Science Fiction News
& Recent Science Review for the
Summer 2022

(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 2022

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT
Advance posted 10th March 2022 ahead of SF² Concatenation's summer edition.

Science fiction is far more than a genre, it enthuses science and warns of possible futures, among much else.  More, many of its aficionados are part of a community: a community that crosses nations.  Sometimes that community needs to nail its colours to the mast.  Now, at this moment in time, due to circumstances up-to-now unthought-of in the early 21st century, those colours are blue and yellow.

The forthcoming SF Worldcon in Chengdu, China, took some in our community by surprise: that nation's human rights, socio-political freedoms and neighbour-predatory practices does not exactly engender support among those from more progressive, democratic countries.  Yet there are those from the 'west' who plan on attending the 2023 Worldcon.  Perhaps they think the cultural exchange will do good? But such a sentiment is myopic.  They will not get much of a chance to espouse western perspectives.  They will not see what is happening to Uyghurs: they will not see much beyond the local cosseted, urban middle class.  They will not learn anything about events such as Tiananmen Square: such have been expunged from local history.  They will not meet democratic politicians from Hong Kong: the one country, two systems policy is dead.  They will not even experience the controlled access to the internet the locals are subjected to: Chengdu have said that internet restrictions will be lifted for foreigners at the Worldcon.  There is no need to give further examples: you get the idea.

When China won the 2023 SF Worldcon bid, we were urged 'to go with an open mind'.  But, at an SF convention once, Terry Pratchett warned a group of us that, 'the problem with too open a mind is that it allows anything in.'

Of course, western SF fans are free to do what they want (alas, not so some of our counterparts from the east).  Other than those from the west who need to go for WSFS Worldcon governance purposes, the rest of us might want to think carefully about attending.  Not least, we need to think carefully in the light of recent blue and yellow events.  Make no mistake, this call is not some academic exercise in political correctness.  With one of us involved, literally in the firing line, for us it is personal!

On Wednesday, 2nd March (2022), the UN moved to condemn Russia's war on Ukraine. 141 nations supported that call: only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea supported Russia, while China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained.  And here's the thing, if China is abstaining then arguably the 2023 SF Worldcon should dis-invite Sergei Lukyanenko as a Guest of Honour: Lukyanenko has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support for his nation's war against Ukraine

Will Putin care?  Of course not, though he has in the past supported the soft power Russia projects through cultural and sporting events to the point where the Russian state has reportedly enabled (encouraged?) some of its athletes to use performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals.

FIFA and UEFA have suspended Russian national football teams and clubs from their matches for the foreseeable future.  Motor racing's FIA has axed Russian Grand Prix. The International Paralympic Committee has banned Russia from participating. World Badminton has banned all Russians and Belarusians from matches.  The Tennis Federation has put a hold on all events in Russia.  Eurovision has dropped Russia from its contest.  Now it is science fiction's turn!

What will dis-inviting Lukyanenko do?  Well, while Putin might not care about Worldcon, a proportion of Russia's science fiction community is pro-war with Sergei Lukyanenko and they do know of the SF Worldcon.  For example: Roman Zlotnikov (Moscow fan, author), Oleg Divov (award-winning author), Vadim Panov (award-winning author), Andrey Lazarchuk (award-winning author) and Evgeny Lukin (award-winning author), were among 80 Russian SF professionals and BNFs, including Lukyanenko, who proclaimed, 'We support our army, which acts as clearly, professionally and selflessly as possible. We support our Supreme Commander-in-Chief, President of the Russian Federation, Putin, who launched a special operation to de-NaΖify and demilitarise the state of Ukraine," (See an archive translated PDF version of a Lukyanenko led statement here.)

Now, let's be clear that not all of Russia's SF community supports Russia's action against its fellow Slavic neighbour.  Dmitry Glukhovsky (the author of Metro 2033), to take but one example, recently came out in considerable detail in saying, 'No to war.'  Yet equally, as noted, Sergei Lukyanenko is not alone in being for Putin's war against Ukraine.  Dis-inviting Lukyanenko would send a message at least to those undecided in Russia's SF community. (Remember, Putin has silenced his political opposition and jailed his leading opponent [following a poison attempt on his life] and increasingly silenced Russia's independent newspapers, TV and radio stations. So those who do not get their information elsewhere, as mainly Russia's younger generation do via the internet [and even this is seeing greater curtailment in Russia], are prey to perfervid Putin propaganda and Orwellian double-think.)

In particular, there is one person in the west who is currently due to share the platform at the 2023 Worldcon with Lukyanenko.  Is that something he really wants to do?

Looking at you Robert J. Sawyer  (in hope).
Advance posted 10th March 2022 ahead of SF² Concatenation's summer edition.  If you are on social media and feel inclined to support this call you can like this Tweet.
Elsewhere on the net is this call not to host the Hugos in 2023 winteriscoming.net/2022/03/16/dear-worldcon-why-we-should-not-host-hugos-china-uyghur.
  ++++   See also our 2023 Worldcon news later on below as well as:-
  – Horror Writers Association condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  – The Authors Guild condemns the invasion of Ukraine.
  – The SFWA did not originally want to take a stand on Ukrainian invasion but then changed its mind with a basic statement of support.
  – The European SF Society suspends Russia and Belarus.
  – Western science publishers are divided over Russian research paper ban

 

STAFF STUFF

Just when we are getting over the worst of CoVID, and boosters get on top of the omicron variant, a nutter let's slip the dogs of war.  The news at any level has been both shocking and heart-breaking in equal measure.  For us, with our ISP arranger and sponsor links manager, Boris Sidyuk, being Ukrainian, it has been impossible not to watch the news without him and his family (Maryna and Andrew) in mind.  Sad to see what is happening in the streets some of us walked during the 2006 and 2013 Eurocons in Kyiv.  We have been in semi-regular contact with him in Kyiv as mile by mile the invading forces have drawn closer.
          Among his messages Boris has called for western fandom to bar all pro-Putin, pro-war in the Ukraine Russians from participating in SF conventions. It was in response to this call that we drafted the above editorial given that the Worldcon community is giving one of the highest honours it can – being a Guest of Honour – at the 2023 SF Worldcon.  (Separately, there is an appeal from Ukraine's pro and fan SF community to western SF professionals to speak to their Russian counterparts and for fans to boycott Russian SF/F.)
          Our greatest fear right now is that we might need a new ISP and sponsor arranger as our current one will become lost to us.
          You all know the score.  There is really not much more to say other than let's hope this madness somehow quickly stops.

There is not much you can do but, should you wish, you can show SF solidarity with our fan compatriots and the people in Ukraine: Twitter and Facebook.

See also elsewhere this seasonal edition Ukraine artists appeal.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 32 (3) Summer 2022) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Ian Green (epigeneticist & SF author)
          Discon III - The 2021 Washington DC SF Worldcon. – Sue Burke
          Novacon 2021 - The 50th Novacon – Arthur Chappell
          Windycon 2021 - The 47th Chicago-region convention – Sue Burke
          Using SF/F to justify Putin – Jonathan Cowie
          A letter from Ukrainian artists to the World's artists – Borys Sidyuk et al
          Ukraine's Invasion: Something you can do free in 10 minutes
          Gaia 2022 - Annual whimsical SF and/or science snippets and exotica
          16 years ago. One from the archives: The 2006 Eurocon - Kiev, Ukraine (pictures added 2022)
          20 years ago. One from the archives: Should we trust scientists? – Peter Cotgreave

          Plus over forty (40!) SF/F/H standalone fiction book and non-fiction SF and popular science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 35th year. For full details of the latest contents see our What's New page.

 

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

Summer 2022

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

 

The 2022 British SF Association (BSFA Awards) Awards have been presented at the 2022 Eastercon, Heathrow, London.  The shortlist for the Best Novel category consisted of:-
          Green Man's Challenge – Juliet E. McKenna
          A Desolation Called Peace – Arkady Martine
          Purgatory Mount – Adam Roberts
          Shards of Earth – Adrian Tchaikovsky (WINNER)
          Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley
          Blackthorn Winter – Liz Williams
Other categories and this year's winners are for  Artwork: Iain Clarke, ' Glasgow Green Woman',  Non-fiction: Francesca T. Barbini (editor), Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction,  Short stories: Aliette de Bodard for 'FireheartTiger',  and  Younger fiction: Xian Jay Zhao for Iron Widow.
          The awards are presented annually by the BSFA, based on a vote of its members and on and off over the years – currently by – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon.

The 2022 Hugo Award nomination shortlists have been announced for 2021 works.  Voting has now commenced and the results will be announced at this year's Worldcon in Chicago in September (2022).
Best Novel
1151 ballots for 443 nominees; finalist range 111-242
          A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
          The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
          Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
          A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark
          Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
          She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Best Novella
807 ballots for 138 nominees; finalist range 90-235
          Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
          Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky
          Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
          The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente
          A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
          A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
597 ballots for 192 nominees; finalist range 67-261
          Dune (Trailer here)
          Encanto (Trailer here)
          The Green Knight (Trailer here)
          Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Trailer here)
          Space Sweepers (Trailer here)
          WandaVision (Trailer here)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
386 ballots for 337 nominees; finalist range 25-44
          The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon
          For All Mankind: The Grey
          Arcane: The Monster You Created
          The Expanse: Nemesis Games
          Loki: The Nexus Event
          Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj

The 2022 Nebula Award nomination shortlists have been announced for 2021 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
          The Unbroken by C. L. Clark
          A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
          Machinehood by S. B. Divya
          A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
          Plague Birds by Jason Sanford
Novella
          A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
          Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
          And What Can We Offer You Tonigh by Premee Mohame
          Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden
          Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn
          The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler
          'The Giants of the Violet Sea' by Eugenia Triantafyllou
Novelette
          'O2 Arena' by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
          'Just Enough Rain' by P. H. Lee
          '(emet)' by Lauren Ring
          'That Story Isn’t the Story' by John Wiswel
          'Colors of the Immortal Palette' by Caroline M. Yoachim
Short Story
          'Mr. Death' by Alix E. Harrow
          'Proof by Induction' by A José Pablo Iriarte
          'Let All the Children Boogie' by Sam J. Miller
          'Laughter Among the Trees' by Suzan Palumbo
          'Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather' by Sarah Pinsker
          'For Lack of a Bed' by John Wiswell
The Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Presentation
          Encanto
          The Green Knight '
          Loki: Season 1
          Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
          Space Sweepers
          The Old Guard
The winners will be announced in May.  Full categories (including game writing and young adult) at www.sfwa.org.

Canada's Aurora Awards short-list announced.  The awards are nominated by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, for Science Fiction / Fantasy works done in 2021 by Canadians. They will be presented at an online awards ceremony in August. The principal, the 'Best Novel' and 'Best Visual Presentation' categories short-list consists of:-
Best Novel
          A Broken Darkness by Premee Mohamed
          Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
          The Quantum War by Derek Kunsken
          RED X by David Demchuk
          Soulstar by C.L. Polk
Best Visual Presentation
          Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice
          Dune
          Free Guy
          Ghostbusters: Afterlife
          Wynonna Earp
Last year's short-list here.

Finalists in 25 categories for the 2022 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA). The science fiction short-list consisted of:-
          Day Zero by Robert Cargill
          Orphan Wars by Scott Moon and J. N. Chaney
          Pastel Pink by Nikki Minty
          Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
          Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
Day Zero and Project Hail Mary were cited by as among the best books of 2021. Project Hail Mary won 'audio book of the year' as well as 'science fiction book of the year'

Then 2022 Philip K. Dick Award has been presented.  The Award is for distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first time during the previous year in the US.  The winner was Dead Space by Kali Wallace.  The short-list consisted of:-
          Defekt by Nino Cipri
          Plague Birds by Jason Sanford
          Bug by Giacomo Sartori
          Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
          The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar (special citation)

 

Other SF news includes:-

The Horror Writers Association condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They say: "The HWA condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We stand for democracy. We stand for truth. We stand for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We support the people of Ukraine, including authors, editors, and journalists, as well as the people of Russia who are bravely protesting this attack. We hope to see a swift end to this senseless act of war"

The Authors Guild condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. The Guild is the U.S.’s leading and oldest non-profit advocacy organization for published writers and journalists. It has expressed support for "Ukrainian authors and journalists and all the Ukrainian people fighting bravely against their Russian aggressors to retain the right for Ukraine to be a free and democratic nation."

The European SF Society (ESFS) has temporarily removed Russia and Belarus from membership. ESFS is the governance body for Eurocons. At the time of posting this seasonal edition (two weeks after the 2022 Eurocon) there has been neither a formal statement on the ESFS website nor statute updates. However, we understand that the statutes have been changed with the effect of temporarily removing Russia and Belarus from membership until next year (or an EGM) when they will automatically be re-admitted unless a motion renewing the ban is passed. This means that neither Russia nor Belarus can pitch a bid to host a Eurocon, and Russians and Belarusians can neither nominate nor vote on the Eurocon Awards at least until next year unless an EGM is called. (ESFS was invited to supply information but did not.)

The SFWA does not want to take a stand on Ukrainian invasion. In response to an appeal by our ISP manager and sponsorship officer, Boris Sidyuk, the SFWA said: "The SFWA Board of Directors met this last week to discuss and carefully review your missive. SFWA’s mission is to support, advocate for, and educate creators in the science fiction and fantasy genres across the world. We do this regardless of the actions of their governments. Because our mission is tied to our incorporation and status as a charitable organization, we cannot participate or support any kind of boycott."
          At the time Boris was most disappointed (see STOP PRESS below for update). From an SF² Concatenation perspective it is difficult to reconcile the SFWA's mission to "SFWA’s mission is to support, advocate for, and educate creators in the science fiction and fantasy genres across the world." with failing to condemn an illegal war that involves targeting civilian areas (considered as a war crime) that affects Ukrainian creators in the science fiction and fantasy genres…! With a view like that it is perhaps not surprising that some SFWA members are prepared to attend an international event that has as one of its Guests of Honour an author who actively supports the war against Ukraine. (See our earlier on above.) ++++ STOP PRESS: The SFWA has issued a basic statement that says it stands with Ukraine.  So that's nice.  Though there is nothing on its members sharing a platform with a Russian SF professional who has actively spoken out in favour of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Any boycotting – which even politicians on both side of the Atlantic have implemented – is not (currently?) included.

The SFWA has broadened from America to the world. The SFWA now stands for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association rather than Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (second F silent in either case), though to avoid a ‘monumental effort to change our incorporation status’ the company is still Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.  Having said that, it failed day one of its new status to meaningfully address international issues.

Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society's history has been published as Bixelstrasse: The SF fan community of the 1940s. This group's members included: Forrest J. Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Fritz Lang, Fritz Leiber and A.E. van Vogt.  Compiled by Rob Hansen, Ansible Editions has produced the paperback which is at lulu.com. All proceeds going to TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund).

Marvel Comics is gearing up for a number of 60th anniversaries. 2022 is the 60th anniversary of the first edition of The Hulk and Spider-Man comics with Thor, Ant-Man, and Doctor Doom also making their first appearance. The anniversaries will be marked a number of ways including Spider-Man having variant covers with the character transformed into Spidy versions of Mary Jane, Captain Marvel, Carnage, Iron Man, Emma Frost, ShangChi, Silk, Silver Surfer, Thor and Venom. The run starts this month, April, 2022.  Meanwhile, The Incredible Hulk's life story will be retold for his 60th anniversary.  And then the Hulk and Thor will have a crossover story titled 'Banner of War' . The crossover will be written by Donny Cates with artist Martin Coccolo and covers by Gary Frank. This will begin later this month April, 2022.

Marvel Comics #1 fetches nearly US$2,427,800 (£1,867,500). Auctioned in New York, it was originally published in 1939 and introduced characters including the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch, a precursor of the character of the same name that was later a member of Marvel’s Fantastic Four.

A single page of original Spider-Man artwork auctions for record amount! Heritage Auctions in Dallas, US, obtained US$3.36 million (£2.47 million) for Mike Zeck's artwork from page 25 from Marvel Comics' Secret Wars No. 8. This features the first appearance of Spidy's black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom.  The previous record for an interior page of a US comic book was US$657,250 (£483,250) for art from a 1974 issue of The Incredible Hulk.

SF Canada's membership calls upon a member to resign. SF Canada is Canada’s national association of SF professionals. One of its past Presidents, Peter Halasz, is accused of making members' private e-mail addresses public. Exact details of the alleged infraction are unclear, but something similar could be illegal under GDPR in the European Union. Under the SF Canada bylaws the motion required an excess majority of 75% of the members voting to pass. The outcome of the vote was 78% Yes (35 votes) and 22% No (10 votes).

The 2022 British Eastercon has just been held and was Reclamation. Reclamation was held in the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre Heathrow (formerly The Park Inn), London, 15th-18th April (2022). Mandatory proof of vaccination for CoVID was required. Attendance was hit by rail extensive rail works in Great Britain over the Easter holiday, long weekend.
          Science items on the programme were:  'Peeing in Space';  'Drake, Fermi, and Other Whovian Paradoxes';  'How Fiction Affects Your Brain';  'The Hay Lecture: Witnessing The Dawn Of Galaxies';  'The Maths of Life and Death: Understanding The Maths Behind Epidemics';  and  'Better Aliens Through Chemistry'.

There is a bid for the British Eastercon 2024. The proposed venue is the Telford International Centre which is about a mile and a half from Telford rail station (half an hour walk). Telford rail station itself is about 5 hours from Glasgow, 2 hours from Manchester and 2.5 hours from London Euston. STOP PRESS: This bid has won. (For the latest annual diary of national and international level SF conventions see our current con and film diary.)

The 2024 Eurocon will be in Rotterdam, The Netherlands And that's all we know.

The 2021 Worldcon, Discon III, was held at the end of the last year. We now have a a stand-alone review elsewhere in this season's edition.

The 2022 Worldcon, Chicon 8, will be held in Chicago. It will see the Hugo Awards presented. Hotel reservations open on 25th April (2022) and the membership rates go up 1st May (2022). Chicon's Progress Report 3 is out. The membership levels are down on what might reasonably be expected at this time with 1,691 having attending membership and 1,065 having supporting membership. Notwithstanding that, there were no members registered from Russia (funny that?). For comparison, the pre-CoVID-19 Worldcon, Dublin 2019 had 24 members registered from Russia just prior to the event. For there to be none is undeniably down to Russia's war with Ukraine.

Charles de Lint steps down as the 2022 Worldcon, Chicon 8, Guest of Honour.  Personal family reasons mean that he is unable to attend. The Chicon 8 committee hope is that a Future SF Worldcon will take the opportunity to honour him as he so richly deserves.

SF/F authors call to have the 2023 Chengdu, China, Worldcon revoked. The open letter is from some 80 SF/F authors (including some award-winners) together with some human rights and Uyghur NGOs. It is addressed to 'the Members of the WorldCon Site Selection, WorldCon Community and Voters'. (Of course, the site selection voters are actually a subset of the broader Worldcon community but let's not knit-pick.) The letter can be seen in full here.
          The call is understandable, and you may have gathered from our Editorial above that this is something with which many of us at SF² Concatenation have some sympathy.  Having said that, there is a gap in the Worldcon constitution and rules as they does not take into account that a nation with serious human rights and crimes against humanity issues can bid, let alone win, to host the SF Worldcon.  (Any changes to the constitution and rules would take two years to implement rending that course of action inapplicable to the 2023 convention.) Then there is the question that if the 2023 Worldcon organising committee did relinquish its right to hold the Worldcon then they would no doubt be in trouble with China's authorities who have given the event their blessing and support.  It is difficult to see what could be done other than that suggested in our editorial.  No doubt there will be much discussion in Worldcon fan circles and possibly parts of the broader SF community.
++++ See also our editorial above.

The 2023 Worldcon has enabled there to be a divide between attending the convention and Hugo voting. This is arguably good news. The 2022 Worldcon in Chengdu China site selection was controversial and that was before it announced its Guests of Honour: Sergey Lukyanenko (who has actively proclaimed avid support of Putin and the invasion of Ukraine) and Cixin Liu (who is supportive of Uyghur re-education) – see the editorial at the top of this seasonal news page. There had also been fears that the Chengdu win could affect the 2022, 2023 and 2024 Hugo Awards with nominations for titles published only in Chinese and unknown outside of that country. This is now a little less likely.
          What Chengdu have done is to allow a WSFS class of membership enabling folk to nominate and vote for the Awards without attending. It also means that local Chinese can attend the convention without the right to vote. To attend and vote, both a WSFS membership and an attending membership (cheaper if online only) is required. To attend (either physically or online) without Hugo nominating and voting, only an attending or online membership is required. This means it will be cheaper for locals to attend without participating in the Hugos and so it is less likely (though not impossible) for obscure-and-largely-inaccessible-to-westerners Chinese works being nominated.  A sensible move that benefits both locals and Worldcon regulars.

The 2024 Worldcon bid for Glasgow, Great Britain, is unopposed. The WSFS rules under which Worldcon site selection takes place has a deadline after which new bids for a particular year cannot be submitted. That deadline was 4th March (2022) and no other (serious) bid had been submitted (there are the usual joke bids). So Glasgow will be the only serious bid on the ballot. There will be the usual 'no preference' option but that never has any effect on the outcome. So it looks like Glasgow will be the venue for the 2024 Worldcon irrespective of what happens with the site selection ballot at this year's Worldcon in Chengdu, China.  The voting for the 2024 bid takes place at the 2022 Worldcon in August (2022).

And finally….

Future SF Worldcon bids currently running  include for:-
2024
          - Glasgow, Great Britain in 2024 (to be voted on in September)
2025
          - Brisbane, Australia in 2025
          - Seattle, WA, USA in 2025
2026
          - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2026 (civil rights concerns noted two years ago)
          - Los Angeles in 2026, USA
          - Nice, France in 2026
2027
          - Tel Aviv in 2027, Israel
2029
          - Dublin in 2029, Republic of Ireland
2031
          - Texas in 2031, USA

Future SF Eurocon bids currently running  include for:-
          - Aland, Finland (2025)
          - Berlin, Germany (2026)
          - Zagreb, Croatia (2028)

 

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 2022

Film News

 

Top 37 SF films poll by Media Death Cult.  Media Death Cult (MDC) is a fairly new SF channel on YouTube and they do discussion on Discord. It's a reasonably lively and friendly channel though the presenter does drop 'F' bombs and his 'T's, nor does he edit out lighting and camera musings which, while folksy, makes for slightly bumpy viewing: we linked to MDC's first author interview, Alastair Reynolds six months ago.  This is the second survey of what looks like will be an annual poll. The Media Death Cult following (currently 18k YouTube subscribers) has grown sufficiently that this year enough voted for it to have a top 37 listing.  After 37 the vote numbers are so low that there are many ties.
 1) Alien
 2) Blade Runner
 3) The Matrix
 4) Arrival
 5) 2001: A Space Odyssey
 6) Dune (2021)
 7) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
 8) The Thing (1982)
 9) Interstellar
10) Blade Runner 2049,br> 11) Terminator 2: Judgement Day
12) Inception
13) Star Wars
14) Aliens
15) Back to the Future 16) Jurassic Park 17) The Terminator
18) Ex Machina
19) Ghost in the Shell
20) Children of Men
21) Planet of the Apes (1968)
22) The Martian
23) Twelve Monkeys
24) The Fifth Element
25) Akira
26) Edge of Tomorrow
27) Contact
28) Mad Max: Fury Road
29) Return of the Jedi
30) Annihilation
31) GATTACA
32) Primer
33) Forbidden Planet
34) District 9
35) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
36) Predator
37) Stalker
          Polls like this are interesting in that they provide a snapshot of SF/F literary perception. Those with long memories may remember that SF² Concatenation conducted a similar top 20 SF/F poll at the 1987 UK national convention, the BECCON Eastercon and reported it in our second edition (1988) back in our print days: actually it was a top 28 due to the number of ties including six that tied at number 17! Many of the above were on that list one-third of a century ago.  Interestingly, for an all-time poll the above 2022 MDC poll has only one black & white film! (No Metropolis or Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) but both surveys had Stalker.)
          Now, it is unwise with polls to compare them with personal lists: people are diverse and there is understandable heterogeneity. So, anybody that does compare them with their own personal list may want to go live in a clone colony.  Having said that, it is interesting to compare such polls with similar polls to see if there is any commonality, durability of SF favourites and/or how cinematic tastes change. So, how does the 2022 MDC poll compare with the SF² Concatenation 1987 survey, especially given that there is a third of a century gap between the two?
          Both surveys saw nominations for the top two films significantly ahead of the third film which itself was distinctly ahead of the rest of the pack.  Three of the top 5 of our 1987 poll were in the top 5 of the 2022 MDC poll: Blade Runner (our no. 1);  2001 (our no.2);  and Alien (our no.4).
          We might take this news item and our original survey to work up a standalone article with other data and see what we get.  ++++ See the Media Death Cult book poll in our film subsection.

Bruce Willis has announced his retirement from films due to illness. He is suffering from aphasia (which results in difficulty in speaking and/or writing). Aphasia usually occurs following a stroke or brain injury. His career has involved a fair bit of genre work beginning with appearing in the episode 'Shatterday' in The Twilight Zone TV series reboot (1985). His notable genre films include: Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), Armageddon (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Surrogates (2009), Split (2006), Looper (2012) and Glass (2019).

Mother/Android was the Christmas/New Year hit for Netflix and Hulu. The Hulu (US) and Netflix (British Isles) film was launched 17th December (2021) and went straight into the streamers' top ten charts. Written and (debut) directed by Mattson Tomlin it stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Algee Smith, and Raúl Castillo. With shades of Day Zero, it concerns a young couple the day the robots began their uprising. See the trailer here.

The Man Who Fell to Earth will debut very shortly, 24th April (2022) after posting this seasonal news page. We have been waiting for it.  It will air on Showtime in the US. Trailer here.

Avatar 2 will apparently be released later this year (2022)! The idea of a sequel to Avatar by James Cameron was mooted by the director 12 years ago.  Then, three years ago, Sigourney Weaver revealed her involvement.  As to why recently James Cameron has moved Avatar 2 up his project schedule can only be guessed at but it is thought that 2019 seeing Avengers: End Game overtaking Avatar as the highest grossing film was a spur.

Rogue Squadron delayed. The production was to be the Star Wars film for 2023 and will be directed by Wonder Woman filmmaker Patty Jenkins, will need more time to start production. Production was going to start in 2022 but then delayed and set for a 22nd December, 2023, release from Disney. However, Patty Jenkins is in great demand. That, and CoVID delays impacting other films, caused Disney back in November (2021) to re-organise their 2022 releases. This vacating the 22nd December 2023 slot has meant that Paramount is considering that slot for Star Trek 4 (see the next item. Meanwhile Rogue Squadron is currently indefinitely delayed (though not cancelled).

Forthcoming Star Trek 4 has been delayed yet again. The film has already been delayed a number of times. We reported over two years ago that despite the second and third films' poor box office, ST4 was on. Then it lost its screen-story writer and director, Noah Hawley, then gained Matt Shakman. We said last autumn (2021) that it was tentatively slated for a 2023 release and then given a 9th June 2023 date. The latest news is that this has been pushed back to 22nd December 2023.

The Champions TV series to get a cinematic re-boot. The original 1960s series saw a team of three secret agents have a plane crash in the Himalayas. Found by a lost civilisation, they are imbued with strength and telepathy so as to survive their injuries. Sworn to keep the civilisation secret, the agents return to work, only this time they have an edge. The series aired back in 1968-69 and ran for 30 episodes. It was developed by Dennis (an original Dr Who script editor) Spooner and Monty Berman who also were behind Department S, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Jason King.
          The forthcoming film production is said to star Cate Blanchett and Ben Stiller. However as both those have a couple of film ventures to complete before then, don't expect the re-boot film any time soon.  Meanwhile, here are the original series' opening credits.

Slingshot could be a space opera film of note in 2023. With a screenplay by R. Scott (Donner Pass) Adams and Nathan (Moon) Parker, it is a psychological SF thriller as an astronaut struggles to maintain his grip on reality aboard a possibly fatally compromised mission to Saturn’s moon, Titan.  It will star Casey Affleck, Laurence Fishburne and Emily Beecham. Mikael (Outside the Wire, Escape Plan) Hafstrom is directing. Richard (Hancock, Seven) Saperstein is producing. The production designer is Barry (Source Code, Independence Day: Resurgence) Chusid.  This film has been in development hell but shooting began in Hungry in December (2021).

Furiosa has lost Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.  Furiosa is the next in the Mad Max franchise.  Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who was Manta in Aquaman, is apparently leaving to pursue a project he has been passionate about for some time. He is replaced by Tom (Mank, The Wonder) Burke. He joins Anya Taylor-Joy, who will star in the titular role, along with Chris Hemsworth.  Mad Max: Fury Road grossed US$375.2 million (£277 million) at the global box office. The film also won six Oscars, a Nebula Award and was short-listed for a Hugo. So much is expected of Furiosa.

