Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2014

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

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Personal data handling, ID theft and related issues continue in the public agenda. This season's news is that in May the European Courts of Justice ruled that an individual could demand that 'irrelevant or outdated' information be deleted from search engine results. On one hand this is to be welcomed because of the growth of personal detail data capture as well as the increase in archive material containing personal information still relevant to today being posted. Here some of fandom regrettably has to take its share of the blame. Make no mistake, while the majority of fans running websites do so honourably and respecting personal data, a minority do not. (Last year we noted that one British-run SMOF website had proven reluctant to recognise fans' data protection rights: such thoughtless recalcitrant webmasters are giving ammunition for those seeking legal enforcement and so spoiling matters for the thoughtful and caring majority of fan webmasters.)  What the European law has done is to support people's 'right to be forgotten'.  Now there is a counter-argument to this and that is by making it compulsory to take down certain stories is censorship. The early impact of this law is for Google to have received a number of requests to block pages from showing up on their search engine results and that a fair proportion of these have been from folk who have in the past had a criminal conviction seeking to hide their illicit history.  It also needs to be noted that omitting a result from a search engine query is not the same as taking down a page. In the US, Slate's Lily Hay Newman argued that if taking down search results became the norm, another problem may arise. "A case could be made that this may give people a false sense of security," she says. "Sure, if you remove something from Google or Bing, most people won't be able to find it anymore. But it still exists, and interested parties may be able to find it."  Clearly this issue is going to run and run. Meanwhile fandom and convention runners (most of whom have fair-minded webmasters running sites), need to ensure that they are whiter than white as well as respect those that may not want to sign-up to online forms by providing alternative routes of communication even though only a small minority are extremely wary of on-line form filling: minorities should be respected as much as data rights are as a whole. And if you think that this issue does not concern you then do try to get to see the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply .

 

STAFF MATTERS

Sadness first for a couple of Concatenation's founding editors, for which you need a little understanding of Brit fan history to appreciate.  Way back in the late 1970s two student groups thought it would be a nifty idea to hold their own student SF conventions. College-venued cons had then some bad press (student accommodation was no way near as luxurious as it is today and lecture halls then all too often had a chalk blackboard as their principal (often only) in situ audiovisual aid equipment, though the beer prices were good). Nonetheless in 1979 Hatfield Polytechnic's PSIFA decided to run a con just a couple of months after the British Worldcon, and in a cunning ploy to ensure that hopes were not at all raised high (and to set the bar low) called them 'Shoestringcons'; it was a ploy that worked. A short while later Keele University held its first Unicon… All well and good. The thing is that core PSIFA members and core Keele SF members regularly met throughout this period, and not just at conventions, becoming friends. In the fullness of time two of Concatenation's three founding editors, as well as another PSIFAn on the original BECCON committee that went on to run the 1987 Eastercon at which Concatenation's first print edition was launched, continued their fanac which sort of brings us up to date… And then news came over the summer that one of our old friends from Keele SF had died – Richard Vine. Sadly, as sometimes happens we had drifted apart, but we had maintained friendships for a number of years after graduation. Drifting apart in Richard's case was inevitable as he had emigrated and had spent the past twenty years in Sweden, though one of us did very briefly touch base with him at the 2011 Eurocon in Stockholm when Richard dropped in on the con for little more than a moment, neither realising it would be their last encounter. The lesson being to make the most of those you know while you have them, keep in touch with past friends and make the effort to have occasional reunions.

Moving on…

Our Dan has taken part in a six mile BUPA run for charity through central London. Some of you may know that our Dan is not exactly built for running, and in fact has a philosophy of never running for a train or bus. Indeed his own office had a book as to how far he would get! Out of a score betting, just one soul had faith that Dan would complete the course, which he did. Our congratulations Dan.

A few of us got together in the Peak District this summer.  Two of the editors met with two other former Hatfield PSFIAns, after 30 years all four re-united, in the S. Midlands.

Then in August a dozen of us gathered for a meal at this year's Worldcon (for once in half a century held in London) for a Concatenation dinner complete with author Guest of Honour Ian Watson. This last was the first time that book reviewers outside of the core team have gathered for an SF2 Concatenation social and it was great to see them. Meanwhile the Worldcon itself enabled some of us to touch base with those who regularly send in short bullet-point news briefings from their own country which we use on this page. Without these wonderful folk, this seasonal news summary would be sorely lacking. +++ See also Loncon Worldcon news below.


The Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation dinner at Loncon 3, the 72nd SF Worldcon.
(From centre going right: Cristina Macia (dinner fan GoH), Ian Watson (dinner author GoH),
Jonathan C. (news & reviews editor), Arthur Chappell (book reviewer), Mark Bilsborough (book reviewer),
Alan Boakes (webmaster), Sue Griffiths (book reviewer), Tony Bailey (stationery),
Dan Heidel (site registration and station maintenance), Peter Tyers (book reviewer and con reporter),
guest of Peter, Roberto Quaglia (European liaison and articles).)

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol 24 (5) Autumn 2014) we have stand-alone convention reports on:-
          … former ESFS Vice Chair Roberto Quaglia on his 25 years of Eurocons
          … Ian Hunter's review of the Satellite 4 – The 2014 British Eastercon
          … Jim Walker's review of The 2014 Eurocon in Dublin, Ireland
And additionally we have:-
          … thirty three (yes, 33!) new stand-alone fiction book reviews
          … as well as a several non-fiction book reviews
See our What's New page for a full listing of articles and reviews recently posted.  Marvelliant.

 

Help support Concatenation: Get Essential Science Fiction which is also available from Amazon.co.uk. In addition to helping this site it makes a great present and helps you do your bit to spread the genre word. See also news of signed copies from Porcupine Books (who can send you copies cheaper than Amazon...).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

This first subsection quickly links you to the major items of news.  For more detailed coverage go direct to the principal subsections that interest you (see the blue subsection index above as well as between each subsection).

SF/F news last season includes: Marvel's Thor to become a woman, Captain America to become Afro-American, 2000AD produces summer special after many decades, and Batman's creator Bob Kane honoured however fans react badly.

SF/F Awards presented over the summer (2014) included: the Arabic Fiction International Prize, Australia's Ditmar, Britain's Clarke SF, Finland's Tahtifantasia, Tahtivaeltaja, Atorox, Kosmoskyna Awards, and Nova Competition, Germany's Curt Siodmak and German SF Club Awards, New Zealand's Julius Vogel Awards, Russia's Aelita and Interpresscon Awards, US Locus nominations and principal winners, the Nebulas, the Eisners and then there were the Bram Stoker horror awards and last but not least the Hugo Award principal category winners.

Book news of the season – Includes : Harper Voyager expands digital first, Gilian Redfearn is one to watch, authors' average income revealed, the state of the book market, and the usual few stories of more Amazon controversy.

Film news of the season – Includes: that of: seasonal box office highlights, Gravity novel author sues film, there is to be a Harry Potter spin-off film, and also a new Stargate film trilogy re-boot.

Television news of the season – Includes: Red Dwarf is to return!, the novel Spin is to be made into a TV series, Almost Human has been cancelled, The Big Bang Theory is being extended but its end is beginning to be contemplated, Falling Skies has been renewed but is to end, Thunderbirds is being re-booted, and finally some 12 Monkeys series snippets.

News of SF and science personalities includes that of: Douglas Adams, Ted Chiang, Cory Doctorow, Greg Egan, Neal Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Terry Pratchett and J. K. Rowling.

Last season's science news includes: Sea-level rise forecasts worsen, Putin undermines Russia's science, Egyptian scientists lose freedom, Best simulation of Universe created, New class of exo-Earths discovered, Artificial life created with novel artificial DNA base-pairs, and Chimpanzee sign-language decoded.

News of last season's SF events includes that of: the London Worldcon and the Dublin Eurocon. The British Isles was the place to be in the late summer.

Major forthcoming SF events include: Spain's Stiges International Fantastic Film Festival and Scandinavia's Archipelacon for European fans. Meanwhile over in the States there is Denver's MileHi convention.

Our short-video clip links section this season includes, Dr Who time warp, Mis-Drop short film. Terms and Conditions May Apply trailer for the growing cult internet documentary, links to some forthcoming film trailers including Hybbid the Swedish action, SF horror. See the section here.

Notable SF books due out over the Autumn 2014 include: The Extinction Game by Gary Gibson, The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, The Demi-Monde: Fall by Rod Rees, Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch, A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and Firefall by Peter Watts.

Notable fantasy due out over the Autumn 2014 include:Snowblind by Christopher Golden, Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb, The Last Rite by Jasper Kent, No-one Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill, Mrs Bradshaw's Guide by Terry Pratchett and Prince Lesat by Anne Rice.

The Spring saw us sadly lose many SF and science personalities. These included: Scientists Gerald Guralnik and Colin Pillinger, and SF personalities Francis Matthews, Daniel Keyes, Jay Lake, Ana Matute and Patrick Woodroffe.

 

Jump to other specialist news using the section menu below or else scroll down to get everything…

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION NEWS

The 2014 Kyoto Prizes for science have been awarded to Robert Langer (biomedical scientist working on tissue regeneration) and Ed Witten (mathematical theoretical physicist working on string theory). The prizes are worth 50 million Yen (£298,000, US$500,000).

The 2014 Copley medal given by the Royal Society went to DNA fingerprinting inventor. In 1984, Prof Sir Alec Jeffreys stumbled on a method for distinguishing individuals based on satellite islands in their DNA. The Copley Medal was first awarded in 1731 and its 273 previous recipients include Albert Einstein, Francis Crick and Stephen Hawking. It alternates between physical science in odd years and biological science in even years.

The 11th Shaw Prizes for science were announced in Hong Kong. Each prize is worth US$1million (£625,000). The winners were:-
          Astronomy: Astrophysicist Daniel Eisentstein (Harvard), Shaun Cole (Britain) and John Peacock (Britain) for work on baryonic acoustic oscillation waves in the early Universe that leads to its galaxy foam like structure.
          Life Science and Medicine: Kazutoshi Mori (Japan) and Peter Walter (US) for their discovery of the Unfolded Protein Response of the endoplasmic reticulum, a cell signalling pathway that controls organelle homeostasis and quality of protein export in eukaryotic cells which all relates to mechanisms in degenerative disease.
          Mathematical Sciences: George Lusztig (US) for his fundamental contributions to algebra, algebraic geometry, and representation theory, and for weaving these subjects together to solve old problems and reveal beautiful new connections.

The winners of this year's Blavatnik Prize, run with the New York academy of sciences and each taking US$250,00 (£150,000), were:-
          Rachel Wilson (neurobiologist mapping fruit-fly brains)
          Adam Cohen (neurobiology for imaging real-time neural activity)
          Marin Soljacic (physicist working on wireless battery recharging)

The 2014 Hugo Awards were announced at this year's Worldcon, Loncon3 in London. Further to last year's Hugo voting statistics, Loncon3 did break another record earlier this year when it received 1,595 valid nominating ballots up from last year's own record-breaking 1,343. Following these nominations earlier in the year it was time to vote on the shortlist.  3,587 valid ballots were received for deciding final winners (which is up a lot 1,848 voting on the final ballot the previous year, and even up on the 2,100 finalist voting in 2011). 2014 was a record-breaking year for both the numbers nominating and also numbers voting on the final shortlist.  The principal Hugo category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
          Best Novella: 'Equoid' by Charles Stross
          Best Novelette: 'The Lady Astronaut of Mars' by Mary Robinette Kowal
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Gravity written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron and directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Heyday Films, Warner Brothers)
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form: Game of Thrones 'The Rains of Castamere written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter
          Other category (win information) (those categories with less than 2,667 voting) can be found at thehugoawards.org.
          Note: The Hugo 'Best Novel' winner, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, also won this year's Locus Award, the Clarke Award, the Nebula Award for 'Best Novel', the Locus Award for 'Best Debut' and not least was the winner of the BSFA Award for 'Best Novel'
          Hugo Long-Lists.  The Hugo long-list of top 16 novels contained four that were in SF2 Concatenation's top twelve best novels of 2013 we announced back in January (2014): Parasite which also made the Hugo short-list; The Shining Girls, Abaddon's Gate, and Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This last had enough nominating votes to make the short-list but was not added to the final Hugo ballot as Neil had declined to accept Hugo nomination.
          Long-list films. Of the 15 Hugo long-list films, five were in our best films of 2013 list we announced back in January. These were: Gravity (which won the Hugo); Enders' Game; Europa Report; Star Trek: Into Darkness; and The World's End. (The Hugo film long-list is more Hollywood, while our film list includes more independent studios and non-American offerings.)
          Last year's principal category winners can be found here.

The Retro Hugo Awards for the year 1939 have been awarded. Retro Hugos are Hugo Awards voted in retrospect for years prior to the establishment of the Hugo Award. This year's < a href="#worldcon14">SF Worldcon held in London saw its members vote for and then, at the convention, itself the awarding of the 1939 Hugos in retrospect. The winners were:-
          Best Novel: The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Collins)
          Best Novella: 'Who Goes There?' by Don A Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)
          Best Novelette: 'Rule 18' by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
          Best Short Story: 'How We Went to Mars' by Arthur C. Clarke (Amateur Science Stories, March 1938)
          Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) : The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch & Anne Froelick, directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)
          Best Editor - Short Form: John W. Campbell
          Best Professional Artist: Virgil Finlay
          Best Fanzine: Imagination! edited by Forrest J Ackerman, Morojo, and T. Bruce Yerke.

The 2014 short-list for the Locus Awards was announced in May. The principal category short-lists were:-
         Science Fiction Novel
                    MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
                    Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
                    The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
                    Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
                    Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
         Fantasy Novel
                    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
                    NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
                    River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
                    Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
                    The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
         First (Debut) Novel
                    The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
                    The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney
                    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
                    A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
                    The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Comment: Going back to the beginning of the year and our (Concatenation's) best SF/F novels of the year, the Locus shortlist has four titles that are in our 12 Best of Year titles, which is about par for the course. And Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie also won the Clarke (see below) and BSFA Awards (see last season's news), not to mention Locus best debut below.

The Locus Awards have been announced The principal category wins were:-
          Best SF Novel: Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
          Best Fantasy Novel: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
          First (Debut) Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
          See the Locus website for all the category winners (such as short story, magazine, publisher etc).

The 2014 Clarke Award has been presented and it is firmly SFnal. The winner was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and published by Orbit. And here is a plot teaser:-
          They made me kill thousands, but I only have one target now.  The Radch are conquerors to be feared - resist and they will turn you into a 'corpse soldier' (an 'ancillary' as in the title) - one of an army of dead prisoners animated by a warship's AI mind. Whole planets are conquered by their own people.  The colossal warship called The Justice of Toren has been destroyed - but one ship-possessed soldier has escaped the devastation. Used to controlling thousands of hands, thousands of mouths, The Justice now has only two hands, and one mouth with which to tell her tale.  But one fragile, human body might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.  It is difficult not to at least make a superficial comparison of this novel with the hard SF, wide-screen space opera of the late Iain Banks. It is a debut novel and so all the more remarkable for that. Complex, it may take a little while getting into, but stick with it and you will soon find it rewarding.
          Nominated for this year's Hugo for 'Best Novel' which it went on to win, Ancillary Justice also shared a tie win for the British SF Association Award this year for 'Best Novel' and the Locus Award: First (Debut) Novel.

New Zealand's Julius Vogel Awards for 2013 were announced at the 2014 NZ national convention. The category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Heartwood by Lyn Freya Robertson
          Best Juvenile Novel: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier
          Best Novella / Novellete: 'Cave Fever' by Lee Murray
          Best Short Story: 'By Bone-Light' by Juliet Marillier
          Best Collected Work: Baby Teeth edited by Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray
          Best Artwork: Regeneration: New Zealand Speculative Fiction 2 cover by Emma Weakley
          Best Professional Production/Publication: WearableArt
          Best Dramatic Presentation: The Almighty Johnsons (Season 3)
          Best Fanzine: Phoenixine
          Best Fan Writing: tie -- Alan Parker & Lynelle Howell
          Best Fan Artwork: 'Gorgth Goes Shopping' art by Matt Cowens (Au Contraire 2013 convention book)
          New Talent: Dan Rabarts
          Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Helen Lowe (author)
          Services to Fandom: The League of Victorian Imagineers
The Julius Vogel Award is given to citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand and is voted on by members of the New Zealand National Convention (including this year overseas attendees). The awards are administered by SFFANZ (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand).   Notes: Phoenixine has won Best Fanzine three years in a row as well as in 2010 and the editors a 'Services to Fandom' Vogel in 2007 and this year's co-Best Fan Writer winner Lyne Howell is also one of Phoenixine's editors.. Helen Lowe won a Vogel for 'Best Novel' in 2011 and Juvenile SF/F Novel in 2009. Juliet Marillier won a Juvenile SF/F Novel in 2008 Lee Murray won a Best SF Short Vogel last year and Best Juvenile in 2012.   +++ Last year's Vogels are here.

The 2014 Nebula Awards (for 2013) were announced at the SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) 49th Annual Nebula Awards weekend in San Jose, USA. The principal category wins, as voted by SF Writers of America, were:-
          Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
          Novella: 'The Weight of the Sunrise' by Vylar Kaftan
          Novelette: 'The Waiting Stars' by Aliette de Bodard
Also presented was the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation the winner was Gravity
Note: As reported last season, the 'Best Novel', Ancillary Justice, winner weeks earlier also won the Clarke and British SF Association Awards and then later in the summer it won a Hugo.  The Ray Bradbury Award winner, Gravity was one we cited at the beginning of the year as one of the Best SF/F films of 2013 and late in the summer it also won a Hugo.  Details of all the category wins can be found at www.sfwa.org.  Last year's principal win Nebulas here.

The summer saw a number of Finnish SF Awards.  The Tahtifantasia Award is juried and given annually to the best translated fantasy book published in Finnish during the previous year. This year’s award was announced at Finncon. The winner was the short story collection Kanelipuodit Ja Muita Kertomuksia by Bruno Schulz, published by Basam Books. The collection includes all the short stories written by Schulz. Schulz was said to be a predecessor of the weird fiction born in the early 20th century, a style of fantasy that also comes close to horror and science fiction. His influence can be seen in the works of a number of 'new weird' writers.
          The Atorox Award for best Finnish SF short story published the previous year was also announced at Finncon. The top three authors and their short stories this year were:-
          Jussi Katajala: 'Mare Nostrum' (Huomenna tuulet voimistuvat, Osuuskumma)
          Shimo Suntila: 'Milla ja Meri' (Portti 2/2013)
          Miikka Pörsti: 'Raportti. Mikä johti operaatio Tähtivaeltajan Epäonnistumiseen?' (Tähtivaeltaja 4/2013)
Two observations. First, this was the first year since 2000 with an all-male top-three for Atorox. Also, this was the second year in a row that the winner was published in an Osuuskumma anthology. As Osuuskumma is only two years old, it remains to be seen whether the trend continues, but it is obvious (not just from these results but when looking at published short fiction in Finland in general) that there has been a major shift from wining stories mostly having come from fanzines to getting a lot of new stories published in anthologies.
          Finally, announced at Finncon was the Nova short story competition which is a juried award for new writers that has been going for 15 years. This year there was a record number (198) of stories submitted. The first prize (including 2000 euros) went to Tuukka Tenhunen for his short story 'Ugrilainen tapaus' ['The Ugric Incident']. The second proise (and 100 euros) went to Anu Korpinen for 'Tähden Hauta', and the third proze (50 euros) went to Taru Hautala for .Jo Joutui Armas Eilinen'.
          The Tähtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction book published in Finnish last year, was announced earlier this year. The winner was Sokeanako [Blindsight] by Peter Watts, published in Finland by Gummerus.
          The Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association occasionally gives a Kosmoskyna [Cosmos Pen] award to a person who has benefited Finnish science fiction literature. This year the award was given to Pasi Karppanen for his work reinvigorating the association in the early 2000s. He had a hand in breathing new life to the Finnish SF Writers Association zine Kosmoskyna, and also creating new competitions and other activities.
          Further details on:-
          http://partialrecall.blogspot.fi/2014/07/tahtifantasia-tahtivaeltaja-awards-2014.html
          http://partialrecall.blogspot.fi/2014/07/atorox-award-2014.html
          http://partialrecall.blogspot.fi/2014/07/nova-competition-2014.html
          http://partialrecall.blogspot.fi/2014/07/kosmoskyna-award-to-pasi-karppanen.html

The Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards were announced at the World Horror Convention that was held this year in Portland, Oregon, US. The principal category wins were:-
          Novel: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
          Debut Novel: The Evolutionist by Rena Mason
          Graphic Novel: Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlin R. Kiernan
          Screenplay: The Walking Dead: 'Welcome to the Tombs' by Glen Mazzara
Last year's principal category winners here.

The Aelita Awards and other prizes were presented at the 31st Aelita convention in Yekaterinburg, Urals in central Russia. (Note: You can only win an Aelita once.) The principal award wins were:-
          Aelita Award: Alex Davydov
          Debut Award: Not presented this year
          Yefremov Prize (SF Promotion): Gennady Prashkevich
          Prize. B. Bugrova (Contribution to Speculative Fiction): Igor Minakov
Comment: Last year Alex Davydov was granted a Eurocon Encouragement Award as well as an Aelita Debut. Gennady Prashkevich is the previous winner of a Bronze Snail. Igor Minakov previously won a Bastkon Award.
          The Aelita convention is one of Russia's longer running conventions beginning in 1981. The Ivan Sokolov Memorial Prize is named after the Yekaterinburg -based SF fan Ivan Sokolov.
Last year's Aelita wards were covered here.

Russia's 21st Interpresscon Awards were presented at Interpresscon 25 in St Petersburg. The award is determined by convention attendee vote. The principal wins were:-
          Novel: Julia Zonis for Master of Mirrors
          Debut Novel: Julia Zonis for Master of Mirrors
          Average-sized story (novella): Dmitry Skiryuk for 'Krysinda'
          Small-sized story (short story): Yevgeny Lukin for 'Rent'
          Small Snail: Viatoslav Loginov
Note: 'Small Snail' award was established in 2012 with the consent of Boris Strugatsky and sort of takes over from the now-demised Bronze Snails. The Small Snails go for work promoting the genre and/or Russian fandom and is decided on by the Interpresscon committee.
          See link for the 2011 Interpresscon Awards.
          Comment. Julia Zonis, Catherine Chernjavskaja "Master mirrors" previously won a Bronze Roskon in 2014, a novel Interpresscon Award for a novel in 2012, a short story Portal Award in 2011 in the Ukraine and a short story Bronze Snail in 2009.  Dmitry Skiryukis well known on Russian Federation's International Festival of Fantasy and Role-Playing Games circuit who present the Zilant Awards.  And, speaking of which the International Festival of Fantasy does the Zilant Awards and Yevgeny Lukin previously won a Big Zilant (that is a Zilant for a novel). He has also previously won a Roskon Aeward in 2010 (the award given at Moscow's annual con) and a Wanderer in 2010.  In short, all this year's principal category winners have form.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has this year an SF winner. It is Frankenstein in Baghdad by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi. The novel concerns one Hadi Al-Attag, 'a rag-and-bone man' who trawls the Baghdad on the lookout for fresh human body parts to piece together a human. But once made, and brought to life, the creature has ideas of its own…

Australia's Ditmar awards have been presented. The Ditmar is voted on by those attending Australia's national convention and have been presented since 1969. The Ditmars are named after Martin James Ditmar (Dick) Jenssen, a founding member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. The Ditmar Award wins this year were:-
          Best Novel: Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead by Robert Hood
          Best Novella or Novelette: 'The Home for Broken Dolls' by Kirstyn McDermott
          Best Short Story: 'Scarp' by Cat Sparks
          Best Collected Work: The Bride Price by Cat Sparks
          Best Artwork: Cover art, Shaun Tan, for Rules of Summer
          Best Fan Writer: Sean Wright for her body of work including reviews inAdventures of a Bookonaut
          Best Fan Artist: Kathleen Jennings
          Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, & Mark Webb
          Best New Talent: Zena Shapter
Note: Kathleen Jennings won Best Fan Artist last year too.  Cat Sparks had a tie win for best short story in 2011 as did this year's best Novel winner Kirstyn McDermott. Cat Sparks also won the Best Short Story in 2010.   Last year's Ditmars can be found here.

The winners of the 2014 Campbell and Sturgeon Awards announced at the Campbell Conference in Lawrence Kansas, USA. The Campbell recognizes SF excellence in novels and the Sturgeon in short stories; both are juried awards. The winners are:-
          John W. Campbell Award: Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux
          Theodore Sturgeon Award: 'In Joy, Knowing the Abyss' by Sarah Pinsker
Last year's Campbell and Sturgeon Award winners here.

