einstein. The neatly printed equations on the scrap of paper outlined his world-changing theory of general relativity. Until then, Einstein's masterpiece of time and space had been trapped behind the physical and ideological lines of battle, unknown. Many Britons were rejecting anything German, but Eddington realized the importance of the letter: perhaps Einstein's esoteric theory could not only change the foundations of science but also lead to international cooperation in a time of brutal war. Einstein's name is now synonymous with 'genius', but it was not an easy road. He spent a decade creating relativity and his ascent to global celebrity, which saw him on front pages around the world, also owed much to against-the-odds international collaboration, including Eddington's crucial expedition of 1919 - which was still two years before they finally met. We usually think of scientific discovery as a flash of individual inspiration, but here we see it is the result of hard work, gambles and wrong turns - in this case subject to the petty concerns of nations, religions and individuals.

Chasing the Moon: The story of the space race from Arthur C. Clarke to the Apollo landings by Robert Stoe & Alan Andres, Collins, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-30787-5.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

Sherlock Unlocked: Little known facts about the world's greatest detective by Allen Smith, Michael O'Mara, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-29069-1.
Well researched and fascinating.

Studying Shaun of the Dead by Holly Taylor, Auteurs, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-999-33466-2.
This looks at the works of the director Edgar Wright's cinematic style, age and gender representation, narrative structure and ideology.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction by John Wade, Pen & Sword History, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-526-72925-5.
According to the spring 2019 fiction Book Buyers Guide, this is a 'personal' account as to why science fiction of the '1950s' made that time its Golden Age… Which is a pity as according to definitions (from sources such as The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction and the SF Encyclopaedia) it is the period covering the 1930s through to mid-1940s. So very much consider this a 'personal' account… It could be interesting nonetheless.

The Uninhabitable Earth: What climate change means by David Wallace-Wells, Allen Lane, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-24-135521-3.
The signs of climate change are unmistakable even today, but the real transformations have hardly begun. For a generation, we've been taught that warming was a problem of Arctic melting and sea levels rising, but in fact it promises to be all enveloping, driving dramatic changes at every level of our lives, from everyday matters like the supply of chocolate and coffee (likely to dry up) to public health (tens of millions likely to die from pollution) to climate migration (hundreds of millions fleeing unliveable, overheated homelands). We've been taught that warming would be slow-but, barring very dramatic action, each of these impacts is likely to arrive within the length of a new home mortgage signed this year. What will it be like to live on a planet pummelled in these ways? What will it do to our politics, our economy, our culture and sense of history? What will it mean for our collective appetite for climate action? And what explains the fact we have done so little to stop it? These are not abstract scientific questions but immediate and pressing human dilemmas.  Written to be accessible to non-scientists.

Apollo 11: The inside story by David Whitehouse, Icon, £12.99, pbk, IsBN978-1-785-78512-2.
Does what it says on the tin. Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon without the use of Cavorite.

Extinction: A Very Short Introduction by Paul B. Wignall, Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-880728-5.
Extinction has occurred throughout the geological history of life, and nearly all the species that have ever existed have now disappeared. Paul B. Wignall looks at the causes and nature of extinction events, what makes a species vulnerable, and the debates in modern science on the role of climate and humans.

Unravelling the Double Helix by Gareth Williams, Weidenfeld, hrdbk, £20 SBN 978-1474-60935-7.
This story of mistakes and brilliant science comes with its own cast of heroes and villains. Unravelling the Double Helix covers the most colourful period in the history of genetics, from the discovery of ‘nuclein’ in the late 1860s to the publication of James Watson’s The Double Helix in 1968, Gareth Williams tells the largely neglected story of the scientists who paved the way for one of the most brilliant gems of twentieth-century science; scientists who have since been airbrushed out of history.

Genesis: On the deep origins of societies by Edward O. Wilson, Allen Lane, £17.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-38859-4.
The renowned biologist presents the case that our society does not have its origins with prehistoric humans but that non human social species provide genuine, fundamental insights into our world.  Asserting that religious creeds and philosophical questions can be reduced to purely genetic and evolutionary components, and that the human body and mind have a physical base obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry, Genesis demonstrates that the only way for us to understand human behaviour fully is to study the evolutionary histories of non-human species. Of these, Wilson demonstrates that at least seventeen -- among them the African naked mole rat and the sponge-dwelling shrimp -- have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism and cooperation.

The Road to Conscious Machines: The Story of AI by Michael Wooldridge, Particular Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-241-33390-7.
The ultimate dream of artificial intelligence researchers is to build machines that are conscious, self-aware, and sentient. While this dream remains a distant prospect, AI has made dramatic and highly publicised progress this century, and the AI floodgates are opening. Yet much of what is written in the popular press is misinformed and absurdly alarmist. In The Road to Conscious Machines, Michael Wooldridge tells the story of AI, from Alan Turing to DeepMind to the new innovations, such as real-time spoken language translation and augmented reality tools, which will change our world profoundly. While he argues that the naysayers predicting a catastrophe for humanity are misguided, there will be implications to be welcomed and feared.

Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction by Bernard Wood, Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-883174-7.
The study of human evolution is advancing rapidly. New fossil evidence is adding ever more pieces to the puzzle of our past while the revolutionary science of ancient DNA is completely reshaping theories of early human populations and migrations. Bernard Wood traces the field of palaeoanthropology from its beginnings in the eighteenth century to the most recent research.

The Mathematics of the Gods and the Algorithms of Men: A cultural history by Paolo Zellini, Allen Lane, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-31217-9.
Is mathematics a discovery or an invention? Have we invented numbers or do they truly exist? What sort of reality could we attribute to them? Mathematics has always been a way of understanding and ordering the world: from sacred ancient texts and pre-Socratic philosophers to twentieth-century logicians such as Russell and Frege and beyond. Mathematician and philosopher Paolo Zellini offers a brief cultural and intellectual history of mathematics, from ancient Greece to India to our contemporary obsession with algorithms, showing how mathematical thinking is inextricably linked with philosophical, existential and religious questions - and indeed with our cosmic understanding of the world.

 

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 2019

General Science News

 

Vibrating molecules imaged by new technique!  The best microscopy till now we can do was is much too low to observe ångström-scale atomic motion.  Now a new technique makes it possible to adapt atomic force microscope (AFM) or a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) by shining infra-red light on the sample.  Part of this light excites the molecule being observed to vibrate (the Raman effect) and the loss of infra-red is measured hence the degree vibration can be plotted.  Chemists from the University of California, Irvine, USA, have used this new technique called tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) to image a Cobalt(ii)–tetraphenyl porphyrin molecule.  The trick is to immobilise the molecule on a substrate (here a copper foundation) in a cold (6° Kelvin), ultra-high vacuum.  It will enable us to work out if our theories of atomic motion within molecules are accurate.  (See Lee, J., Crompton, K. T., Tallarida, N. & Apkarian, A. (2019) Visualizing vibrational normal modes of a single molecule with atomically confined light. Nature, vol. 568, p78–82 and a review piece Le Ru, E. C. (2019) Snapshots of vibrating molecules. Nature, vol. 568, p36-7.)

Artificial Intelligence computer scientists win Turing Award  The Turing award is described as the Nobel Award equivalent for computer science.  This year's winner is the – British now Canada resident—AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton along with with Yoshua Bengio (of University of Montreal) and Yann LeCun (director of AI at Facebook).  They were all involved in developing 'deep learning'. Deep learning in essence involves building computer programs that loosely mimic the structure of animal brains, with many layers of artificial neurons that process data.  the award comes with a carries a US$1 million (£820,00) prize.  +++ 2017 Turing Award winner previously reported here.

Minimal surface researcher gets 2018 Abel Prize.  Karen Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas in Austin, US, picks up the World leading maths prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo.  Minimal surfaces are important in things like goods packing, and in nature are found in things like soap bubbles.  Karen Uhlenbeck is the first woman to win the six million kroner (£530,000) award since it was established in 2002.  +++ News of last year's Abel win here.

CERN proposes larger version of the European atomic particle collider.  The idea is at the initial conceptual stage. It would be a £20billion successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and currently has a provisional working title of 'Future Circular Collider' (FCC).  The current collider is 16 miles (27km) round; the FCC would have a circumference of 62 miles (100km).  The energies that would be achieved wit the FCC would be roughly ten times that of the LHC.  One problem is that nobody knows if this would be enough energy to detect potential particles related to dark matter or dark energy: it could be a waste of money.  The thing is that it was known constructing the LHC that it would achieve the energies theoretically needed to initially detect the hypothetical Higgs boson in 2012 and then get a refined mass estimate in 2014.  There will therefore be much debate as to whether or not to go ahead with the FCC proposals.

