Science Fiction News
& Recent Science Review for the
Summer 2020

(N.B.Our seasons relate to the northern hemisphere 'academic year'.)

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 2020

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

It is amazing how fast things can change.  Only on 31st January were the first two cases of coronavirus were detected in Great Britain, there having been 100,000 cases (officially 213 deaths) in China and 98 cases of the virus in another 18 countries.  Yet now (20th April) we are all being affected by the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and trying to avoid CoVID-19.  The result has been that the SF calendar of conventions for the year from March has effectively been cancelled (but you can see from the links on our SF/F film releases for the year from March have also been affected with either releases delayed or gone direct to streaming.  And on the SF/F book publishing front some releases have been postponed and this month (April) publishers do not seem to be sending out review copies.  All of which will affect our being able to be produce future seasonal editions. Additionally, one of our extant principal editors has no home internet or smartphone, which has necessitated some old-school thinking to get this edition to you: fortunately, a number of us are old-school and since the UK lock-down in the last week of March, contributors have been sending in their work to SF² Concatenation Mission Control on USB memory sticks by good old-fashioned Royal Mail post.  Much additional credit also goes to Tony B. and local heroine Pat F., for the back-up internet access and to Julie P. for phoning in last minute key SF news so that we can get this seasonal edition to you
          At the time of UK lockdown, the last week of March (2020) we have been pulling together this volume 30, posting 3, edition of SF² Concatenation we have received enough book review copies for our autumnal edition.  It is just chance that all this has happened when it has and that it fell just before the summer part of the northern hemisphere academic year (SF² Concatenation's postings follow the academic year) as the academic summer includes both the summer term as well as the lengthy summer vacation/field-trip/symposium/SF-con-going season.   This makes the gap between our summer and autumn seasonal editions the most lengthy gap between our seasonal postings across the year.  So hopefully before our autumnal edition there will be light at the end of the tunnel (if not it will mean trouble as we'll be in a cave).  So our autumnal edition will have standalone book reviews but no news page (as there will be little to report: no cinema releases, no conventions, no publisher catalogues, etc).  Looking beyond that, if matters still persist, we will have no books to review as publishers already seem to have ceased sending out copies.  This means that if lockdown has not ended by September (let's hope not) then we will not have any new seasonal edition for January 2021.  We will, though, resume one full season after UK lock-down ends.
          Despite this, and our being unable to receive e-mails for the time being, if you are stuck at home self-isolating and seek some fan activity to do, we have come up with a couple of ways you can contribute to keeping the fannish flame going.  It will be rather interesting to see if a number of you are up for it!  Why not have a go? 

 

STAFF STUFF

As above, and as with your good selves, we have all been affected by the current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and resulting CoVID-19 pandemic.  Not least of which is that we had commissioned an article on Wellington in anticipation of this year's Worldcon.  That event will not now physically happen except as an online experience.  There will though be other conventions held in Wellington and hopefully not long before we get a Worldcon there. So this article should not go to waste and, if you were originally going to this year's Worldcon, you'll get an idea of the tourist experience you might have had.
          Early in March, before UK self-isolation kicked in Jonathan and Simon, two bioscientists on the SF² Concatenation team, met up in BritCit for a weekend that included finalising a preliminary science briefing on SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 for the SF community: at that time many conventions were still going ahead and indeed now, many are still slated for the autumn.  Joining the preliminary briefing's dots, it is now clear that even if full lockdowns are eased in the summer, it is unlikely that large gatherings will be permitted in the autumn.
          The briefing is divided into subsections:-
                    Coronaviruses
                    Tackling the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic
                    Personal measures
                    COVID-19
                    Symptoms
                    Science fiction fans
                    Conrunners
                    Short-term future (April – November 2020)
                    Long-term future
                    The science fiction and the pseudo-science
                    Final words
          Some of you may find it useful.  Sadly, among other things, its conclusions include that the SF diary for 2020 will likely see all SF conventions (and science symposia) cancelled from mid-March for the year and, alas quite likely, even into 2021.

          Looking many months ahead, we hope to find you in good health the other side in a brighter future.

          Keep safe.  Take care of those close to you.

          Keep in touch with friends and neighbours.

 

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 30 (3) Summer 2020) we have stand-alone items on:-

          Plus over a score of 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-3 year. (Which means that next year we will have been going for a third of a century.)  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 2020

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

The 2020 Nebula Award nomination shortlists have been announced for 2019 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 principal category (novel, novella, novelette, short story and dramatic presentation) nominations are:-
Novel
          Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon
          The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
          A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
          Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
          Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
          A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
Novella
          'Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom' by Ted Chiang
          The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
          This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
          Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan
          The Deep, Rivers Solomon by Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes
          Catfish Lullaby by A. C. Wise
Novelette
          'A Strange Uncertain Light' by G. V. Anderson
          'For He Can Creep' by Siobhan Carroll
          'His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light' by Mimi Mondal
          'The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye' by Sarah Pinsker
          Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
          'The Archronology of Love' by Caroline M. Yoachim
Short Story
          'Give the Family My Love' by A. T. Greenblatt
          'The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power' by Karen Osborne
          'And Now His Lordship Is Laughing' by Shiv Ramdas
          'Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women
          of Ratnabar Island' by Nibedita Sen
          'A Catalog of Storms' by Fran Wilde
          'How the Trick Is Done' by A. C. Wise
The Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Presentation
          Avengers: Endgame (trailer here)
          Captain Marvel (trailer here)
          Good Omens (trailer here)
          The Mandalorian 'The Child' (trailer here)
          Russian Doll 'The Way Out' (trailer here)
          Watchmen 'A God Walks into Abar' (trailer here)
The winners will be announced in May.  Full categories (including game writing and young adult) at www.sfwa.orgDiscussion:  One of the 'Best Novel' nominations, A Memory Called Empire, we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Novels of 2019.  One on the Dramatic Presentation award shortlist -- Avengers: Endgame we cited back in the spring as one of our recommendations for Best SF Films of 2019.

The awards 2020 British SF Association (BSFA Awards) were to have been presented at the 2020 Eastercon in Birmingham. The shortlist for Best Novel consisted of:-
          Juliet E. McKenna – The Green Man’s Foe (Wizard’s Tower Press)
          Emma Newman – Atlas Alone (Gollancz)
          Gareth L. Powell – Fleet of Knives (Titan)
          Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Ruin (Tor)
          Tade Thompson – The Rosewater Insurrection (Orbit)
Alas this year's Eastercon was cancelled due to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and resulting COVID-19 pandemic.  As Easter was late this year, we had delayed posting this season's news page from mid-month to the 20th April so as to get you the results. The BSFA has decided to postpone tallying the vote and announcing the results until May.
          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 USA's Reference and User Services Association 2020 Reading List of the Year’s Best in Genre Fiction for Adult Readers has been announced.  The Reading List consists of eight different fiction genres for adult readers including SF, fantasy and horror (in addition to mundane categories such as 'romance and mystery').  A shortlist of honour titles, up to 4 per genre was also declared in an announcement made at the American Library Association’s mid-winter meeting in Philadelphia.  The SF/F/H categories' wins and shortlists were:-
Science Fiction
          A Memory Called Empire (WINNER) by Arkady Martine
          Finder by Suzanne Palmer
          The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
          Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
          To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Fantasy
          Gods of Jade and Shadow (WINNER) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
          Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
          Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
          The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
          Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
Horror
          The Twisted Ones (WINNER) by T. Kingfisher
          The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell
          The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper
          The Toll by Cherie Priest
          Violet by Scott Thomas
Incidentally, A Memory Called Empire  and The Future of Another Timeline  were two of our SF² Concatenation team's annual bit-of-fun Best SF books of 2019 list.

The British SF fan community of World War II returns with Homefront: Fandom in the UK 1939-1945 from Ansible Editions.  Edited by Rob Hansen, a collection of wartime fan-writing showing how British fans maintained their lines of communication and even had fun despite call-up, overseas postings, the Blitz and all the rest.  It is a genuinely interesting read.  ISBN 978-1-913-45164-6.  The book is free but a donation to the TAFF fan fund would be nice.  See taff.org.uk/ebooks.php

 

Other SF news includes:-

The CoNZealand Worldcon has obviously been affected by the SARS-Co-2 outbreak.  The game plan is to now hold this as a virtual event online.  However, prior to this plans for the event had been progressing.  These included that the 2020 Worldcon, CoNZealand, in Wellington, had announced a' scholarship' programme for marginalised communities to attend.  The scholarship grants, called the Aotearoa Inclusion Initiative, which was open to the end of March, would have helped make sure CoNZealand hears from a diverse range of voices, particularly Maori and Pacifica.  There were no financial hardship criteria to apply for the scholarship.  Applications from people from marginalised communities were prioritised, including Maori, Pacifica, people of colour, LGBTQI+, disabled, and those facing socio-economic disadvantage. Applicants who reside in New Zealand, or who required minimal travel support, were accepted first, with broader Pacifica region applicants considered if funds allow.
          ConZealand's programming plans were in progress to put on over 500 programme items in several parallel programme streams including one on Maori SF/fantasy.
          Elsewhere this edition we have an article on Wellington: for visiting SF folk 2020
(OK, so the Wellington Worldcon will not be taking place except virtually on the internet, but here is what attendees could also have seen and, of course, there will be other cons in Wellington.)

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is bidding to host the 2022 Worldcon.  There is currently one other extant bid for 2022, Chicago which itself is quite a strong bid.  The Saudi bid's title is JeddiCon.  Jeddah is a coastal city on the west cost of the Arabian Peninsula, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and is the main city that all Muslims come through both by land and sea on their way to Makkah.  It is a very ethnically diverse city as people from all over the world immigrated to it throughout history.  The proposed venue is the King Faisal Conference Centre.  The bid is supported by Saudi Ministry of Culture.  This is an interesting bid but one arguably marred by Saudi's civil rights concerns which include, among other things, being gay illegal.  The only other Worldcon bid with serious civil rights concerns is Chengdu, China for 2023.

And finally….

SF conventions due to beheld from March (2020) onwards for much the year have been cancelled.  As countries go into self-isolation mode much of the SF convention diary for the year has simply been cancelled.  For those conventions held a few months away in the early, northern hemisphere summer have been particularly hard hit as hotels have been reluctant to cancel prior to their nation's governmental instructions to cease hosting events.  In some instance there has been confusion.  Registrants for the US regional SF con Balticon were even sent individual cancellation messages from the hotel prior to the convention organisers themselves being informed.  Other early northern hemisphere summer cons have, instead of cancellation, moved dates to the autumn.  However, this is a debatable gambit as it is unlikely that event-holding restrictions due to SARS-CoV-2 will be lifted before a vaccine has been developed, safety tested, mass-produced, distributed, mass vaccination taken place and population level efficacy validated.  This will all take time and it does look very much as if it is most likely to be completed well into 2021, and not much before the end of 2020.  Of course, one can but hope should one wish to rely on it, though the informed bioscience odds are against it: biology is non-negotiable.

 

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 2020

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:-
          Jumanji: The Next Level (Trailer here)
          Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Trailer here)
          Birds of Prey (Trailer here)
          Dolittle (Trailer here)
          A Quiet Place: Part II (Trailer here)
          The Invisible Man (Trailer here)

The new James Bond film's release has been postponed by seven months.  This is due to the growing SARS-CoV-2 situationNo Time To Die's release date has moved from April to November 2020.  It will now come out in Britain on 12th November, and in the North America on 25th November.  At the time of posting there is concern as to possible SARS-CoV-2 infection attending large events and cinemas have been closed.  The last Bond film, Spectre, took almost £690 million (US$900m) worldwide at the box office in 2015.  The new film's release has already been pushed back from October 2019 after the original director Danny Boyle dropped out.  However given the estimated mass-production time for a vaccine a cinematic release is actually unlikely this year.  Instead it may go straight to streaming.

Shooting the next Mission Impossible film has been halted due to the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, outbreak. The first major film to announce shooting cancellation.  Shooting on the seventh film in the series was due to take place in Venice in March. The plans for the shoot were paused in February due to concerns about the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Italy: the worst outbreak in Europe that can result in the disease COVID-19.  The stars were not in Italy at the time of the cancellation, but the crew were and were sent home.  Subsequently many films cancelled shoots and nearly all had cancelled by the end of the third week in March.

The top film being streamed the first weeks of UK self-isolation was Contagion.  Contagion was a top ten SF/F chart film for the year 2011/12 Easter-to-Easter film.  It concerns a SARS-like outbreak following a viral jump from bat to human via pigs.

Ray Harryhausen is celebrated at the National Galleries of Scotland this summer (2020).  History of special effects enthusiasts will find Edinburgh the place to head for this summer as the National Galleries of Scotland hosts a special exhibition to mark what would have been Ray Harryhausen's 100th birthday.  Harryhausen himself was inspired by the works of artists such as the nineteenth-century British painters: John Martin (1789–1854) and Joseph Gandy (1771–1843) as well as the French artist Gustave Doré (1832–1883). Examples of these artists works as well as stills from the films Harryhausen provided effects for together with many of Harryhausen's actual models will be on display.  The exhibition will run at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art (Modern Two) from Saturday 23rd May to Sunday 25th October 2020.  There will also be an accompanying book. This would have made Edinburgh an ideal destination for a long-weekend city break but alas it looks like it will be cancelled.  Hopefully, they'll put it on once all the self-isolation period is over.

Sam Raimi is in talks to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.  January (2020) saw Scott Derrickson leave the film.  Doctor Strange is a Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  Sam Raimi first came to genre attention with the Evil dead trilogy (1981-'92). He also received gene cred for Darkman (1990).  His Marvel work began with the first Spiderman trilogy (2002-2007) before he left the franchise, with the next two Spiderman films being made by others.  Recently he has produced a run of horror films.  It is thought that Raimi, with a feel for comedy horror and past experience with Marvel characters, could deliver a darker Doctor Strange without compromising its censor certificate s allowing family audiences.  This last is thought to have been the sticking point regarding Derrickson's departure.  You can see the trailer for the first Doctor Strange film here.

Star Wars composer, John Williams wins 25th Grammy.  His scores for films include those for: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  This time the award was given in the 'Best Instrumental Composition' category for 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Symphonic Suite', a track he created for the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attractions in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Harrison Ford is to return as Indiana Jones.  No title has yet been given for Indie's fifth outing.  But what is certain is that with Harrison, now 77, it is likely to be heavy on stunt double time.  What is also known is Steven Spielberg is producing, that James (Wolverine & Logan) Mangold is directing and that shooting was due to be starting in May (2020) but of course this has been postponed. The film had had a tentative release date of July 2021.  Apparently the film will lso reveal something of Indiana Jones background alluded to in the earlier films.  Harrison has been speaking about it and the adaptation of Jack London's 1903 book Call of the Wild for a US show.

There's a new Batman film originally due in 2021.  Batman/ Brice Wayne is to be played by Robert Pattinson and Alfred by Andy Serkis.  While there is no detail as to the plot, we do know it will feature the Penguin (Colin Farrell), Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) and The Riddler (Paul Dano).  There is a real tease first look teaser on YouTube.

Steven Spielberg Amblin to develop forthcoming novel The Mother Code.  Written by Silicon Valley biochemist Carole Stivers, The Mother Code is set in a world in which a biological weapon has nearly destroyed the planet, leading scientists and government officials working to save the human race by placing unborn children in the care of artificially intelligent mother robots...  Amy Louise (Nightflyers) Johnson is to write the script for Amblin.

And finally…

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

Film clip download tip!: The Vast of Night has been getting good feedback on the Fantastic Film Fest circuit.  It has a limited general release in cinemas at the end of May and will also be streamable from then on Amazon Prime.  Early days but 7 out of 10 on IMDB and 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The Vast of Night sees a mysterious frequency descend on a small New Mexico town in the twilight of the 1950s, forever changing the lives of two youths as they investigate and encounter its origin…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Morbius is out this summer.  It is based on the Marvel Comics character Michael Morbius. He is dangerously ill with a life-long, rare blood disorder.  Determined to save others suffering his same fate, he attempts a desperate gamble. What at first appears to be a radical success soon reveals itself to be a remedy potentially worse than the disease as he becomes transformed into a super-strong, echo-locating man with a thirst for blood.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Alpha Test is a new independent SF horror.  Just out and available on DVD, it sees a suburban family drive their new gadget, The Alpha Home Assistant, to a killing rampage after mistreating and abusing it, leading to a full A.I. uprising…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Scientist is a forthcoming independent psychological SF thriller.  Steve Unger struggles to care for his terminally-ill wife, Darlene, who only has but a few weeks left to live.  Can his research give her anew lease of life?  The film's tag line is 'He found a cure that kills!'  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: One for fantasy fans --Snow White and the Huntsman gets the Honest Trailer treatment (4minutes).

Film clip download tip!: Short film --Outpost.  A deep space science outpost investigates an odd phenomena…  See the 15 minute short here.

