Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2007

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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

EDITORIAL MATTERS

Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation cyber attacked. The attack took place in June and for around a day visitors to this site were re-directed to a Russian site that then attempted to download a virus that (would if not prevented by a reasonable firewall) facilitate further infection. At first we were worried that this was a specific attack targeting just this site, however it transpired that our server -- the large US company DreamHost -- had a security breach with (reportedly) 5,000 passwords revealed. Herculean efforts of our webmaster (Alan) repeatedly re-installing our key index files meant the hackers went after easier prey. Throughout it all our 'alert service' data base was secure. Our IT guy (Dan) developed our site update alert service with added security measures which include it being run quite separately on a separate site and maintained by both a different protected network and independent PC with no connection to DreamHost. Consequently at no time were any e-mail addresses of those registered to receive our site alerts exposed. (Also the Concat office computer is protected by a sound firewall and additionally has other anti-spy-ware measures.) In short, be assured we have built-in measures to protect 'site update alert' user confidentiality. +++ Meanwhile Estonia was cyber-attacked by Russians. This time it was personal. +++ A similar (same?) gang used Google blogs in August for spyware propagation.

New Nature 'Futures' stories to come back to Concatenation Plus 'Futures' returns to Nature. -- click here for details

Concat' Site Update Alert Service: Don't forget that now you can receive e-mail alerts (only every other month) letting you know when this site has an update. This alert service is free and your e-mail addresses will not be passed on to other parties. For details see the bottom of this news page. SF to your computer at near the speed of light. :-)

In-house project news: Essential Science Fiction is also available from Amazon.co.uk. Do your bit to spread the genre word. Makes for a great birthday present. Help support Concat. 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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

Space man and co-Hugo Award winner dies -- click here for details

The Galaxy Awards, Locus Awards and the Hugo Awards for 'SF achievement' are out.

News of other SF Awards/Prizes given include: Australia - Ditmar, Germany - Kurd Lasswitz, Italy - Urania (new unpublished novel), Japan - Seiun, New Zealand - Vogel, Russia - Bronze Snails, UK - Clarke (SF books), UK - Eagle (comics), Ukraine - Portal, US - Eisner (comics) and US - Nebula.

News of Science Awards can be found here: Spain - international science communication, UK - Clarke (space science) and UK - COPUS (popular science books).

New SF on-line film and TV channel -- click here for details

New life for Nature's 'Futures' stories -- click here for details

Multiverse has a 50th anniversary. One of many (obviously) -- click here for details

Sov Bloc SF fan interest revealed by Mir Fantastiki reader survey

Links to a few of the latest fantastic film trailers and a couple of shorts including films based on the following SF & fantasy writers' works: Arthur Clarke (British), Neil Gaiman (British), Sergei Lukyanenko (Russia) and Richard Matheson (US American) -- click here for details

Dan Dare coming back! -- click here for details

Science Fiction Writers of America go European -- click here for details

SF fan and Concat team member Tony Bailey swims the English Channel for charity and very nearly makes it to France -- click here for details

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SF NEWS

The 2007 Galaxy Award winners have been announced. Rarely heard of outside of China but these are arguably the most democratic SF awards in the World as they are determined by a vote of Kehuan Shijie [Science Fiction World], China's leading SF magazine that has a reported half a million print run! The Chinese writer Liu Cixin won the big category Galaxy for his novel Tri-Body. Other category winners included, Wang Jinkang for his short Ultimate Explosion and Chang Jia a promising young writer for the Best SF Story for his book Kunlun. Canadian SF author Robert Sawyer received a Galaxy for the 'Most Popular Foreign Author'. On receiving the transparent (and, in his case vaguely, flame-shaped) award Robert Sawyer commented: "The great thing about science fiction is that it transcends national boundaries. It's wonderful to be at a conference along with writers from the Canada, China, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and United States. Science fiction really is the literature of Planet Earth." The award was presented at a gala ceremony at the Chengdu Museum of Science and Technology as part of this year's International SF & Fantasy Conference that was of rival size to the Japanese Worldcon held the following week.

The 2007 Locus Award winners have been announced. The 'Best SF Novel' goes to Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End. The good news for us lot in western Europe is that Tor (UK) now have a paperback edition out see below. The 'Best First Novel' category went to Naomi Novik's Temeraire (which in the former colonies appears as His Majesty's Dragon). The paperback is being re-issued in the UK -- see below so if you are into fantasy and missed it now's your chance before Christmas. For details of the other 2007 Locus wins see the Locus website: www.locusmag.com.  Apparently the award gathering went well, though not many of the winners were present, but this was made up for by many Hawaiian shirts. (Don't ask, it's a Locus thing.)

The Hugo Awards for SF achievement were announced at the 2007 Worldcon in Japan on September 1st (or 2nd depending on where on the Earth you live). The principal category wins were:-
Best Novel - Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) - Pan's Labyrinth
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) - Dr Who 'The Girl in the Fireplace'
J. W. Campbell Award (for Best New Writer): Naomi Novik (for Temeraire).
Among the other categories Dave Langford narrowly won Best Fan Writer and Patrick Neilsen Hayden narrowly won the Best Editor (Long Form). See 'Hugo win comment' below.
Full details of all the categories are on the newly formed Hugo Awards site.