Light frozen – Photons with zero speed.  When light passes through matter, it slows down. Light can even be brought to a standstill when it travels through carefully designed matter. One way in which this occurs is when the velocity of individual particles of light (photons) in a material is zero. Another, more intriguing, way is when photons, which normally pass through each other unimpeded, are made to repel each other. If the repulsion is strong enough, the photons are unable to move, and the light is frozen in place.  Now Ruichao Ma and colleagues, from Chicago University, report that such a phase of matter, known as a Mott insulator, can be produced by exploiting energy loss in a system in which photons move through an array of superconducting circuits.  Quantum computing relies on being able to control the quantum states of particles. Freezing light will help enabling to quantum control photons.  The robustness and generality of this new process will ensure that, as it is refined, it will find a home in the quantum mechanic’s toolbox.  (See a general review of this work by Kaden Hazzard, 2019, A traffic jam of light. Nature, vol. 566, p45-6, of the paper Ma, R. et al, 2019, A dissipatively stabilized Mott insulator of photons. Nature, vol. 566, p51-7.)

Lightening with a potential of 1.3 billion volts (GV) detected.  Strangely, the detection was made by the GRAPES-3 muon telescope located in Ooty, India, used to observe cosmic rays. Lightening effectively disrupts cosmic rays that continually shower the Earth. So you can see a reduction in cosmic rays and so calculate the strength of the lightening.  The researchers observed 184 thunderstorms, one of which featured a lightening strike of 1.3 GV with a power of 2 GW (billion Watts) or more.  This was the first direct evidence for the generation of gigavolt potentials in thunderclouds that could also possibly explain the production of highest-energy (100 MeV) gamma rays in the terrestrial gamma-ray flashes that were confirmed in 2017. (See Hariharan, B., Chandra, A., Dugad, S. R. et al (2019) Measurement of the Electrical Properties of a Thundercloud Through Muon Imaging by the GRAPES-3 Experiment. Physical Review Letters, vol. 122, p105101-1 – 105101-6.)  +++ Other gamma ray news previously covered on this site includes Trees reveal mysterious gamma-ray event bathed the Earth in AD 774–775.

New greenhouse gas concern as recent growth in methane is large.  An international team of researchers led by Britain's Euan Nisbet has found that atmospheric methane grew very rapidly in 2014 at rates not observed since the 1980s.  It was 1775 parts per billion (ppb) in 2006 and has become 1850 ppb in 2017.  It is not known if the causes of this increase include increasing emissions, or a decline in methane destruction, or both.  However, if this rise continues, there are significant consequences for meeting the 1.5°C warming limit of the UN Paris Climate Accord.(See Nisbet, E. G., Manning, M. R. & Dlugokencky, E. J et al (2019) Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the four years 2014 - 2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement. Global Biogeochemical Cycles DOI: 10.1029/2018GB006009.)

USA rain storms to become more intense with global warming.  In one sense this is not news as climate change science informs us that warmer air encourages more ocean evaporation and enable it to hold more water. However, how much more intense will rainstorms become?  A French based researcher with US teammates have developed an analysis by dividing the US up into zones of different weather regimens. They then modelled each regimen grounding the model on past and present climate and weather before projecting them into possible future warmer regimens.  They found that rainstorms are projected in general to become more intense, with 500-year events intensifying by 10–50% under 2 °C of warming and by 40–100% under 4 °C of warming.  (See Sanderson B. M. et al (2019) Informing Future Risks of Record-Level Rainfall in the United States. Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 46. DOI: 10.1029/ 2019GL082362.)

Germany is to end electricity production from coal by 2038.  Despite subsidising renewables, Germany is finding it difficult to wean itself off of coal and 40% of its electricity currently comes from coal powered plants. Coal is the principal obstacle to Germany meeting its target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.  +++ Complicating matters is that Germany has also given itself the goal of phasing out nuclear power – which currently accounts for 12% of its electricity – by 2022.

 

Film clip download tip!: When Will You Go to Space?.  With the rise of the private space flight industry, the question arises 'when will you get into space?'  The wonderful people at PBS Space-Time (who do those excellent weekly physics and astrophysics YouTube 15 minute episodes) have turned to private manned spaceflight in an episode that has a substantive interview with Richard Branson.  "Space planes are intrinsically more science fictional than rockets, and they're inspiring in that sense."  "There is a price tag, a quarter of a million [US] dollars per ticket…" "If you compare it to commercial aviation, a quarter of a million dollars to cross the Atlantic in the [19]20s cost roughly the equivalent of a quarter of a million dollars today."  But what about the far future…?  There is more explained, but regarding the near-future, Sir Richard will go up in July (2019).  You can see the 16-minute episode here.  More PBS Space Time coverage immediately below...

Film clip download tip!: The Edge of an Infinite Universe.  The wonderful people at PBS Space-Time explain (assuming you have reasonably good school-level science) how we might define the edge of an infinite universe!  Have you ever asked 'what is beyond the edge of the universe?' And have you ever been told that an infinite universe that has no edge? You were told wrong. In a sense. We can define a boundary to an infinite universe, at least mathematically. And it turns out that boundary may be as real or even more real than the universe it contains.  You can see the 18-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: The Holographic Universe Explained.  The wonderful people at PBS Space-Time explain (assuming you have reasonably good school-level science) how we might be in a holographic universe.  We live in a universe with 3 dimensions of space and one of time. Up, down, left, right, forward, back, past, future. 3+1 dimensions. Or so our primitive Pleistocene-evolved brains find it useful to believe. And we cling to this intuition, even as physics shows us that this view of reality may be only a very narrow.  You can see the 18-minute episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Sound Field is the latest YouTube series from PBS Digital Studios, the people who are behind PBS Space-Time.  It is all about the science and technology behind sounds and music.  As a taste here is The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Sequence in Music.  The golden ratio is the irrational number Phi. We see it everywhere in the world around us. But, did you know that you can also hear it in your favourite music?  Since the beginning of time Phi – also known as the golden ratio – has inspired the world around us. Have you ever noticed how some pieces of music just seem to make sense? From the notes and chords to the phrasing and dynamics, they can all feel like they were meant to go together. Many people believe this is not a coincidence but the golden ratio in action.  You can see the 10-minute episode 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 2019

Natural Science News

 

New early human species found.  This new species was found on the Philippines island of Luzon and so named Homo luzonensis.  The remains of H. luzonensis were dated to minimum ages of 50,000 and 67,000 years old, and so were alive around the same time as several other early humans including Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis. (See Détroit, F. et al (2019) A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines. Nature, vol. 568, p181-6, and the review by Tocheri, M. W. (2019) Unknown human species found in Asia. Nature, vol. 568, p176-7.)  +++ Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  Early (pre-modern) humans left Africa at least 400,000 years earlier than previously thought
  First humans in Australia arrived 10,000 years earlier than thought
  175,000 year-old discovery confirms that Neanderthals were responsible for some of the earliest constructions made by hominins
  When did humans first eat cooked vegetables?
  Homo naledi is a new (cousin) species of early human
  Earliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years ago
  Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago.

Fossil site found of animals and plants killed and buried within minutes of the dinosaur extinction meteor.  The North Dakota site is a remarkable snapshot of a moment 66 million years ago possibly just 10 minutes after the Chicxulub meteor struck Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometres) away!  This caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) – or Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) as it is also known by younger researchers – extinction.  Back then the Hell Creek Formation, not far from Bowman, North Dakota, site was a shallow, inland sea (part of the Western Interior Seaway).  Possibly what happened is this… The seismic waves from the impact arrived within 10 minutes in the equivalent of a magnitude 10 or 11 earthquake. That created a seiche (pronounced saysh), a standing wave, in the inland sea like water sloshing in a bath.  This caused water to temporarily drain away from the site leaving the fish and animals on the shallow sea bed exposed to falling rocks.  The rocks were ejecta in the form of small molten spherules (small glassy-like spheres), from the asteroid strike.  These 'tektites' came in on a ballistic trajectory from space, reaching terminal velocities of between 100 and 200 miles per hour and leaving small impact craters on the exposed sea bed and in the animals.  Ten or twenty minutes later, the water then returned bringing six feet of sediment that over time fossilised and preserved the site.  In addition to aquatic plants and animals, the site also contains burned tree trunks, conifer branches, dead mammals, mosasaur bones.  It is an amazing snapshot of the cataclysm.  (See DePalma, R. A.., Smit, J., Burnham, D. K. et al (2019) Klaudia; Manning, Phillip; Oleinik, Anton; Larson, Peter; Maurrasse, Florentin; Vellekoop, Johan; Richards, Mark A.; Gurche, Loren; Alvarez, Walter. Prelude to Extinction: a seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota. PNAS.)