Film clip download tip!: Short film --TS: Terminators.  Fabrice Mathieu has taken five Terminator films, eleven other Arnold Schwarzenegger films plus ten additional science fiction films and judiciously extracted short clips, editing them together with a dubbed soundtrack to make a new Terminator short offering.  Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled by John Connor. And now they are all targeting each other!&bsp; You can see the 16 minute short here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2019/20 (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 2020 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 2020

Television News

 

The shooting of many TV shows has been cancelled in the UK due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.  Additionally, live TV shows are being broadcast without an audience.  With luck, as repeats increase, we may see a few lost SF/F gems resurface.

Streaming services in Europe, such as Netflix, have cut their quality.  This is a consequence of people staying at home, self-isolating from SARS-CoV-2 to avoid COVID-19 and watching streamed television so eating into local internet bandwidth, slowing down the internet for others.  There are two main ways streaming services can make streaming more bandwidth efficient.  First, is video resolution reduction which determines picture definition/resolution and the second is bitrate, which influences how clear and smooth videos look when streamed online.  Videos with a higher bitrate tend to look less "blocky".  Netflix, for example, is lowering their bitrate by 25%.  The EU is also encouraging people to view television at standard, not high, definition resolutions.  An hour of standard definition video uses about 1GB of data, while HD can use up to 3GB an hour.  Netflix also offers ultra-high definition 4K video for some of its programmes and people are asked not to use this unless really necessary.  Netflix itself said it would help "preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the COVID-19 crisis".  The pressures on internet bandwidth are of concern.  Telecoms Vodafone reported a 50% rise in internet use in Europe.  Facebook reported that the social media platform was seeing "big surges" as users tried to stay connected with friends.  Facebook does see regular seasonal peaks. Its normal largest surge in use on New Year's Eve, but the current increased demand from those self-isolating has had outpaced that.

NBC's The Good Place has aired its final ever episode.  The end of January saw The Good Place have the final episode of the 14-episode, season 4, and final episode ever,  aired.  Therefore there have been 53 episodes in all.  The comedy fantasy series focuses on one Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell), who wakes up in the afterlife and is introduced by Michael (Ted Danson) to "the Good Place", a highly selective Heaven-like utopia he designed, as a reward for her righteous life. However, she realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behaviour while trying to become a better and more ethical person.  It was quite popular in the US where two seasons attracted a nearly 6 million audience.  It was proportionally less popular here in Britain, possibly because (even though our state and church are constitutionally entwined) we are more secular: the show firmly draws on the Judao-Christian and Abrahamic religion mythos of judgement and the afterlife deserved depending on the life led.  Nonetheless, the show was short-listed for a Hugo Award in 2018 and 2019 a total of four times, winning two for 'Best Dramatic Presentation- Short Form' for the episodes 'The Trolley Problem' and 'Janet(s)'. (Though it should be noted that those years saw less than a thousand nominate in those categories which meant that when we reported the Hugo results for 2018 and results for 2019 we did not consider 'Best Dramatic Presentation- Short Form' as a principal Hugo category those years.)  If you have not seen it, we will give you a taste with a look at the final episode – no, not the final episode of the final season but a clip from the final episode of the first season.  You can see the clip here.

Altered Carbon has recently started its second season.  Based on the Richard Morgan Altered Carbon series of novels, Netflix has a second season.  Actor Joel Kinnaman has not returned playing the protagonist Takeshi Kovacs; Anthony Mackie is plays him instead.  You can see the season trailer here.

Westworld has recently started its third season.  Season three consists of eight episodes and is on HBO and called 'The New World'.  You can see the final season trailer here.

The new, Anglo-French, War of the Worlds has recently started on Fox.  It has previously aired in France.  This latest interpretation of the H. G. Wells novel (1898) is set in the present day with the alien invaders getting in with a chemical first strike, before they land, wiping out most of the population.  You can see the series trailer here.

Steven Spielberg's resurrected Amazing Stories has recently started its first re-boot season.  Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis with Adam Horowitz have brought us this reimagining of the classic anthology SF television series that transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination…  The season is ten episodes long divided into two halves. The first half has completed its run on Apple TV+ and so possibly the DVD may soon be out? The second five of the first season to follow shortly.  You can see the trailer here.

Jodie Whittaker to continue playing Doctor Who for at least another season.  The 'at least' means that she may go for two more.  If she does then that will mean that she will have had four years in the show.

Harley Quinn new series has recently ended on Netflix, but season 2 has been green lit  The animation is The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco's first post-Big Bang ventureHarley Quinn, very much in line with the DC comic's original, follows the title character (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) as she comes to a challenging realisation: The Joker (Alan Tudyk) will never love her as much as he loves Batman (Diedrich Bader).  After Mr. J leaves her to be cannon fodder for The Dark Knight, Harley finally decides she has done with him, and instead goes to live with her best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), who's all about empowering Harley to succeed on her own terms. With nothing to lose and a spiffy new outfit (complete with a baseball bat that she's very good with), Harley sets out to recruit her own team of supervillains and earn enough of a reputation to gain entry into the prestigious Legion of Doom.  It is more adult than the original: Big Bang's Penny was never this sweary…  Trailer here.

New Snowpiercer TV airs in May (2020).  This is based on the film Snowpiercer (2013) starring John Hurt, and in turn based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige [The Snowpiercer] (1982) by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette.  Geoengineering to combat global warming does it too well and the Earth freezes.  Set seven years later, after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer tells the story of survivors, the remnants of humanity, who are passengers on a gigantic, perpetually-moving train that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival are questioned…  This TV series sees the temperature outside as -119°C, which is well below the freezing point of carbon dioxide!  The 2013 film was a reasonable adaptation of the graphic novel scoring 7.1/10 on IMDB (anything above 7 on IMDB is usually worth watching), but whether the single graphic novel-length story can be stretched to a television series, let alone possible multiple seasons remains to be seen.  This last is not a hypothetical concern as, while the series has yet to air, TNT has already renewed it for a second season!  The series stars: Melanie Cavill, Daveed Diggs, Mickey Sumner, Sheila Vand and Jennifer Connelly.  Trailer here.
++++  A year ago an intriguing, if not surprisingly compelling, notion was presented that Snowpiercer is in fact a sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  You don't buy it?  Well, check this short video out.  ++++ Still want more Snowpiercer?  Check out this four-minute animation prequel video.

Star Trek TV franchise may see crossover with the film re-boots.  Going back to the 1990s and 2000s there was no problem with there being classic Trek films, Next Gen etc., TV and films and even crossovers with all three.  This was because Paramount held the rights to all three.  However a few years ago we had subsidiaries Viacom and CBS and they split 14 years ago: Viacom owns the film re-boot Trek and CBS the TV franchises.  What has happened very recently is that Viacom and CBS have re-merged.  This has led to speculation to merge the various Treks. Given that both the film re-boots and Star Trek: Discovery are based on parallel universes, there would be an overarching plot backdrop that would readily allow this.  Alex Kurtzman – who oversees Star Trek for CBS TV Studios – reportedly seems to think so.
          The latest news is that there are two more Star Trek ventures now green lit in addition to Star Trek: Picard, and the already announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Section 31, and the as-yet-untitled Nickelodeon Star Trek animated series.  The first is the next Star Trek feature film that is to be developed by Paramount Pictures.  The second is a new run of Star Trek to be published by Viacom CBS subsidiary Simon & Shuster. This last follows the first Picard tie-in novel, The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack, that was released in February.

Resident Alien graphic novels are to become a TV series this summer.  The series to air on SyFy and follows a crash-landed alien named Harry who takes on the identity of a small-town Colorado doctor who slowly begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his secret on Earth.  He is pursued by a government agency and passes his time solving murders and other mysteries.  Resident Alien is a Dark Horse Comics series created by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse.  There have been five comics series of four issues each so far: a sixth is forthcoming.  The first was Resident Alien: Welcome to Earth! in 2012.  The SF comedy drama television series sees Alan Tudyk in the lead role.  Linda (Terminator) Hamilton plays General McCallister, a high-ranking member of the military who runs a covert operation to find the existence of alien life on Earth.  See the teaser trailer here.

The Lost Boys may still return as a TV series given a second pilot has been ordered  Early last year, CW ordered a pilot for a series based on the 1987 film.  The comedy-horror film saw a single mother and her children move to a new town and find a new man in her life.  Meanwhile her children unbelievably discover that the locals think that vampires are real…  However, CW dropped the idea.  Nonetheless, they still must be keen on the idea of a TV series reboot as they have ordered a second pilot.  None of the cast members from the first pilot are associated with the new version.  +++ Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes The Lost Boys return as straight-to-DVD.

Lost in Space is to end with season 3.  The Netflix re-boot Lost in Space launched in the spring of 2018 and was much awaited since the show was proposed in 2015 (how time flies).  The show is now to end with the conclusion of season 3.  The plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.  It was meant to be a three-part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end.  Given we have seen other shows drag on well past their sell-by date without any proper conclusion (Lost anyone?) this should be viewed as good news.

 

And finally, seeking more TV-related vids…

Self-isolating and seeking more trailers and SF TV short videos?  Why not check out our recent past seasonal news pages (when you get to the master news index, scroll down) and their television news sections starting with last season's.

 

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 2020

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

The SARS-CoV2 outbreak has affected UK book publishing  First up, UK bookshops have closed though newsagent chains, such as W. H. Smiths, have remained open.  Books can, though, continued to be ordered directly from most publishers (the ethically preferable way to order books on-line) as well as Amazon.  Early indications suggest that on-line book sales have held firm and may even have increased due to those self-isolating at home having time to read.  Second, on the commissioning and pre-production side, editorial work continues as commissioning and copy editors as well as proof readers work from home.  It is early days yet, but this may even see no significant impact on productivity. Much depends on the distractions home workers have with things like child care.  Third, the early indications are that book promotion has been impacted.  Book launches and signings have been cancelled and here at SF² Concatenation there has been a marked 90+% decline in review copies received. Whether this will pick up as the months progress we will wait to see.  Book production may possibly slip as some printers self-isolate and some print shops implement safe working conditions lowering staff densities on the shop floor. However, as magazine and newspaper production in the early months of the outbreak has continued, it is possible that slated release dates will only slip a little.  Finally, at the initial creative end (other than child and elderly care impacts) established authors' creative output might increase without the distractions of signings, launches, book fayres, SF conventions, etc.  Indeed, with only three weeks of Britain going on virus alert and a little over a week into self-isolation, some publishers were reporting an increase in submissions.  However, the quality of early would-be author submissions is unlikely to be high.  A few months into firm self-isolation, this might change.

UK print continued to grow in 2019.  UK print book sales has seen a 5th year of continuous growth largely underpinned (as it was last year) by non-fiction growth. The Nielson BookScan Non-Fiction trade (which excludes things like academic) figures rose 5% to £766.1m (up £44m).  Given inflation is around 2%, this represents real-term growth.   All the other three major growing BookScan categories failed to exceed 2.4%.  Over the past decade – despite a mid-decade dip) it has grown from just under £750m to £766.1m.  This means that in real-terms there has been a decline imprint publishing, such has been the effect of the 2007/8 financial crash.
          Fiction (all fiction not just SF/F) for the year was flat at £355.4 m. Fiction's market share was 21.3% in 2019 which compares with trade non-fiction market share of 45.9%.
          Hardbacks, across all book categories in the total consumer market or TCM (which excludes things like learned society publication), saw a 7.1% rise in the value of sales to £603.1m in 2019.  This is real-term growth.
          Paperbacks saw a fall in sales of 01.%.  While the TCM is not synonymous with the whole of UK publishing, it is indicative.  However it does need a little digging into. Over the decade people have been prepared to pay more for books. In 2019 British readers paid an average of £8.70p (US11.22) a book, £1.19 (US$1.54) more than in 2010.  So overall people are paying more but fewer copies are being sold.  +++ Previous related publishing news elsewhere on this site includes:-
          UK publishing (books and journals) grew a little to £6 billion (US$7.44 bn) in 2018
          British publishing grew in 2017/8
          The 2016 Great Britain and N. Ireland publishing industry data has been released
          Physical book sales saw continued growth in 2016 according to preliminary figures
          The 2015 Great Britain and N. Ireland publishing industry data has been released
          The state of the British (UK) book market in 2013.

The UK backlist continues to buttress sales.  Frontlist sales (titles published in 2019) sold through BookScan accounted for £606.4m worth of sales
          Backlist sales (2017 and 2018 whole year sales) accounted for £1,061.5m.
          Deep backlist sales (pre-2017) accounted for £610.6m sales.

The deep backlist UK top ten for 2019 includes three SF/F titles.  Coming in at no. 1 was Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone with 177,542 sales.  J. K. Rowling had another deep backlist top tenner at no. 4 with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with 127,210 copies sold in 2019.  Finally, riding on her new The Testaments was Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale at no. 9 with 108,909 unit sales.

Digital continues to stall for top UK publishers.  E-book unit sales for the top five UK publisher groups declined by 4.8% in 2019 with a drop to 47.2 million e-books sold.  For comparison, the top 5 publisher groups sold 49.6 units in 2018 – the record year.  Hachette is the biggest of the top 5 publishers whose SF/F/H imprints include Gollancz, Orbit and Jo Fletcher Books.

Fiction book sales drop in many developed nations.  For instance there have been frontlist fiction (published the past year 2019) drops in US, Australia and Germany among other countries.  In the US even non-fiction saw a slight fall.  Over all in the US the number of books (units) sold (both fiction and non-fiction) declined by 1.3% while in Germany it was down -0.4%.  But it was not bad news everywhere. For example, China has seen real growth, especially value growth with revenue from book sales increasing by 14.4%.

All change at the Orbit SF imprint.  Editorial Director, Anna Jackson, the genius behind acquiring some of Orbit's SF/F authors/books, has been promoted to Orbit Publisher.  Former Orbit Publisher, Tim Holman, isn’t going far, he is still be around, heading up the Orbit US team.  We at SF² Concatenation wish Anna and Tim well in their new posts.

London Book Fayre cancelled due to virus.  The announcement followed a number of publishers and agencies pulling out of the London Olympia venued event (prior to 2015 it had taken place at Earls Court).  Hachette (which owns Gollancz, Joe Fletcher Books and Hodder), HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster were among several leading publishers to withdraw due to SARS-CoV-2 concerns.  The annual event sees more than 25,000 people in the publishing industry gather to promote their books, sell rights and negotiate deals.  This year would have been the 50th event, next year it will be its 50th anniversary.  ++++ The Leipzig Book Fair, Germany, was cancelled.

Books and graphic novels will be a preliminary instigation of the next phase of Star Wars with 'Star Wars: The High Republic'.  With the Skywalker saga films coming to and end, LucasFilms' Franchise Content & Strategy department is asking what is next for Star Wars?  So they brought together the authors and graphic novelists who have been doing Star Wars for a brainstorming session.  Alec Guinness said in the first Star Wars film that the Jedi had been protecting the galaxy for a thousand generations.  This begs the question as to what was the Star Wars galaxy like back then? And what would really scare the Jedi?  The answer is 'Star Wars: The High Republic'.  This will be presented in a series of books and graphic novels from August (2020) from several publishers including Del Rey, Marvel, Titan, IDW and, we presume over here, Century.  The launch will see three novels and two comic book series with more to follow.  The venture should be seen as an 'incubation' for a possible new series of films…  There is a preliminary four-minute trailer here.

And finally, some of the spring's short SF book related videos…

An hour with Isaac Asimov from 1968.  In this audio recording (illustrated with more than 50 images) at an SF convention, Isaac Asimov spends an hour talking about everything and anything. He is speaking to his extended family - a roomful of science fiction fans. Isaac speaks with great good humour about his writing (both science fiction and science fact), ribs his fellow writers, especially Lester Del Rey and others who were in the room, and tells stories about Harlan Ellison and John W. Campbell. He is charming and arrogant, explaining his view of women, why he doesn't write for TV, his experiences on late night TV and more. This is an opportunity to get to know one of science fiction's greats as his contemporaries did. Thanks to the New England Science Fiction Society (NESFA) and Rick Kovalcik for providing the recording. Brought to you here by FANAC.org, the Fanhistory Project. For more fan history, visit FANAC.org and Fancyclopedia.org .  See the one hour audio and stills here.

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness.  Well, we've previously reviewed The Left Hand of Darkness   But Extra Sci Fi, from Extra Credits, has their own take.  See their 6-minute episode here.

Star Wars - The Rise of Cyberpunk… According to Extra Sci-Fi.  Apparently (they say) cyberpunk ended the New Wave literary movement and Star Wars gave birth to cyberpunk.  Really?  You decide in their 6-minute episode here.

J. G. Ballard explored.  No matter what piece of work you pick up, you'll find J. G. Ballard's writing evocative and boundary-pushing: an exemplar of the New Wave.  See the Extra Sci-Fi 6-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 2020

Forthcoming SF Books

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts by Douglas Adams, Macmillan, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-52-903447-9.
A special 42nd anniversary edition of the scripts that launched a billion quips. March 1978 saw the first ever transmission of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio 4; the beginning of a cult phenomenon.  This collection, which is a faithful reproduction of the text as it was first published in 1985, features all twelve original radio scripts – Hitchhiker as it was written and exactly as it was broadcast for the very first time. They include amendments and additions made during recordings, and original notes on the writing and producing of the series by Douglas Adams and Geoffrey Perkins.