Denmark's Niels Klim Awards have been announced at this year's Dancon. The Nils Klim Prize is named after the protagonist of Ludvig Holberg’s 1741 novel Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum [Nils Klim’s Subterranean Journey] that recounts the adventure of a cave explorer who finds a subterranean land and society as well as new creatures.  This is the third time the award has been presented. The award has three categories which relate to shorter science fiction texts (of less than 40,000 words) published in Danish for the first time the previous year. The award is voted on by Danish fandom. This year's winners are:-
          Best Novella: År 9 Efter Loopet [Year 9 After the Loop] by Peter Adolphsen
          Novelette: 'Farvel min Astronaut' ['Farewell, My Astronaut'] by Jesper Goll
          Short story: 'Mørkets Hastighed' ['Speed of Darkness'] by Majbrit Høyrup
Last year's Niels Klim Award results here.

2014 World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards announced. This year's recipients are editor Ellen Datlow and author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro noted for her vampire fantasy horror.

Germany's Curt Siodmak Prize (visual) and the German SF Prize (written) were awarded by the SF Club Deutschland (SFCD) at their annual convention this year called Schlosscon in Schwerin, capital of the most north-eastern state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, home of today’s German federal chancellor Angela Merkel. The wins were:-
          Curt Siodmak - Film: Gravity
          Curt Siodmak - TV: Dr Who
Last year's Siodmak awards here.
The Deutsche Science Fiction Preis DSFP (German SF Club Prize ):-
          Best Novel: Dschiheads [Dschi heads] by Wolfgang Jeschke. It is a space-opera dealing with the dangers of extremist religion and extremist anti-religious ideology, published by Heyne, which in turn is an imprint of Random House.
          Best Story: Seitwarts in die Zeit [Sidewise into time ] by Axel Kruse. It is a novella about several involuntary journeys to slightly different alternative realities all taking place in Essen, the central City of the Ruhr region. It was published by P. Machinery publishing house as a booklet,
          The German SF Club Prize is a juried award from the German SF Society (Club) SFCD. Conversely, the Curt Siodmak Prize is fan voted. Curt Siodmak, after whom the prize is named, was a German writer and film director born in 1902.   Last year's Deutsche Science Fiction Preis DSFP here.

The 2014 US Eisner Awards for comics have been presented. The Eisner nominations in each category are generated by a five-member panel, then voted on by comic-book professionals, and presented at the annual Comic-Con International convention held in San Diego, California. As such they have a somewhat similar status to the reader-voted Eagle Awards in Great Britain. This year's principal category wins are:-
          Best Single Issue (or One-Shot): Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja #11: 'Pizza Is My Business'
          Best Continuing Series: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image) (a second win in year row)
          Best Anthology: Dark Horse Presents (Dark Horse) (a second win in year row)
          Best Graphic Album – New: The Property by Rutu Modan
          Best Graphic Album – Reprint: RASL by Jeff Smith
          Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips vol. 1 edited by Dean Mullaney
          Best Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Saga (Image) (a second win in year row)
Notes: Brian Vaughan's double win and a second year in a row for both is remarkable. +++ Last year's Eisner principal winners here.

Japan's 2014 Seiun Awards were announced at the 53rd Japanese national SF convention. The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel: From Jupiter's Trojan by Issui Ogawa
          Best Translated Novel: Blindsight by Peter Watts
          Best Translated Short Story: 'The Paper Menagerie' by Ken Liu
          Best Dramatic Presentation: Pacific Rim
Notes: The award is voted on by the convention's registrants.   See last year's Seuin's here.

Second SF season, 'Dangerous Visions', held on BBC Radio 4. Last year the BBC ran a series of SF radio offerings. This first series was apparently sufficiently successful for the BBC to have run another.  The new dramatisations – 11 in total – offered clever, imaginative and disturbing takes on what the future might hold.  Plays included novel adaptations such as The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury as well as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. This last includes the duplicate police station scene (which Bladerunner omitted).  Other offerings included The Problem With Talitha by Lauren (Moxyland & The Shining Girls) Beukes, in which sex is an opiate for the masses and taken to a whole new level in a celebrity-obsessed dystopia where every second of a star's life is filmed and recorded for consumers to plug into and experience at first-hand…  Iz One man risks everything in order to find the woman he loves - a woman he has only met in a virtual world. In 2091, British citizens are living in 24-hour curfew, confined to solitary housing units and communicating entirely through virtual worlds. Students Lee and Iz have been dating each other virtually for three years, but when Lee fails an important exam, he is suddenly cut off from Iz and everything he knows. He sets out on a journey across a deserted England, determined to find the real Iz…  The Two Georges In 1955, the fledgling science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and his wife Kleo received a visit at their California home from two FBI agents, which they believed to be a result of Kleo's left-wing activities. The consequences of the visit are largely unclear, with conflicting accounts suggesting that the couple were asked to spy on college radicals, travel to Mexico, and even that one of the FBI agents taught Dick how to drive. Using this biographic encounter as its starting point, The Two Georges is a playful and fantastical story, Dick-esque in its absurdity, that sees the sci-fi writer partner up with an FBI Agent to uncover a devilish conspiracy that strikes at the heart of Cold War McCarthyite America.   A Message of Unknown Purpose Tao Lin's curious tale about the discovery of a message from the future in which an elderly prisoner talks about the invention and misuse of a sleep machine. In 2042, after major worldwide catastrophes in the second and third decades of the 21st century, the world is drastically different. It's much, much worse and maybe more exciting, depending on who you ask. A vision emerges of a society addicted to sleep…  Other attractions in the series notably included Face to Face with JG Ballard a repeat documentary with the late author of Empire of the Sun and many works of speculative fiction in which he reveals his perspective on the world and the media…  If you are reading this within a year of broadcast then you may be able to access these via the BBC i-Player. If you are accessing these later still then do a search and you might be able to find a recording somewhere online. Meanwhile, let's hope for a third series. This is BBC SF currently at its best!

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens is being adapted for BBC Radio 4. The series will consist of five half-hour episodes together with an hour-long finale.

Batman creator Bob Kane to get Hollywood Walk of Fame star and fans react critically! The annoyance is because Bob Kane has received nearly all the public credit for inventing the character Bat-Man. Yet while Kane came up with the character's name Bat-Man, the basic costume outline and that he was a crime fighter, it was someone else – Bill Finger – who refined the first costume, coined the term the 'Dark Knight', conceived Gotham City and created foes such as 'the Joker'. Yet Bill Finger has been sidelined by Kane, and Kane in his autobiography eventually admitted in his autobiography that he'd wronged Finger. Bill Finger has never received official credit for Batman. Meanwhile, Bob Kane is set to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sometime in 2015. Expect some fan backlash.

Superman Action Comic No. 1 sells for US$3.2m (£1.9m). The copy sold is reported as being of very good quality and the closest to near-mint of the estimated fifty or so copies estimated to be surviving. It had been kept in a chest in a home in West Virginia (US) after being bought in 1938, according to seller Darren Adams. New York dealers Metropolis Comics said they bought it. It beat the previous record of US$2.2m (£1.4m) set by another copy of the same edition in 2011.

Marvel Comic's Thor becomes a woman. Marvel says it hopes recasting Thor would attract more women and girls to superhero comic books. Thor first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1962. Jason Aaron, writer of the new Thor series, said in a statement: "This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor." The female Thor is due to appear in her first adventure in October and will be drawn by Russell Dauterman.

Marvel Comic's new Captain America will be African-American. The Marvel character Sam Wilson, also known as The Falcon, will be the replacement for Steve Rogers after 'a dire encounter with the Iron Nail' leaves Rogers unable to carry on.

2000AD produced a 'Summer Special' last season. Whoah! What? Why? We hear you cry. 'Don't they always produce a summer special. Well, no they don't. Summer specials were common for many British comics back in the 1960s and 1970s, and produced as a treat for the summer holidays, but as the great British comic for youngsters aged 8 – 14 went into decline, so did the summer specials. Now this year's 2000AD Sci Fi Special (as they call it) is the 20th 2000AD have produced but actually it has been 18 years since the last one in 1996. Costing £3.50p it featured six comic strip stories and all were top 2000AD strips back in the 1980s: including Robo-Hunter, Durham red and Rogue Trooper. The new take on the old characters (some of which like Judge Dredd are still around today) is good to see. However it is difficult, if not impossible to build a story's momentum up in 6 to 8 pages and so they don't have the power of those in the weekly comic. Even so this resurrection is most welcome and this year's first-in-18-years special may well become a bit of a 2000AD collector's item. Let's hope it sells well enough for a bigger one (but keeping the same number of stories) next year.

The monthly Judge Dredd Megazine marks 350th issue landmark with a poster and two new Dredd stories. The poster is by Brian Boland and features many of the characters close to Dredd: both friends and foe. (But where was Max Normal or Maria: Dredd's former informant and housekeeper respectively?) Of the two stories, one is a spin-off of the Judge Dredd as portrayed in the recent film Dredd. With luck, if there is a new Dredd film they will use one of these stories as the basis for the script and storyboard.

Amazing Stories trademark is to reprint SF classic shorts. The Amazing Stories trademark has been licensed to FuturesPastEditions E-books Publisher for use with a new imprint Amazing Stories Classic Reprints. Amazing Stories Classic Reprints will publish SF, fantasy and horror works drawn from Amazing Stories and its companion magazines. Stories will be published in both electronic and print formats. See futurespasteditions.com.

Amazing Stories: Giant 35th Anniversary Issue reprinted. A reprinting of this legendary double-length collection of the very best of Amazing Stories' first three and a half decades. Features such classic tales as Eando Binder's twice-televised 'I, Robot'; Edgar Rice Burroughs' immortal 'John Carter and the Giant of Mars'; Philip Francis Nowlan's first Buck Rogers story, 'Armageddon: 2419 A.D.'; Edmond Hamilton's haunting 'Devolution'; Ray Bradbury's groundbreaking 'I, Rocket'; R. F. Starzl's romantic 'Out of the Sub-Universe' and more. Plus a very special memoir by Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback on the events that led to the publication of the magazine's first issue. Long considered a seminal anthology, this special reprint of Amazing Stories' is a rare opportunity ISBN: 978-1-499-77293-7. Cost: £6.99, US$12.99

Margaret Atwood the first writer of the future to be read in 100 years time. Which is how long you will have to wait before you can read her work for the venture. Future Library is a venture which is compiling 100 texts for publication in 2114 and Margaret Atwood is contributing one of them and, indeed, the first to do so. The works will be locked away for the next 100 years before being published. The Future Library project sees one writer each year invited to contribute a new text to the collection. meanwhile trees are being planted. Then in 2114 the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, has begun with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. Margaret Atwood is currently working on the text she will contribute. The contributing works will be stored in a specially designed room in the Deichmanske public library, opening in 2018 in Bjørvika, Oslo. The room will be lined with wood from the forest, with the names of the authors and the titles of their work on display – but none of the manuscripts will be available to read until 2114.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has some new board members. Cat Rambo is the new Vice President and Sarah Pinsker as incoming Director at Large. They join Steven Gould who is President and now in his second term, and Susan Forest who is also in her second term, as well as Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk. The other board Directors at Large remain as Lee Martindale, Jim Fiscus, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Matthew Johnson. SFWA thanks outgoing Vice President and Eastern Regional Director, Rachel Swirsky and E.C. Myers for their hard work and dedication throughout their respective terms.

London sees benches celebrate major books including SF and fantasy titles. Some 50 seats have been placed around London. They are very colourful and celebrate major books. Books of genre interest celebrated by the benches include: The Day of the Triffids, Peter Pan, Paddington Bear, Sherlock Holmes and Mary Poppins not to mention technothriller James Bond. In October the benches will be auctioned to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust to tackle illiteracy in deprived communities across Britain.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Douglas Adams' first draft of The Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy has been found. The discovery was made by Jem Roberts following Adams' family giving permission for Adams' papers to be studied. The first draft is about two-thirds complete but Douglas seems to have abandoned it and started from scratch. The overall plot of the draft is the same as for Life, The Universe and Everything, the third book in the series, but there are differences. "There are two short extracts, which are very entertaining actually, which were cut from the first book," Jem Roberts said. "They're little asides, maybe a couple of pages each… One of them is all about the history of the Dentrassi, who work on the Vogon ships, and there's a bit where Arthur goes on this long reverie about science, which is very out of character for him, which I think is maybe why it got cut."  Jem Roberts' is writing a book, which will be published in September, that will include passages that were left out of the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel.

John Barrowman, Dr Who's and Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness, has received an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Ray Bradbury's home went on sale. The SF grandmaster died back in 2012 (with many tributes). Now, two years on, his house has gone on sale with an asking price just shy of US$1,500,000 (£940,000). The four-bedroom house at 10265 Cheviot Drive in Culver City was Bradbury's home for more than half a century. It is a warm, yellow-painted property surrounded by garden on a lot of just over 880 square metres. It has a spacious basement where Ray wrote almost daily.

Ted Chiang's has had a short story turned into a feature film. Called Story of Your Life, it will star five-time Oscar nominee Amy (The Fighter, Junebug and American Hustle) Adams who plays a linguist hired by the army to translate aliens. Paramount has paid a US$20m (£12m) for the rights to distribute it in North America and China. It is currently slated for release in 2016. Ted Chiang has a one-page Best of 'Futures' story, 'What's Expected of us' elsewhere on this site.

James S. A. Corey, the pseudonym for co-authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, have had three more 'Expanse' series novels commissioned by Orbit. Books five and six in the “Expanse” series will be published in June of 2015 and 2016. A previous title in the series has been nominated for a Hugo. The newly-acquired novels are slated for June of 2017, 2018, and 2019. +++ We reported last time that SyFy are making a mini-series based on the Expanse novel Leviathan Wakes.

Cory Doctorow has refused to have his potential young readers let down at Booker T Washington High School (Pensacola, Florida, US). What happened was that the school principal cancelled the school's One School/One Book summer reading programme rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother: so now the pupils don't get to read any book and then discuss it collectively with their teachers. Why did the principal dislike the book? Well Cory doesn't mind anyone disliking his work. But why then has the principal cancelled the summer reading programme? Well, apparently it is because of the politics the book explores. So what is happening? The school faculty who worked so hard on this asked for Cory's help fighting back against censorship, so his publisher, Tor (US), has agreed to send 200 copies to the school. Well done Tor. Well done Cory. But look, don't take this reportage at face value, listen to what Cory himself has to say here.

Greg Egan has had an interview posted at SF Signal. The hard-SF writer Egan is noted for keeping a very low (non-existent) profile when it comes to the SF community, which is fair enough and to be respected. However, for once he has broken cover so it is particularly worth checking the afore link out.

Harlan Ellison gets a belated happy birthday from us. Over a month after our last (the spring) seasonal edition, the SF writer turned 80 at the end of May. Happy 80th year Harlan.

Neil Gaiman has had a computer game, (for both PCs and Macs) based on his work, released. Wayward Manor, a puzzle adventure game from developer The Odd Gentlemen. Set in the 1920s, in Wayward Manor you play as a ghost who is trying to reclaim his house from its new owners, the Budds family. As The Odd Gentlemen explains the game, in each level you will have to use observation, discovery, and puzzle-solving to scare the Budds, earn enough fear to take back control of the room, and eventually the manor.

Stephen Hawking has lent his support to the Assisted Dying Bill. The physicist said it was "discrimination against the disabled to deny them the right to kill themselves that able bodied people have." Others supporting the Bill include Terry Pratchett.

Curtis Jobling has sold two volumes of Max Helsing: Monster Hunter to Viking Children’s Books in New York for a high five-figure sum. On first impression, Max Helsing looks like a slacker kid: tatty bomber jacket, hoodie hanging out, threadbare jeans and a grubby pair of sneakers. With his backpack slung over his shoulder you might see any number of twelve year-old kids just like him in malls and comic shops across the country. Only look in that backpack for a moment – no schoolbooks here. Instead, there are vials of potions, holy water, sprigs of wolfs bane and a lucky rabbit’s foot. There are spell scrolls and ancient maps, totems and warding symbols, gizmos and gadgets. Okay, okay, so there is a laptop too, but that’s nestled between a rare copy of Vile’s Grimoire and Urgo’s Pocketbook of Essential Cantrips… Curtis Jobling designed the Bafta-winning Bob The Builder and is also the creator of Frankenstein’s Cat, the BBC's hit children’s animation series based upon his book of the same name.

Laurie Johnson, the composer of The Avengers and New Avengers (the real The Avengers, not the Marvel creations) theme music, has received an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Tom Kibble has been knighted. Prof Sir Tom was one of six people who are accredited with discovering the Higgs boson. He did not get a Nobel Prize last year when François Englert (Belgium) and Peter W. Higgs (Great Britain) got theirs even though the Nobel Prize rules do allow for up to thee recipients for any one category. Peter Higgs himself said that Kibble was "the obvious candidate" to be the third scientist honoured by the Nobel Committee. "Not only did [Kibble] publish the last of the papers in 1964, he also wrote a longer paper that was really very important in generalising the sort of thing I had written in '64." Also knighted was Prof Tejinder Jim Virdee who like Tom works at Imperial College London. Jim was instrumental in designing the CMS experiment, one of two CERN experiments hunting for the Higgs.

David Langford's short story is having a Kickstarter.com venture to turn his story BLIT into a short film. The film is an origin story for the universe established in Langford's story. The plot centres on an extreme right wing, upper-crust English terrorist cell that gets their hands on a BLIT image. This is a high-resolution graphic that holds the power to kill anyone who looks at it. One member of the cell ultimately rebels against his brothers' decision to broadcast the image as a weapon, leading to a deadly conflict of conscience. You can contribute at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1145326779/basilisk.

Ann Leckie has had a two-page spread in The Bookseller, the British Isles bookselling trade weekly magazine. This is an honour that only top, or much talked about, authors get and undoubtedly is a result of her recent award success such as with the Locus, Nebula awards and (the then) Hugo nomination (Ann had not yet won the Hugo when the article was being written). In the article it is revealed that Ann is a fan of many SF authors from Jack Vance to C. J. Cherryh and that she is a Clarion West Writers Workshop alumni where she was taught by Octavia Butler and Connie Willis. Also that the gender blindness issue in Ancillary Justice in part sprang from 'fever pitch' discussions on gender issues in fandom.  She is currently concentrating on writing the third in the trilogy, Ancillary mercy. She also revealed that while she might possibly write more stories in the Ancillary Universe, that she will leave the Breq trilogy character behind.

George R. R. Martin has teased readers that he does not plan to write an 8th novel in his Song of Fire and Ice franchise. He says: "My plan is to finish in seven." But, the author teases, the "original plan was to finish in three" and so we should not count our chickens. He adds: "I write the stories and they grow," he said. "I deal with certain things and sometimes I find myself not at the end of a story. My plan right now is still seven. But first I have to finish Book Six. Get back to me when I'm half-way through Book Seven and then maybe I'll tell you something more meaningful." +++ George R. R. Martin also announced over the summer that he will write two people into one of his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' books (cf. the HBO series Game of Thrones) and then brutally kill them off to raise money for the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and a food charity. People can make a donation for as little as £10 and in return will automatically be entered into a prize draw that could see them and a friend flown out to meet Martin in Santa Fe, before taking a helicopter ride to the Wolf Sanctuary. Nice one.

Paul McAuley has, mid-summer, finished the edits of his new novel, Something Coming Through. The aliens are here. And they want to help. The extraordinary new project from one of the country's most acclaimed and consistently brilliantly SF novelists of the last 30 years. Something Coming Through and it's sequel Into Everywhere will extend, explore and complete the near future shared by the popular and highly acclaimed short stories in the Jackaroo sequence, including 'The Choice', which won the 2012 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. They present new perspectives on one of the central ideas of science and science-fiction - are we alone in the universe? - through two separate narratives. Something Coming Through is set in a recognisable but significantly different near-future London: half-ruined by a nuclear explosion, flooding and climate change; altered by the arrival of aliens who call themselves the Jackaroo… Sounds interesting.

Anne McCaffrey's estate (we sadly lost Anne a couple of years ago) has just sold a film option to Warner Brothers for the entire Dragonriders of Pern series. Warners are thinking beyond their Tolkien cash cow. However, don't get your hopes up too soon. Options are just that, options. They do not commit a studio to film, rather that they have the right for a while to potentially make a film based on the book being optioned. Most books optioned do not get made into films. This is the beginning of what is sometimes called 'development hell'. Still, here's hoping.

Terry Pratchett, who announced his diagnosis a few years ago, pulled out of this year's Discworld convention, saying "I have been putting off writing this announcement for quite some time and on good days thought I wouldn't have to write it at all." He added: "I am very sorry about this, but I have been dodging the effects of PCA and have been able to write for much longer than any of us ever thought possible, but now The Embuggerance is finally catching up with me, along with other age-related ailments." However there was a video link with the author for a Q&A session and Terry's black hat was there to mark his presence in spirit.

Hannu Rajaniemi has sold an as-yet-unnamed short story collection to Gollancz and Tachyon. Tachyon will publish a limited-edition hardback in the spring of 2015, and will have those rights for a first printing edition for twelve months. Then Gollancz will publish a trade hardback edition in 2016, to be followed by a mass-market paperback. Gollancz have also acquired world rights for the book. Hannu’s debut novel, The Quantum Thief, excited huge interest – and major sales – when it was published by Gollancz in the UK and Tor in the US.

Gillian Redfearn news is below in the book trade section.

J. K. Rowling won the right to formally present a statement at the High Court concerning the Daily Mail's (a right wing, popular press, British national newspaper) coverage of her. In April a High Court judge ruled the author could make the statement, saying there was "no sufficient reason" for the Daily Mail's publishers, Associated Newspapers, to refuse permission to read it. The author said she had not accused fellow churchgoers of 'stigmatising' or 'cruelly taunting her', but had referred to 'a single occasion involving a woman who had visited the church one day while she was working there'. Rowling said the Daily Mall had been 'misleading' and 'unfair' in its story and had injured her reputation and caused her great distress and embarrassment. She sued the newspaper back in January. Then in May the Daily Mail has said it accepted the author had not made any false claims and apologised for the suggestion. It also has paid unspecified damages which the author has donated to charity.  +++ Fantastic Beasts Potter spin-off forthcoming: see below film section.  +++ J. K. Rowling has donate £1 million (US$1.7 m) to the campaign against Scottish independence and retaining UK integrity.  +++ Rowling's sequel detective novel (written as 'Robert Galbraith'), The Silkworm had orders via Amazon.com delayed by one to two months. Apparently it is due to the Hachette-Amazon row. See the item in the books subsection below.  +++ J. K. Rowling has posted a new Harry Potter short story on her website some seven years after the publication of the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry, now 34, has been to the Patagonian Desert for the Quidditch World Cup. Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna are there with him — as is The Daily Prophet‘s Rita Skeeter, who still writing news coverage, and whose report is the story's narrative driver.   +++ J. K. Rowling at Harrogate's Crime Writing Festival said that her new detective stories (written as Robert Galbraith) will eventually outnumber her Harry Potter books as the HP books followed an overall story arc whereas her detective novels do not and any arc – if there is one – is open-ended.

William Shatner, who played the character Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, has been honoured by NASA. He received NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal from Bob Jacobs for his support of NASA programmes and science education: specifically "For outstanding generosity and dedication to inspiring new generations of explorers around the world, and for unwavering support for NASA and its missions of discovery."

J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis are to be the subjects of a forthcoming feature film. Attractive Films is producing the film, which is to be called Tolkien & Lewis, and will be directed by Simon West. It is being billed as a drama fantasy set in war torn Britain in 1941 revealing the faith, friendship and rivalry between J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Of course both writers knew each other and both taught at Oxford U. and fought in World War I.

Jack Williamson has had the books of his library added to other SF books to form a library in his name. Located in Portales, Texas (US), the Jack Williamson library boasts some 30,000 SF books and is thought to be the third largest SF library in the US open to the public. What an excellent way to remember Jack who left us in 2006.