Over 40% of insect species are possibly threatened with extinction over the next few decades, meta-survey reveals!  Biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide. Now, Francisco Sánchez-Bayoa and Kris A. G. Wyckhuys have presented a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe from the past 13 years, and systematically assess the underlying drivers.  Their work reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world's insect species over the next few decades!
          The main drivers of species declines appear to be, in order of importance:  i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation;  ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers;  iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and  iv) climate change. The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones.  A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends. ( See Sánchez-Bayoa, F. & Wyckhuys, K. A. G., 2019, Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation, vol. 232, p8-27.)  +++ Previous related news: Possible ecological mega-crisis foreshadowed by 27 year German study showing three-quarters flying insect decline!

AIDS remission replicated signalling a 'cure' for a number of HIV strains.  A team of researchers based in Britain, and led by Ravindra Gupta, Sultan Abdul-Jawad and Laura McCoy, used immune stem cells (T lymphocytes) from a donor that had a mutated CCR5 gene. This gene encodes for a receptor protein on the surface of immune cells that HIV uses along with another receptor (CD4) to access (infect) the cell.  18 months later, and after antiviral therapy had ceased at the 16 month point, there was no detection of the HIV virus in the patient!  The stem cell treatment is similar to one in 2009 used on the 'Berlin' patient and this is the first successful replication.  This is good news for all AIDS patients with CCR5 strains of HIV.  Currently, there are 37 million people living with HIV worldwide of which 21 million have access to lifelong anti-retroviral drugs.  (See Gupta, R., Abdul-Jawad, S., McCoy L. et al (2019) HIV-1 remission following CCR5 Δ32/ Δ32 haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. Nature, vol.568, p244-8  and a review piece Henrich, T. J. (2019) HIV remission achieved in the clinic again. Nature, vol.568, p175-6.)  +++ Previous related story elsewhere on the site: Original AIDS source traced back to the 1920s in the city of Kinshasa, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

England's National Health Service (NHS) is to offer citizens the opportunity to buy a genome analysis provided they share the data.  Citizens would be given a health report which can predict the genetic predisposition for developing conditions like Alzheimer's or cancer.  The provision is that the data will be shared with scientists albeit with patient anonymity.  There are, though, concerns notwithstanding that genome analyses are not predictive but probabilistic with significant uncertainties. One big issue is how would it affect health or life insurance? The information may be confidential but insurance companies may demand it before granting a policy.  The NHS wants to run with this scheme to build on the 100,000 Genome Project (completed in December2018) and so build a genetic profile of the UK population.

Eight artificial DNA letters created.  DNA replicates using complementary base pairs letters: adenine that pairs up with thymine and cytosine with guanine. Artificial nucleic acid letters have been created before but the early ones did not replicate reliably.  Then in 2014 an artificial base pair was inserted into a bacterium which then successful replicated with the artificial gene intact.  Now US researchers, with the lead paper author Shuichi Hoshika, have created four new base pairs on a nucleic acid like structure and they seem to replicate accurately.  If these base pairs can be inserted into a bacterium that replicates keeping the base pairs intact, then it suggests that there may be little special about the natural letters adenine, thymine, cytosine with guanine (or even RNA's uracil that replaces thymine).  All of which, should this be so, begs the question as to why there is such a restrictive number of nucleic acid letters in nature on Earth?  (See Hohika,S., Leal, N. A. & Kim, M-J, et al (2019) Hachimoji DNA and RNA: A genetic system with eight building blocks. Science, vol. 363, p884-887. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0971,  and a review piece warren, M. (2019)Life's genetic alphabet gets doubled. Nature, vol. 566, p346.)

First ‘Three-person’ baby boy born in Greece.  The experimental form of IVF uses an egg from the mother, sperm from the father, and another egg from a donor woman. It was developed to help families affected by deadly mitochondrial diseases which are passed down from mother to baby.  Dr Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute of Life in Athens, said: "We are very proud to announce an international innovation in assisted reproduction, and we are now in a position to make it possible for women with multiple IVF failures or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases to have a healthy child."  previous related news covered elsewhere on this site includes: Three parent humans are now possible with mitochondrial DNA transfer.

Mitochondrial DNA is not always passed down the mother (maternal) line.  Surprise!  Most of your DNA is found in your cells' nuclei. This – with sexual reproduction – gets jumbled and then mixed with your partner's and recombined in your offspring so providing variety that can then be (Darwinian) selected.  However a small amount of DNA is found in your cells' mitochondria (sub-cellular compartments that make energy available to your cells' metabolic processes).  This mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is (it has been thought up to now) comes from your mother(and her mother and so on down to the mythical 'Eve').  It does not undergo sexual jumbling and so has much less mutation across generations, hence has been used to provide an insight into the evolutionary history of a species (such as the dog).
          Human eggs contain more than 100,000 copies of mtDNA, whereas sperm contain approximately 100 copies and that none of the paternal mtDNA survives in the embryo: mtDNA comes solely from the mother.  However research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on three families with mitochondrial disease (where the mitochondrial DNA does not function properly due to a random mutation or an inherited random mutation), This revealed that some of the mtDNA came down the paternal (male) line.
          This over-turning of a modern biological tenet has implications.  If the paternal contribution to mtDNA is more common than previously realized, this could alter some estimated timings of human evolution, because these are often based on predictions of mtDNA sequence variation under the assumption of exclusive maternal inheritance.  (See Luo, S. et al., 2018, PNAS, vol. 115, p13039–13044.  Also see a review of the research, McWilliams T. G. & Suomalainen, A. (2019) Fate of a father’s mitochondria. Nature, vol. 565, p296-7.)

Weekend Recovery Sleep does not work.  If you work hard during the week and get little sleep, research shows that lie-ins at the weekend do not help your body recover.  Weekend recovery sleep is a common sleep-loss countermeasure. Research from the University of Colorado shows that short sleep led to later timing of energy intake, weight gain, and reduced insulin sensitivity. Weekend recovery sleep (lie-ins) failed to prevent problems of chronic sleep loss during the week.  (See Depner, C. M. et al. (2019) Ad libitum Weekend Recovery Sleep Fails to Prevent Metabolic Dysregulation during a Repeating Pattern of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep. Current Biology, vol. 29, p1–11.)

Humans can sense magnetic fields!  Researchers, primarily from CalTech (US) and led by Connie Wang and Isaac Hilburn, used 34 individuals planning them singly in a Faraday cage and then applying magnetic fields.  Each time a field was applied the subjects demonstrated a drop in amplitude of EEG alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz) in their brain waves. The neural response was also sensitive to the polarity of the magnetic field.  The researchers note that some fish and birds seem to navigate using the Earth's or local (such as that of the mid-Atlantic Ridge) magnetic fields. The researchers speculate that the response in their human subjects was mainly in response to geomagnetic fields that reflect something close to 'normal' in our Northern Hemisphere locale, where all the subjects lived. They also note that even if individuals can subconsciously detect magnetic fields, such a super-sense is likely to be confounded by disuse as well as interference from our modern environment.  They comment that Given the known presence of highly-evolved geomagnetic navigation systems in species across the animal kingdom, it is perhaps not surprising that we might retain at least some functioning neural components especially given the nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle of our not-too-distant ancestors. The full extent of this inheritance remains to be discovered. (See Wang, C. X., Hilburn, I. A., Wu, D-A. et al (2019) Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced from Alpha-band Activity in the Human Brain. eNeuro, 10.1523/ENEURO.0483-18.2019.)