The Sentient by Nadia Afifi, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58434-1.
Neuroscientist Amira Valdez is trying to put her past on a religious compound behind her.  But when she’s assigned to a controversial cloning project, her dreams of working in space are placed in jeopardy. Using her talents as a reader of memories, Amira uncovers a conspiracy to stop the creation of the first human clone – at all costs.

The Human by Neal Asher, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86244-3.
A warship is laying waste to the galaxy, making for unexpected allies in the face of incredible acts of war. This is the conclusion to Neal Asher’s Rise of the Jain trilogy following The Warship.  An entire galaxy hangs in the balance…  A Jain warship has risen from the depths of space, emerging with a deadly grudge and a wealth of ancient yet lethal technology. It is determined to hunt down the alien Client, and will annihilate all those who stand in its way. So Orlandine must prepare humanity’s defence.  Both humanity and the Prador thought their ancient foe – the Jain – had perished in a past age. And they resolve to destroy these outliers at any cost. Orlandine wants the Client’s inside knowledge to act, but the Client has her own agenda. Earth Central therefore looks to the Prador for alliance, after the Jain destroy their fleet. However, not everyone is happy with this, and some will do anything to shatter this fragile coalition.  As the Jain warship makes its way across the galaxy, it seems unstoppable. Human and Prador forces alike struggle to withstand its devastating weaponry. Orlandine’s life work is to neutralize Jain technology, so if she can’t triumph, no one can. But will she become what she’s vowed to destroy?

Transformation: Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86851-3.
Welcome reprint of his 2015 novel.  Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, where he finds he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war which ended a whole century ago. But when he relives his traumatic final moments, he finds the spark to keep on living. That spark is vengeance. Trapped and desperate on a world surrounded by alien Prador forces, Spear had seen a rescue ship arriving. But instead of providing backup, Penny Royal, the AI within the destroyer turned rogue. It annihilated friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction, and, years later, it's still free. Spear vows to track it across worlds and do whatever it takes to bring it down.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker & James Goss, BBC Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94391-1.
A Doctor Who adventure from the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker – his first-ever Doctor Who novel.  What are you afraid of?  The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, who are preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.  With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil. Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

Providence by Max Barry, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-35203-0.
In the future, the war against aliens has taken a critical turn. Mankind has developed the ultimate killing machine, the Providence class of spaceship. The mismatched quartet of Talia, Gilly, Jolene and Anders are the crew on one of these battleships. But the ship takes care of all the tactics. The crew’s only job is to publicise their glorious war to a sceptical Earth. But then everything changes. A message comes from base: the Providence is going into the VZ, the Violet Zone, where there are no beacons and no communications with Earth. It’s at this stage the Providence starts having its own agenda.

Hammered by Elizabeth Bear, Gateway, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22454-4 A near-future tale about a woman who was engineered for combat in a world that's running out of time. Jenny Casey is a former Canadian special forces warrior living on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062.  Her artificially reconstructed body is failing her, but a government scientist from her old life thinks she is perfect for his high-stakes project. Suddenly Jenny is a pawn in a battle being waged on the Internet, the streets, and in the complex wirings of her man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control… This was originally published in the US in 2004.

Devolution by Max Brooks, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12409-5.
As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined… until now.  But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing – and too earth-shattering in its implications – to be forgotten.  This novel brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the beasts behind it, once thought legendary but now known to be terrifyingly real.  Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.  Yet it is also far more than that.  Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us – and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.  Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story…

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50955-6.
From the author of The Girl with all the Gifts comes another post-apocalyptic thriller.  Here, humanity faces attack from nature with species on the attack. (Shades of Harry Harrison's Deathworld?)  Koli is a boy who is afraid of trees.  After the world broke down, plants and animals were dying, so people made them stronger. Now everyone is afraid of them.  Koli is also afraid of Shunned Men, the outcasts outside the village walls.  And he’s afraid to tell the girl he likes how he feels.  But if Koli can become a Rampart, if he can wake the technology of the old world, he knows he won’t have to be afraid of anything again.  He’s wrong.

The City Among The Stars by Francis Carsac, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58424-2.
Tankar Holroy, Lieutenant in the Stellar Guard of Earth’s Empire, floats in space after his spaceship is sabotaged. Rescued by an enormous, unknown ship, he awakes to discover himself saved by the People of the Stars who are born and live in space with minimal contact with planets and their occupants whom they call, with contempt, planetaries. The chilly welcome he receives from the ship’s leader, the Teknor, is followed by overt hostility from the other inhabitants of the Tilsin. Only a woman named Orena reaches out to him. Tankar soon realizes that he was rescued for his knowledge of the technology that allows Empire ships to track others through hyperspace, a technology the People of the Stars lack. Out of spite, he refuses to deliver the one piece of knowledge that can protect the people who saved but now spurn him – and the consequences will be catastrophic.
          Francis Carsac, is a pseudonym for the world-renowned French scientist, geologist, and archaeologist Francois Bordes, who wrote and published six novels during the golden age of science fiction. Never before published in English, these novels resonate with timely issues ranging from climate control to racism and greed and tell the stories of characters whose challenges and triumphs clearly relate to many of the problems we encounter today. He has been translated and published into Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Hungarian and Estonian amongst others.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (Expanded Edition) by Rae Carson, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12456-9.
The Skywalker saga reaches its conclusion in this expanded novelisation of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69718-8.
At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.  Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

Exhaltation by Ted Chiang, Piccador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01449-5.
Anthology shorts.  This collection of short stories contains nine stories, ranging from four pages to one hundred and eleven pages. They are followed by ten pages of notes where the author briefly explains the inspirations for each story.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03943-6.
Reprint of his first anthology shorts (2005).  With Stories of Your Life and Others, his masterful first collection, multiple-award-winning author Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories, all told in his trademark precise and evocative prose.  From a soaring Babylonian tower that connects a flat Earth with the firmament above, to a world where angelic visitations are a wondrous and terrifying part of everyday life; from a neural modification that eliminates the appeal of physical beauty, to an alien language that challenges our very perception of time and reality. . . Chiang's rigorously imagined fantasia invites us to question our understanding of the universe and our place in it.  Click on the title link for a standalone review

Alien Secrets by Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, £5.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-062-82538-4.
Military SF.  Humans against the aliens.

Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air by Jackson Ford, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51046-0.
Teagan Frost’s life is finally back on track. Her role working for the government as a psychokinetic operative is going well. She might also be on course for convincing her crush, Nic Delacourt, to go out with her. And she’s even managed to perfect her paella recipe.  But Teagan is about to face her biggest threat yet. A young boy with the ability to cause earthquakes has come to Los Angeles – home to the San Andreas, one of the most lethal fault lines in the world. If Teagan can’t stop him, the entire city – and the rest of California – will be wiped off the map…

Outbreak by Frank Gardner, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63238-7.
Frank Gardner's former SBS officer and now MI6 operative Luke Carlton returns to the fray in his third, roller-coaster of an adventure… and this time he - and the world - are facing the all-too-real horrors of 21st century bio-terrorism…  Deep within the Arctic Circle, three muffled figures trudge through a blindingly white, bitterly cold and barren landscape.  They are environmental scientists from the UK's Arctic Research Station, forced by a raging blizzard to abandon their fieldwork and go in search of shelter. The cabin they're heading for seems abandoned.  No tell tale smoke or lights glowing. No snow-cat parked outside. The first thing they notice when they enter is the smell - rank, rotting - and then there's movement. A man, barely recognisable, lies on a sofa, his face hideously disfigured by livid pustules, rivulets of blood run from his nostrils, his neck swollen, his chest covered in black bile. Momentarily, the team's medic Dr Sheila Mackenzie, can't comprehend what she's seeing but then the alarm bells begin to ring...  These are the sure signs of chronic infection. The man is trying to say something, she edges closer to hear and it's then that he begins to convulse, and coughs suddenly, violently, vomiting out a rank mix of blood, bile and mucus...contaminating Dr Mackenzie and two companions and setting in train a terrifying chain of events that points to an extraordinary conspiracy that threatens millions with a deadly contagion.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86863-6.
The Void: a sealed universe, billions of years old. Alive, its expansion is barely contained. Now it wants to make contact…

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46096-6.
Click on the title link for a standalone review.  All civilisations think they are invulnerable.  History warns us none is.  "1468 The year of our risen Lord". A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts – coins, fragments of glass, human bones – which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?  As Fairfax is drawn more deeply into the isolated community, everything he believes – about himself, his faith and the history of his world – is tested to destruction…  Possibly 2019's best mundane science fiction novel.  Cited by the SF² Concatenation team as one of the best SF novels of the previous year.

The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09635-6.
Shaw had a breakdown, but he's getting himself back together. He has a single room, a job on a decaying London barge, and an on-off affair with a doctor's daughter called Victoria, who claims to have seen her first corpse at age thirteen.  It's not ideal, but it's a life. Or it would be if Shaw hadn't got himself involved in a conspiracy theory that, on dark nights by the river, seems less and less theoretical...  Meanwhile, Victoria is up in the Midlands, renovating her dead mother's house, trying to make new friends. But what, exactly, happened to her mother? Why has the local waitress disappeared into a shallow pool in a field behind the house? And why is the town so obsessed with that old Victorian morality tale, The Water Babies?  As Shaw and Victoria struggle to maintain their relationship, the sunken lands are rising up again, unnoticed in the shadows around them.

XX by Ryan Hughes, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-02057-1.
A unique and extraordinary novel of alien first contact, and how humanity copes in the aftermath.  At Jodrell Bank a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin has been detected. Jack Fenwick, artificial intelligence expert and on the autistic spectrum, thinks he can decode it. But when he and his associates at Hoxton tech start-up Intelligencia find a way to step into the alien realm the signal encodes, they discover that it’s already occupied – by ghostly entities that may come from our own past.  Have these ‘DMEn’ (Digital Memetic Entities) been created by persons unknown for just such an eventuality? Are they our first line of defence in a coming war, not for territory, but for our minds?  Including transcripts from NASA debriefs, newspaper and magazine articles, fictitious Wikipedia pages, a seventeenth century treatise called Cometographia by Johannis Hevelius, and a spread on the so far undeciphered written language of Easter Island, Rongorongo, from a book called Language Lost: Undeciphered Scripts of the Ancient World. There is no book quite like this.  Wrapping stories within stories, Rian Hughes’ XX unleashes the full narrative potential of graphic design. It uses the visual culture of the twentieth century to ask us who we think we are – and where we may be headed next.  The battle for your mind has already begun.

We, Robots edited by Simon Ings, Head of Zeus, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54091-8.
From 1837 through to present day, from Charles Dickens to Cory Doctorow, Simon Ings presents a hundred of the best short stories on artificial intelligence from around the world.  These stories demonstrate humanity’s enduring fascination with artificial creation. Crafted in our image, androids mirror our greatest hopes and darkest fears: we want our children to do better and be better than us, but we also place ourselves in jeopardy by creating beings that may eventually out-think us.  This compelling SF trope has persisted across decades and subgenres, so the anthology is organised into six thematic sections: Making Robots, Dealing with Robots, Served by Robots, Changing Places with Robots, Being Robots and, finally, Supplanted by Robots, We, Robots collects the finest android short stories the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to new rising stars.

The Raven by Jonathan Janz, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58530-0.
Science fantasy.  Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They have discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA.  These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the Earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?

Vagabond Hao Jingfang, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69650-2.
This sees two worlds collide as a group of kids sent to Earth as delegates from Mars are unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth.  In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds.  In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.  The story is narrated from two perspectives: an eighteen year-old girl from Mars who has spent the past five years on Earth, and a filmmaker from Earth on a job to document the delegates from Mars. Both are trapped between worlds, with critics all around, and always under suspicion, searching for where they truly belong.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-38714-8.
Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight.  Eccentric genius Adam Bosch has cracked the multiverse and created a way to travel to parallel Earths. There’s just one problem: no one can visit an Earth where they are still alive, and all the would-be travellers in Adam’s circle have lived sheltered, safe lives in the city.  Enter Cara. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive.  So, when she’s offered a job travelling the multiverse, and a safe place in the city to call home, she’s willing to do anything to keep it that way.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65085-5.
Sarya is the Galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human. Fortunately, she’s the last one.  Sarya has lived on a space station her entire life, keeping her identity a secret even as she puzzles over the impossible questions behind her own existence. But when a strange visitor recognises Sarya as Human and makes her an irresistible offer, she’s convinced she’s about to get the answers she needs – until a series of vicious attacks leaves her world shattered. Suddenly she’s running for her life and she makes for the depths of space aboard a stolen ship, in search of the truth behind her existence.

Cold Storage by David Koepp, HQ, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-33454-3.
The author is a Jurassic Park, Spiderman and Mission Impossible screenwriter this is his debut novel. An organism of extinction level danger, is found outside of its cold storage…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, 382pp, ISBN 978-1-473-21676-1.
Space opera on the Moon.  Near Earth, near future. We have colonised the Moon, over a million people living in permanent exile in sub-surface habitats mining metals, helium and anything else valuable to Earth and the growing Luna economy. Quasi-independent, the Moon is run by five extended families, the Five Dragons, on semi-feudal lines. The law is a negotiation, and everything and anything goes so long as it has the sanction of one of the families. And the families are at each other’s throats…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54611-8.
In a sunlit clearing, on an otherwise ordinary day in the late Cretaceous, the seeds of Earth’s first and greatest civilisation were sown in the grisly aftermath of a Tyrannosaurus’ lunch.  Throughout the universe, intelligence is a rare commodity.  That Earth should harbour not just one but two intelligent species at the same time defies the odds. That these species should forge an alliance and kindle civilization defies logic. But time is endless and everything comes to pass eventually...  From humble beginnings came writing, mathematics, computers, fusion, antimatter and even space travel. But such magnificent industry comes at a price – one paid first by Earth’s biosphere, and then by those dependent on it.  And yet the dinosaurs refused to heed the ants’ warning of impending ecological collapse, leaving the Ant Federation facing a single dilemma: destroy the dinosaurs, destroy a civilisation... or perish alongside them?

Supernova Era by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54240-1.
Eight years ago and eight light years away, a supermassive star died.  Tonight, a supernova tsunami of high energy will finally reach Earth. Dark skies will shine bright as a new star blooms in the heavens and within a year everyone over the age of thirteen will be dead, their chromosomes irreversibly damaged.  And so the countdown begins.  Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge they'll need to keep the world running.  But the last generation may not want to carry the legacy of their parents' world. And though they imagine a better, brighter future, they may not be able to escape humanity's dark instincts…

Three Kings by George R. R. Martin, Harper Fiction, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-36148-8.
The return of the famous shared-world superhero books created and edited by George R. R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire.  For decades, George R.R. Martin – bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire – has collaborated with an ever-shifting ensemble of science fiction and fantasy icons to create the 'Wild Cards' universe.  In the aftermath of World War II, the Earth’s population was devastated by an alien virus. Those who survived were changed forever. Some, known as jokers, were cursed with bizarre mental and physical mutations; others, granted superhuman abilities, became the lucky few known as aces.  Queen Margaret, who came to the English throne after the death of her sister Elizabeth, now lies on her death-bed. Summoning the joker ace Alan Turing, she urges him to seek the true heir: Elizabeth's lost son. He was rumoured to have died as a baby but, having been born a joker, was sent into hiding.  Margaret dies and her elder son Henry becomes king and at once declares he wants to make England an 'Anglo-Saxon country' and suggests jokers be sent 'to the moon'. Dangerous tensions begin to tear the country apart. The Twisted Fists – an organization of jokers led by the Green Man - are becoming more militant. And Babh, goddess of war, sees opportunities to sow strife and reap blood…  This mosaic novel, includes contributions from Mary Anne Mohanraj, Peter Newman, Peadar Ó Guilín, Melinda M. Snodgrass and Caroline Spector.

Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilly, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54895-3.
SF thriller.  An artificial intelligence (AI) device witnesses the murder of its creator. Tobias Hawke was the tech genius boss of the British Institute for Deep Learning. Now his body has been found in his lab: he has been brutally murdered. Hawke was on the brink of an astonishing breakthrough in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His creation, ‘Syd’, a machine-learning device that mimics human thought, promised to change the face of humanity forever. But, in the wake of her creator’s murder, Syd has disappeared. Who has taken her, and what secrets are her neural networks hiding?  Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, is the man to find out. But he can’t work alone. Teenage hacker Fangfang, and Hawke’s widow, a prize-winning ethicist, have their own reasons to solve the murder. But can they uncover the truth before it’s too late?

The Apocalypse Strain by Jason Parent, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58355-9.
A multi-national research team – led by a medical genomics expert suffering from MS – study an ancient pandoravirus at a remote Siberian research facility. Called ‘Molli’ by the research team, it is a force too dangerous to escape their compound. But the virus has a mind of its own, and it wants out…

Waste Tide by Chen Quifan, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69129-3.
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.

Solar War by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54493-0.
This is the follow-up to Winter World and James and his team prepare humanity for a last stand against the alien AI.