 

For SF author websites click SF author links.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

FILM NEWS

The summer's SF/F box-office hits included in order of release:-
          The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out at the summer's beginning in May. It opened at the top of the North American box office with takings of US$92m (£54.5m) that weekend (trailer here). At that time Captain America: The Winter Soldier was 4th in the N. American charts and had only taken US$7.7m (£4.5m) that weekend (trailer here) and Divergent was 7th taking US$2.2m (£1.3m) (trailer here). Spiderman and Captain America remained in the N. American box office top ten for the remainder of the month.
          The Godzilla reboot was the surprising success (given we had a Godzilla re-boot not that long ago) of the early summer (trailer here). It arguably was the 3-D that did it. Its opening weekend in N. America (Canada and US) saw it take US$93.2m (£55.4m)! (This knocked Spiderman down to third in the weeks charts and Captain America to 8th.)  The commercial success was such that Godzilla's first week was barely over when Legendary and Warner Bros were seriously talking of a sequel.
          The horror Oculus has done rather well given that few horrors make the top of the charts. But Oculus dived in straight to number 5 on its launch. It stars former Dr Who Karen Gillan. (You can see the trailer here.)
          The Disney fantasy Maleficent was in the top 5 of the British Isles box office charts for one-and-a-half months mid-summer and has done similarly well in N. America. A pure-hearted, young woman becomes vengeful due to an invading army and places a curse… (You can see the trailer here.)
          The sequel Transformers: Age of Extinction topped the North American box office and scored the biggest opening weekend of the summer. The fourth instalment in Michael Bay's franchise took US$100m (£58.8m) despite generally poor reviews from critics. However, as its first weekend release in N. America alone saw a box office take equivalent to half the film's budget, the studio is happy. The three previous Transformer outings have generated nearly US$2.7bn (£1.6bn) worldwide, so expect more... Over in the British Isles it topped the Isles box office the week of its launch taking £11.7m.  Transformers: Age of Extinction stayed at the top of the N. American box office top ten for two weeks before being toppled by... (trailer here).
          Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took US$73m (£42.6m) in its opening weekend in the North American box office and took a further US$31m (£18m) from international markets. Its second weekend the film fared even better in N. America taking US$36m (£21m) and that weekend it topped weekend sales worldwide with an estimated US$97m (£57m) ticket sales globally. (Trailer here.)
          August begins and Guardians of the Galaxy topped the North American box office in its debut weekend, taking US$94m (£55.8m). The film also secured the third biggest opening weekend of 2014, coming just behind the US$95m (£56.4m) debut of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April and the US$100m (£58.8m) launch of Transformers: Age of Extinction in June. Over here in the British Isles it knocked Dawn of the Planet of the Apes off of its two-week number one slot but did not do as well as the Dawn of… its first weekend in the chart. Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel franchise – light-weight adventure that does not take its self too seriously. It concerns Starlord (not the British comic strip one) and a band of misfits who go around doing good albeit with an eye out for themselves and not always on the right side of the law.  (Trailer here.) And, you guessed it, a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel is already set for release in 2017.

Last celluloid factory may be temporarily reprieved by Hollywood directors. Quentin Tarantino, J. J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and Judd Apatow have persuaded Hollywood studios to commit to placing long-term orders with the last Kodak factory that manufactures physical film stock. This should save the factory in Rochester, New York. The digital revolution has led sales of celluloid film to drop by 96% since 2006. Warner Brothers chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said: "In an industry where we very rarely have unanimity, everyone has rallied around keeping film as an option for the foreseeable future." Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.

The author of the novel Gravity sues Warner Brothers. Now this is a new twist on the more common suing for breach of contract. The author Tess Gerritsen wrote a book called Gravity that was optioned by Warner Brothers. She claims that there was a breach of contract when the studio failed to release the film with a 'based upon' acknowledgement as had been agreed upon, and denying her 2.5% of profits (millions of dollars). She has noted that the screenwriter tasked to adapt her book has some connection with Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón (see www.tessgerritsen.com/gravity-and-the-two-degrees-of-separation ). Aside from the title, both the film and the novel concern a lone female astronaut stranded on a space station trying to get home… All well and good. Having said that, Cuarón's 2013 film Gravity sees an astronaut stranded in space following a space debris cascade storm that wipes out her shuttle and threatens all structures in space. Conversely, Tess Gerritsen' 2011 book Gravity concerns an astronaut in a space station biolab that has a breach infecting the crew, leaving them stranded in space surrounded by infection. The same title but two rather different premises.  One can speculate that maybe the novel inspired aspects of the film, but then can you copyright a trope? The answer surely is 'yes' if the trope treatment is similar. The question the legals will need to answer is whether or not that is going on here?

Harry Potter spinoff film Fantastic Beasts is to launch in November 2016. This will be the first of three spinoff Potter films and is an adaptation of J. K. Rowling's Hogwarts 'textbook' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling wrote the mini book in 2001 between publication of the fourth and fifth Potter books. It is set seven decades before the start of the Harry Potter story and follow the 'magizoologist' Newt Scamander. The eight Harry Potter films grossed £4.8 billion worldwide up to 2011.

There will be a new Stargate film trilogy re-boot, but it is actually the original that never was...  There will be a new Stargate trilogy of films. The original Stargate film (1994) was meant to be an independent film and the first in a trilogy. Apparently what happened was that those providing the financial backing got nervous before the film came out and sold it to MGM. The film was a success and MGM went straight to do the television series without making the sequel films. Now Dean Devlin, the co-writer of the original film, is keen that the re-boot will reflect what was originally intended.

Pacific Rim sequel confirmed by director Guillermo del Toro. Not only will there be a sequel to Pacific Rim but also an animated series, the director announced. The film sequel is currently slated fo April 2017.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Doctor Who Parody by The Hillywood Show is a short 7 minute Dr Who doing a Rocky Horror 'Timey wimey warp' thing. A jolly jape and rather spiffing takes on scenes from Who to the 'Time Warp' song. It's just a jump to the left, and and click on the mouse [here] to the right.

Film clip download tip!: Runaway is a short 5-minute SF film set in the future a remote desert petrol station gets an unusual visitor… See the film here.

Film clip download tip!: Mis-Drop is a short 13-minute SF film. 300 years in the future, a forensic accountant reviews the video stream from one mercenary's drop-pod which has been damaged during the initial stages of a colonial invasion… See the film here.

Film clip download tip!: Super Zero is a short 15-minute zombie SF film. Josh, a 20 year old introverted geek culture lover who, when diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, believes he has nothing to offer the world decides to kill himself. On that day, a vessel carrying the first sample of liquid water discovered on Mars crashes into Earth sparking the Zombie Apocalypse. See the film here.

Film clip download tip!: Terms and Conditions May Apply is a disturbing but informative documentary affecting nearly everyone in developed nations in the information age. Admit it: you don't read the endless terms and conditions connected to every website you visit, phone call you make or app you download. But every day, billion-dollar corporations are learning more about your interests, your friends and family, your finances, and your secrets... and they are selling the information to the highest bidder… And you agreed to all of it… With fascinating examples and so-unbelievable-they're almost-funny facts, filmmaker Cullen Hoback exposes what governments and corporations are legally taking from you every day - turning the future of both privacy and civil liberties uncertain. From whistleblowers and investigative journalists to zombie fan clubs and Egyptian dissidents, this disquieting exposé demonstrates how every one of us has incrementally opted into a real-time surveillance state, click by click- and what, if anything, you can do about it… See the trailer for the documentary here.

Film clip download tip!: Monsters 2: Dark Continent has posted a trailer. You may recall that we cited Gareth Edwards' Monsters (2010) as one of 2011's the worthies that slipped through that year's top ten net and which since has attracted a bit of a cult following.  All of which is well and good. Now Hollywood has taken notice which, lets face it, is a bit worrying, and they are releasing a follow-up. (Gareth Edwards is neither writing or directing it.)  A soldier enters the alien infected zone of the city to find his comrade.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Giver is based on Lois Lowry's juvenile SF novel of the same name, and which was the winner the 1994 Newbery Medal. It has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.  Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colourless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the 'Receiver of Memory' does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. The film came out in the US, Australia, Hungary, France and Germany mid-August but we are not sure when it will get a British release. Stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: I'll Follow You Down came out over the summer in the US but has not had much of an airing over here (Europe). It's a time travel story and stars Gillian (X-Files) Anderson.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Zero Theorem is, you surely must know, Terry Gilliam's latest. Terry's films have a distinct arthouse, independent film, but he manages to get BIG Hollywood budgets which he then blows entertainingly. A computer hacker, whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence, continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him. If you have not seen it yet then can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Coherence also came out over the summer. Now, don't be put off by some of the official publicity which uses the word 'astrological', they actually mean 'astronomical' (science literacy in the arts, media studies, advertising sectors can be a tad wanting). On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, it has had a fair reception at some of the specialist genre film fests.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also came out over the summer. A rather good contribution to the re-boot.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Hybrid is a new Swedish SF, action horror. The fall of the Soviet Union leaves secrets to be uncovered including one research programme into human genetics.   See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Parts per Billion sees a biological attack deplete our 7 billion world population… In the process personal relationships become strained.  See the trailer here.

 

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2013/14 (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 2014 see our film release diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Harper Voyager expands digital-first e-book publishing from best of what otherwise might have been formerly classified as slush pile material. It has long been known that a minority of worthy titles have been failed to have been picked up from the slush-pile: the pile of rejected manuscripts. Also that some new material has never had the chance to be tested in the market as being so fresh they were not appreciated as being marketable. Harper Collins recognised this and placed an open call for new material and releasing the best of this electronically (without paper and physical distribution costs) meant that they could be braver about what they accepted. So where we are today is that HarperCollins' SF/F imprint, Harper Voyager, is ramping up its Voyager Impulse digital-first line from its N. American office and is launching 31 original e-book titles from now through to next winter (2015). The novels and novellas will cover the range of SF/F/H genres and the Voyager Impulse e-book releases will be followed by short-run paperback editions. Most of the titles were selected from more than 4,500 manuscripts submitted to the Voyager Impulse line following a call for new works.

Harper Collins' deal with the US Scribd provides e-book rental service. This UK Harper Collins' deal follows on from a US Harper Collins' arrangement. This new one will release some 3,500 UK Harper backlist titles (presumably including Harper's fantasy Voyager imprint titles) for e-book rental. However there are questions as to whether authors are getting fair remuneration. Fortunately discussions are continuing and so far the dialogue seems constructive, so fingers crossed.

The SF/F imprint, 'Strange Chemistry' has closed. The juvenile SF/F Strange Chemistry imprint of publisher Angry Robot Books has sadly closed. However this loss is tempered by the announcement that Angry Robot's own 'Angry Robot' imprint is still going strong and plans to increase its output from two books a month, to three.

Little Brown merges former Piatkus, Constable and Robinson imprints. Little Brown bought Constable & Robinson at the beginning of the year. Tim Whiting, currently publisher for Piatkus, has been promoted to publisher of the new Piatkus Constable Robinson division, which has been created to 'take advantage of publishing synergies, streamline day-to-day editorial processes, and help fully integrate Constable & Robinson within the company', says Little, Brown.

Gillian Redfearn, of the Gollancz SF imprint, is cited as 'one to watch'. A poll of the British book trade conducted with the assistance of the Frankfurt Book Fayre looks at up-and-coming book trade professionals (and not to be confused with the other annual 'most influential' in the book trade poll). This year's results of rising stars is predominantly female (just 11 (26%) are men) and Gillian is among them. She is also – as an SF editor – the most genre-related cited by the poll. Gillian joined Gollancz in 2004, was promoted to editorial director in 2011 and in 2013 became Deputy Publishing Director. Her early acquisitions with Gollancz included Joe Abercrombie (2004) and Patrick Rothfuss (2006).

The average professional author in Britain earned just £11,000 in 2013. This figure comes from the Authors' Licensing and Collection Society (ALCS) survey of 2,454 writers and puts authors on the minimum wage. Fortunately most authors have other sources of income and only 11.5% of British writers rely solely on their writing as their principal source of income. However just as recently as 2005 some 28.7% of authors relied on their writing as their principal source of income. This trend is not just the recession but also part of other factors affecting the British book sector including Amazon's impact: see items shortly below.

The state of the British (UK) book market in 2013. The trade figures for last year are now in and have been analysed. (This builds on the major publisher e-book sales data we reported last season.) Note: the figures below relate to commercial publisher sales and commercial outlet sales covered by BookScan. (They exclude things like small, independently published books sold on personal websites and specialist and technical publications only available from specialist and technical organizations.)
          Size of the British market. Including for the first time academic journals, the size of the British market in 2013 was £4.3 billion (US$7.05 bn) (BookScan retail figures £4.7 billion (US$7.75bn)).
          Paperbacks. Paperbacks sales in 2013 dipped below £1 billion to £939.3 million. In volume (not money) terms it was down 9.1% over the previous year.  Is this bad?  Well, it is not good news, but not as bad as you might think. Sales in cash terms were as low as this back in 2001. The good news is that the growth in e-book sales helps offset the decline in paperback sales.  In 2013 paperbacks accounted for 66% of the print market in cash terms and 77% by print volume (so excluding e-books): so don't write paperbacks off too soon.  As a proportion of the total of paperback and e-book market (but excluding hardbacks) paperbacks in 2013 made up 57% of trade value and 52% of trade volume. In short, paperbacks in both sales value and units still both dominate print and dominate e-books even if paperback sales are down. Nielsen data suggests that the actual average selling price of a paperback in Britain in 2013 was £5.46p. (This compares with £5.83p in 2008 before the recession. Paperbacks' individual price since the recession, and the growth in e-books, have therefore declined markedly in real terms. Paperback total sales have declined by 23% in cash terms since 2008 and the onset of the recession, and declined by 25% by volume.)
          Hardbacks. 2013 saw hardback sales down just 0.9% over 2012 to £477.4m.
          E-books. The estimate market (who knows how many independently produced e-books are sold through personal websites) for e-books in the UK in 2013 was £220 million by value and 74 million by volume. The average price of an e-book was therefore just under £3. (And remember we reported last time that e-book sales from just the five biggest publishers were up 18% over 2012 but that this growth was much lower than that in 2011.
          Summary for 2013. The British publishing industry is holding its own. Print is down but sales loss have been offset by e-book growth.  The medium term e-book growth is down but still growing.  Hardback only slightly down mean that the print decline was borne by paperbacks, but paperbacks still dominate the total market (of paperbacks, hardbacks, e-books together).

Paper books will be over taken by e-book sales by 2018 says business consultants and accountants Pricewaterhouse Coopers. They say that the British consumer e-book market – as indicated by BookScan sales which includes all major outlets but excludes text books and professional manuals and some specialist presses – will increase in value from £380 million to £1 billion by 2018 while the sales of books fall by a third! (Note: the Pricewaterhouse estimate of the total market includes sectors not included in the BookScan commercial analysis in the previous item above.)  However a number of big name book traders disagree with the Pricewaterhouse conclusions. Tim Waterstone, founder of the British book chain, told the Oxford Literary Festival in March that: "every indication – certainly from America – shows the [e-book] share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."  We at SF2 Concatenation are also wary of Pricewaterhouse Coopers' prediction. As we have previously reported there are signs that the growth in e-books is declining (and see also the previous item). Though last summer (2013) e-book growth in just one month was 1%, e-book sales represented only 19% of the total market. And there were periods in the early 2013 when e-book sales were actually flat. The US is behind Britain and in 2012 the US e-book share of the market was just 12%.  Though the Pricewaterhouse Coopers' prediction of e-book domination may come to pass, it would be very foolish to conclude that it will happen with certainty let alone by 2018 or even that the e-book / paper book balance will be skewed very heavily one way.

The physical market (paperbacks and hardbacks) declined in the first half of 2014 by 2.4%. The first half of 2014's paper takings were just £525m according to Nielsen BookScan. The early draft analysis for British Isles digital suggests that e-books have grown but not as much as in recent years.

France's book sales in 2013 went down in cash terms by 3%. This is the third year of French decline. In real-term cash value the decline is 3.3% to €2.7 billion (£2.3bn). Actually, the news could have been worse. Taking out the textbook sector, all the other book sectors together – fiction, non-fiction, religious etc -- the decline would have only been by 1.3%. Indeed, by itself, the literary sector increased by 5.7%.  E-books were up 28.8% to €105m (£89.2m) and so digital is finally taking off in France, which means that in terms of evolving market France (as is the USA) is a few years behind Britain.  Overall the number of titles published in France in 2013 went up by 10.6% but the average print run has declined (in common with many other countries) and in France has gone down by 18% to under 6,000 copies.

Odd book sales fact of the season. In Germany 70% of book market sales are hardback. Germany has the world's third biggest book market at €9.7 billion (£8.25bn, US$13.6bn).

Amazon in the US was accused by Hachette of delaying delivery of some of its best-selling authors' books. The authors cited were mundane (non-SF/F/H) such as Robin Roberts, Stephen Colbert and James Patterson. Popular titles usually take two to three days for Amazon to deliver but the delays were reportedly up to three weeks. Amazon then heightened matters by removing the pre-order facility for forthcoming Hachette titles. Hachette is the controlling company of US imprints such as Little Brown that does SF/F. Amazon seems to be using similar tactics against the Bonnier Media Group in Germany.  In France the French Culture Minister, Aurélie Filippetti, said that Amazon is making an 'unacceptable attack on access to books'.  Speculation as to why all this is happening focuses on Amazon wanting substantive discounts from publishers and those publishers that don't play ball with Amazon are affected. Amazon shares' value fell by a quarter in the first five months of the year (2014) and as investors want profits and/or dividends Amazon in turn wants the best margins it can get from publishers even if that means strong-arm tactics.  Then in August over 900 authors made a public in a letter in the New York Times their appeal to Amazon to end the dispute that has been 'hurting' writers and readers, and that their books had been 'taken hostage' by Amazon's tactics. The authors include: John Grisham, Philip Pullman and Stephen King.
          But this is not new news. Amazon pulled all the 'buy' buttons for Macmillan books in 2010. The problem with this strategy is that not only does it hit publishers but it gives Amazon an unfair advantage over high street, retail bookshops. In Britain we have long reported on the decline of bookshops and only last season for the first time noted that the number of independent Brit bookshops fell below a thousand, as well as bookshop closures in N. America, and of course the past couple of years have seen concerns that Amazon might not be paying its fair share of tax. If as a book reader you have an interest in the state of publishing and the book market, you might want to think of ordering your books from your local bookshop or directly from the publisher. +++  Publishers have tried to stand-up to Amazon before but were hit by an antitrust court ruling in the US. Lets hope that if it goes to court this time that the law will be more sympathetic to publishers.

Amazon in the UK has been accused of bullying small publishers. Apparently Amazon wants the right to print books itself if publishers fail to provide adequate stock, and for publishers to match any pricing deals it offers to other distributers. The trade magazine The Bookseller reports that Amazon has introduced a number of new clauses in its contract proposals to independent UK publishers. Among these were the right for Amazon to print its own copies of a book if a publisher runs out of stock. The Seattle-based company would do this using its 'print-on-demand' facility, and would require publishers to hand over electronic versions of their titles. Another clause, known in the industry as a 'most favoured nation' (MFN) proposal, asks publishers not to offer promotions to distributors without also offering them to Amazon and this would include selling books at a discount on the publishers' own websites. The Bookseller's editor, Philip Jones, has said that if Amazon's terms were agreed, it would be a 'form of assisted suicide for the industry'. +++ And if you want to know why the Eurocon commended Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide is so expensive on Amazon compared to the discounted price Porcupine Press are offering those making direct enquiries, it is because we have never, ever signed a contract with Amazon, and will not do so until it gives exactly the same terms to all publishers as large book chains (such as Waterstones) get from publishers! +++ See also authors not doing well a few items above.

An author in every bookshop for Saturday 11th October (2014). Ensuring that there is an author in every British bookshop on this day is central to this year's (the second) 'Books Are My Bag' campaign. The campaign's aim is to highlight the importance of bookshops to the great British high street and has the support of the major chains and publishers. See booksaremybag.com.

Enigma Bookstore – Long Island New York (US) specialist SF bookstore is having to move. Problems with the landlord ultimately are at the root of having to vacate their current premises. Alas they need to find a new home.

Romania's Xenos anthology launched at the country's biggest, and growing, book festival. Xenos was launched earlier this summer at biggest book fest, a national-level event. It happens once a year and it takes place at Romexpo, a formerly expo centre, the pride of Ceausescu's regime. This year theBookfest (that took place between 28th of May to 1st of June) had the largest number of visitors yet, with approximately 100,000 attending, which is about 15-20% more than last year.  The SF dimension was just one aspect of the event and its main item was the launch of Xenos: Contact Intre Civilizatii [Xenos: Contact Between Civilizations ] by publishing house Nemira. Its contributing authors include: Liviu Radu, Aurel Carasel, Cristian Teodorescu, Daniel Haiduc, Diana Alzner, Ioana Visan, George Lazar, Mihai Liviu Goga and Stefana Czeller. Alas Silviu Genescu (a writer who has won both SF and mainstream awards for his fantastical fiction) could not submit his story by the deadline due to ill health, but he is recovered now and so next year perhaps… Other SF/F publishing houses at the book festival included Millenium Books, Tritonic, Trei and Leda.

Romania's 2nd city book fest cancelled. Since the fall of Ceausescu's communist regime and the restoration of free speech, Romania's book festivals have grown and each major city seems to have one each year (see previous item). All well and good, but this year Romania's second city, Timisoara (that hosted the groundbreaking 1994 Eurocon) is not having a festival. Apparently the city's mayor did not want the central city square taken over for a week by the fest. The alternative venue offered the organisers was a business centre in the south part of the city away from the centre. And it looks like Timisoara will not host a book fest next year either. However, as after that there will be new mayoral elections, there may be one in 2016.

 

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in January 2015. Meanwhile check out the forthcoming SF and forthcoming fantasy book lists sections (see the mini-index immediately below…).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

TV NEWS

Arthur C. Clarke's classic 1953 novel Childood's End is to be adapted for television. SyFy is adapting it to a six-hour miniseries. It is hoped that the series will be screened towards the end of 2015.

The Simpsons will see an incursion from Futurama. Being first screened on 9th November 2014, Bart sneezes and (due to a time capsule storing the virus) causes a catastrophe in the future. Queue Bender coming back to wipe out Bart and save the Earth.

Red Dwarf is coming back! Since we had the mini-series back in 2012, we wondered whether Red Dwarf's continued success would see its return? Well, the good news is that it has! Filming begins in October and airing is slated for 2015 on Dave.

Robert Charles Wilson's Hugo-winning novel Spin is to be a television mini-series. The accomplished Canadian author's award winning Spin (and we hope this means it includes its sequels Axis and Vortex) has been picked up by Universal Cable Productions. The story follows three friends who when young witness the stars in the sky as they mysteriously vanish. A black energy barrier has surrounded the Earth and time is slowed within it. This means that time is by comparison passing faster outside in the rest of the universe… This could be very exciting. And if they do a good job, let's hope they look at some of his other novels.

Almost Human has been cancelled. The series was created by J. H. Wyman for Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Wyman, Bryan Burk and J. J. Abrams are executive producers. The series premise is that in 2048, the evolution of technology has caused crime rates to rise by 400%. To combat this, the overwhelmed police force has implemented a new policy: every human police officer is partnered with a lifelike combat-model android.  Despite not-that-bad ratings, the show was cancelled after the first season.

The Big Bang Theory gets new seasons but (just) may end with series ten!  Now in its seventh series, it means the programme could end in 2017. Senior writer Steve Molaro has said that there was no 'official' end date but admitted he 'would be okay' if the programme ended after three more seasons. However no firm decision has yet been made.  The four-time Emmy Award winning series is screened on Channel 4 and E4 in the British Isles, and has seen audiences of almost 20 million viewers in the US and is currently that country's top-rated sitcom on US television in 2012-13. Meanwhile in the run-up to season eight the five original stars – Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar –negotiated hard for a pay rise and this delayed shooting of the next season by a week. The Hollywood Reporter claims that Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco had been earning US$325,000 (£190,000) per show and were seeking up to US$1m (£584,000) per episode.

Falling Skies has been renewed for a fifth season, which will also be the last. The final season of ten episodes will air in the summer of 2015. This autumn's fourth season begins to set the scene for the final one. Now that they know that they have to wrap up the various storylines we might actually see some progression (goodness, the overall story moves painfully slowly and lacks substance), though the show's alien special effects are quite good.

12 Monkeys forthcoming series to get an extra episode. When we briefly announced this new series last season appropriately just 12 episodes were being considered. The word now is that this has been upped to 13 (unlucky for some). Co-executive producer Terry Matala is reported as saying that they are taking the broad concept from Terry Gilliam’s 1995 classic and turning it into a 'gritty time-travelling show' that will focus on a time traveller, Cole (Aaron Stanford) from the post-apocalyptic future who is sent to the present to identify and destroy the source of a deadly plague that unless stopped will all but kill off the human race. He also is reported saying that 'we were all big fans of the original film and had a deep love and respect for the material' but goes on 'we didn’t want to just re-do what the movie does. Everything from the top down changed … We wanted it to be grounded and closer to a thriller'…  Sounds like they are not in touch with the true but loose original inspiration, La Jetée (1963) but then that film was markedly different to Gilliam's own post-apocalyptic time travel-take.  Airing of the new series is still slated for early spring (January?) 2015.