Snow White re-make garners controversy for Disney. The live-action re-make of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938) cartoon has been criticised for telling a "backward story" about dwarfs in a social media storm. Disney has responded saying that it is taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.  The film is currently slated for a 2023 release.  Marc Webb is directing.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. III will see Sylvester Stallone return. He will reprise his role as Stakard Ogord aka Starhawk. That shooting began in November (2021) may worry you that the film will not be coming out this summer and you'd be right. Production was to start in 2018 the director and script writer James Gunn was sacked and re-hired by Disney. So, fret not, the film will reach us eventually and is currently slated for May 2023.

Michael Keaton is to reprise his role as Batman in Batgirl. HBO Max announced it was to make Batgirl last season. The latest news is that Michael Keaton will play Batman. This reprises this role from the first re-boot films way back in 1989 (directed by Tim Burton) and 1992 (when Batman took on the Joker and Penguin respectively). So much time has passed that in Batgirl he will play a somewhat older Batman. Given that he will shortly appear as Batman in The Flash (currently in post-production and due this autumn(2022)) it may be that he will appear in a number of DC superhero films as a mentor to other, much like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.

Forthcoming fantasy comedy Imaginary Friends has been re-titled as IF and given a release date.  It stars John Krasinski and Ryan Reynolds with an all-star support cast of Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fiona Shaw.  It follows a man (Reynolds) who can see and talk to people’s imaginary friends, befriending those that have been forgotten or discarded.  However, some imaginary friends, lacking love and friendship, turn to the dark side, and it’s up to our hero to save the world from those that become evil…  The film is currently slated for a November 2023 release.

Renfield, Dracula's assistant, to see Nicholas Cage play Dracula. Renfield stars Nicholas Hoult as the iconic vampire’s lackey and the “toxic and co-dependent relationship” between him and his master. It will be a comedy horror (think An America Werewolf in London). The film is currently slated for 2023. Bram Stoker first introduced Renfield in his 1897 novel, Dracula. The character was obsessed with drinking blood in order to achieve immortality, and hence, readers meet him as a patient in an asylum… Given the series Renfield is apparently set in modern times, Renfield has apparently been granted at least partial immortality and so sets the scene for a slightly more equal relationship than in the novel enabling meaningful conflict between the two characters… But this is largely speculation. The film is being directed by Chris(The Lego Batman Movie) McKay. Nicholas Hoult is best known for playing Hank McCoy/Beast in the recent X-Men films.

Denis Villeneuve to direct Rendezvous with Rama adaptation. The director gets his wish of last season and is to direct the Arthur C. Clarke's novel Rendezvous with Rama. The project was picked up by Alcon Entertainment, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049. The rights to the novel had previously been under the control of Morgan Freeman and his partner Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment. The film has been a passion project of Freeman's since the early 2000s, but the project was stuck in development hell for many years. The original novel (1973) won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Denis Villeneuve other work of SF note is Arrival.

I am Legend to get a sequel. Warner Brothers is bringing back not only original star Will Smith but also Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan in what will rep the duo’s first big film together as stars and producers. Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman, who very loosely adapted the Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel for the original 2007 film, also is returning to pen the follow-up and produce as well.

Philip K. Dick’s Vulcan’s Hammer is to be a film. The 1960 novel was itself an expansion of the 1956 novella.  It is set in 2029 when the Earth is run by the Unity organisation after a devastating world war. Unity runs the planet, controlling humans from childhood education onwards through the Vulcan series of artificial intelligences, but is fought by the Healer movement.  Unity Director William Barris discovers that the Vulcan 3 computer has become sentient and is considering drastic action to combat what it sees as a threat to itself. Vulcan 3 has been kept ignorant about information related to the Healer revolutionary movement by Managing Director Jason Dills, who is still loyal to its (also sentient) predecessor, Vulcan 2. Vulcan 2 fears that it will soon be superseded by Vulcan 3, and previously established the Healers as a movement to overthrow its successor.  Dill and Barris begin to suspect one another…
          The cinematic adaptation will be directed and co-produced by Francis Lawrence who is known for The Hunger Games franchise (the filmmaker helmed three of the four films), I Am Legend, Constantine and is currently working on the post-production of Slumberland.

The fourth Star Trek film in the re-boot franchise may start production late this year.  J. J. Abrams (who was behind the original Star Trek re-boot film) appears to be behind the fourth film in the series for Paramount.  If all goes well, it will be directed by Matt Shakman with a script by Josh (Terminator: Dark Fate) Friedman and Cameron (WandaVision) Squires, based on an earlier draft by Lindsey (The Magic Order) Beer and Geneva (Captain Marvel) Robertson-Dworet.  Apparently Chris Pine is to reprise his role as James T. Kirk. It is hoped that Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Uhura), Karl Urban (Dr. Bones McCoy), John Cho (Sulu), and Simon Pegg (Scotty) will also be back. Sadly not Anton Yelchin (Chekov), who sadly died in 2016.  If production does begin by the end of this year then there is a tentative cinematic release date of December 2023.

Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim gets its release date. News of this prequel anime film came last summer. Kenji Kamiyama will direct, with SOLA Digital Arts (who did Blade Runner: Black Lotus) providing the animation. War of the Rohirrim is set around 2758 of the Third Age, whereas The Lord of the Rings begins in 3018, putting 250 years between the upcoming anime and Peter Jackson's iconic trilogy. Sauron is still recovering within Dol Guldur and hasn't yet declared himself openly, even though the Dark Lord's influence can still be felt throughout Middle-earth. Many of the Fellowship haven't been born yet, but characters around during this era include Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Legolas, and Saruman. The new film will tell the story of Helm Hammerhand, who was crowned King of Rohan in 2741. Hammerhand presided over Rohan when the realm was warring against local Dunlendings - wild mortal men who later support Saruman during The Lord of the RingsLord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim is currently slated for release in April 2024.  More news plus a couple of concept art pictures short video here.

Madam Web, the Spider-Man spin-off, gets its lead cast and a director. The character was introduced in the comics in 1980. Madame Web is a clairvoyant mutant who specializes in predicting the future of Spider-themed superheroes, having mentored not only Peter Parker’s alter ego, but also multiple generations of heroes calling themselves Spider-Woman. Traditionally depicted as a blind, paralyzed old woman, she is surrounded by a web-like machine necessary to keep her alive, meaning that she stays away from direct conflict, and rather sends others on missions. Dakota Johnson is to play Madame Web and Sydney Sweeney will be a co-star. S. J. Clarkson is set to direct.

Kraven The Hunter gets additional cast. The film was green-lit last summer with Aaron Taylor-Johnson to play the lead. Now comes news that Fred Hechinger and Russell Crowe are joining the cast. Russell Crowe may be playing Nikolai Kravinoff the father of Sergei Kravinoff (a.k.a. Kraven The Hunter) and Dmitri Smerdyakov (a.k.a. Chameleon). Kraven the Hunter first appeared in Spider-Man comics way back in 1964. He is a renowned big-game hunter whose goal in life is to best Spider-Man in order to prove himself as the world's greatest hunter. Though he is often overconfident in his own abilities, which he boasts about, he possesses a great sense of honour, and treats his adversaries as equals until proven otherwise.

The Boogeyman gets its principal cast. News of the adaptation of the Stephen King story came last autumn. In addition to last season's news that Rob (Host) Savage is to direct, Chris Messina, Sophie Thatcher, David Dastmalchian, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu and Vivien Lyra Blair are all now joining the cast. The Boogeyman will debut on Hulu in the US and Disney+ here in the British Isles.

Children of Blood and Bone is to be adapted for a film. The Tomi Adeyemi Andre Norton Award short-listed novel is being adapted by Adeyemi herself for Paramount.

A film inspired by Mary Shelly, Mary's Monster, is in the works. It explores her subconscious. She is terrified of giving voice to the darkness of her subconscious mind as she locks into a dangerous battle with her own 'inner monster' as she struggles to write her seminal science fiction novel, Frankenstein...  It is being produced by Fulwell 73 and Rose Pictures.  Farren Blackburn is to direct.

The Dresden Sun is to be a new, independent, cyberpunk film.  Crilenger – a brilliant, principled mercenary with a traumatic past – works with an insider to steal a valued asset from Peredor Corporation called 'the sphere'. The C & Earth corporation, vying for global dominance, seeks to find a solution to an otherworldly technology via a scientist’s project…  Michael Ryan and Tyler Lockamy are producing under their Archetype Pictures company.  Mena Suvari, Steven Ogg, Christina Ricci and Samantha Win are to star.

All Fun and Games is to be a new, horror film.  Two kids play a game with their sadistic older cousin and awaken a cruel, demonic entity knows as 'The Skarrow'.  It will be directed by Ari Costa and Eren Celeboglu, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on the original outline script by J. J. Braider.

Blood Count will be a new vampire noir film. 'Vampire noir' we hear you cry! Yes, it will be set in the 1950s US jazz scene and, reportedly, there will be a dash of social commentary.  Peter Ramsey (who did the Hugo Award winning animation Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) has written the story and will direct. However Blood Count will not be an animation but live action. Paramount is producing with SpringHill.

Blade, the vampire hunter, is being re-booted. The character Blade first appeared in Marvel's Tomb of Dracula comics in 1973. He is a human-vampire hybrid, thanks to his mother being bitten and killed by a vampire during childbirth.  There was a 1998 film and two sequels starring Wesley Snipes. Now, only 22 years on, it is being re-booted.  Bassam Tariq set to direct. Mahershala Ali will star along with Aaron (Krypton) Pierre.

Skeletons in the Closet is to be a new supernatural horror. Shooting has already begin in Las Vagas.  The story concerns an evil spirit (La Llorona) who grants a wish to parents to cure their child of cancer. But the wish comes at a price: The father spirals down the path of self-destruction after borrowing hard money from a ruthless mobster to pay the hospital bills for his daughter. Meanwhile the mother becomes evel and eventually pledges allegiance to La Llorona.  Terrence Howard (the father) and Cuba Gooding Jr. will lead the cast that also includes Clifton Powell and Valery M. Ortiz.  ++++ This film is not to be confused with the 2007 Skeletons in the Closet directed by Yoon-Chul Jung.

The BioShock computer game (2007) is being adapted into a film. The BioShock game is set in an alternate 1960. The player guides the protagonist, Jack, after his airplane crashes in the ocean near the bathysphere terminus that leads to the underwater city of Rapture. Built by the business magnate Andrew Ryan, the city was intended to be an isolated utopia, but the discovery of ADAM, a genetic material which can be used to grant superhuman powers, initiated the city's turbulent decline. Jack tries to find a way to escape, fighting through hordes of ADAM-obsessed enemies, and the iconic, deadly Big Daddies, while engaging with the few sane humans that remain and eventually learning of Rapture's past. The BioShock game has sold more than 39 million copies worldwide.  Netflix is producing the live-action cinematic adaptation set across multiple dystopian and visionary landscapes gone wrong.

Phantom is being contemplated as the next incarnation of Phantom Of The Opera. The 1910 Phantom Of The Opera novel by Gaston Leroux, will have its next incarnation set in the sultry nightlife scene of modern day New Orleans. Universal Pictures has acquired a speculative script from John Fusco and there is a producer team in place.

Alex Garland is reportedly making a futuristic thriller, Civil War.  Alex Garland was behind the Hugo short-listed film Ex Machina and the Hugo short-listed film Annihilation as well as the quantum physics, hard-ish SF min-series Devs. He is now writing and will direct a new near-future thriller, Civil War.

And finally…

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

Short film download tip!: How Spider-Man No Way Home Should Have Ended short video.  You can see the short vid here.

Short film download tip!: Star Wars short film. This delightful 5-minute short sees a new recruit discovering that the Imperial Academy might not have been entirely truthful about the realities of war… You can see the short film Battlefield here.

Short video download tip!: The Matrix Resurrections gets the Honest Trailer treatment. Believe it or not it is a post-modern take on a post-modern subversion of form film and, given we have had so much post-modernism the first two decades of the 21st century, the irony is somewhat lost.  You can see the Honest Trailer here.

Short video download tip!: Why do the Batman films eschew Robin? We’ve had a lot of Batman movies in the past 20 years, and they’ve all avoided putting Robin onscreen. Patrick Willems thinks maybe it’s time to reconsider? You can see the informative 30 minute video here.

SF film download tip!: BigBug is a French film on Netflix. The DVD is available for non-Netflixers.  A group of bickering suburbanites find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well-intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety.  You can see the trailer here.

SF film trailer download tip!: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teaser trailer out.  It is due out early May (2022).  You can see the trailer here.

SF film trailer download tip!: Project Gemini is an SF horror thriller that has just had a limited release.  A space mission sent to terraform a distant planet. However, the mission encounters something unknown that has its own plan for the planet…   You can see the trailer here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2021 (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 the year 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 2022

Television News

 

Dark: the TV series the Hugos forgot. The Hugos are usually predominantly voted on by N. American Worldcon voters and, while there is nothing wrong in that per se as that's the way the demographics pan out, though it is a lens of which we need to be aware as there are other works of excellence in SF (or "Science Fiction achievement" which according to the WSFS constitution is what the Hugo Awards are all about).  One recent one has taken a number of non-genre awards, got a "Certified Fresh" Rotton Tomatoes rating and garnered praise in mainstream broadsheet media: The Guardian congratulated the series for its tone, complexity of its narrative, and its pacing. And it is most decidedly SFnal even if it was ignored by the Hugos: it never appeared on any of the Hugo Award long-lists for the three years it was eligible.
          You may be forgiven for not having heard of Dark as it is a German series, the first German series commissioned by Netflix. It premiered 20th December 2017 and was told in just 26 episodes over three seasons with the last premiering June 2020. (So last year(2021) was its final year of Hugo eligibility, but we do not think – in case you had – you should necessarily miss out.)
          It begins ostensibly as a crime thriller when children start vanishing from the German town of Winden, bringing to light the fractured relationships, double lives, and the dark pasts of four families living there. However, by episode two we realise that time travel is involved and (very mild spoiler follows) by the end of the first season we know that there is to be a future apocalypse! Season 2 sees much jumping of several characters into the past and future as well as the present with these characters meeting their past, present and future selves, while season 3 introduces an alternate reality complete with counterparts of the said characters.
          Unlike some series, that never rise above sci-fi (Lost springs to mind), Dark takes its SF tropes seriously and runs with them coming to a reasoned, logical – albeit SFnal or at least metaphysical (in the strict sense of that term) – conclusion. Along the way the motivation for it all is revealed, but you will have to watch the series to find that out.  In the process the series resolves the grandfather paradox. This in itself is something of an 'SF achievement').
          - Season one trailer here
          - Season two trailer here
          - Season three trailer here

X-Files Gillian Anderson starts a podcast. Called 'What do I know' is explores seΧual liberation in phenomenal women and can be found on Curio. Her first episode looked at the Nobel-winning Rita-Levi Montaici.

The Shining Girls is a new series based on Lauren Beukes’ novel. The Shining Girls (2013) novel has been adapted by Apple TV+ and launches shortly after this seasonal page is posted. follows Kirby Mazrachi (Moss) as a Chicago newspaper archivist whose journalistic ambitions were put on hold after enduring a traumatic assault. Years after a brutal attack left her in a constantly shifting reality, Kirby Mazrachi learns that a recent murder is linked to her assault. She teams with veteran reporter Dan Velazquez (played by Wagner Moura) to understand her ever-changing present—and confront her past.  Trailer here.

Picard season 2 has just begun. It launched in March (2022), a just little later than anticipated on Amazon Prime. (Trailer here.)

Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access) has renewed three of the CBS Studios Star Trek series. Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds have all been renewed. Star Trek: Discovery will therefore have a fifth series. Star Trek: Lower Decks will have a fourth series, following season 3 that airs this summer. That the prequel series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is being renewed is a little gamble (even given the popularity of Trek) as the first season has yet to air, which it will this summer (May, 2022), just as the Picard second season ends. It covers the Enterprise's adventures in the Pike days with Spock before James T. Kirk. It stars Anson Mount as Captain Pike along with Ethan Peck as Spock. The first season will consist of ten episodes.  Teaser trailer for the shows here and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds teaser trailer here.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds now has a trailer out.  It streams on Paramount+ from 5th May (2022).  Trailer here.

Servant has been renewed. Starring Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free, and Rupert Grint, the psychological horror has been renewed for a fourth season by Apple TV+. Apparently this fourth season will be the final one.

Stranger Things has been renewed. Netflix has renewed it for a fifth and final season.  The show's co-creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, noted that the full arc was expected to be “four or five” seasons when they first envisioned the show, so the end is not a surprise. Plus, it won’t be the end of the franchise, they promise.

Stranger Things, after two and a half years, season 4 has finally got a release date.  The 8-episode season 3 was released in July 2019 and then CoVID-19 hit. The nine-episode season 4 will air in two parts: part I beginning 27th May 2022, and part II on 1st July 2022.    The show's creators, the Duffer brothers, said the split season resulted from the season’s nine episodes having a total running time twice as long as that of any previous season.  ++++ Stranger Things season 3 trailer here and season 4 trailer here.

The Flash is being renewed for a ninth season.  The lead, Grant Gustin, has reportedly agreed to a 15 episode contract. Having secured nine seasons, The Flash will become the longest running Arrowverse series on the CW network in the USA. Production on the series is not expected to get underway until later this summer (2022).

Peacemaker has been renewed for a second season. The Suicide Squad spin-off's season one has done rather well. James Gunn wrote that between The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. He says he has a plot arc outline for the new season.  The first season premiered in January (2022) trailer here.

The Doctor Who restorations as animations programme has been cancelled by BBC America. Video tapes of many Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s were wiped but audio recordings of some of their soundtracks have remained. Over half a decade ago the first of these was restored with the original soundtrack accompanied by an animation. 26 episodes have been restored but now the restoration programme is ceasing. Apparently this is due to a lack of funding. This comes shortly after the Boris Johnson government announcing a freezing of the BBC's licence fee for two years after which an (as yet unspecified) alternative funding method is envisioned. However, as BBC America is independently funded, this is unlikely to be the reason for the restorations' cancellation.  One story, already in development, 'The Abominable Snowmen', will though be released this year. Meanwhile, BBC Studios is seeking another partner for the restorations.

Secret Invasion sees the return of SHIELD agent Maria Hill. Cobie Smulders is to return to reprise her role as Maria Hill, Deputy Director of SHIELD. She will appear alongside Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, who will be the show's star. Smulders has played Hill across a number of different MCU projects to date. Having initially made her debut in The Avengers, the actress has also reprised the role in other films such as Spider-Man: Far From Home, Avengers: Age of Ultron and more. The series sees Fury and the Skrull leader Talos investigating a sect of Skrulls who’ve infiltrated the highest levels of authority in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Skrulls are a technologically advanced race of reptilian humanoids, native to the destroyed planet Skrullos. They are notable for their shape-shifting abilities, which allow them to replicate other life forms seamlessly, and so infiltrate without suspicion.

The House of Usher gets its lead cast including Mark Hamill. Netflix only announced the show last season. The miniseries will be a modern remix of some of the most iconic works of Edgar Allan Poe. Mark(Star Wars) Hamill will play “a character surprisingly at home in the shadows,” while Mary (Battlestar Galactica) McDonnell takes on the role of Madeline Usher, Roderick’s twin sister. Carl (Doctor Sleep) Lumbly is set to play Poe’s investigator C. Auguste Dupin. Filming has already begun and is set to wrap in June 2022).

Babylon 5 re-boot delayed. Following the announcement of the re-boot it had been hoped that there would be an autumn 2022 release of a pilot. Michael Straczynski has now announced that it will be rolled over to the autumn of 2023. Normally when a pilot is cancelled one year then that is the end of the road for that venture, but apparently the CW and Warner Brothers have taken the unusual step of rolling it over. Fingers crossed.

Futurama, after being cancelled in 2003, is to get another season!  The SF animation comedy from the makers of The Simpsons launched in 1999 but got cancelled in 2003 (yes, that long ago). And now it looks like a new a 20-episode season will be made!  Apparently, original cast members Billy West, Katey Sagal, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr and David Herman are all to return to voice the characters.  And in case you weren't around at the turn of the millennium, or have missed out, here is the basic plot set-up. Futurama follows Philip Fry (voiced by Billy West), a 25-year-old pizza delivery boy who, after tripping and falling into a cryogenic freezer (as you do) in 1999, wakes up 1,000 years later and makes some friends including Leela (Katey Sagal) a one-eyed alien, and a foul-mouthed android called Bender.  It is currently slated to premiere in 2023 on Hulu in the US and Disney+ in the British Isles and parts of Europe.

Star Wars: The Acolyte to see Amandla Stenberg to star. The series will come from Disney+ and the word has it that it will be the first Star Wars series to have a queer lens: Stenberg came out as gay in 2018. Few other details about the series are as yet known. Reportedly it is a “mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.” Amandla Stenberg will play Aurora. Speculation, based on its title, suggests the series will follow a Force user who’s been trained in the dark side (acolytes are the Sith equivalent of Jedi padawans).

Gotham Knights is being developed by the CW. This new Batman series will not be a spin-off of Batwoman. The series is based on the DC comics of the same name. It is also not based on the upcoming Gotham Knights video game shortly due out. The series will follow Bruce Wayne's rebellious adopted son in the wake of Bruce's murder as he's forced to forge an unlikely alliance with the children of Batman's enemies after they are all framed for killing the Caped Crusader. As the city's most wanted criminals, this renegade band of misfits must fight to clear their names. But in a Gotham with no Dark Knight to protect it, the city becomes more dangerous than it's ever been… It is being written and co-produced by Chad Fiveash, James Stoteraux (The Vampire Diaries, Batwoman, Gotham) and Natalie Abrams (Batwoman, Supergirl, All American).

Octavia Butler's Kindred is being made in to a series. The Dinsey-owned US channel FX is behind the series with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (who did the Watchmen series) as helmsmen.  The 1979 novel Kindred concerns a 1970's US black woman's Time Traveller's Wife series of journey's into an 18th century slave. It centres on Dana (Johnson), an aspiring writer who has uprooted her life of familial obligation and moved to Los Angeles to claim a future that for once feels all her own. Before she can get settled into her new home, however, she finds herself being violently pulled back and forth in time to a 19th century plantation with which she and her family are most surprisingly and intimately linked. An interracial romance threads through her past and present.

The Ark is to be a new space opera series on SyFy.>  It will follow the crew of a spacecraft, with a year to go before they were to reach their destination, as they try to stay alive after a devastating event destroys part of their ship, derailing its mission to save mankind.  Dean Devlin, the writer and producer of the films Independence Day and Stargate, will be the co-show-runner along with Jonathan (Stargate SG-1) Glassner. A 12-episode season is expected.

Ryan Parrott's comic Dead Day to be a TV series.  The comedy horror Dead Day concerns one day each year when the departed rise from their eternal resting places to visit family and friends, tie up loose ends, celebrate, or just rain down hell on Earth.  Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson (who were behind the eight season series Vampire Diaries) will be the show-runners and writers.

Let the Right One In to be a TV series. John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel (2004) has already had two cinematic adaptations. The series centres on Mark (Demián Bichir) and his daughter Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez), whose lives were changed forever 10 years earlier when she was turned into a vampire. Locked in at age 12, perhaps forever, Eleanor lives a closed-in life, able to go out only at night, while her father does his best to provide her with the human blood she needs to stay alive. Nick (Fear The Walking Dead) Stahl will play Matthew, a former soldier and fiercely loyal fixer for the Logan family, whose clean-cut, mild-mannered exterior belies an underlying savagery.

Stephen King's novel Later (2021) may be a series.  A literary agency owner, Tia, is raising her son Jamie alone and finds herself on the brink of professional ruin when her star author client dies before turning out the work that will make her agency financially whole. Fortunately, Jamie has the supernatural ability to talk to the dead, all of whom tell him the truth. This is very helpful when he talks to the dead author and feeds the contents of the book to his mother, who writes it herself and publishes it under the author’s name, to great success. But this gift can be used for more nefarious purposes. Tia’s police detective girlfriend figures out what the boy can do, and soon the youth gets over his head in the spirit world…  Raelle (True Blood) Tucker is adapting for Blumhouse Television. (Blumhouse has just made another Stephen King adaptation, Mr. Harrigan's Phone for Netflix.)  Lucy Liu is to star.

Godzilla and King Kong to stomp all over television. MonsterVerse, by Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures, is a franchise that was behind the films was behind Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs. Kong (2012). They are now set to appear in a TV series for Apple TV Plus.  The show-runner will be Chris (Star Trek: Enterprise) Black and comic book artist Matt (Hawkeye) Fraction.  The series will follow one family's journey to uncover buried secrets linking them to Monarch, the monster-hunting organisation from the films.

Rumoured new Battlestar Galactica series is still in development hell, but hanging on… and there is also a film in the offing! NBC Universal is tentatively planning a Battlestar Galactica series to be streamed by Peacock. Sam (Mr. Robot creator) Esmail has been attached to its production since 2019 but there has been little progress. We do know that Esmail wants the freedom given by streaming not to have shows the same length and to drop a varying number of episodes on the streaming service each week depending on who the stories are developing… Also, it now seems that they may possible link the series in with a Battlestar Galactica film so maybe there is life yet in this venture? The new series is apparently meant to be a different aspect of, but set in, the same universe as the 2006 reboot. Simon Kinberg is reportedly producing the new film and is now looking for a director with a view to begin production late 2022 or early 2023.  As they say, watch this space.

Quantum Leap may be re-booted with a sequel. Given that over ten years ago nought came of the proposed Quantum Leap film (despite Donald – Quantum Leap creator – Bellisario developing a script), we perhaps better not bank on this seeing light of day just yet. (Apparently there were rights issues concerning the series.) The sequel's premise is that It’s been 30 years since Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now a new team has been assembled to restart the project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it… It is not known if Baluka is onboard though he was certainly up for the film over a decade ago. Apparently Universal Television will be making a decision in due course as to whether they will be producing with Warner Brothers Television making the series.

Blade Runner and Alien series planned by Ridley Scott. 83-year-old Ridley Scott has confirmed that his Blade Runner series is at an advanced stage of pre-production with 10 episodes planned. The live-action show will be set 50 years in the future after Blade Runner 2049.Meanwhile, the Alien series (announced last summer) is now having a pilot episode being written. It will be set 70 years in the future.  Being set in the 2090s means the that show could overlap with the events of 2012’s Prometheus, which served as a prequel to the original Alien. The events of Prometheus begin in 2089 when protagonists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map in Scotland from an ancient civilisation. The rest of the film then takes place on a distant moon in 2093, as humanity attempts to make contact with its forerunners…  (For information: Alien's Ellen Ripley was meant to be born in 2092.)

Nautilus gains show-runner and lead cast. The forthcoming series will have Michael (Love and Monsters) Matthews at the helm. Daniel (Star Trek: Discovery) Harlan Jacobson will play Captain Nemo and Shazad Latif will co-star. The 10-episode series will air on Disney+.

X-Men: The Animated Series to have a sequel series. X-Men '97 will take up where the 1990s X-Men: The Animated Series left off. It is slated for a 2023 release on Disney+. (Trailer for the original X-Men: The Animated Series here.)

Outlander is to have a prequel series. The historical time travel fantasy is based on the Diana Gabaldon books. Outlander season six is currently airing (trailer here).  The new series will be a prequel to the current series. Diana Gabaldon has already written a prequel novella, Virgins, that follows a 19-year-old Jamie Fraser as mercenaries in 18th century France. Also, she is apparently writing a prequel book. It is not known whether this prequel series will be based on either of these but Outlaner's showrunner, Matthew B. Roberts, is to write the new series.

Spider-Man: Freshman Year to return to Spider-Man's origins. The animated series reportedly will fit in with the Tom Holland Spider-Man origins in the Marcel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It will air on Disney+.

The Spiderwick Chronicles to be a TV series. Based on the best-selling children’s books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, The Spiderwick Chronicles follows the Grace family — twin brothers Jared and Simon, sister Mallory and their mother Helen — as they move into their great-great uncle’s home and discover a world of fairies that exists parallel to their own. This follows a 2008 cinematic adaptation of the books that starred Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Short, Nick Nolte and Seth Rogen. It made US$162.8 million (£120m) at the box office. The new TV series will air on Disney+.

 

And finally, some TV related vids…

Picard. So what was season one all about? In N. America Picard aired on CBS All Access while over here in Brit-Cit and Europe, it was on a subscription channel or streaming service, so if you don't have access to this or have not bought the DVD (or maybe are thinking about getting it), what was it all about?  Well, as ever there are answers on YouTube. one is here.

The Expanse final season. Possibly the most exciting space operatic series of the decade, The Expanse has had its production ups and downs airing first on SyFy before, in 2018, being axed and resurrected on Amazon. Season six (trailer here) takes us just two thirds through the series of the two-writer pseudonymous author James S. A. Corey series of novels: it looks like Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos', love of the show is not enough to see it continue (though we can't yet entirely rule that out) and with such a complex backstory, cinematic adaptations of the final books seem unlikely. So, if the trailer (linked earlier) is not enough to tempt you to get the DVD, as ever YouTube has the answer with the series finale explained. Alternatively, there's a breakdown of the finale space battle. Beware of spoilers.