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds, Tor (US), £8.99, ISBN 978-1-250-30356-1.
OK, so this came out last year in N. America but copies are now surfacing in British genre and other good bookshops.  Given that Alastair writes fairly hard-ish SF and that we at the coreSF² Concatenation all like his stories, we thought we'd share.  ix the past. Save the present. Stop the future.  2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity's future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an ageing schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.  2028: a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head... an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own - one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.  Does she resist ... or become a collaborator?

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21832-1.
Science fantasy.  There’s only one way to hear Hadrian Marlowe’s true story … in his own words, in this space opera fantasy.  The second novel of the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series merges the best of space opera and epic fantasy, as Hadrian Marlowe continues down a path that can only end in fire.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi, Tor, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83536-2.
This is the conclusion to John Scalzi’s 'Interdependency' Series that began with The Collapsing Empire (2017), which was short-listed for a Hugo, and The Consuming Fire (2018).  As humanity’s greatest civilization faces its fall, its ruler must battle those who would just save themselves.  Can they escape the end of an empire?  Entire star systems, and billions of people, are about to be stranded. The pathways that link the stars are collapsing faster than anyone expected, accelerating the fall of civilization. But though the evidence is insurmountable, many are in denial. And some even attempt to profit from the final days of this golden age.  Emperox Grayland II has wrested control of the empire from her enemies. But even as she works to save her people, others seek power. And they will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne. Grayland and her depleted allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves and humanity – yet it still may not be enough. Will Grayland become the saviour of her civilization… or the last Emperox to wear the crown?

Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22920-4.
This is billed as a "collection of the best of Silverberg’s short works, including the 'Needle in a Timestack' story, the inspiration for the forthcoming film of the same name. This collection features twenty short stories, each with a new introduction from the author."  At least that is what the catalogue and pre-launch publicity says. However Needle in a Timestack was the title of a 1966 collection of his works that did not feature that title story and also only had 10 stories. So we guess that this edition consists of another of his collections tacked on to the original.  Either way, this is a welcome re-airing of stories from the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award-winning Bob Silverberg who is perhaps best known for his 1950s -1990s books.  Younger, serious SF readers check him out.

Anyone by Charles Soule, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-34673-2.
Inside a barn in Michigan, a scientist searching for an Alzheimer’s cure throws a switch – and finds herself mysteriously transported into her husband’s body. What begins as a botched experiment will change her life – and the world – forever…  Two decades later, across the planet, ‘flash’ technology allows individuals the ability to transfer their consciousness into other bodies for specified periods, paid, registered and legal. But beyond the reach of government regulators is a sordid black market called the darkshare, and one woman is determined to use it for revenge.

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers, Hodder & Stoughton, £20.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-37815-3.
A biological weapon has gone wrong, with the virus spreading and gradually destroying human existence. Scientists have only a few months to come up with technology to save the human race. The answer is robots that can incubate, birth and rear human children and defend them against all threats. Years later the children are ready to leave their mothers and seek their surviving brothers and sisters in the post-apocalyptic wilderness.  But will the robots allow their children their freedom, or have they become overprotective? Only the children can save themselves against the most awesome fighting machines ever invented.  Spielberg's Amblin is working on making a film of the novel – see the news item in the film section above.

Invisible Sun: Empire Games: Book Three by Charles Stross, Tor, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-447-24759-3.
This is set in Stross' 'Clan Corporate' or ''Merchant Princess' universe.  Two parallel versions of America are trapped in a cold war that’s heating up fast. Then a new threat no one could have predicted causes consternation across two civilisations. This is the extraordinary finale of Charles Stross’ alternative history espionage thriller.  Two twinned worlds are waiting for war…  America is caught in a deadly arms race with the USA, its high-tech, parallel world. Yet it might just self-combust first. For its president-equivalent has died, leaving a crippling power vacuum. Without the First Man’s support, Miriam Bernstein faces a paranoid government opponent. He suspects her of scheming to resurrect the American monarchy. And Miriam is indeed helping the exiled American princess. This is only to prevent her being used against them, but her rivals will twist anything to ruin her.  However, all factions will face a disaster bigger than anything they could imagine. In their drive to explore other timelines, hi-tech America has awakened an alien threat. This force destroyed humanity on one version of earth – and if they don’t take action, it will do the same to both of their timelines.

Fearless by Allen Stroud, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58355-9.
Captain Ellisa Shann commands Kidhr, a search and rescue ship, tasked to assist the vast commercial freighters that supply the different solar system colonies. While on a regular six-month patrol through the Solar system, Kidhr picks up a distress call from the freighter Hercules.

Docile by K. M. Szpara, Tor, £20 / Can$37.99 / US$27.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-250-21615-1.
Set in a near-future USA, the wage gap has widened dramatically and debts are inherited. People are either trillioniares or debtors. One way to survive is to sell yourself as a servant—or 'Docile'. A new drug, called docaline, causes Dociles to become more submissive and to forget their time in servitude. But Elisha, who decides to take on his family's three million debt, becomes a Docile but rejects the drug and so is conscious of his servitude time…. There is no consent under capitalism… This is the author's debut novel but he has been short-listed for the Hugo and Nebula for his shorts.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86588-8.
On another Earth, anything is possible…  Four years ago, Lee’s best friend Mal went missing on Bodmin Moor. Their search for an elusive monster had turned up something only too real – and she hadn’t seen Mal since. Now, out of the blue, Mal gets in touch. But where has she been, and who brought her back?  MI5 agent Julian Sabreur tried to save a government physicist from a racist attack. But someone else beat him to it, butchering the attackers. His enquiries lead him to Lee – because caught on camera, one vigilante looks suspiciously like Mal. And Daniel Rove, a powerful businessman, dreams of a future under his control. Aided by a mysterious intelligence from a long-dead world, he recruits allies from a parallel Earth – seething with ambitious, hostile life.  Now the walls between the worlds are collapsing. Every door between us and the original version of Earth, Eden, is slamming open. And anything might come through…

Across the Void by S. K. Vaughn, Sphere, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-751-57073-1.
May Knox floats in space, the only survivor of a catastrophic accident. There is just one person who can save her - and his life is in danger, back on Earth.  It's Christmas Day, 2067.  Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within - the last person left alive of a disastrous first manned mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter.  There is only one person who can help her - her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the mission back on Earth. Until, that is, she broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.  As May fights for life, Stephen finds his own life is under threat, putting both of them at risk.

Star Wars – Thrawn: The Ascendency by Timothy Zahn, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12458-3.
The first book in a new trilogy set before Thrawn travelled to the Empire and became a Grand Admiral. Journey to the Unknown Regions and learn more about Thrawn’s origins and his home: The Chiss Ascendency.  Zahn's other 'Thrawn' novels include Thrawn and Thrawn Alliances.

 

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Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
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Science & SF Interface Rest In Peace End Bits

Summer 2020

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £7.99 pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22432-2
Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany's oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.  Fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.  Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. With the help of frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he's quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men - and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city's secret magical history…  so long as that history doesn't kill them first.

Dracula’s Child by S. J. Barnes, Titan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09339-1.
Evil never truly dies... and some legends live forever. In Dracula's Child, the dark heart of Bram Stoker's classic is reborn. Capturing the voice, tone, style and characters of the original yet with a modern sensibility this novel is perfect for fans of Dracula and contemporary horror.  It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives.  But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition - and, the older their son Quincey gets, the deeper the shadows that lengthen at the heart of the Harkers' marriage. Jonathan has turned back to drink; Mina finds herself isolated inside the confines of her own family; Quincey himself struggles to live up to a family of such high renown.  And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, the very particular wounds in the heart of the Harkers' marriage are about to be exposed...

The Collected Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-881396-5.
Barrie's Pan stories collected.

When Jackals Storm the Walls by Bradley Beaulieu, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22363-9.
Fifth in the epic fantasy series of mystery, prophecy and death within the ancient walled city of Sharakhai…  Çeda was an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai. She has been an assassin in dark places.  A weapon poised to strike from the shadows.  A voice from the darkness, striving to free her people.  No longer.  Now she’s going to lead.  The age of the Kings is coming to an end…

The Last Druid: Fall of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51027-9.
For forty years, Terry Brooks’s Shannara series has attracted millions of readers around the world. And now comes the final novel in his four-part 'Fall of Shannara' series, which will bring the author's vision to a grand conclusion.

Out April

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.

Second Chances by P. D. Cacek, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58334-4.
Supernatural fantasy horror.  it is years since the first 'Travellers' came back, and their numbers have grown. There is still no explanation for their existence, but for the most part they have been accepted into society and given special protection under the law. There are those however who will do anything and everything in their power to put an end to the Travellers.

The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell, Flame Tree Press, hrdbk, £20, ISBN 978-1-787-58404-4.
Fantastical horror.  Patrick Torrington’s aunt Thelma was a successful artist whose late work turned towards the occult. While staying with her in his teens he found evidence that she used to visit magical sites. As an adult he discovers her journal of her explorations, and his teenage son Roy becomes fascinated too. His experiences at the sites scare Patrick away from them, but Roy carries on the search, together with his new girlfriend. Can Patrick convince his son that his increasingly terrible suspicions are real, or will what they’ve helped to rouse take a new hold on the world?  World Fantasy Award Lifetime Achiever, Fellow of John Moores University Ramsey's The Way of the Worm was recently short-listed for Best Novel British Fantasy Award.

Maker’s Curse by Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51078-1.
Following Thief ’s Magic, Angle of Storm and Successor’s Promise comes the final instalment in the 'Millennium’s Rule' series.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10066-2.
Marea was born to be different - a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.  This hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted. It is here that she learns about love, identity and how to accept being that little bit different.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51319-5.
From the Gemmell Award-shortlisted author of The Tethered Mage, The Obsidian Tower launches a new epic fantasy trilogy in which one woman’s powers and choices may save – or destroy – a continent.  As the granddaughter of a Witch Lord of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige. But a childhood illness left her with broken magic that drains the life from anything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. So, Ryx has resigned herself to an isolated life as the warden of her grandmother’s castle.  At the castle’s heart lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years. But when Ryx discovers a visiting envoy attempting to break into the tower, a magical accident leaves her with blood on her hands.  Unwittingly, Ryx has unleashed a threat that could engulf the whole continent. She and an unlikely collection of newfound allies must contain it, and the political conflicts that follow, or else everything she loves will fall to darkness.

Earwig by Brian Catling, Coronet, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68712-7.
Earwig got his nickname from his grandfather.  At the start of this story he is employed to look after a strange little girl in a flat in Liege. He spies on her, listens to her by holding a glass up to the wall. But he never touches her except when, as part of his duties, he is required to make teeth of ice and insert them in her gums. Earwig takes a rare day off, which he spends drinking by himself in Au Metro, a seedy bar full of drunks, dancers and eccentrics. It is St Martin's day and in the evening as crowds parade through the street carrying lanterns through the snow, he is drawn reluctantly into a conversation with a sinister stranger called Tyre. As a result Earwig accidentally maims a waitress with a broken bottle. He understands that on some level Tyre meant this to happen. Shortly afterwards a black cat is delivered to the flat, unasked for. The girl forms an immediate bond with it, but Earwig identifies it as the enemy. Travelling across country by train, transporting the girl and her black cat, Earwig is increasingly caught up in a web of unfortunate and increasingly violent coincidences.

Our Child of Two Worlds by Stephen Cox, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47162-7.
When Cory’s birth-people come, they will break his mother’s heart … but they may also be this world’s only salvation….  Molly and Gene Myers rescued Cory and kept him safe. In doing so, they rediscovered themselves and fell in love with a remarkable child. Now Cory and his new family are dealing with the consequences of fame – but Molly is more concerned about the future. An apocalyptic threat is approaching from the stars, and only Cory’s people can save them from the invaders.

The Tyrant by Seth Dickinson, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-00327-7.
After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru has the power she’s always wanted. But can she really unmake this corrupt empire from within? This sweeping fantasy of politics and personal drama is utterly compelling.  After years of service to the corrupt Imperial Republic of Falcrest, Baru Cormorant finally knows how to destroy it.  She’s discovered a deadly, weaponised blood plague. And if she releases it, the epidemic will kill millions…  not just in Falcrest, but worldwide.  As her divided mind turns on itself, Baru’s enemies close in. She must choose between genocidal retribution and a harder path. All she has to do is defeat a conspiracy of kings, spies and immortals, manipulate the outcome of two great wars, and steal the greatest riches in the world. If Baru triumphs, she can force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes. But does she want a slim chance at justice – or certain revenge?  ‘Makes Game of Thrones look like Jackanory’ reviews The Independent.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22195 6.
‘He contrasted the mortal world, in wonder, with the deep calm of his home, where the moment moved more slowly than the shadows of the houses here, and did not pass until all the content with which a moment is stored had been drawn from it by every creature in Elfland…’

Sins of the Father by J. G. Faherty, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58409-9.
Henry spent years trying to separate himself from his father’s legacy of murder. Now he has a chance, if he can find out who’s been killing people in Innsmouth. Soon he’s caught in a web of danger, with the undead stalking the streets at night, a terrible monster lurking below the city, and a prophecy of destruction about to come true.

American Gods: The Moment of the Storm by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Headline, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-25138-1.
The final confrontation between new and old gods, with humanity caught in the middle.  The new and old gods agree to meet in the centre of America to exchange the body of the old gods' fallen leader - heading towards the inevitable god war in this final arc to the bestselling comic series.  This volume collects the third nine issues of the seminal American Gods comic book series.

Children of D’Hara: Witches Oath by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, 79.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54471-8.
A novella.  The Children of D’Hara picks up the story of Richard and Kahlan immediately after the conclusion of the 'Sword of Truth' series. This is the story of Richard and Kahlan and their children. Learn what the star shift has done to their world… And what monsters now lurk in shadows…

The Deep Roads by Michael John Harrison, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-005-70963- 6.
Grimdark?  Shaw had a breakdown a while ago, but he’s getting himself back together now. He has a small room in a shared house in South London, a mother at the end of dementia, and a new job selling strange bottles of murky water for a man who seems to think that something strange is happening to the water of London, and to the human race. Victoria and Shaw were in a relationship, for a while, but now she’s left London and moved into the old Shropshire home of her recently deceased mother.  As she adapts to this new way of living, she begins to make friends and learn about the last years of her mother’s life.  But not everyone she meets is normal, and she begins to catch glimpses of watery, otherworldy, oddly green children.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, Quirk Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-683-69145-7.
Patricia Campbell's life has never felt smaller. Her ambitious husband is too busy to give her a good-bye kiss in the morning, her kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she's always a step behind on thank-you notes and her endless list of chores. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime and paperback fiction. At these meetings they're as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are marriage, motherhood, and neighbourhood gossip. This predictable pattern is upended when Patricia meets James Harris, a handsome stranger who moves into the neighbourhood to take care of his elderly aunt and ends up joining the book club. James is sensitive and well-read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn't felt in twenty years. But there's something off about him. He doesn't have a bank account, he doesn't like going out during the day, and Patricia s mother-in-law insists that she knew him when she was a girl an impossibility. When local children go missing, Patricia and the book club members start to suspect James is more of a Bundy than a Beatnik but no one outside of the book club believes them. Have they read too many true crime books, or have they invited a real monster into their homes?  Just when you thought The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires couldn’t take another twist, or turn, Hendrix ups the ante and the thrills and horror

The Ilyad by Homer, Macmillan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01500-3.
Paris, a Trojan prince, wins Helen as his prize for judging a beauty contest between three goddesses, and abducts her from her Greek husband Menelaos. The Greeks, enraged by his audacity, sail to Troy and begin a long siege of the city.  The Iliad is set in the tenth year of the war. Achilles – the greatest Greek warrior – is angry with his commander, Agamemnon, for failing to show him respect. He refuses to fight any longer, which is catastrophic for the Greeks, and results in personal tragedy for Achilles, too. With themes of war, rage, grief and love, The Iliad remains powerful and enthralling more than 2,700 years after it was composed.

Stoker’s Wilde West by Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58196-8.
Thinking they have put their monster-hunting days behind them, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker return to their normal lives. But when their old ally Robert Roosevelt and his nephew Teddy find a new nest of vampires, they are once again pulled into the world of the supernatural, this time in the American West. A train robbery by a band of vampire gunslingers sets off a series of events that puts Bram on the run. Oscar leads a rescue party and our heroes are pursued by an unstoppable vampire bounty hunter who rides a dead, reanimated horse.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51266-2.
Five New Yorkers must band together to defend their city in the first book of a new series by Hugo, British Fantasy and Locus award-winning N. K. Jemisin.  Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Camelot by Giles Kristian, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63229-5.
Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been seen these past ten years. Now, the Saxons are gathering again, their warbands stalking the land, their king seeking dominion.  For the lords and kings of Britain look only to their own survival and will not unite as they once did under Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur.  Meanwhile, in an isolated monastery in the Avalon marshes, a novice of the order is preparing to take his vows when the life he has known is ripped away in a welter of blood. Two strangers, the wild-spirited, Saxon-killing Iselle, and the ageing warrior Gawain, will pluck the young man from the wreckage of his simple existence. Together, they will seek the last druid and the cauldron of a god. And the young man must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur's warriors: Lancelot.  For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-15242-0.
Fantasy.  The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.  Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.  Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.  The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.  A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.