Hugo win comment. Well we previously commented on the Hugo nominations back in the Spring and there is little further to add on the actual wins now the results are out save to remind you that us Brits have been hampered by not having a number of the novels published this side of the Pond. Since then a couple have made it over here including Vinge's Rainbows End in August. We did though mention Charles Stross and Glasshouse without having reviewed it and this ended up coming second in both the nomination vote and the final ballot.
          This year the book awards, both the 'best novel' and Campbell were the same as the Locus. This is probably because there were a couple of strong SF nominations and this year the Hugo novel win was actually SF (the Locus has a separate 'best fantasy' category to its 'best SF novel') and that the Campbell and Locus best 'new writer/'first novel' (respectively) are both open to works of SF and fantasy. (Though the Campbells are not Hugos, they are voted for at the same time as and by those voting for the Hugo and so for purposes of selecting SF excellence can be considered equivalent.)
          The suggestion might be tentatively made that in years where two strong SF (as opposed to fantasy) novels are 'nominated' then the winner will reflect the Locus SF novel win and when they aren't they won't. Also that the Campbell might be considered to be synonymous with the Locus Best First Novel. Alas this is very difficult to prove statistically. (You'd have to do a similar population multivariate analysis -- Ian Stewart help!!!) Also the nomination voting for the Hugo short list is only released after the final ballot win has been announced so even if this hypothesis could be proved it could not be a predictive tool (and of course there would be confidence error in significance). Yet should someone do such an analysis it would be indicative of whether there was a need for both awards or alternatively whether the Hugo needed to make a distinction between SF and fantasy excellence should it wish to garner the voter interest the Locus has accrued in recent years. Some serious points for those heavily into Hugos.
          The surprise came with the films with Pan's Labyrinth for Dramatic Presentation (Long Form). Yes, Pan's has really stunning photography, and great acting, but such a basic and limited plot (child retreats to -- a possibly -- imaginary world to escape adult horrors in the real one) that was only carried by (contrasting) the horror of its revolutionary war setting. Of course, once again the Worldcon constitution Hugo fantasy loophole allows a film with no SF content to win the award. This even though the constitution equally says (section 1.2 Objectives) the Hugos are the 'Science Fiction Achievement Awards'. No wonder the year-on-year trend continues to be of increasing, and (since last year) greater, support for the Locus Award for books. Alas there is no comparable fan voted award for films. Still we have discussed this before so no matter. Folk will put their voting effort to where it can best count and as soon as the WSFS realises this the better.
          The other surprise was the Best Editor (Long Form). Now, leaving aside that the creation of this new category a couple of years ago was highly debatable, the surprise this year was that Patrick Nielsen Hayden won it. This is not because he was one of the original proposers of the category split that created this award, or because he is not a good editor (he does do very worthy work) but that he beat James Patrick Baen (albeit it narrowly in the first round voting). Jim Baen, as some of you may recall, sadly died last year after decades of work in SF so this was the World SF Society's chance to honour him. Having said that Hugo voters have been stung in the past by some of the nearest and dearest of those who have posthumously received a Hugo as posthumously is too late, so maybe this year's events are understandable? Yet conversely there was Science Fiction Five-Yearly's win for Best Fanzine as Lee Hoffman has died. So who can tell the psychology of Hugo voting.
          Of tiny surprise was the storm in a tea cup some raged over John Scalzi being nominated for Best Fan Writer. (For a taster and an early Scalzi view see here). Some view Scalzi as an SF professional and so not eligible for this category. This, of course, is utter pish if not, dare we say it (yes, upon due reflection we dare) complete piffle. (Strong words we know, but they really had to be said!) A professional writer can write unpaid and for fun as a fan and equally a fan can write a book published by a professional publishing house. What is the problem? Scalzi only lost by one vote to Dave Langford on the first voting round. Both these two have behaved impeccably and Scalzi has politely and clearly justified his stance with logic, while Dave has been gracious in his win. Exactly why a few fans have grumbled is a minor mystery, but then so are lost socks, the timing of busses, and quantum entanglement.
          Well that is it for another year. Meanwhile our Spring posting (that goes up in the early New Year) will have our best book and film recommendations of 2007, so that later (summer posting) we can compare these with next year's Hugo nominations. Of course we are limited in that we largely look at books published this side of the Atlantic but then that is our charm. (No tittering now: it's all we have.)

The 2007 UK popular science book award has been won by Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. This year's junior category was won by Richard Hammond for Can You Feel the Force? (about physics). Both win £10,000. The five runners up in each category win £1,000. +++ The prize has previously been known by its sponsors such as Rhone-Poulenc and Aventis in turn, but has always been over seen by the Royal Society's public engagement committee (for many years known as the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS)).

The Prince Asturias Award winners have been announced. Wins go to Bloomsbury and former Vice-President Al Gore for An Inconvenient Truth as well as both the World's leading multidisciplinary science journals, and rivals, Nature and Science.   The Spanish Award was established by His Royal Highness Heir to the throne of Spain. It is the best-known cultural prize in the Spanish speaking community. The awards honor individuals, groups or institutions whose creative work or research represents a significant contribution to universal culture in the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic fields. The arch rival journals both get the Award in its category for Communication and Humanities.
+++ An Inconvenient Truth attempts to explain the climate science and that the Earth's climate really is warming due to human activity.
+++ Aside from research papers, Nature (Britain) has an excellent 'News and Views' section that puts the latest research into context of other specialist developments in that field (so making the relevance of highly specialist paper accessible to other scientists). Nature is also currently the home of the European SF Society Award-winning 'Futures' series of SF short stories (exemplars of which are carried on this site - see latest news of this elsewhere on this page). (Nature also recently had an SF-themed issue - see latest news of this elsewhere on this page within the 'Interface: Science and SF' section.)   Meanwhile Science (US) also carries some interesting research papers and has (according to one of us) the best damn science reporter currently living on the planet - Richard Kerr.

The 2007 Nebula Awards for 2006 from the SF Writers of America have been announced. Jack McDevitt picks up the 'Best Novel' Nebula for Seeker. The awards were announced at the beginning of the summer (May) in New York. For details of the other categories see the SFWA site. +++ In 2005 Jack McDevitt had Omega nominated for a Nebula but it did not win. Indeed up till now McDevitt had the most (11) Nebula nominations of any writer without winning. Other McDevitt novels reviewed on this site include: Deepsix, Moonfall, Polaris and Slow Lightning.
The toastmaster for the Awards ceremony was Ron D. Moore, the executive producer of Battlestar Galactica.