Outlander season 6 began last month (March 2022). The fantasy time travel series that hops between modern times and the eighteen century is now back for a 6th series. This is just a reminder in case you missed it -- trailer here.

Human Resources is a new SF/F comedy series on Netflix. Note: this is billed as a comedy but it is US humour. American adult animated sitcom that serves as a spin-off to Big Mouth, centring around the workplace of the Hormone Monsters depicted in the series.  It seems that there is an audience for this sort of thing.  Trailer here.

Sandman release date  We reported on this forthcoming series last season. We understand its Netflix release will be in the early summer (so expect YouTube trailers shortly).  Meanwhile, you can see a teaser 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 2022

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

Ukraine to be a guest of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP). The Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association (UPBA) to be FEP's special Guest of Honour, in solidarity with the country following its invasion by Russia. The UPBA will therefore be a member of FEP and Ukrainian representatives will be invited to the Federation’s meetings.

Industrial unrest at major US publishers. Poor pay and heavy workloads leading to burnout have been reported at major US publishing houses. Four editors, Angeline Rodriguez and Hillary Sames at Orbit (US), Erin Siu at Macmillan Children’s (US), and Molly McGhee at Tor (US)(Tor is owned by Macmillan) all announced their resignations.

Bloomsbury profits have been boosted in part due to Sarah Maas. The publisher expects it to beat its sales forecast of £212.5 million (US$276 m) for the year in part due to the runaway success of The House of Sky and Breath by the fantasy author Sarah Maas.

Orion – the publisher behind the Gollancz imprint – has started internship scheme for career changers. It is a paid, remote, month-long internship scheme aimed at people who have spent time away from work for any reason or who want to change their career by trying publishing.

The Orion publishing house has created the Orion Creator Collective. It is primarily for book influencers, bloggers, those who bookstagram, booktok, use twitter and any spaces used by the bookish community. You have to register but it is GDPR compliant and folk can unsubscribe. There is a monthly newsletter first stop-shop for exclusive content, upcoming blog tours, new NetGalley additions and much more from across Orion. Of SF relevance, in case you did not know, Orion is the home of the SF imprint Gollancz. See tweet for the link.

Michael Swanwick has resigned as honorary president of the International Union of Writers. Who? How? What…?  Well, Michael Swanwick is a well-known US author whose books include Jack Faust among others.  Now, you may have heard of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds which spun out of the International Writers' Guild: it strives to ensure that fair royalties and residuals are collected by enforcement of copyrights. What you are less likely to have heard of is the International Union of Writers which, despite 'International' in its title, is a largely Russian body based in Moscow, that aims to further speculative fiction writing. Michael Swanwick was its current Honorary President. In his resignation letter he says: "Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine I cannot, however indirectly, support Vladimir Putin, his government, and their expansionist ambitions."

Proposed post-Brexit UK copyright law change has been paused. UK copyright law had been in line with the European Union. Brexit was purportedly about 'taking back control' and some feared that this would mean a lowering of standards, but those arguing for leave said that it could equally mean a strengthening of standards. Yet in the short time since Brexit there have been fears of a lowering of standards and one of these was to reduce copyright exhaustion times – the time a book is in copyright with a royalty due to the copyright holders. Authors such as Philip Pullman and Kate Mosse, as well as the Save Our Books campaign, expressed concerns that this would damage authors' incomes, and publishers feared for a flood of cheap books as titles became copyright free. Britain's Intellectual Property Office launched a consultation last summer. The UK government has now announced that due to a lack of available data, it has not been able to calculate the economic impact of any alternatives to the current regime, and will therefore maintain the UK’s current laws on exhaustion of intellectual property rights. However, the UK government has also said that it “remains committed to exploring the opportunities which might come from a change to the regime”, something which the Publishers' Association described as a 'concern'.

The UK video games publishing industry continues to grow and is now worth £7.16 billion (US$9.4 bn) annually. This 2021 figure is only 2% up from 2020 but a whopping 32% up compared with 2019. It has to be said that of the £7.16 billion sales of consoles (so not games publishing per se) accounted for £1.13bn.  The latest figures are news-worthy because the 2019-'20 rise was attributable to the CoVID pandemic and so it had been thought that the market might contract last year following coming out of lockdown. The latest news is that a global shortage of chips is limiting the number of consoles on the market. However, it is hoped that the market next year might be buoyed as many of the 2021 games do not take full advantage of the latest consoles capabilities.

Author Brandon Sanderson has had the most successful KickStarter campaign. Having written four books during CoVID lockdown. He asked for US$1 million (£741,000) to self publish the books but possibly surprised himself in raising US$15.4 million (£11.4m) within a day becoming the most funded campaign in the crowd-funding platform's history to date. A day later and it had reached US$22m (£16.3m).  At the end of the campaign (the end of March) it closed with US$41.7 million (£32.1m) from over 185,000 sponsors which means that the average amount given was around US$22 (£17). The campaign overtook the previous record holder back in 2015, in just three days, at US$20.3 million for the smartwatch company Pebble Technology generated in 2015.  Sanderson is, of course, the successful author of many books including: Arcanum Unbounded , Calamity, The Complete Alcatraz, Elantris, Firefight, Oathbringer, Skyward, Snapshot and Steelheart among others.  So what is he doing self-publishing?  He said: …“If Amazon’s grip on the [publishing] industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.” Of the four new novels, three are set in his Cosmere universe.

The Blackwell's bookshop chain is up for sale. Blackwell's is a little different from most bookshops in that it is a hybrid of a general and an academic bookshop; just right for those of our SF² Concatenation regulars who like both their science fiction and their science. It is some what similar to Wordery and, in Australia, Booktopia.  It is no secret that the past couple of years Blackwell's has struggled to balance the books and had requested an extra discount from publishers. Then again, CoVID has not helped and in the 18 months to 2nd January 2021 it recorded a loss of £476,000 (US$642,500). But the subsequent year to January 2022 its sales reportedly rose 1.9%. The plan prior to CoVID had been for an employee buy out nut now they are seeking an investor with pockets deep enough to see them back on the right track.  The deal would take Blackwell’s, which operates 18 shops and a website, out of family control for the first time in its 143-year history.  Waterstones is thought to be a potential buyer.  ++++ Similar stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Book World Inc. is closing all its bookshops in the Mid-West US
  - Barnes & Noble plan to close bookshops
  - Over 200 US bookshops close
  - Bookshop closures undermine overall book sales
  - Number of UK bookshops falls below a thousand

Puffin hopes for big things with The Whisperling by debut, juvenile fiction author Hayley Hoskins. The Whisperling, for readers nine to 12 years old, is an “immersive mystery” filled with humour and character which follows an young girl’s adventures in Victorian Bristol. Twelve-year-old Peggy Devona is a whisperling: someone who can speak with the dead. It’s a rare skill that she tries to keep secret from the rest of her quiet village, who fear anyone different. But when her best friend, Sally, is accused of murder and thrown in prison, Peggy realizes that she must use her abilities to save Sally – and solve the case. Travelling to her uncle’s psychic emporium, she finds herself surrounded by new friends, new enemies . . . and new spirits. Time is running out, and each day that Peggy draws nearer to the truth also brings Sally one step closer to the gallows.  The Whisperling will be published in September and Puffin has another book to come from Hayley Hoskins as part of their two-book deal with her.

Booker author warns of ghost writing sham schemes. Ben Okri, who is a Booker prise winner and some of whose novels feature a fantasy/spiritual riff, has warned of ghost-writing sites which falsely claim to have written or contributed to bestselling and award-winning books. These sites charge thousands of pounds upfront for ghost-written books. He became aware of a scam when a ghost writer, called Roseanne Wynter and also Lisa P Whitle, claimed she wrote his 1991 Booker-winning novel The Famished Road. This type of scheme not only costs those who want to see their work in print thousands of pounds, it also damages the reputations of established authors whose names are being used to validate the scam.

Top 40 SF books poll by Media Death Cult.  Media Death Cult (MDC) is a fairly new SF channel on YouTube and they do discussion on Discord. It's a reasonably lively and friendly channel though the presenter does drop 'F' bombs and his 'T's, nor does he edit out lighting and camera musings which, while folksy, makes for slightly bumpy viewing: we linked to MDC's first author interview, Alastair Reynolds six months ago.  This is the second survey of what looks like will be an annual poll. The Media Death Cult following (currently 18k YouTube subscribers) has grown sufficiently that this year enough voted for it to have a top 40 listing.  Of interest, the top book not only scored far more points than number two by a long way (almost double the votes) but this novel also led Media Death Cult's previous 2021 survey…
 1) Dune by Frank Herbert
 2) Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
 3) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
 4) Hyperion by Dan Simmons
 5) Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
 6) Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
 7) House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
 8) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
 9) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
11) The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
12) Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
13) The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
14) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
15) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
16) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jnr.
17) A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
18) The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
19) The Martian by Andy Weir
20) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
21) 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
22) Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
23) Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
24) Foundation by Isaac Asimov (tie)
24) The Stand by Stephen King (tie)
25) Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
26) Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
27) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
28) The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
29) Ubik by Philip K. Dick
30) Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut jnr.
31) The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
32) Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
33) Neuromancer by William Gibson
34) The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
35) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
36) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
37) Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
38) Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
39) Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
40) The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
          Polls like this are interesting in that they provide a snapshot of SF/F literary perception. Those with long memories may remember that SF² Concatenation conducted a similar top 20 SF/F poll at the 1987 UK national convention, the BECCON Eastercon and reported it in our second edition (1988) back in our print days. Many of the above were on that list one-third of a century ago. However, our list's lead was Lord of the Rings as it included fantasy, but number two was Dune (and back then we had not had even the benefit of the first Dune film). Many of the 2022 MDC top 40 are in the 1987 SF² Concatenation top 20.
          In the SF² Concatenation list, but not in the MDC list, are:   the aforementioned Lord of the RingsLittle Big (Crowley);   The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein) – though the MDG Starship Troopers was not in ours but then the film was not out back then;  Ours had Tiger, Tiger (Bester) but not MDC's The Stars My DestinationRingworld (Niven) but not A Mote in God's Eye;  Ours also had, but MDC did not, Stand on Zanzibar (Brunner) which is a little odd as environmental issues have arguably even a higher profile, and certainly urgency, today than compared with back then;  Ours had Childhood's End (Clarke) but not Rendezvous With Rama or 2001 (the book);  Pavane (Roberts) was in ours but that was possibly in our top 20 as Keith was GoH at the 1987 Eastercon at which the survey was conducted;  Finally, ours had the following works/authors, but MDC did not:  The Stainless Steel Rat (Harrison);  Way Station (Simak);  and More Than Human (Sturgeon).  In short, while there is an overlap between the 2022 MDC top 40 and 1987 SF² Concatenation top 20, there is an even greater similarity between lists if just authors are considered.  Given the third of a century difference between these two polls yet still an author similarity, it suggests that these authors' backlist sales are healthy.  All of which begs the question why publishers aren't spending a little more time promoting their backlists? (Back list titles are rarely in publisher catalogues even in truncated form as lists.)
          We might take this news item and our original survey to work up a standalone article with other data and see what we get.  ++++ See the Media Death Cult film poll in our film subsection.

Western science publishers are divided over whether to exclude Russian research papers. Ukraine has called for a ban on publishing research papers by Russians in international journals. Few journals have so far banned Russian scientists. Titles including Nature and Science have condemned Russia’s actions in editorials, but have also spoken out against indiscriminately isolating its scientists. In its 4th March editorial, Nature said that a publishing boycott against researchers in Russia “would divide the global research community and restrict the exchange of scholarly knowledge”. However a few journal have so far decided not to accept papers from scientists at Russian institutions.

Alan Moore blames himself for QAnon, Trump etc. Speaking at a How To Academy event in January the V For Vendetta and Watchmen, Skizz & The League for Extraordinary Gentlemen writer said that comics typically portray the extremes of good and evil in 'simplistic stories', and that while this may be fine as fiction and children's stories but "if that settles into people's consciousness" some apply it to real life. Here, simplistic stories were dangerous. He pointed to the adherents of QAnon and the storming of the Capitol in the US in 2021. "Imagination is the source of all magic and wonder, but it's also really dangerous, because if the imagination is not trained, then that's when it becomes potentially quicksand." A very unintended consequence.

School bans award-winning fantasy graphic novel. The Board of the McMinn County Tennessee School, USA, unanimously voted to ban Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus [Mice]. It voted to remove the 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. This comes as some schools in the US are censoring curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America. Maus portrays different groups of people are as different kinds of animals: Jews are the mice, Poles are pigs and Naζi Germans — who had a notorious history of banning and burning books — are cats.  Critics of the ban include the SF and fantasy author Neil Gaiman. Meanwhile Spiegelman said, “It’s part of a continuum, and just a harbinger of things to come,” adding “the control of people’s thoughts is essential to all of this,” and “at least one part of our political spectrum that seems to be very enthusiastic about” banning books."
          Nirvana Comics in Knoxville, Tenn., started a GoFundMe campaign to provide pupils with free copies of the graphic novel. It opened on 28th January with a goal of raising US$20,000 (£15,000); as of this morning it had raised more than US$90,000, from more than 2,800 donors. Although Nirvana Comics initially had planned to provide copies to local students, they will now donate copies to pupils anywhere in the US. Star trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton shared Nirvana’s story on social media which gave it a massive boost.

BBC Books to publish a new Target novel collection in July (2022). It will be expanding the Doctor Who Target range with five new titles each with newly commissioned cover artwork by Anthony Dry. Penned by the original scriptwriter the late David Fisher and adapted from his 2011 and 2014 audio novelisations, The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara are now being released as books. These will be accompanied by The Fires of Pompeii by James Moran, as well as The Eaters of Light by Rona Munro and The Zygon Invasion by Peter Harness.

Being a writer is for the independently wealthy says best-selling author. Non-genre children's author Dawn Finch says she needs her daytime job as a librarian as writing does not pay. She says that there is no way she can become a full-time writer.  ++++ Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
          US authors' income falls, largest survey reveals
          British authors' income continues to decline and sparks vigorous dialogue between publishers and authors' bodies
          Top British SF/F authors did not do as well in 2017 compared to 2016
          Mid-list authors drive 2017 growth in British book sector
          Top authors sold more in 2016 but bottom authors -- given there are more of them -- each earn less even than in 2015
          The top-selling SF/F/H genre authors in Britain remain the same in 2015
          The top 5% of 2014/5 authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers and a consequence is that publishing may reach a 'breaking point'
          Bad news for authors – Author royalties squeeze continues
          Amazon bullying small publishers
          British book buyer backlash against Amazon that Christmas
          the European Commission ruling Amazon contracts with publishers are anti-competitive and potentially illegal
          Amazon tax concerns in the face of increased turnover and profits
          more tax concerns
          …and Amazon continued tax concerns despite another great profit increase.

Amazon bookshops to close in US and UK.  Amazon to shut its bookstores and other shops as its grocery chain expands.  It will close all 68 of its brick-and-mortar bookstores, pop-ups and shops carrying toys and home goods. After opening its first book shop in Seattle in 2015, Amazon has tried out an array retail ventures: convenience stores without cashiers, supermarkets, and a format called '4-star' in which it sells toys, household items and other goods with high customer ratings. Its bricks-and-mortar stores revenue was a mere 3% of Amazon's US$137 billion (£102bn) in sales the last quarter of 2021. Amazon has discovered that physical retail is hard. Which is surprising as its on-line selling operation has helped the decline of physical bookstores.  There will be Amazon job losses.

Alleged intimidation by Amazon causes a second vote on whether workers in Alabama can have a trade union. This follows a ruling from the US National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), that Amazon had interfered with the previous vote. Originally, workers at the BHM1 warehouse in Alabama, USA, rejected a move to unionise, by a margin of two to one. But is seems that Amazon had:  held staff meetings to persuade staff not to join a union;  employed private paid consultants to attend these meetings;  used text messages and written flyers on bathroom walls and television screens, to dissuade workers;  and  installed a box for voting within view of multiple video surveillance cameras - which gave the impression that it was the official polling location - which Amazon controlled, and had knowledge of who participated.  Amazon workers in Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Poland are able to join a trade union. Issues the unions have been championing include: work-rate demands, injuries, and the increasing use of algorithms in deciding how workers perform.
          ++++ Related Amazon stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:
  - Authors removed from Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing
  - Pirated copy of the Hugo-winning Blindsight is finally taken down from the Amazon website.
  - Amazon fined by European Union
  - Amazon pays a little more tax as sales rise by 50%
  - Amazon destroys millions of items of unsold stock
  ++++ Related stories elsewhere on this site and others include:-
  - Audible – the audiobook sales outlet for Amazon’s company ACX – seems to be ripping off publishers and authors
  - Concerns as to Amazon's staff work conditions and rights
  - Amazon workers launch protests on Prime Day
  - Staff at Amazon's Swansea warehouse 'treated like robots'
  - Amazon warehouse accidents total 440
  - Amazon workers praising conditions are accused of lying
  - Amazon breaks embargo on Atwood's The Testaments
  - Amazon's UK tax paid substantially down despite a great profit increase
  - Amazon must pay its tax, says European Commission
  - Amazon tax wrong says UK Booksellers Association
  - 110,000 submit Amazon tax petition to Downing Street
  - Amazon and Google lambasted by Chair of House of Commons Accounts Committee
  - Amazon UK avoiding substantial tax says report in The Bookseller.

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction book store to re-open in new location. The Minneapolis, US, store was burned down two years ago. So it is good news that the owner Don Blyly has found a new home for this as well as Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore. They will be located just a couple of miles further east at 2716 E. 31st Street. A GoFundMe raised $191,385 by mid-January and this helped considerably. An opening is anticipated in June (2022) or more likely shortly after. A good part of this time will be spent creating a new stock database and re-ordering.

Wil Wheaton's autobiography reveals that William Shatner is a bit of a jerk. Wheaton's autobiography, Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir has only just been published. Star Trek: The Next Generation was being made in the studio working on Star Trek V, so Wil decided to make a visit.  “‘So you’re the kid on that show?'” Shatner asked.
          “He seemed annoyed,” Wheaton writes. “My throat and mouth were dry, and my palms were sweating. My heart pounded in my ears, as I answered, ‘Uh, yes sir. My name’s Wil.'”
          The teen put out his hand for Shatner to shake – which he ignored.
          Shatner then proceeded to mock Wheaton’s costume. “‘What is that, your spacesuit?’ he said, and made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a cough,” Wheaton writes.
          When the Wil explained he was an acting ensign who sometimes pilots the ship, Shatner said dismissively, “Well, I’d never let a kid come onto my bridge.”
          Word quickly went around the set that Shatner had been rude, and members of the crew and cast came to comfort – and commiserate with –Wheaton.
          As Wheaton was going back to his trailer, he was summoned into Gene Roddenberry’s office. The Star Trek creator had already heard about the unpleasant encounter.
          “Wil, Bill Shatner is an ass, don’t you worry about him, okay?” Rodenberry said. “I am so proud to have you on my show. Don’t you ever forget that.”
          The next day at work, there was an envelope sitting on Wheaton’s dressing room table addressed “To Master Wil Wheaton, From the Office of William Shatner.”
          Inside there was a typed message: “Dear Wil, You are a fine young actor, and I would be honoured to have you on my bridge any day. Sincerely yours, Bill.” The signature was in ink.
          The next minute, Wheaton’s phone rang, with Roddenberry on the line. “‘I spoke with Bill Shatner yesterday, and he should be dropping a note off for you today,” Roddenberry said.
          “I couldn’t believe it,” Wheaton writes. “Gene Roddenberry, the Great Bird of the Galaxy and creator of Star Trek, had called WILLIAM F–KING SHATNER, Captain James T. Kirk and director of Star Trek V, and asked him to apologise to me, Wil Wheaton, 16-year-old acting ensign and drooling fanboy.
          “Of all the wonderful gifts Gene gave me across the years, that is one of the most fondly remembered, because I know that without Gene’s intervention that note would never have been written.”

 

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

What is SCIENCE FICTION? From the BBC archive, Robert Robinson presents a science-fiction themed edition of The Book Programme. What constitutes science-fiction, is there room in the genre for the metaphysical or spiritual, or should writers slavishly stick to the scientific? What is to be made of the phenomenon that is the sci-fi convention - is there something unique to science fiction that inspires such devotion in its fans? And is all fiction slowly becoming science fiction? Taking part are: Douglas Adams, the author of the science-fiction comedy The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; Harry Harrison, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his 'Deathworld', 'Stainless Steel Rat' and 'Bill, the Galactic Hero' novels; Peter Nicholls, the co-editor of The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction; and Ian Watson, whose book The Jonah Kit won the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and whose new book "God's World" is reviewed here and forms the basis for the discussion. Originally broadcast 17th October 1979.  You can see the YouTube video on the BBC Archive channel here.

Author Arthur C. Clarke was interviewed by the BBC as to his thoughts on the future back in 1964. "The only thing we can be sure of about the future, is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So, if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I will have failed completely." - Arthur C Clarke. The science-fiction writer and futurist undertakes that most impossible and unrewarding of tasks - attempting to accurately predict the future. What will the world of tomorrow look like? Will the inhabitants of the future have monkey butlers? Yes, according to Mr Clarke, but only until they unionise… You can see the YouTube video on the BBC Archive channel.

Author Terry Pratchett's 1992 interview is now on BBC Archive. "I went from a kid to whom reading was something you did if there was nothing else to do, to a 40-book-a-day man!" - Terry Pratchett.  Linda Mitchell chats to Terry Pratchett, the prolific mind behind the beloved Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. What were his inspirations? Was he a bookish child? Is there an 'average' Terry Pratchett reader? Where is all the sex? What is the secret to his success? And, speaking of success - how does it feel to be "Britain's least famous best-selling author"? This clip is from Summer Scene, originally broadcast 21st July 1992.  You can see the 8-minute YouTube video on the BBC Archive channel.

 

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 2022

Forthcoming SF Books

 

The Emergent by Nadia Afifi, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US$26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58668-0
The ruthless new leader of the fundamentalist Trinity Compound seeks to understand his strange neurological connection with Amira and unleash an army on an unstable North America. Together, Amira and Barlow form an uneasy alliance in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs and protection from shared enemies. But new discoveries uncover dark secrets... This is the follow-up to The Sentient.

Weaponized by Neal Asher, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05003-5.
When a far-flung colony is attacked by powerful alien raptors, its inhabitants will be forced to fight back – even as war changes them in monstrous ways.  A bright new future for humanity – or a dark and inescapable past.  With the advent of new AI technology, Polity citizens now possess incredible lifespans. Yet they struggle to find meaning in their longevity, seeking danger and novelty in their increasingly mundane lives.  On a mission to find a brighter future for humanity, ex-soldier Ursula fosters a colony on the hostile planet Threpsis. Here, survival isn’t a given, and colonists thrive without their AI guidance. But when deadly alien raptors appear, Ursula and her companions find themselves forced to adapt in unprecedented ways. And they will be pushed to the very brink of what it means to be human.  As a desperate battle rages across the planet, Ursula must dig deep into her past to save humanity’s future…

The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-34210-9.
Wolfe is the bunker’s resident pharmacist. While the inhabitants wait for the outside world to heal, she doles out medication under the watchful eye of the increasingly paranoid leader. But then the leader starts to ask things of Wolfe, favours she can hardly say no to. Forming unlikely alliances, Wolfe has to navigate the powder keg of life underground knowing her every move is being watched. It’s not long before Wolfe is forced to question the sacrifices she’s made for her own survival, and how much more she is willing to give to stay alive…

We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets, Picador, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08722-2.
Kayleigh needs money. That’s why she takes a job as a content moderator for a social media platform whose name she isn’t allowed to mention. Her job: reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding which need to be removed. It’s gruelling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform’s ever-changing moderating guidelines. Yet Kayleigh is good at her job and in her colleagues, she finds a group of friends, even a new girlfriend — and for the first time in her life, Kayleigh’s future seems bright. But soon the job seems to change them all, shifting their worlds in alarming ways.  But when her colleagues begin to break down; when Sigrid, her new girlfriend, grows increasingly distant and fragile; when her friends start espousing the very conspiracy theories they’re meant to be evaluating; Kayleigh begins to wonder if the job may be too much for them. She’s still totally fine, though – or is she?

Momenticon by Andrew Caldecott, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41543-8.
The world has become a dangerous place. Despite the environmentalists’ best efforts, the atmosphere has turned toxic, destroying almost all life – plants, animals, and most of humanity too. Survivors live in domes protected by chitin shields, serving one or other of the two great companies, Lord Vane’s Tempestas or Lord Sine’s Genrich, with their very different visions for mankind’s future. A long period of uneasy collaboration between them is about to end. Far from these centres of power stands the Museum Dome, where persons unknown have assembled mankind’s finest paintings and artefacts and installed a young man, Fogg, as its curator. Fogg has laboured here for three years without a single visitor, and with only AIPT, his automated physical trainer, for company. Then a single mysterious pill – a momenticon – appears in the Museum and triggers a series of bewildering events, embroiling Fogg and his unexpected new companions in a desperate fight against the dark forces which threaten to overwhelm all that remains.  And time is running out…

Widowland by C. J. Carey, Quercus Paperbacks, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41200-0.
An alternative history with a strong feminist twist.  London, 1953. Thirteen years have passed since Britain became a Protectorate of Germany. Edward VIII is to be crowned king. Women have been divided into castes with widows the lowest.  These women are threatening rebellion: before the Leader arrives for the Coronation, it must be quashed…

The Key to Fury: The Key 2 by Kristin Cast, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93394-4.
Billed by the publisher as for fans of Vox, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power, comes the second book in Kristin Cast’s dystopian series.  Safety comes with a price. Change comes with a cost.  The Key Corporation has kept Westfall safe from pandemics for the last 50 years. But that’s not all they’ve done...  After discovering the shocking truth behind the Key Corporation, Elodie and Aiden have managed to escape in search of New Dawn – the stronghold for the Eos resistance movement. There, they can fight for a better world, one where everyone can decide their own futures.  But things aren’t always as they seem, and as they navigate the tricky paths between perception and reality, freedom and fighting for survival, the two young rebels must discover who they can trust, even as they learn more about who they really are…

Viral by Robin Cook, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05940-3.
A medical thriller featuring a deadly airborne disease set in New York City.

Memory's Legion by James S. A. Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51778-0.
Collection of shorts. For the first time, all of the short fiction set in James S. A. Corey’s 'Expanse' series is available in this collection – including a brand new novella. Now a major television series on Prime.

After Dark by Jayne Cowie, Century, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15676-8.
Curfew law keeps men at home after 7pm. It keeps women safe after dark. It changed things for the better... until now.  SARAH: Sarah rebuilt her life after her husband was sent to prison. Now he's about to be released, and Sarah isn't expecting a happy reunion given she's the reason he was sent there...  CASS: Seventeen-year-old Cass disagrees with Curfew. She believes men and women should be equal. And she's determined to prove she's right - whatever the cost.  HELEN: Helen wants a baby more than anything, so things are moving quickly with her boyfriend. She loves him. But should she trust him?  All of these women are in danger. And one will end up dead. Evidence will suggest that she was killed late at night and that she knew her attacker. It couldn't have been a man because a Curfew tag is a solid alibi...  Isn't it?

The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 1 by Terrance Dicks, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94665-3.
For over 50 years, Terrance Dicks was the secret beating heart(s) of Doctor Who - from joining production of 'The Invasion' in 1968 to his final short story in 2019. As the undisputed master of Doctor Who fiction, Terrance wrote 64 Target novels from his first in 1973 to his last, published in 1990. He helped introduce an entire generation to the pleasures of reading and writing, and his fans include Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Mark Gatiss, Alastair Reynolds, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Frank-Cottrell Boyce, and Robert Webb, among many others.
            This special two-volume collection, features the very best of his Doctor Who Target novels as chosen by fans - from his first book, The Auton Invasion to The Five Doctors.

The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2 by Terrance Dicks, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94736-0.
See previous above.

Furious Heaven: The Sun Chronicles 2 by Kate Elliott, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24324-8.
This is the second in a galactic-scale, gender-swapped space opera trilogy inspired by the life of Alexander the Great. Princess Sun and her formidable mother, Queen-Marshal Eirene, have defeated and driven out an invading fleet of the Phene Empire. Their joint command has proven effective and their enemy appears cowed, though success is not without its price.  Their once-mighty fleets depleted, Sun and Eirene must work together to rebuild and consolidate their victory. But on the eve of a bold attack, an unexpected tragedy strikes. Princess Sun will have to step out of her mother’s shadow and take charge, or lose the throne for good. But, will she be content with the pragmatic path laid out by her mother? Or will she forge her own legend despite all the forces arrayed against her?  All the while, the Empire remains strong and undeterred.  Their rulers are determined to squash the upstart republic once and for all – by any means necessary…

Out There by Kate Folk, Hodder Studio, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-39949-3.
How resilient are we humans, like, really?  An acerbic, genre-bending, deliciously incisive debut story collection from a talented new voice in fiction. Exploring the peculiarities of our lives in the digital age, Out There asks the question: what do we learn about ourselves and the world when we face the void? Organ fetishism. Houses with grudges. Dating data scammers. The apocalypse as a curtain voiding everything in its wake. Mixing body horror with the uncanny, billed by the publisher as for fans of Black Mirror, Carmen Maria Machado and Ottessa Moshfegh.