God of Night by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22464-3.
The final volume in the 'God Fragments' series, as the mercenaries face a war which may threaten the entire continent.  As the world falls to war – a war which, to be fair, they may have been the cause of – the Mercenary Deck prepares for the thing they do best. Fighting. Earning money.  Maybe running away. But this time there may not be anywhere to run to…

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51408-6.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.  Fifteen years after rebels stormed the streets, Kisia is still divided. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the kingdom together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighbouring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.  As an empire dies, three warriors will rise.  They must ride the storm or drown in its blood.

Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22561-9.
An orphan facing death. A family of traitors, and an artefact that Michael Kingman should absolutely not steal…  A fast-moving first-person story of magic, danger and skulduggery against a remarkable city setting.  ‘At my trial for treason for killing the King, I played with my father’s ring, twisting it around my middle finger. It was one of the few things they hadn’t taken away from me when I was arrested. Maybe because they knew it was my father’s last gift to me, or maybe it was because no one cared about an old ring and thought nothing of it.’  Debut.

Tomb of Gods by Brian Moreland, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58414-3.
In 1935, British archaeologists vanished inside an Egyptian cave. A year later, one man returned covered in mysterious scars. Egyptologist Imogen Riley desperately wants to know what happened to the ill-fated expedition led by her grandfather but when she ventures into the caves, she discovers a hidden world of wonder and terror.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51258-7.
Harriet Bishop is descended from a long line of witches and uses her magic to help women in need – not only ordinary women, but also those with powers of their own.  Frances Allington has used her wiles and witchcraft to claw her way out of poverty and into a spectacular marriage with one of New York’s wealthiest new tycoons.  She is determined to secure the family’s position amongst the city’s elite by any means necessary – including a scheme involving her headstrong stepdaughter, Annis.  If Annis can’t resist her stepmother’s agenda, she could lose her freedom, and possibly her life.

The Ruthless by Peter Newman, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22906-1.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.  In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their ruler to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.  Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows their secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.

Sophia, Princess Among Beasts by James Patterson, Arrow, £6.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46231-1.
In a kingdom besieged by poverty, war and despair, Princess Sophia must do whatever it takes to restore peace, and protect the people she loves.  A princess who has lost her mother and father finds herself in a terrifying world that urgently needs a queen.  Sophia is smart, beautiful, accomplished, a beloved princess devoted to the people and to reading books. The kingdom is hers, until a series of tragedies ends with her imprisonment in a nightmarish realm populated by the awful beasts she read about as a child.  The beasts are real. And so is the great army marching on her castle. The people look to Sophia for protection. They will all perish unless she can unlock an ancient secret as profound as life and death itself…

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51353-9.
The age of darkness approaches. Five lives stand in its way. Who will stop it . . . or unleash it? One of them – or all of them – could break the world. Will they be saviour or destroyer?

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01903-2. A TV tie-in edition of the Lovecraftian story behind the HBO series from J. J. Abrams.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22612-8.
The first book in a-new trilogy from the author of the 'Witcher' series.  With strange, mystical forces gathering in the shadows and pursued not only by the Stercza brothers bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools, a medieval asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order.  The ‘patients’ of this institution form an incomparable gallery of colourful types: including, among others, the young Copernicus, proclaiming the truth of the heliocentric solar system.

A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22524-4.
The sequel to We Are the Dead, which laid bare the fatal consequences of war.  Having narrowly escaped death, Tinnstra and Zorique land themselves in immediate trouble. The allies they ran to may not be as friendly as they thought.  Dren returns to Kiysoun a new man. Back in the thick ofthe fighting, he is reunited with old comrades who havesome scores to settle.  As Yas and Jax try to move on with their lives, Mateon,an Egril teenager, discovers battle is not as glorious as he once thought.  And through it all, the war rages on, where no one is safe…

The House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0008204150.
Grimdark.  Hail Him. Behold Him.  Man-killer, life-stealer, death-bringer, life’s thief. All are bound to Him.  His word is law.  The night coming, the sudden light that makes the eyes blind.  Golden one, shining, glorious.  Life’s judgement, life’s pleasure, hope’s grave.  Marith Altrersyr has won. He cut a path of blood and vengeance and needless violence around the world and now he rules. It is time for Marith to put down his sword, to send home his armies, to grow a beard and become fat. It is time to look to his own house, and to produce an heir. The King of Death must now learn to live.  But some things cannot be learnt…

The Home by Mats Strandberg, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40216-2.
Horror.  When Joel’s mother Monika develops dementia, he has no choice but to return home. Monika needs specialist care, which means Pineshade, and Joel’s estranged best friend, Nina, who works there.  It’s not long before Monika’s health deteriorates. She starts having violent outbursts and know things she couldn’t possibly know. Only Nina and Joel understand Monika well enough to see the signs, but can they find answers to the inexplicable..?

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93128-5.
Iconoclastic, provocative, poetic and profane. King Arthur re-imagined — as you’d expect from the author of A Man Lies Dreaming and The Violent Century as well as the World Fantasy Award-winning Osama and the Locus Award short-listed Central Station.  Everyone thinks they know the story of the Once and Future King and his knights of the Round Table. You can read it on Wikipedia. You can see it in those pretty Pre-Raphaelite paintings.  But there was never a painting that showed the true Britain, the clogged sewer Rome abandoned just as soon as it could. A Britain where petty warlords murdered each other in the mud, and all the while the Angles and Saxons and — worst of all — the Jutes, were coming over here and taking our lands and taking our jobs and taking our women.  And what of the only man who could stop them...  What of Arthur, King of the Britons? An over-promoted gangster, in thrall to that eldritch parasite, Merlin.  Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.  The Grail Quest? Have you no idea about the aliens and the radioactive blight?

Lady of Shadows: The Empty Gods Book 2 by Breanna Teintze, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47646-2.
Death is simple. Dreams are dangerous. Life is… unexpected.  A year after being resurrected into a new body, Corcoran Gray is still trying to come to terms with his situation when the all-powerful Mages’ Guild demands his help to stop a deadly plague. He’s inclined to refuse, until his partner Brix starts showing symptoms. But the situation is more complicated than anyone has realised: ancient dangers are stirring and thousands of lives are at stake..

The Aenaeid by Virgil, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01501-0.
The travels of Aeneas are brought to life in Virgil’s epic poem.  Virgil’s epic tale tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero, who flees his city after its fall, with his father Anchises and his young son Ascanius – for Aeneas is destined to found Rome and father the Roman race. As Aeneas journeys closer to his goal, he must first prove his worth and attain the maturity necessary for such an illustrious task. He battles raging storms in the Mediterranean, encounters the fearsome Cyclopse, falls in love with Dido, Queen of Carthage, travels into the Underworld and wages war in Italy.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward, Orbit, £9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51337-9.
A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic. Ruling families – once protectors of justice and democracy – now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.  As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their homeland. However, decades of bad blood are not easily set aside – victory will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

Empress of Flames by Mimi Yu, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22314-1.
Two princesses must save their home, no matter the cost Princess Lu knows the throne of the Empire of the First Flame rightfully belongs to her. But Lu will need to facedown a major obstacle: the current sitting Empress, her younger sister Min.  Princess Min controls a powerful, ancient magic, and she’s determined to use it to forge her own path and a strong future for the Empire.  Lu and Min are set for a confrontation that can’t be stopped. But the Empire faces threats greater than their rivalry…

 

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 2020

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Arrow, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-099-53679-6.
Reprint. After years of reflecting on the absurdities of life on other planets, Douglas Adams teamed up with zoologist Mark Carwardine to find out what was happening to life on this one. Together they lead us on a journey across the world in search of exotic, endangered creatures – animals that they may never get another chance to see. They encounter the animal kingdom in its beauty, variety, and imminent peril: the giant Komodo dragon of Indonesia, the helpless but lovable Kakapo of New Zealand, the blind river dolphins of China, the white rhinos of Zaire, the rare birds of Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean. Both funny and poignant, Last Chance to See is the tale of wildlife odyssey and a timely reminder of all that we must protect.

Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields by Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-875972-0.
Jim Baggott explores how our understanding of the nature of matter, and its fundamental property of mass, has developed, from the ancient Greek view of indivisible atoms to quantum mechanics, dark matter, the Higgs field, and beyond.

Quantum Reality: The Quest for the Real Meaning of Quantum Mechanics - a Game of Theories by Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-883015-3.
Richard Feynman once declared that ‘nobody understands quantum mechanics’.  Quantum Reality will tell you why.  Although the theory of quantum mechanics quite obviously work, it leaves us chasing ghosts and phantoms; particles that are waves and waves that are particles; cats that are at once both alive and dead; and lots of seemingly spooky goings-on. But if we’re prepared to be a little more specific about what we mean when we talk about ‘reality’ and a little more circumspect in the way we think a scientific theory might represent such a reality, then all the mystery goes away. This shows that the choice we face is actually a philosophical one.  In Quantum Reality, Jim Baggott provides a quick but comprehensive introduction to quantum mechanics for the general reader, and explains what makes this theory so very different from the rest. He also explores the processes involved in developing scientific theories and explains how these lead to different philosophical positions, essential if we are to understand the nature of the great debate between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Moving forwards, Baggott then provides a guide to determining what the theory actually means, through exploring the Copenhagen interpretation to many worlds and the multiverse.

In Praise of Beer by Charles Bamforth, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-084595-7.
Click on the title link for a standalone review.  Charles Bamforth brings new light to the topic of beer in ways perfect for any beer fan, lover, or connoisseur. In Praise of Beer answers popular questions from consumers, including what they should be expecting from their beer; what styles are available; what they should be thinking about when purchasing beer; how to look after beer; how to present beer; which beer for which occasion; and if they can drink beer (in moderation) with a clear conscience. In Praise of Beer is written in an authoritative but easy-to-read style and is full of anecdotes, inside knowledge and valuable information.

The Art of Star Trek Discovery by Paula Black, Titan, £26.99, hrdbk, IISBN 978-1-789-09259-2.
Timed to be released with season three. Features behind the science interviews plus photography and concept art as well as storyboards.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond, Titan, £29.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09199-1.
Published for 40th anniversary of the original film. Has much archival material.

The Life Scientific: Detectives by Anna Buckley, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1 474-60746-9.
Based on interviews for the hit BBC Radio 4 series, The Life Scientific: Detectives reveals the life and work of some of the foremost scientists in the world, from Nobel laureates to the next generation of beautiful minds. Getting under their skin and into their minds, we find out what first inspired them and what motivates them to keep going.  The detectives featured in this volume include: Sadaf Farooqi on what makes us fat; Nick Lane on the origin of life on Earth; Sue Black on what you can learn from dead bodies; Tejinder Virdee on the search for the Higgs Boson; and Amoret Whitaker on how insects can help solve crimes.

Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy by Algis Budrys (edited by David Langford), Ansible Editions, US$22.50 + local postage, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-244-56705-7. E-book (Epub, Kindle,or Mobi) £5.50,ISBN 978-1-913-45167-7.
This brings together SF author Budrys' major standalone writings on the SF genre that include the novella-length essay 'Paradise Charted' which is a potted history of SF that originally took up 70 pages of a special issue of TriQuarterly.  Also included is 'Nonliterary Influences on Science Fiction' that looks at the problems and issues with magazine production in the days of hot-metal type.  Also in the mix are articles from his Locus 'On Writing' columns, book reviews, appreciations of SF contemporaries and past SF giants.  This will be appreciated by those who have extensively read SF novels of the 1960s to '80s. (Separate to this volume, do seek out Budrys' collections of short stories as he was a great short story writer.)

Evolution: What Everyone Needs to Know by Robin Dunbar, Oxford University Press, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-092288-7.
This takes a broad approach to evolution, dealing both with the core theory itself and its impact on different aspects of the world we live in, from the iconic debates of the nineteenth century, to viruses and superbugs, to human evolution and behaviour.  It examines 100years of history surrounding the case for evolution.

At Any Cost by Sheera Frenkel & Cecilia Kang, The Bridge Street Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-71271-9.
In November 2018, The New York Times published a bombshell in-depth investigation that exposed, with disturbing insider detail, how leadership decisions at Facebook enabled, and then tried to cover up, massive privacy breaches and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.  The story quickly shot to the top of the paper’s most emailed list. It would earn the team of Times reporters a prestigious Loeb award, the George Polk award, and a spot on the Pulitzer short list. But it only skimmed the surface.  The investigation’s lead reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, spent eighteen months piecing together the story of how one of the most powerful companies in the world tried to bury a damning truth—that Facebook has become a conduit for disinformation, hate speech, and political propaganda. The unrivalled sources of these two veteran journalists led them to perhaps the most recognizable names in the tech industry: Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Both have long existed as archetypes of uniquely 21st century executives—he, the tech "boy genius" turned billionaire, she, the ultimate woman in business, an inspiration to millions through her books and speeches.  At Any Cost is the story of Facebook’s fall from grace, following the embattled company from 2011, when its power and positive influence was undisputed, to 2020, when it will face its biggest test yet—the US presidential election. What are the ultimate ramifications when a few individuals are in charge of the technology used by half the world’s population? Can they control the technology they’ve unleashed into the world?  And if not, can we, as individuals and as a society, control them?

Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema by Vanessa Harryhausen, National Galleries of Scotland, £25, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-911-05434-4.
Includes much material from his personal archive as collated by Ray Harryhausen's daughter.  Published to celebrate what would have been his centenary year and accompanying a major exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland.  It examines 100 objects selected from the Harryhausen archive by his daughter. The book is packed with her personal stories from a life watching her father make world-famous films that changed the course of cinema.

The Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We? by Daisy Kendrick, Piatkus, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978—0349-42392-0.
An open-minded tool to endorse environmentalism in a practical and realistic way. A climate change guidebook for millennials and Gen Z, concerned for their future. This book is not here to convince young people climate change actually exists, we know that. This book offers easy-to understand insights into the structures that suffocate our future, while upholding a sense of optimism and collective faith.  Through inspirational stories, shocking statistics and easy switches for readers to make in their everyday lives, this book will smash the ‘frumpy’ stigma around environmentalism in providing a sleek, fun, bold and cultural transition into the world of climate change

The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What animals on Earth reveals about aliens – and ourselves by Arik Kershenbaum, Viking, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-241-40679-3.
Cambridge zoologist takes a science look, extrapolating from life on Earth.  Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the Universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of 'aliens' as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing

Apocalypse How:  Technology and the Threat of Mass Disaster by Sir Oliver Letwin, Atlantic, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49686-7.
This is an extremely prescient book that should be read by all politicians and the electorate that votes for them.  It examines how advancing technology is leaving society open to myriad dangers, from hackers to natural disaster. As we grow ever more dependent on technology, the risks of something going very wrong are multiplying. Whether it is a hostile state striking key infrastructure (like Russia did with Ukraine in 2016) or a freak solar storm, our systems have become so interlinked that if one part goes down, the rest topples like dominoes. In this gripping book, former UK government minister Oliver Letwin imagines our near future and asks what would happen if the unthinkable happened. Exploring the utter chaos that would ensue, he asks how we can become more resilient to black-swan events – and whether we place too much faith in technology to always have the answers.  A must for those that liked the novel The Second Sleep.

Quitting Plastic by Clara Williams Roldan & Louise Williams, Allen Unwin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-760-52871-3.
How to reduce plastic in your everyday life, starting with changes that are small and easy to make, and working up to bigger changes to your daily routine.  Clara Williams Roldan is a young policy and legislative advisor in Australia's NSW Parliament. Witnessing parliament at work has convinced Clara that lots of individual actions which may seem small at the time can drive important change.  Clara is writing with her mother, Louise Williams, a Walkley-award winning journalist and writer with a lifelong interest in environmental protection.

No Time To Die The Making of the Film by Mark Salisbury, Titan, £39.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-09359-9.
Lavish coffee table book. Covers film locations, characters, gadgets, weapons and cars. Also include on set pictures, concept art, stunt breakdowns and cast interviews.

 

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 2020

General Science News

 

Research on randomness to inform on mathematical certainties garners the 2020 Abel Prize wins.  The Israeli mathematician Hillel Furstenburg and the Russian-born US Gregory Marguilis have jointly won this year's prestigious Abel Prize for mathematics.  As part of the win they share this year's cash prize of 7.5 million Norwegian kroner (£750,000 / US$625,000).  Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the awards ceremony will be combined with the one in 2021.  +++ News of last year's Abel win here.

Arctic ozone hole returns and it's BIG!  This year's northern hemisphere polar vortex was particularly isolating making the stratosphere the coldest since 1979.  This has enabled the formation of an ozone hole that is very large three times the size of Greenland.  This was further enabled by China re-started production of the ozone depleting CFC-11 (chlorofluorocarbon-11).  This last was subsequently confirmed.

Drought and heatwave result in extreme wildfires in Australia.  January and February (southern hemisphere summer) saw extensive wildfires in Australia.  The fires were finally considered contained 12th February.  All told some 5.4 million hectares of land burned in 11,264 bush or grass fires resulting in 2,439 homes destroyed with 33 people killed.