Which came first, beer or wine?  Beer drinkers rely on yeast strains derived from those that make wine.  Beers, such as classic English bitters, are fermented by brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), while lagers are fermented by Saccharomyces pastorianus, a cross between brewer’s yeast and Saccharomyces eubayanus.  To ascertain the origins of beer yeast, Justin Fay of the University of Rochester (US) and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 47 yeast strains.  Beer-brewing strains it seems come from relatives of yeasts used in Europe to ferment wine as well as from relatives of Asian strains that produce rice wine such as sake.  The researchers also found the genetic elements of strains that are either unknown or extinct.  The origin of grape-wine yeast is unknown but, if it was domesticated in Europe, it might have interbred with Asian yeast along the Silk Road to give rise to today's beer yeast.  (See Fay, J. C., Liu, P., Ong, G. T. et al (2019) A polyploid admixed origin of beer yeasts derived from European and Asian wine populations. PLoS Biology, vol 17 (no. 3): e3000147.)  +++ Previous genomic news on this site includes:-
  The origins of chocolate
  Early booze
  175,000 year-old discovery confirms that Neanderthals were responsible for some of the earliest constructions made by hominins
  When did humans first eat cooked vegetables?
  Homo naledi is a new (cousin) species of early human
  Earliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years ago
  Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago
  Modern humans on Flores exhibit dwarfing genes
  The creation of bread preceded the start of agriculture
  Rice became a domesticated crop multiple times over 9,000 years ago
  The earliest domesticators of the horse were descended from hunter-gatherers
  at domestication
  Dog domestication
  Dogs domesticated twice
  Cattle domestication
  Asian lions came from Africa (not the other way around)
  Flu virus evolution.

 

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Summer 2019

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

Is the Cosmological Constant changing: i.e. not a constant? There's new evidence.  First, some background.  Calculations based on the cosmic microwave background and Type Ia supernovae cosmic candles give slightly different estimates as to the rate the universe is expanding: both infer dark energy is causing the Universe to increase its rate of expansion, but by different amounts.  All well and good and this broadly fits in with the Lambda-CDM (Concordance) Model (sometimes written as Λ-CDM) which is our current, preferred best bet at explaining things. Here the discrepancy between the background and novae calculations is put down to some measurement error from some unconsidered factor (or even lack of complete data).  But what G. Risaliti & E. Lusso have done is to use the UV (ultraviolet) and x-ray ratios of quasars (which indicates quasars' true power output) as a cosmic candle. They used some 1,600 quasar measurements (far more than w have supernovae and covering more uniformly more of the history of the Universe, tough it has to be said that there is some spread of data).  What G. Risaliti & E. Lusso have found is that, yes, the universe is expanding ever faster (no news there) but that its rate of expansion is changing in a way that is consistent with there being increasing amounts of dark energy with time, or that the Cosmological Constant is increasing!  Of course it could be that the spread of data (even if there is a lot of it) is confounding maters… (See Risaliti, G. & Lusso, E. (2019) Cosmological constraints from the Hubble diagram of quasars at high redshifts. Nature Astronomy, vol. 3, p272–277.Also, there is a nifty 18 minute video on this topic from PBS Space Time.  +++ Other related news previously covered on this site include:  ESA's Gaia initial results confirm that our Galaxy is bigger than we thoughtPlanck space telescope releases highest yet precision map of the cosmic background radiationFast radio burst enables Universe weighingESA's Gaia initial results confirm that our Galaxy is bigger than we thought and cosmological constant changes with time;  and The geometry of the Universe is in line with the 'standard cosmological model'.

X-ray chimneys have been discovered leading above and below the Galactic plane from the Galactic centre's, super-massive black hole.  Largely European astronomers have discovered the 'chimneys' (columns of X-ray emitting regions of space) as part of the ROSAT all-sky, X-ray survey.  They connect with (previously discovered) huge Fermi bubbles of plasma that exist one above and one below the galactic centre.  The huge bubbles – each with a diameter much bigger than the Galactic central bulge –are filled with highly energetic particles released from the Galactic Centre a few million years ago.  Now we know that these bubbles are filled via these chimneys.  (See Ponti, G., Hofmann, F., Churazov, E.,et al (2019) An X-ray chimney extending hundreds of parsecs above and below the Galactic Centre. Nature, vol. 567, p347-350, and a review piece Chernyakova, M. (2019) X-ray chimneys in the Galactic Centre. Nature, vol. 567, p318-9.)

The number of exoplanets discovered tops 4,000!  The NASA Exoplanet Archive now has over 4,000 exoplanets officially catalogued.  (Actually the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia, run by the Observatoire de Paris, had previously topped 4,000, but don't tell the yanks.)  The first exoplanets were found around a pulsar in 1992 by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail.

A new technique probes atmosphere of exoplanet.  The technique -- infrared interferometry – has now been used by combining the light from four Chile based telescopes.  This effectively increased the resolution of each individual telescope by around a factor of ten.  This enabled the spectrum of a hot Jupiter, orbiting the star HR 8799 some 130 light years (40 parsecs) away, to be detected. The plant's atmosphere has a temperature of around 1,150 K, and a radius 1.17 times that of Jupiter. (See Lacour, S. et al (2019) First direct detection of an exoplanet by optical interferometry Astrometry and K-band spectroscopy of HR 8799 e. Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol. 623, L11, DOI 10.1051/0004-6361/201935253.)  +++ Other exoplanet news previously covered on this site includes:  European satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres will be led from BritainThe Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launchSeven near Earth-sized planets found in one systemMost Earth-like planets may be water worldsEarth's fate glimpsedAn Earth-like exo-planet has been detectedExoplanet reflected light elucidatedKepler has now detected over 1,000 exoplanets and one of the latest finds could be an Earth twin;  and Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star.

There are fewer small Kuiper belt objects than thought Pluto & Charon's craters reveal.  The Kuiper belt is a band of ice and rock asteroids that starts 30 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun (30 AU) or 2,805,000,000 miles or 2.8 billion miles (4,488,000,000) km just beyond the orbit of Neptune and is roughly 2 billion miles (3 bn km) in depth.  We have an idea of the number of larger Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) and have observed over a thousand. We can also guestimate the number of small objects by modelling the likely collisions between larger objects that result in smaller ones over the past 4.6 billion years history of the Solar System.  All well and good.  Now, data analysed from the New Horizons probe of Pluto and Charon's craters between those areas that have been 'recently' geological re-worked and older parts of the surface gives a different estimate of the number of smaller Kuiper bodies in the Belt. (This is because nearly all these craters will have been made by impacts from Kuiper Belt objects.)
          The researchers conclude that there are fewer small KBOs with diameters from ~40 kilometers to ~300 meters than predicted by mathematical models of collision equilibrium, implying that some of the KBO population has been preserved (unimpacted) since the formation of the Solar System. Also that there are fewer less than 1 to 2 kilometres in diameter.  (See Singer, K. N., McKinnon, W. B. & Gladman, B. et al. (2019) Impact craters on Pluto and Charon indicate a deficit of small Kuiper belt objects. Science, vol. 363, p955-959. DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8628.)

Neptune's smallest known moon has been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope  The pictures were taken in 2004–05 and 2009 but only now has an assessment of Neptune's inner moons been made due to the advanced picture enhancement techniques necessary (these might be used on other gas giants to detect their small moons and even other stars to observe exoplanets).  The smallest moon is called Hippocamp and is only 22 miles (34 kilometres) in diameter.  The researchers conclude that there are no further moons larger than 15 miles (24 km) in diameter that are interior to the orbit of Neptune's moon Proteus, and beyond Proteus, 12,500 miles (200,000 km) away from Neptune, there are no moons with a diameter greater than 12.5 miles (20 km).  (See Showalter, M. R. et al, 2019, The seventh inner moon of Neptune. Nature, vol. 566, p350-3, and a review by Verbiscer, A. J., 2019, A new moon for Neptune. Nature, vol. 566, p328-9.)

Saturn's rings are young, geologically and astronomically speaking.  The Cassini probe sent a lot of data back before it made its way through Saturn's rings to dive into the planet's atmosphere back in 2017. Since then this data has been analysed, including that last summer which revealed that Enceladus' water plumes contain organic compounds.  The latest data to be analysed relates to Saturn's rings.  This suggests that the mass of the rings is 15,400 trillion tonnes. This is the order of some 20 times less than previous guestimates.  It is also about two-fifths the mass of Mimas (Saturn's small death star like moon that is one of those within the rings).  Knowing how fast material is being added to the rings from some of Saturn's moons, it is possible to calculate the rings' age.  Some astronomers had thought that the rings had formed along with Saturn itself, and that would make them around 4.5 billion years ago.  However knowing the rings' mass suggests that the rings age is somewhere between 10 million and 100 million years, most likely created by the capture of a large icy asteroid, chunks of which make up some of the smaller moons in the rings. If we were able to see the rings a few million years ago they would have been brighter.