Nebula nominees locked out! Shock, drama probe!!! The Nebula 'nominee' ceremony is where all the nominees get their pins and nomination certificates (as opposed to the 'awards' ceremony where the winner gets announced), however the hall in which it was to be held was locked. And so it was that this year the nominees got their pins and certificates in the foyer. Apparently only one writer this year had their name incorrectly announced Kristen Karina Sumner-Smith. She also suffered because her publisher had no presence (hence a table) for the ceremony and banquet. (However a kind soul found her a place at one of the tables near the front.) +++ One of the 'state of the genre' pre-award panels at the Nebula Weekend created a few blog comments as it, reportedly, pretty much turned into debate between Norman Spinrad and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor US). Spinrad seemed to be more pessimistic and appeared to be of the opinion that SF writers could not easily get their non-genre work published than non-genre writers writing SF. +++ The Nebula hospitality suite stayed open till around five in the morning.

Australia's 2007 Ditmar for Best Novel went to Will Eliot for The Pilo Family Circus. This and the other category winners were announced at Australia's national convention, Convergence 2, in Melbourne. +++ The Ditmars are named after Martin James Ditmar (Dick) Jenssen, a founding member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, the Ditmars have been given since 1969.

Germany's 2007 Kurd Lasswitz prizes have been awarded -- the best translated (into German) prize goes to Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. Among the various categories of the 2007 prizes for 2006 works, Herbert W. Franke wins the 'Best Novel' for On the Track of the Angel [translated title] and Christian Pree a special prize for his bibliography of German-language Science Fiction stories and books. The prize-giving took place at a Dresden convention in September. +++ The prizes are Germany's equivalent to the US Nebulas as they are voted on by SF professionals. They have been awarded since 1981 and are named after the late 19th century SF author and historian of science (Germany's H. G. Wells).

Japan's 2007 Seiun prizes have been awarded at the 2007 Worldcon (this year in Japan). The principal category wins were:-
Japanese Long Fiction: Japan Sinks, Part 2 by Sakyo Komatsu and Koshu Tani (Shogakukan)
Translated Long Fiction: Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve (Translated by Rei Anno, Tokyo Sogensha)
Media: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time directed by Mamoru Hosoda (with animation production by Mad House, production by Tokikake Film Partners)
          Among the other categories there were a couple that were science related.

New Zealand's 2007 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel 2006 went to The Assassin of Gleam by James Norcliff. The novel is a slightly dark sword and sorcery fantasy. Among the other categories the 'Best Fan Writing' went to Alan Robson who has won it a few times before and this year for his column in the fanzine Phoenixine. The Phoenixine editors, John and Lynelle Howell themselves received a 'Services to Fandom' Vogel. The Best Dramatic Presentation went to the children's SF series Maddigan's Quest. Sir Julius Vogel was a New Zealand Prime Minister and author of arguably the first full length SF novel by a New Zealander. +++ The award has been given since 2002 and is voted on by SF & Fantasy Association of NZ and members of that year's natcon, which this year was Conspiracy II in Wellington. Details of other Vogel categories wins here.

The 2006 Eagle Awards for best comics were presented at the Bristol (UK) International Comic Expo on Saturday, May 12th 2007. The winners in the principal (out of 28) categories were:-
          Favourite British (Colour) - 2000AD (again which is why it got its entry in Essential SF: A Concise Guide)
          Favourite American (Colour) - All Star Superman
          Favourite Comics Writer - Warren Ellis (see reviews of some of his graphic novels under 'E' in our review index.)
          Favourite Artist - Mike Mignola
          Favourite European Comic - Asterix and the Vikings
          Favourite Comics-Based Film or TV - Heroes
          Favourite Web-Based Comic - Penny Arcade
          Roll of Honour - Warren Ellis
Of note, though not winning, Tom Frame was nominated for both 'Favourite Letterer' and the 'Roll of Honour'. +++ The Eagles have been going, albeit with a couple of hiccoughs, since 1976 and are currently voted on by tens of thousands of fans so making them one of the most democratic fan-based awards hence most valued by the comics profession.

The winners of the Will Eisner Award for comics were announced at the US Comicon in San Diego. The winners of the principal categories were:-
          Best Continuing Series: All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
          Best Limited Series: Batman: Year 100, by Paul Poper
          Best Graphic Album-New: American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
          Best Graphic Album-Reprint: Absolute DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke
+++ See also news of an Eisner film.

The winner of Italy's '2006' Urania competition to have an SF novel published went to Post Mortem by Giovanni De Matteo. It is a science-related mystery set against the backdrop of a futuristic Italian city. 60 novels were submitted to the competition and the winner was announced in July (2007). There were six finalists and some of these may also be published at some stage. Urania is a series of monthly magazines in book form that features SF novels and sometimes short stories too. There have been a number of Urania series within the 'Urania' umbrella over the years and October sees its 50th anniversary. +++ The first issue back in the 1950s saw a novel by one Arthur C. Clarke called Le Sabbie di Marte [The Sands of Mars]. Urania's first editor was Giorgio Monicelli who is credited with coining the Italian term ' fantascienza' ['fantasy science' meaning science fiction].

Spain's 2007 UPC SF story competition submission date close. This is open to novella-length stories written in either Spanish, Catalan, English or French. There will be a first prize of 6,000 Euros (£4,000, US$8,000) and two smaller runner-up cash prizes. UPC will also facilitate the winner getting the novella published. (For which read if it is Spanish it may perhaps get published by either in the Nova series of SF anthologies or by a major Spainish publisher otherwise it is likely to be a small press affair.) Submissions need to be in by September 14th (so it will be close if you read this just as this season's news is posted) and the judges' decision will be announced before the year's end. Still there is enough time to think about next year's likely competition as this one has been regular for a few years now. Submissions should be sent to: Social Council of the UPC, Edifici NEXUS, Great Capità 2-4, 08034 - Barcelona, Spain. Details from consell [DOT] social [AT] upc [DOT] edu.