Australian wildfire air pollution probably killed over 400.  Researchers from the University of Tasmania mapped detailed data on the resulting air pollution from the fires onto a biomedical model.  It concluded that 417 asthma, respiratory and heart related deaths likely resulted due to the smoke air pollution from the fires.  (See Arriagada, N. B., et al (2020)The Medical Journal of Australia, doi.org/dqrg.)

Global methane emissions from fossil fuel have underestimated by about 38 to 58 teragrams per year, or about 25 – 40% of recent estimates.  Fossil methane from fuels and geological release do not have any radioactive 14-Carbon (it has long since decayed) compared to biological sources.  US researchers led by Benjamin Hmiel and V. V. Petrenko looked at the carbon isotopes from methane from Greenland ice-cores from before industrial times to compare with current atmospheric methane. Their results show that emissions from fossil fuels have been underestimated. The implication being that methane from biological sources, including agriculture, have been overestimated. (See Hmiel, B. et al (2020) Preindustrial 14-CH4 indicates greater anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions. Nature, vol. 578, p409-412.)

Metallic hydrogen has been made!  The idea that hydrogen could enter a new, metallic phase was hypothesised back in 1935 and while there have been attempts to make it (all shown not to have been successful) it now seems that Paul Loubeyre, Florent Occelli and Paul Dumas of the Synchrotron SOLEIL, Gif-sur-Yvette in France may have done it.  They used a diamond anvil cell that squeezes a sample, which is confined to a microscopic chamber in a thin metal foil, between two diamond anvils to achieve a pressure of 425 gigapascals.  Their sample reflected both light and infra-red.  The next step will be to measure its conductivity.  (See Loubeyre, P., Occelli, F. & Dumas, P. (2020) Synchrotron infrared spectroscopic evidence of the probable transition to metal hydrogen. Nature, vol. 577, p631–635 and a news review item Desgreniers, S. (2020) A milestone in the hunt for metallic hydrogen Nature, vol. 577, p631–635.)

Buying local produce may not incur a smaller carbon footprint than that from further away.  Researchers Eric Bell and Arpad Horvath of California University, Berkeley, have found that in some instances, transporting food longer distances incurs less fossil carbon emissions.  Agriculture is one of the most impactful ways that we interact with the environment.  Food demand is expected to increase 70% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the emergence of the global middle class, s this is not a trivial issue.  Using oranges as a case study, they estimated the carbon footprint per kilogram of fruit delivered to wholesale market in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.  The transportation type was found to be important.  Transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions associated with oranges trucked from Mexico to New York City were found to be six times higher than those transported by containership from Chile, in spite of travelling less than half the distance!  (See Bell, E. & Hovarth, A. (2020) Modelling the carbon footprint of fresh produce: effects of transportation, localness, and seasonality on U.S. orange markets. Environmental Research Letters, doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab6c2f.)

A possible way to biotechnologically recycle PET plastic bottles has been developed.  French researchers have engineered a hydrolase enzyme that de-polymerises over 90% of PET plastic in just 10 hours!  Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most abundant polyester plastic on the planet with an annual production of 359 million tons produced, of which some 150-200 million tons accumulates in the environment.  Currently recycling is done through a heat chemical process whose products have poorer properties than the original.  One way round this has been to use biotechnology and hydrolase enzymes, but to date these have been inefficient.  This new mechanism based on an engineered hydrolase is both efficient and its products can be used to recycle PET with similar properties to freshly manufactured PET plastic.  If this process can be scaled up then it might be possible to develop a circular PET plastic economy with waste plastic being recycled.  If this pans out, and there is any justice in the world, Nobels for chemistry might accrue.  (See Tournier, V., Topham, C. M., Gilles, A., et al (2020) An engineered PET depolymerise to break down and recycle plastic bottles. Nature, vol. 580, p216-9.)

SARS-CoV-2 closes major physics labs.  While many biomedical research labs continue operation, especially those associated with virus research, and self-distancing research work such as ecological field work, continues, major physics labs where researchers are unable to easily self-distance are closing.  These include major labs such as the US Department of Energy's network of 7 labs, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and elsewhere such as Europe's CERN.

 

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Summer 2020

Natural Science News

 

A new, highly pathogenic, coronavirus emerged in China.  Well, this is not new news to you given its global effects and dramtic societal impact.  The virus emerged due to a species jump (likely from a bat), mutation (possibly in a cat, pig or a wild pangolin), and then another jump to humans.
          Elsewhere on this site, we have an initial science briefing prepared by one of the bioscientists on the SF² Concatenation team and peer-reviewed by another.  The briefing's end further reading has links to some of the primary science and policy documents should you wish to explore further.
          The briefing is divided into subsections:-
                    Coronaviruses
                    Tackling the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic
                    Personal measures
                    COVID-19
                    Symptoms
                    Science fiction fans
                    Conrunners
                    Short-term future (April – November 2020)
                    Long-term future
                    The science fiction and the pseudo-science
                    Final words

The cruise ship Diamond Princess SARS-CoV-2 containment informs on the virus.  The cruise ship was quarantined by the Japanese in February (2020) leaving 3,711 passengers confined and allowing the virus to spread and over 700 became infected.  So far with the pandemic it has been difficult to ascertain exactly how many in the population have become infected for a variety of reasons.  These include because we have no way of ascertaining who are asymptomatic (do not express the symptoms of the resulting disease COVID-19) and because we do not yet have an antibody test.  Confining crew and passengers onboard allowed the virus to spread rapidly; far more so that in the general population which will see people infected and then recover becoming immune and over time no longer carrying the virus.  Over 3,000 infection tests were carried out on those aboard the Diamond Princess making it the highest proportion of an epidemiologically-defined population tested.  It now seems that 18% of all those infected with SARS-CoV-2 expressed no symptoms of COVID-19.  The data also suggests that the case-fatality-rate (CFR is the proportion of those expressing COVID-19 dying) is 1.1% and this is lower than the World Health Organisation's CFR estimate of 3.8%.  Taking into account those infected but not expressing symptoms gives us the infection-fatality-rate (IFR).  The IFR on the cruise ship was around 0.5%.  (See Mallapaty, S. (2020) What cruise-ship outbreaks reveal about COVID-19. Nature, vol. 580, p18.)

The free market has failed to lay the groundwork for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.  The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 is related to the 2003 SARS.  That virus' 3-D protein structure was promptly determined in 2003 and made publicly available through the Protein Data Bank.  This could have been used by pharmaceutical companies to create a vaccine.  However, as the 2003 SARS outbreak was short-lived, pharmaceutical companies had no incentive to invest a few hundred million pounds to create a vaccine nobody needed.  Yet had they done so it would likely have been a useful aid today in creating a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to protect against COVID-19.  Alternatively, they could have worked to find a treatment for SARS.  Here, one likely route might be to target the virus' protease without which it cannot replicate.  Given that the main proteases in SARS and SARS-CoV-2 are 95% identical, it is likely that a drug targeting the former would also work on the latter. Failing that, only a slightly modified form might likely work.  Back in 2003, SGX Pharmaceuticals also made publicly available free of charge, via the Protein Data Bank, the SARS virus protease structure but pharmaceutical companies were not interested in developing a treatment that they thought no-one would use.  Writing in the leading science journal Nature, Stephen Burley, formerly of SGX Pharmaceuticals, opines that pharmaceutical companies need to work with non-profit, government funded research institutes and universities to jointly develop treatments for coronavirus outbreaks even after such outbreaks end.  He says that we can see that had we invested a few hundred million dollars (pounds) in the mid-2000s creating treatments, we could more easily and rapidly develop treatments for SARS-CoV-2 and have avoided many thousands of COVID-19 deaths today as well as avoided much of the anticipated trillion dollar financial impact worldwide from the pandemic.  (Burley, S. K. (2020) How to help the free market fight coronavirus. Nature, vol. 580, p167.)

Supporting evidence uncovered for new theory as to the evolution of eukaryotic cells.  Eukaryotic cells have a distinct nucleus and organelles (such as energy-producing mitochondria).  Eukaryotic cells make up plants and animals.  Conversely, simpler prokaryotic cells have no distinct nucleus and no organelles.  Prokaryotic cells include bacteria.
          One of the big questions in biology is how eukaryotes evolved from prokaryotes?  As mitochondria and chloroplasts sort of look like prokaryotes and have their own DNA, could it be that a large prokaryote swallowed (like an amoeba engulfs a food particle) a prokaryote and became a eukaryote?  This is the outside-in model (championed by Lyn Marguilis). However, recently on either sides of the Atlantic, the Baum cousins have proposed an alternative, inside-out model (Baum D. A. & Baum, B. (2014) An inside-out origin for the eukaryotic cell. BMC Biology, vol. 12, p76).  Here two prokaryotes live side-by-side in a symbiotic relationship – these mutually-beneficial relationships are quite common in biology.  One prokaryote, seeking a closer relationship, extrudes out an extension (bleb) and part-covers the other prokaryote. As such bleb extensions evolve, the other prokaryote is subsumed into the first prokaryote. Both benefit as one lives off the waste products of the other and the other gains some physical protection.
          There is now evidence for this new theory from Chinese researchers who have painstakingly cultured archaea prokaryotes whose biochemistry has some similarity to eukaryotes: therefore these archaea could be an ancestor of eukaryotes.  What the researchers found was that these produce long filaments that entangle symbiotic prokaryotes much like Baum & Baum theorised.
          Of note to students and interested biologists, the researchers posted an un-peer-reviewed pre-print last year (See Imachi, H., Nobu, M. K., Nakahara, N., Morono, Y, et al (2019) Isolation of an archaeon at the prokaryote-eukaryote interface. Preprint on bioRxiv. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/726976) and this has now appeared in Nature (vol. 577, p519-525).  However, while the Nature version lists Baum in the references, the mention of them and the inside-out model has been excised from the paper's text among other things.  This is therefore one of those instances where the pre-print is actually better than the subsequent peer-reviewed version.  ++++ Related stories previously covered includes First life on Earth could have begun between 3,770 million and 4,280 million years ago.

Life found in the lower oceanic crust.  Drilling in the ocean of east Africa into the sea floor at a depth of 700 metres an 800 metre borehole has resulted in samples from that combined depth that contain life.  As might be expected, cell densities were low (131 – 1,660 cells per cm³) And the total organic carbon is also low (0.004 – 0.018% by weight).  Surprisingly, there was a high diversity of life modes.  However, given the global extent of oceanic crust, such life, even low-biomass and slow-growing communities might be making a minority but still significant contribution to global nutrient cycling. (Remember, with plate tectonics there will be long-term cycling within the Earth system.) This could be relevant to those considering exobiological systems.  (See Li. J., Mara, P., Schubotz, F., et al (2020) Recycling and metabolic flexibility dictate life in the lower oceanic crust. Nature, vol. 579, p250 - 5.)  ++++ Vaguely related stories previously covered included:  Ice from the Earth's mantle suggests our planet has much more water.

Dinosaurs saw temperate rainforests near the South Pole.  It now seems that the Antarctic in the warmest part of the Cretaceous (roughly 90 million years ago), was comparably as warm as in the Initial Eocene Thermal Maximum / Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (56 million years ago).  Previous research has shown that there were Antarctic tropical forests 70° South (Pross, J. et al (2012) Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch. Nature, vol. 488, p73-7.)  New research by an international collaboration of European researchers has shown that earlier, during the Cretaceous roughly 90 million years ago, and even closer to the then South Pole (82° South), there was a temperate rainforest.  A drill into Cretaceous geology has revealed fossil roots embedded in mudstone along with pollen grains.  This revealed that there was at this time a coniferous along with tree fern forest biome and that that this must have adapted to half the year being in dark.  The warmest month must have had an average temperature of nearly 20°C. Plugging this information into a climate model and the researchers conclude that Antarctica could not have had a wide ranging ice sheet as that would have reflected summer light and heat making the continent even cooler.  (See Klages, J. P., Salzmann, U., Bickert, T., et al (2020) Temperate rainforest near the South Pole during peak Cretaceous warmth. Nature, vol. 580, p81-6.)

Dinosaur footprints found on cave ceiling.  The ceiling of a cave in France has huge dinosaur footprints up to 1.25 metres long.  The footprints were made 166 - 168 million years ago.  At the time these huge, herbivorous dinosaurs were walking along a shoreline.  The sediment was then buried with other sediments and over time became tilted with tectonic movement.  Today they are upside down on the ceiling of the cave.  The research appears in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Neanderthals buried their dead.  Recent excavations, in the Baradost Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, have revealed the articulated upper body of an adult Neanderthal located close to the ‘flower burial’ location – the first articulated Neanderthal discovered in over 25 years.  Evidence suggests that the individual was intentionally buried around 70,000 – 60,000 years ago.  This find offers the rare opportunity to investigate Neanderthal mortuary practices and were more culturally developed than thought.  The body was apparently positioned in a sleeping pose.  (See Pomeroy, E. et al (2020) New Neanderthal remains associated with the ‘flower burial’ at Shanidar Cave Antiquity, vol. 94 (373), p11–26. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2019.207.)
++++  Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
          175,000 year-old discovery confirms that Neanderthals were responsible for some of the earliest constructions
          Neanderthal diets have been inferred from dental plaque DNA
          Modern humans had seΧ with Neanderthals 100,000 years ago

Entering sleep and restricting movement are controlled by the same part of the brain research finds.  Working on mice, a N. American, Chinese and Korean research team has found that entering sleep and stopping movement are wired together, controlled by a brain region called the substantia nigra pars reticulate (SNr), which was previously thought to control motor actions only when mice are awake.  SNr neurons could control two key features of anaesthesia: immobility and unconsciousness.  This raises the question as to whether stimulating certain SNr neurons might aid anaesthesia, and if sedatives could selectively target this type of neuron?  (See Liu. D. et al. (2020) A common hub for sleep and motor control in the substantia nigra. Science, vol. 367, p440-5 and a review piece Wisden, W. & Franks, N. P. (2020) The stillness of sleep. Science, vol. 367, p366-7.)

Global food waste bigger than thought: people discard a lot more food than widely believed.  Dutch researchers use a biological energy approach. Food grown should equal human metabolic needs + human weight gain plus food waste.  We know how much food is grown/[produced a year. We know nations' population size and health statistics for obesity.  This enables food wastage to be calculated.  Their results show that the most widely cited global estimate of food waste is underestimated by a factor greater than 2 (214 Kcal/day/capita versus 527 Kcal/day/capita).  (See Verma, M. vdB, de Vreede, L., Achterbosch, T. & Rutten, M. M. (2020) Consumers discard a lot more food than widely believed: Estimates of global food waste using an energy gap approach and affluence elasticity of food waste. PLoS ONE, vol. 15 (2): e0228369.)

 

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Summer 2020

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is impacting on space missions!  The US$8.8 billion (£10.5 billion) James Webb Space Telescope has had its problems and has already slipped from its originally planned 2020 launch to March 2021.  However, with final assembly and testing in Southern California, it looks like it will be further delayed as the region is in lock-down due to SARS-CoV-2.
          ESA's Mars rover, due to launch in July (2020), has had a launch postponement.
          NASA's Mars rover is just about on track for a summer launch but it is not a sure thing.  No missions to Mars can launch after 5th August for two years until the next Earth/Mars alignment.

Repeating fast radio burst (FRB) detected.  FRBs are mysterious radio sources that have been detected in recent years first detected in2007.  This one is located in a galaxy 500 million light years from Earth and is pulsing on a 16-day cycle, like clockwork: thisis the closest FRB detected so far.  Also, this is the first time that periodicity has been detected in these signals.  Pulses from those that repeat have, so far, seemed somewhat random and discordant in their timing/periodicity.  This changed when the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB), a group dedicated to observing and studying FRBs, discovered that a repeater called FRB 180916.J0158+65 had a regular pulse.  (See the CHIME/FRB Collaboration (2020) Periodic activity from a fast radio burst source. Preprint: arXiv:2001.10275v3. 3rd February 2020.)
++++  Related stories previously covered in SF² Concatenation include;  Fast radio burst enables Universe weighing  and  Fast Radio Bursts could be alien civilisation light sail boosters.

Our local star group is a wavy line of stars and not a ring.  For the past 150 years, the prevailing view of the local interstellar medium has been based one of the Gould Belt, an expanding, partial ring of young stars, gas and dust, some 3,000 light years across tilted about 20 degrees to the Galactic plane (with the Galaxy being roughly 150,000 light yeas across).  Building on research previously covered, a research team, led by Joao Alves, using large photometric surveys and the astrometric survey Gaia has concluded that the Gould is actually a line very roughly 450 light years thick and about 9,000 light years long in the shape of a wave. (See Alves, J. et al (2020) A Galactic-scale gas wave in the solar neighbourhood. Nature, vol. 578, p237-9.)