Ronin is being adapted by SyFy for a mini-series. Ronin was created by Frank Miller as a DC comics between 1983-4. Ronin concerns a 13th century samurai legendary warrior – the Ronin –who becomes dishonoured and masterless. He is mystically given a second chance to avenge his master's death when he finds himself reborn into a futuristic and corrupt 21st century New York. There he must defeat ancient demon Agat, the reincarnation of his master's killer.

Letter 44 is being adapted by SyFy as a mini-series. Based on Charles Soule's comic series. It concerns Stephen Blades, a new US president who learns that seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate and they are about to come back…

Les Revenants [The Returned] is to be re-made in US. The French series, Les Revenants [The Returned], has been aired in both the British Isles and N. America with English subtitles. The series concerns a small town which sees youngsters that had been killed in a coach road accident a while ago mysteriously return alive, while at the same time a nearby reservoir mysteriously looses water. +++ Previous related news Returned novelisations forthcoming coinciding with series two.

ITV could be re-booting Thunderbirds for 2015. The 1965 Gerry Anderson puppet series was a huge success. The new show will consist of just half an hour episodes (not the 45 minutes the original TV series had). It will be called Thunderbirds Are Go (after the first film based on the series) and they plan to make 26 episodes. Apparently David Graham will once again be voicing the butler Parker and the format will consist of CGI characters and live-action miniature sets… We'll be sure to let you know if we get confirmation of this news.

The Walking Dead story arc being planned half a decade ahead. The curse of much televisual 'sci-fi' is the lack of a good story arc. Someone has a good idea. It is made into a series. The first season does well and then suddenly the writers have to plan another series. An early notable deviation into success was Babylon V. A fairly recent failure was Lost which ended up with both a lame ending and many unresolved elements and/or unsatisfactory explanations. The Walking Dead television series at least has the benefit of the Kirkman comics, and Game of Thrones the George R. R. Martin books, to draw upon. Now the The Walking Dead series' writers and producers despite only having had season 5 aired, have revealed that they are planning the story arc up to season 12 if not beyond. We hope that this does not mean that the overall story arc will drag but, for now, take this as a good sign.

BBC America is building on the success of Orphan Black with a new fantasy series. The Living and the Dead will be a six-episode series set in Somerset, England, in 1888. According to the report, the plot will explore a land and community on the edge of monumental change and on the hinge between ancient traditional ways and an industrial, scientific future in a land of ghosts and myths, poltergeists and demons. At the heart of the community is Nathan Appleby, a farmer obsessed with proving the existence of the afterlife. It sounds awful but best not to judge before we have seen it. Reportedly the series is being developed by the creators of Life on Mars which was a great series marred only by a truly dire ending with a raison d'être that simply did not hang together.

Steven Spielberg is developing Minority Report for television. Spielberg was behind the successful 2002 film Minority Report which in turn was based on the Philip K. Dick short story. Tom Cruise will not be involved in the proposed television series which is reported as being developed for Amblin and written by screenwriter Max (Godzilla) Borenstein.

The season finale of The Game of Thrones has again enabled the series to break the piracy record. TorrentFreak estimates that 250,000 users shared a single file of the season-four finale at the same time – the largest BitTorrent swarm in history. The episode, 'The Children', saw roughly 1.5 million downloads 12 hours after airing on HBO. The total number of downloads surpassed 7.5 million making The Game of Thrones once more the most-pirated TV show of the year.

Starfall series in pre-production It is set in a future Earth where humanity has only recently been emancipated from slavery and given the right to be recognised as equals by other races in the galaxy. Starfall is in pre-production with and plans to shortly begin filming. A press release form Rabid Fanboy Marketing says that the members of the cast include: Andrew Jackson (Stargate SG-1, Earth: Final Conflict and The Collector), Richard Leacock (Lake Placid, Earthstorm and Doc) and Ellen Dubin (Lexx, Earth: Final Conflict and Napoleon Dynamite).

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

Hugo voter's packet issue.  Orbit's move to only release parts of works for the Hugo Awards' voters' packet (as opposed to the whole works) received a minor online backlash. In recent years the entirety of the Hugo short-listed works (nominated works) have been made freely available to potential Hugo voters, namely Worldcon registrants. Orbit's spokes-person for this issue, Tom Homan, said:-
"We appreciate that some Hugo voters might be disappointed that the entire novels will not be available in the packet, and we would like to offer a word of explanation.
          We are of course very much in favour of initiatives that help readers to engage with important awards, and we are always looking for new ways to help readers discover new authors. However, in the case of the voter packets, authors and rights holders are increasingly feeling that if their work is not included in the packet it will be at a disadvantage in the awards. It’s difficult for anyone to know for certain whether this is the case, but either way we don’t feel that authors and rights holders should feel under pressure to make their work available for free. There are a lot of different attitudes to the idea of giving work away for free, but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice, without feeling that their decision might have negative consequences.
          We would like to make it clear that this was our decision, and not one requested by any of our authors.
"
          Now, letting the two statements 'we don’t feel that authors and rights holders should feel under pressure to make their work available for free' and 'we would like to make it clear that this was our decision, and not one requested by any of our authors' incongruity pass, Orbit do have a case. E-book piracy is a legitimate concern and providing free e-books and PDFs in the Hugo voter packet is a potential loophole for the dishonest to exploit. But perhaps John Scalzi (the chap who instigated the first Hugo nomination book packet should have his say. He posted:
          "If you read the previews of the books and you want to read more, remember: Bookstores and libraries (and friends with copies you can borrow, etc). These are things that exist in the world! And they are what people used before the Hugo Voter Packet, i.e., not all that long ago. It is not difficult, in other words, to give these works a fair reading and consideration."
          He also noted that "The year Yiddish Policeman’s Union was nominated (and won), it wasn’t available in the downloadable packet; people had to jump through an extra hoop to get a physical copy sent to them. It did just fine."  Besides, if a publisher provides half a novel for free potential voters can decide whether or not they like it enough to want to buy the book, and if they don't like it compared to one they do like then surely that is enough for them to at least rank the book on the Hugo ballot.

The 72nd SF Worldcon (Loncon3) was held this year in London, Britain. It was the 7trh time the Worldcon has been held in Britain since they began in 1939 and the third in London; the last time it had been held in that city was almost half a century ago in 1965.  As Worldcons go it was a large one. On the Sunday (day four of the five-day event) memberships had reached 10,762 with over 7,439 people actually attending (with Sunday walk-in memberships not included and the over 3,000 not attending mainly registering just for the publications as well as Hugo and site-selection voting purposes).
          Programme – Science. Being the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation, as usual we have a focus on the science programme, and as usual we list the Worldcon's science programme items which this year was BIG and also could be dived into two halves. 1) Astronomy with items on: 'Astrobiology - The Hunt for Alien Life', 'Solar Orbiter: Europe’s Mission to the Sun', 'The Cosmic Chemical Cauldron - Bring Towels', 'Herschel and Planck', .Speculative Biology - An Introduction', 'The Critters of CONTACT', 'Jupiter: King of the Solar System', 'How to Find the Most Distant Quasar'; 'Why Aliens Are Cool Again', 'The Fermi Paradox in Light of the Kepler Mission'; 'History of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS)', 'BIS: Mission for the Future Part 1', 'BIS: Mission for the Future Part 2', 'BIS: SKYLON and spaceflight of the future', 'Influences on Today’s Space Leaders', 'BIS: Going Interstellar - Projects Daedalus and Icarus', 'BIS: Space Societies and their Governance', 'BIS: Growing Into an Interstellar Civilisation: Can It Be Done, and If So, How?', 'Allergies on Alien Planets', 'BIS: Freedom on the Moon', 'BIS: Worldships - Why will we go?', 'BIS: The Human Future and Galactic Society', 'Black Holes in Close-up', 'The Random Universe', 'Interplanetary Artillery', 'The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Cosmos', 'The Globalization of Space: What’s Up?', 'I4IS: Starships Inspired by Arthur C Clarke’s Fiction', 'Secrecy in Science', 'I4IS: Science Fiction Starships as Real Engineering', 'I4IS: 100 Years to Interstellar Travel with the International Space University', 'I4IS: Living Starships - How Life and Machines Can Explore the Cosmos in partnership', 'I4IS: Far Centaurus - The Pros and Cons of Interstellar Travel in Science Fiction', 'I4IS: Our Interstellar Future', 'Fermi Paradox Book Discussion', 'Space Colonies - The Ultimate Gated Communities or Sink Estates?', 'Rosetta and Sunjammer', 'The Productive Old Age of Stars', 'Your Atoms; From Star to Star', 'How Space Missions Happen'.  And 2) All of the rest of science with items on: 'What Scientists Read', 'Internet Privacy 101', 'Climate Catastrophes: Past Present and Future', 'Wild Ravings and Exquisite Movements – the Quest for Longitude', 'Images of Venice: Alternative, Fantasy, and Future', 'Methane: The Dangerous Little Gas that Saved the Planet', 'Joy Of Sex'; 'Digital Vigilantes', 'Better Eating Through Chemistry', 'In a Proprietary World Who Owns Your Body?', 'Universal Language: Good or Bad?'; 'How to Survive'; 'Communicating Risk and Uncertainty'; 'The Science of Discworld', 'The Art and Science of Armour'; 'Scientists Without Borders', 'Citizen Science'; 'How to Make a Dwarf Mammoth'; 'Fake Science for Fun, Profit and Disaster', 'Ian Stewart Interview', 'What’s New in Maths', 'Death and the Single Person’s Tax Allowance', 'The Press vs. Science', 'Universally Challenged: Scientists vs. Writers Quiz', 'A Strange Newness: Architecture as Science Fiction', 'How Wikipedia Works: The Computer Made of Meat', 'Podcasting Science', 'Body Modification - From Decoration to Medication and Augmentation', 'Climate Change Narratives', 'What is Science?', 'We need to talk about TED', 'What is I?', '50 Years After: Asimov predicts 2014 World’s Fayre', 'The Post Human Future', 'The Biology of Sex and Gender', 'Droning On', 'Revenge of the bugs: how bacteria have re-emerged as a serious threat to our existence', 'Geoengineering - threat or salvation?', 'Food Politics', 'Speculative Design', 'Should We Trash the Planet on the Way to the Stars', 'Taking the Initiative – Why', 'SF and the English Summer', 'Lablit', 'The War on Science', 'From Embryo Screening to Embryo Engineering', 'Botanical Conquistadors', 'The Bottom Up: The Fantastical World of Human Waste', 'Tall Technical Tales', 'How Google Works', 'NASA, A Dog, Stem Cells, Nanoparticles, the Artificial Pancreas and Diabetes' (a talk on diabetes), 'How to Decide - Voting Systems', 'Knots in non-Euclidean space', 'The Bugs Are Coming Back', 'Running Fortran on the Mainframe: computer technologies that refuse to die', 'Science Fact and Science Fiction', 'Deep Sea Crawler', 'The Ruling Party (politics – whoever you vote for 'they' get in'), 'The Scientific Culture', 'Amateurs Talk Tactics; Professionals Talk Logistics', and 'How Do You Divide a Railroad? (colonisation)'.'
          Given that less that 10% of the British Science Base investment is devoted to astronomy and space science (and that includes Earth observation), but that nearly 40% of this Worldcon's science programme was devoted to astronomy and space science, does betray a certain (strong) bias in this year's programme. By itself this is not too much of a problem as occasionally specialising a programme stream can be interesting. Having said that such was the skew, and that just two years ago we had a Worldcon with much astronomy and space (and even an astronaut GoH), one might wonder at the wisdom of the programme committee's strategy in the context of the recent run of Worldcons. However, the good news was that the Worldcon science programme was a lot bigger than most years and that genuinely was greatly welcome by those of us who like their science fiction served with a healthy dollop of science fact. In short there was plenty of science on hand, especially astronomy and space science. (And hopefully next time in Britain a different discipline will be favoured?)
          Programme – Films. The good news: there was a brilliant film programme that included independent offerings as well as those from outside of Europe and N. America.  The bad news: 1) It was small. The wonderful people organising the film programme had not been given many time slots by the committee and there were no repeats (films are one of the few programme items you can easily repeat so provide con participants with programme flexibility), 2) nearly all of the films were in the evening and a fair proportion ended too late to see for those commuting to the Worldcon (at least 20% or registrants) if they were to get home before the public transport closed… And so for a third British Worldcon in a row, films were marginalised. A genuinely huge shame, and doubly so as this year we had a very knowledgeable person choosing the cinematic offerings. (There are times when one could quite easily recycle (very slowly) those in overall charge of Worldcon programming.) The last time the Worldcon had a really good film programme was in 2010, a pity that all the lessons were not learned but this time we did have a better line up of offerings publicised in the programme schedule book or for that matter, given the rich offering of cinematic SF Europe provides, more programme space and time devoted to film.
          Programme – And the rest… This year the programme was enhanced with both music and drama performances. This was quite a treat as both are rare at Worldcons and it may be that this year, Loncon 3, saw a record number of live performances at a Worldcon. These included the world premiere of Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates' which, due to technical difficulties, did not have as fair an airing as it otherwise might have had, and it could be argued that it was an over-ambitious venture. There was also an orchestral concert that included the Dr Who theme buoyed along with a theremin.
          And then there was a video stream. For the first time in three British Worldcons the video screenings were properly incorporated into the programme (hoorayyy!) and there was a very good mix of offerings both recent and rarely screened oldies (the last Glasgow Worldcon saw video screenings on an ad hoc basis with nothing in the programme guide). With Loncon, even if one could not get to see them due to programme clashes, or whatever, it was worth noting what was on offer for seeking out after the con. And here was the really neat touch, much of the video programme came courtesy of the British Film Institute who themselves will be celebrating science fiction film and television in their 'Days Of Fear And Wonder' season that will be subsequently running from October through to December; so if you missed some of the items at Loncon and you live within striking distance of London, you can catch a number of the items there.  Offerings included (among many): 'The South Bank Show - The Strange Worlds of Iain Banks (1997)'; 'Missing - Believed Wiped'; 'The Doctor Who Restoration Team'; 'Celebration: Science Fiction (Bryan Talbot and Bob Shaw, 1981)'; 'Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Crunch’ - A Television Play (1964)'; Iain M Banks & Ken MacLeod In Conversation'; 'John Wyndham - The Invisible Man of Science Fiction'; and 'Black Mirror - Fifteen Million Merits' which we previously cited as one of the best short-form visual media offerings of 2011. (OK, so you want a taster. Here is a trailer for the Black Mirrorseason that included '15 Million Credits'.) All in all Loncon3 saw the best video stream ever held at a British Worldcon, or indeed one of the best at any Worldcon in any country.
          Of special note, Loncon 3 was one of those rare Worldcons where one of the Guests of Honour was absent. This time the absentee was Iain Banks who sadly left us a year ago but no doubt was with us in spirit. There were a few items for us to remember Iain by including the afore-mentioned screening. Included in the mix was a special programme item in memory of Iain whereby folk could have a wee dram in his honour (well, we did say he was with us in spirit). Many of Iain's favourite whiskeys were available to sample (Iain had written a non-fiction book on whiskey).
          And finally (among many things we do not have space for which to report)… there was a welcome return of 'The Great Pork Pie Race'. This is where in the original version entrants had to transport by a non-electric or non-motorised means a pork pie 16 yards or metres. Catapults, moving towers powered by the descending weight of the pie itself and other wonders were all to be seen. The event itself pays homage to Brian Burgess. He was a British fan well known at British Eastercons of the 1960s to '80s who used to dispense milk and pork pies to hungry fans late at night. He was a bit of a character and could amaze you with his holiday snaps.
          Other stuff… The dealers and art show were in a large hall one floor up from the fan village. Not only was there an entrance to this from the first floor but also a connecting staircase down to the fan village, so making it one big space for things science fictional. The fan village itself was in the Conference centre's second big hall and contained the bar, fast food stalls, future convention stalls, exercise gymnast area, library, kids area, gaming tent and tables for general use. This was where much of the fan socialising went on.   Many pros (authors, editors, agents etc, and semi-pros (book reviewers, major fanzine and specialist website staff etc) socialised in the evening in separate corporate receptions held in nearby venues to the ExCel. Two of the most memorable of which included the combined Tor, SFX magazine and Jo Fletcher Books reception (ostensibly held to mark Jo Fletcher Books 4th year) and the Gollancz reception with a focus on raising a glass to one of Loncon3's Guests of Honour, publisher Malcolm Edwards).
          And then there were the Hugo Awards (see the earlier news subsection).
          Because of Loncon3's size meeting people, unless pre-arranged, was difficult; so much so that even if you knew several people were going to be at the convention one might never encounter them at all in the course of the five days! Nonetheless, it all seemed to work.
          Problems. There were just a couple of arguably significant issues. Both were major, but also minor in that nearly everyone got over them. The first was that registration on the Thursday mid-morning saw a queue develop that at its peak just touched two hours long. This was unforgivable. Have we not sorted out Worldcon registration years ago? Indeed, given that the organisers knew many months in advance that this was going to be a big Worldcon, preparations should really have been made to deal with this: we all knew that most people would arrive on the first half of the first day and leave on the last half of the last day. There could have been many possible emergency solutions. For instance, to take just one possibility, one might be to announce in Progress Report 3 that in the event of a first-day, long registration queue, stewards would go down the line and issue a one-day badge pass on the spot for anyone physically carrying their PR3 so that they could then enter the convention and register later when the queue shortened.  The other problem, we at Concatenation anticipated back in the Spring (and also privately notified the convention organisers), was that while the venue has a main hall that can accommodate 5,000, the break-out programme rooms in the London Suite can only hold around half that number. Consequently, most programme items were packed out and after the first day the ExCel's venue staff were checking on each item to ensure that nobody was standing so breaking health and safety fire regulations. The result was that many were unable to see programme items they wanted to. This problem was exasperated by the venue's lousy design: getting from the main hall and main exhibition area (fan village) on the ground floor principally relied on one single series of escalators and this regularly became a choke point. To be fair, poor venue design was not the organisers' fault: Britain has no properly designed venue for a symposium or conference for 5,000 or more. Britain has plenty of exhibition facilities (and the ExCel conference Centre is adjacent to one) but exhibition centres are quite different beasts to conference centres.  Lastly, we heard from a number of sources, there were non-organiser related tech kit supply issues.  All other issues were minor: the buggy driver incidents were a pain and the first accident took place the morning of day before the convention (set-up Wednesday) when a mobility buggy ploughed into the programme participants' registration desk knocking it over and the staff member behind it. Yet despite these hassles the LonCon 3 Worldcon went off rather well, if not very successfully: it was arguably one of the best Worldcons for many years. The virtually all the committee kept calm and did not wash their dirty laundry in public, they worked hard and they, and the volunteers on the day that made it happen, can now enjoy a well-earned rest. Well done.

Last chance to see the promotional video for the 2012 bid to run what was to the the 2014 Worldcon in London. Awesome, isn’t it.
See also the short promotional video below made once the bid to run the Worldcon was won and announcing the Guests of Honour.
Includes the late Iain Banks.

The 2015 Worldcon will be held in Sasquan, Spokane, Washington (USA). But you knew that, and if you are reading this before the event then the details are on our convention diary page. The important recent news is that Progress Report 2 is now out. Among the usual call for programme item suggestions and other stuff, is hotel booking news. Here the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau has made the hotel reservation process easy for those into on-line booking (which is most people but not everyone). Their Housing Bureau has consolidated all of their hotels' room blocks – over 1,000 contracted rooms – into a one-stop hotel reservations system: Sasquan members can make their hotel and room requests through a single, convenient website. The principal hotels are: DoubleTree (actually attached to the convention venue); the Davenport Hotel (the convention party hotel two-thirds of a mile away (17 minutes walk); and The Red Lion at the Park (half a mile north) and The Red Lion River Inn (half a mile northeast of the convention center).

The 2016 Worldcon will be held in Kansas City and called Mid-Americon 2. The site selection ballot took place and was announced at Loncon3. The only rival bid on the ballot was China. We reported last time that the Chinese bid left a little to be desired and that information was thin. The bid did not rally over the summer months leading up to the London Worldcon and so attracted less than 10% support of the voting electorate. The Kansas City Mid-Americon 2 Guests of Honour are Kinuko Y. Craft, Patrick and Teresa Nielson Hayden, Tamora Pierce, and Michael Swanwick, with Pat Cadigan as Toasmaster. The membership rates are currently US$190 for full attending. These rates are good to the end of the year (2014) but are likely to go up not long after the New Year. Furthermore, through the end of January 2015, those who pre-supported may take a US$20 discount off the appropriate conversion rates. Mid-Americon 2 Progress Report Zero is now out.

Future Worldcon bids. As this season's news page is so large, we will summarise future Worldcon bids next season. (So if you are running a bid and want specifically to tell us its USP (unique selling point), then please do.)  But for those who like to save a little each month for a few years for something rather special, then we remind you that there is a bid for a New Zealand Worldcon in 2020… You might want to make this your convention trip of a lifetime and combine it with a holiday. Start saving now.

 

Links to current Worldcon websites can be found from the World SF Society on www.wsfs.org.

For links to Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.

 

Meanwhile over in Europe…

This year's Eurocon was in Dublin (Ireland) and attracted nearly a thousand. In addition to Irish fandom, there were many from Britain and a good number from N. America who had a few days earlier been in London for the SF Worldcon. Having said that, there was a minority of mainland European fans who had not been to the London Worldcon due to either visa or economic reasons but who attended the Eurocon in Dublin: the Eurocon has its adherents who will prioritise the Eurocon over the Worldcon and that in turn says something about the smaller, but often more culturally diverse, Eurocons.  Now, going back to 2011 when the Irish had launched their bid for the 2014 Eurocon they had twice previously sought to host the Eurocon but failed because they simply could not understand that a Eurocon was a European SF Convention and not a local national convention with a few foreigners wandering around. Eurocons need guests from across Europe that national cons do not have. Eurocons need panels with participants from both the host nation together with those from farther away in Europe, they can have films from Europe's rich variety of independent studios. (Those planning future Eurocon bids please note.)  Conversely, the previous Irish Eurocon in 1997 had no discernable mainland European content in the programme (just one panel on translation and nobody from outside the British Isles was on that!). And so back in 2011, despite then having a fellow Irishman on the ESFS (European SF Society) board, the Dublin bid very nearly fell foul of old Irish fan parochialism but fortunately for Ireland there was a rival (but weaker) Romanian bid and this helped focus minds. Jump forward three years and here we are. As it turned out in 2014, though not the most European of Eurocons, there was a reasonable continental European flavour to the Dublin Eurocon programme and some (albeit a minority) of the guests were from mainland Europe. Then there were strong fan contingents present especially from France, Germany, Poland, Scandinavia, Spain and Russia. And so, all in all, the Dublin Eurocon could truly be said to be a Eurocon and indeed Ireland's first Eurocon in both spirit as well as actuality. If the Irish conrunners can further develop Ireland fandom's international perspective then it can only bode well for their forthcoming Worldcon bid, and indeed perhaps they might want to announce a joint Worldcon-Eurocon bid? That would really be a thought.
          The event all went off rather well. On arriving registrants were delightfully surprised with there being a rather neat souvenir programme booklet in their packs. (Not all Eurocons make a fuss of their programme books and some don't even have one at all, just a programme sheet.) The Guests of Honour were fully used in the programme. Again this was welcome. A few Eurocons just use their GoHs for their respective speeches, possibly one other item and the opening and closing ceremonies: Dublin got maximum GoH bang for their buck. And in addition to the programme there was a gathering for the season premiere of the new Dr Who. Plus, of course, there was a solid presentation for the Dublin bid for a future worldcon. In fact it is hard to find much to fault (not that one would) but if one did then the convention badges might have been better (and this is really a trivial point).
          As for social activities, there were a few and the usual fan parties (more like tastings) were well attended especially the big international party. The Dublin Eurocon's tourist activities (pub meet ups) the day before and after the convention were very popular and now hopefully will become a more firmer part of the Eurocon tradition. The venue hotel was hugely supportive of the convention and the staff were appreciated by fans. Surely not since the Jersey Eastercons of the 1990s and Scottish Faircons of the late 1980s, has a hotel hospitality manager been so valued. Of minor note, the Loncon Worldcon had bequeathed a minor, rather a micro, biological heritage on the Dublin Eurocon. Loncon's crowds and poor air ventilation in the 2nd floor (Capital Suite) small programme rooms allowed a fluey cold to promulgate. The standard few days incubation time was such that the first cases manifested themselves at the end of Loncon with further transmission inevitable, so that by the time of the Dublin Eurocon a good number were affected. However it was all survivable and the Dublin Eurocon was truly an appropriate adjunct to the preceding week's events.+++ See also a separate standalone review on the 2014 Eurocon.