Methane on Mars again confirmed by ESA.  The measurement was confirmed in data collected by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) onboard the Mars Express.  Methane was first ESA Mars Express back in 2004 this new detection demonstrate that this detection was not a fluke given another Mars Express detection.  The jury is still out as to whether this methane is a result on non-geological processor life.  However, the first results from the ESA's Trace Gas orbiter just in failed to detect any methane. This could be because ESA's Trace Gas orbiter best detects methane located 5km up in Mars' atmosphere and that last year there was a major dust storm on Mars that engulfed the planet. It could be that the dust – of which small particles may remain suspended in the atmosphere – which is highly oxidising and this could have oxidised any methane currently released from the surface. Fortunately, ESA's Trace Gas orbiter has at least three years of operational life to go and so there is a chance that it could yet make a detection.  (See Witze, A. (2019) Mars data deepen methane mystery. Nature, vol. 568, p153-4 and Korablev, O, et al (2019) No detection of methane on Mars from early ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter observations. Nature DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1096-4.)

ExoMars rover to be named after Rosalind Franklin who helped elucidate the structure of DNA.  ESA's and Roscosmos ExoMars rover (now slated for a 2020 launch) is the second part of the ExoMars mission following the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and lander tester launched in 2016.  The rover (now slated for a 2020 launch) will explore the Oxia Planum, a large, clay-rich plain.  Britain's Eurobus will design and build the rover.  Following a competition, that saw over 35,000 suggestions, it has been decided to name the rover after the British DNA structure pioneer Rosalind Franklin.  Famously Watson & Crick published the results of their research elucidating the structure of DNA in 1953; research that saw the x-ray diffraction contributions of Wilkins and Franklin.  Sadly, Rosalind Franklin died in 1958 aged 38 and so could not be awarded the Nobel (never given posthumously) that went to Watson, Crick and Wilkins in 1961.
          Naming the rover after Franklin is appropriate as DNA (and its cousin RNA) is at the heart of life on Earth.  Oxia Planum, a region thought to have once been beneath water, may have once been the home to life.  The rover will be the first able to drill down two metres to see if it can find signs of former life.  Of course, where or not that putative Martian life would have had a DNA basis is not something that the rover will be able to determine.

Israel Beresheet crash lands on Moon.  Not only is the Moon mission for first such for Israel, it is the first privately funded mission (albeit with some government partner support) to land on the Moon. Despite the crash, the mission has cost only about US$100m (£76m).

Canada to join US in Moon space station.  Canada is contributing US$1.4 billion (£1.1 bn).  NASA hopes to build the small space station, called Gateway, in lunar orbit by 2026 as a staging post for astronauts visiting the lunar surface.

The Earth experienced a huge Solar storm 2,610 years ago (~660 BC) Greenland ice cores reveal.  An international team of mainly European researchers made the discovery of a beryllium-10 (10Be), chlorine-36 (36Cl) isotope spike in the ice cores.  These isotopes are produced when high energy protons from the Sun interact with atoms in the atmosphere.  This event was so strong that it was many times (an order of magnitude) stronger than that of any Solar storm recorded in the modern period of instrument detection. It was comparable with the solar proton event of AD 774/ 775, the largest solar event known to date.  It suggests that the Earth is hit by such strong events every one-and-a-half thousand years or so.  It may be we could be due for one?  (See O’Hare, P., Mekhaldi, F. & Adolphi, F. et al (2019) Multiradionuclide evidence for an extreme solar proton event around 2,610 B.P. (~660 BC). PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1815725116.)

The Earth's atmosphere extends beyond the Moon, an ESA probe discovers.  ESA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) that monitors the Sun is located around L3 (Lagrange 3) between the Earth and the Sun.  It looked back at the Earth in the ultraviolet which enables hydrogen to be visible.  It saw the Earth's hydrogen geocorona extend at least up to 100 Earth radii, an unprecedented distance encompassing the orbit of the Moon (60 Earth radii).  The hydrogen geocorona is not spherical about the Earth but skewed. Solar wind on the day side means that it only extends a distance equivalent to a third of the way to the Moon; on the night side it extends much further.  (See Baliukin, I. I. et al (2019) SWAN/SOHO Lyman-α Mapping: The Hydrogen Geocorona Extends Well Beyond the Moon. Journal of Geophysics Research: Space physics. DOI: 10.1029/2018JA026136.)

And finally…

The Dragon capsule has successfully delivered a human dummy to the International Space Station and returned to Earth.  The private company SpaceX developed the Dragon capsule and launched it on its own Falcon 9 rocket.  The dummy featured g-force sensors and is nicknamed 'Ripley' after the Sigourney Weaver character in the film Alien.  Not since 2011, and the end of the Shuttle programme, has NASA been ably to put astronauts into space.  Meanwhile, NASA is working on its on crewed capsule with Boeing called 'Starliner'. It plans to use both Starliner and Dragon.

 

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Summer 2019

Science & Science Fiction Interface

Real life news of SF-like tropes and SF impacts on society

 

Powerful moralising ‘big gods’ and pro-social supernatural punishment come second!  Complex societies precede moralising gods throughout world history; people come together first in large groups, they develop rituals (possibly associated with birthdays, mid-summer feasts and so forth), and then and only then do powerful gods get created.  Researchers led by a group from Oxford University looked at 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality.  Contrary to previous predictions, powerful moralising ‘big gods’ and pro-social supernatural punishment tend to appear only after the emergence of ‘megasocieties’ with populations of more than around one million people.  They conclude that moralising gods are not a prerequisite for the evolution of social complexity, but they may help to sustain and expand complex multi-ethnic empires after they have become established. (See Whitehouse, H.et al (2019) Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history.Nature, vol 568, p226-9.)

Game of Thrones-like virus discovered in Japanese hot springs that acts like a Gorgon.  In The Game of Thrones there is a disease called greyscale that turns people to stone.  Fortunately, this new virus does not seem to infect people but does infect single-celled amoeba. When it does, it encysts them – typically in a day or two following infection – becoming stone-like.  The effect is so striking that the researchers have classified this virus as part of a new family of viruses they call the Medusaviridae after the Greek mythical creature the Gorgon “Medusa” who turned those that gazed on it to stone.
          From a biological perspective, one of the things of interest is that this new virus is a BIG boy: it is hexagonal in shape (though the researchers describe it as an icosahedron) some 260 nm across and 381 kb (kilo-bases) DNA genome that encodes 461 proteins. (See Yoshikawa, G., Blanc-Mathieu, R. & Song, C. et al. (2019) Medusavirus, a novel large DNA virus discovered from hot spring water. Journal of Virology. DOI:10.1128/JVI.02130-18.)

Star Trek inspired replicator uses reverse computer tomography.  They called it the ‘replicator’ — in homage to machines in the Star Trek that can make nearly any inanimate object seemingly materialise.  In computer tomography an object is x-rayed from many angles and a computer is used to create a 3-D model of the said object.  With this reverse process an object is laser scanned from many angles. The resulting many 2D pictures are projected into a cylindrical container filled with liquid acrylate, a type of synthetic resin. Where the total amount of light at any point exceeds a certain critical value, the resin solidifies.  All that needs to be done is to drain of the unsolidified resin to leave behind the replicated object.  There are two advantages of this new process over 3D printing.  Unlike 3D printing, this process leaves smoother edges (unlike the layered edges in 3D printing). Second, structures internal to the object are also replicated.  (See Kelly, B. E. et al., 2019, Science. Volumetric additive manufacturing via tomographic reconstruction. DOI: 10.1126/science.aau7114. Also a review by Castelvecchi, D, 2019, The ‘replicator’ prints 3D objects from scratch. Nature, vol. 566, p17.).

Predator-like sight developed. – The mammalian eye has been successfully modified to see near infra-red light.  An international team of Chinese and US researchers have enabled a rat to see in the near infra-red a bit like the Predator aliens of the film franchise.  Mammals cannot see light over 700 nm in wavelength.  They developed injectable photoreceptor-binding upconversion nanoparticles.  The particles are injected beneath the eye's retina. In essence the particles gather more than one low-energy, infra-red photon and convert it to a higher energy visible-light photon that the eye can normally detect. The process is self-powering.
          The researchers feel that this development has the potential for human use in civilian encryption, security, military operations, and human-machine interfaces.  In addition to visual ability enhancement, this nanodevice can serve as an integrated and light-controlled system in medicine, which could be useful in repairing visual function as well as for drug delivery when treating eye diseases.  (See Ma, Y., Bao, J. & Zhang, Y. et al. (2019) Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae. Cell, vol. 177, p1-13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.01.038.)