Another way Mars loses its water has been observed.  Water escapes due to Mars' low gravity as well as ablation of the upper atmosphere by Solar wind as Mars has no protective magnetic field.  But there is another theoretical way which has now been detected by ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) spacecraft.  Seasonal convection cells convey water high into the atmosphere where UV from the Sun dissociates water into hydrogen (single H atoms) and oxygen and the sunlight's thermal energy then enables the hydrogen to escape Mars.  On Earth this mechanism is much weaker as the ozone layer reduces high-energy UV reaching lower into the atmosphere and its thicker atmosphere has a cold trap freezing water.  The TGO has detected seasonal water molecules in Mars' upper atmosphere evening the dusty season when the dust protects water from sunlight dissociation lower in the atmosphere.
          Most of Mars' water is confined to its poles. If all this melted, and Mars was perfectly spherical, then Mars would be covered to a depth of around 30 metres. Conversely, the volume of water in the atmosphere would only be enough to cover a depth of around a hundredth of a millimetre. So the rate of Mars' water loss is slow even if total water loss over billions of years is large.  It is thought that the current water on Mars represents around just 10%of what was once there.  (See Fedorova, A. A., et al (2020) Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season. Science, vol. 367, p297–300.)

Japan's Hayabusa 2 reveals that the asteroid 162173-Ryugu's surface boulders are highly porous.  Launched by Japan's JAXA space agency in December 2014, Hayabusa-2 has reached the 900 metre wide 162173 Ryugu asteroid in towards the end of 2018 and then retrieved samples over the summer of 2019.  Recently, using infra-red thermal imaging from 3 miles (5 kilometres), the Japanese researchers have now determined that the surface boulders are highly-porous carbonaceous and that the asteroid is a low consolidated rubble pile that likely was created from the impact of a larger body.  (See Okada, T., Fukuhara, T., Tanaka, S., et al (2020) Highly porous nature of a primitive asteroid revealed by thermal imaging. Nature, vol. 579, p518-522.)

Britain brings broadband to Europe's module on the International Space Station.  The fridge-sized Terminal communications system and antenna is made by MDA UK, the Columbus Ka-band (COLKa) Terminal will enable European astronauts to connect with scientists and family on Earth at home broadband speeds.  The communications from Columbus (Europe's ISS science module on the station) go through the American data relay satellites, but those satellites are prioritised for US use. This new system gives Europe some independence.  This is Britain's first industrial contribution to the International Station.  Although Britain was an original signatory to the 1998 treaty that brought the International Space Station into being, the country never got involved in building the platform: it effectively walked away from the project right at the outset, preferring to spend its civil space budget in other areas of space exploration.  It wasn't until 2012 that the UK signalled a reversal in policy by lodging new funds that year at the European Space Agency's (ESA) Ministerial Council meeting in Naples.  This money not only paved the way for British astronaut Tim Peake to visit the ISS in 2015/16 but it set in motion the industrial opportunity that's ultimately resulted in the COLKa contribution.

 

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Summer 2020

Science & Science Fiction Interface

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

 

Whole dinosaur skull found preserved in amber.  The plot of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park novel (1991) relied on dinosaur DNA from a mosquito's blood meal to de-extinct dinosaurs, but what would have Jurassic Park's billionaire John Hammond done with a whole dinosaur skull preserved in amber?  Well, now a whole Mesozoic era (99 million years old) dinosaur skull preserved in amber has been found.  The dinosaur is tiny with a skull just 2 cm long and is part of a new genus of dinosaurs called Oculudentavis which means 'eye-teeth-bird': this dinosaur has a beak with teeth!  The whole dinosaur size was about the size of a hummingbird.  It is thought that the dinosaur preyed on small insects.  Sadly, no DNA reported yet.  (See Xing, L, O'Connor, J. K., Schmits, Lrs, et al. (2020) Humming-bird sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar. Nature, vol. 579, p245-9 and the review article Benson, B. J. (2020) Tiny fossil sheds light on miniaturization of birds. Nature, vol. 579, p199-200.)

Do not ditch cash, in case of IT failure says Which Money consumer magazine.  SF has explored the use of money a number of times including recently 'quoins' in the Revenger trilogy and historically in Stross' Neptune's Brood, or even no money at all as in Star Trek: The Next Generation or the post-scarcity Banks' 'Culture' and famously in Le Guin's The Dispossessed.  Today, the developed world is moving increasingly towards becoming a cashless society but Which Money strongly advises against this as the cashless are vulnerable to IT outages.  They back this up with a survey of 1,500 UK adults and call for the government to "introduce legislation to protect cash as a vital backup when digital systems fail.
          They note that 77% only have one account provider and 68% only have one bank card.  This means that a system failure (such as Visa's large-scale June 2018 crash) will leave such people without financial access.  Meanwhile the Financial Conduct Authority (UK's financial watchdog) recorded in 2019 banks had 265 IT shutdowns.  Even though many of these only lasted a few hours, this was up from 228 in 2018.  Us SF fan geeks should note and be sure we have a back-up supply of cash at the very least to cover a few days and the week's big food shop.  ++++ Elsewhere on this site there is a review of the non-fiction Apocalypse Now: Technology and the threat of disaster (2020), by British politician Oliver Letwin, that looks at the need for analogue back-ups in the event of national-level internet failure.  See also the next item…

Internet shutdowns increase in 2019. Using the internet for social control and societal change has been addressed a number of times in SF from John Brunner's Shockwave Rider (1975) to even society's complete collapse an apocalyptic cause, The Second Sleep (2019).  So what is happening in the real world?  Well there have been local (town), regional and even national shutdowns the last year, both of specific sites (such as social media) to the complete internet.  The ginger group Access Now has produced a summary report of 2019 deliberate shutdowns for the KeepItOn coalition.  New internet shutdown trends in 2019 included:  Longer shutdowns;  More targeted shutdowns in geographical scope;  Shutdowns are affecting more people in Africa;  and an online crisis in Venezuela.  Of the major countries, Russia had three shutdowns and the UK one.  China had a shutdown in addition to its governmental 'curation' of the net.  Britain's was the police shutting off Wi-Fi in London Tube stations to deter climate protesters; the United Kingdom is a new perpetrator,.  There were at least four other incidents of internet shutdowns in Europe attributed to Russia: Russia has previously shut down the internet on numerous occasions.  In China, the highly complex system of censorship made it extremely hard to detect and verify any instances of internet shutdowns. In the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest, state-owned internet service providers (ISPs) in many provinces — including Guangdong, Shanghai, and Chongqing — reported brief internet shutdowns "due to technical problems".  The internet was switched off during 65 protests in various countries around the world.  A further 12 took place during election periods.  The majority of all shutdowns occurred in India.  The longest internet switch-off happened in Chad, central Africa, and lasted 15 months.  (See Targeted, Cut Off, And Left In The Dark: The #KeepItOn report on internet shutdowns in 2019 (2020) Access Now.)

Over half a million UK citizens almost had their personal data details tested in a supermarket chain's website.  Digital ID change has been a trope of SF more many years (cf.. John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider, 1975).  Today it is an almost mundane fact of life.  One of the latest examples is that the UK supermarket chain found itself being used as a test bed for hackers who obtained from elsewhere the details of some 600,000 people.  Tesco has issued new cards to 600,000 of its Clubcard account holders after discovering a security issue.  The supermarket believed a database of stolen usernames and passwords from other platforms had been tried out on its websites, and this may have worked in some cases.  Internal systems picked up the anomalies quickly and steps were taken to protect customers.  ++++ A few days later it was revealed that e-mail addresses and travel details of about 10,000 who used free wi-fi at UK railway stations were exposed online.  Network Rail and the wi-fi service provider C3UK confirmed the incident three days after being contacted by BBC News about the matter.  The data covered the period between 28th November 2019 and 12th February 2020.  C3UK and Network Rail said they had chosen not to inform the data regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), because the data had not been stolen or accessed by any other party.  Passengers had to supply their gender and reason for travel in order to use the free wi-fi service at some stations. This information was then made available to C3UK clients.  Some stations are now no longer using C3UK.

Despite assurances since Cambridge Analytica in 2018, Facebook has yet to provide independent researchers meaningful data!  Despite the Cambridge Analytica debacle – in which Facebook provided the company its users data without user consent – Facebook has yet to provide the meaningful data it promised to researchers says Prof. Simon Hegelich of Political Data Science at Munich University.  (Following the incident Facebook was subsequently fined US$5 billion (£4 bn).)  Some data has been provided, but it lacks the detail to be of much use to the investigating researchers.  Facebook cites data protection issues, which is ironic as even if  this is the case (the data could be anonymised), it is somewhat ironic as data protection concerns did not prevent them sharing their users' information in the first place.  Without this key data research cannot be conducted as to whether manipulation of social media influenced the Trump Presidential election or the Brexit referendum.  Seemingly contradictingly, Facebook does allow private commercial companies more access for a fee!  Technological control of society is something of an SF trope.  Without bona fide, independent university researcher access we will never know whether Facebook (let alone other social media platforms) are being used to undermine democracy.  (Hegelich, S. (2020) Facebook needs to share more with researchers. Nature, vol. 579, p473.)

King Arthur's lake has plastic pollution.  Llyn Glaslyn, a remote lake near the summit of Snowdon in the National Park, is thought to contain King Arthur's sword Excalibur.  From it flows the River Glaslyn.  School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University has analysed the water from lake Llyn Glaslyn and its river.  They found three pieces of micro-plastic (smaller than 5mm in size) per litre in lake water. Along the 16 miles (26km) of the River Glaslyn this rose to eight per litre at the river's estuary at Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

Artificial Intelligence discovers antibiotic which is named after 2001: A Space Odyssey A.I. .  A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days, comparing them with the structure of 2,500 existing antibiotics.  The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.  The antibiotic was named 'Halcin' after Hal, the A.I. in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

New genus of pterodactyl named after George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones dragons' House of Targaryen.  These are toothed pterodactyls that had been classified as Ornithocheirus wiedenrothi.  However, a new analysis of fossils suggests that wiedenrothi should not be classed as an Ornithocheirus species but as a new genus, the Targaryendraco and so becomes Targaryendraco wiedenrothi.  The palaeontologists inspiration for the 'Targaryendraco' term itself came from George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones dragons' House of Targaryen.  Like Martin's dragons, they have wings and just two legs (not four as some would have dragons posessing). And like the common representation of dragons, they have teeth.  (See Pegas,R. V., Holgado, B. &. Leal, M. E. C. (2019) On Targaryendraco wiedenrothi gen. nov. (Pterodactyloidea, Pteranodontoidea, Lanceodontia) and recognition of a new cosmopolitan lineage of Cretaceous toothed pterodactyloids. Historical Biology. DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2019.1690482)  George R. R. Martin on his blog said, 'This is really too cool.  Alas, there is no evidence that the real-life Targaryendraco wiedenrothi actually breathed fire… No evidence… yet.'  See georgerrmartin.com/notablog/2020/02/25/real-life-prehistoric-dragons

Britain is to provide telecommunications for the Moon.  The idea of use of satellites for telecommunications was famously promulgated by British SF author Arthur C. Clarke.  Now, a British satellite firm, SSTL. It is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). The plan is to put the UK satellite, Lunar Pathfinder, into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over the Moons South Pole as that is where NASA plans to send a manned mission. It would relay transmissions from the Lunar surface to Britain, Earth and then on to NASA.  A launch is expected in 2022.

Horror films are scary psychologists' study concludes!  Finnish psychologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brains of 37 people watching horror films to, in their words, ' hemodynamic brain activity', or as biologists say 'blood flow'.  They also compared this in a separate experiment with another group watching a non-horror film.  This revealed that different parts of the brain were stimulated.  An independent sample of 216 participants completed a survey asking if they had seen the films Insidious and The Conjuring and, if so, rated them on scariness and quality.  Nearly 60%said that these made them anxious and over 60% scared and excited.  They conclude that two things were going on: anticipation of threat and the reaction to threat onset.  This no shιt Sherlock result is reported in the journal NeuroImage.  (See Hudson, M. et al. (2020) Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear. NeuroImage. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116522.)

US President Donald Trump revealed, in his words, "the new the new logo for the United States Space Force, the Sixth Branch of our Magnificent Military!"  However, the design is more than a little like that of Star Trek's Federation of planets!  When NASA named one of the early space shuttles Enterprise, they openly stated that the name was inspired by Star Trek's spaceship and invited the principal cast of the TV series to see the shuttle leave its hanger.  Apparently neither the military nor Trump had the grace to admit as to the US Space Force logo's inspiration.  Reportedly, President Trump also revealed the US Space Force uniform which consists of jungle camouflage fatigues which will no doubt come in real handy in Earth orbit and beyond…  You couldn't make it up…

 

And to finally round off the Science & SF Interface subsection,
here is a sort video…

The Coexistence of Humans and AI is explored by Isaac Arthur.  If you have not come across the Isaac Arthur vlog, it concerns all things science and futurism.  Usually what he says is debatable but invariably interesting.  Earlier in the year he discussed artificial intelligence and human co-existence.  Given that we seem to be heading towards that SFnal trope, the singularity, and that simple AI is gaining prominence in our lives, we thought you might be interested in this episode.  Could we humans reach a point in the development of AI where we need to consider how our actions affect them?  And what safeguards will we need? Asimov simply doesn't cut it (though the laws are in the right order…).  SF film and stories are referenced.  (Note: Isaac has a speech impediment, but not to worry.)  You can see the twenty-three minute video here.

 

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

Summer 2020

Rest In Peace

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

 

Per Andersen, the Norwegian neuroscientist, has died aged 90.  He is noted for his work on how memories are created and how some neural pathways show enhanced connectivity overtime (long-term potentiation).

Paul Barnett, the British SF encyclopaedist, author and editor, has died aged 70.  Born in Scotland, Paul lived from 1999 in New Jersey, US.  Much of his over a score of SF books, as well as some of his additional non-fiction (both SF non-fiction and science), was written under the name John Grant.  He is perhaps best known for being the co-author (with John Clute) the Hugo Award-winning (best related book category) and World Fantasy Award-winning The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997). He was also technical editor on, and one of many entry contributors to, the second edition of The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (1993),   Importantly for those into both science and also SF, as John Grant he rallied against pseudo-science and deliberate science misinformation for nefarious partisan reasons and his non-fiction included Bogus Science or, Some People Really Believe These Things (2009), Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science (2007) and Denying Science: Conspiracy theories, media distortions and the war against reality (2011).  His other great non-fiction interests were SF/F cinema and SF/F art. Here, he wrote and edited all the cinema entries for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy as well as many other non-fiction art and cinema books such as Digital Art of the 21st Century: Renderosity (2004) this last with Audre Vsiniauskas.  His The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective (2003) (with with Elizabeth Humphrey and Pamela D. Scoville) also garnered him a Hugo.  As Paul Barnett he was commissioning editor 1997-2004 for the SF/F art book publisher Paper Tiger.

Honor Blackman, the British actress, has died aged 94.  She is most famous in Britain for playing the sometimes leather clad Cathy Gale in season's two and three of The Avengers. With John Steed Patrick Macnee, she helped protect the Earth from a rogue white star, thwart a deadly virus threat, a nuclear bomb attempt on the Houses of Parliament, among other SFnal perils in the mix of more mundane criminals and spies.  She was also the Bond girl, Pussy Galore, in Goldfinger (she was the oldest to play a Bond girl).  Both these roles, of a woman as good as her male protagonist, made some commentators opine that she did much to encourage Britain's feminist movement of the 1960s.  Among her many other roles, of SFnal note, she also appeared in Doctor Who.

David Brider, the British SF fan, has died aged 50.  A self-described 'fundamentalist Christian, he was very into Doctor Who and Doctor Who books.

Tim Brooke-Taylor, the British comedian, has died of CoVID-19 aged 78.  He is best known for being one third of The Goodies whose main run, first on BBC and then ITV, was between 1970 to 1982.  The Goodies, who set about putting the world to rights, had a surreal riff that included alien spaceships and (in the title sequence) a giant cat terrorising London.  Along the way he had bit parts working with many comedy teams including Monty Python's Flying Circus.  His SF/F roles included voicing Cacophonix in Asterix (1989), an uncredited computer operator in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), appearing in The Comet is Coming (1981) and playing the character Mims in the Big Finish audio production of Doctor Who 'The Zygon Who Fell To Earth'.  He is also known for narrating the TV series Bananaman (1983-'88).  For many years until his passing he was a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

Margaret Burbage, the British astronomer, has died.  She moved to the US shortly after marrying her astrophysicist husband Geoffrey.  With him and Fowler, led by Fred Hoyle, they researched how stars through their fusion produced elements heavier than helium. This led to their classic 1957 paper on stellar fusion.  In the 1960s she turned her attention to the rotation of galaxies.  In the US she suffered gender discrimination. For example, some large telescopes did not allow female astronomical observers and so her husband was cited as the observer with her as his assistant, when in fact she was the principal researcher. As such, she championed female scientists and turned down an award for female science: women should not have special awards but be equally considered for science awards along with men.  In 1972 she returned to Britain as Director of the Greenwich Observatory, but spent some time in the US and observing in S. America. Her stint at Greenwich ended up only lasting 18 months.