National Mexican SF novelette competition now open. Mexico residents writing in Spanish can submit and SF story of up to 15,000 words to the competition which comes with a first prize of 10,000 pesos. Send four copies of your Spanish SF story in 12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced print out, with you name, address and phone number to: Fantastic Story and Science Fiction Competition, Secretariat of Culture of Puebla, 5 Street East, Historical Center, Puebla, Puebla post code 72 000. It must arrive by 18th November 2007. The competition is sponsored by the local government.

Australian romantic SF or fantasy sought. The Australian SF Bullsheet reports that The Kiss of the Lily will be a speculative fiction romance anthology focusing on the sacrifices of love. Sexual content allowed if it is integral to the development of the story. This anthology is open to Australians & Australian residents only. Original work only, no reprints. Authors of accepted stories get 1 Australian cent a word. Stories' word limit is 5,000 words. Submissions open 1st October, and close 31st December. E-mail submissions to donna [at] austspeculativefiction [dot] com [dot] au in 12 pt Courier, double spaced RTF as an attachment. Submitters names & contact details are not to be put on the submissions, but in the body of the e-mail instead as editors want to read stories blind. In the subject line of the e-mail write 'Submission' and title of your story.

Dan Dare is set to return courtesy of Virgin. Dan Dare the space pilot of the future was a British comic strip character created in 1950 and primarily associated with the Eagle comic in the 1950s and '60s and at that time vividly brought to colourful life through the artwork of Frank Hampson (and later in a similar style by Keith Watson). Now a new Dare comic series is to be launched in November written by Garth Ennis. Ennis' previous credits include: some of The Authority stories; Bloody Mary, numerous Judge Dredd stories including Judgement Day and Goodnight Kiss; and Preacher. Virgin Comics is behind the venture. Apparently this new incarnation sees Dare come out of retirement in a future where the US and much of East Asia has been wiped out by nuclear war leaving Great Britain as the World's super-power.

New British SF magazine launched. The new publication, Death Ray, is a glossy monthly news and reviews magazine. Launched back at the beginning of the summer, it comes from one of those originally behind Future publishing which itself launched the colour glossy SFX. The first of the current crop of UK commercial news and reviews magazines was Starburst which was sold after just two issues to become its media (TV) and film SF dominated incarnation available today. All five of the major high street SF magazines in Britain are media orientated with book SF having very much a minority presence and barely any mention of fan activities or fan news such as detailed coverage of international conventions and awards. Being so similar, Death Ray, Starburst and SFX are in fierce competition with each other. This makes the following two news items rather interesting...

Another new Brit SF magazine also out early in the summer. SciFi Now (Imagine Publishing) is also vying for a place in the tough market. Like Starburst, SFX, Dreamwatch and Death Ray it is a full colour, prefect-bound glossy with a heavy TV and Hollywood film SF focus. Its premiere issue carried less coverage of genre books than its competitors, if this continues then it could be a sign of marginal differentiation from its competitors, though as books are a minority interest in the big five this may not be enough to grant it sufficient difference to be meaningful in competition terms. +++ SciFi Now should not be confused with Alan Frank's 1978 large format and full colour book of the same title that reviewed 10 years of SF film between 2001 and Star Wars.

Meanwhile the recently launched The Hub ceased print and moved to the internet. Launched at Christmas, despite apparently nearly selling out two issues of its print run, it made a loss and has gone to a free weekly on-line mode: see www.hub-mag.co.uk. Presumably either the print runs were not large enough to sustain meaningful economic savings and/or the advertising revenue was not great enough. Covering a reasonable range of SF matters its content is now a little skewed to UK publisher Orbit material as they are the principal sponsors.

Thrilling Wonder Stories re-launched. This US magazine of short stories closed in 1955. It was re-launched in July under a new editor cum publisher, Winston Engle.

Halo 3 launches at the end of September. The Halo shoot 'em video game has been more likened to an SF film and is one of the most successful SF products to date. Halo 3 launches at the end of September (shortly after this seasonal posting) at US$60 (£30) and brings the fight against the alien invaders to a close. Over 2.5 million copies of Halo 2 were sold on the singe day of its release and the latest Halo is considered integral to Microsoft's XBox 360 sales.

The 'Futures' series of one-page SF stories written by scientists and SF authors returns to Nature. The series of stories were originally published in 2000 on the back page of the weekly multi-disciplinary science journal Nature by way of introducing the new millennium. The stories relate to possible futures, new science and technology and implications thereof. The series finished at that year's end.   Then in the Spring of 2005 they returned. In the late summer that year the series won Nature's publishers a Eurocon Award (Best Publisher' category) at the European SF Convention.
          Yet while SF-loving scientists had the latest science spiced up with a dollop of SF each week, those who do not subscribe to Nature or who do not work at a university or research institute with an institutional subscription and so cannot log on to the Nature website, could not get these stories. What was needed was a website largely run by scientists and technologist who enjoy SF, so step up Concatenation. In 2006 Nature and Concatenation came to an agreement whereby Concatenation would select a short story from the preceding four months and, with the author's consent post it for free access. The sole difference with the PDF Concatenation posts being the artwork in Nature would be covered by an agreed joint logo as obtaining artist's copyright would be harder. And so in the Spring last year we announced our seasonal posting of a 'Futures' story. The stories can be found here.
          But life is never that simple and at the end of 2006 the run of stories ceased in the weekly Nature but continued in one of Nature's less frequent companion journals that specialises in physics. What we then agreed with Nature was that we would go back to the original 2000 run and reprint some of these taking one from each season of the year. All of which brings us on to the latest news...
          Due to the series' popularity it returned to the weekly Nature in July 2007. (Hooray!) So Concatenation will once again be posting what we consider to be one of the best (there are always a handful of really good ones) of the autumnal season in July 2008. Before then, in November 2007 and February 2008 (as we did in the summer), we will post one from the original run in 2000.   Scientists into SF who consider themselves possible SF writers can have a go and submit a story. Furthermore the series will also continue in the specialist journal with each run having its own character. Currently we are not sure how we (Concatenation) are going to manage this split, but we will sort something out.
          Concatenation wishes to thank 'Futures' editor Henry Gee (Nature biology editor) for assisting with our coming to an agreement with Nature's publishers. We must also thank all the 'Futures' authors that we have published for their permission. Let us be clear, 'all the Futures authors' means all that we have approached: to date not one author has declined giving their permission! Fingers crossed that this continues.   Having said that we always feel a little guilty that other stories are not included in our selection. We do each season choose two or three in addition to the one we consider best (a high tech selection processing involving the very latest in real ale technology) in case our initial choice does not grant us one-off copyright. The order of runners up is then decided on the type of story compared to those already posted so as to ensure variety. Though we have never (yet) had to draw upon this back-up, these runner-up stories are also really great. But do not despair, even if you do not have access to Nature's website or the journal, as the US publisher Tor is releasing an anthology of 100 past 'Futures' stories this November. So one way or another you can access the very best the 'Futures' have to offer.
Enjoy.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Kevin J. Anderson is touring Australia in September.