The European SF Society (ESFS) business meetings were held at the Dublin Eurocon. ESFS is responsible for Eurocon governance just as WSFS is responsible for Worldcon governance. Unlike a number of recent years, this year the two Eurocon SF Society business meetings were mercifully short, and the second one (that sees the future Eurocon site selection vote and other matters) only took an hour even though two hours had been slated for it in the programme schedule: this conciseness was possibly a first for a decade and a testimony to the new committee of ESFS officers. Barcelona (Spain) won the bid for 2016. To those not knowledgeable of the ESFS voting system (there are two vote camps) it must have seemed like a close race with Barcelona just winning, but the delegate vote was firmly in favour of Barcelona. (For more on Barcelona see below.) ESFS has much to do both in terms of strategic development and in making its constitution clearer (it has had a succession of small changes the past decade) and the new ESFS board have their work cut out. +++ See also a separate article by the former ESFS Vice Chair on 25 years of Eurocons.

The 2016 Eurocon will be held in Barcelona.  The Antwerp bid for 2016, tentatively discussed here in previous seasons' news pages, never materialised. What did materialise just prior to the London Worldcon was a Polish bid for a Eurocon to help brand their pre-existing international SF convention. Plans for this international convention were already firmly developed which was a strong point for the Polish bid. Conversely, had Poland won then the Eurocon would have run a very serious risk of being tacked on to, or swallowed by, this pre-existing event rather than the event being organised around the Eurocon with the Eurocon very much at its core.  By contrast, Spain's Barcelona bid, BCon, though smaller, will firmly be a Eurocon. Furthermore, Poland only recently had a Eurocon in 2010 whereas Spain has never had a Eurocon. Spain's BCon has a very experienced committee with an author and Eurocon veteran, an event organiser, an SF publisher and an SF bookshop owner on the committee chaired by a mathematician. The venue is in the heart of Barcelona and just 500 yards from where the bus to the airport stops. BCon will also be that year's Hispacon, Spain's national convention.

Currently there is one marker bid down for the 2017 Eurocon and that is Germany. Now the Germans made a fair fist of the 1999 Eurocon in Dortmund with the only (good) problem of their being too many GoHs given that a couple of the sponsors never came through: but that was their problem and we enjoyed ourselves! Germany has also run a Eurocon in 1992. It would be a tad jolly to see a German Eurocon in the 2010s. At this year's Dublin Eurocon the German 2017 bid were sharing 'Dortmunder Spezial' liquor with fans at the European tasting party.

Eurocon 2018? There is one marker bid down for France as the 2018 Eurocon. It is for Amiens in NW France, not too far from Blighty and near WWI former lines. Amiens has been the venue for the smaller French natcon in the past, and indeed was again this year: some say that this year's French natcon was one of the best in 15 years! It was organised with the Jules Verne Society that is associated to Galaxies SF magazine, and these organiser are also involved with the French 2018 Eurocon bid. The last time the Eurocon was held in France was Fayence in 1990 and so it is arguably overdue to host a Eurocon. Details at www.eurocon2018.yolasite.com.

Links to current/forthcoming Eurocon websites can be found from the European SF Society on www.esfs.info.

For a list of national and major conventions, check out our convention diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

Spain's Stiges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, is on track for its 47th fest that will run from the 3rd to 12th October (2014). It will the Minotauro Prize announced and awarded. The Festival and Minotauro Publishing House has signed an agreement uniting both the Fest and the prize. It will the 11th time the prestigious prize that comes with 10.000 euros (£8,500) for the winner, will take place.
          Also at the event the German director, producer and screenwriter Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, Stargate, Universal Soldier, 2012, Moon 44) will receive this year's Sitges Festival’s Grand Honorary Award. Sitges 2014 will also see attending renowned directors like Jean-Luc Godard and David Cronenberg with their latest films. And there will be a much anticipated screening of Musaranas [Shrew’s Nest], the psychological horror from Esteban Roel and Juanfer Andrés produced by Alex de la Iglesia (who did El dia de la Bestia [The Day of the Beast].

Spain's 32nd Hispacon will be MIRcon on 6th - 8th December (2014). It come under the auspices of the AEFCFT (Asociacion Espanola de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficcion y Terror [Spanish Association of Fantasy, SF and Horror]). MIRcon will transform the town of Montcada i Reixac, for three days, in a space were science fiction, fantasy and horror fans will meet their favourite authors and will attend a series of programme items about the current status of the genre in Spain. Also, several activities are planned to engage a more casual public and a part of the program is devoted to the younger audiences, always with a 'fantastical' spin. There will be the usual talks, panels, workshops and exhibitions to cater to a wide range of tastes. During the convention will take place the Ignotus and the Domingo Santos awards ceremonies. Similar to the Hugos, the Ignotus award the main initiatives related with the fantastic genres in spain during the corresponding year, while the Domingo Santos is a literary award on short fiction.  Guests include: Aliette de Bodard who was born in the USA but raised in France, her first novel was Servant of the Underworld, that together with Harbinger of the Storm and Master of the House of Darts form the Obsidian and Blood trilogy, a historical fantasy set set in the fifteenth-century Aztec Empire of an alternate history. She is also a noted writer of short fiction and her name can be found among the winners of the main genre awards of the last years.  Nina Allan who is a prolific writer of short fiction, and her cycle 'The Silver Wind' is one of the more engaging reflections on the nature of time ever written in science fiction. Her novella 'Spin', a retelling of the Greek myth of Arachne, was recently nominated for a British Fantasy Award.  Christopher Priest who needs no introduction (see The Adjacent, The Glamour and The Islanders ).  Carlos Sisi is one of the few genre writers in Spain who have so many fans. He made his debut in 2009 with his wildly popular zombie trilogy Los Caminantes [The Wanderers]. His science fiction novel Panteon was awarded with the Minotauro Award in 2013. MIRcon will see the launch of the omnibus edition of his zombie cycle, which will include the fourth and final chapter Los caminantes: AeternumFélix J. Palma is one of the main short fiction writers of the genre in Spain, as proven by any of the five collections he has had published so far. His breakthrough as a novelist came with The Map of Time, the first in his Victorian Trilogy and which was followed up by The Map of The Sky. The final chapter in his trilogy, with the Spanish title El Mapa del Caos [The Map of Chaos] will be launched at MIRcon.

There will be no Finncon (Finland's natcon) in 2015 but will be back in 2016. Meanwhile…

Archipelacon is a new Scandinavian convention – possibly a one-off but it may come back from time to time. Held in Mariehamn, in the Baltic's Aland islands, Finland 25th–28th June, 2015, it will bring together elements of both Finland and Sweden. But with a Norwegian and German on the committee it will have a broader European appeal, and much of the programming will be in English. The Guests of Honour announced so far are Johanna Sinisalo (Finland) and Karin Tidbeck (Sweden).  The event is timely as there will be no Finncon in 2015, and the 2015 Eurocon has had a very low profile in central and western Europe (even the 2015 Eurocon venue was still not announced a year after winning the bid (back in 2013) and in the run up to this year's 2014 Worldcon (London) and Eurocon (Dublin) which is not exactly encouraging given the Eurocon's previous incarnation in the 2015 host nation).  Archipelacon is likely to be a few hundred strong, but the venue can hold 1,000 if needs be.  Archipelacon could therefore be the place western and central European fandom might gravitate to in 2015.  Finally, because everyone is involved in Archipelacon there will be no small Acon convention in 2015.

Greek fandom is active. Now, fandom in Greece does not get much, if any, profile in western fanzines and SF websites, yet it does exist. One of Greece's more active SF societies is the Athens Science Fiction Club (ALEF, Athinaiki Leshi Epistimonikis Fantasias). It was founded in 1998 and has regular meetings that include short story readings and film screenings as well as presentations by Greek authors. It also organises SFF Rated Athens, and annual fantastic film festival. There is even a group-zine, Fantastika Hronika [Fantastic Chronicles]. Check out http://alef-gr.blogspot.com.

Denver's MileHi convention will have its 46th incarnation in 24th -26th October, 2014. And it is still run by local Denver (US) SF fans and is the largest Science-Fiction Literary Convention in the Rocky Mountain Region. Over 80 authors and speakers in panels and programme items on everything related to SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Also the largest SF/fantasy art show in the region, plus video, anime, masquerade, gaming, dealers, the Critter Crunch and Critter Floatilla (robotic combat and aquatic competitions), and more. Guests of Honour: authors Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, and Michael Swanwick, and artists Phil and Kaja Foglio. Toastmaster: Jeanne C. Stein. Registration is: US$44 until Sept. 30. A three-day membership will be US$46 at the door. Details www.milehicon.org.

 

For a list of national and major conventions and their web links check out our convention diary.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
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Autumn 2014

NET WATCH

Bastion is a new science fiction magazine publishing digitally on the first of every month. Each issue will contain seven to nine original short stories. Its yearly anthology will be available in both digital and print formats in early December. The magazine is US based. See www.bastionmag.com.

GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen) upsets SF authors. GISHWHES is a charity scavenger hunt created and run by Supernatural actress Misha Collins. The idea is for participants to accomplish tasks to gain points for a prize. This year, one of the tasks was to get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha… And that is when SF authors started getting bombarded with requests. And the bigger the name the author, the more requests they got. Understandably there was annoyance as authors' e-mail boxes filed up with requests.

The European Courts of Justice has ruled that an individual can demand that 'irrelevant or outdated' information be deleted from search engine results. EU court ruled that Google must remove search results at the request of ordinary people in a test of the so-called 'right to be forgotten'. The case was brought by a Spaniard who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google's search results infringed his privacy. The initial reaction saw requests for search blocks made to Google include a substantial proportion who wanted to hide their criminal past. The European Commission proposed a law giving users the 'right to be forgotten' in 2012. It would require search engines to edit some searches to make them compliant with the EU directive on the protection of personal data. Online service providers would have to comply unless they had 'legitimate' reason to do otherwise. Britain's Ministry of Justice is seeking British opt-out from any law: it claims that the law 'raises unrealistic and unfair expectations'.  +++ See also the editorial at the top of the page.

Apple's iCloud facility, which stores iPhone and iPad users' photos and personal data, has a 'fundamental security flaw' it is reported as celebrities' pictures are copied. It appears that the two-step verification for access, recommended by Apple, can be by-passed using easily available software so allowing access to iCloud data. An account user's password and e-mail address are still required, but the short verification code also used can be by-passed. Apple suggests its customers "always use a strong password and enable two-step verification" after it accepted that some iCloud accounts had been hacked by a 'very targeted attack'. Celebrity accounts compromised include those of Jennifer Lawrence which had private pictures of her naked taken and then posted on the web.

The GCHQ, the UK's intelligence communication's monitoring agency, faces legal action by ISPs. Seven ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from the US, UK, Netherlands and South Korea have joined with campaigners Privacy International to take legal action against GCHQ for attacks involving malware to gain access to the ISPs servers and people's data. This follows allegations about government monitoring made by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Allegedly, GCHQ and the US National Security Agency used an automated system, called Turbine, that allowed them inject implants into the ISPs servers. Privacy International has previously filed two other cases: the first against alleged mass surveillance programmes Prism, Tempora and Upstream, and the second against the GCHQ employing computer intrusion and spyware.

The website domain name SCIENCE-FICTION.ORG went on sale for US$10,000 (£6,250). The offer came up on Go-Daddy's domain sales in May. It is difficult to envisage anyone within the SF community paying such a daft amount as quality content will drive serious genre aficionados to a site more than a key word domain name: that will mainly attract those with a transient interest in SF. Within three weeks, with only under 400 views made of the page and no offers: the price halved.

Tackling Heartbleed reveals new https security flaws. Following last season's news of the Heartbleed bug undermining OpenSSL security (a common system used by https sites) further security flaws have been uncovered in the same software. About 500,000 websites are believed to be vulnerable to attacks that exploited the Heartbleed vulnerability: major companies – such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon and many others – use OpenSSL. The flaws can let attackers run their own programs on a target server or stop it working. The most serious bug would let an attacker interpose themselves between a victim and the server they were using and to obtain data (such as passwords, financial account numbers) as it passes through. The message is to security patch early and patch often. Never use the same password for different on-line accounts and change passwords periodically.

e-Bay hacked – Months its users have been asked to change their passwords. The US firm said a database had been hacked between late February and early March. The hacked database had contained encrypted passwords and other non-financial data. However, e-Bay said it had discerned no evidence of unauthorised use of members accounts. Yet in mid-May, it made an announcement advising its users that changing the passwords was 'best practice and will help enhance security for eBay users'. The hackers cyber- accessed the e-Bay servers after obtaining 'a small number of employee log-in credentials', allowing them to access its systems something it only became aware of at the beginning of May. The database included eBay customers' name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. Some of these users will not be able to change. The firm also owns the PayPal.

What is the best way to find science on the internet? Well, not every science paper and academic text is on the web but around 114 million English-language scholarly documents are according to an analysis by Lee Giles and Madian Khaba (PLoS ONE, vol. 9, e93949; 2014). Specialist scientists use things like GeoBase and PubMed if they are solely into Earth sciences or biomedical science respectively. For a more general approach some use the Thomson Reuters Web of Science. However according to the researchers' analysis the best search engine covering the most works (though not necessarily displaying the research results easily) is Google Scholar which captures 88% of all scholarly documents. By contrast Microsoft Academic Search captures less than half of this at 24% of documents.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Russia's lower chamber approves controversial data law. This law – if passed/approved by the upper chamber – will necessitate all Russian citizens to store their computer data (be it their PC cloud storage, website/blog ISP etc) in Russia: they will not be lawfully allowed to use non-Russian ISPs and data storage or data cloud services. Introducing the bill to what now passes for Russia's parliament, MP Vadim Dengin said: "most Russians don't want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked and given to criminals." (Yeah, like there is no cyber crime in Russia.) However fears are that this law is a step towards the authorities, whether openly or covertly, having access to citizens' data as well as the start of moves to ban Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other non-Russian social site services. Social networks were widely used by protesters opposing President Vladimir Putin and there are fears that Russia may be seeking to create a part-national-limited and a censored internet within the country.

Smart homes are easy to hack. FortifyProtect.com has issued a report revealing that smart homes (whereby lights, fridges, thermostats etc can be controlled by wi-fi remotely) can easily be hacked, sometimes revealing passwords and ways into users' accounts. It identified 10 types of net-connected products including door locks, webcams, and home alarms. If a potential burglar had access to these then their intrusion to homes would be virtually assured. A lack of encryption - the digital scrambling of data to make it unreadable without a special key - was also flagged as a worry. Seven of the devices even failed to encrypt communications sent to the internet and/or a local network. "With many devices collecting some form of personal information such as name, address, date of birth, health information and even credit card numbers, those concerns are multiplied when you add in cloud services and mobile applications that work alongside the device." Earlier in the summer, another security firm revealed that wi-fi-controlled light bulbs sold by an Australian firm, Lifx, could reveal their owner's username and passwords if a hacker used a device that masqueraded as being another bulb. And even earlier in the year, another report highlighted the case of a smart fridge that had been hacked and used to send out spam e-mails.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

Antibiotic resistance has been selected as the focus for a £10m prize set up to tackle a major challenge of our time. The Longitude Prize competition idea is based on the 1714 Longitude Prize, which was won by John Harrison whose clocks enabled sailors to pinpoint their longitudinal position at sea for the first time. The charity Nesta and the British government-funded Technology Strategy Board are offering £10m for a solution to the biggest scientific problem of our time. Six shortlisted research areas were identified: Flight; Food; Antibiotics; Paralysis; Water; and Dementia. Antibiotics won a public vote following a BBC Horizon programme. Now the Longitude Committee will reconvene and they will tighten up exactly what the challenge is going to be. +++ As it happens, one of the Concatenation team was part of an initiative over a decade ago highlighting to Parliamentarians antibiotic resistance concerns (complete with SFnal quote at the bottom of the first page...)

New way for measuring Big 'G' (gravitational constant) give light result. European scientists led by G. Rosi have used ultra-cold rubidium atoms and also a separate mass of a little over half a tonne to measure Newton's gravitational constant, Big 'G'. The gravitational attraction between two objects is inversely proportional to their distance apart and also proportional to their combined masses. The proportional constant is Big G. Past methods commonly used include beam balances measuring the attraction of two masses, or two pendulums. This new atom interferometry method looks at how rubidium atoms at close to zero temperature fall when changing states due to a laser flash. To date most results for Big G fall in the range 6.673 x10-11 to 6.6745 x10-11. This new result is 6.67191 with an error plus or minus 0.00099  x10-11. This range overlaps with just the lowest of previous estimates using other methods (see Nature vol. 510, pages 181-184, and explanatory piece p478-479.).

Black hole information loss paradox possibly resolved? Gravity black holes have been predicted to radiate particles and eventually evaporate, which has led to the black hole information (quanta) loss paradox and implies that the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics may be violated. Quantum mechanics and gravity can seem to contradict each other. Superstring theory may provide a route to reconcile the two, thanks to the gauge/gravity duality conjecture, which allows the system to be described mathematically. However, this conjecture has yet to be formally confirmed. Hanada et al. performed a computer simulation of the dual gauge theory in the parameter regime that corresponds to a quantum black hole. Their results agree with a prediction for an evaporating black hole, including quantum gravity corrections, confirming that the dual gauge theory indeed provides a complete description of the quantum nature of the evaporating black hole. (See Science vol. 344, p882-885.)

New recyclable and strong plastic developed (by accident). Dr Jeanette Garcia, from IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, created the first new class of thermosets in many years when she accidentally left one of three components out of a reaction. (Bakelite is an old example of a thermoset.) This may seem a boring discovery but it is potentially very important and could in a few years touch a number of aspects of your life!  Using precursors (monomers) these became hemiaminal dynamic covalent networks (HDCNs) and in turn this has led to polyhexahydrotriazines (PHTs). These are strong plastics that exhibit very high Young’s moduli (that is tensile strength divided by breaking strain) of up to ~14.0 gigapascals and up to 20 gigapascals when reinforced with surface-treated carbon nanotubes.  They also have excellent solvent-resistance, as well as having resistance to environmental stress cracking properties.  Yet both HDCNs and PHTs can be dissolved by acid at low pH (<2) to recover the monomers and so can easily be recycled (up to now thermosets have not). It is the first time that durable thermoset plastic has been produced in a recyclable form. Because they are strong and light-weight, thermosets are used throughout modern cars and aircraft, often mixed with carbon fibres to form composites. For example, some 50% of the new Airbus A350 is being made from composites (Science vol. 344, p732-735).

Climate change induced sea-level rise from Antarctica needs to be revised upwards. Three separate pieces of research were announced in May (2014). Rignot, Irvine and colleagues used satellite radar to measure the retreat of five West Antarctica glaciers and found that there is nothing to hold them back from catastrophic collapse. When this happens (and it could take many years) there would be enough melt released to raise the global sea-level by 1.2 metres.  Separately Ian Joughin and his team modelled one of the glaciers (the Thwaites) concluding that it alone could in a century add 2.5 cm to sea-level.  Finally, data from ESA's Cryosat 2 satellite reveals that Antarctica is now losing about 160 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean: twice as much as when the continent was last surveyed in 2010. This research is led by Malcolm McMillan from the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at Leeds University, UK.  Back in 1990 the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) worst case for sea level rise to 2100 was 110cm. Since then it has reduced its worst-case scenario to 88cm (2001) and 51cm (2007). The 5th IPCC Assessment (AR5), preliminarily published 2013, went the other way increasing rise estimates giving a worst case estimate of 81cm by the last decade of the 21st century. Now, with these latest results, it seems as if already this may be too low. (Though it should be noted that the IPCC sea-level rise estimates do specifically exclude long-term warming feedback effects (dynamic response and catastrophic collapse).) (See Geophys. Research Letters; Science vol. 344, p735-738; and ESA's Cryosat web page.)  +++ Jonathan comments that based on the sea-level rise during the warmest part of the last interglacial (the time before the last 'ice age') it is thought that sea-levels rose by over a metre a year and that current warming is faster and forecast to be more extreme than that. Jonathan further comments over at our satellite site, Concatenation Science-Communication, here.

Russian science fears due to Putin reforms. The summer saw the government body that back in January took over management of the property and finances of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) publish a road map for its reform. Among the measures it calls for is a formal assessment of the research effectiveness of RAS institutes. Nothing wrong in that per se, but many Russian scientists have concluded that the only reason to grade institutes is to decide which ones to close down. Cynics suggest that the state wants to get its hands on Russia's science huge property portfolio (many sites of which are in or near city centres). The timing of the road map is especially alarming given that a yearlong moratorium on any changes to the staff and property of RAS, set by President Vladimir Putin, will soon be coming to an end. Meanwhile, a draft law setting an age cap for institute directors threatens to leave many of them leaderless and vulnerable. The research assessment itself is not done by the science community (as it is in Europe and N. America and elsewhere in developed nations) but by government administrators who ask what discovery benefits the research will generate (which of course if known would negate the need to do the research). (See also Science vol. 345, p15. and Nature vol. 511, p7.)

Australian science budget cut by 16%. Job losses are already beginning and Australia's government's chief scientist, Ian Chubb, warns of a 'distinct possibility' that Australia will loose its standing in international science and 'risk being left behind'.

Egyptian scientists losing freedom. Egypt's new government has been arresting those opposing the regime. Of some 41,000 such prisoners around a thousand are scientists and engineers many of whom have no connection with Muslim fundamentalists. Furthermore, responsibility for the appointment of those in charge of universities has been taken from the academic community and given to the new government. The journal Nature, in an editorial says that 'academic freedom in Egypt looks to be in great jeopardy' (vol. 511, p5). See also Egyptian pseudoscience in our science and SF interface section below.)

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

Best simulation of the Universe has been created. Previous computer simulations of the Universe successfully captured the growth of cosmic structures and the web of galaxies. However they failed to create the mix of elliptical and spiral galaxies. Now an international collaboration of European and US researchers have a model that accomplished all this as well as the Universe's elemental evolution and hydrogen distribution. The model simulates 12 million years after the Big Bang to today. It simulates a cube of the Universe with sides nearly 350 million light years long (for comparison our nearest major galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.2 million light years away). The model suggests that 95% of the Universe is dark matter and dark energy. The model is called Illustris and has over 10 billion cells. The simulation works so well due to a novel hydrodynamic algorithm AREPO which employs a moving, unstructured Voroni tessellation in combination with finite volumes. (See Vogesberger et al, Nature vol. 509, p177-182, as well as explanatory article on p170-1.)

Our place in the Universe better defined. Researchers, from France, Israel and the US, led by Brent Tully, have mapped the local Universe with greater detail than ever before.  They have found that our 'Milky Way' galaxy is inside the edge of a huge supercluster of galaxies. Our home supercluster of galaxies is called 'Laniakea' which has Hawaiian roots roughly translating as 'spacious heaven'.  Laniakea has a diameter of 520 million light years (160 million parsecs): to put this in perspective, the nearest galaxy to ours, Andromeda, is roughly 2 million light years away (2.2 to be more exact). In our galaxy looking away from Laniakea the next supercluster is the Perseus-Pisces supercluster about 180 million light years away. Looking the other way into and across Laniakea, over 500 million light years away is the Shapley supercluster.  Along the way to Shapely, well within our Laniakea supercluster, are the clusters of galaxies known as the Norma and Centaurus clusters and these are a good approximation for the location of the so-called 'Great Attractor' to which our and nearby galaxies are heading. (Source: Tully et al, Nature vol. 513, p71-73 and also a supporting article vol. 513, p41-2.)  See also the video briefing below as a visual is worth a thousand words and you really need to see this to understand your place in the scheme of things...

The possible glimpse of early Universe inflation now in doubt. Two papers (Flauger, Hill & Spergel from Princeton U., and Mortonson & Seljak of California U.) cast doubt on last season's announcement that differences in the cosmic background radiation that are most likely a signal of the 'inflation' period that took place at the start (the first trillionth, trillionth of a second) of the Universe after the Big Bang. The first notes that the results could come from dust within our Milky Way galaxy (not the distant cosmic background) while the second add that the scale of measurements could confuse gravitational lensing from other galaxies that could mimic rotational polarization on the BICEP team's measurement scales. (Phew for us. When we originally reported it our wording stressed that the discovery was hypothetical.)

In-coming gas cloud may boost Galaxy's star formation. The in-coming gas cloud arise from interactions between the two Magellanic Clouds. Though to the eye the Magellanic Clouds viewed from the southern hemisphere are small smudges, UV absorption of its surrounding dust take up around one-quarter of the entire sky. Hubble telescope observations together with modelling suggest that surrounding gas is as much as the mass of the gas within the Magellanic system itself. It could be that the incoming gas rate to our Galaxy between half a billion and a billion years from now might be as much as 3.7-6.7 Solar sun masses per year, and have the potential to raise star formation rate within the Galaxy. (Current star formation rate within the Galaxy is around 10 per year.) However, our Galaxy is itself surrounded by a hot corona of dust. The in-coming gas from the Magellanic Clouds might not reach the Galaxy proper but be added to, and perhaps cool, the hot Galactic corona. (See Fox et al, 2014, Astrophysical Journal, vol. 787.)