The Landing by Mary Gentle, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-08353-0.
This is the BSFA Award-winning authors first novel for ten years.  Aeris Warren-Finch is NASA’s Acting Director of the New Earth Object Lab, overseeing the transit of a large unidentified object past earth’s orbit.  But what was one object becomes three, seven, nineteen. Nineteen different modules land across the planet.  When the nearest module creates a dome and leaves Aeris and her unlikely companions stranded within its confines, they’re left to wander in search of safety. But when every direction reveals new and strange geographies, which way is the right way to go?

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield, Quercus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-4068-3.
1973: a final, top-secret mission to the Moon. As Russian and American crews sprint for the lunar surface, Houston flight controller Kaz struggles to keep the NASA crew in the race. But not everyone on board Apollo 18 is quite who they appear to be..

Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin, Hutchinson Heinemann, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15137-4.
Across the world, thousands of people are shocked to receive an email telling them that they once chose to have a traumatic memory removed. Now they are being given the chance to get that memory back.  For Mei, William, Oscar and Finn there is a piece missing, but they’re not sure what. For Noor, who works at the memory clinic, the process of reinstating her patients’ memories, and delving deeper into the programme, causes her to question everything…

The Principle of Moments by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23420-8.
Billed as for fans of Becky Chambers, V.E. Schwab’s 'Shades of Magic' series and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy Asha Akindele lives in a future gripped by oppression. After discovering she has a sister imprisoned by Emperor Thracin, she chooses to escape her world and risk everything.  With the help of time-traveller Obi, who wants to return to London, 1811, and his almost-boyfriend, Prince George, Asha must travel through the stars to save a sister she’s never met – and in doing so save worlds.

What Rough Beast by Michael R. Johnston, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58653-6
The third book in The Remembrance War series. As the Zhen Empire descends into civil war, Tajen, Liam, and Katherine each have their own part to play in the final conflict between the humans and the Zhen Empire. As Tajen searches the outer regions in an attempt to find and recruit Zhen deserters to his side, Katherine heads for Marauder space to seek out technology their Tabran allies need.

Remembrance of Earth's Past by Cixin Liu, Ad Astra, £29.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-803-28495-8.
This actually the trilogy comprising The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death's End. Soon to be a Netflix Original Series…  If you have not read it you can now discover the whole trilogy in a new deluxe flexibound omnibus edition.  Having said that, since gaining fame, the author has made some statements in support of the Chinese government's action against the Uyghur's. If you are OK with that then check out the title links for standalone reviews of the first two books in the trilogy.

Wild Cards: Joker Moon edited by George R. R. Martin, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
The return of the famous shared-world superhero books created and edited by fantasy titan George R.R. Martin. In the aftermath of World War II, the Earth’s population was devastated by a terrifying alien virus. Those who survived were changed for ever. This is the story of that world.

Rabbits by Terry Miles, Pan, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01695-6.
Rabbits is a dangerous underground game, and rumours tell of incredible rewards for its elusive winners. K is about to find out how high the stakes really are . . . and is he ready to play? Based on the hit podcast from the Public Radio Alliance, Rabbits is billed by the publisher as perfect for fans of Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Ready Player One.

The Flight of the Aphrodite by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22858-0.
Strange radio signals are coming from Jupiter’s largest moons.  A natural phenomenon, or something else?  Commander Mariucci and his hand-picked team of experts know they will have to muster all their expertise, creativity and teamwork to survive the very harshest of conditions in orbit around the king of planets. But when they intercept a peculiar radio transmission, they have to investigate.  Nothing should work in these impossible conditions, so what is sending the signal… and why?

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41800-2.
A dreamy reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the background of 19th century Mexico.  Carlota Moreau: A young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula, the only daughter of a genius – or a madman.  Montgomery Laughton: A melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol, an outcast who assists Doctor Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas with plentiful coffers. The hybrids: The fruits of the Doctor’s labour, destined to blindly obey their creator while they remain in the shadows, are a motley group of part-human, part-animal monstrosities.  All of them are living in a perfectly balanced and static world which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron – who will, unwittingly, begin a dangerous chain reaction.  For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

Gone Machine: Immortal’s Blood - Book Three by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-13018-0.
An atmospheric thriller, full of corruption, abduction and a mysterious return from the dead in the red Martian dustbowls.  Hakan Veil brought a rough and ready kind of stability to the Red Planet all too recently.  You could say he’s owed some downtime.  Only now there’s a new f*¢king emergency. The son of a Martian corporate aristo is missing; a charismatic tech-messiah believed long dead is back; and high above the surface, military-grade orbital platforms are falling from the sky. Once again, it looks like Veil’s the only one equipped to deal with the crisis.  And he’s in no mood for any of it.

The Sanctuary by Andrew Hunter Murray, Hutchinson Heinemann, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15157-2.
In a disintegrating and increasingly lawless Britain, a young man is travelling north. Ben is a young painter from the crowded, turbulent city. For six months his fiancée Cara has been living on a remote island known as Sanctuary Rock, the property of millionaire philanthropist Sir John Pemberley. Now she has decided to break off their engagement, and stay there. Ben resolves to travel to the island to win Cara back. But the journey there is a harsh and challenging one, and when he does arrive, a terrible shock awaits him.  As Ben begins to find his way around the island, he knows he must also work out what has made Cara so determined to throw her old life away. And is Sanctuary Rock truly another Eden – or a prospect of hell?  What secret is buried on the island….?

The Rift Between by Megan E. O’Keefe, Orbit, 8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51737-7.
The first book in a new space opera trilogy from the author of the Philip K. Dick-short-listed Velocity Weapon.

Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47161-0.
Interstellar vehicle Archimedes has been hurtling through space for more than five generations. Now the ageing starship is preparing to brake, for it is arriving at Destination Star, Tau Ceti, the new home for the space-born descendants of the First Crew.  For trainee engineer Ravinder MacLeod, the world he knows is coming to an end. Once Archimedes succumbs to the gravitational pull of the Destination Star, there will be no going back. As Braking Day approaches, Ravi finds himself caught between the rigid requirements of the officer class to which he aspires and his blue-collar, ne’er-do-well family. Unfortunately for Ravi, Boz, his brilliant ex-con cousin, seems determined to make his life difficult.  Then Ravi is assigned to routine maintenance deep in the massive engines of the Archimedes, where, alone and out of contact, he comes face to face with something impossible.  Plagued by nightmares and visions and worried that his grip on reality is slipping, Ravi turns to Boz for help. Their search for answers takes them to the place where the ship’s future intersects with its long past – and the discovery that not everyone is excited to be reaching journey’s end…

The Sky Vault by Benjamin Percy, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-69016-5.
The final, must-read book in the 'Comet Cycle' series. It follows the aftermath of an aeroplane that goes missing over Fairbanks, AL in the wake of the comet, and a teenager’s search for answers about his father’s final moments aboard the flight.

Eversion by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09077-4.
Doctor Silas Coade is a physician on a small, privately sponsored, sailing ship expedition with a simple mission: to investigate a mysterious object that is shrouded in secrecy.  But Doctor Coade is starting to worry. Either events are subtly repeating themselves – or his hold on reality is beginning to slip. Both possibilities have much bigger ramifications, but the first thing he must do is establish the truth… and then trust one of his companions with his fears, and enlist their help to either save himself, or save them all.

The Extinction Trials by A. G. Riddle, Ad Astra, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-803-28165-0
The end... is only the beginning.  After a mysterious global event known only as 'The Change', six strangers wake up in an underground research facility where they learn that they're part of the Extinction Trials –a scientific experiment to restart the human race.  But the Extinction Trials harbours a very big secret.  And so does the world outside.

Lost in Time by A. G. Riddle, Ad Astra, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-804-54176-0
Control the Past. Save the Future.  Dr. Sam Anderson is one of the most celebrated scientists in history. Ten years ago, he invented a device that changed the world forever. Now his life is about to be ripped apart– and his own creation may be to blame.   One fateful morning, Sam discovers that his girlfriend has been murdered and that his daughter is accused of the crime. Sam believes she's innocent, but he can't prove it. There's only one thing he can do to save his daughter: confess to the crime. And so he does.   But in the future, murderers aren't sent to prison. They're sent to the past.   Thanks to Sam's invention – Absolom – the world's worst criminals are exiled forever, sent back to the time of the dinosaurs, where they live out their lives alone. As Sam steps into the Absolom chamber to leave for the Late Triassic, he makes a promise: he will get back to his family, clear his name, and find the person who killed the woman he loved.   What Sam doesn't know is that there's a secret waiting for him in the past. And it might be his only hope of saving himself and his family.   Sam isn't the only one seeking justice. In the present, his daughter, Adeline, also embarkson a mission to fi nd the person who framed her and tore her family apart. She's already lost her mother. She can't bear losing her father too.   As Adeline peels back the layers of the conspiracy against her family, she uncovers more questions than answers. Everyone around her is hiding a secret, including her legal guardian. And some people aren't what they seem.  Adeline soon finds herself in the midst of a mystery that stretches across the past, present, and future – and leads to a revelation that will change everything.

The Quickening by Talulah Riley, Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64087-0.
Imagine a perfect world. One that values nature and peace: a collaborative society working towards common goals. Communities designed to prioritise women. A system that forces men to pay for the damage they have wrought over the centuries before. Years ago, Dana Mayer, now Prime Minister, had a vision for a better life. Today, The Quickening, her manifesto for a new world order, has become a bible to live by. But where there is power, there is always resistance. Life after The Change may have left men in chains, but some people seem reluctant to accept the new rules. And they must be stopped – whatever the cost…

Classic Science Fiction Stories by Adam Roberts (editor), Macmillan Collector's Library, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06907-5.
A collection of short stories showcasing the classic science-fiction writing.  An eclectic collection of SF stories. The book highlights not only the most famous writers of the genre, such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft, but also gives voice to less-well-known but no-less-intriguing writers such as Florence McLandburgh and Ambrose Bierce.  Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of cloth-bound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. Classic Science Fiction Stories is selected and introduced by academic and science-fiction writer Adam Roberts.  There are intrepid travellers to outer space, mind-boggling and futuristic inventions and glimpses into the future with stories such as ‘A Martian Odyssey’ by Stanley Weinbaum, ‘The Mortal Immortal’ by Mary Shelley and ‘The Sultana’s Dream’ by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Some are comic, some are terrifying and some are downright weird, and together, these mesmerising and expertly crafted stories show how the genre of science fiction has developed and how modern writers are influenced by the giants of the past.

Kingdoms of Death by Christopher Ruocchio, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21835-2.
The fourth novel of the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series merges the space opera and epic fantasy. Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning 'Sun Eater' series. In this fourth instalment we join the legendary figure as he finally finds – and is at once captured by – the mysterious alien Cielcen, in a story is billed as for fans of Dune.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, Picador, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08349-1.
A novel of art, time, love and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony of the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.  The award-winning author of Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel returns with a novel of time travel that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.  In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic, exiled from English polite society. In British Columbia, he enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and for a split second all is darkness, the notes of a violin echoing unnaturally through the air. The experience shocks him to his core.  Two centuries later Olive Llewelyn, a famous writer, is travelling all over Earth, far away from her home in the second moon colony. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.  When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in time, he uncovers a series of lives upended: the exiled son of an aristocrat driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe. Sea of Tranquility is a novel that investigates the idea of parallel worlds and possibilities, that plays with the very line along which time should run.  Perceptive and poignant about art, and love, and what we must do to survive.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08288-3.
In New York City, Jamie Gray is a driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls ‘an animal rights organisation’. Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.  What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth: not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world.  They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous animal and they’re in trouble. It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society whose found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die… A gung ho SFnal adventure that would appeal to fans of Jurassic Park.

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson, Borough Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
This is set in a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of super-storms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics.

Resilient by Allan Stroud, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58641-3 AD 2118: Earth’s biggest solar array has been destroyed, a space station hijacked. A vast, terrifying war beckons. Emerson Drake, Natalie Holder, April Johannsson and Ellissa Shann are caught in the middle of it all. Humanity’s future is on the line. What can they do to save us?

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird, Borough Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
Glasgow, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is how it begins. The victims are all men. Dr Maclean raises the alarm, but the sickness spreads to every corner of the globe. Threatening families. Governments. Countries. Can they find a cure before it’s too late? Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation? Compelling, confronting and devastating, The End of Men is the novel that everyone is talking about.

Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05193-3.
After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilisation – could save a world from annihilation. Yet the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics.  Suddenly, no planet is safe.  Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.  Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade.  What Idris discovers there will change everything.

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05190-2.
The main character is an Intermediary (or ‘Int’) called Idris, who’s one of a small cadre of specially crafted humans who can safely navigate ‘unspace’ without going mad. He navigates for itinerant traders on the decrepit cargo ship the Vulture God and generally tries to stay out of trouble.  Years before, he was at the centre of a war with aliens called the Architects, whose modus operandi was to send big ships to populated planets and remodel them into massive works of art (albeit killing everyone in the process). Earth is destroyed, and human populated worlds across the galaxy are at risk. Idris managed to infiltrate the mind of an Architect as the giant ship prepared to destroy the new human capital planet, Berlenhof, following which the Architects withdrew. Humanity, thinking they were gone for good, rebuilt. But then a ship emerges from unspace, destroyed and reshaped apparently by the Architects hands and panic resumes…

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, Flame Tree Press, £8.99 / Can$15.99 / US$11.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64968-4
Genre adjacent by France's SF grandmaster. A Victorian and his manservant attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days.

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, Macmillan Collector's Library, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06905-1.
It is always good to see a classic reprinted. The Invisible Man is a tense, unsettling novel about a terrifying scientific discovery from one of the masters of science fiction, H. G. Wells.  Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover.  A mysterious stranger arrives at a local Sussex inn on a cold winter’s night, cloaked in bandages from head to toe and dripping from the rain. Griffin locks himself in his room and spends his stay labouring over chemicals in intricate glass bottles. The villagers, bewildered by what lurks under Griffin’s bandages, could never be prepared for the terrible truth: that Griffin is a scientist who has rendered himself invisible and is desperately struggling to find an antidote. He flees to the South Downs in search of someone he can trust, but this only isolates him further and he embarks on a ‘Reign of Terror’.

Ok Then That’s Great by Susannah Wise, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23238-9.
An existential black comedy about grief, identity and the absurdity of life.  In contemporary London, middle-aged poet Marnie Rose has experienced sightings of her long-dead twin sister, Perdita. She now has writer’s block and has sought the help of an octogenarian shrink.  Marnie’s long-suffering partner and their three kids are not helping matters. Neither is Marnie’s bohemian mum, nor her diabetic chef dad. Perhaps Marnie’s blossoming friendship with a woman she thinks is the living embodiment of long dead author Katherine Mansfield will help.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps she’s just losing her mind.

 

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Summer 2022

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Amongst our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22666-1.
The latest 'Rivers of London' novel. London's silver vaults hold the largest collection of silver for sale in the world. It has more locks than the Bank of England and more cameras than at a celebrity punch up. It is not somewhere where you can murder someone and get away with it. Yet, this seems to have happened….!

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51743-8.
Debut fantasy.  Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land – at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. With no choice but to obey, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son, who unbeknownst to her is actually the prince that she saved in magical disguise. Aided by Loulie’s bodyguard, who has secrets of his own. In a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything – her enemy, her magic, even her own past – is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold, Orbit, 10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51618-9.
A world recovers from losing its magic… In a city that has lost its magic an angel falls in a downtown street. His wings are feathered, whole – undeniably magical – the man clearly flew. For all that he plummeted to his downfall after… Billed by the publisher as perfect for fans of Aaronovitch or Pratchett.

Weird Horror Short Stories by Mike Ashley, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$40 / US $30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64935-6
With stories from modern writers, and the founding fathers of horror fiction, weird or cosmic horror combines the dark brooding shadows of the night with the presence of elder gods at the edges of our world. Algernon Blackwood, M .R. James, H. P. Lovecraft and Ramsey Campbell sit alongside new tales by new writers from open submissions.

The Queen’s Assassin by James Barclay, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20246-7.
As a healer, she swears to do no harm. If she wishes to survive, she may have to…  Society has long held that the Esselrode people and their abilities are evil, a truth which Naida – a peerless battlefield surgeon – has been brought up to believe. But as one of them herself, feeling compelled to use her powers to heal wounded allies, it’s hard to accept.  Taken from the battlefield to a court where her life hangs in the balance, Naida is about to learn that there are even greater secrets, and conspiracies, afoot… and she could change the course of a nation…

The Collected Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, Edited by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-192-84743-0.
In this collected edition, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst brings together five of the main versions of the Peter Pan story, from Peter Pan’s first appearance in The Little White Bird, to his novelisation of the story, the stage version, and unrealised silent film script. This edition contains a lively introduction, detailed explanatory notes, original illustrations, and appendices that include Barrie’s coda to the play that was only performed once.

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41407-3.
Sancia Grado might have met her match in a god waging war using all of humanity as its pawns.  Once, Sancia Grado was just a thief with a grudge and a rare talent. Then she learned how to use that talent and beat the great merchant houses of Tevanne at their own game. But the war she’s fighting now is one she knows they can’t win, even with Clef and Berenice on her side.  This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites or an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe: a ghost in the machine using the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.  Despite all their efforts, their enemy marches on, implacable, unstoppable – and it’s closing in on its true prize: an ancient doorway that leads to the centre of creation itself.&nbp; Sancia and her friends glimpse a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe – but to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins – and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted. And as if that wasn’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks – and a last trick up its sleeve.

Book of Night by Holly Black, Del Rey, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10237-6.
In Charlie Hall's world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences-but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone's feelings-and memories-but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden-a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms.  And sometimes, it has a life of its own.  Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires.  But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie's present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear-and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister-all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

The Godbreaker by Mike Brooks, Orbit, 9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51394-2.
No details provided.

Against All Gods by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23251-8.
This brand-new fantasy series is inspired by the bronze age. Billed as perfect for readers who love mythic heroes, Wonder Woman and tales of gods who walk the Earth..  The gods rule above, men battle below – with each other for land, and to win their deities favour, and all is fair in love and war. But what makes a god? When they can be seen, and spoken to, and touched, when they come to earth to collect the sacrifices made to them, are they really so different to the mortals who serve them? And what if instead of vying for their favour, a few brave souls chose to take on the gods themselves..?

The Cuckoo by Leo Carew, Wildfire, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-27312-3.
Albion continues to be divided by revolt and bloodshed, as alliances collapse and are made anew.  Driven obsessively for glory, the upstart Bellamus and his exiled queen Aramilla are marshalling resistance and building a powerful army.  Returning to the Hindrunn, Keturah is forced to fend for herself, battling enemies on all sides just when she is most in need of a place of safety.  And all the while, the young Black Lord must deal not only with the aftermath of a great betrayal, but the cold shadow of the Kryptea, threatening to destroy everything he has fought for...

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-80001-8.
Family, ghosts and local gods collide, in this delightful Malaysian-set novel – by Hugo award-winning author Zen Cho.

Witchshadow by Susan Dennard, Tor, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03033-4.
Legendary figures from an ancient era reawaken, in a land now ravaged by war. And the Threadwitch Iseult must decide where her destiny really lies..

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi, Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN not provided
Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the Empire from the red-blooded Embers’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes. Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the Empire, but when you’ve found the bottom, your only option is to rise. Hassa moves through the world unseen by the Embers and blue-blooded Dusters. As a clear-blooded Ghosting she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses, it can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. As the Empire begins The Aktibar, a set of trials designed to find the next ruling Wardens of the Empire, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift and cities to burn.

A Clockwork River by J.S. Emery, Ad Astra, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24994-3
Time is running out for the Clockwork River….  Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. Its founding fatherschannelled the river Rhumb's mighty flow into a feat that would come to power an empire. But a thousand years have passed since then, and the Rhumb has been reduced to a sluggish trickle.  The fortunes of the Locke family, descendants of the city's most celebrated engineer, are similarly reduced. Siblings Samuel and Briony Locke must distract themselves: Sam does so with his vast lock collection; Briony with her alchemical experiments.  One night Samuel leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn't come back. And as Briony begins to search for her brother, she finds herself drawn into a web of ancestral secrets and imperial intrigues as a ruthless new power arises...  Epic, rollicking and in love with language, Jacob and Sara Emery's sprawling debut novel is a rare and delicious commodity – the world's first hydropunk novel.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
Mercia, 788 AD.  In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with cold ambition. His youngest daughter Eadburh is destined for an arranged marriage, but with reckless spirit her heart is taken by a Welsh prince, a man she can never be matched with and who is quickly and cruelly taken from her. Eadburh inherited her father’s ruthless ways but it’s the gifts passed down from her mother that are far more dangerous. She is determined to carve her own place in the world, yet her path could cause war.  Offa’s Dyke, 2021 In a cottage hidden amongst the misty Welsh hills of Offa’s Dyke, Bea Dalloway is called to help Simon Armstrong, who is searching for peace. Instead he finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. It isn’t long before Bea is also swept up by haunting dreams. The past is whispering to them, calling out for the truth to be told at last. And as dreams and reality weave closer together, Bea and Simon must be strong to resist the pull of the past – and its desire for revenge…

Black Knights by Laure Eve, Quercus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41178-2.
An original and unusual retelling of the Arthurian legend.  Power always wins.  Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where Arthurian knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money, and a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king.

Master of Furies by Raymond E. Feist, Voyager, £20, hrdbk, ISBN not provided
The sequel to King of Ashes exploring the fates of three young heroes who will determine a world’s destiny.

A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers by Jackson Ford, Orbit, 8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51467-3.
The new novel in the Frost Files series which began with The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with her Mind.

The Children of D'Hara by Terry Goodkind, Ad Astra, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54135-9.
Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell confront an apocalyptic nightmare in this irresistiblytense, utterly terrifying, near-thousand-page return to Terry Goodkind's 26-million-copy- selling 'Sword of Truth 'world.

The Gauntlet and the Burning Blade by Ian Green, Ad Astra, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-800-24411-5.
Once a warrior of the Stormguard Commandos, Floré wrought horrors in the rotstorm to protect her people. She did her duty and swore to leave the bloodshed behind. But when her daughter, Marta, was kidnapped, Floré was forced to once again raise her gauntlet against the devils of Ferron to bring her home.  Now Marta is dying from the skein-magic she inherited from her father, and the Protectorate is weakened by the absence of the whitestaffs. The mystical order of healers and sages fl ed to their island citadel of Riven when strange orbs cut through the night.  Floré and her comrades must race to find a cure for Marta, to find the truth of the whitestaffs' betrayal, and to fight back against the encroaching children of the storm.  Floré has taken up her gauntlets and her sword to keep her people safe – but steel alone might not be enough...

The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51422-2.
Billed by the publisher as The Witcher meets Vikings in the second book in a Norse-inspired epic fantasy series.  Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison.  Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest. As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.  Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her. Their only hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the Earth.

Sistersong by Lucy Holland, Pan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03905-4.
In a magical ancient Britain, three siblings become entangled in a tale of treachery, love and murder. Lucy Holland's lyrical story retells ‘The Two Sisters’ for a modern audience.

Odyssey and the Iliad Complete by Homer, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$40 / US $30, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64966-0
Two great epics of Western Culture are combined here into one volume. The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War of the Ancient Greeks, focusing on the struggles of Achilles. The Odyssey covers the events after the war as Odysseus travels home, encountering many strange monsters and creatures along the way. The latest title in Flame Tree’s beautiful, comprehensive series of Gothic Fantasy titles concentrates on the ancient, epic origins of modern fantasy.

The Land of the Dead by Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi, Flame Tree Press, £12.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58641-3
Science and the supernatural collide in this tale of witches, reanimated corpses and spirits invading our world from beyond the grave. Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde again become reluctant monster hunters when a mad scientist searching for immortality teams up with a necromancer to put spirits into his abominations. This is set in the same universe as Stoker's Wilde West.

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi edited by J. K. Jackson, Flame Tree Press, £6.99 / Can$12.99 / US $9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64993-6
A Celtic-origin masterpiece of myth and legend, the Mabinogion is a translation from Medieval Welsh of four cycles of tales, based on literature of the 12th and 13th century, the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest. Part of the canon of Celtic mythology that stretched across Europe to the British Isles, they reached back through centuries of oral storytelling and feature stories of the underworld, a war with Ireland, enchantment and magical creatures, and are accompanied by tales of King Arthur and his court.

The Tale of Boewulf edited by J. K. Jackson, Flame Tree Press, £6.99 / Can$12.99 / US $9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-839-64992-9
Beowulf is an epic poem probably written in the 900s CE. It tells of events 600 years before in vivid detail, where the hero Beowulf is entreated to help a king defend his halls against the monster Grendel. The poem was written in old English, about a hero of the Goths (the early Swedish people) who came to help the King of the Danes. Its vivid accounts bear some historical evidence, and served to influence heroic literature of Europe and the modern era.

Demon Dagger by Russell James, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58695-6
Drew Price has a gift, or perhaps a curse. When a demon possesses a person, he can see the horrific-looking demon that dwells within. A demon named Nicobar sets its sights on punishing him, starting by taking the soul of Drew’s son, condemning the boy to a life as a psychopath. Can Drew save his son’s soul and end Nicobar’s time on Earth?

The Last Feather by Michael R. Johnston, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58653-6
Twenty-two-year-old Cassia’s sister is dying, and she doesn’t know why. Cassia wakes up in another realm to find her missing best friend who knows how to save her sister. But a mysterious and dangerous curse is spreading across the realm and Cassia needs to break the curse, save her best friend and get home before she’s trapped there forever.

We Will Rise by Michael R. Johnston, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58524-9
In Echo Hill, Ohio, the dead begin to reappear, manifesting in various forms and attacking the living. A group of survivors come together after the initial attack, all plagued by different ghostly apparitions of their own. Can they make it out alive? And if so, will they still be sane? Or will they die and join the ranks of the vengeful dead?

All The Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-38486-4.
A tale of assassination, piracy, love and revenge set against a bloody religious war in an analogue Mediterranean both familiar and beguilingly strange.

Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-08799-4.
An uplifting story about a man who spent his life at the office - and his death building a home.

Driftwood Orphans by Paul Krueger, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22905-1.
A post-colonial urban fantasy that draws on Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino cultures for a multinational tale of political intrigue.  You are Cheza Tenlonghari, blood-daughter of Daning Tenlonghari. Heart-daughter of Benilda Lacanilao. Chosen heir to the greatest criminal empire Driftwood City has ever seen.  You are the Red Rose, fearsome vigilante, protector of the downtrodden. With your comrades, you patrol my streets, protecting workers on the picket lines.  You are my shaman. Blessed by me with incredible powers and charged to use them for one mission: protecting your ailing city and the thousands who call me home.  You are Tenny.  And you’re about to die.

The Children of Gods and Fighting Men by Shauna Lawless, Ad Astra, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-803-28262-6.
|They think they've killed the last of us... 981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.  Fodla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fodla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise...

The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence, Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN not provided
The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction.  The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends. The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her. The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough. The Girl and the Moon is the third and final volume in 'The Book of Ice' trilogy.

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
Second novel in a fantasy series.

The Virgin of the Seven Daggers and Other Stories by Vernon Lee, Edited by Aaron Worth, Oxford University Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-83754-1.
This new edition includes Lee’s landmark 1890 collection Hauntings complete, along with six additional tales and the 1880 essay ‘Faustus and Helena’, in which Lee probes the elusive nature of the supernatural as a ‘vital...fluctuating...potent’ force that resists definite representation. Aaron Worth’s contextual introduction, drawing upon Lee’s newly published letters, reassesses her place in the pantheon of the fantastic.

The Heron King's Flight by Eric Lewis, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58700-7
In this sequel to The Heron Kings, the secretive band of rangers is all that stands against a charismatic invader with a nation behind him. Three young comrades Linet, Aerrus and Eyvind confront cowardly monarchs, traitor lords, assassins and savage armies with only a few allies and a dangerous new weapon to help prevent the kingdom’s destruction.

Speaking Bones: Dandelion Dynasty 4 by Ken Lui, Ad Astra - Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93165-0.
The conclusion to the Dandelion Dynasty. Stalked by foes and dogged by betrayal, Princess Déra is pursued across a continent vaster than she could ever have imagined, to the hidden valleys of the World’s Edge Mountains, into the barrows and subterranean halls of the City of Ghosts, across the ice floes of the far north. She breached the Wall of Storms intent on taking war to the Lyucu homelands, but how can you conquer the unconquerable?  Empress Jia, Prince Phyro and Pékyu Tanvanaki find themselves bound to paths they never would have chosen. Amid atrocity and subterfuge, they will discover that the Courage of Brutes is no substitute for the Grace of Kings, and that little separates the Grace of Kings from the Madness of Tyrants.  On both sides of the Wall of Storms, defeat’s bitter tears mix with the fruits of knowledge new and ancient as two empires bound by blood and bone, by writ and iron, by time and custom, face a force that threatens to utterly consume them. The teeth, as they say, are on the board.