Margaret Atwood was in Great Britain following Easter explaining her views on the future of the book in the digital age. Is the world of paper turning virtual? "Not quite yet," she said on national BBC Radio 4. Aside that you cannot take a book into the bath or easily the bed, neurologically the brain does not absorb information from the less visually defined and flickering screen as highly defined, non-flickering print. Further, while line and electronic versions are good for students (who can 'search' texts with ease) they also lend to bad habits such as cutting and pasting without reading the text. +++ However she returned to Toronto (Canada) and then had a telephone interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row. This revealed that the prospect for up-coming Canadian authors in the 1960s was bleak with just five books a year from Canadian authors (the rest published were mainly of US and British works). SF only briefly mentioned. Atwood herself is a little restrained as to her genre enjoyment and interviewer Mark Lawson himself is a little sniffy. (Atwood, some might say, is considered a mainstream author who happens to use SF tropes.) Consequently while Atwood admitted to enjoying genre authors she only cited those with whom the mainstream could identify, namely George Orwell and Conan Doyle. +++ Meanwhile her LongPen had a commercial launch by Dean Koontz.

Iain Banks has said that his next 'Culture' novel will be called Matter and that this was because it was also the working title of his last non-SF novel The Steep Approach to Garbadale so he anticipates confusion when people search the net for him and 'matter'. All of which illustrates that in the 21st century wheezes are getting more hi-tech. He says he has delivered this to his publishers and that it is expected to be published in both the UK and the US in February 2008. It is his first 'Culture' novel for 8 years.

Ray Bradbury won a Clarke Award but not for a book but his body of speculative fiction work. Sending a message to the Awards ceremony Ray said, "It is a great honour to receive the Sir Arthur Clarke Award because it is more than an award from Sir Arthur: it is the soul of a young man named Arthur, who came to my house for lunch fifty years ago. Our friendship began when both of us were little known in the world and had only published a book or two. We were both souls giving our heart out to writing and immediately taking to one another's personality because we got on so well on that day so long ago. +++ He also received a special citation in this year's Pulitzers. +++ See also Cormac McCarthy later. +++ Ray Bradbury is also set to speak to future human colonists on Mars -- see here +++ New Illustrated Man film forthcoming.

The late John Brunner makes an appearance on YouTube with this short vid-clip of part of an autograph session at FreuCon (the 1992 Eurocon) in Freudenstadt (Germany).

Arthur C. Clarke will be 90 in December. As this is before our next seasonal upload (in the New Year) we give our congratulations in anticipation. +++ There is also a new short film of one of his stories now out. +++ Clarke is also set to speak to future human colonists on Mars -- see here.

John Crowley was the first recipient of Ukraine's Bulgakovskaya Prize. He was given the prize at the country's national convention. It was in the form of a 10 pound weight (4.5 kg) black cat statue (there's a connection with Bulgakov's work). For one heart-wrenching moment John Crowley thought that he would have to wrestle this monstrosity through three separate flights on his return journey. The Ukrainians let him believe this for a short while before saying that they would post it to him..

Stephen Donaldson will be holding a signing session for Fatal Revenant at London's Forbidden Planet SF shop, Shaftesbury Avenue (between Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden underground stations) on Saturday 27th October, 13.00 - 14.00.

Gardner Dozois has been in hospital initially for by-pass surgery but subsequently also a defibrillator. He seems now to be doing well.

Raymond E. Feist has done a deal with HarperCollins (who do the Voyager fantasy imprint) for the World rights to six new novels. Feist is therefore set to continue his 22 year-association with Harper that he has had since the beginning of his writing career.

Neil Gaiman is moving into film with his first job as solo director. To make life easy his first film will be his script adaptation of his own graphic novel Death: The High Cost of Living. Meanwhile you can see a trailer for his Stardust film on the title link of alternatively the link on YouTube given later on this page. +++ Neverwhere may come to the big screen. +++ Neil also attended a pre-Worldcon (Japan) SF conference in Chengdu, China. +++ Neil is also to be a GoH at the 2009 Worldcon.

Henry Gee has had his latest novel, By The Sea serialised over the summer on LabLit.com. (He has also edited a collection of Nature's 'Futures' stories (mainly hard SF) which is out from Tor (US), and of course this site has Futures tasters.)

Robert Heinlein would have been 100 over the summer having been born on 7th July 2007. The centenary was marked by a number of events including one with some 750 fans in his home town of Kansas City, US. See [http://www.heinleincentennial.com].