Martian gullies not formed by water. An analysis of high-resolution pictures of 98 gully sites in Mars' northern hemisphere and 258 in its southern hemisphere, suggest that the gullies are probably formed by the freezing and then thawing of carbon dioxide and not water. (See paper by Colin Dundas in Icarus doi.org/trx (2014).)

There is a new class of Earthlike planet and newly discovered exo-Earth provides an exemplar – they are the Mega-Earths. These are rocky planets with a mass of over 10 times that of Earth. It had been thought that any planet that large would pull so much hydrogen on to itself that it would look more like a gas giant such as Jupiter. Now an exo-planet 17 times the mass of the Earth, but which is not a gas giant, has been discovered. Catalogued as Kepler-10c, it orbits a star about 560 light-years away. It has a diameter over twice that of Earth which should mean its mass should be around 10 times that of the Earth. However, its mass is 17 times that of Earth which means its density is a third more than Earth's. It is thought that this is because its core is more compressed. Also, with Kepler-10c, its host star is about 11 billion years old. This means it formed when the Universe was quite young. That in turn means that enough rocky material must have been produced early on in the Universe. Some think that the first stars in a hydrogen only Universe were very massive and short-lived going supernova quickly so producing heavier elements. This lends credence to that theory. Could such a mega-Earth support life as we know it? Possibly, if it was in its star's habitable zone.

A terrestrial planet found in a ~1-AU orbit around one member of a ~15-AU binary. The discovery was made by an international team (with members from both sides of the Atlantic and both northern and southern hemispheres) using gravitational micro-lensing. The planet has low mass (twice Earth’s) and lies projected at ~0.8 astronomical units (AU) from its host star, about 80% the distance between Earth and the Sun. However, the planet’s temperature is much lower, <60 Kelvin, because the host star is only 0.10 to 0.15 solar masses and therefore more than 400 times less luminous than the Sun. The host itself orbits a slightly more massive companion with projected separation of 10 to 15 AU (a distance equivalent to mid-way between Saturn and Uranus and the Sun). Many known exoplanets (planets outside our own solar system) are hosted by binary systems that contain two stars. These planets normally circle around both of their stars. That one of the binary stars hosts a planet of its own as well as that the binary system stars are so close to each other and that binary star systems are fairly common, suggests that such planetary systems are themselves quite common. The same gravitational micro-lensing approach has the potential to uncover other similar star systems and help to illuminate some of the mysteries of planet formation (Science, vol. 345, p46-49.)

Two Gliese exo-planets are fictional. They don't exist! The Gliese 581 system, 20.5 light years away, in recent years has been the source of a number of reported exo-planet discoveries. It now transpires that interpreting the star's wobble data was incorrect. Interest in Gliese 581 first peaked in 2007when planet 'c' was discovered and in 2009 a planet 'e', too close to the sun tor life but the closest in size to the Earth, was discovered. However there have been other reports of exoplanets from the system thought the data was open to interpretation (and we did not report them at the time). Now US researchers, led by Paul Robertson, have examined all the data allowing for the star's own rotation (with a period of 130 ± 2 days) and found that one planet (GJ 581d) does not exist but was an artefact of the data. Allowing for this, another planet (GJ 581g) in the system's habitable zone and whose existence was already debatable, seems certainly not to exist (see Science, Vol.345, pp440-444).  So what are we left with? Planets 'e', 'b', 'c' and 'f' (in order from their sun) appear to be genuine. Planets 'e', 'b', and 'c' are too close to their sun for life and planet 'f' too cold.  In 2008 a message was broadcast to the what-we-now-know-does-not-exist planet 'c'.

ESA's Rosetta probe caught up with and then went into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Launched in 2004, it took 10 years, five months and four days travelling to get to its destination, looping around the Sun five times, flying past an asteroid, and clocking up 4 billion miles (6.4 billion km). (And you thought it was a long way down to the chemist's.) It is now 340 million miles (550 million km) from the Earth, and messages are taking over 22 minutes to get to Rosetta. The comet is travelling at 34,175 mph (55,000 km per hour). The spacecraft's is in orbit about the comet at 1m/sec (2.2mph, 3.6kph) or what biologists call 'walking pace'. In November a 'lander' from the probe will hopefully reach the comet's surface and harpoon itself to it.

European Space Agency (ESA) to launch biggest X-ray space telescope. The satellite Athena, will be some 12m in length and weigh about five tonnes and launched in 2028. ESA has now authorised the venture's feasibility with final authorization anticipated in 2019 but this last should just be a formality unless costs rise substantially or there are currently unforeseen major rival ventures. Athena will have a survey capability and sensitivity a hundred times better than today's best X-ray space telescopes - America's Chandra mission, and ESA's XMM-Newton telescope. The key objectives will be to understand how gas was assembled into the galaxies and galactic clusters we see around us today, as well as to study the origin and evolution of large black holes in the heart of galaxies. Athena is what ESA calls a 'Large Class' mission; its most expensive space science projects. The current one is the star-mapper Gaia just launched. This will be followed in 2016 by BepiColombo, a joint project with Japan to go study the planet Mercury. Then there will be Juice, a mission to Jupiter and its moons, in 2022 l Athena is currently scheduled for 2028, and it is likely the 2034 slot will go to a trio of satellites known as Lisa, which will aim to detect gravitational waves in space.

Americans break the longest space drive record. When it comes to reliance on the car, the US surely has the greatest expertise. And if there was any doubt this was affirmed at the end of July with NASA's announcement that the Opportunity Martian rover has clocked up over 40 km (25 miles) on the planet. This broke the previous record held by the Russians with their Lunokhod 2 Moon rover 39km record. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 which means it has done an average of two and a half miles a year.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

NATURAL SCIENCE

Artificial life with artificial base pairs has been created. Artificial life is 'old' news (well just six years old) but what has happened here is using novel base-pairs: new letters in life's alphabet. Nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) use base pairs with one of the pair on one strand and the other on another strand and both strands twisted into a double helix. Unwind one strand and dip it into a solution of bases with strand material and another strand forms. In this way genetic material can duplicate itself as living cells divide. An example of a base pair is cytosine and guanine, and there are only three types of base pair in nature.  We have previously in the lab been able to construct new (non-natural) base pairs but we have never been able to incorporate these into a functioning life form: until now that is. Denis Malyshev and colleagues have developed a loop of DNA (as used by bacteria) using a novel (artificial) base pair. They then inserted this into a bacterium (E. coli) that had its own DNA removed. The bacterium survived and replicated keeping the new, totally artificial genes.  The potential for biotechnology is considerable: not only can we now code for any protein we want and produce it using synthetic biology, but we can now use a different alphabet to that of nature.  This begs the question as to why nature evolved such a restrictive alphabet?  Meanwhile the next step in this line of research will be to see whether the base pairs transcribe to RNA. (See Nature vol. 509, p385-388, with explanatory article p291-2.)  +++ We previously covered news of life created from DNA assembled from lab chemicals back in 2008.

Two drafts of the human 'proteome' have been made! The draft human genome was completed by two teams in February 2001 (with a more detailed genomic map subsequently made) and now we have also, not one but, two drafts of the human proteome by two teams publishing simultaneously. And if you don't know what the 'proteome' is then just as the 'genome' is a map of all genes on DNA, so the proteome is a map of all the genes that code for proteins relating to which human tissues on DNA. Two do this human tissues were sampled, their proteins identified and amino-acid sequenced (proteins are made up of amino acids) and then the amino acid sequence related to stretches of DNA on human chromosomes (chromosomes being the structures of human DNA wrapped up in a sugar protein coat). So if you like, mapping the human genome was establishing the 'letters' and some 'words' in the human genetic instruction manual, while mapping the proteome is actually establishing whole 'sentences'. There are some 20,000 protein-coding genes. Surprisingly some of the 17,000-to-18,000 reported proteins arise from stretches of DNA previously thought to be non-coding (or 'junk DNA'). Other stretches of DNA relate to self-regulation and transcription (such as switching genes 'on' and 'off', and start reading this gene 'here' and end reading 'there'). Both teams drafting the proteome found hundreds of unexpected proteins, produced by fragments of ancient genes (called 'pseudogenes') or by lengths of DNA that were not thought to be genes at all. Both teams (one international but led by the US & India, and the other German) caught the vast majority of proteins but there are some differences and so the two drafts will be compared: no doubt one draft will help fill in some of the gaps of the other and vice-versa. (See Nature vol. 509, p575-581 and 582-587.).

Chimpanzee sign language decoded. Catherine Hobaiter and Richard Byrne, of the University of St Andrews, have analyzed over 4,500 cases to extract true (non-play) meanings for 36 wild chimp gestures. Previous work on chimp signing was with captive individuals or wild chimps but these were without elucidating the signs' exact meaning. This is the first systematic study of meaning in chimpanzee gestural communication. Individual gestures have specific meanings, independently of signaller identity, and the researchers provide a partial 'lexicon'; flexibility is predominantly in the use of multiple gestures for a specific meaning. They distinguish a range of meanings, from simple requests associated with just a few gestures to broader social negotiation associated with a wider range of gesture types. Access to a range of alternatives may increase communicative subtlety during important social negotiations. However the researchers think that they are still missing a lot of nuance in the communication. (See Current Biology DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.066.)

Chernobyl birds have been adapting to radiation. The blood of 16 bird species reveals that those birds from the contaminated zone around the nuclear plant contain more antioxidants, better body condition and, surprisingly, decreased DNA damage compared to those caught outside the zone. (The research was published in the Journal of Functional Ecology.)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) may soon have a vaccine if the results from two independent teams pan out. MERS is a coronavirus (not too different from the 2002/3 SARS virus). There is currently no vaccine for MERS and by the early summer (2014) 261 people had died. Wayne Marasco and colleagues and separately a team led by Linqi Zhang, have identified several neutralising antibodies. If these prove safe the one or more of them might form the basis of a vaccine. (Papers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and the Science of Translational Medicine.)

West African ebola outbreak grows. We reported back in the spring that there had been 122 cases and 78 deaths. By mid-summer the World Health Organization had reported 599 confirmed or suspected cases and 388 deaths and by early August the number of fatalities had topped 700. So it was unsurprising that by the time of the Worldcon the number had exceeded a thousand! And by early September 2,000. A graph of fatalities since April through to September is very closely exponential with a doubling time of near to one month. Not good.

Anthrax accidental release contaminates some 70 lab workers. Scientists and technicians at Atlanta's US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Georgia may have been exposed to live Bacillus anthrax. Apparently the proper procedures for killing the bacteria when pre[paring them for transport were not followed. Believing the samples were harmless, the staff did not wear protective clothing. The labs may have allowed the bacteria to become airborne.  But before you become worried, remember that a 2012 CDC analysis reported that there were 727 incidents of theft or loss, or release of select agents and toxins in the US between 2004 and 2010, resulting in 11 lab-acquired infections (and no secondary transmission). On the other hand perhaps you should be worried. But, don't worry, the FBI are looking into this incident.  The FBI! Unless it's Scully, perhaps be worried.

A virus related to smallpox has emerged. The virus was isolated from two Georgian cow herders who became ill but it was not cowpox but a new pox virus. New pox viruses that affect humans are rare but this might be because global surveillance is not thorough.

'Forgotten' US smallpox vials found in cardboard box. The virus, believed dead, was found in six freeze-dried and sealed vials in an unused area of a storage room in a Food and Drug Administration lab on an NIH campus in Bethesda, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is 'said' to be the first time unaccounted-for smallpox has been discovered in the US. The disease was officially declared eradicated in the wild the 1980s.  Had it been live and had it escaped, we may have had a problem generating more vaccine. Fortunately in 2006 the World Health organization decided to keep live samples in case of an emergency.

Brown and polar bears split around 400,000 years ago. Rasmus Neilsen and colleagues at California U. sequenced the genomes of 79 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and 10 brown bears (Ursus arctos). They conclude that the species diverged between 343,000 and 479,000 years ago. (The paper was published in the journal Cell.)  +++ Comment. Around 400,000 years ago glacials ('ice ages' to use a term incorrectly) had been getting steadily colder and had become more like the glacials seen since.

The primitive American Clovis people killed the last elephant-like creatures in the Americas. The elephant-like gomphotheres (Cuvieronius sp.) were thought to have gone extinct prior to the Clovis. Now, writing in PNAS, a team led by Guadalupe Sanchez of Mexico's National Autonomous University have discovered gomphothere bones along with stone spear points dating from 13,400 years ago.  +++ This is reminiscent of up to the early 2000s the thinking being that mammoths in the NW of N. America went extinct before humans arrived, but we now know that although mammoths may have been in decline following warming at the end of the last glacial, subsequent research showed that it was humans who dealt the final blow. (And the reason why megafauna survived in Africa but not outside it is thought to be that they co-evolved with early humans in Africa and so learned to stay out of the way.)

British/European pharmaceutical Astra-Zeneca successfully holds of US based Pfizer £69 billion (US$116 billion) takeover attempt. Had this gone through then the world would have only had one super-giant pharmaceutical company and one main route for pharmaceutical development. Furthermore, Pfizer is not known for being as supportive of research as Astra-Zeneca, and relatedly the US has a health funding system that uniquely bucks the global curve of nations on a longevity versus health expenditure per capita of population graph: the US wastes much money on the health insurance sub-sector, legal challenges and the health administration to cope with all the bureaucracy so engendered (not to mention the political lobbying expenditure by those with vested interests to maintain the US status quo). (If you are not familiar with it then do check this graph out as it is very telling.) But it was a near thing and so the British government is considering modifying the law to include large pharmaceutical companies in the category of strategically important companies that need protecting from overseas takeover.

One type of antibiotic resistance blocked. A type of antibiotic resistant enterobacteria that is resistant to carbapenem antibiotics can be made susceptible again to these antibiotics by a chemical from a fungi. Enterobacteria include Escherichia coli found in the human gut and antibiotic resistant E. coli is a real problem with surgery performed on the lower alimentary canal. Another enterobacterium isKlebsiella pneumoniae which is involved in pneumonia and meningitis. These bacteria can become resistant to carbapenems by evolving an enzymes that cleaves the antibiotic. But now a fungal chemical, aspergillomarasmine, blocks the active site of this enzyme and so makes the bacteria susceptible once more to carbapenem antibiotics.  Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat and so far the bugs are winning. This new discovery will be a help – indeed a great help for many patients – but for how long remains to be seen. (Nature vol. 510 pages 503-506 and also see explanatory piece p477-478.)

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

FORTHCOMING BOOK RELEASES

Forthcoming Science Fiction book and graphic novel releases

The following 'forthcoming' listings (SF, fantasy/horror, and popular science/non-fiction SF/fantasy)
relate to UK releases (with just a few exceptions).
It aims to let you know the main English language genre and popular science books currently coming out for the European market.
It is not a complete listing and depends on us being given details.
We only occasionally include titles from N. American major publishers and only where we know there is European distribution.
If you wish for a more complete listing then Locus publishes occasional British listings in its magazine.

 

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson, Simon & Schuster, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-471-13770-9.
This is the first novel 'by' the former X-Files star (but with the help of a ghost writer) and is the first in the EarthEnd Saga.

Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews, Hodder, £13.99, trdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-75206-9.
This is the first in a time travel trilogy. Now, this is juvenile SF for teenagers but the advance word has it that Timebomb may well be appreciated by an older readership too. Three teenagers – one from New York 2141, another from England 1640, and the final from present-day Cornwall – must harness powers they barely understand.

Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher, Tor, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-75072-2
This new novel hardback edition is not due out until February 2015 but we thought you'd like an early heads up to know it is coming. (We have reviewed a few Asher novels in the past: Cowl, The Departure, The Gabble, Hilldiggers , Jupiter War , Line of Polity, Line War , Orbus, Prador Moon, Shadow of the Scorpion, The Technician and Zero Point.)

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, Virago, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-844-08787-7
The final in the trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake.

Stone Matress by Margaret Atwood, Bloomsbury, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-85716-8.
A collection of the writer's short stories. A fantasy writer recently widowed hears her husband guide her through a storm… A woman born with an abnormality is mistaken for a vampire…

Ultima by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £16.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11688-7.
Hard SF, wide screen space opera and sequel to Proxima. Recommended.

Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun, Revell, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-800-72376-7.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Selah treads a fine line between hunter and hunted.

Empire by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, Headline, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20972-6
Worlds apart, closer than ever. Syl Hellais was the first of her kind, the Illyri, to be born on Earth after their invasion. Paul Kerr has dedicated his life to the human resistance movement, his people’s struggle to be free. Brought together by chance they formed the strongest of bonds. But now they will be punished for that love, and exiled to the outermost reaches of the universe. For Syl, this means a journey to the centre of the Illyri empire, to the horrors of the Marque. Surrounded by murderous teens, gifted with terrifying abilities, she must penetrate to the heart of the power that lies there and uncover the darkness behind it.

Empires: Extraction by Gavin Deas, Gollancz, £9.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-875-12900-9.
Yes, if the advance publicity is right, £9.99 for a hardback. Gollancz must be confident in this one. See the next book below for possibly why…

Empires: Infiltration by Gavin Deas, Gollancz, £9.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-875-12928-3.
Gavin Deas is actually a chimera of two Gollancz authors: Stephen Deas and Gavin Smith. Deas is noted for fantasy story telling and Smith for high octane testosterone military SF. This book, and the previous in the list above, tell exactly the same story of two alien species invading Earth, but from different perspectives. Apparently, each can be read as a standalone, or alternatively in any order. Either way, humanity is caught in the crossfire.

Pandorax by C. Z. Dunn, Black Library, £9.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70767-1.
Part of his space marine series.

Time and Again by Ben Elton, Bantam, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07356-8.
The Companions of Chronos gather at Trinity College Cambridge on New Year's Day 2024. They intend to send someone back to 1914 to prevent WWI…

Willful Child by Steven Erikson, Transworld, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07307-0
These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its on-going mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the...  And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback - a kind of James T. Kirk crossed with ‘American Dad' - and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space’... Written by the bestselling author of the acclaimed 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' sequence.

The Extinction Game by Gary Gibson, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-77270-0
Space opera and hard SF. Apocalypse survivors are recruited to form a crack team to retrieve weapons and data from other worlds. But are the motives behind this what they seem… Though this sort of draws on tropes Gibson has used in Final Days and The Thousand Emperors, this is a brand new stand-alone and, we understand, a rather good widescreen, hard SF adventure.  Jerry Beche should be dead. But instead of dying alone, he’s been rescued from a desolated Earth where he was the last man alive. He is then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and been placed with a crack team of specialists. Each one is also a survivor, as each one withstood the violent ending of their own versions of Earth. And their specialism – to retrieve weapons and data in missions to other dying worlds. But who is the shadowy organization that rescued them? How do they access other alternates, and why do they need these instruments of death?

Symbiont: Parasitology 2 by Mira Grant, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50193-2.
This is the sequel to Parasite that was nominated for a Hugo.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, Macmillan, £20 hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-76946-5.
This is the first in a new series of space operas but set in the same Commonwealth Universe as the Void trilogy (see The Temporal Void). Hamilton has a reasonable reputation, especially amongst those that like big books as they invariably have a high page count. Apparently The Abyss Beyond Dreams works as a self-contained prequel and so could be appropriate for those seeking a taster in what this writer has to offer.  A man crashes on a world he did not know existed and finds the survivors of colony ships lost some 3,000 years earlier…

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, Orion, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-409-10947-1.
This is a follow-up to the new Sherlock Holmes continuations and follows The House of Silk.

Sand by Hugh Howie, Arrow, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59515-1.
Set in a stark future where the world is buried under dunes….

The Coincidence Authority by J. W. Ironmonger, Phoenix, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-22084-0.
Thomas Post is a renowned expert on coincidence and the laws of probability. He knows that everything is down to statistically determined chance. Then he meets coincidence-prone Azalea. He turns detective. If he can sufficiently understand her past he might just become a part of her future…

J by Howard Jacobson, Cape, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-224-10197-4.
In the future the world lives in the shadow of some terrible event referred to as the 'what happened, if it happened'… This made the Booker Prize long-list.

Cross Stitch by Amanda James, Choc Lit, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-89199-5.
Time travel novel sequel to A Stitch in Time.

A Disturbance in Time by Ron Jayes, Book Guild, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-909-8459-2
A time travel novel.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50241-0.
This space opera follows Ancillary Justice, which alas Orbit never told us about (these things sometimes happen) and so we could not give it much advance coverage other than a minimal entry in an earlier season's forthcoming book's listing gleaned from a Book Buyer's Guide.  Now, the Glasgow SF Group did give us the heads up that Ancillary Justice was something special for our 'Best of Year' recommendations for 2013, but as no-one else had (we require more than one nomination for this listing) it got left off… Having said that Ancillary Justice has recently won a slew of awards including: a fair win with a Locus for best debut novel, a surprising win with the Clarke (SF) (but then the Clarke has always been a bit of a wild card), and shared a tie win for the British SF Association Award this year for 'Best Novel', not to mention was nominated for this year's Hugo for 'Best Novel' which it won and it also won a Nebula Award. All this should tell you something.  Ancillary Sword is the second in what will be a trilogy.

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20757-9.
It’s 1435 on Alex Benedict’s world Rimway, 11 years since 3,000 passengers boarded the Capella, including Alex’s uncle Gabe. The interstellar cruise ship is trapped in a trans-dimensional space warp, frozen in time. Just a few days have passed on board, and its inhabitants are oblivious to having lost the lives they knew. There is hope for a high-profile rescue attempt, but if it fails they may all die. As the Capella effort becomes increasingly difficult, Alex comes across a rare artefact dating back to the original NASA interstellar ships. Extraordinarily rare and priceless, the Corbett transmitter is one of the few Golden Age antiquities that survived the dark years that subsequently engulfed the home world. The discovery arouses suspicions and Alex and his pilot Chase can uncover the truth only by returning to the museum-like planet Earth. As they endeavour to solve the 8,000-year-old mystery, Chase is pulled into the Capella rescue mission, and the entire human race watches and waits…

Starhawk by Jack McDevitt, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20331-1.
The dawn of humanity venturing to the stars is threatened by a lack of vision and a star drive that is just too slow… This is the first mass market paperback release of this title. See Jonathan's review of the trade paperback edition. Good, solid, lightweight space opera.

Wild Cards: Lowball by George R. R. Martin, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13426-3.
This is the last in the 'Wild Cards' series. Decades after an alien virus changed the course of history, the population of Manhattan is disturbed by a string of disappearances…

Resonance by John Meaney, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09481-9.
The final in the Ragnarok trilogy that began with Absorption.

Brood by Chase Novak, Mulholland, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-444-76091-0.
Sequel to Breed. Would-be parents using experimental fertility techniques get horrific, unexpected consequences with young twins…

The Demi-Monde Fall by Rod Rees, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-16510-5.
The mass-market paperback release of the final in the hard-SF, steampunk series that will delight both hard SF and, separately, steampunk fans. The denizens of the military computer simulation are almost ready to break out and take over the real world (and we now know that the real world is not our 'real world'). But the military team sent in to retrieve the US President's daughter find themselves locked in. Meanwhile in the outside world a few realise what is going on (and begin to find out that the real world may not be the real, real world even though it really is real. Confused? You wont be, but do start this series from the beginning. It features a number of SF tropes, is a rollicking adventure, is laced with some wry humour, involves quite a bit of word play (goodness knows who will, or can, translate this into other languages). Let's hope we see more of Rees in the years to come.   Click on the title link for a stand-alone review of the hardback. Hugely recommended.

The Age of Scorpio by Gavin Smith, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-09476-5.
Action fight novel with three strands, one of which is heavily fantasy and one space-opera-ish with the final being set in the present day. All are excuses for much release of testosterone.   Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, Picador, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-26896-3.
A travelling group of artists performs Shakespeare to the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world. The story is conveyed in two strands: one in the present and one in the ruined-world future. The word in the trade is that this is rather good. However not being marketed as genre, it may be missed by many aficionados, so if you get it and like it do blog about it.