The Discord of Gods by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87963-2.
The end times have come.  Relos Var’s final plans to enslave the universe are on the cusp of fruition. He believes there’s only one being in existence that might be able to stop him: the demon Xaltorath.  As these two masterminds circle each other, neither is paying attention to the third player on the board, Kihrin. Unfortunately, keeping himself classified in the ‘pawn’ category means Kihrin must pretend to be everything the prophecies threatened he’d become: the destroyer of all, the sun eater, a mindless, remorseless plague upon the land. It also means finding an excuse to not destroy the people he loves (or any of the remaining Immortals) without arousing suspicion.  Kihrin’s goals are complicated by the fact that not all of his ‘act’ is one. His intentions may be sincere, but he’s still being forced to grapple with the after-effects of the corrupted magic ritual that twisted both him and the dragons. Worse, he’s now tied to a body that is the literal avatar of a star – a form that is becoming increasingly, catastrophically unstable. All of which means he’s running out of time.  After all, some stars fade – but others explode.

The House of Always by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87970-0.
Trapped and running out of time, Kihrin and his allies must escape their demonic prison and save the world from Relos Var’s calamitous plans. Billed as for the fans of Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss.

Deepwater King by Claire McKenna, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
Since losing her great love to the Queen of the Sainted Isles, Arden must fulfil an impossible promise before she can return home – she must complete the dangerous Rite that will return Jonah’s spirit to the abyssal Court of the Deepwater King. This sets her off on a journey far out at sea to find believers of the old religion on the oil-slick and mysterious islands beyond the horizon. But such a responsibility will not come without sacrifice, for the Deepwater folk who worship the King require the most desperate payments the soul, and with one man Arden may have to pay the greatest price of all… This is an oceanic steampunk fantasy.

A Priest of Crows by Peter McLean, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41134-8.
The word Unbeliever had become a death sentence on the streets in those days.  Gangster, soldier, priest. Governor, knight, and above all, Queen’s Man.  Once, Tomas Piety looked after his men, body and soul, as best he could. Then those who ran his country decided his dark talents would better serve in the corridors of power.  Crushed by the power of the Queen’s Men and with the Skanian menace rising once more on the streets of Ellinburg, Tomas Piety is forced to turn to old friends, old debts and untrustworthy alliances.  Meanwhile, in the capital city of Dannsburg, Dieter Vogel is beginning to wonder if the horror he has unleashed in the Martyr’s Disciples might be getting out of control.  With revolution brewing and tragedy and terrorism running rife in the cities, Piety and Vogel must each weigh the cost of a crown.

The Great Book of King Arthur by John Matthews, illustrated by John Howe, Voyager, £30, hrdbk, ISBN not provided
The tales of how the boy Arthur drew the Sword from the Stone, or the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, or how the knights of the Round Table rode out in search of the Holy Grail are known and loved the world over. It all began when an obscure Celtic hero named Arthur stepped on to the stage of history, sometime in the sixth century, and oral tales led to a vast body of stories from which, 900 years later, Thomas Malory wrote the famous Morte D’Arthur. The Great Book of King Arthur presents these well-loved stories for a modern reader, for the first time collecting many tales of Arthur and his knights either unknown to Malory or written in other languages. In addition, there are some of the earliest tales of Arthur, deriving from the tradition of Celtic storytelling. Here is the original Arthur based on the early medieval text Vita Merlini, which gives a completely new version of the great Enchanter’s story.

Certain Dark Thing by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41562-9.
A neo-noir reimagining vampire lore.  Domingo is just trying to survive in Mexico City when he meets Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood-drinkers. Will Atl and Domingo make it out of the city alive before it devours them?

Devouring Darkness by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23062-0.
In the fourth Heirs of Chicagoland novel, Elisa Sullivan unearths an ancient grudge, with potentially devastating consequences.  As the only vampire ever born, not made, Elisa Sullivan always knew her life was going to be… unusual. One thing she didn’t count on was having to fight for the city of Chicago. Luckily, Connor Keene, son of the North America.  Pack Leader, is right by her side.  Now, when Elisa escorts a troubled sorcerer to Chicago for training, she inadvertently sets in motion a scheme of long-awaited magical vengeance. The city may pay an arcane price it can’t afford, unless Elisa rises to the challenge.

The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-36044-8.
The third book in the 'Prison Healer' series.  Kiva thought she knew what she wanted – revenge. But everything has changed. With the kingdoms closer to the brink of war, more is at stake than her own broken heart. A perilous quest forces mortal enemies and uneasy allies together. Kiva can no longer just survive – she must fight for what she believes in. But with danger coming from every side, and the lives of everyone she loves at risk, does she have what it takes to stand, or will she fall?

Wolfbane by Michelle Paver, Zephyr, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54244-8.
Stone age fantasy. It is early spring, a turbulent, dangerous time of sudden storms, frozen river fractures and drifting ice. Fleeing from a demon intent on devouring his souls, Wolf is swept out to sea. Adrian, far from the Forest and his pack, Wolf is more alone than he has ever been before. And the demon is gaining ground. Torak and Renn must race to save their pack-brother, battling the harsh, icy waves and merciless torrents.

The Old Country by Harrison & Matthew Query, Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-37543-5.
Harry and Sasha found their dream, a beautiful small ranch in an unspoilt valley nestling beneath the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. It’s perfect. Except for the neighbours, an apparently cute old couple, who have some truly crazed ideas about a timeless spirit that asserts its power over the valley in different terrifying ways with the coming of each different season. The only thing for Harry and Sasha to do, obviously, is to forget about the weirdoes and start building their new life in their new home. As they look forward to the arrival of spring…

Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid, Del Rey, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10076-1.
Inspired by the German fairytale, The Juniper Tree follows a family cursed, a girl who dreams of being free, and the monsters she can never escape.  The last magic practitioners in their small town, and living in house filled with monsters, Marlinchen and her family are both loved and reviled by the townsfolk they work to cure. Their father, cursed to never be satisfied, keeps a tight grip on his daughters; their freedoms, virtues and powers under his control.  But when, chafing at his restrictions, the sisters sneak out to attend the theatre and they hear of two men found dead, rumoured to have been brutally ripped apart, Marlinchen is soon drawn into a situation she never could have dreamed, and that will reveal secrets she'll wish she never discovered.  After all, can you ever be truly free from the monster that lives inside yourself?

Nights of the Lingering Ghost by Phil Rickman, Corvus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49459-7.
England’s most famous poet once thought of himself as a modern druid and found his deepest inspiration on the banks of the River Wye, where Celtic magic can still be found and an old darkness lingers.  Now, as the world is at the mercy of the coronavirus pandemic, diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins learns that the ghosts of the lower Wye Valley still need some attention.

Grimoire by Robin Robertson, Picador, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-05123-0.
A haunting collection of ‘New Scottish Folktales’ from award-winning poet Robin Robertson, featuring beautiful drawings throughout and an introduction by writer Val McDermid.

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23505-2.
Filled with love, passion and adventure y romance about vampires. Featuring a brand-new heroine and hero, this will be packed with all the elements that have established the Argeneau series as a defining force in the genre.

Until the Last: The Last War: Book Three by Mike Shackle, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22529-9.
Ultimate evil, sometimes the price is more than you can pay…  Tinnstra, Queen Zorique and their allies have faced off the Egril time and again. They have lost loved ones. They are bruised. They are exhausted. But against unlikely odds, they have stuck together and pulled through.  Now they must face their greatest test. The Egril refuse to be beaten, and the Emperor Raaku has finally decided to deal with Jia once and for all…

The Wizard of Eventide by Jon Skovron, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51488-8.
The final in the trilogy that began with The Ranger of Marzanna.

Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
Thora and Santi have met before… Under the clocktower in central Cologne, with nothing but the stars above and their futures ahead. They will meet again… They don’t know it yet, but they’ll meet again: in numerous lives they will become friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies – meeting over and over for the first time, every time; each coming to know every version of the other. Only they can make sure it’s not for the last time But as they’re endlessly drawn together and the lines between their different lives begin to blur, they are faced with one question: why? They must discover the truth of their strange attachment before this, and all their lives, are lost forever.

Tinderbox by W. H. Simpson, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US $26.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-58750-2
A dark witch seeking vengeance, a kidnapped prince seeking redemption. Summoned to an underground kingdom, they must set aside personal desires as they learn the nightmare denizens of the fey are bringing an ancient source of magic, long dormant, back to life. If they cannot halt the rise of the old magic, it will tear apart the Riven Isles.

The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley, Tor, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-82302-4.
The first book in the 'Ashes of the Unhewn' trilogy. As the Annurian Empire disintegrates, a lone soldier sets out to save it.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04735-6.
This is the story of three men who vanish from a remote lighthouse. The entrance door is locked from the inside, the clocks have all stopped and the table is set for dinner. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week. Twenty years later, the mystery of their disappearance still haunts the heartbroken women left behind. The sea has kept its secrets, until now. Billed as being rich with the salty air of the Cornish coast.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
‘Magic and love. Love and magic. They destroy everything in the end …’ Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift … or a curse?

The Hood by Lavie Tidhar, Ad Astra, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-838-93133-9.
God bless you, England, on this glorious Year of Our Lord, 1145.  Things are definitely not right in Nottingham. Rebecca, daughter of a Jewish money-lender, has a sense for it.   A mad monk schemes to resurrect the Christ from body parts. A bone harpist murders creatures of legend for a price. A fae creature binds its wings and embraces a new God and his son.   And don't even mention the Hood. The Man in Green. The Prince of Thieves. The tick-tocktaker of the ten-toll tax.   What hope have the series of sheriffs sent to hold the peace?   It's the forest, you see. Sherwood. Ice Age ancient, impenetrable, hiding a dark and secret heart. But hearts, no matter how black, no matter how hidden, are not immune to change. The old world is dying... and a terrifying new one is waiting to take its place.   Rebecca senses an opportunity. But how far is she willing to go, and what price – because there is always a price – will she have to pay?  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Seawomen by Chloe Timms, Hodder Studio, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-36957-1.
The Seawomen are taught to be the evils of the deep surrounding Eden’s Isle, but in time Esta finds out that the real evil lives in the hearts of men in this magical debut novel. In this timely, feminist tale where female body autonomy is a battleground for freedom, an unlikely love story could undo the prohibitive malaise of the religious, patriarchal regime.

Equinox by David Towsey, Ad Astra – Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-801-10164-6.
Everyone is not as they seem in this fantasy novel, replete with war, witchcraft and secrets. Christophor Morden lives in a world where one changes with the rising and setting of the sun. For every person contains two distinct identities – a day sibling and a night sibling.  One never sees the light, the other nothing of night.  Early one evening, Christophor, one of the king’s special unit of witch hunters, is woken early by a call to the city prison. A young woman has torn her own eyes out, and the police suspect supernatural causes. The investigation takes Christophor far from home, to a village on the edge of the kingdom.  There, he will find his witch – and his night brother will find himself desperate to save her. And as this battle of the self rages, the witch’s ancient and apocalyptic ritual comes ever closer to completion…

The Storm Beneath a Midnight Sun by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22415-5.
War is draining Reykjavík. For some, the remote islands off Hrímland’s coast are their only hope of survival.  Elka has fled there with her son, Sölvi. In their village they find a new life – all thanks to the Deep, a peculiar power their neighbours praise for the booming fishing industry.  Everything seems perfect, but Solvi does not trust the new people around him.  Kari is a sorcerer, recruited for a career-making venture – an excavation of an ancient power. He must go deep into the magical wasteland, find what is buried there and turn the tide of the war forever.

Hide by Kiersten White, Del Rey, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15023-0.
Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.  When Mackenzie Black is invited to enter a Hide and Seek competition, with a grand prize big enough to get her out of a shelter and into some stability, she goes against her instincts and agrees.  The rules are simple: Don't be found.  But the competitors are less simple. Everyone has a reason to be there, a desperate need. But Mack can outlast them all.  Unlike them, she knows exactly how far she'll go to survive.  As the competition progresses and the others slowly get cut, without a goodbye, without ceremony, without a trace, Mack realises she's in the middle of something much more terrifying than a game. Within the crumbling labyrinth of an abandoned theme park, something lurks, and it's only a matter of time before it finds her.  Come out, come out, wherever you are…

For The Throne by Hannah Whitten, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51637-0.
The first daughter is for the throne. The second daughter is for the wolf. Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red's beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally though it's one she'd rather never have to speak to again the rogue king Solmir. They will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a magic mirror and the mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods' dark, twisted powers for themselves.

Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler, Ad Astra, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54324-8
For centuries, the Dawn Republic has ruled over the land unopposed. Nomore.  Deep below the Gap, Gyre Silvereye discovered a city, hidden far from human eyes. There, the ghouls have dwelt for four hundred years in hibernation, awaiting the moment to wreak their vengeance on the Dawn Republic.  With their help, Gyre can finally see a way to overthrow the all-powerful Twilight Order. But the ghouls do not give their trust easily, and Gyre will need to secure the alliance of the human rebels to the south if they are to even stand a chance. And uniting the two won't be simple.  His sister Maya still fights for the Order. But after recent events, she is no longer certain where her loyalties lie. Chasing the origins of a mysterious artefact to a long-lost library, she just might find the truth – whether she is ready for it or not…

The Collarbound by Rebecca Zahabi, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23438-3.
An escaped slave and an amnesiac mage – discover that their pasts are entwined.  When Isha arrives at The Nest as a refugee of the rebellion, she attempts to hide among the mages who could protect her, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast.  Tatters, who wears the collar of a slave, has never seen a human with a tattoo, and Isha’s markings look eerily familiar.  He is drawn to her, needing to understand more.  What follows is an unlikely friendship between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart.

 

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Summer 2022

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

BBC: The Story of the Solar System by Maggie Aderin-Pocock, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94527-4.
What is a planet? Is there life on Mars? What makes Earth so special? Questions about our Solar System have fascinated us for centuries. Based on the latest scientific research, The Story of the Solar System will help you see the planets around us in a whole new light. Using colourful and easy-to-follow info-graphics, each planet becomes a character with a story of its own to tell, from Jupiter the King of the Solar System to ice oddity Uranus and outlier planet-but-not-a-planet Pluto. As Space Scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock shows us, the story of Earth is best understood as part of its larger family, and The Story of the Solar System will bring that family to life.

The Hidden Universe: Adventures in Biodiversity by Alexandre Antonelli, Ebury Press, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10916-0.
Everything you need to know about biodiversity - what it is, how it works, and why it's the single most important tool to battle climate change - from the Director Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.  This brief, lucid book by the Director of Science at Royal Botanical Gardens takes you on an unforgettable tour of the natural world, showing how biodiversity - the rich variety of life in the world and in our own backyards - provides both the source and the salvation of our existence. Combining inspiration stories and the latest scientific research, Alex Antonelli reveals the wonders of biodiversity at a genetic, species and ecosystem level - what it is, how it works, and why it's the most important tool in our battle against climate change.  A deeper understanding of biodiversity has never been more important, as the slow violence of habitat loss has put the fate of almost one-fifth of all species on Earth at risk of extinction in the coming decades.

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by David Attenborough FIBiol, Ebury Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10829-3.
This is Sir David's first solo-authored book in nearly 20 years, this is his legacy project, and it is accompanied by a major documentary released in cinemas and on Netflix. It is legacy-defining book from Sir David Attenborough, reflecting on his life’s work, the dramatic changes to the planet he has witnessed, and what we can do to make a better future….  "I am David Attenborough. At time of writing, I am 93 years old. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.  As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world - but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day - the loss of our planet's wild places, its biodiversity.  I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet contains my witness statement, and my vision for the future - the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.  We have the opportunity to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited.  All we need is the will do so."

The Book of Minds by Philip Ball, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06914-3.
This explores the diversity of thinking minds, from the variety of human minds to those of mammals, insects, computers and plants, in a book that brilliantly illuminates how many different ways there are to think and engage with the world; and how particular are our own.  Understanding the human mind and how it relates to the world of experience has challenged scientists and philosophers for centuries. How do we even begin to think about ‘minds’ that are not human? That is the question explored in this ground-breaking book. Award-winning science writer Philip Ball argues that in order to understand our own minds and imagine those of others, we need to move on from considering the human mind as a standard against which all others should be measured.  Science has begun to have something to say about the properties of mind; the more we learn about the minds of other creatures, from octopuses to chimpanzees, to imagine the potential minds of computers and alien intelligences, the more we can begin to see our own, and the more we can understand the diversity of the human mind, in the widest of contexts, the more we can glimpse, however faintly at present, the central concept of this book: The space of possible minds.
          This is an intriguing exploration of sentience which is something that science fiction itself has on occasion to explore – and on which the author occasionally touches. As the book progresses, it moves from a historical overview of how our understanding of consciousness and intelligence has developed, including non-human 'sentience' of animals, and into likely future encounters with different, non-human intelligence: with artificial intelligence and also alien extraterrestrial: both will be different from human intelligence or mind. One benefit of communicating with different intelligence is that – as the universe is likely to be more peculiar than we can conceive – we might come to a better understanding of its nature. Written at the New Scientist level, it will leave many of its readers thoughtful, which arguably is just what a Book of Minds should do.

East of the Wardrobe: The Unexpected Worlds of C. S. Lewis by Warwick Ball, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-197-62625-2.
This explores hitherto unrecognised and unexpected Eastern aspects in and influences on C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books.  These include storylines, themes, imagery, religious elements, and even the cities and landscapes of the East, as well as the ‘Persian’ style adopted by the illustrator of Narnia, Pauline Baynes. Themes borrowed from the great epics can also be found, from The Odyssey and Aeneid to the Kalevala and The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. All readers of Lewis will find in East of the Wardrobe surprising new paths into the world of Narnia.

What On Earth by Count Binface, Quercus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-4216-5.
The much-needed manifesto by Earth’s favourite interstellar politician, three-time British election veteran and London’s ninth choice for mayor.  Hi. I am Count Binface, intergalactic space warrior. In this book I explain what’s wrong with Britain, reveal my manifesto to fix it and unveil my full life story, from conquering the Sigma Qudrant to the 69 votes I took from Boris Johnson in 2019. I’d love to say that’s the first time any lifeform has experienced a surprising 69 with a Prime Minister in an Uxbridge sports hall, but with Boris you never know.

The Rise and Reign of the Mammals by Steve Brusatte, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03421-9.
The story of the mammals, our own kind, from their earliest development and their co-existence with the great lizards to their emergence out of the shadows and dominance of the recent history of our planet.  The passing of the age of the dinosaurs allowed mammals to become ascendant. But mammals have a much deeper history. They – or, more precisely, we – originated around the same time as the dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago, their roots lie even further back, some 325 million years.  Over these immense stretches of geological time, mammals developed their trademark features: hair, keen senses of smell and hearing, big brains and sharp intelligence, fast growth and warm-blooded metabolism, a distinctive line-up of teeth (canines, incisors, premolars, molars), mammary glands that mothers use to nourish their babies with milk, among others.  From this long and rich evolutionary history came today’s mammals. But today’s 6,000 mammal species, our closest cousins, the egg-laying monotremes like the platypus, marsupials like kangaroos and koalas that raise their tiny babies in pouches, and placentals like us, who give birth to well-developed young. These three types of mammals, though, are simply the few survivors of a once verdant family tree, which has been pruned by time and mass extinctions.  Today’s mammals are but a very limited range of the mammals that have existed; in this fascinating and ground-breaking book, Steve Brusatte tells their – and our – story.

How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch: In Search of the Recipe for Our Universe by Harry Cliff, Picador, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-02621-4.
To make an apple pie, one first needs to build a universe. A brilliantly accessible introduction to today’s physics by a young academic and educator.

Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil by Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger and Francis de Vericourt, WH Allen, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-753-55500-2.
The breakout bestselling authors of Big Data now turn to what data can’t accomplish: the power of human ingenuity and ability to frame new questions to get better results than anyone could have previously imagined.  The authors’ previous book, Big Data, has sold nearly two million copies worldwide, won the National Library of China’s Wenjin Book Award and was a finalist for the FT Business book of the year.  Don't just think deep, think wide.   From pandemics to populism, AI to ISIS, wealth inequity to climate change, humanity faces unprecedented challenges that threaten our very existence. But how we see them affects how we respond and lets us uncover hidden options that expand our thinking.   Here the authors of Big Data show how humans have a unique cognitive ability to frame -- to create mental models that allow us to spot patterns, make predictions and grasp new situations. While computers may now excel at reasoning and judgement, framing is unique to humans. This book is the first guide to mastering an essential skill for the 21st century.  Blending stories with cutting-edge research, you'll discover why it's useless to try to think outside the box, how Spotify beat Apple by framing music as experience, how the #metoo movement reframed the perception of seΧual assault from silence to solidarity, and how framing CoVID-19 as seasonal flu led to disaster whereas framing it as SARS delivered New Zealand from the pandemic.  Framers will show you how to make better decisions in the age of algorithms, and will revolutionise not only how we think about our future, but how we think about everything.

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts by Silvia Ferrara, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-06475-9.
This book tells the story of our greatest invention. Or, it almost does. Almost, because while the story has a beginning – in fact, it has many beginnings, not only in Mesopotamia, 3,100 years before the birth of Christ, but also in China, Egypt and Central America – and it certainly has a middle, one that snakes through the painted petroglyphs of Easter Island, through the great machines of empires and across the desks of inspired, brilliant scholars, the end of the story remains to be written.  The invention of writing allowed humans to create a record of their lives and to persist past the limits of their lifetimes. In the shadows and swirls of ancient inscriptions, we can decipher the stories they sought to record, but we can also tease out the timeless truths of human nature, of our ceaseless drive to connect, create and be remembered.  The Greatest Invention chronicles an uncharted journey, one filled with past flashes of brilliance, present-day scientific research and the faint, fleeting echo of writing’s future. Professor Silvia Ferrara, a modern-day adventurer who travels the world studying ancient texts, takes us along with her; we touch the knotted, coloured strings of the Incan khipu and consider the case of the Phaistos disk. Ferrara takes us to the cutting edge of decipherment, where high-powered laser scanners bring tears to an engineer’s eye, and further still, to gaze at the outline of writing’s future.

The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher, Quercus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41637-4.
How social media is hacking our minds, our societies and the world - and what we can do about it.  The Chaos Machine is the story of how the world was driven mad by social media. The election of populists like Trump and Bolsonaro; strife and genocide in countries like Myanmar; the rampant spread of CoVID-19 conspiracy theories as deadly as the pandemic itself; all of these are products of a breakdown in our social and political lives, a breakdown driven by the apps, companies and algorithms that compete constantly for our attention.  Max Fisher is a leading New York Times technology reporter whose work has covered the way that social media sites – driven increasingly by artificial intelligence rather than human ingenuity – push users towards more and more extreme positions, deepening the divisions in society in pursuit of greater engagement and profit. With extraordinary access to the most powerful players in Silicon Valley, and with testimonies from around the world of the havoc being wreaked by our online selves, The Chaos Machine shows us how we got to this uniquely perilous moment – and how we might get out of it.

After They’re Gone: A Love Letter to the Lost Species of the World by Kate Folk, Hodder Studio, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-39949-3.
A beautiful, honest, searing ode to nature. We are in the midst of an extinction event. All species become extinct sooner or later, but this time, humans have accelerated that natural process several hundredfold, wiping out many species before their time is up. Is it too late? Probably; after all, it’s unfolding right in front of our eyes. If that sounds horribly depressing, it is. But while it may be too late to save much of the world’s wildlife, we have to act as though it isn’t.  We have to celebrate the world as it is, love the world as it was, and remain hopeful for the future.

The History of the Universe In 100 Stars by Florian Freistetter, Quercus Paperbacks, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41015-0.
A very personal history of the universe through the author's favourite stars who believes that stars tell the story of the universe. Freistetter reveals the past and future of the cosmos and the story of those who have tried to understand the world in which we live.
          This is an enchanting book of fascinating astronomical nuggets that will delight both those with a passing interest in astronomy as well as more seasoned amateur astronomers. With 100 short chapters of just two to three pages this makes for a great bed-time read. Having said that, there is simply too much to delight to relegate this to a night time read and it is likely that readers will return to it every now and then.

Sentient: What Animals Reveal About Our Senses by Jackie Higgins, Picador, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-03081-5.
An examination of some of the most remarkable creatures in the animal kingdom, and what they tell us about what it means to be human.

BBC: The Story of the Dinosaurs by David Hone, edited by Ella Al-Shamahi, BBC Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94528-1.
What were the earliest dinosaurs like? How did they communicate? How do we know so much about them and why did they disappear? Which were the fastest, the fiercest, or the longest living? Based on the latest scientific research, The Story of the Dinosaurs will show you these ancient creatures in a whole new light. Using colourful and easy-tofollow info-graphics, each dinosaur is analysed, from the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops to the lesser known but equally fascinating Ichythosaur and Rhamphorhynchus. Palaeoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi guides us through the amazing world of prehistoric earth, and >The Story of the Dinosaurs will bring its most infamous inhabitants to life.

Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness by Nicholas Humphrey, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-1 988-5853-9.
What gives rise to our private sensory world of rich colours, smells, and music— and do other animals experience it too? Nick Humphrey proposes a bold and provocative theory of sentience.  We feel therefore we are. Conscious sensations ground our sense of self. They are essential to our idea of ourselves as psychic beings: present, existent, and mattering. But is it only humans who feel this way? Do other animals? Do plants? Will future machines? To answer these questions we need a scientific understanding of consciousness: what it is and why it has evolved. Nicholas Humphrey has been researching these issues for fifty years. In this extraordinary book, weaving together intellectual adventure, cutting-edge science, and his own breakthrough experiences, he tells the story of his quest to uncover the evolutionary history of consciousness: from his discovery of blindsight after brain damage in monkeys, to hanging out with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, to becoming a leading philosopher of mind. Out of this, he has come up with an explanation of conscious feeling—‘phenomenal consciousness’ – that he presents here in full for the first time. Building on this theory of how phenomenal consciousness is generated in the human brain, he turns to the morally crucial question of whether it exists in non-human creatures. His conclusions, on the evidence as it stands, are radical. Contrary to both popular and much scientific opinion, he argues that phenomenal consciousness is a relatively recent evolutionary innovation, present only in warm-blooded creatures, mammals and birds. Invertebrates, such as octopuses and bees, for all their intelligence, are in this respect unfeeling zombies. And for now, but not necessarily forever, so are man-made machines.

The Short Story of Science: A Pocket Guide to Key Histories, Experiments, Theories, Instruments and Methods by Tom Jackson, Laurence King, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-913-94788-0.
A new introduction to the complete subject of science. Covering sixty fundamental experiments, from Archimedes’ investigations of buoyancy to the discovery of dark matter, and linking these to the key theories and methods, this book simplifies and explains all the crucial breakthroughs. Accessible and concise, generously illustrated throughout, and with all the essential information presented without jargon.

The Dawn of Language by Sverker Johansson, Quercus, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-41141-6.
Drawing on evidence from many fields, including archaeology, anthropology, neurology and linguistics, Sverker Johansson weaves disparate threads together to show how our human ancestors evolved into language users.

Medieval Marvels and Fictions in the Latin West and Islamic World by Michelle Karnes, The University of Chicago Press, £24 / US$30, pbk, ISBN 978-0-226-81974-7.
A cross-cultural study of magical phenomena in the Middle Ages. Marvels like enchanted rings and sorcerers’ stones were topics of fascination in the Middle Ages, not only in romance and travel literature but also in the period’s philosophical writing. Rather than constructions of belief accepted only by simple-minded people, Michelle Karnes shows that these spectacular wonders were near impossibilities that demanded scrutiny and investigation.  This is the first book to analyze a diverse set of writings on such wonders, comparing texts from the Latin West—including those written in English, French, Italian, and Castilian Spanish—with those written in Arabic as it works toward a unifying theory of marvels across different disciplines and cultures. Karnes tells a story about the parallels between Arabic and Latin thought, reminding us that experiences of the strange and the unfamiliar travel across a range of genres, spanning geographical and conceptual space and offering an ideal vantage point from which to understand intercultural exchange.  Karnes traverses this diverse archive, showing how imagination imbues marvels with their character and power, making them at once enigmatic, creative, and resonant. Skirting the distinction between the real and unreal, these marvels challenge readers to discover the highest capabilities of both nature and the human intellect.

Orwell and Empire by Douglas Kerr, Oxford University Press, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-1928-6409-3.
This is about all Orwell’s writings, fictional and non-fictional. It pays particular attention to work that derives directly from his Burmese years including the well-known narratives ‘A Hanging’ and ‘Shooting an Elephant’ and his first novel Burmese Days. It goes on to explore thetheme of empire throughout his work, through to Nineteen Eighty-Four and beyond, and charts the way his evolving views on class, race, gender, and authority were shaped by his experience in the East and the Anglo-Indian attitudes he had inherited.