Robert Holdstock gets the Merlin Codex published in the Soviet nations with book 2, The Iron Grail, out first from Russian publishers Azbuka. Russian readers will have to wait for book 1, Celtika, assuming that is, book 2 sells well. One presumes book 2 came out first because of the gaps in book 1 which 2 fills, so maybe they thought book 1 as a follow-up prequel would be better? (Did you follow all that?)

Diana Wynne Jones has been interviewed for a BBC programme on Fantasy. Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett are also in the mix. This will be broadcast this autumn on BBC 4. BBC US viewers may also get to see it shortly after. +++ She has also won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

Paul Kane the fantasy critic, has found out that there is another Paul Kane active in British fantasy scene. The other Paul Kane is apparently getting some of Paul Kane's correspondence and there has been some confusion as to who is whom. Paul Kane would like the new Paul Kane to add some distinguishing feature to his by-line (perhaps a second initial or some such might be in order?). This would benefit them both. The 'original' Paul Kane' already has a volume of material out as 'Paul Kane'. He is based in Chesterfield and on-line at www.shadow-writer.co.uk.

Dean Koontz combines his first autograph session for the British public with the commercial launch of the LongPen. The LongPen is a device developed by Canadian author Margaret Atwood that enables an author in one place sign autographs in another. Dean Koontz signed copies of The Good Guy using LongPen technology from his Californian home for readers at the Piccadilly branch of Waterstone's (in London). It operates over the Internet, incorporating video conferencing to facilitate trans-Atlantic conversations between writers and readers. It is billed by Atwood's PR folk as being 'carbon neutral' (by which they presumably mean 'low fossil' as the author does not have to travel for signings but the device undoubtedly has oil in its plastics and probably fossil energy helped its manufacture not to mention the transport of the device itself so it is certainly not 'carbon neutral').

Ursula K. Le Guin is noted in Ansible that Jon Carroll reprinted her previous Ansible piece in the San Fransisco Chronicle without asking permission.

Sam Lundwall, the Swedish SF author, editor and translator, makes a correction in Ansible. The previous issue had it that the US American John W. Campbell held a record by being an editor for the same SF magazine for 34 years. Sam gently announces that earlier this year he broke this having been editor of Jules Verne-Magasinet since January 1972 and he is still fulfilling that role.

Brian May has finally completed his PhD in astrophysics. He began studying for it at Imperial College (Kensington, London) back in the 1970s but got side-tracked due to his involvement as a guitarist in a (then) little-known band called Queen. Appropriately enough his award ceremony will take place in May next year. His thesis is on radical velocities in the Zodiacal dust cloud. (Zodiacal dust being dust in the Solar system orbiting the Sun in the same plane as the planets, and not something on Steve's collar. (Fireball XL5 reference in case you wondered.))

Cormac McCarthy wins this year's Pulitzer for fiction for his post-apocalyptic novel The Road. +++ See also Ray Bradbury earlier.

Alan Moore has married Melinda Perry Gebbie. The ceremony took place in Northampton. Our congratulations. Meanwhile elsewhere in the Moore family...

Patrick Moore, BBC TV astronomy broadcaster, whose show recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, has been commenting on SF but possibly offended a good number of his viewers. While for over half a century he has been informing the public of the latest astronomical developments, his personal views have not kept so up-to-date. He is reported as saying, "I used to watch Dr Who and Star Trek, but they went [politically correct] making women commanders, that sort of thing. I stopped watching."

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Greg Bear are still writing in the US national interest. They are part of a group called Sigma that began in the late 1990s that advocated the so-called 'star wars' space defence initiative. Reported in USA Today paper Sigma has a new assignment. Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the US government's latest top mission of combating terrorism. The newspaper article quotes Pournelle as saying, "We're well-qualified nuts."

Terry Pratchett OBE had a June visit to Russia. He met with readers at bookshops in St Petersburg and Moscow before reading extracts to an audience at the Moscow Book Fayre. His visit was organised by his Russian publisher EKSMO together with the British Council. +++ See also Colour of Magic to be a film below. +++ October book signing Terry will be signing copies of his latest Discworld book Making Money at London's Forbidden Planet bookshop, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue (near Leicester Square tube station and north of Covent Garden), on Saturday 13th October between 13.00 and 14.00. We suggest you get there a little early.

Philip Pullman has been voted the British public's all-time favourite Carnegie winner. He got 40% of the public's vote for Northern Lights.

Robert Rankin not only celebrated his birthday in July but got married to Rachel the next day. Our congratulations. Many Rankin fans attended the wedding which was held on the lawns in front of Gunnersbury Park Museum (Brentford, West London): Brentford is the location of many of Rankin's novels and the name given to his first trilogy. The dress code was strictly Victorian, but this included Victorian/gothic/fetish/fantasy with characters such as Jack the Ripper and the Elephant Man in the mix. The reception was held in the Princess Royal pub next to Brentford football ground.

Alastair Reynolds at the summer's start talked to the BBC about meta-materials and the possibility of using them to cloak a space craft as well as his latest novel The Prefect. He relates these to his work as an astronomer for ESA. See BBC News Science & Nature.

Justina Robson had a child early in the summer. Nonetheless within two weeks she appeared with the young critic Graham Sleight on BBC Radio 4's Open Book programme explaining how SF writers assemble worlds.

J. K. Rowling gave a rare TV interview on BBC TV's Friday Night With Jonathan Ross show to mark the launch of the 'last'(?) Harry Potter book and the World premiere in London of the latest film. She said she had not given many interviews up to now but was as it would not matter if she crashed and burned now that all the Potter books are written and the film series has a momentum of its own. With regards to the films, she had at first turned the American studio down but they -- thinking it was a money thing -- offered her more. What swung it was that Rowling kept control of the characters and sold just the story. Also the films had to be made with British actors. With regards to writing fantasy, she said the problem was to establish limits to the magic, hence boundaries as to what was possible. As to the future, she hinted that she would like to write for adults but said if she was only ever known as a children's author then that was fine: she would never think of it as second best. Regarding more Harry Potter stories, she said that none were planned and that Harry had long had a set destiny, but she also said that she had agreed with herself that she would never say never.   One thing to emerge from the interview was that Jo Rowling's publishers decided on the inclusion of the 'K' to give her name a 'manly' feel... +++ She also appeared on BBC's Blue Peter children's show. (What folk will do for a Blue Peter badge.) +++ She gave a reading at the Natural History Museum (Kensington, London) the night (20th July) of the book's launch.