Limit by Frank Shatzing, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-84-916517-4.
This is the paperback release of the techno-thriller by Shatzing who is billed as Germany's leading thriller writer. Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21486-7.
Ten years after and attack largely reduced Pittsburgh to rubble. All that effectively remains is a an interactive digital archive record of the city and its citizens. But a murder indicates that someone is hacking into the archive.  John Dominic Blaxton was not in Pittsburgh when the bomb went off and lost his wife. Working in insurance, he verifies survivor victims' claims but – as a distraction to digitally re-living moments with his partner in the archive – he becomes obsessed with the murder case. (The archive is a virtual network record of all Pittsburgh's public and domestic security cameras merged together with internet social network and commercial sites that can be virtually visited; you can even meet other real-time visitors within the archive.) A mess, using drugs to enhance his digital re-livings and focussing on the wrong areas of work, he loses his job but is given a lifeline when a Waverly, a wealthy IT person, commissions him to find out why his daughter's records are slowly disappearing from the archive…  Tomorrow and Tomorrow is very much William Gibson meeting Paul McAuley in a cyberpunk noire (with a dollop of Phil Dick thrown in, but then Dick has been read by every current notable SF writer). Don't be surprised if this title makes some of next year's (2015) award long-lists. It is a powerful debut. This release is the mass market paperback edition of the summer's trade paperback.  Click on the title link for Jonathan's stand-alone review.

The Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Transworld, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-230-77001-0.
The concluding novel in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ten-book epic fantasy series, 'Shadows of the Apt'. (See Ian's review of War Master’s Gate.) The Empire stands victorious over its enemies at last. With her chief rival cast into the abyss, Empress Seda now faces the truth of what she has cost the world in order to win the war. The Seal has been shattered, and the Worm stirs towards the light for the first time in a thousand years. Already it is striking at the surface, voraciously consuming everything its questing tendrils touch.

A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar, Hodder, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-76292-1.
Lavie has been carving out quite a name for himself as a writer since he wrote an article elsewhere on this site on Science Fiction in China.  Deep in the heart of history's most infamous concentration camp, a man lies dreaming. His name is Shomer, and before the war he was a pulp fiction author. Now, to escape the brutal reality of life in Auschwitz, Shomer spends his nights imagining another world; a world where a disgraced former dictator now known only as Wolf ekes out a miserable existence as a low-rent PI in London's grimiest streets. An extraordinary story of revenge and redemption, A Man Lies Dreaming is the unforgettable testament to the power of imagination.

Your Brother's Blood by by David Towsey, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06435-0.
A dystopic future sees the world become more like the wild west, though there are the remains of a forgotten past all around. And life goes on happily, except that when someone dies, they don't… This is an interesting re-imagining of the zombie trope. Click on the title link for a stand-alone review. (See also the next book below.)

Your Servants and Your People by David Towsey, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06437-4.
In Berkley, the dead do not always die… This is a zombie tale but with a fresh take and set in the same future as (see above).

Firefall by Peter Watts, Head of Zeus, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-08046-4.
65,000 objects fall from the sky all around the Earth. Is it surveillance? Is it first contact…? Canadian Peter Watts is a biologist and certainly one of the top five life scientists by training writing hard SF. He is not published much over here and has not yet had anything out by the major British SF imprints from the BIG publishing houses (though has in the US). So all power to Head of Zeus' elbow for publishing Firefall. His novel Blindsight was nominated for a Hugo in 2007. If you like hugely inventive, sophisticated hard SF with bags of sense-of-wonder (sensawunda) then it is a fairly good bet that you will enjoy Firefall.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Penguin, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0241-97057-7.
A very welcome reprint of the classic 1951 novel in which in the (then) near future (1950s) a light from a meteor shower blinds those looking at it which is nearly everyone. One man, his eyes bandaged in hospital, survives the night with his sight. In a world of the blind, not only does he have to survive, but experimental plants – the carnivorous Triffids – escape to feed off stumbling humans… If you are a young reader but keen to explore the genre, then you may want to check this out as it is an excellent exemplar of one of the best of mid-twentieth century SF… The novel has been filmed once, very badly, for the cinema, and there have been two reasonable TV series from the BBC. The first of which was reasonably faithful to the book and the second a re-imagining set in the early 21st century.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author off the reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13250-4.
In a small Hertfordshire village, local police are reluctant to believe that there may be a supernatural element to the disappearance of children…

The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham, Orbit, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50469-8.
The fourth in the 'Dagger and Coin' series.

The Wine-Dark Sea by Robert Aickman, Faber, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-571-31172-9.
A quarter-of-a-century on re-release of a collection of horror shorts first published in 1990.

The Secrets of Blood and Bone by Rebecca Alexander, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95327-0.
A ripping yarn of occultism and magic that straddles 16th century Venice to present-day, 21st century London.

The City and the Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66796-9.
A stunning tale of occultism and magic across the ages.

The Free by Brian Buckley, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50195-6.
Mercenaries in heroic fantasy.

The Art of Hunting by Alan Campbell, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-330-050879-7.
The second in the Grave Digger Chronicles.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero, Del Rey, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95646-2.
A hunted house story told through correspondence, diary entries, and security footage.

The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-330-52810-8.

Mistress of Mistresses by E. R. Eddison, Harper, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-57813-9.
This is a re-issue of an old fantasy, the first in a trilogy, that was much admired by J. R. R. Tolkien. The others in the trilogy are also being released. This first one is timed to come out with the third Hobbit film.

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-5-292-2.
The Oversight is a secret society that guards the divide between the natural and supernatural.

Gleam by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66252-0.
In this Gormenghastian world, the factory is the law… but that does not mean justice.

The Shattered Crown by Richard Ford, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-755-39407-4.
The King is dead, but the daughter is an unknown quantity as a successor.

Wolf in the Shadow by David Gemmell, Orbit, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50397-4.
This is a welcome reprint of the first in the John Shannon series, with the rest also being re-released in the same livery.

Snowblind by Christopher Golden, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20957-3.
A rural village in America and snowstorm takes lives. Decades on in the present day bad weather is forecast. But is it just snow that is coming… This is the first mass market paperback release of this title. See Ian's take on the hardback.

Unholy War by David Hare, Jo Fletcher Books, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87202-5.
This is the third in the Moontide quartet. In the fight for ultimate power over Urte, nothing is holy…

After Dead by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20051-7.
A coda to the acclaimed Sooki Stackhouse novels tying up loose ends and revealing what happened next.

Games People Play edited by Charlaine Harris, Jo Fletcher Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87263-6.
An anthology of shorts from various writers including Charlaine.

Codex Born by Jim C. Hines, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95347-8.
A paperback original, urban fantasy. Isaac, Lena and his dryad bodyguard return into werewolf territory to investigate a murder…

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb, Harper Voyager, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-44417-5.
Tom may appear a contented, middle-aged man, but he is a Fitz Chivalry farseer, a convicted user of Beast Magic and is an assassin with a past that is about to catch up with him.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95063-7.
More steampunk adventure for Burton and Swinburne as they hunt for the spirit of a dead mystic.

The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95065-1.
Steampunk. Explorer, Sir Richard Francis Burton, is experiencing hallucinations of parallel realities and future history.

Hidden by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50231-1.
Urban fantasy featuring Alex, a Camden-based taxi driver who can see probable futures.

The Incorruptables by John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13266-2.
Two battle-hardened mercenaries are sent to bodyguard a Senator and his spoilt family on their journey in a backwater part of their empire. Among the threats are feared elf-like natives.

The Fourth Gwenervere by John James, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66412-8.
A posthumous publication. This novel has an Arthurian legend type basis.

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey, Voyager, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-44608-7.
6th in the urban fantasy Sandman Slim series.

Dead Set by Richard Kadrey, Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-623392-8.
A dark fantasy about a lonely girl whose lost brother communes with her in her dreams. But someone, or something, has entered their dream world…

The Last Rite by Jasper Kent, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-06955-4.
Part historical adventure, part vampire thriller - the fifth and final darkly chilling chapter in Jasper Kent's acclaimed 'Danilov Quintet' (see Thirteen Years Later). Russia – 1917. Zmyeevich, king of all vampires, is dead. History records that the great voordalak – known across Europe as Dracula – perished in 1893 beneath the ramparts of his own castle, deep in the mountains of Wallachia. In Russia, the Romanov tsars are free of the curse that has plagued their blood for two centuries. But two decades later and Tsar Nicholas II faces a new threat…

Son of No-one by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40067-9.
24th in the Dark Hunter paranormal romance series.

Revival by Stephen King, Hodder, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-23531-6.
A boy shares a bond with a reverend. Years later, the boy is now a young man and a drug addict, when once more he encounters the reverend. This time their bond becomes a pact beyond even one of the devil's devising…

Bane of Malekith by William King, Black Library, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-849-70766-4.
Conclusion to the Tyrion trilogy.

Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge, Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-006-2-31691-2.
This is the first in a new, dark, urban fantasy series, the Hellbound Chronicles. Ava is a hellhound, an indentured servant of a reaper who hunts down errant souls and dispatches them to hell. But when she steals her reaper's scythe…

The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R. R, Martin and Lind Antonsson, Voyager, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-58091-0.
No explanation needed. Must for Game of Thrones fans.

The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-841-49959-8.
A royal child, believed dead, seeks to reclaim father's taken throne.

The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-08859-7.
Conclusion of the trilogy that began with The Steel Remains and The Cold Command.

The Waterborne Blade by Susan Murray, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-585-766435-8.
The start of a medieval fantasy series billed as being suitable to fans of Trudi Canavan.

Blood Games by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10824-0.
The mayor asks for help to stop a magical killer targeting humans in Chicagoland.

No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill, Macmillan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-24090-7.
Fantasy horror. A lowly paid temp worker rents a room in a large, rambling house... Not a good idea if you have read previous Nevill books such as Apartment 16 and House of Small Shadows.

Retribution by Mark Charan Newton, Tor, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-76684-6.
Continuing from the acclaimed historical fantasy Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton. Having just solved a difficult case in his home city of Tryum, Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld and his associate Leana are ordered to journey to the exotic city of Kuvash in Koton, where a revered priest has gone missing. When they arrive, they discover the priest has already been found – or at least parts of him have. But investigating the unusual death isn’t a priority for the legislature of Kuvash; there’s a kingdom to run, a census to create and a dictatorial Queen to placate. Soon Drakenfeld finds that he is in charge of an investigation in a strange city, whose customs and politics are as complex as they are dangerous.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, Orbit, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-02588-1.
A man retains knowledge of his 15 previous lives. The early word is that this is quite good.

Dreamwalker by J. D. Oswald, Michael Joseph, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-405-91765-0.
The start of a new fantasy series about the return of dragons after years of persecution.

The Returned by Seth Patrick, Pan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-447-26723-2.

The Godless by Ben Peek, Tor, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-1-447-25124-8.
Ayae discovers that she has a strange power, An invading army has become aware of her and her abilities…

The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock, Jo Fletcher Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87013-7.
Sequel to The City's Son and second in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy.

Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook by Terry Pratchett, Transworld, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52243-6.
A Discworld artefact - Georgina Bradshaw's guide to the railways of Raising Steam. Authorised by Mr Lipwig of the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway himself, Mrs Georgina Bradshaw’s invaluable guide to the destinations and diversions of the railway deserves a place in the luggage of any traveller, or indeed armchair traveller, upon the Disc. Mrs Bradshaw has travelled the length of the great permanent way to Quirm, Sto Lat and even as far as Ohulan Cutash, investigating the most edifying sights, respectable lodgings and essential hints on the practicalities of travel upon the wonder of the age.

The Blood Red City by Justine Richards, Del rey, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95598-4.
The second in the Never War series, an alternate World War II, SFnal thrillers with the Nazi's after alien technology.

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice, Chatto, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-701-18944-0.
The best-selling The Vampire Lesat came out in 1985 as part of the Vampire Chronicles, and so it has been a long wait for another. This takes off exactly where the last one ended.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice, Arrow, £8.99, pbk,. ISBN 978-0-099-58549-3.
This is the second in the Wolf Gift Chronicles. Reuben struggles to adapt to life as a wolf… This is the mass-market paperback release of last year's hardback.

Night After Night by Phil Rickman, Corvus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-89869-2.
A Big Brother type reality TV show is staged in an old Tudor farm house. Not the best of moves if it is haunted… (but, we guess, could make for great TV?).

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20932-9.
A fantasy novella set in the Kingkiller universe.

The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13082-1.
This debut, best-selling French sword and sorcery novel is now in English. A must for fans of Game of Thrones.

The Ripper Affair by Lillith Saintcrow, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-56094-2.
Steampunk, urban fantasy set in Victorian London where detectives Bannon and Clare face treason, cannon and dark magic in their search for a killer.

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-85739-7.
Dystopic epic fantasy. Follow-up to the fairly strong-selling The Bone Season.

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan, Century, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89146-0.
Reve hopes to keep children safe in a house surrounded by forest. But to do this she is going to have to unlock the secrets of The Hawley Book of the Dead.

The Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-23455-5.
This concludes the 10-volume Apt series. See Shadows of the Apt: Book Six – The Sea Watch , Shadows of the Apt: Book Seven – Heirs of the Blade, Shadows of the Apt: Book Eight – The Air War and War Master's Gate.

Cat Out Of Hell by Lynne Truss, Hammer, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-58534-3.
A terrifying but almost plausible tale from the author of Eats Shoots and Leaves.

The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06057-4.
Peri has been missing for six years when her mother hires a private investigator, who in turn finds certain parallels between the case and an ancient Celtic myth… This is a mix of mystery, thriller and fantasy. Lisa is a writer who had been beginning to make a name for herself in the 1980s-'90s. Literary fantasy.

Circle of Blood by Debbie Viguie, Arrow, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-57457-6.
Conclusion of the Witch Hunt trilogy.

Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-66371-9.
Men in Black meet the supernatural in this witty urban fantasy.

Age of Iron by Angus Watson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50261-8.
Iron Age epic fantasy. Debut. Apparently in the vein of Joe Abercrombie.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, Transworld, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-784-16001-2.
This is a traditional detective thriller but it has a psychology twist that may appeal to genre fans. Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? An original, haunting and deeply chilling debut thriller, and the previous hardcover edition was a Sunday Times bestseller. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-841-49909-3.
This is the third in the 'Light Bringer' series.

Hereward: Wolves of New Rome by James Wilde, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07183-0.
Historical fiction with likely appeal to traditional fantasy fans. Hereward, near-forgotten hero of British history, returns to the fray in the fourth novel in James Wilde's gritty, action packed and bestselling series..

Renegade by Kerry Wilkinson, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-78917-1.
Silver Blackthorn is on the run in the second in a trilogy.

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21112-5.
High quest fantasy. Adventurers search for gold beneath the Citadel.

The Tower Broken by Mazarkis Williams, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87151-6.
The Nothing is consuming all. Time is running out for the city…

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams, Hodder. £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-73865-0.
Final in the Bobby Dollar trilogy. The end is nigh but is the fallen angel, Bobby, ready?

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent fiction books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of hundreds of fiction books can be found linked alphabetically by author off the reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Drink Tank Pink: The Subconscious Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel and Behave by Adam Alter, Oneworld. £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-74583-1.
If you stare at a particular shade of pink you become weak. If you write in red rather than green you will become more critical. What actually shapes our thoughts and actions?

The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr Weigl: How two brave scientists battled typhus and sabotaged the Nazis by Arthur Allen, Norton, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-393-081010-5.

Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen by Philip Ball, Bodley Head, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-184-792289-2.
The history of invisibility in culture from Plato, the Renaissance, Shakespearian ghosts, cathode rays, H. G. Wells, camouflage and neuroscience.

Extreme Food - What to eat when your life depends on it... by Bear Grylls, Transworld, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07436-7.
Extreme survivalist Bear Grylls teaches us that food in the wild is there for the taking - if only we know how and where to look. Divided into three sections, the first will give you lots of great ideas about how to forage and prepare simple food in the wild with your buddies around the campfire. The second takes things up a notch and will teach you how to stalk, hunt and cook game, using techniques Bear has refined over the years. He's talking rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, snails - stuff you'll be hard pressed to find in your local supermarket but which is out there for the taking, if you only know how. The third section is not for the faint-hearted. Millions of people out there eat insects, arthropods and amphibians, but I bet you've never tried a scorpion kebab or a rack of alligator ribs. They're plentiful, nutritious and, believe it or not, can be quite tasty.

Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, Vintage, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-864-55823-8.

@War by Shane Harris, Headline, £20.00, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-755-36517-3.
The United States military now considers cyberspace as the ‘fifth domain’ of warfare (alongside land, air, sea and space). The Department of Defence, the NSA and CIA all field teams of hackers who can, and do, launch computer virus strikes against enemy targets. In fact, U.S. military hackers played a crucial role in the war in Iraq. Two successive presidents have called the Internet ‘a strategic national asset’, and as such are committed to defending it - even to the extent of trying to acquire the power to turn off the internet in the face of a major attack. The resulting global struggle to control cyberspace is defining Western security policy in the 21st Century, just as the nuclear arms race did in the 20th. Recent revelations from Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and others have shown the extent to which national governments are using the internet to collect vast amount of information about their citizens.

Sex on Earth by Jules Howard, Bloomsbury, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-19341-9.
A celebration of animal reproduction. From sperm wars to cuckoldry, hermaphrodites to virgin birth. Promiscuity to monogamy. And what of true love?

The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen, Harper Collins, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-44831-9.
The erratic behaviour of teenagers is not down to hormones but that the parts of the brain that are associated with judgement, concentration, planning and organization are the last to have their adult connections finalised… And it is not complete until the early 20s (so it is not just the teenage years that should be of concern.

The Cancer Chronicles by George Johnson, Vintage, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099055605-3.
The science mixed in with a personal account/case history. Recommended for those who have had an encounter with cancer.

Does Santa Exist? by Eric Kaplan, Little Brown, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-70603-9.
Humorous philosophy. The executive producer and co-writer of The Big Bang Theory draws on Bertrand Russell, Taoism, theosophy and Monty Python to investigate things that we dearly love but at the same time which are not universally acknowledged as being real.

Call and Response by Paul Kincaid, Beccon Publications, £16.00, pbk. ISBN 978-1-870-82462-0
We should have included this in last season's 'forthcoming non-fiction books' list but only received the details just as our summer edition was being posted.  This is Paul Kincaid's second collection of essays and reviews. It includes essays on more than 20 authors together with reviews of their most significant works. His previous collection from Beccon Publications was shortlisted for both the Hugo and BSFA Awards.

The World According to the Joker by Matthew K. Manning, Transworld £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07426-8.
The ultimate immersive reading experience for younger Batman fans. Enter the Joker’s twisted world as the Clown Prince of Crime shares his deranged worldview, revealing his skewed perspective on everything from life in Arkham Asylum to battling Batman. Packed with inserts and special removable items, this terrifying look at the greatest comic book villain of all time explores the Joker’s psychotic ruminations and exposes his most heinous crimes. A startling journey into the depths of a criminally insane mind, The World According to the Joker gives unparalleled insight into the ultimate super-villain.

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science by Armand Marie, Bloomsbury, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-83620-0.

What If? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions by Randall Munroe, John Murray, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-54957-9.
Randall left NASA in 29005 ands started the 'web comic of romance, sarcasm, maths and language' XKCD that offers a witty take on science and issues of geek interest. This book answers such burning questions such as how fast can you drive over a speed bump and survive? And, when will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than the living?

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett, Doubleday £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52122-4.
Non-fiction articles from musings on mushrooms to what it means to be a writer and speculations of Gandalf's love life.

The Yeti Enigma by Brian Sykes, Coronet, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-769125-9.
The Oxford Professor of Human genetics uses DNA samples of hair and other traces of the Yeti and Big Foot in an attempt to ascertain what Yeti's are… This was the subject of a thee-part Channel 4 documentary.

Prof Stewart's Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries by Ian Stewart, Profile, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-846-68347-3.
Odd mathematical conundrums from the Warwick University lecturer and co-author of the Science of Discworld series of books.

Interstellar: Beyond Time and Space by Mark Cotta Vaz, Titan, £29.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29356-8.
A detailed accoint of the making of Christopher Nolan's film.

Life at the Speed of Light by J. Craig Venter, Abacus, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-13990-6.
An account of how the human genome was first drafted and synthetic biology (the creation of the first bacterium assembled from lab chemicals. Venter has led the private sector (but not afraid to partner with state and charitable science) in these areas.

Once Upon A Time: A short history of fairy tale by Marina Warner, Oxford University Press, £10.99, hrdbk. 978-0-198-71865-9.

The Mummy's Curse: The true history of a dark fantasy by Marina Warner, Oxford University Press, £14.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-198-71880-2.

 

Brian now has autographed copies of -- Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. Also Essential is now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). If you enjoy Concat then you can support us by getting this book either for yourself or a friend and there are postage discounts for getting more than one copy and a further discount is available if buying several for an SF group or SF class.

 

Our latest in-depth reviews of recent non-fiction SF and popular science books can be found linked from the whats new index.

In depth reviews of many science and SF non-fiction books can be found off the non-fiction reviews index.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

Inside the World of Gerry Anderson, Egmont, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-405-27265-0.
Includes detailed images of Fireball XL5, Stingray and the Thunderbirds.

Gerry Anderson: The Comic Collection Egmont, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-405-27266-7.

Planet of the Apes: The Evolution of the Legendary Franchise by Joe Fordham & Jeff Bond, Titan, £29.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-399198-4.
Films, TV spin-offs, re-boot, costuming, art… it's all here.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Bloomsbury, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-408-85688-8.
A modern classic fantasy re-released to coincide with a BBC TV series.

The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the design of the landmark SF film by Christopher Frayling, Real Art Press, £45, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-957-26102-0.
The detailed archive of the art director Harry Lange.

Dr Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss, BBC Books, £6.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-849-90774-3.
To coincide with the new autumnal season of the series.

Horns by Joe Hill, Gollancz, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12069-3. A re-release to tie-in with the film starring Daniel Radcliffe. See Nadia's stand alone review here.

The Legend of Conan by Robert E. Howard, Hesperus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-843-91521-8.
This accompanies The Legend of Conan film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course this is the original Howard story. For background see the separate review of a Conan collection here.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Prequel by Greg Keyes, Titan, £7.99, pbk. 978-1-783-29225-7. But would Pierre Boule approve of this novel…?

Interstellar: The official Novelisation by Greg Keyes, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29369-8.
This summer's film directed by Christopher Nolan and including in the cast Sir Michael Caine.

Descent: The Walking Dead 5 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-27574-9.
Another spin-off novel from The Walking Dead series (itself spun-off the orginal graphic novels by Kirkman, and which included The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor – Part One. The Descent is the start of a new strand to the story and first in a trilogy.

Star Wars Posters by Lucas Film, Abrams, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-419-714009.
Posters from all six films and two TV series, exhibitions and fan clubs together with exclusives.

Star Wars: Tarkin by James Lucens, Century, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-89368-6.

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones II: Seasons 3 & 4 by Cat Naylor, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20618-2.
Need we say more?

The Frood: The True Story of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Jem Roberts, Preface, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-o9437-6.
Authorised by Adams' estate and family.

Alien: The Archive by Mark Salisbury, Titan, £35, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29104-5.
2014 is the 35th anniversary of the original film. This offering is richly illustrated and claims to be the first comprehensive guide to all four films. Contains interviews with both Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver.

The Art and Making of Hercules by Linda Sunshine, Harper Desing, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-062-35835-6.
Companion to the film Hercules: The Thracian Wars.

Halo: Mortal Dikta by Karen Traviss, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-22092-3.

Sherlock Chronicles by Steve Tribe, BBC Books, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-849-668347-5.
Behind the scenes of the current BBC show.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

SELECTED FORTHCOMING DVD RELEASES

Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition £30 DVD from 2entertain.
Four disc set. Need we say more?

Red Reaper £7 DVD from 4Digital Media.
Action horror. For a thousand years, the Reapers guarded mankind from the demons that wait in the dark. Now, at the beginning of a new age, the Reapers are betrayed and slaughtered. Only one Reaper remains - Red, and she's out to exact revenge.

Timeslip £7.25 DVD from Network.
A golden oldie fantastic film, a thriller interweaving sci-fi fantasy and a story of deadly industrial intrigue, Timeslip is a 1955 feature from Emmy Award-winning British writer and director Ken Hughes. Showcasing strong performances from American leads Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue, this rare feature (also known as The Atomic Man) is presented here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.

Trancers £16.25 Blu-Ray from 88 Films.
The first and best (though the second was not too bad) of the low-budget, cult Trancer films. Aficionados will have this on DVD, but Blu-Ray? If not, then now's your chance. The film concerns Deth who tracks down zombie-like trancers who belong to a religious cult. Now the trancer leader has gone into the past (our 1990s present) and Deth follows.  Though a horror and rated 18, this is low on gore (which some of us think is good) but there is action, a solid SFnal dimension, and Deth is charismatic.

Warehouse 13 - Season 5 £12.50 DVD from Universal/Playback.
If you have not seen this series then it concerns those looking after a warehouse like the one the Arc of the Covenant was stored in at the end of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc. A fun little series with steampunk elements.