Star Wars storm troopers inspire naming of new genus of spiders.  They will be called 'Paratropididae'.  The researchers – Carlos Perafán, William Galvis, Fernando Pérez-Miles say: "The name Stormtropis is a Latin declension (neuter) of the noun Stormtrooper from the fictional universe of the Star Wars films. The stormtroopers are the soldiers of the main ground force of the Galactic Empire. These soldiers are very similar to each other, with some capacity for camouflage but with unskilful movements, like this group of spiders."  They added: "We wanted to make a play on words with the name of the known genus, Paratropis, and of course, we also wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest sagas of all time."  (See Perafán, C., et al (2019) The first Paratropididae (Araneae, Mygalomorphae) from Colombia: new genus, species and records.ZooKeys, vol. 830, p1-31.).

YouTube to blame for rise in Flat Earthers, says study.  Asheley Landrum, of Texas Tech University, presented the results of a study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC. The study saw 30 attendees of a Flat Earther convention interviewed. The pattern emerged was that while many had not started out believing that the Earth was flat, they had come to believe that it was so through videos on YouTube.

The end of the world stuck at two minutes to go.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has announced that the organization's Doomsday Clock will remain at two minutes to midnight; the same place it was at in 2018.  Global tensions between the nuclear powers have not eased and there are international tensions beginning to rise from climate change and cyber-security threats.

Alien's Ripley back in space.  See the Dragon mission successful story in our 'Astronomy & Space' subsection above.

Cyberspace social media harms children: protection is needed all-party report concludes.  Think of cyberspace and social media concerns today and things like election manipulation, ID theft and such come to mind.  However, a British, House of Commons, all-party, Parliamentary Select Committee report, Impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health concludes that there are real threats for children from social media be it: grooming, cyber-bullying and encouraging detrimental behaviour such as self-harm.  The committee concludes that their needs to be legislative safeguards requiring social media platforms to provide 6-mnthly reports and monitoring by both the government sponsored, but independent run, communications and information (data protection) ombudsman offices.

Social media slammed by all-party, international Select Committee report on fake news.  The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, for the first time with representatives from eight other countries, has published its report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’.  It slams social media companies for not curating content, the way it handles its users' personal data, interference in democratic political affairs, as well as promulgating personal harm and disinformation.  What needs to change is the enforcement of greater transparency in the digital sphere, to ensure that people know the source of what they are reading, who has paid for it and why the information has been sent to users. People need to understand how the big tech companies work and what happens to our data.  Facebook comes in for particular criticism by the Committee. It concludes that we must make sure that people stay in charge.  While this report has been published, the Committee will continue to work with other politicians from other nations on the issue.

Momo hoax news on social media then sparks real scares.  Momo was supposedly a scary image sent to children who were allegedly contacted on WhatsApp by an account claiming to be momo.  The story went viral on social media and was then covered by some mainstream news.  But actually it was a hoax that spawned fake news.  However what happened next was that some sought to exploit this by really editing the Momo picture into some children's videos on YouTube.  And so it goes…

Social media should be regulated by single governmental body says House of Lords Select Report.  The all-party House of Lords Communications Select Committee has concluded that self-regulation by the industry is not working. Given hat currently there are several bodies responsible for oversight on internet matters, the Committee recommends establishing a single 'digital' authority.  It should ensure that 10 principles shape and frame all regulation of the internet: Parity; Accountability; Transparency; Openness; Privacy; Ethical design; Recognition of childhood; Respect for human rights and equality; Education and awareness-raising; and Democratic accountability.  Proper enforcement and resources will be necessary to implement these principles and promote their importance to all parts of the digital world.  (See Select Committee on Communications (2019) Regulating in a Digital World. House of Lords: Westminster, London.)

12 years worth of music uploads lost in cyberspace.  MySpace has lost all the uploads to it from before three years ago during a server change.  Though use of MySpace has lowered, as recently as In 2006 it was the most visited site in the US (even more accessed than Google!). Andy Baio, who originally helped construct the site (but no longer has any involvement) wondered whether the loss was deliberate. He commented: 'Flagrant incompetence may be bad PR, but it still sounds better than 'we can't be bothered with the effort and cost of migrating and hosting 50 million old MP3s'.  Something to ponder if you rely on the Cloud for your personal (or even work) computing.  +++ See also books stored on e-book stores deletion story early above.

Big Brother really is listening to you!  It has been reported that Amazon, Apple and Google have staff that listen to customers voice recordings from their smart speakers and voice assistant apps.  Apparently they say that recordings are occasionally reviewed to improve speech recognition.  However, with technical ability always comes the potential for misuse.  Apparently they also sometimes hear people's domestic incidents but do not do anything as it is not part of these companies remit.  This issue is for now likely to be one of continuing concern.  +++ Previous related stories include: The state has the right to your facial recognition dataMicrosoft Windows 10 and Netherland's privacy law breaches'Big Brother' and Yahoo may have been scanning millions of its users' e-mail accounts on behalf of the US governmentApps on Apple and Android smartphones informs of user’s details to third partiesBritish police accused of Big Brother use of biometric data;  and Mobile phones even more vulnerable to hacking.

More Big Brother.  Facebook has admitted to accessing the e-mail contacts of 1.5 million of its users.  The data harvest happened during a period when a system was in operation to verify the identity of new uers.  During this period, Facebook asked new users for the password for their email account, and then copied millions of their contacts.  It is thought Facebook used the information to map how its users interact with each other.  Facebook says it has deleted the information harvested and changed its verification practice.

And finally…

Save the world-wide web from its "downward plunge to a dysfunctional future," says its inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  The world-wide web has been imagined in SF in a number of ways and times including John Brunner's 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider.  Now we have the real thing, but it seems to have developed some issues.  Sir Tim made his plea in an interview with the BBC to mark the 30th anniversary of his proposal to CERN for what would become the WWW.  His three principal concerns were: malicious activity such as hacking and harassment;  problematic system design such as business models that reward clickbait;  and unintended consequences, such as aggressive or polarised discussions.  He said that after a good first 15 years, things had turned bad and a 'mid-course correction' was needed.

 

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 2019

Rest In Peace

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

 

Julie (formerly Julia) Adams, the US actress, has died aged 92.  In genre terms she is best known for her co-starring role in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Her other genre work included The Underwater City (1962).  She also had bit roles in an episode of the following television series: Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E, The Incredible Hulk, Sliders and Lost.

Stewart Adams OBE, the British chemist, has died aged 95.  He is most famous for his work with the former research arm of Boots the British pharmacist shop chain.  There he discovered what became the pain killer ibuprofen in the early 1960s.  Ibuprofen was derived from propionic acid and Stewart Adams initially tested the drug himself – something that would never be allowed today -- as treatment for his hangover.  The drug was launched as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the United Kingdom in 1969, and in the United States in 1974. Later, in 1983 and 1984, it became the first NSAID (other than aspirin) to be available over the counter in these two countries. Today it is commonly used for a range of pain relief from sprains to toothache. Annual sales in the USA alone are over US30 million (£23m). Globally, around 15,000 tonnes per year are produced, which is around a third that of aspirin.  Stewart Adams was subsequently awarded an OBE in 1987.  Boots was awarded the Queen's Award for Technical Achievement for the development of the drug in 1987.

Janet Asimov, the US clinical psychiatrist and Isaac Asimov's widow, has died aged 92.  She was also a former syndicated science Writer for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.  Like her husband, she wrote SF, her first novel being penned as Janet O. Jeppson called The Second Experiment. Her last solo novel was The House Where Isadora Danced (2009) With Isaac she co-wrote 10 books in the children’s SF series 'the Norby Chronicles'and one alone, Norby and the Terrified Taxi (1997).  She compiled a collection of Issac's letters as It’s Been a Good Life: Isaac Asimov (2002). She also co-authored three graduate and post-graduate level science textbooks.

Diana Athill OBE, the British publisher, has died aged 101.  She was a founding director of Andre Deutsch. The genre-related with whom she worked included Philip Roth and Margaret Atwood.

Michael Atiyah, the British mathematician, has died aged 89.  he is best known for formulating in 1963, with the US mathematician Isadore Singer, the Atiyah-Singer Index theorem that linked the solutions of differential equations to geometry and topology of space.  This garnered him a Fields Medal in 1966 and Atiyah and Singer shared the Abel Prize in 2004.  He served as a President of the Royal Society 1990-5 and then the President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 2005-8.

Mervyn Barrett, the New Zealand SF fan, has died aged 86.  He was central to organising New Zealand's first SF convention.