Robert Sawyer has been given an honorary dungaree at the Laurentian University (Ontario, Canada) for his SF writing. In his acceptance speech he gave the Chinese chess illustration of the power of exponential growth as well as told an amusing anecdote about his agent's comments as to why he was not getting the income of Crichton. His bit starts 27 minutes 30 seconds into the video of the graduation ceremony which can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/2hr5xf +++ Robert Sawyer has also won a Galaxy Award at the International SF & Fantasy Conference in China.

John Scalzi given money to go to creationist museum. US author John Scalzi resisted the suggestion to check out and report back on the creationist museum near where he lives in the US. However a fund was created and reached four figures. Read all about it on Scalzi's blog here.

Norman Spinrad launched his channel on YouTube at the end of spring with a 9 minute introduction.

G. P. Taylor (author of teenage fantasy in case you're ancient) appeared as the token non-politician on BBC's Any Questions early in the summer. Among the topics discussed was the attempted Parliamentary amendment to the Freedom of Information Act to exempt MPs. (The entire panel agreed that this was a case of one law for MP's and another for British subjects and that it further undermined the public's motivation to be involved in British politics.) Other topics included what should Prince Harry do now that he cannot soldier with his troop in Iraq, and the future of left-wing politics in the UK now that Brown has taken over from Blair (Graham Taylor thought that, "within six months he'll just be as big a poodle as Blair was"); on Grammar schools (he said, "I've seen it in all the schools I've been in. This education system is in crisis and you keep on saying, you know, let's have better exam results, no let's have happier children, let's have [CLAPPING] let's have teachers who are not having nervous breakdowns and as a priest in Whitby I had to minister to several who were put under so much stress by you, so much strain, that they went out of the job. And we've got to get back to letting the teachers teach because that is what they do best. And you can't find out how good a teacher is by testing the kids in his class."); and on whether Blair's memoirs would be fact, fiction or fantasy Taylor opined that they would be fantasy as he did not "believe there's anything called the war on terror".

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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

FILM NEWS

US Studios are divided as to which high definition technology to back. Paramount and Dreamworks are going for HD DVD, while the 20th Century Fox group is going Blu Ray. +++ Our advice is for us consumers not to invest in either until this mess sorts itself out. Some of us remember the video format quandary of 1977-9 between betamax, VHS and two (yes, two!) Phillips formats. Once local government bodies in the UK and US agrees the standard for their educational establishments then you will know the likely best option.

How come the film Things To Come (1936) had a new World Premiere in 2007? This year's Sci-Fi London film fest screened a new version of the film 71 years after the original. Last time we wondered why? Now we can say courtesy of the fest's organisers.   Reportedly the original rough-cut delivered to the studio was around 130 minutes in length. This was trimmed to 117 minutes for certification. Then the initial UK cinema ran to 108 minutes 40 seconds before being further cut to 98 minutes 6 seconds. All of the trimmed footage had, sadly, been lost and for many years the only version available to the public was the 92 minute 42 second edit produced for television broadcast. Nearly 37 minutes shorter. However the DVD archivists at Network unearthed the most complete edition known to exist and loving restored it for your viewing pleasure and Sci-Fi London screened this digitally-remastered print. Network released it on a two disc DVD back in May 7. Yet this deserved to be seen on the big screen for which it was originally created. So well done Sci-Fi London.

Sci-Fi London launches internet TV & film channel. The free-to-view channel will not just feature trailers, and short interviews but also films (albeit each film will only be available for a short time) The channel uses Adobe's FlashPlayer which 98% of the World's computers utilize. The films are all arranged by category to facilitate browsing. Sci-Fi London's main homepage remains www.sci-fi-london.com while the new film channel is www.sci-fi-london.tv.

Full review of this year's Sci-Fi London is here.

Other Sci-Fi London news -- We could have put the news here in the film news section but did it later with fan events.

Small British cinemas do well as multiscreen plexes do poorly. The UK Film Council's latest statistical report for 2006 show that for the second year running cinema attendance fell. However those small cinemas (four screens or less) did better. The market share of the top 50 films (mainly Hollywood blockbusters) fell from 76% in 2005 to 71%. Meanwhile the top 51 - 150 was up from 21% to 24%. Those 151 onwards got 5% of the audience (up from 3% in 2005). Less structured evidence from focus groups revealed that cinema-goers were disenchanted with big multiplexes due to audience noise and mobile phones and wanted ushers back to sort out troublesome audience members. DVD piracy and the internet were also contributing to cinema's decline. However specialist screenings were doing well. Such trends possibly explain the longevity of things like the Festival of Fantastic Films (Manchester') (mainly 1950s - '60s) vintage and recent independent horror and SF) and the increasing popularity of Sci-Fi London (mainly premieres and less common recent independents). Though this does not explain why mainstream SF British conventions have since the 1990s increasingly turned away from film screenings.

Forthcoming: A sequel to I, Robot and a new version of The Thing being scripted by Ronald (Battlestar G.) Moore. Of course the Wil Smith starring I, Robot film was only loosely inspired by Isaac Asimov's classic story and should be viewed independently as more of a romp. (It was not meant to be a film version of the book.) So any sequel should not be compared to any initial inspirational source. Meanwhile John (Dark Star) Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing is closer to the original John W. Campbell classic short story 'Who Goes There' (1938) and stands well on its own right. So will the remake be worth it? Moore's re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica has been highly successful both in commercial and critic terms.