Spain Is Different?: Historical Memory and the “Two Spains” in Turn-of-the-Millennium Spanish Apocalyptic Fictions by Dale Knickerbocker, University of Wales Press, £60 / US$82, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-83812-4.
A study of historical trauma and religious imagery in turn-of-the-century Spanish science fiction.  Apocalyptic science-fiction exploded around the world at the end of the twentieth century, hand-in-hand with naturalistic secularism. In Spain, however, science fiction paradoxically embraced biblical plots, characters, and imagery.  Drawing on critical theory, psychoanalysis, and biblical scholarship, Spain Is Different? explains this phenomenon through an analysis of the “Two Spains,” Spanish “difference,” and the “Pact of Silence.” Each collaborated to obscure accountable justice following the traumatic Civil War, and the resulting traumas manifest symbolically in these fictions.

Trafficking Data: How China is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty by Aynne Kokas, Oxford University Press, £21.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-197-62050-2.
A look at how technology firms in the two largest economies in the world, the United States and China, have exploited government policy (and the lack thereof) to gather information on citizens, putting US national security at risk. Kokas shows how US corporations’ influence on tech regulation paved the way for exploitative data gathering. Resolving this issue requires changing foundational values not just in the tech ecosystem, but in the relationship between industry and government.

World Mythology: A Very Short Introduction by David A. Leeming, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-197-54826-4.
This is organised around universal motifs: Creation, the Flood, the Hero Quest, the Trickster/Culture Hero, the Pantheons, the High God, and the Great Goddess. David Leeming compares examples of each motif from a variety of cultures--Greek, Egyptian, Norse, American Indian, African, Polynesian, Jewish, Christian, Hindu--treating them as reflections of the cultures that “dreamed” them and exposing their universal significance, creating a “world mythology.”

The World of Ice and Fire: The untold history of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, Voyager, £12.99, pbk, ISBN not provided
George R. R. Martin, in collaboration with Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson, has written a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, featuring the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead up to the events in the bestselling 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. Collected within this volume is the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers, including over 170 full-colour illustrations and maps, family trees for the Houses Stark, Lannister and Targaryen, and in-depth explanations of the history and culture of Westeros.

Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers by Paul Morland, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04599-4.
The future of both humanity and the planet depends on the shape of human population growth, the only aspect of our future that be confidently predicted. In ten thought-provoking chapters, Paul Morland explores ten illuminating trends that will determine that shape, from the fecundity rate of Singapore to the aging of the Japanese.  The great forces of population change – the balance of births, deaths and migrations – have made the world what it is today. They have determined which countries are super powers and which languish in relative obscurity, which economies top the international league tables and which are at best also-rans.  The same forces that have shaped our past and present are shaping our future. Illustrating this through ten illuminating indicators, from the birth-rate in Singapore (one) to the median age in Catalonia (forty-three), Paul Morland shows how demography is both a powerful and an under-appreciated lens through which to view the global transformations that are currently underway.  Tomorrow’s People ranges from the countries of West Africa where the tendency towards large families is combining with falling infant mortality to create the greatest population explosion ever witnessed, to the countries of East Asia and Southern Europe where generations of low birth rate and rising life expectancy are creating the oldest populations in history.  Morland explores the geographical movements of peoples that are already under way - portents for still larger migrations ahead - which are radically changing the cultural, ethnic and religious composition of many societies across the globe, and in their turn creating political reaction that can be observed from Brexit to the rise of Donald Trump.  Finally, he looks at the two underlying motors of change – remarkable rises in levels of education and burgeoning food production – which have made all these developments possible.

Heretic: The Many Lives of Jesus Christ and the Other Saviours of the Ancient World by Catherine Nixey, Picador, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-04035-7.
‘In the beginning was the Word,’ says the Gospel of St John, and this sentence – and the words of all four gospels – are central to the teachings of the Christian church. They have shaped Western art, literature and language, and the Western mind.  Yet in the years after the death of Christ there was not merely one word, nor any consensus as to who Jesus was or why he had mattered. Instead, there were many different Jesuses, among them the arrogant, aggressive Jesus who scorned his parents and killed and crippled those who opposed him, the Jesus who sold his twin into slavery and the Jesus who had someone crucified in his stead - then laughed.  More to the point, in the early years of the first millennium there were many other saviours, many sons of gods who healed the sick and cured the lame. Among them were Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who made the blind see; gentle, long-haired Apollonius, who raised the dead and Salmoxis, who promised his followers eternal life.  But as Christianity spread across the Mediterranean, these other saviours were pronounced heretical and they faded from view. Now, in Heretic, Catherine Nixey tells their story: it is a story of contingency, chance and plurality; it is a story about what might have been.

Dust: A History and a Future of Environmental Disaster by Jay Owens, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-36265-7.
Exploring dust as a method for seeing the world – from space dust to sandstorms, the domestic to the digital.  Four-and-a-half billion years ago, planet Earth was formed from a vast spinning nebula of cosmic dust, the detritus left over from the birth of the sun. Within the next hundred years, human life on swathes of the Earth’s surface will also end, in a haze of heat, drought and, again, dust. All of history is recorded in the dust we create: the pollution we make, the fires we start, the chemicals we use, the volcanoes that erupt.  Now, for the first time Dust will examine this substance and reveal its importance and the fascinating stories it can tell.

The Primacy of Doubt: From weather to quantum physics, how the science of uncertainty makes sense of our chaotic world by Timothy Palmer, Oxford University Press, £22.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-192-84359-3.
Covering a breathtaking range of topics—from climate change to the foundations of quantum physics, from economic modelling to conflict prediction, from free will to consciousness and spirituality – The Primacy of Doubt takes us on a unique journey through the science of uncertainty. Royal Society Research Professor Tim Palmer shows us how the geometry of chaos (that is, the profound fractal structures that are central to much of modern mathematics) not only provides the means to predict the world around us, it suggests new insights into some of the most astonishing aspects of our universe and ourselves.

About Writing by Gareth L. Powell, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-23469-7.
The essential, practical and accessible field guide to publishing.  This is the definitive field guide for aspiring authors who want encouragement and support in their writing, a reference guide to the publishing landscape and an entry-level text that isn’t intimidating.  This book is that aspiring writer’s best friend – written by an award-winning novelist who has walked the same road, and who shares tips, insights and top advice in an open, approachable way that’s always honest and inspiring.

Test Gods: Tragedy and Triumph in the New Space Race by Nicholas Schmidle, Penguin, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-15742-0.
An intimate portrait of the astronauts forging a new world of commercial space travel, drawing on astonishing access to the team at Virgin Galactic.

Still Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton, Voyager, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN not provided
From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself in his second iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well-respected names in science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture.  Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.  Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and has an enormous presence online.  In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication.

The Cosmic Oasis: The Remarkable Story of Earth’s Biosphere by Mark Williams & Jan Zalasiewicz, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-84587-4.
This examines life on Earth, from our earliest interactions with animals and plants to our absolute domination of biology. It follows our developing understanding of life’s origins, its remarkable complexity, and its interactions with the air, oceans and land. It also shows how patterns of diversity across the surface of the planet evolved, and how humans are now homogenising these, degrading both biodiversity and the space in which life can exist.

American Cities in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction by Robert Yeates, UCL Press, £25 / US$40, pbk, ISBN 978-1-800-08099-7.
This traces the image of urban ruins across twentieth- and twenty-first-century American media. Surveying pulp magazines, radio dramas, films, video games, and the transmedia franchise, Robert Yeates explores how the synergy of technological innovation and artistic vision created an increasingly immersive space to re-imagine the urban future through a series of medium-specifc case studies, Yeates offers provocative new readings of familiar works such as Blade Runner and The Walking Dead situated against a fresh history of ruined cities in American literature.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
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Forthcoming SF Books Forthcoming Fantasy Books Forthcoming Non-Fiction
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Summer 2022

General Science News

 

We will miss limiting global warming to under 1.5°C but have a chance of keeping it below 2°C.  A small international team have crunched the numbers from nations' pledges given at the Glasgow Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 summit 2020 to meet the Paris Climate Accord, 2015, at the COP21.  They conclude that limiting warming not only to ‘just below’ but to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius urgently requires policies and actions to bring about steep emission reductions this decade, aligned with mid-century global net-zero CO2 emissions. (See Meinshausen, M. et al. (2022) Realization of Paris Agreement pledges may limit warming just below 2°C. Nature, vol. 604, p304-9  and the review piece  Hausfather, Z. & Moore, F. C. (2022) Commitments could limit warming to below 2ºC. Nature, vol. 604, p247-8.) ++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Record surge in carbon dioxide
  - Keeping to 1.5°C will save 250 million by 3000AD
  - Species assemblages not just species could go extinct with climate change
  - We must totally decarbonise by 2050
  - How much will the Earth warm with more carbon dioxide?
  - UN Climate Change Panel (IPCC) releases 2014 impact assessment

W boson mass measurement casts doubt on the Standard Model.  Over the past 60 years, the standard model (SM) has established itself as the most successful theory of matter and fundamental interactions to date.  The W and Z bosons were not actually detected until 1983 (though the groundwork for predicting them began half a century earlier by Enrico Fermi and actually predicted in the 1960s) and they are responsible for mediating the weak interaction (which is behind radioactive decay for example).  Having said all this, there are tiny cracks in the standard model, so much so that back in the mid-2000s when we used to do end-of-year predictions our co-founding editor, physicist Graham Connor made the prediction of an SM re-think: specifically he said it will be, "new physics in elementary particles [that] will shake up the current symmetry group - just as soon as the new colliders get powered up."  This is what now seems to have begun to happen.
          W bosons are big boys weighing in at 80 times the mass of a proton or neutron. The standard model makes predictions as to the W boson's mass and so far measurements have been more or less in the ball park of predictions given experimental error of the equipment used. This 'more or less' bit has worried physicists as it could mean that SM is wrong.
          The Collider Detector at Fermilab team have now announced the results of a decades worth of measurements that they think is boson mass with an impressive precision of 117 parts per million (ppm) – twice as precise as previous estimates.  However this new estimate is a little heavier than predictions is in direct contention with the SM because it is heavier than the SM prediction by seven standard deviations.  But it could be that there are new particles or interactions to be found out there beyond the Standard Model. Among possible theories that could explain the discrepancy with the SM prediction is the theory of supersymmetry (SUSY) which could take us to physics beyond the standard model a sort of development of the 1970's supersymmetric standard model (though none of the many particles predicted by supersymmetry have been detected). This in turn has implications for things like string theory hence a theory of everything.  The High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider – an upgraded version of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will – come online later in this decade and this will shed light on the problem. (See CDF Collaboration (2022) High-precision measurement of the W boson mass with the CDF II detector. Science, vol. 376, p170-6  and the review piece  Campagnari, C. & Mulders, M. (2022) An upset to the standard model. Science, vol. 376, p136.)

Chernobyl radiation spikes as Russian forces occupy the site as part of their Ukraine invasion. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is the site of an internationally funded project to cover the damaged reactor with a weather-protecting arch. (The Russian-designed plant had exploded in 1986 due to some plant control details – that were classified by the Russians as secret – being kept from the operation staff.)  Radiation around the plant rose about 20-fold, at 9pm on 24th February, from about 3 microsieverts every hour (μSv/hr) to 65 μSv/hr which is about five times more than you would get on one transatlantic flight.  The rise was caused by heavy Russian military vehicles stirring contaminated soil in the 2,485 sq-mile (4,000 sq-km) exclusion zone surrounding the plant. (See Gill, V. (2022) Chernobyl: Radiation spike at nuclear plant seized by Russian forces. BBC News: Science & Environment. 25th February 2022.)

Driverless car artificial intelligence takes another leap forward. It can now perform on the race track and here even out-compete humans! It is one thing to drive a car on a civilian road and avoid other cars and pedestrians as well as obey the highway code. It is quite another to drive on a race track and aim to win, competing against rivals out to do the same. Here, the latest is that researchers – from Sony AI based in New York, Tokyo and Zurich – have developed an artificial intelligence (AI), GT Sophy, based on a modelled neural network and let it loose on the video game Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo is very realistic: it includes modelling the friction on front and back wheels and so, for example, it can replicate over- and under-steer going into and out of corners among other things. It is so realistic that professional racing drivers use it. Kazunori Yamauchi, even used the video game to find ways of tweaking his real racing car to overcome a recurring problem that he was having when taking a corner at the Nurburgring, a Grand Prix track in Germany that has the nickname 'The Green Hell'.
          Now, there have been AIs that can play Gran Turismo before. Indeed Audi TTS Shelley can do lap times comparable with human champions. However, such AIs rely on a computer model of racing physics. GT Sophy is different, its neural network enables it to be taught through practice and failure and more practice. It learns! (Technically, this is called deep reinforced learning.) Through this training process, GT Sophy learns to take different lines through the corners in response to different conditions. In one case, two human drivers attempted to block the preferred path of two GT Sophy cars, yet the AI succeeded in finding two different trajectories that overcame this block and allowed the AI’s cars to pass. The researchers say that such neural network AI capable of deep reinforced learning will have real-world impacts on collaborative robotics, swarms of aerial drones as well as, obviously, autonomous vehicles. (See Wurman, P. R. et al (2022) Outracing champion Gran Turismo drivers with deep reinforcement learning. Nature, vol. 602, p223-8  and the review article  Gerdes, J. C. (2022) Neural networks overtake humans in a racing game. Nature, vol. 602, p213-4.)

Battery-powered commercial passenger flight may be possible by the 2030s concludes review. A review paper published in Nature notes that developments have been steady even if there is a little way to go. 'Usable energy density' is defined as the energy in the fuel or battery multiplied by the efficiency of converting that energy into shaft power at cruise. Jet passenger planes need 600-800 Watt hours kg-1 and that this could be reached using batteries by 2030 with a further half decade for implementation. (See Viswanathan, V. et al (2020) The challenges and opportunities of battery-powered flight. Nature, vol. 601, p519-525.)

Aviation and shipping fuel can be created from air! Aviation and shipping currently contribute approximately 8% of total human generated carbon dioxide emissions, with growth in tourism and global trade projected to increase this further. Carbon-neutral transportation is feasible with electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries, but is challenging, if not impossible, for long-haul commercial travel, particularly air travel. A Swiss and German collaboration has reviewed the options and report on a device that captures water and carbon dioxide from air to convert it into aviation fuel.  Key to the device is a Solar reflector that concentrates energy on the carbon dioxide and water to create hydrogen and carbon monoxide but this is done independently (otherwise it would be an explosive mix). From here it is comparatively easy to make methanol or kerosene that can be used as fuel. In contrast to biofuels, which are limited by farmland availability, global jet fuel demand can be met by using less than 1% of the worldwide arid land: the system works in deserts which may be dry but still have water vapour in the air. However the cost for the fuel would be currently ten times that of conventional aviation but this would come down with mass production of the system possibly by 60% over 15 years if a major development programme was undertaken. (See Schappi, R. et al (2022) Drop-in fuels from sunlight and air. Nature, vol. 601, p63-8.)

New US fusion achievement is remarkable but commercial fusion still a way off.  Working at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, USA, a large team created a burning plasma using the hydrogen isotopes of deuterium (which can be extracted from seawater) and tritium (which can be made in a reactor). In a burning plasma, the particles produced when the nuclei fuse take over as the main source of plasma heating.  The experiment uses energy from 192 laser beams to quickly heat the interior of a hollow cylinder, generating X-rays. This cavity, known as a hohlraum, contains a spherical capsule holding the deuterium–tritium fuel. The have developed more efficient hohlraums than before to implode larger fusion targets compared with previous experiments. It remains unclear whether this research will lead to a viable future power source. But the goal of developing a fuel that mitigates the dangers of climate change, while enabling us all to enjoy the benefits of electricity, is clearly worth pursuing. (See Zylstra, A. B., et al (2022) Burning plasma achieved in inertial fusion. Nature, p542-548  and  Kritcher, A. L. (2022) Design of inertial fusion implosions reaching the burning plasma regime. Nature Physics https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-021-01485-9  as well as the review piece  Woolsey, N. (2022) Self-heating plasmas offer hope for fusion energy. Nature, vol. 601, p514-5.)
++++ News items similar to above elsewhere on this site include:-
  - A new type fusion discovered with quarks (not whole atoms)

New European fusion record set.  The Joint European Torus (JET) has doubled the record for the amount of energy made from fusing atoms. JET generated the highest sustained energy pulse ever created from fusion, more than doubling their own record from experiments performed in 1997. This suggests that the follow-up fusion-reactor project that uses the same technology and fuel mixture — the ambitious £126.3 billion (US$22-billion) ITER, scheduled to begin fusion experiments in 2025, may be the precursor to commercial fusion. JET’s tokamak produced 59 megajoules of energy over a fusion ‘pulse’ of 5 seconds — more than double the 21.7 megajoules released in 1997 over around 4 seconds. However, another way of measuring fusion success is the ratio (Q) of power out from fusion to power in to create the fusion plasma. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, USA, holds that record with a Q of 0.7. JET’s latest experiment sustained a Q of 0.33 for 5 seconds. ITER might possibly achieve a Q of about 10. (Gibney, E. (2022) Nuclear-fusion reactor smashes energy record. Nature, vol. 602 p371-2.)

A new type of superconductivity has been observed in a graphene bi-layer. Bilayer graphene has been the subject of hundreds of experimental studies since its original experimental description in 2006. A small collaboration of researchers based in the US and Japan have shown how a graphene bilayer becomes superconducting in the presence of suitably arranged electric and magnetic fields. Their experiments indicate a rarely found exotic state for the electrons, where superconductivity is particularly robust against large magnetic fields that usually destroy the effect. (See Zhou, H. et al (2022) Isospin magnetism and spin-polarized superconductivity in Bernal bilayer graphene. Science, vol. 375, p774-8.)

 

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 2022

Natural Science News

 

The dinosaurs went extinct during the northern hemisphere spring around about tea time. (OK, this last bit we made up but, hey, 7 o'clock, 11am elevenses, 4pm and 9pm are all tea times, so get over it…) Research on fossil fish bone growth bands (some fish have high growth in the summer with more food availability) indicates that the asteroid impact took place during the northern hemisphere spring. The fossils had asteroid impact glass spherules in their gills so it is known that these fish died as a result of the 60,000 mph impact, by a 7.5 mile (12km) wide asteroid before becoming fossils. This work, published in Nature, corroborates similar work on the same specimens published at the end of last year in Scientific Reports. (See During, M. A. D. et al. (2022) The Mesozoic terminated in boreal spring. Nature, vol. 602, doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04446-1  and  DePalma, R. E. et al. (2021) Seasonal calibration of the end cretaceous Chicxulub impact event. Scientific Reports, Vol. 11, 23704.)

Caribou genetics reveal echo of glacial (ice age) change. Looking at the genes of N. American caribou has revealed two distinct populations: northern and southern. The propensity to migrate is stronger in one population than the other and is thought to have evolved as a result of past glacial-interglacial changes. However, today the landscape is fragmented impeding migration. The researchers call for habitat protection along caribou migration paths as without it the migratory population will suffer. The researchers feel that their work and conclusions may be applicable to other migratory species. (See Cavedon, M. et al (2022) Genomic legacy of migration in endangered caribou. PLOS Genetics, vol. 18 (2), e1009974.)

The oldest Homo sapiens in Eastern Africa had been dated to 197 thousand years (kyr) but a new estimate suggests it is a lot older. The oldest remains at Omo-Kibish in Ethiopia, E. Africa. However a new analysis by an international team led by researchers based at Cambridge University, Great Britain, have obtained a new minimum age for the Omo fossils of around 233 kyr. Shifting the age of the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils in eastern Africa to before around 200 thousand years ago is consistent with independent, evidence for greater antiquity of the modern human lineage: more older human remains have been found outside of East Africa in Morocco. This new age estimate for East Africa chimes with most models for the evolution of modern humans, which estimate the origin of H. sapiens and its divergence from archaic humans at around 350–200 kya. (See Vidal, C. M., et al (2022) Age of the oldest known Homo sapiens from eastern Africa. Nature, vol. 601, p579-583.)
++++ Related news elsewhere on this site includes:
  - An ancestor species to Neanderthals and archaic human species in Europe and Asia has been discovered
  - An cousin species to Neanderthals and modern human species has been discovered in China
  - How humans eat meat before fire has now been revealed
  - Mouth bacteria reveal ancient, humans had a cooked starch diet
  - Denisovan and Neanderthal Y chromosomes have been sequenced
  - Neanderthals and Denisovans diverged between 381,000 and 473,000 years ago
  - Modern humans on Flores exhibit dwarfing genes
  - Modern humans had seΧ with Neanderthals 100,000 years ago
  - New Denisovan fossil indicates these early humans were more widespread and adapted to high altitude living
  - Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA found in modern Icelander genomes
  - New early human species found - Homo luzonensis
  - Genomes show modern humans first left Africa thousands of years earlier
  - Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago
  - Iηcest abounds among Neolithic Irish ruling classes genomic research reveals
  - Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans
  - Early Britons had dark skin and blue eyes ancient DNA reveals
  - First stone age tools now 71,000 years not 40,000 years ago
  - First humans in Australia arrived 10,000 years earlier than thought

Modern humans were in western Europe 10,000 years earlier than thought at roughly 54,000 years ago. The first settlements of modern humans in Europe have been constrained to ~45,000 to 43,000 years ago. Researchers now report hominin fossils from Grotte Mandrin in France that reveal the earliest known presence of modern humans in western Europe between 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. (See Slimak, L., et al (2022) Modern human incursion into Neanderthal territories 54,000 years ago at Mandrin, France. Science Advances, vol. 8, eabj9496.)

How sheep and goats may have been domesticated is illuminated by archaeology. A collaboration of a US, Dutch and Turkish archaeologists has looks at the age and gender of sheep and goat remains at a number of Turkish archaeological sites. They have dated the process to having begun about 10,400 years ago at the very end of the last glacial and the beginning of our warm interglacial, Holocene, time. They theorise that The earliest domestication stage simply involved capturing wild lambs and kids and growing them on site to supplement a broad-spectrum forager diet. Soon, low-level breeding began within the settlement along with catching and raising wild infants. By the end of the archaeological sequence, large numbers of animals were produced from captive herds, which gave rise to early domesticated forms. (Stiner, M. C. et al (2022) An endemic pathway to sheep and goat domestication at Asikli Hoyuk (Central Anatolia, Turkey. PNAS vol. 119 (4), e2110930119)
          Other related previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Dog domestication revealed by genomes
  - American dogs came across Bering Straights rather than with Atlantic Vikings
  - Rice became a domesticated crop multiple times over 9,000 years ago
  - Those domesticating the horse were descended from hunter-gatherers
  - The origins of domesticated cattle
  - Cattle were domesticated after humans left Africa
  - Cat domestication revealed

Bronze Age genomes reveal ancient influx into Britain? In recent decades it had been thought that the ancient colonisation of Britain had been gradual and not in specific episodes. Now, new research from 793 individuals dating from the Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age have revealed a sharp change in the genomes attributable to a large-scale migration of people from continental Europe to southern Britain between 1000 and 875 BC (3,020 to 2,895 years ago). It is thought that this is due to the westward movement of people originating from the Pontic–Caspian Steppe in Asia, across much of northern Europe found its way to Britain and Ireland. (See Patterson, N., et al (2022) Large-scale migration into Britain during the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Nature, vol. 601, p588-594  and the review piece  Bradley, D. G. (2022) Bronze Age genomes reveal migration to Britain. Nature, vol. 601, p512-3.)
++++ Related news elsewhere on this site includes: So exactly when did the Vikings establish a base in Canada?

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) antibiotic resistance arose before  the use of antibiotics. The discovery of antibiotics more than 80 years ago has led to considerable improvements in human and animal health. Although antibiotic resistance in environmental bacteria is ancient, resistance in human pathogens is thought to be a modern phenomenon that is driven by the medical use of antibiotics. However, a large international collaboration of biomedical researchers has demonstrated that lineages of MRSA appeared in European hedgehogs in the pre-antibiotic era. They also show that a hedgehog species produces two other natural antibiotics that provide a natural selective environment in which MRSA bacteria can evolve. That such antibiotic resistance evolved in a wild species speaks to need for policies to tackle antibiotic resistance need to cover both human medial as well as the farm animal use of antibiotics (the latter includes as growth promoters). (See Larsen, J. et al (2022) Emergence of methicillin resistance predates the clinical use of antibiotics. Nature, vol. 602, p135-141.)

There are 16 different types of sleep a large study reveals. Researchers from Japan analysed sleep movement data from over 100,000 people that were part of the UK Biobank study. This revealed 16 sleep types, including seven different insomnia-like states. Some sleep types were associated with those who had naps during the day and others with those who do night shift work. (See Katori, A. et al. (2022) The 103,200-arm acceleration dataset in the UK Biobank revealed a landscape of human sleep phenotypes. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., vol. 119 (12) e2116729119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2116729119)

Global disease for the over 70s. A 2022 follow-up to the Global Burden of Disease project of 2010 supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This follow-up found that since 1990 and all cause death rates have decreased for men and women. In 2019, adults aged 70 or more were found to live more than two years longer compared with 1990 life expectancy estimates. However, mortality rates due to falls increased between 1990 and 2019. The probability of death among people aged 70-90 decreased, mainly because of reductions in non-communicable diseases. Globally disability burden was largely driven by functional decline, vision and hearing loss, and symptoms of pain.  Other than longevity, the main difference between the wealthy Western Europeans and North Americans and the poor parts of SE Asia and Africa are that wealthy nations' elderly see more heart disease and poorer nations more intestinal infections. (See GBD 2019 Ageing Collaborators (2022) Global, regional, and national burden of diseases and injuries for adults 70 years and older: systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease 2019 Study. British Medical Journal, vol. 376, e068208)

 

…And finally this section, the season's SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 science primary research and news roundup.

The global death toll from SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 January (2022) was officially 5.5 million (subsequently revised to 5.94 m) but it could have been as high as 13 million or even over 20 million! The reason for this disparity is that in a normal (non-pandemic year) each country has a certain number of deaths. Yet during a pandemic, there are additional deaths (an excess) from the pandemic. Looking at this excess of deaths gives an estimate of the number of deaths caused by the pandemic and this figure is far greater that the official CoVID death-toll.  Officially, the global death toll hit 4 million in July 2021 but could have exceeded 8 million, it reached 5 million on 1st November 2021 and 5.5 million in January 2022. Model estimates suggest the reality could be between 13 and over 20 million.  The least excess deaths appear to be in wealthy countries. The greatest excess deaths appear to be in lower-middle income countries. The poorest nations have a worse-case modelled excess suggesting a real death rate of not quite 200 per 100,000 of the population. Surprisingly, this rate is slightly better than even wealthy nations. It looks like this is because poor nations are less mobile than wealthier nations and also have a younger population (being young confers CoVID resilience).  (See Adam, D. (2022) The effort to count the pandemic’s global death toll. Nature, vol. 601, p312-4.)

The total global death toll from SARS-CoV-2 has been revised with a best estimate of 18 million: mid-way between the upper and lower estimates above! Further to the previous item, March (2022) a large international collaboration – the COVID-19 Excess Mortality Collaborators – has looked in detail at the excess deaths that occurred in 2020 and 2021: that is the difference in the death rates in countries that took place in nations in those years compared to 11 years previously.  The best countries – those with fewest excess deaths per 100,000 of population – were Australasia and China, followed by Canada and Scandinavia with northern USA states and parts of tropical Africa and Arabia (the latter two groups had climate on their side).  The UK and France were middle performers along with the US state of California and Turkey.  Poor performers were the mid-, southern and SE states of the USA along with southern Africa, S. America, Belarus, Russia and India.
          In terms of CoVID death reporting (the difference between reporting and excess deaths) again Australia and New Zealand performed best (though low numbers of both case and death rate made this easier). The US, much of western Europe, Russia, and much of S. America were good middle ranking reporters. Poor reporting was noted in China (though this could have been state secrecy at work as opposed to poor monitoring itself), India, Pakistan, and much of Africa. (See CoVID-19 Excess Mortality Collaborators (2022) Estimating excess mortality due to the CoVID-19 pandemic: a systematic analysis of CoVID-19-related mortality, 2020–21. The Lancet. doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02796-3.)

CoVID vaccines are very effective, especially among the young and middle-aged, but less effective against the elderly. A research collaboration between the Universities of California and Texas has looked at 780,225 military veterans, some 2.7% of the US population. It showed that vaccination remained protective against death in persons who became infected during the Delta variant surge. However, protection declined fell over 8 months following vaccination demonstrating that a booster is required.  The vaccine was least effective with the elderly. Nonetheless, for over 65s the Janssen Ad26CoVS1 vaccine still conferred 52.2% protection against death,  Moderna vaccine 75.5%,  and  Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 70.1%.  Important, it is worth unpacking these figures a little. What this does not mean is that for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that 75.5% of the whole population of elderly veterans are protected from death but instead that 75.5% of the small proportion requiring intensive care are protected from death. So in England, mid-January 2022 some 90% of those in intensive care from CoVID were unvaccinated! Getting the vaccine is the most effective measure anyone can take to protect themselves.  The researchers' findings "support the conclusion that CoVID-19 vaccines remain the most important tool to prevent infection and death. Vaccines should be accompanied by additional measures for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, including masking, hand washing, and physical distancing. It is imperative to implement public health interventions, such as strategic testing for control of outbreaks, vaccine passports, employment-based vaccine mandates, vaccination campaigns for eligible children as well as adults, and consistent messaging from public health leadership in the face of increased risk of infection from the Delta and other emerging variants". (See Cohn, B. A., et al (2022) SARS-CoV-2 vaccine protection and deaths among US veterans during 2021. Science, vol. 375, p331–336.)