John Bowen, the British writer, has died aged 90.  While not an out-and-out SF writer, an SFnal riff sometimes solidly underpinned his works. For example, After the Rain (1958) focuses on the arguments of folk stuck on a giant raft: the SFnal riff being that they are there because of an apocalyptic flood.  He also, as the lead writer, wrote the scripts for many of the Orwellian TV series The Guardians (1971) that looks at a near-future Britain following a general strike and economic collapse when Britain becomes governed by a committee of experts with order against terrorist insurgents maintained by the paramilitary police, 'The Guardians'.

Betty Ballantine, the US publisher, has died aged 99.  With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books in 1952: both imprint and publishing house had SF/F content.  Ian and Betty Ballantine won a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant and other creators of The High Kings (Bantam, 1983) reference book. It was a runner-up for a non-fiction Hugo and Locus Award.  Betty Ballantine also received a Special Committee Award from the annual World Science Fiction Convention in 2006 and a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the World Fantasy Convention in 2007.

Sydney Brenner, the South African molecular biologist, has died aged 92.  He spent much of his career in Britain where he co-discovered messenger RNA. However he is probably best known for his work on the genetics and molecular biology of the nematode C. elegans using it as a model for some human diseases. For this – with John Sulston and Robert Horvitz – he won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He became the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (Britain) and then spent the latter part of his career in the US.

Wallace (Wally) Broecker, the US geochemist who specialised in what was to become known as Earth system science, has died aged 87.  Dyslexia did not hold him back from an extremely notable career and contributions to climate change science.  In addition to popularising the term 'global warming' in a 1975 paper in Science (some claim the term's first academic usage), he discovered the Broecker thermohaline global conveyer of surface and abyssal ocean currents that transports heat along with water around the planet and from the surface into the ocean depths.  He is hugely respected by all that work in the climate change, Earth system field.  His last book was open access, and published in 2016, A Geochemist in his Garden of Eden. Recommended is his popular science text, co-authored with Robert Kunzig, in 2008, Fixing Climate: What past climate changes reveal about the current threat--and how to counter it that was published in Britain as Fixing Climate: The story of climate science and how to stop global warming.

Larry Cohen, the US film producer, director, and screenwriter, has died aged 82.  He is known for his horror and B-movie SF.  He also worked in television and SFnally is known for creating the series The Invaders (both the 1966 original and the 1995 re-boot).  Regarding films, he is known for It's Alive (1974) that spawned two sequels, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and The Stuff (1985).

Windsor Davies, the British actor, has died aged 88.  Best known for his non-genre role as Battery Sergeant Major Williams in the British sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–81), he had a booming, deep Welsh-accented voice.  His genre contributions included appearing in the Doctor Who story 'The Evil of the Daleks' (1967).  He also appeared in an episode of Gerry Anderson's UFO (1970) as well as the television adaptation of Gormenghast.  In SF terms he is perhaps best known for providing the voice for Sergeant Major Zero in the Gerry Anderson series Terrahawks (1983-'86).  His genre film roles included parts in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Rupert and the Frog Song (1984)

Manfred Eigen, the German molecular biologist, has died aged 91.  Originally studying geophysics, his postgraduate studies took him into the biological sciences and molecular biology.  Eigen was awarded – along with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter – the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on extremely fast enzyme reactions.  He also theorised possible pre-biotic mechanisms for the evolution of life.  He came up with what was to be called the Eigen Paradox. This states that the longer a DNA strand is the more prone it is to replicative errors. However, the DNA length for encoding proof reading genes was longer than this minimal low-error length.  He also co-authored, with Ruthild Oswatitsch, his wife and scientific partner, The Laws of the Game: How The Principles of Nature Govern Chance (1983), Steps Towards Life (1992) and From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity (2013). He was also a nifty amateur pianist.

Carol Emshwiller, the US short story writer, has died aged 97.  Her SF writing garnered her: two short story Nebula Awards (2002 & 2005); the Philip K. Dick Award (2002) for the novel The Mount (concerning a humanity enslaved by aliens); the World Fantasy Award (1992) for the collection The Start of the End of It All (1990/'91); and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2005).  Many of her shorts can be found in The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller (2011).

Albert Finney, the British actor, has died aged 82.  He had an extremely distinguished career in a wide range of plays, films and TV mini-series following drama school beginning with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  He is noted for turning down a CBE andlater a knighthood.  His genre contributions include: the two Dennis Potter, diptych, TV mini-series Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (1996);  scrooge (1970);  Michael Crichton's Looker (1981);   The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy(2012) as well as in flashback only Jason Bourne (2016);  and playing Kilgore Trout in Kurt Vonnegut'sBreakfast of Champions (1999).

Roy Glauber, the US physicist, has died aged 93. He was one of the youngest scientists working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.  He is best known for his work on quantum theory of optical coherence. This was recognised in 2005 with his sharing the Nobel prize for physics.  He was also well known to those attending the semi-spoof IgNobels award ceremonies where he swept the stage clean of paper airplane darts that are customarily thrown and as such he was known as 'the keeper of the broom'.

John Hamilton, the British book cover designer, has died aged 55.  He ended up as Penguin's art director and did covers for countless author's works including Arthur Conan Doyle and George Orwell.

Jennifer Kelley, the US Doctor Who fan, has died aged 55.  She was active in Chicago area Who fandom since the 1980s. She was a conrunner, notably with Chicago TARDIS and Visions. She was a co-founder of the fan forum Gallifrey Base and co-authored Red White and Who: The story of Doctor Who in America. She was also into costuming and assisted the organization of convention masquerades.

Bill Carter Jenkins, the US epidemiologist, has died aged 73.  He trained as a mathematician with an interest in statistics. He then joined the US Public Health Service (PHS). His time there was noted for his discovering an untreated syphilis study of 400 American's of ethnic African origin who had been left untreated for three decades even though by then penicillin was known as an effective cure.  In 1972 the story was leaked to the press by a colleague. A year later the study was stopped and it led to ethical development in the PHS.  Jenkins then moved to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention where he strove to underpin social justice with god data. He also worked in the 1980s into AIDS prevention for ethnic minorities.

Richard Lacey, the British microbiologist, has died aged 78.  He first came to the public's attention having in 1984 identified a new strain of salmonella infecting some of the country's chicken flocks. A few years later this contributed to a political crisis.  then in the 1990s he expressed concern that 'mad cow disease' could infect humans with a CJD like disease.  Both these crises came about from unregulated industrialisation of food production. He therefore helped to create the Food Standards Agency.

Michel Legrand, the French composer and jazz pianist, has died aged 86.  He is best known for his music scores for films and here most famously 'Windmills of the Mind' for the non-genre thriller The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).  His genre work includes music scores for the technothrillers James Bond Never Say Never Again (1983) and Ice Station Zebra (1968). His most notable contribution to mainstream SF was the music for the TV series Il Était une Fois… l'Espace [Once Upon a Time… Space] (1982) and the film Revenge of the Humanoids (1982) as well as the fantasies The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (1976) and Gulliver's Travels (1977).

George Locke, the British SF fan, author and bibliographer, has died aged 82.  Under the name Ayresome Johns, his novel Pattern of Terror (1987) is a supernatural detective story.  His SF bibliography series 'Ferret Fantasy's Christmas Annual' was published in a number of small volumes in the first half of the 1970s.  His Science Fiction First Editions: A Select Bibliography and Notes for the Collector (1978) was subsequently expanded.  This led to his Spectrum of Fantasy series of bibliographies saw titles published between 1980 and 2004.  As a fan, notably he was on the committee of Britain's second Eastercon (1964) and his fanzine Smoke was popular at the end of the 1950s and early '60s.

Vonda N. McIntyre, the US geneticist turned SF author, has died aged 70 following being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just two months previously.  She is best known for her novel Dreamsnake (1978). It concerns a female protagonist who struggles through a destructively superstitious post-holocaust world to find here stolen healer snake with which she is genetically entwined. McIntyre, began Dreamsnake as a short story in 1973, 'Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand', which won a Nebula, and the city in the latter stages of the novel featured in her first book, The Exile Waiting (1975).  In 1979 Dreamsnake won McIntyre another Nebula, as well as a Hugo for Best Novel, and came top of the annual Locus readers poll.  She is also known for her four-book 'Starfarer' series (1989-1994). It concerns a Solar sailed starship on a long-term mission to first contact civilisations.  Her The Moon and the Sun (1997) is a fantasy in which a sea monster is brought to the court of Louis XIV of France. It too won a Nebula.  In addition to her own creative writing she was involved with cinematic SF having written a number of Star Trek and Star Wars novels, including Enterprise: The First Adventure and The Entropy Effect. She wrote the novelizations of the films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  A number of her short stories are collected in Fireflood and Other Stories (1979).