Westworld - 40th Anniversary Edition £12.50 DVD from Warner Home Video.
OK, so you have this 1974 Michael Crichton classic on DVD, but do you have it in Blu Ray? And if you are young and not heard of it then… A lawyer and businessman (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) take a dream holiday to the newly opened technological paradise Westworld, a resort run by Delos offering its visitors all the thrills, but none of the dangers, of the old Wild West, which is recreated by supposedly harmless robots. However, when one of the computerized gunslingers (Yul Brynner) malfunctions, the two city slickers find themselves in a battle for their lives.

 

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect this year, check out our forthcoming film diary.

To see our chart ratings for last year's films, nearly all of which are now available for DVD hire, then check out our most recent annual film top ten.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

R.I.P.

The Summer sadly saw us lose the following science and SF personalities:

Thomas Berger, the US novelist, has died aged 90. Through over a score of novels he explored many genres including crime and survival adventures. His genre works included utopian SF and fantasy-related Arthurian legends.

Ken Brown, the British SF fan, has died aged 57. He contributed to a number of fanzines and also book reviewed for Interzone in its early years.

Neil Craig, the British genre bookseller, has died aged 59. He ran Glasgow's Futureshock shop since the early 1980s from about the time of Scotland's first convention.

Gerald Edelman, the US biologist, has died aged 84. He is most noted academically for his work on antibody structure for which he jointly won (with Rodney Porter) a Nobel Prize in 1972. However his popular science books on how re-used synapses strengthen neural pathways (and lack of use weakens them) leads through a kind of Darwinian selection to astonishing information-processing power. These included Neural Darwinism (1987) and A Universe of Consciousness (2001).

Radu Florescu, the Romanian scholar, has died aged 88. He is of SF/F note for being the first to popularise the connection between Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Leaving Romania just before WWII, he spent much of his life as an academic in the US. There he advised the State Department and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts on the Balkans and wrote a string of scholarly books, among them The Struggle Against Russia in the Romanian Principalities: A Problem in Anglo-Turkish Diplomacy, 1821-1854. He died in retirement in France.

Nancy Garden, the US author, has died aged 76. She wrote fantasy including LBGT fantasy for the teenage market.

Hansruedi R. Giger, the Swiss artist, has died aged 74. He is best known for the artwork designs used in the 1979 film Alien and he also worked on Aliens 3 (1992). In 1998, he opened his own museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland, which alongside his own paintings and sculptures, displays works from his own art collection from the likes of Salvador Dali, Dada and Ernst Fuchs. Some of his work is reproduced in H. R. Giger Retrospektive, 1964-1984 (1984).

Michael Gramescu, the Romanian SF/F writer has died aged 63. He was among the last of the 'new' generation of SF writers to emerge in the last days under the communist regime. In 1990 when he was 39 he was awarded a Eurocon Encouragement Award by the European SF Society at that year's Eurocon in France. These are awards given to new writers and clearly his 1989 book Moara de Apa [Water Mill] which, though mainstream, had made a big impact in his home country. But he had written before, with a collection of shorts,Aporisticon: Glosar de Civilizatii Imaginare [Aporisticon: Glossary of Imaginary Civilizations] (1981), and a novelette in the long-running (albeit under different production managers) semi-prozine Anticipatia called 'Anomia'. This was set in a post-apocalyptic world, ruled by a military junta. Though a capable nuclear physicist the protagonist finds himself sacked. Eventually he is reemployed by a tourist company by a hotel. There discovers a real conspiracy: the foreign 'tourists' were not coming from other countries, but from other times in the future but their visits are having a detrimental affect on the present. However the year following his Eurocon Encouragement Award saw the publication of Phreeria: Epopee Exotica [Phreeria: Epos Exotic] (1991) set in a future, resource-depleted world where ice-free Antarctica sees a tough life for many and pockets of civilisation survive with the help of salvaged technology and a pharmaceutical plant.  This novel was reprinted early in the 21st century as part of Eagle Publishing's Seniorii Imaginatie series of Romanian SF masterworks. His collection of shorts Saritorii in Gol [Jumpers in the Void] (1994) also attracted interest. He has had something published – be it a novel, collection of poems or a short story – most years since through to 2010. He was also for a while editor of Anticipatia and also the (unique for Europe) weekly SF magazine Journal SF. His work has been translated into French, Hungarian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian.

Gerald Guralnik, the US physicist, has died aged 77. Gerald Guralnik was one of the authors of the last of three papers that helped conceive of the Higgs boson. All the papers (Francois Englert and Robert Brout's based in Belgium, Peter Higgs' in Britain, and Britain's Tom Kibble and US Gerald Guralnik's) addressed the problem of giving mass to bosons with different approaches, though all three demonstrated that the mechanism could involve spontaneous symmetry breaking. They met with initial scepticism and Werner (Uncertainty Principle) Heisenberg told Gerald Guralnik that he was speaking 'nonsense'! Yet their proposal, now known as the Higgs mechanism, has become well established not least due to the 2012 CERN experiment. He had other interests including recently being a member of the Brown University Ersatz Brain project that aims to create a brain-like computer. Indeed Gerald had worked at Brown University, Rhode Island, Providence, US, since 1967 and died of a heart attack shortly after giving a lecture there.

Dan Jacobson, the South African author, has died aged 85. He is best known for The Confessions of Joseph Baisz (1977), the post-holocaust Her Story (1987).

Daniel Keyes, the US author and SF fan, has died aged 86. He was primarily a short story writer. He is best known for the staggeringly brilliant Hugo award-winning short story that was expanded into a Nebula award-winning novel Flowers for Algernon that in turn was adapted to film as Charly (1968) (and then later less successfully as Flowers for Algernon). His The Minds of Billy Milligan won a German Kurd Lasswitz Award in 1986 and was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1982.

Jay Lake, US author and SF fan, has died aged 49. Further to last year's sad news, he had not been responding to treatment and sadly died in early June. In 2004 he won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction. He is especially known for his 'City Imperishable' novels (Trial of Flowers 2006, Madness of Flowers 2009 and Reign of Flowers 2014) and the 'Mainspring' novels (Mainspring 2007, Escapement 2008, and Pinion2010). He wrote other novels, short stories and also, with a dozen additional books, collaborated with others and edited anthologies. At the time of his death there was a body of work in progress. Alas he has been taken away from us much too soon.

Philippa Maddern, the Australian writer, has died aged 62. She mainly wrote short stories.

Peter Marler, the British biologist, has died aged 85. He specialised in animal communication despite starting off his postgraduate career in botany. He worked with chaffinch snakes, mammal predators and prey. His work demonstrated that communication was a mix of innate abilities and environmental context (as opposed to what then physiologists focussed on learning through reward). His career spanned a time when molecular biology was on the ascendency, dominating biology and so was one of the comparative minority working on whole-organism biology and out in the field.

William C. Martin , the US fan, has died aged 89. He was a member of first fandom from the early-to-mid 1930s. He was also a member of the Science Fiction Research Association.

Francis Matthews, the British actor, has died aged 86. He is probably best known by older Brits for playing the lead in the BBC television series Paul Temple (1969–71) based on the novels (that were in a similar vein to the Simon Templer ('Saint') stories). He is also known for having starred opposite Morecambe and Wise (much loved British music hall and TV comedians) in their (not so good) films The Intelligence Men (1965) and That Riviera Touch (1966). Fantastic film buffs know him for playing the Baron's assistant in Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein(1958) and a hero in Dracula: Prince of Darkness. But he is best known in the sci-fi world for voicing the lead character of Gerry Anderson's Captain Scarlet (1967–68). Francis Matthews had some off-stage skill as a voice impersonator and decided to voice Captain Scarlet in the style of Cary Grant.

Ana Maria Matute, the Spanish fantasy cum weird fiction writer, has died aged 88. Although her books were riddled with realism, she was also known for injecting myth, mystery, fantasy, and supernatural elements into her stories. She became one of just three female members to have ever belonged to the RSA (Royal Spanish Academy) and won almost all of Spain's major literary awards, including the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary honour. Matute was known for novels, such as La Trampa [The Trap, 1969], Paraiso Inhabitado [Inhabited Paradise, 2008] or her marvellous trilogy of medieval fantasy stories: La Torre Vigia [The Watchtower, 1971], Olvidado rey Gudu [Forgotten King Gudu, 1996] and Aranmanoth (2000). She was considered to be one of the foremost novelists of the 'posguerra', the period immediately following the Spanish Civil War.

Wubbo Ockels, the Dutch astronaut, has died aged 68. An ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut, he was the first Dutch astronaut on the last successful mission of the Challenger space shuttle and served on SkyLab 1. He has an asteroid named after him.

Colin Pillinger, the British planetary scientist, has died aged 70. He was, to say the least, a colourful character with a thick Cornish accent, he was the traditional image of a British boffin. One of the Concatenation team had the privilege to meet him at a Parliamentary science gathering where Colin revealed that science fiction inspired him in his choice of career, particularly the BBC radio serial, Journey Into Space , focussing on the adventures of Jet Morgan, as well as the Eagle comic strip Dan Dare.  He will forever be associated by many with an ESA payload package, the Beagle II Martian lander, and that its mission was a failure: it crashed on Christmas 2003 most likely because the parachute was at the edge of the design size limits and that the then local Martian conditions were of low atmospheric pressure. However to consider this mission an abject failure is to do it a disservice. Not only did Beagle II successfully demonstrate how much could be done with a very low budget, it also created the smallest, lightweight mass spectrometer which later meant that mass spectrometers could have wider Earth-bound usage, as well as arguably bringing together British aerospace industry in ways that had not been done before. He spent a number of years heading up Britain's Open University's Department of Physical Sciences. His 2010 biography is titled My Life On Mars.

Frank M. Robinson, the US author, has died aged 87. He was the author of 16 books. His most known work is probably The Glass Inferno (1974) with Thomas N. Scortia that was one of two works that inspired the film The Towering Inferno. Fantastic film buffs will know him for his novel The Power (1956) which was turned into a film in 1967. The Gold Crew (1980), also co-written with Scortia, was a tense nuclear threat thriller that was later was filmed as an NBC miniseries re-titled The Fifth Missile. He also compiled the art book Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated History (1999). Of interest to science fact and science fiction concateneers, he was a physics graduate and worked for four years for Science Digest.

Yoshiki Sasai, the brilliant Japanese stem cell scientist, has committed suicide out of shame and aged 52. In 2012 he created precursor retina cells. Alas he got caught up in the recent RIKEN stem cell scandal. He was deputy head of the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology at which the fraudulent work was conducted. Although the study's first author, Dr Haruko Obokata, was found guilty of misconduct, Prof Sasai was cleared of direct involvement. Prof Sasai was considered extremely gifted by both colleagues and the stem cell community at large. He was also a deeply ethical person and felt shame at being line-management associated with the fraudulent staff, even though not directly with the actual work.

Adolf Seilacher, the German palaeontologist, has died aged 89. He found his first fossil aged 14 and published his first paper aged 18. He was an expert on Ediacara fossils in that weird period of multicellular life before the Cambrian explosion but just after Snowball Earth II. He also did work for oil companies, such was his skill at dating fossils and identifying their depositional environment. He was not afraid of occasionally going against the trend and noted that shape did not always follow function. He won a number of prizes including some of the most prestigious in science such as the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1992. Some of his work can be found in his book Trace Fossil Analysis (2007) and his text Morphodynamics is forthcoming from CRC Press.

Jan Shepheard, the British artist, has died aged in 79. She spent much of her career working on IPC comics titles. Of genre interest she worked on Valiant, 2000AD (its first art director), Starlord and Eagle. She worked mainly as an art director: planning layouts, designing covers, logos and feature pages, re-sizing and extending artwork for publication in different formats, and correcting and retouching errors in artwork. Of particular genre note she designed Judge Dredd's strip title logo. As with Tom Frame, she was largely unrecognised by the SF community at large, but greatly respected by her colleagues.

Mary Stewart (née Rainbow), the British fantasy author, has died aged 97. She is best known for her Merlin series that combines a historical novel style with fantasy. For many years early in her career she was an English lecturer at Durham University up to 1945. At that point she married the renowned geologist Sir Frederick Stewart. Her writing was most popular between the 1960s and '80s. Her 1962 novel, Moon Spinners, was adapted into a film by Disney. Her Merlin trilogy turned into a quintet that began with The Crystal Cave (1970) and ended with The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995). Her output of two dozen books included three juvenile fantasies and a book of poetry all of which together sold over five million copies.

Richard Vine, the British SF fan, has sadly died way too young at 54. Richard entered fandom while a student at Keele University where he was one of half a dozen key members of its SF Society and with them instrumental in establishing Unicons: he worked on the first three at Keele (before they then started rotating around other universities). He later moved abroad and spent the past two decades in Sweden raising a family. Much sadness for some of the Concatenation crew. Our condolences for his family and shared sorrow with mutual friends.

Robin Williams, the US comedy actor, has died aged 63. Though he went on to critical acclaim in many comedy dramas and just drama films, he broke is career ice through his cameo appearance on the TV show Happy Days as an alien called Mork. This led to a spin-off show Mork and Mindy that ran from ran from 1978 to 1982. His other speculative fiction related films included Peter Pan, the cinematic interpretation of Asimov's Bicentennial Man, Night at the Museum and its two sequels, and Jumanji and was the voice of the genie in the animation Aladdin. His death, tragically too young, was apparently due to depression-led suicide.

Patrick Woodroffe, the British artist, has died aged 74. Over the years he drew numerous SF/F book covers and notably 90 book cover paintings between 1973 and 1976 for Corgi imprint. He also worked on a joint rock project for Greenslade providing a 47-page book of illustrations to accompany the album and also an album sleeve for the rock band Pallas. Some of the artwork for the former was shown at the British World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton, 1979. In 1989 he prepared the conceptual art used in the film The NeverEnding Story IIMythopœikon (Dragon's World, 1977), is a collection of his work between 1965 and 1976. Hallelujah Anyway (Paper Tiger, 1984) and The Forget-Me-Not-Gardener (2005) were two further publications depicting his work.

Herbert Yellin, the SF publisher, has died aged 79. His imprint Lord John Press was founded in 1978) and published signed, limited editions of authors including Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen King, Dan Simmons and Ray Bradbury.

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
Forthcoming Book Releases including: Science Fiction Forthcoming Fantasy & Horror Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction and Forthcoming TV & Film Tie-ins Book Releases | Selected Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2014

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Faster-than-light communication naysayers further confounded by robust, long-lived and high fidelity entanglement reading (in other words the instant teleportation of quantum states). There is a lot of stuff and nonsense uttered about quantum physics, such as faster-than-light communication (ansibles) will never be possible: a tad pre-judgemental that. But we have come a long way, for example, by showing that tweaking one of an entangled pair will get the other to respond near instantaneously as can be measured tens of thousands of times faster than the speed of light and that you do not need near-absolute zero temperatures for entanglement. Other recent quantum science developments have included: the demonstration of a single photon gate as might be used in a quantum computer; entangling a photon it is possible to delay the collapsing of the quantum state and so explore both its wave-like and particle-like properties; and observing and part controlling quantum state change and its decoherence   Now, a Dutch team with some help from Brits, has demonstrated robust quantum information transfer between long-lived qubit registers. They have realised a fully deterministic Bell-state measurement combined with real-time feed-forward quantum teleportation with an average state fidelity always exceeding the classical limit. It makes it far more a likelihood of ultimately being able to create practical, faster-than-light, quantum communication and quantum computing: a development many physicists would consider controversial to the point of impossibility. Ansible naysayers may well soon have to have a re-think.(See Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1253512.)

Industrialists spread new strain of flu to sell vaccine. This story could well have straight out of the plot for a techno-thriller SF. In an unpublished report following a 10-year investigation, Italian police say that a 'criminal organization' (that included scientists, company executives, veterinarians, and government officials) colluded to profit from Italy's avian influenza outbreak. Among other things, the report claims that members of the organization smuggled avian flu viruses into Italy, sold viruses illegally, produced and sold an illegal vaccine, and attempted to spread avian influenza to create a market for their product. Ilaria Capua, a prominent scientist who is now a member of the Italian Parliament is among the accused. He denies the charges. The authorities must now decide whether to bring the case to trial. (Source: 'Police claim leading flu researcher illegally sold virus'.Science vol. 345, p1105-1106.)

SF dream of people on Mars delayed: NASA cannot afford to send a manned mission to Mars, says a National Research Council report. The report is the result of the culmination of an 18-month, US$3.2 million (£2m) investigation instigated by Congress. It concludes that to continue on the present course under budgets that do not keep pace with inflation 'is to invite failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.' Instead it suggests NASA returns to the Moon, something that president Obama is against as the US has been to the Moon before.

'Mesolithic people abandon North Sea Doggerland 'Atlantis' due to tsunami research reveals echoing SF author Stephen Baxter's 'Northland' trilogy. The prehistoric 'Atlantis' in the North Sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5m tsunami 8,200 years ago according to research by Jon Hill and colleagues from Imperial College London. The wave was generated by a catastrophic subsea landslide (the Storegga slide) off the coast of Norway. This analysis suggests the tsunami over-ran Doggerland, a low-lying landmass that has since vanished beneath the waves. The analysis used computer simulations to explore the likely effects of the Norwegian landslide and the Imperial researchers were the first group to model the Storegga tsunami with Doggerland in place: previous studies used present-day depth maps and not as the area was thousands of years ago when sea levels were lower. The human abandonment of Doggerland happened around the time of the slide, suggesting that the two events were linked. This echoes the set-up in Stephen Baxter's fiction, 'Northland' trilogy, novels; although Baxter's plot dates do differ.

New tractor beam developed. Mike McDonald at Dundee University and Gabriel Spalding in the States have created an array of ultrasound beams that can drag centimetre objects towards it. They arranged for the interference patters to bounce of the sides and rear of an object to push it towards the ultrasound sources (See Physics Reviews Letters vol. 122, 174302.) +++ Previous 'tractor beam' coverage: A similar mechanism using light was developed by the Chinese, NASA is hoping to develop a tractor beam, and Brit scientist uses tractor beam to separate cells.

New tractor beam for water developed. Australian scientists led by Horst Punzmann reporting in Nature Physics discovered that they can control the movement of a floating ping-pong ball just by making a specific pattern of waves. Simply dropping a cylindrical wave-maker - a bit like a long rolling pin - in and out of the water, gently, produces a predictable set of waves undulating away from the disturbance. But if the size of the up-and-down movement is increased, that wave pattern breaks up into choppier pulses. At the same time, the central current switches direction, so that objects can be pulled back towards the wave-maker. Applications might eventually include use in oil spills.

US$10m (£6m) Star Trek 'medical tricorder' X Prize has 10 finalists. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, launched last year, challenges anyone to develop a wireless device capable of detecting a range of clinical conditions and/or states. The finalists now have until the middle of next year 2015) to develop workable prototypes. The competition organisers expectation is that the winning device should be able to monitor vital signs as well as accurately diagnose 16 different conditions, including anaemia, tuberculosis and diabetes.

J. R. R. Tolkien's balrog has been used to name a Palaeocene species. Anthracosuchus balrogus is a 900-pound crocodile-like creature from 60 million years ago. (It survived the extinction of the dinosaurs.)

One reason intelligent life is thought to be rare in the Universe is that the nervous system only evolved once… Not so, new research on comb jellies reveals Leonid Moroz and colleagues have sequenced the genome of the ctenophore (comb jellies) Pleurobrachia bachei (or the Pacific sea gooseberry to give it its English name). HOX genes are absent yet it has a nervous system: two distinct neural nets together with an elementary brain-like centre. All other animals with a nervous system have the same set of genes. This, the researchers contend suggests that ctenophores evolved its nervous system independently to the rest of multicellular animal life on the planet.  The SFnal implications are that evolving a nervous system is not as difficult as was up to now thought, and so more likely to have evolved elsewhere in the Universe.

HIV vaccine scientist charged in US for falsifying science. There is nothing like science fiction next to science, but fictionalising science fact is, literally, criminal. Here the latest notable example is that of Dong-Pyou Han, formerly of Iowa State University, being found to have added antibodies to rabbit blood samples that had been given an experimental HIV (AIDS virus) vaccine making it seem as if the vaccine worked and that it generated an immune response. Prior to the authorities charging him with a criminal offence, he had already been found professionally (as distinct from criminally) guilty of misconduct by the US Department of Health and banned from working with US government agencies for three years starting in 2013.

Man arrested reading Orwell's 1984. Thai police arrested eight people in late June for demonstrating against the nation's increasingly repressive military junta, including one man for reading a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Previously, small numbers of anti-Thai coup protesters have staged several silent readings of the book, claiming that the book's indictment of totalitarianism has become relevant after the army deposed the nation's elected government in a May coup. A Thai reporter who witnessed the lone man reading Orwell's classic said he was taken away by half a dozen plainclothes police. The reporter said the man held the book up as officers approached. When questioned, the man said he was reading the book for 'liberty, equality and fraternity' the slogan of the French Revolution. He was also playing the French national anthem on his smartphone.

Egypt's military has announced a series of medical breakthroughs: a device that could detect a variety of viral infections without even touching a patient, and another device that clears a patient's blood of viruses. Treatment of Egyptian patients with the devices was due to begin 30th June (2014). The military had announced that treatment would be delayed until further experiments were complete. Whereas the Western scientific community has ridiculed the devices as pseudoscience, Egyptian academics have been largely silent. The country's military regime has been handing down harsh punishments for those with dissenting voices, most recently seven-year prison sentences for three journalists. But one Egyptian scientist, Islam Hussein, has been speaking out with videos in Arabic that have garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube – a large number considering they are 80-minute PowerPoint presentations explaining the scientific problems with the miracle cures (see Science vol. 345, p16). +++ See also Egypt losing academic freedom in our general science section above.

Computer program sort of passes Turing test in Royal Society stunt. The 65-year-old Turing Test is used to see if an 'artificial intelligence successfully passes for human. The Royal Society is Britain's academy for science research (as opposed to the various professional bodies for respective science disciplines which include teachers, those in industry, those involved in environmental monitoring etc, as well).  The computer program in question is called Eugene Goostman and simulates a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy. Eugene convinced 33% of the judges at the Royal Society in London that it was human. Judges included actor Robert Llewellyn, who played an intelligent robot in BBC Two's science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarf, and Lord Sharkey (who led the successful campaign for Alan Turing's posthumous pardon over a conviction for homosexual activity, in 2013).  However some are not impressed. 1) the test should be passed the majority of times, 2) the program hides behind the intelligence of someone just aged 13, and 3) a foreign national.  So some way to go then.

New chip developed that is a landmark on the way to artificial intelligence. Inspired by the brain’s structure, it is a million spiking-neuron integrated circuit with a scalable communication network and interface. It is equivalent to 256 million synapses and is just 3 cm across. The bad news: biological neurons have 40 times the connections per synapse and many of millions more synapses. The good news: the chip is 'endlessly scalable' as multiple units can be plugged together to form another, still more powerful, assembly. However developing programs to run on this biological brain-inspired chip will involve a new style of programming. (See Science, vol. 345, p668-673.)

Happiness algorithm derived – And it looks like the first meaningful attempt. There have been a number of light weight to positively tongue-in-cheek previous attempts to derive an equation for human happiness, but now it seems as if we have a meaningful attempt. A British team let by Robb Rutledge used computer modeling together with MRI brain scans involving 18,420 participants. They presented subjects with a decision-making task involving monetary gains and losses and repeatedly asked them to report their momentary happiness. They then constructed a computer model in which happiness reports were construed as an emotional reactivity to recent rewards and expectations. Using functional MRI, they demonstrated that neural signals during task events account for changes in happiness. It is hoped that the results will help aid treatment for those with mood disorders. (See Rutledge et al, PNAS doi/10.1073/pnas.1407535111.)

Brain scans can be used to predict television hits. Jacek Dmochowski of Stanford U. (US) used MRI and EEGs of 16 adults watching a television episode of The Walking Dead as well as advertisements and the US Super Bowl Games. The results from this small group correlated with the feedback of large groups on social media. (See Nature Communications vol. 5, 4567.)

 

 

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Autumn 2014

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More science and SF news will be summarised in our Spring upload in January
plus there will also be 'forthcoming' Spring book releases, plus loads of stand-alone reviews.

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Lise Andreasen, Arno Behrend, Anders Bellis, Angel Carralero, Silviu Genescu, Marcin 'Alqua' Klak, Roberto Quaglia, Peter Tyers, Tero Ykspetäjä.  Thanks also go to a veritable legion of other including numerous Brits and other Europeans sending in views and unofficial personal comment who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news; these last have their own ventures promoted on this page.   If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told). :-)

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Spring 2015 period – needs to be in before the 2nd week December 2014. 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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