Vaccines reduce the incidence of long-CoVID. Long CoVID, also known as post CoVID-19 syndrome, has several definitions, but typically includes having persistent symptoms of CoVID-19, usually for weeks but potentially for months or years.  The UK Health Security Agency has looked at 15 studies. In addition to vaccines preventing CoVID, if the vaccinated do get CoVID then the symptoms are milder and there is a reduction in the incidence of long CoVID compared to the unvaccinated. (See UK Health Security Agency(2022) The effectiveness of vaccination against long CoVID: A rapid evidence briefing. UK Health Security Agency: London.)

Do we need an Omicron vaccine? The Omicron variant arose last autumn and by early this year (2022) quickly became the dominant variant. So far, it has the most mutations of any SARS-CoV2 variants. Would this make it able to get around current vaccines? Will we facer more variants? The answer to this last is certainly 'yes', but will these new variants see many new mutations or will there be some convergent evolution going on with similar, or even the same, mutations arising? While the latter does seem to be the case, it does not preclude the former. So the next question that question arises is whether or not we need a new Omicron vaccine? Developing a new vaccine would take a little time (possibly around half a year) and expense. Here there would be little point if yet another variant arose with different mutations.  However, the monitoring over the past half-year suggests that current vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection and, if infected, hospitalisation. They are even more effective in preventing death. The UK Health Security Agency on the 14th January (2022) reported that a third dose reduces the risk of hospitalisation due to Omicron by 92%. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the 21st January similarly said that a third shot prevented visits to the emergency room or urgent care with 82% effectiveness, and hospitalisation with 90% effectiveness, for people infected with Omicron.
          As said, current vaccines are even more protective against death. But the protection provided by a booster also wanes. Preliminary UK data UK data suggest that effectiveness against hospitalisation drops from 92% to 83% just 10 weeks after a third dose. So decision makers are mulling whether a fourth dose of an original vaccine will be useful, or whether boosting people with a vaccine designed specifically against Omicron makes sense? This raises yet another question: are we fated to have boosters every six months? Such a strategy would be unwelcome as outside of developed nations, the majority in poorer countries have yet to have their initial two shots. Consequently, work is being undertaken by a number of countries and research institutes into an Omicron vaccine and some are even trying to develop a pan-variant vaccine. So, for now, at least, it seems we do not need an Omicron specific vaccine, but it seems likely that in the future we will need a new vaccine. Unless, of course, new variants elicit a milder form of CoVID-19 so that eventually it becomes no worse than a bad cold and becomes endemic in the population. We will, without doubt, eventually find out. (In addition to the above links, see Waltz, E. (2022) Does the world need an Omicron vaccine? What researchers say. Nature, vol. 602, p192-3.)

UK pattern of the Omicron infections becomes clear. The Imperial College REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study looks at 100,000 PCR tests mailed out to the public in the first two weeks of the year (2022). About 4,000 (4%) were positive, the highest in the 17 REACT surveys so far conducted. All were of the Omicron (B.1.1.529 Botswana variant). Those at greatest risk seem to be hospital workers, those in large households especially if there a children and those working with children (such as school staff). Two out of every three (65%) of the infected volunteers said they had already previously tested positive for CoVID. Vaccination with booster does not entirely prevent infection but is effective at reducing severe CoVID and the need for hospitalisation. A REACT study of data collected in December (2021) revealed that omicron infection rates in England were lower among those vaccinated and among older adults who had a third booster vaccine. (See Elliott, P. et al. (2022) Rapid increase in Omicron infections in England during December 2021: REACT-1 study. Science, vol. 375, p 1406–1411.)

Move over Omicron sub-strain BA.1, here comes BA.2. A new sub-strain of the Omicron variant Africa / Botswana (scientifically called B.1.1.529) has arisen. It is spreading fast and is set to be the season's dominant strain. The Original strain of the variant, BA.1, is more infectious than the original SARS-CoV-2 but any resulting CoVID-19 is no worse. BA.2 seems to be a little more infective still. The preliminary indication is that vaccines still work against both strains of the Omicron variant.

Why is Omicron so infective? And why does it impart a milder form of CoVID-19? The answer to both questions relates to changes in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Omicron has the most mutations from the original SARS-CoV-2 than other major variants of concern and this means that those with natural immunity (from having been previously infected with an earlier variant of the virus), as opposed to vaccine-induced immunity, and this major change – 15 in the spike protein's receptor binding domain (RBD) – means that it can evade the body's defences. The RBD binds to a receptor called ACE2 on a person’s cells to gain entry. However the RBD need to flip from a ‘down’ to an ‘up’ position to bind to ACE2 and, ironically, one of Omicron's mutations impedes this flipping. This impediment combined with lung cells having lower amounts of ACE2 than cells in the upper respiratory tract, may be the reason why its CoVID is milder. (See Kwon, D. (2022) Omicron’s structure could help explain its global takeover. Nature, vol. 602, p373-4  and  Mannar, D. et al (2022) SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant: Antibody evasion and cryo-EM structure of spike protein–ACE2 complex. Science, vol. 375, p760-4.)

Deer can be a breeding ground for new variants. Free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have been found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. Deer in northeast Ohio in the USA and researchers found probable deer-to-deer transmission. They detected SARS-CoV-2 in more than one-third (129 out of 360, 35.8%) tested. A mutation was found that is rarely found in SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in the human population. This suggests that deer can be a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and one that generates new variants. ( See Hale, V. L. et al (2022) SARS-CoV-2 infection in free-ranging white-tailed deer. Nature, vol. 602, p481-6.)

The risk of heart disease from CoVID vaccines is very, very small. The first study of a large population, nearly half a million people, aged 12 years or older, between 1st October 2020 to 5th October 2021, has revealed that the risk of myocarditis or myopericarditis resulting in a hospital stay of more than a day, is very small indeed. While there is a statistically significant risk, it is tiny: for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine it is equivalent to 1.4 per 100,000 vaccinated individuals within 28 days of vaccination and for the Moderna vaccine 4.2 per100,000 people. That is a risk factor of 0.0014% and 0.0042% compared to a protection for under 65 year olds from intensive care hospitalisation of well over 90% and protection from death of over 99%. (See Husby, A., et al (2022) SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and myocarditis or myopericarditis: population based cohort study. British medical Journal, vol. 375, e068665. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-068665)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) list of key variants of concern now include among others:
  - Kent (scientifically called B.1.1.7) to be now known as Alpha
  - S. African (scientifically called B.1.351) to be now known as Beta
  - Brazilian (scientifically called P.1) to be now known as Gamma
  - Indian (scientifically called B.1.617) to be now known as Delta
  - Californian (scientifically called B.1.429, B.1.427 and CAL.20C) to be now known as Epsilon
  - Philippines (scientifically called P.3) to be now known as Theta
  - New York (scientifically called B.1.526) to be now known as Iota
  - Peru (scientifically called C.37) to be now known as Lambda
  - Colombia (scientifically called B.1.621) to be now known as Mu
  - S. Africa / Botswana (scientifically called B.1.1.529) to be now known as Omicron

Related SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 news, previously covered elsewhere on this site, includes:-
  - Britain embarks on an experiment ditching mask wearing
  - Third shot vaccine booster approved in Israel
  - Broad SARS-CoV-2 variant vaccine has initial trials in Manchester, Great Britain
  - Delta variant characteristics
  - New York's Iota variant contains key mutations found in other variants
  - Could SARS-CoV-2 have had two intermediate animal sources?
  - The closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 has been found in bats in northern Laos
  - A consortium has been created to map the epitope landscape of the SARS-CoV-2 spike
  - Africa has become a reservoir for CoVID-19 variants
  - New Ο (Greek Omicron) variant arises in Botswana
  - Omicron variant properties begin to be seen
  - Artificial intelligence helps tell border staff who to test for CoVID
  - Asia has become the dominant source of CoVID related plastic waste in the oceans
  - We may not know when the SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 pandemic ends!
  - Will we have to face a wave of more than one variant?
  - A small outbreak of pig coronavirus has been discovered to have taken place in Haiti in 2014/5
  - Global fatalities top 4 million but could have exceeded 8 million!
  - Boris Johnson's CoVID 'Freedom day' – Scientists had grave fears
  - UK's third wave of CoVID-19 sees young affected more
  - WHO investigation too slow and unclear about pandemic onset
  - A SARS-like virus has been detected in a horseshoe bat suggesting a potential SARS-like pool
  - Do coronavirus genes merge with human chromosomes
  - WHO changes the common name nomenclature for SARS-CoV-2 variants for snowflakes
  - Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant of SARS-CoV-2 more lethal
  - Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant of SARS-CoV-2 more transmittable
  - Some convergent evolution is taking place with SARS-CoV-2 variants
  - California variant has simple mutation similar to India variant
  - Both Oxford-Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines effective against the Kent (sorry 'Alpha') variant
  - India Delta variant B.1.617 now dominant in that country
  - India Delta variant B.1.617 diverges to two further two sub-variants
  - Why is the India Delta variant B.1.617 so successful?
  - Do vaccines work against the India Delta variant?
  - Pfizer-BioNTec vaccine is effective against the South African Beta SARS-CoV-2 variant
  - Novavax vaccine is effective against the S. African SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant
  - Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against the S. African SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant
  - WHO optimistic of vaccines to protect against current early-summer 2021 coronavirus variants
  - China's CoronaVac vaccine has been approved by WHO
  - ZyCoV-D is the first DNA vaccine against CoVID-19
  - Russia's Sputnik V (vaccine) may be safe, it is beginning to look
  - Can you mix vaccines?
  - The mRNA vaccines are safe for pregnant women
  - Breast feeding and SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-19 vaccines
  - Engineered immunoglobulin antibody promises to be an effective treatment
  - Over 100,000 lives had been saved in England due to the NHS vaccine roll-out
  - Overseas holidays were behind the 2020 autumnal wave of CoVID
  - Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
  - Those with asymptomatic CoVID-19 express as many viruses
  - People who have had CoVID-19 probably only need just one shot of two-shot vaccines
  - Vaccine trials tend to miss seχ detail
  - Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 could be long-term
  - Long CoVID affects 38% of those who have had CoVID and more of those hospitalised
  - Long CoVID affects children
  - Lead vaccine scientist receives Albert Award
  - Pros and cons of single shot vaccine strategy
  - More is being learnt about the new SARS-CoV-2 mutations
  - What makes the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant more transmissible?
  - China's Coronavac vaccine has a disappointing Brazil trial
  - The new Novavax vaccine has near 90% efficacy
  - Hospital worker study of the Pfizer vaccine shows strong results
  - Elderly protected by Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
  - Scottish phase IV trial reveals high vaccine effectiveness
  - Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective according to a US study
  - Britain's Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine seems to reduce, and possibly prevent, transmission
  - Pfizer vaccine may suppress transmission of SARS-CoV2
  - The US approves third vaccine
  - Fake Sputnik V vaccines received from Russia
  - Vaccines may reduce long-CoVID-19
  - The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine side effects are rare and minimal
  - European nations temporarily ban Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine
  - Is the planet heading for a second peak?
  - UK dexamethasone steroid treatment for CoVID-19 successful
  - Worry less about SARS-CoV2 contaminating surfaces; worry more about aerosol transmission
  - First vaccine deployed - BioNTech's BNT162b2
  - The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine
  - The Janssen Ad26CoVS1 vaccine
  - The AstraZeneca Oxford ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine
  - Russian SARS-CoV-2 vaccine data is suspicious
  - Vaccine unknowns
  - Life will not return to normal in spring 2021
  - An alternative to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine
  - Synchronising lockdowns
  - Masks not only reduce viral load…
  - Racoon dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2
  - Pet dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of owners
  - Minks can catch SARS-CoV-2 off of farm workers
  - A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged in the south-east of the UK
  - A second new variant
  - So, what is the situation with vaccines and the new strains?
  - Two viruses related to SARS-CoV-2 (not variants of SARS-CoV-2) have been discovered outside of China in horseshoe bats
  - The spikes from the SARS-CoV-2 virus have now been directly seen
  - No symptom transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is less significant than symptomatic
  - Kenya has a surprisingly low death toll for its infection rate
  - Those who have more Neanderthal genes are at greater risk of severe CoVID-19
  - Some people may be naturally immune to SARS-CoV-2 and so do not get severe CoVID-19
  - Why men are more prone to CoVID elucidated
  - Healthcare workers and their households are at greater risk from SARS-CoV-2
  - Restaurants are high risk places for the spread of SARS-CoV-2
  - Big data and a simple epidemic model estimates SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 transmission rates
  - Hydroxychloroquine use against SARS-CoV-2 does not work
  - CoVID-19 fatality risk factors confirmed
  - SARS-CoV-2 can be spread by aerosols
  - Review concludes that masks are necessary to reduce spread of SARS-CoV-2
  - Social distancing and school closures are key to lowering the spread of CoVID-19
  - Genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 reveals how the epidemic spread in New York, US
  - Cruise ship SARS-CoV-2 containment informs on the virus
  - The free market has failed to lay the groundwork for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine
  - A new, highly pathogenic, coronavirus has emerged in China
  - How Eastercon and Worldcon fandom survived CoVID-19 lockdown
  - SARS-CoV-2, CoVID-19 and the SF Community Briefing

 

 

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Summer 2022

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

Many thin filaments have been detected around the centre of the Galaxy. The Galaxy’s population of mysterious filaments that emit bright radio waves is at least ten times larger than previously realised. Radio astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh co-discovered the first of these, filaments of electrons travelling at nearly the speed of light, in the 1980s. He and colleagues have now had a detailed look at the galactic centre and have found nearly a thousand of these long, thin filaments. No one is sure as to what causes these filaments but, the Yusef-Zadeh team consider, they do not seem to be composed of supernova remnants. They speculate that they may be the after effects of past black hole activity near the Galactic centre. (Yusef-Zadeh, F. et al (2022) Statistical Properties of the Population of the Galactic Center Filaments: The Spectral Index and Equipartition Magnetic Field. Astrophysics Journal, 925, L18.)

A star has been detected 900 million years after the Big Bang. The detection was made using the Hubble Space Telescope and relied on an intervening galactic cluster gravitationally lensing the star's light which has a red shift of 6.2. Unlike previous lensed stars, the magnification and observed brightness (AB magnitude, 27.2) have remained roughly constant over 3.5 years of imaging and follow-up. The delensed absolute UV magnitude, -10 ± 2, of the star, "Earendel" ('morning star' in old English), is consistent with a star of mass greater than 50 times the mass of the Sun but it could be even larger. The light from the star has taken 12.9 billion years to reach us. The previous record-setter was a star called Icarus. Again, detected by Hubble, the light from this star took nine billion years to reach us. Confirmation of Earendel's spectral classification are forthcoming from approved observations with the James Webb Space Telescope which is designed to look at red shifted spectra. There is a small chance that it's a Population III star, the first generation of star that formed and made mostly of hydrogen. Such stars are thought to have been very massive and very short-lived who died in a huge supernova generating many of the heavier elements the Universe has today. (See Welch, B. et al (2022) A highly magnified star at redshift 6.2. Nature, vol. 603, p815-8.)

A key point in star evolution has revealed the history of the Milky Way. To understand how the Galaxy formed requires precision age dating of the stars that it contains. In the journal Nature, Maosheng Xiang and Hans-Walter Rix of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, using data from ESA's Gaia mission, have presented an analysis of the birth dates for nearly 250,000 stars in their sub-giant evolutionary phase (a key marker point in a star's evolution), when they can serve as precise stellar clocks. The researchers found that the individual ages of the stars ranged from about 1.5 billion to more than 13 billion years old. Tripling the age-dating precision for such a large stellar sample allowed the researchers to infer the sequence of events that initiated our Galaxy’s formation. Using this information, Xiang and Rix were able to determine that the oldest part of our Galaxy’s disk had already begun to form about 13 billion years ago, just 800 million years after the Big Bang, and that the formation of the inner Galactic halo was completed some 2 billion years later. (See Xiang, M. & Rix, H-R. (2022) A time-resolved picture of our Milky Way’s early formation history. Nature, vol. 603, p599-603  and the review piece  Beers, T. C. (2022) A stellar clock reveals the history of the Milky Way. Nature, vol. 603, p580-1.)

A new way of detecting gravity waves has been developed. No results so far. Gravity waves were first detected in 2016 by laser interferometery: a laser bounces along two right-angle lengths with the wave slightly changing one of the lengths causing interference in the lasers' brightness. The new method is being developed by a large team of astronomers who are measuring the precise timing of pulsars. The idea is that pulsars are dotted about the Galaxy and as a gravity wave passes between them and the Earth, so the distance to the pulsar from the Earth changes and this shows up as a brief change in the pulsars rate of timing. By seeing how other pulsars are affected, it would be possible to calculate from where the gravity wave originated. Many pulsars are also needed so as to confirm that a brief, small change in pulsar frequency was not an anomaly but a real effect. So far no gravity waves have been detected, but continued, close monitoring of many pulsars, establishing baseline accuracy for each pulsar, over time is thought to likely reveal something. One advantage of this new method is that it should be able to measure gravity waves with a long period (months and years) whereas ground-based interferometery can only detect gravity waves with a period of milliseconds. (Antoniadis, J. et al (2022) The International Pulsar Timing Array second data release: Search for an isotropic gravitational wave background. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 510, p4,873-4,887.)

Another rare triple star system found. Binary star systems are quite common, indeed, it may be that half or more of all stars in the Galaxy are in binary systems. However triple star systems are comparatively rare: only one in ten of star systems are triples. This new one has been found by citizen science: average citizens who volunteer to log online to trawl through astronomical data. This citizen science project consists of 30,000 people looking at NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite data. This new system, TIC 470710327, consists of a binary orbited by another very large star. It is thought that in the future the mass from the central two stars will transfer to the outer big star.  The two central stars will merge. Finally, the outer big star will go supernova. (See Eisner, N. L. et al (2022) Planet Hunters TESS IV: a massive, compact hierarchical triple star system TIC 470710327. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 511 (4) 4710/6540660.)

The Local Bubble has been explained. Researchers using the European Space Telescope (launched December 2019) and a computer model with data from ESA's Gaia have come up with an explanation for our part of the Galaxy, a low density region surrounded by a shell of gas and clusters of very young stars. Initially formed some 14 million years ago, this local bubble is about a thousand light years across with older stars that have wandered into it, including our Sun (entering it about 5 million years ago). The Local Bubble formed when a few stars (possibly between ten and twenty) went supernova pushing out a shell of gas into the interstellar, galactic medium. This thin shell of gas today in places sees clusters of very young stars. Today, at one point, it seems to be touching another, similar type of, bubble. It could be that such bubbles are common in galaxies. This is all evidence in support of the theory that the shock wave and dust from supernova trigger star formation. (See Zucker, C., et al (2022) Star formation near the Sun is driven by expansion of the Local Bubble. Nature, vol. 601, p334-337.

A very large exo-planet has been found around a very small star. Two things are thought: i) it is thought that planets are larger when very young with an extensive hydrogen and light gas envelope and this is then lost  and  ii) small planets orbit small stars and larger planets orbit larger stars.  An international collaboration of astronomers have now found a very large planet orbiting a very small and very young star. Using TESS data, they have found a large planet orbiting a small, red dwarf once every 27 days. Because this is a very young star (only 11 million years old), this is a young planet and so is unusually large. The astronomers predict that this planet will shed a lot of its atmosphere over millions of year and become smaller, like the planets seen around other, older red dwarfs. Most red dwarfs are old as they have very long lifetimes: much longer than our Sun's. (Mann, A. W. et al. (2022) TESS Hunt for Young and Maturing Exoplanets (THYME). VI. An 11Myr Giant Planet Transiting a Very-low-mass Star in Lower Centaurus Crux. The Astronomical Journal, vol. 163, 156.)

A new planet has been detected around the nearest star to our Sun.  Data collected at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) by an international collaboration of mainly European astronomers has revealed a small planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.  Proxima Centauri is a small star, a long-lived and cool red dwarf located some 4.26 light years away from SF² Concatenation's mission control.  But first some history.
          Already a near-Earth-massed planet (thought to be 1.3 Earth masses) has already been detected orbiting close to the star with a period of 11.2 days: Proxima B. This is in the star's habitable zone! However, it is probably (but not definitely) tidally locked with one side permanently facing its sun, Proxima Centauri.  Also, Proxima Centauri is a flare star prone to periodic outbursts. This would be problematic, but not impossible, for life.
There is also a long-period planet – Proxima C with an orbital period of close to 5 years.  It is about as far from the Proxima Centauri star as Mars is from the Sun but, because Proxima Centauri star is cooler than the Sun, Proxima C will be too cold for life. It is also far bigger at about 7 Earth masses.
          This brings us up to date. A planet has just been detected even closer to the star with an orbital period of 5.12 days: Proxima D.  It has a mass of 0.26 Earths: this makes it about twice the mass of Mars. However being closer to the star this planet would be too warm for life. (See Faria, J. P. et al (2022) A candidate short-period sub-Earth orbiting Proxima Centauri. Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol 658, A115.)
          If you want more on this story then see the 20 minute episode of PBS Space Time here.  At just four light years away, Proxima Centauri is our closest solar neighbour. The recent discovery of the new exoplanet Proxima D, has reopened the discussion of whether the Proxima system is our best chance at reaching another Earth. How did we discover Proxima D? How do we know what the conditions are on planets so far away?
++++  Other related news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:
  – New Horizon's space probe snaps pic of Proxima Centauri and heralds a new development in astronomy
  – Breakthrough Starshot to go 4.26 light years in 20 years
  – An alien signal from Proxima turns out not to be alien

A hot Jupiter exo-planet has been found where it rains metal.  Hot Jupiters are Jupiter-like giant gas planets on close orbits around their parent stars, separated by only a few stellar diameters. Due to their proximity, the irradiation from the star heats the planet to several hundred to a few thousand degrees Celsius. Of the almost 5,000 currently known exoplanets, more than 300 are such hot Jupiters.  Using the Hubble Space Telescope, an international collaboration of astronomers have investigated the atmospheric properties of the hot Jupiter WASP-121b some 855 light-years away.  Like all hot Jupiters, WASP-121b’s rotation is tidally locked to its orbit around its parent star. So, one 30-hour orbit around the star requires the same amount of time as the planet needs to rotate once on its axis. As a result, the hemisphere pointing towards the star always suffers the roasting hot stellar surface. Likewise, the cooler night side constantly faces the cold and dark space. On the side of the planet facing the central star, the upper atmosphere becomes as hot as about 3,000 degrees Celsius. At such temperatures, the water begins to glow, and many of the molecules even break down into their atomic components. The Hubble data also reveal that the temperature drops by approximately 1,500 degrees Celsius on the night side hemisphere. This extreme temperature difference between the two hemispheres gives rise to strong winds that sweep around the entire planet from west to east, dragging the disrupted water molecules along. Eventually, they reach the night side. The lower temperatures allow the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to recombine, forming water vapour again before being blown back around to the dayside and the cycle repeats. Temperatures never drop low enough for water clouds to form throughout the cycle, let alone rain.  Instead of water, clouds on WASP-121b mainly consist of metals such as iron, magnesium, chromium and vanadium. Previous observations have revealed the spectral signals of these metals as gases on the hot dayside. The new Hubble data suggests that temperatures drop low enough for the metals to condense into clouds on the nightside. The same eastward flowing winds that carry the water vapour across the nightside would also blow these metal clouds back around to the dayside, where they again evaporate. (See Mikal-Evans, T. et al. (2022) Diurnal variations in the stratosphere of the ultrahot giant exoplanet WASP-121b. Nature Astronomy, DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01592-w.)  ++++  Other exoplanet news previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:
  - Small exoplanet, as well as a possibly habitable super-Earth, detected
  - How many alien worlds could detect our Earth?
  - Exoplanet survives red giant phase
  - How many Solar system type planetary systems are there?
  - Quiet star holds out prospect for life near Earth
  - European Space Agency's CHEOPS launched to study exoplanets
  - NASA's TESS finds exoplanet in habitable zone
  - NASA's TESS finds its first planet orbiting two suns
  - Two more twin sun planetary systems found
  - Rocky planets with the composition similar to Earth and Mars are common in the Galaxy a new type of analysis reveals
  - Water detected on an exo-planet large analogue of Earth
  - 2019 and the number of exoplanets discovered tops 4,000!
  - A new technique probes atmosphere of exoplanet
  - European satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres
  - The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launch
  – A close, Earth-sized planet (Ross-128b) has been found
  - Seven near Earth-sized planets found in one system
  - Most Earth-like planets may be water worlds
  - Earth's fate glimpsed
  - An Earth-like exo-planet has been detected
  - Exoplanet reflected light elucidated
  - Kepler has now detected over 1,000 exoplanets and one could be an Earth twin
  - and Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star.
  - Winston Churchill wrote about the possibility of alien life: documents found

The largest comet so far has been detected.  Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was first detected some 29 astronomical units (au) from the Sun (the Earth by definition is 1au from the Sun and Neptune orbits at about 30au out) but looking back at earlier photographs of the same part of the sky astronomers found that it could be seen as far away as 34au.  French astronomers have now used the Atacama Large Millimetre Array to determine its size. It has a diameter of about 85 miles (about 137km) and this is almost twice as large as comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.  Bernardinelli-Bernstein has a distant, three-million-year orbit and will not come as close as the inner Solar System. Its closest approach to the Sun will be just within 11au (Saturn orbits at about 10au) that will take place on 21st January 2031.  Its orbit suggests that it comes from 20,200au away or about 0.3 light years out (this is way beyond Pluto whose maximum distance is over 49au and is almost twice the distance between Proxima Centauri and the Alpha Centauri binary pair it orbits) and the comet has an orbital period of 2.9 million years.  Already it is emitting volatiles and dust.  At the moment the best radio telescope pictures show a slightly elongated blob a dozen pixels across but as it comes closer optical telescopic images will be possible.  Even so, it can be seen from its spectrum that its colour is typical of other Oort Cloud (deep space) comets.  (See Lellouch, E. et al. (2022) Size and albedo of the largest detected Oort-cloud object: Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein). Astronomy & Astrophysics, 659, L1. doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202243090.)

The James Webb space telescope has reached its parking orbit and successfully deployed its Sun-shield and telescope mirrors. The James Webb Space Telescope was launched 25th December (2021), deploying its shield and telescope mirrors along the way to its L2 (Lagrange point 2) parking orbit, which it reached shortly after mid-January. And there is more good news, but first some background…
          Lagrange points are semi-stable orbital points. L1 lies around one and a half million kilometres from the Earth towards the Sun. It is close enough to the Earth to be dragged by our planet in its orbit about the Sun, but held in place due to the gravitational attraction of the Sun. L2 is about one and a half million kilometres from the Earth away from the Sun. It too is dragged by the Earth in its orbit about the Sun, but the centrifugal reaction from its orbit about the Sun keeps it distant from the Earth: the Earth gravity centripetal and Sun orbit centrifugal forces are in balance.  That then is the theory, but in practice the points are semi-stable and this means that if James Webb drifts too far from L2 then it can suddenly leave L2. To keep it at L2, small thrusters are occasionally – about once every three weeks – very briefly fired to keep it on station in an elliptical pattern about L2. It can stay on station as long as it has fuel. It does have the capability for being refuelled but there is currently no craft designed to do this. However, it was hoped that one might be developed before its estimated 10-year supply of fuel ran out…
          The good news is this, ESA's Ariane that launched James Webb, sent it on such a precise trajectory to L2 that very little fuel was needed, hence used, for mid-course correction. This means that there is enough fuel still onboard James Webb to almost double its mission lifetime! Finally, mid-March the first test pictures were taken of a star in our galaxy. The picture was crisp and clear.

ESA' and Roscosmos ExoMars Rover is now on hold due to Ukraine invasion. The ExoMars rover is the second part of ESA's ExoMars mission with Russia's Roscosmos.  Having been developed in 2005, plans for the ExoMars mission were finalised nearly a decade ago in 2013.  The first part of ExoMars was the Trace Gas Orbiter and lander descent radar and software testing in 2016.  Russia was providing the Proton rockets for both the ExoMars missions as well as providing the second mission's landing system. ESA was providing the first mission's Trace Gas Orbiter and the second mission's rover (Rosalind Franklin being built by Britain's Eurobus).  The second part of the ExoMars was delayed, in no small part due to the 2019 SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 pandemic until the next two-year Mars-Earth alignment.  But on 24th February, Russia's invasion of Ukraine put an end to ESA's cooperative ventures with Roscosmos.  At the moment the Rosalind Franklin will be kept in safe storage.  It may be possible for ESA to partner with the US but the US had originally been ESA's ExoMars partner who dropped out for financial reasons (largely connected with James Webb Space Telescope cost overruns.  Yet with the space telescope's recent successful launch and so far successful deployment, it may be that NASA might come back onboard.  A rocket for launch in 2024 would be possible, but the descent and landing system could not be developed in that time.  This means that the mission is likely to be delayed until closer to the decade's end.  It also means that ESA is likely to be pipped to the post in finding clues for putative Martian life: the lander was designed to drill 2m into the ground to look for signs of life.  Russia's financial contribution to the mission is unknown but ESA's cost so far is £845,000 €1 billion, of which Britain's contribution has been £250m (€350 million).