Walter Munk, the US oceanographer, has died aged 101.  His work included that on: surface waves, geophysical implications of variations in the Earth's rotation, tides, internal waves, deep-ocean drilling into the sea floor, acoustical measurements of ocean properties, sea level rise, and climate change.  During WWII he worked on ways to predict surf conditions for allied landings in the Pacific and D-Day.  His interests were wide-ranging. In a paper, he mused – half jokingly he later admitted – that the night-day vertical migration of some species might have a significant effect on ocean mixing: bringing up cool water and helping take down warm water. (Though his conclusion was that the effect was minimal.)  This notion (Munk, W. H. (1966) Abyssal recipes. Deep-Sea Research, vol. 13, p707-730.) subsequently gained some traction. (For example recently, Houghton, I. A., et al (2018) Vertically migrating swimmers generate aggregation-scale eddies in a stratified column. Nature, vol. 556, p497–500.)    In 1991 he ran an experiment channelling 221 decibel noise into the oceans on a global scale which some thought might have been detrimental to some marine wildlife.  He is noted for coining the term 'wind-driven gyres'.  As a nationally recognised expert in his field, he was part of the JASON think-tank that advised US presidents.  He also was a founding member of the World Cultural Council. Today, the Walter Munk Award presented jointly by the Oceanography Society, the Office of Naval Research and the US Department of Defense Naval Oceanographic Office.   It is named after him and given 'in Recognition of Distinguished Research in Oceanography Related to Sound and the Sea'.

Simon P. Norton , the British mathematician, has died aged 66.  Much of his work was on group theory. He constructed the Harada–Norton group and in 1979 together with John Conway proved there is a connection between the Monster group and the j-function in number theory. This is called 'monstrous moonshine', and some conjectures arising from this were later proved by Richard Borcherds.  He was an avid enthusiast of public transport and campaigned for busses.  He was the subject of the biography The Genius In My Basement by Alexander Masters.

Michael O'Donnell, the British clinician cum journalist, has died aged 90.  For 16 years he was editor of World medicine, a sort of Private Eyemagazine for doctors.  He left the magazine in 1982 following a disagreement with the publishers over editorial policy and several other of the regular contributors and some of the staff also left in sympathy and the publication folded two years later.  He also wrote regular columns for The Guardian, New Scientist and Vogue and later The Listener and Punch.  He also campaigned for, and played a key part in getting, reform of the General Medical Council and ended up on its council as well as serving a stint as chair of its Standards Committee. He was able to speak out as he earned his keep outside of actually practicing medicine and therefore could not be swayed by career opportunities a post within the GMC might facilitate.  With regard to the GMC, he described himself as 'rebel in residence'. He also regularly appeared on BBC Radio 4.  He declined an OBE ‘for services to medicine and to journalism’.

Steve Ogden, the US fan, has died.  He published fanzines and mini-comics through Spotted Zebra Press/New Spotted Zebra Press. He was a member of FAPA.

Arthur Pardee, the US biochemist, has died aged 97. He is known as the discoverer of the restriction point, in which a cell commits itself to certain cell cycle events during the G1 cycle. He spent much time looking at tumour growth and regulation, with a particular focus on the role of oestrogen in hormone-responsive tumours.  He is known for the PaJaMo experiment that helped lay the groundwork for the later discovery by others of messenger RNA: the experiment's conclusions suggested that there was another form of RNA to discover. The experiment showed that protein synthesis from a gene could begin almost as soon as the gene entered an E. coli cell.

Alan Pearlman, the US electrical engineer, has died aged 93.  In his 30s he spent five years working with NASA building amplifiers for the Gemini and Apollo projects.  In 1969, with a small group of co-investors, he founded ARP (his initials) to build electrical musical instruments. Its most successful product were synthesisers as use in the SF film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and, mixed with natural sounds, the voice of R2-D2 in the first Star Wars film(1977).  They were also used in some of Kraftwerk’s songs such as 'The Robots”. He referred to himself as being a nerd before the term nerd was invented.

Shane Rimmer, the Canadian actor, has died aged 89.  He did much work for Gerry Anderson (including onCaptain Scarlet, UFO, The Secret Service and Space 1999) but is best known for voicing Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds (1964–1968).  His genre-related film work included Dr. Strangelove (1964), Rollerball (1975), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The People That Time Forgot (1977), Warlords of Atlantis (1978), The Hunger (1983), Superman III (1983), Morons from Outer Space (1985), Year of the Come (1992), Space Truckers (1996) and Batman Begins (2005).  He also had a number of uncredited appearances in You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980). With regard to his work on the techno-thriller Bond films, he is credited with appearing more Bonds of any actor other than the core, regular cast.  His other genre television work notably included Doctor Who 'The Gunfighters' (1966).  He was one of the Guests of Honour at the 24th Festival of Fantastic Films (2013).  F. A. B. Shane…  See also Beyond Anderson: Shane Rimmer.

Ron Smith, the British comics artist, has died aged 94.  He worked for DC Thompson (on Hotspur, The Topper, The Dandy, The Beezer, The Victor and then IPC on 2000AD).  His genre-related strips for DC Thompson included Nick Jolly and King Cobra.  For IPC's 2000AD he drew Rogue Trooper and Judge Dredd and notably the classic Dredd epics 'The Day the Law Died' and 'The Judge Child'.  He also co-created the Dredd-verse character 'Chopper'.

Tony 'Blindpew' Smith, the UK fan, has died aged 65.  He was a regular at Novacons the past couple of decades.

David Thouless, the British physicist, has died aged 84.  He specialised in the quantum state of matter hence things like superconductivity and superfluidity.  He is probably best known for his 2016 Nobel Prize co-win for mathematical analysis of rare states of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films.  He is also known for For atomic nuclei, he clearing up the concept of 'rearrangement energy' and he derived an expression for the moment of inertia of deformed nuclei.  He is the author of Topological Quantum Numbers in Nonrelativistic Physics.  Needless to say he had a brilliant mind. This was illustrated once when a visiting chess grandmaster came to Cambridge U. to take part in an exhibition match with 20 of the university chess club members. 19 of the 20 club members lost, but David Thouless won.

Jan-Michael Vincent, the US actor, has died aged 74.  His genre roles included a number of films including:  Damnation Alley (1977) loosely based on Roger Zelazney's novel;  Alienator (1989);  Extro 2 (1990) and Orbit (1996).  In genre terms he is best known for his starring role in the TV series Airwolf (1984) that concerned a high-tech military helicopter.

Baroness Mary Warnock, the English philosopher, has died aged 94.  Well known as a philosopher, she also served on voluntary bodies and advisory groups.  This positioned her in 1974 to chair a UK inquiry on special education which in turn led to her chairing the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1982-4). That inquiry's report informed those drafting the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. among other things, it determined that no research could be done on human embryos after 14 days. This limit was because no neural tissue (hence no ability to feel pain) forms before the 14 day limit.  It has been estimated that by the end of the 21st century some 400 million people will owe their existence to UK research carried out under the ethical guidelines determined by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.  She later chaired a Home Office Committee on animal experimentation (1984-9).  She became a champion of the right to die.  Along the way, she authored over a dozen books.

Gene Wolfe, the US Science Fiction/Fantasy author, has died aged 87.  Despite never garnering much Hugo recognition (he was short-listed a few times) it is fair to say he was a master of speculative fiction and was respected by many fellow genre authors.  Among his many books, he is arguably best known for 'The Book of the New Sun' tetralogy: The Shadow of the Torturer (1980), The Claw of the Conciliator (1981) (which won a Nebula and a Locus), The Sword of the Lictor (1982) (Locus Award winner), and The Citadel of the Autarch (1983). Added to these four is a postscript novel in the same universe, The Urth of the New Sun (1987). Finally, related to these are two other book series: 'The Book of the Long Sun' and 'The Book of the Short Sun'.  The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of his Finest Short Fiction (2009) is a collection of his shorts.  He was presented the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1996 at that year's World Fantasy Convention.

 

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 2019

End Bits & Thanks

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Autumn 2019 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, Fancylopaedia, Anthony Heathcote, SF Encyclopaedia, Boris Sidyuk, Kel Sweeny and 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). :-)

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Autumn 2019 period – needs to be in before the 3rd week in August. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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