Stanley Cohen, the US biochemist, has died aged 97.  His doctorate looked at the metabolism of earthworms and was taken at the department of biochemistry at the University of Michigan in 1948.  At Colorado University he worked on the metabolism of premature babies.  he then(1952) moved to Washington University in St. Louis.  Working with Rita Levi-Montalcini, he isolated nerve growth factor. He later isolated a protein that could accelerate incisor tooth eruption and eyelid opening in newborn mice, which was renamed epidermal growth factor.  Along with Rita Levi-Montalcini, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for the isolation of nerve growth factor and the discovery of epidermal growth factor.

Robert Conrad, the US actor, has died aged 84.  The genre role he is best known in SFnal circles is playing James T. West, a secret agent for President Grant, in the TV series The Wild Wild West (1965 – '69).  The series began conventionally enough but became more steampunky when West and his fellow agent (Artemus Gordon played by Ross Martin) addressed bad guys with super-advanced Victorian technology and even aliens, time travellers and robots. (The series spawned a dull spin-off film starring Wil Smith (1999).)  Robert Conrad also starred in the film Assassin (1986) as an ageing agent following a killer robot.

Heather Couper CBE CPhys FInstP, the British astronomer, has died aged 70.  After her postgraduate studies on galaxy clusters, she became senior lecturer at the Greenwich Observatory (1977-'83).  However, she is perhaps best known to the British public for her popularisation of astronomy. From the off, graduating from Leicester University she formed a company with fellow astronomer Nigel Henbest called Hencoup to popularise astronomy.  Following Greewich she had a period working full time on popularising astronomy. She was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in 1993 – the first female professor in the 400-year history of the college – and held the position until 1996.  Over her career she wrote over 40 popular-level books on astronomy and space, many in collaboration with Nigel Henbest.  She wrote for popular science magazines, including BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus and New Scientist and was a columnist for The Independent online newspaper.  She presented many programmes and series on BBC Radio 4, including the live Starwatch series, Worlds Beyond and The Modern Magi. She won the 2008 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for 'Britain's Space Race' on Radio 4's Archive Hour.  Among her television work In 1985, she presented the seven-part Channel 4 series The Planets(1985) and the six-part The Stars (1988).  Of SFnal note she presented the documentary Arthur C. Clarke: Visionary (1995).  Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.

Robert Conrad, the US Jesuit astrophysicist and the long-time director of the Vatican Observatory, has died aged 87.  originally graduating in mathematics, astronomically he researched the birth of stars and studied the Lunar surface.  But he is known for helping shift the Vatican's position on Galileo and Darwin. He believed that science and religion could coexist. He strongly opposed those of his Catholic colleagues who denied Darwinian evolution. He retired in 2006. In 2008, with Michael Heller, he co-authored Comprehensible Universe: The Interplay of Science and Theology.

Clive Cussler, the US author, has died aged 88.  He was the author of (among other things) technothrillers. These include some in his Dirk Pitt stories.

Ellie de Ville, the British comics letterer, has died aged 72.  We have only just found out she passed on Christmas Eve (2019) aged 72.  She was a longstanding letterer with 2000AD where she lettered numerous strips including: Slaine, Strontium Dog, Defoe and Lawless, among many others.  In the1990s she worked with a computer font specialist to create her own 'Ellie' lettering font with a backwards 'Q'. As such she straddled the old world of lettering by hand, which she did with former colleague Tom Frame, and the new electronic way of lettering and baloon positioning digitally.  She was very popular and an integral part of the 2000AD party social scene and so very much a squaxx dek Thargo even if she herself was not that into comics: she fell into lettering by accident because one of her early partners said she had neat handwriting.  She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just two months previously, so all this came as a bit of a surprise to friends and colleagues.

Kirk Douglas, the US actor, has died aged 103.  Hugely respected in Hollywood with over four score films to his credit but also because he refused to go along with the McCarthy witch-hunt's against (supposed) communists: he helped end the 1950s Hollywood blacklist by defying the ban on working with film-makers with alleged communist sympathies.  Given the size of his oeuvre, it was inevitable that it included SF and fantasy.  His genre-related parts included those in the following films:  Ulysses (1954);  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954);  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1973);  Saturn 3 (1980);  and The Final Countdown (1980).  (Short video tribute here.)

Freeman Dyson FRS, the English-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, has died aged 96.  He worked on quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering.  Dyson originated several concepts that Including: Dyson's transform, a fundamental technique in additive number theory which he developed as part of his proof of Mann's theorem;  the Dyson tree, a hypothetical genetically-engineered plant capable of growing in a comet;  and the Dyson series, a perturbative series where each term is represented by Feynman diagrams.  For science fiction aficionados he popularised – and had it named after him – the Dyson sphere: a sphere surrounding a star to capture most of its energy for use by and advanced civilisation.  He wrote: "One should expect that, within a few thousand years of its entering the stage of industrial development, any intelligent species should be found occupying an artificial biosphere which surrounds its parent star."  Dyson spheres have been used a number of times in SF.  However, Dyson conceived that such structures would be clouds of asteroid-sized space habitats, though most science fiction writers have preferred a solid structure a good example being Bob Shaw's Orbitsville.  Freeman Dyson openly acknowledged the creator of the idea, SF author Olaf Stapledon in his 1937 novel Star Maker.  Dyson also proposed that an immortal group of intelligent beings could escape the prospect of heat death by extending time to infinity while expending only a finite amount of energy. This is also known as the Dyson scenario.

Dan Goodman, the US fan, has died aged 76.  He was active in New York fandom and later Minneapolis.

Kate Hatcher , the US fan, has died age 72.  She was a conrunner who, among others, worked on Westercons, Worldcon 76 and was the Chair of Chair of SpikeCon (2019 NASFiC/Westercon 72).

Katherine Johnson, the US mathematician, has died aged 101.  Famously, she was one of the human 'computers' (her actual job title) at NASA that calculated Mercury, Gemini and Apollo trajectories.  She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson as a lead character in the Hugo short-listed film Hidden Figures (2016) which was based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  During her career she co-authored 26 scientific papers.  The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia, opened on September 22, 2017.  In 2019, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Terry Jones, the British Python, has died aged 77.  He had a career screen writing comedy for both television and film as well as performing in both media.  He is best known for being one of the six of the BBC's Monty Python Flying Circus comedy team.  Monty Python (1969–1974 and subsequent films), while not out-and-out science fiction, had a certain SFnal riff not least being surreal and with many of its offerings having fantasy elements if not actually being outright fantasy such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) or 1979's The Life of Brian(which included an alien spaceship scene).  Terry Jones also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth (1986).  Additionally, he was a well-respected historian, having written several books and presented television documentaries on Medieval times, as well as a prolific children's book author.  As a film director is SF/F offerings included include Erik the Viking (1989) and The Wind in the Willows (1996).  For television he co-wrote the ever so 1950s British Ripping Yarns (1976–1979) with fellow Python Michael Palin and co-created (with Gavin Scott) the animated TV series Blazing Dragons (1996–1998).  Among his many comedy achievements were his playing Brian's mother and the Holy Grail political rant.  Asteroid, 9622 Terryjones, is named in his honour

Earl Kemp, the US fan, has died aged 90.  In 1955, Earl and several other University of Chicago Science Fiction Club members started Advent: Publishers to bring out science fiction critical works.  In 1961 he won a Hugo Award for Best Fanzine for Who Killed Science Fiction.  He was chairman of the 20th World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon III (1962).  In 1963 Kemp he edited The Proceedings: CHICON III for Advent:Publishers.  It included transcripts of lectures and panels given during the course of the convention, along with numerous photographs.  In 2009 he won the FAAn Award for Best Fanzine, 2010 he was the Corflu Fifty winner, 2011 he received the Past President of the FWA, Neffy Award for Best Fanzine, and in 2012 he was honoured with a FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement.  In September 2013, he was inducted into to the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the 71st World Science Fiction Convention.

Frank Lunney, the US fan, has died.  He edited the fanzines Beabohema and SyndromeBeabohema was short-listed for a 'Best Fanzine' Hugo in 1970.

Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian climate scientist, has died aged 79 following heart surgery.  From 2002 to 2015, Pachauri was chair of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) — the international organization that produces scientific reports on the state of climate change for the UN and developed the Paris agreement to halt global warming. In 2007 the organization received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aly Parsons, the US fan, has died aged 67.  She was active in Washington DC fandom.  She worked for the Potomac River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and on the 2003 World Fantasy Convention among other conventions.

Nicholas Parsons OBE CBE, the British actor and light entertainment presenter, has died – still working -- aged 96.  The much loved figure was known to millions of Brits in the 1960s as the straight man to comedian Arthur Haynes, as a regular on The Benny Hill Show from 1968 to '71, in the 1970s for the TV competition show The Sale of the Century (1971 – 1983) and as the host of the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game Just a Minute for over half a century from its first broadcast on 22nd December 1967 until 4th June 2018, Parsons never missed an episode, but that same month, a current regular panellist Gyles Brandreth stood in for him for two episodes due – with Parsons aged 94 – to a bout of illness. (Feel free to search for an mp3 episode of the game show on the net.)  In genre terms, in 1989 he featured in Doctor Who as the doomed Northumberland vicar Reverend Wainwright in the Seventh Doctor serial 'The Curse of Fenric', though youngsters of a certain age (mid-60s) might remember him as providing the voice for Sheriff Tex Tucker / Telegraph Operator Dan Morse / Billy Pinto in Gerry Anderson's Four Feather Falls. (OK, so this was a western, but it was Gerry Anderson's second series.)  But in genre terms Nicholas Parsons was arguably best known for playing the Narrator in the 21st anniversary of The Rocky Horror Show at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End in a 20 week run in 1994 (the most heckled character in the actual anniversary's evening performance taking it in good form out-doing the audience in ad lib come-backs, losing his place and asking the audience for his next line), and starred in the revival tour the following year. He then toured with the production intermittently from 1994 to 1996.  Recently, 2019, he was the voice of Dagon, Lord of the Files in Good Omens.  His autobiography is The Straight Man: My Life in Comedy (1994) and a book of memoirs Nicholas Parsons: With Just a Touch of Hesitation, Repetition and Deviation (2010) titled in reference to Just A Minute.  He held the Guinness World Record for the longest after-dinner speech (7 hours, 8 minutes,34 seconds) having taken it from Gyles Brandreth (4 hours, 19 minutes, 34 seconds in 1976).  In 1978, the two then ran a parallel speech competition for charity (Action Research for the Crippled Child) at the Hyde Park Hotel, London.  Action Research declared it a draw (11 hours). (Gyles Brandreth later reclaimed the title).  Back in the day, on Nicholas Parsons' performance in Doctor Who 'The Curse of Fenric', he said: "I'm very flattered as I've always loved the show and it's nice to be associated with something which is a cult, but to be in one of the best episodes of a cult show has been to me one of the most treasured memories."  On news of his passing Stephen Fry Tweeted: "He ruled Just a Minute for Just a Lifetime. A stunning achievement: never scripted, always immaculate. From comedian's sidekick to great institution, via Sale of the Century and much more. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism and commitment.  Farewell x."

Gudrun Pausewang, the German author, has died aged 91.  She mainly wrote for teenagers and occasionally SF/F including two nuclear post-apocalyptic novels.  Her work occasionally appeared on German school curricula.

Elyse Rosenstein, the US fan, has died aged 69.  She was retired but had been a school science teacher (physics).  Along with Joyce Yasner, Joan Winston, Linda Deneroff and Devra Langsam, she organised the first Star Trek convention, that took place in New York (1972). The convention was not only the first media convention, it was also at the time the largest science fiction convention.  She was featured in multiple editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education and Who’s Who of American Women.

William Spencer, the British writer, has died aged 93.  His work appeared in New Worlds, New Writings in SF and Interzone.

Larry Tesler, the US computer scientist, has died aged 74.  His career included working for Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo.  While at Apple as its chief scientist, Tesler worked on the Apple Lisa and the Apple Newton, and helped to develop Object Pascal and its use in application programming toolkits including MacApp.  He is perhaps most noted for developing the "cut", "copy" and "paste" commands.  Computer scientists of a certain age know of his being anti computer modes. In the 1970s and '80s computers were often put into a specific 'mode' so as to facilitate the running of a program package: from 2010 his car had a personalised California license plate with the license number 'NO MODES', his Twitter handle was @nomodes, and his website was www.nomodes.com.

Christopher Tolkien, the British academic, has died aged 95.  After serving in the RAF during World War Two he became a lecturer in Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic at Oxford University.  In genre terms he is best known for the maps he drew for his father's (J. R. R. Tolkien's) Middle Earth stories as well as curating his late father's archive as the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate, completing several books set in the world of Middle-earth using his father's material from 70 boxes of unpublished work.  He was not impressed by what he saw as the commercialisation of J. R. R.Tolkien's work.  He was famously critical of Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.  In a 2012 interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, he said: "They gutted the book, making an action film for 15-to-25-year-olds."

Albert Uderzo, the French comics artist, has died of old age aged 92 of a heart attack in his sleep: his family report he had been very tired for several weeks..  He had two handicaps for an artist.  First, he was born with a sixth finger on each hand and these were surgically removed shortly after his birth but left him with life-long pain.  Second, he was colour blind.  At the end of the 1950s, artist Alberto Uderzo and story-writer Ren&ecute; Goscinny, had the idea of a graphic novel featuring a Gaulish warrior living in a village of indomitable Gauls 50BC.  The village is the last bastion of free Gauls holding out against the mighty Roman Empire.  Their ability to survive is down to a magic potion, brewed by their village druid, that gives them super-strength… And so Asterix the Gaul was born with the first graphic novel adventure published in 1961.  This proved to be such a winning formula that it spawned many subsequent adventures.  Some of these were even turned into, quite faithful, films: both animation and live action. (There is even a theme park near Paris that attracts two million visitors each year.)  Additional shorter adventures appeared in the comic Pilote.  Most of the material has been translated (often by the wonderful Anthea Bell) from the French to English and have appeared as graphic novels as well as a collection of graphic shorts.  Though comedicly violent, they are great fun for children of all ages.  Uderzo took over the writing for the comic book after the sudden death of Goscinny in 1977.  These stories are not as excellent as the earlier ones, but are nonetheless still entertaining.  In 2012, an aging Uderzo passed on the batten to other artists.  Sadly, these stories, though welcome, are noticeably substandard by comparison Uderzo and Goscinny originals, although one or two come close.  It looks like Asterix will continue to live.  Either way, Albert Uderzo and Ren&ezcute; Goscinny created a Franco-Belgian cultural icon that lampooned French culture as fiercely independent, belligerent but big-hearted and with a passion for good food, along with satirising the characters of France's neighbours and other Mediterranean cultures, by Toutatis.

Max von Sydow, the Swedish-born French actor, has died aged 90.  He has appeared in over 150 films and garnered many awards including two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes.  His genre films include: Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957); The Exorcist (1973) for which he won a Golden Globe; The Ultimate Warrior (1975); Flash Gordon (1980); Conan the Barbarian (1982); Never Say Never Again (1983); Dreamscape (1984); Dune (1984); Minority Report (2002); and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).  He also played Three-Eyed Raven in the Game of Thrones TV series.

Eugen Witkowsky, the Russian writer, has died aged 69.  He was a dissident in the 1970s and '80s but subsequently built upon his academic studies becoming a poetry academic who authored over a dozen critical books.  He was also a genre writer and authored the historical fantasy Paul II (2000) and its two sequels.

Al Worden, the US astronaut, has died aged 88.  He was one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon but he did not land on it, remaining in the Command Module. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

 

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 2020

End Bits & Thanks

 

 

This is the last seasonal news page
until the current viral pandemic is over.

We hope that next season at least we will have another edition
that includes articles and stand-alone book reviews even if there
is no news page.
After that we will play it by ear.
It may be we have a season's break, going into suspended animation
to wake up in a brighter, more normal, future.
Meanwhile our best wishes to you all
and have a mooch around the rest of the site
and follow the video links off of old news pages.

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible, Fancylopaedia, File 770, Silviu Genescu, Anthony Heathcote, SF Encyclopaedia, Kel Sweeny, John Watkinson and Peter Wyndham.  A big tip of the hat for this edition goes to Pat Fernside, Peter Wyndham and Julie Perry who stepped up as emergency web-access and news providers, as SF² Concatenation mission control became electronically cut off as our extant founding editor has no home internet. (Until now this has not been a problem due to the numerous public library cybercafés but these shut due to the UK strategy to combat the spread of SAFS-CoV-2.)   Additional thanks for news coverage goes not least to the very many representatives of SF conventions, 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). :-)

There will be no news page in our next seasonal upload – that covers the Autumn 2020 period.  This is because: conventions are being cancelled - so no con news; cinemas are closed so we will have no box office data; film production has all but ceased and so there will be little film news; and SF/F book publishers are cutting back on PR.  However, our autumnal edition slated for September, will have stand-alone book reviews as we had been sent a pile before the late March 2020 UK lock-down and these we have just (April 2020) distributed to our book reviewers. We may also have some standalone articles.
          Looking even further ahead, if British lockdown still exists in September then we will cancel all future postings until roughly three months after lockdown ends. This lag will give us time to accumulate material from studios, publishers, conventions etc.

To contact us see here But note e-mails may not be read until self-isolation ends. However we are still welcoming contributions.

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