A massive Moon strike could explain why its near-side and far-side are so different. Even the minerals on the near and far side are different: why does not the far-side have the lava seas seen on the near-side? One theory has it that a huge object smashed into the early Moon; possibly its South Pole and the Aitken Basin. Whatever the impact researchers at Macau University have modelled what a huge impact would do. Back then the Moon would have had a thin crust and a molten interior. The impact would have punched through the crust and made the molten interior even hotter and more fluid. Gravitational influences from its orbit about the Earth – and remember, in its early days the Moon orbited closer to the Earth – would have caused a more fluid type of magma to migrate to the near side where it erupted onto the surface. (See
++++  Related news previously covered elsewhere on this site included:
  - China's Chang'e-5 Moon samples reveal a puzzle   - China has landed its 'Jade Rabbit' Lunar rover
  - China has landed a probe on the far side of the Moon
  - China has Moon mission - Chang'e-5

Planning permission given to Shetland spaceport.  Further to last season's news that approval had been given for a spaceport at SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Isle, planning permission has been given for three rocket pads to be built at the Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst. Now what is needed is a need a licence from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority. This will take, at minimum, six months for the spaceport to achieve from application; and nine months for the rocket operator. However it is likely that the spaceport will not operate all year around; there may be a month's pause after April during the bird migration season. The spaceport will have a control centre hundreds of miles away at Harwell in Oxfordshire.
          Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site includes:-
  - Britain has another approved spaceport
  - Britain's role in space examined and a spaceport is needed
  - Britain's first domestic spaceport announced!
  - Britain's first spaceport approved

 

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 2022

Science & Science Fiction Interface

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

 

An SF film was quoted by the COP president. COP26 (Conference of the Parties 26) President Alok Sharma has warned that progress made during the summit at the end of last year (2021) is at risk of "withering on the vine". But unless the commitments made are turned into action this year, the chances of keeping global temperatures in check will be lost. Quoting from the SF satirical film, Don't Look Up, he said this was no time to "sit tight and assess". His focus for the UK COP presidency year is delivery. The incoming Egyptian President of COP will be Egypt's Sameh Shoukry. Egypt will host COP27 in November.
++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - Record surge in carbon dioxide
  - Keeping to 1.5°C will save 250 million by 3000AD
  - Species assemblages not just species could go extinct with climate change
  - We must totally decarbonise by 2050
  - How much will the Earth warm with more carbon dioxide?
  - UN Climate Change Panel (IPCC) releases 2014 impact assessment

Elon Musk SpaceX rocket was thought to be on collision a course with Moon, but it seems it was a China rocket part. The Falcon 9 booster was launched in 2015 but after completing its mission, it did not have enough fuel to return towards Earth and instead remained in space. Since 2015 the rocket has been pulled by different gravitational forces of the Earth, Moon and Sun, making its path somewhat "chaotic". However a re-calculation of the rocket's trajectory suggests that it actually is probably a Chinese rocket stage launched for a lunar mission in 2014: part of China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission. The collision happened on 4th March when the rocket – basically a four-tonne empty metal tank, with a rocket engine on the back – at 5,000 miles an hour hit the Moon.
++++ Related stories previously covered elsewhere on this site include:-
  - First all-civilian crew orbits the Earth
  - First fully crewed Virgin Galactic trip to the edge of space has been undertaken
  - Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went to space in Blue Origin's New Shepherd rocket
  - The Starliner test capsule fails to dock at the International Space Station
  - Dragon capsule successfully delivers human dummy to the International Space Station

Fictional science is harmful; scientific misinformation can kill. A Royal Society report outlines the problem and makes recommendations. The report is called The Online Information Environment: Understanding how the internet shapes people’s engagement with scientific information, I notes that the internet has transformed the way people consume, produce, and disseminate information about the world. But it has been a shift away from limited, gate-kept, and pre-scheduled content has democratised access to knowledge though has driven societal progress. The unlimited volume of content, however, means that capturing attention in the online information environment is difficult and highly competitive. This heightened competition for attention presents a challenge for those who wish to communicate trustworthy information to help guide important decisions. The poor navigation or, even, active exploitation of this environment by prominent public figures and political leaders has, on many occasions, led to detrimental advice being disseminated leading to the public believing in falsehoods. For example, even with the fairly savvy British population, 5% are fearful of having a CoVID vaccine.
          The report recommends that the government must take the issue seriously and combat online misinformation. It also calls on major platforms and governments not to solely rely on content removal to sort the issue out. Methods that are use to drive information – such as click bait – need to be addressed. Online platforms and scientific authorities should consider designing interventions for countering misinformation on private messaging platforms. Finally, lifelong, nationwide, information literacy initiatives are required.

People have more faith in scientists than religious leaders. Research based on a survey of 10,195 from 24 countries has been revealing. People were asked to rank the credibility of pompous but vacuous statements – meaningless verbiage such as one beginning: “We are being called to explore the cosmos itself as an interface between faith and empathy”.  Some were allegedly made by scientists and others by religious leaders that were called 'spiritual gurus' so as not to link them with a specific religion. People were asked to score how credible the statements seemed. The researchers found that across all 24 countries and all levels of religiosity, scientists held greater authority than spiritual gurus. However the most religious of people do seem to rate spiritual gurus about as credible as scientists. Nonetheless, overall their findings suggest that irrespective of one’s religious worldview, across cultures science is a powerful and universal heuristic that signals the reliability of information. (See Hoogeveen, S. et al (2022) The Einstein effect provides global evidence for scientific source credibility effects and the influence of religiosity. Nature Human Behaviour, doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01273-8.)

Anming Hu, accused of espionage, has been re-instated at the University of Tennessee. Science fiction sees things made up for entertainment but when government agencies, facilitated by an employing university, invent false claims it can ruin lives.  This is what almost happened to Anming Hu, a Chinese-Canadian who had worked as an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee working on nanotechnology.  He was arrested in February, 2020, and charged with fraud under a 2011 law the Donald Trump administration used to target professors and researchers working at American universities as part of the 'China Initiative' on combating economic espionage. Hu was accused of not disclosing his association with a Chinese university; in September, 2021 the trial resulted in acquittal, so Hu was cleared of all charges.  Following the mistrial, he was again prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice, which resulted in a second defeat for the Justice Department when he was acquitted. It was revealed during the trial that the University of Tennessee aided the FBI in their investigation by handing over Hu's university documents without a warrant, concealing the investigation from him, misleading NASA, and firing him the moment he was arrested.  The university – failing to follow its own disciplinary procedure – suspended Hu without pay and the federal government revoked his work authorization.  In October, 2021, the University offered to reinstate Hu with some back pay, research funding, and university support to regain his work visa. His reinstatement was finalised effective February, 2022, but the university has not yet apologised to him.. ( See wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_of_Anming_Hu and Gilbert, N. (2022) ‘I lost two years of my life’: US scientist falsely accused of hiding ties to china speaks out. Nature, vol. 603, p371-2.)

 

And to finally round off the Science & SF Interface subsection, here are a couple of Isaac Arthur short videos…

Telepathy: could science give it to us? Telepathy and other psychic abilities have often been investigated by science, but could the future offer humanity such talents, and is science they key to unlocking or creating them?   Isaac Arthur's Futures discusses in this 25 minute video.

Civilisations at the End of Time: The Big Rip. Current science and cosmology tell us the Universe will slowly die and ebb away countless trillions of trillions of years from now, but another model - the Big Rip - says that end may come far sooner in a few billion years, ripped apart by dark energy. Could civilisations survive the Universe itself being torn apart at the atomic scale?  Isaac Arthur's Futures discusses in a slightly technical 38 minute video.

 

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 2022

Rest In Peace

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

 

Ann Arensberg, the US publisher and author, has died aged 84. In her early career she worked for Viking Press. Her books include Sister Wolf (1980) and Incubus (1999).

Christine Ashby, the Australian SF fan, has died aged 70. She was the 1976 Down Under Fan Fund (DUFF) delegate to that year's Worldcon.

Brian Augustyn, the US comic writer and editor, has died aged 67. His work has included that on characters such as Batman and The Flash for DC comics. He worked as story editor for publisher Red Giant Entertainment and their Giant-Size Comics line of free print comic book titles which debuted in 2014.

Wiktor Bukato, the Polish publisher and fan, has died. He was a translator and publisher specialising in SF/F, who received the Karel award (for the best translator) from World SF in 1987 and at that year's Worldcon (Brighton, Great Britain) received a Big Heart Award. Notably he went on to chair the European Science Fiction Society (ESFS) from 1991-1993 and was Vice-Chair 1993-4/5. This was an important period in ESFS history – arguably its golden age: 1992 saw the first German Eurocon following East-West Germany reunification; 1993 saw Britain's second Eurocon notable held in Jersey between the UK and France and so was accessible to continental fans by car ferry; and the 1994 Eurocon, the first held in Romania (incidentally at which SF² Concatenation garnered its first Eurocon Award).

Bruce Burn , the Brit born New Zealand fan has died aged 84. He was a founding member (and Treasurer) of the Wellington SF Circle. His paraFANalia is now archived on eFanzines.com.

Veronica Carlson , the British born US resident, actress, had died aged 77. She is best known for such Hammer films as Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and The Horror of Frankenstein (1970). She retired to the US. She emerged from a 24 year retirement to star in the 2019 film House of the Gorgon, alongside fellow Hammer film stars Caroline Munro, Martine Beswick, and Christopher Neame.

Thomas Caskey, the US molecular and human geneticist, has died aged 83. His discovery of trinucleotide repeats and their role in dynamic mutations helped overturn a century’s worth of assumptions about genetic inheritance. He studied chemistry at the University of South Carolina for 2 years before transferring into the Duke University School of Medicine. In 1965 he joined geneticist Marshall Nirenberg’s lab at the National Institutes of Health. He demonstrated the universality of the genetic code from bacteria through mammals – that all life uses the same dictionary of triplet DNA pairs to code for amino acids – and identified the proteins that terminate translation of mRNA. With regard to trinucleotide repeats, in 1991, three teams (one of which included Tom) showed that fragile X syndrome was caused by an unstable CGG repeat. In 2006, he returned to Houston and founded the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and in 2011 he returned to Baylor and launched one of the first programmes in precision medicine. He performed whole-genome sequencing on 1,190 volunteers, identifying risk variants that he used to guide interventions to forestall the development of disease.

J. Brian Clarke , the Canadian SF writer has died aged 93. he had a score of short stories published and authored two novels The Expediter (1990) and Alphanauts (2006). In addition to being an SFWA member and that of SF Canada, he was a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Rick Cook, the US writer, has died aged 77. His fact article “The Long Stern Case: A Speculative Exercise” won the Analog Readers Poll in 1987. He was the author of the 'Wizardry' series of novels that started with Wizard’s Bane (1989).

Sir David Cox FRS FRSE, the British statistician, has died aged 97. His wide-ranging contributions included introducing logistic regression, the proportional hazards model and the Cox process, a point process named after him. In 1990, he won the Kettering Prize and Gold Medal for Cancer Research for "the development of the Proportional Hazard Regression Model." In 2010 he was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society "for his seminal contributions to the theory and applications of statistics." In 2016 he was also the first recipient of the International Prize in Statistics. Beginning with Planning of Experiments (1958), he was the author or editor of over a score of books. Published in his honour was Celebrating Statistics: Papers in honour of Sir David Cox on his 80th birthday

Barry Cryer OBE, the British comedy writer, has died aged 86. Though not overtly SFnal – at best some of his work, being surreal, was genre-adjacent – he was a national treasure. He worked with: Danny La Rue, David Frost, Morecambe and Wise, The Goodies; Rory Bremner, Frankie Howard, Russ Abbot, Kenny Everett, The Two Ronnies, Dick Emery and Monty Python among many others. For many years he was a regular on BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

Paul Farmer, the US clinician and anthropologist, has died aged 62. His career was largely spent championing affordable health care in low-income nations. He was a co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), a non-profit organization that provides free medical care in low-income countries including Haiti, Peru and Rwanda, he used the group’s results to change global guidelines on how to treat tuberculosis and HIV. During CoVID-19 pandemic, he denounced monopolies of the CoVID vaccine that accounted for the low vaccination rates in poor countries. To give you an idea of his activism, he once smuggled over US$90,000 (£71,000) tuberculosis medicines out of a US hospital to Peru. (Later a PIH donor reimbursed the hospital.) He was also acutely aware of health inequalities within the USA.

Lani Forbes, the US juvenile fantasy author, has died aged 35. Her first book, The Seventh Sun, was published in 2020; the follow-up book in the series, The Jade Bones, came out the following year. The final book in her trilogy, The Obsidian Butterfly, is just out. Her work garnered her a Realm Award short-listing and also some wins: Best Debut, Best Young Adult and Best Epic Fantasy.. (Realm Awards being given for speculative fiction written by Christians.) She was a psychology graduate and worked as a counsellor. She died following a nie-month battle with neuroendocrine cancer.

Angélica Gorodischer, the Argentinean author, has died aged 93. She is arguably best known for her 'Kalpa Imperial' series in which Trafalgar Medrano recounts his tour of other-worldy civilisations. Around a score of her works have yet to be translated into English but the Kalpa collection of shorts duology – La Casa del Poder [The House of Power] and El Imperio Más Vasto [The Greatest Empire] have been translated together by Ursula K Le Guin as Kalpa Imperial (2003).  Angélica Gorodischer received a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 2011.

Ron Goulart, the US writer, has died a day after his 89th birthday. A science fiction and mystery author, he published more than 180 books under his own and other different names, including the house names Kenneth Robeson and Con Steffanson, and personal pseudonyms such as Chad Calhoun, R T Edwards, Ian R Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S Shawn, Joseph Silva and William Shatner (for his 'Tek War' comics). He was the author of the 'Barnum system' series of space opera novels (1970 – 1988) that include The Fire Eater (1970) and Spacehawk Inc. (1972) He also wrote Vampirella novels including Bloodstalk (1975) and Deadwalk (1976). In 1966 he won a Nebula for his short 'Calling Dr. Clockwork'. He was short-listed for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his science fiction novel, After Things Fell Apart (1971). He also won a Pat Terry Award for Humour in Science Fiction.

François Gros , the French molecular biologist, has died aged 96. He studied RNA's role and was the first to name ‘messenger RNA’ (mRNA). He and colleagues showed that messenger RNA provides a template for constructing protein sequences. The mRNA vaccines that have played a key part in controlling the coronavirus epidemic are a by-product of the leap in understanding that followed this discovery. He also spent time championing science policy concerns and this work undoubtedly helped position France as one of the world's leading centres for molecular biology by the end of the 20th century.

Robert Grubbs, the US chemist, has died aged 79. He is noted for his work on catalysts. Following post doc work on organometallic chemistry at Stanford U., he began a career at Michigan State U. before moving to CalTech in Pasadena. He created the first generation alkylidene-based ruthenium catalysts. These are used in the synthesis of organic molecules containing carbon-carbon double bonds. He shared the 2005 Nobel for Chemistry with Richard Schrock and Yves Chauvin.

Vladimir Gubarev, the Belarusian journalist and writer, has died aged 83. His early career was with Pravda where he specialised on space flight stories. He covered the Chernobyl disaster and wrote a play about it.

Joël Houssin, the French SF author, has died aged 68. His awards include Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and Prix Apollo. Arguably his best known works are Les Vautours (1985), Argentine (1989) and Le Temps du Twist (1990).

William Hurt, the US actor, has died aged 71 from prostate cancer. His genre appearance include: Altered States (1980), Lost in Space (1998), Dark City (1998), Sunshine (1999), AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001), and playing Thaddeus Ross in the Marvel films The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: End Game (2019) and Black Widow (2021).  On television he played Duke Leto Atreides in Frank Herbert's Dune (2000), and was in Frankenstein (2004), Humans (2015) and Beowulf (2016).

Ian Kennedy, the British comics artist, has died aged 89. He is noted for his work on Starlord, Time Quake and Ro-Busters strips (before Starlord merged with 2000AD. he also worked on the re-booted Dan Dare in the reprised Eagle comic of the late 1970s and early '80s. He is also noted for comics cover work especially over 1,600 covers for the war comic Commando.

Leonid Kourits, the Ukrainian SF fan, has died aged 67. He was one of the founders of Science Fiction Club "Argo" in the city Mykolaiv (a.k.a, Nikolaev) in 1982 and in 1984 began a term as its Chairman.
        Boris Sidyuk writes: "He was a true fan, and a professional organiser during Soviet times. He was one of those Soviet activists who dared to promote SF&F and the Fandom movement in 1980s. You have to remember that this was a time when the communists tried to repress Fandom activists as the soviet authorities were scared of everything they did not understand, including informal cultural movements such as Soviet Fandom. In the USSR Leonid organised many significant SF events of the late 1980s. For example he ran the First All-Union Efremov Readings in 1988. Among much else, he was also behind the first Soviet true international SF&F convention Soccon-89 (1989). He also represented the Soviet Fandom on the international stage - ConFiction (The Hague Worldcon, 1990), MagiCon (Orlando, 1992), a number of Eurocons –Fayence (France, 1990), Cracon (Poland, 1991), Freucon X11 (Germany, 1992) and Helicon (Jersey, Great Britain, 1993).  He was one of four Ukrainians elected to the official Soviet Council of SF&F Clubs patroned by Soviet Komsomol. In 1991, at the Eurocon in Krakow, Leonid was elected the Secretary to ESFS (the European SF Society under whose auspices Eurocons are run.  Leonid died of a stroke on 6th March (2022) when Russia started bombing his city Mykolaiv (a.k.a, Nikolaev) in southern Ukraine. Rest in Peace, friend."

Richard Labonté, the Canadian SF fan, has died aged 72. His fanzines included Hugin and Munin and Lowdown. He was a co-founder of the 'A Different Light' gay bookstore chain. He also edited LGBT fiction. He won the won the Lambda Literary Award three times.

Garry Leach, the British comics artist, has died aged 67. He is noted for his work on 2000AD but is perhaps best known for Marvelman (1981) with Alan Moore. He also worked on DC Comics titles such as Legion of Superheroes, Monarchy and Global Frequency. His first work for 2000AD was inking Trevor Goring’s work on the Dan Dare story ‘The Doomsday Machine’ in 1978 but better remembered for being one of the key artists on the space war series The V.C.s.

Pasha Lee [Pavlo Li], the Ukrainian actor, has died in battle aged 33. Of genre relevance his voice was used in the dubbed Ukrainian versions of The Lion King and The Hobbit.

Henry Lincoln, the British TV screen-story writer, has died aged 91. He is noted for his work on the early Doctor Who of the 1960s. He wrote three stories for the series, co-creating with Mervyn Haisman, The Yeti and the character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Meat Loaf, a.k.a. Marvin Lee Aday, the US rock musician and actor, has died aged 74. Musically, he is particularly noted for his Bat Out of Hell LP trilogy and the single 'I'd Do Anything for Love'. His genre acting appearances include being in the 6th re-boot season of The Outer Limits episode 'Gettysburg'. In genre terms he is most noted for playing Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (video clip here) and the original, Broadway stage version.  Away from the stage he did not recognise the seriousness of climate change issues, and was critical of Greta Thunberg, nor did he value social precautions such as mask-wearing during the 2019 – 2023 SARS-CoV-2/CoVID-19 pandemic.

Derek Mack, the British rocket engineer, has died aged 88. He was the team leader involved in developing Britain's BLACK ARROW satellite launcher. BLACK ARROW (yes, the capital letters are official) itself was developed largely from the Black Knight rocket and BLACK ARROW was assembled at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. There were four launches (1969 – '71) from Woomera, Australia, with the final one reaching Earth orbit. As of 2022, the United Kingdom is the only country, other than France, to have successfully developed and then abandoned a satellite launch capability. France, along with the UK, have continued their programmes through ESA's Ariane: a stage of ESA's Europa launcher was based on Britain's Blue Streak.

Jean-Claude Mézières, the French comics artist, had died aged 83. He is best known for creating with his childhood friend, Pierre Christin, Valérian and Laureline – a spatio-temporal agent from the 28th century employed by Galaxity, the capital of the future Earth, to protect space and time from interference. He also contributed as a conceptual designer on several motion picture projects, most notably the 1997 Luc Besson film, The Fifth Element.

Dennis Meikle, the fantastic film scholar, has died aged 75. His books include: A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (1996), Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies, (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2002), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2006), Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2007) and Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019). He also published the magazines: The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills.

Harri Miekka, the Finnish SF fan, has died aged 64. He was a well known conrunner in Finland.

Faren Miller, the US science fiction journalist and reviewer, has died aged 71. She worked on Locus magazine (which is effectively the US book trade magazine) for 37 years.

Bill Mills, the US fan, has died aged 69. Originally he was based in Las Vagas before moving to Los Angeles and was part of the fan community in both places. He was a filker and a collector of film props. His friends included a group of Man From U.N.C.L.E. fans who delighted in surprising former cast members turning up wearing T.H.R.U.S.H. logos. He ran the The Voices of Fandom website archive here) that featured podcasts and his filk recordings. He was a member of the Las Vegrants and on the Corflu 25 committee in 2008.

Luc Montagnier, the French biologist, has died aged 89.  He is best known for independently discovering that HIV was the virus responsible for AIDS for which he co-won (with a researcher who unrelatedly discovered that human papillomaviruses are linked to cervical cancer) a Nobel Prize in 2008. (The US virologist Robert Gallo also made the HIV discovery but for an unknown reason did not get a share of the Nobel prize.) In the 1990s Montagnier's research took a completely different direction when he turned to the study of water memory: that notion that water is altered by the DNA in a way that retains some properties of the molecules even when they have been heavily diluted (the purported – and debunked – mechanism by which homeopathy is supposed to operate). He then left Europe for China to pursue this work.  He also believed pseudoscientific ideas about autism and lost credibility with the scientific community.  During the CoVID pandemic he supported the notion that the CoVID vaccines could be harmful. Few scientists have garnered, and then lost, so much international respect from their scientific peers.

Ted Mooney, the US author has died aged 70. he is possibly best known for his novel Easy Travel to Other Planets (1981)/

Holger M. Pohl, the German author, has died aged 63. He wrote the sword and sorcery novel Arkland and the space-opera series Die Neunte Expansion [The Ninth xpansion] and Rettungskreuzer Ikarus [Rescue cruiser IKARUS].

Ivan Reitman, the Hungarian-Czech born Canadian film producer and director, has died aged 75. Following WWII, he moved with his family to Canada aged four. Reitman's first commercial film ventures were as producer of two genre films for director David Cronenberg, Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977). He then directed and produced a number of comedies including Ghostbusters (1984), Twins (1988), Ghostbusters II (1989), Evolution (2001), My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021). In 2009, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his contributions as a director and producer, and for his promotion of the Canadian film and television industries".

Andy Remic, the British SF author and independent film maker, has died aged 50. He has written over twenty novels including the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. The Blood Dragon Empire grimdark fantasy novels, and A Song For No Man's Land, dark fantasy set during the First World War. At the time of his death he was working on his fourth film, 8-Bit Wars.

Igor Revva, the Azerbaijanian SF, has died.

Edwin A. 'Ted' Scribner , the Australian SF fan, has died. He was a member of the Sydney Futurians. Beyond Australia he was better known as being co-editor (with Edwina Harvey) of the second series (2002 – 2010) of the Ditmar Award-winning newszine The Australian SF Bullsheet.

Willie Siros, the US fan and bookseller, has died aged 70. He was the Chari of the Texan conventions Solarcon I (1975) and Solarcon II (1976). He was also one of the founders of the Fandom Association of Central Texas and its convention, ArmadilloCon.

Chuck Shimada, the US fan, has died aged 61. He was a member of the Los Angeles SF Society and was involved on the tech side of conrunning including the 1996 Worldcon.

Roger Sims, the US fan, has died aged 91. He was a member of the Detroit Science Fiction League. Of fan note he was a co-organiser of the 770 room party at the 1950 Worldcon. He was a con-runner and ran a number of conventions with his wife Pat. He was fan GoH at the 1988 Worldcon.

Richard Dean Starr, the US author and comic strip story writer.  He is noted for his work on franchise characters as Hellboy, The Green Hornet, Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Phantom and Zorro.

Sir Crispin Tickell, the British civil servant and ambassador, has died aged 91. He did much to push environmental concerns – especially climate change – up the political agenda. He joined diplomatic service in 1954, serving at the Foreign Office Main Building in London until 1955. He was responsible for looking after the British Antarctic Territory; the experience gained may have laid the foundations for long-term interests in the environment. He then worked in British embassies in The Hague, Mexico City and Paris among other overseas relations positions. He also had a term representing the UK at the United Nations. He was a President of the Royal Geographical Society and the Marine Biological Association. His interests included climate change, population issues, conservation of biodiversity, and the early history of the Earth. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher credited him with persuading her to make a speech on global climate change to the Royal Society in September 1988. When Prime Minister John Major was desperate for a big idea to present to the Earth Summit (the UN Conference on Environment and Development) in Rio in 1992 to help the UK seem visionary, Tickell reached into his briefcase and pulled out his plan for the Darwin Initiative, a scheme to protect biodiversity in the poorest countries. He had been working on the idea for some time and been waiting for the right moment to appear. Major was delighted with it, the scheme was launched in a speech at Rio and Tickell became the first chair of its advisory committee. He chaired John Major's Government Panel on Sustainable Development (1994–2000), and was a member of two government task forces under the Labour Party: one on Urban Regeneration, chaired by Sir Richard Rogers, later Lord Rogers (1998–99), and one on Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Objects (2000).

Richard Tierney, the US writer and H. P. Lovecraft scholar, has died aged 85. He is probably best known for his heroic fantasy, including his series co-authored (with David C. Smith) of Red Sonja novels based on the Robert E. Howard character, featuring cover art by Boris Vallejo. Some of his standalone novels utilize the mythology of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. He is also known for his 'Simon of Gitta' series (which cross historical Gnosticism with Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos) and his Robert E. Howard completions of notes and text fragments Howard left following his death.

Priscilla Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien's youngest daughter, has died aged 92. She took an active part in production of The Lord of the Rings by typing out some early chapters for her father at the age of fourteen. She completed her B.A. degree in English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1951. The initial name of Frodo Baggins in the fourth draft of The Lord of the Rings was Bingo Bolger-Baggins which was named after a family of toy bears owned by Priscilla.

Douglas Trumbull, the film special effects maestro and director, has died aged 79. He is noted for directing Silent Running and effects work on: 2001: A Space Odyssey (the control panel screen graphics and star gate sequence), The Andromeda Strain (including the electron microscope animations), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.

Tom Veitch, the US comic story writer, has died aged 80. he has had an extensive career and is noted for initiating the Dark Horse Comics line of Star Wars comic books, with Dark Empire and Tales of the Jedi.

Bill Wright, the Australian SF fan, has died aged 84. He was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob; Honorary Secretary of the Eighth Australian Science Fiction Convention in 1969. He was a DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate in 2013. His fanzines include: Interstellar Ramjet Scoop, The Planet of the Eggs and The Wright Stuff.

Dave Wolverton, the US writer, has died aged 64. Under his pseudonym David Farland, he wrote fantasy, leaving his real name for his science fiction novels. His first major break through came from the Writers of the Future contest in 1986 and he went on to be a the coordinator of the Writers of the Future in 1992. His novel On My Way To Paradise (1989) was a runner-up for the Philip K. Dick Award. He is arguably best known for Runelords (1998-2022) and he also wrote five Star Wars spin-off novels. In 1998 he broke the world record for the most book signings in one sitting. He worked as an English professor of creative writing at Brigham Young University, and held writing workshops for aspiring and established writers. He taught writers Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Jessica Day George, Eric Flint, James Dashner, among others.

 

Season's Editorial & Staff Stuff Key SF News & Awards
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Summer 2022

End Bits & Thanks

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Autumnal 2022 upload in September
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' autumn book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews. (Remember, these season's relate to the northern hemisphere 'academic year'.)

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Ansible, Fancylopaedia, File 770, Julie Perry (Google Scholar wizard), SF Encyclopaedia, SFX Magazine, Boris Sidyuk, John Watkinson and Peter Wyndham, not to mention information provided by publishers. Stories based on papers taken from various academic science journals or their websites have their sources cited.  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). :-)

Thanks for spreading the word of this seasonal edition goes to Ansible, File 770, Caroline Mullan, Peter Wyndham and Silviu Genescu.

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Autumn 2022 period – needs to be in before 15th August 2022. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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