Neuromancer film planned. William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer is to be a film and reportedly has a US$70 million (£35 million) budget. Joseph (Torque) Kahn is to direct. The novel concerning a cyberspace hacker was one of the early landmark cyberpunk books.

The Dark is Rising film due October. Based on one of Susan Cooper's fantasy novels, the film called The Seeker: The Dark is Rising stars Ian (Lovejoy) McShane and Christopher (Dr Who) Ecclestone. The story concerns Will Stanton who discovers that he is the 'Seeker' and one of the last remaining 'Old Ones' who are guardians of the 'Light'. The director is David Cunningham. Film website is www.seekthesigns.com.

Sean Connery will not be joining the aliens in Indiana Jones IV. It may be that John Hurt will play Jones' dad. Connery said he was enjoying retirement too much. The film apparently involves alien artefacts. It is set in the 1950s with Russian spies replacing the Nazis. It should be out next May.

New Conan film stalls due to lack of confident script and then loss of rights. (We were right to include a distinct note of caution with our last autumn's science fiction news.) Warner had already had three rights extensions from Paradox, but had not managed to get a script written with which they were confident. Boaz Yakin's screenstory presumably had not be turned into a script about which Warner execs were positive. New Line may well be interested in picking up the film rights but if so they will need to develop their own screenstory as Warner owns the drafts of work to date.

More 'Lord of the Rings grievance against New Line Cinema. Now 15 actors from the films are suing for 5% of the estimated US£100 million (£50 m) made from film merchandise. +++ In the autumn it became clear that Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, would not work with New Line until a payment dispute had been sorted. Also see next item...

New Line Cinema may be trying to rebuild bridges with director Peter Jackson for The Hobbit film. As previously reported New Line failed to deliver Jackson's expectations as to what he was owed from the profits following the success of the Lord of the Rings films. Now, if Hollywood gossip is to be believed, New Line is trying to patch things up. The word is that New Line has not been faring as well as it might.

Hammer films bought. The UK studio, famous for a run of gothic and SF horror particularly in the 1950 - 1970s, has been bought by the private equity firm Cyrte Investments. Cyrte is led by producer John de Mol. It may be that the new Hammer Films will be run by former Liberty Global executives Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper. +++ The last of the proper Hammer films was The Mark of Satan (1980) and the last TV Hammer House of Mystery was The Tennis Court (1986). There have been a number of attempts to resurrect Hammer. For instance in 2003, there were plans to work with the Australian company Pictures in Paradise. So do not bank on anything until the first film comes out and how this fares will very much determine this latest revival's success.

Casino Royale censored by British Airways but not for sex or violence. Following an attempt to ban its staff from wearing crucifixes, British Airways has now censored in-flight screenings of Casino Royal by removing the clip showing the celebrity and owner of Virgin Atlantic as well as blurring the tail fins of his aircraft ( Guardian p21 28.4.07 and BBC's Have I Got News For You). What do BA's PR folk think to gain by this? Obviously if they are showing Casino Royal to their customers, then such folk are already their customers... Perhaps they lack confidence in the service their company provides, or maybe their media department is overstaffed and looking for things to do? All this follows a ridiculous multi-million pound re-branding exercise in the 1990s (since abandoned) and poor customer regard by flying passengers into the first Gulf War in what was meant to be a fuelling stop.

Blade Runner the final, definitive, cut... 'Final', honest! There has already been a director's cut in 1992 of director Ridely Scott's 1982 film. Now, on the film's 25th anniversary, there is another version. It will have a limited screen release (October) and then there is to be a time-limited DVD release (December before Christmas.). Then (yes, there is more) later there will also be a compilation DVD set package with the previous two versions included. With regards to this last version there will apparently be a high definition DVD and Blu-ray versions but only a limited stock made (so expect to pay for this). The story (and please do not take this a gospel) is that near completion the film rights went to financial guarantors. Apparently back in 1992 they would not give Ridely Scott the time or money to do the first cut properly. This time he has done the version he wanted to do. (So apparently it is not a cynical marketing ploy for Warner Brothers to squeeze more money out of fans. Apparently.) There is a website to promote the new version.

Highlander is back with the first of three more films. (Gawd, please spare us!!!) Highlander: The Source is a testimony to 'sci-fi' in the strictest sense of the term (SF of minimal creative content created for purely commercial reasons). Twenty years ago the original Highlander film had an interesting premise of bio-energy connected immortals who can absorb the accumulated energy from the death of another immortal until at some critical point the accumulated energy causes the immortal's transformation to another level. Alas the sequel (set largely in the future) was dire and departed from the original's logic with human-like aliens thrown in the mix. The third film (set largely in the present) was much better but the series' damage had already been done. There was a semi-reasonable TV series starring Adrian Paul (playing Duncan MacLeod) who also stars in the new film. This TV series spawned a straight-to-video DVD that saw Duncan MacLeod kill Connor MacLeod (the protagonist of the first film) so suggesting that the second Highlander film could not have happened. (Though there is now enough wriggle room in this threadbare franchise's logic to allow for almost anything.) The new film is meant to be the first of three that will explore the origin of the immortals. This may finally replace the second film's story, but really who cares? Apparently many do, or criminals think they do. A rough cut of the new film was copied and pirated in the summer. Lionsgate launched the official version in September. +++ As if there is not enough pain and suffering in the World, there will also be an official anime feature film to follow and a video game with Sci Games of London. +++ Stop Press: There is a God. Lionsgate have dropped Highlander: The Source's cinema release and instead it will go straight to TV and then DVD (so missing a pre-TV DVD release). It will be shown on Sci-Fi Channel in North America mid-September about the time this seasonal newscast is posted. Apparently there was last minute dissatisfaction and much time in the editing room. Could this mean that the franchise of immortals might die?

The leads for forthcoming Time Traveller's Wife have been chosen. Further to previous news of the film New Line have announced that Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. Bana's previous genre involvement was with Ang Lee's Hulk. Shooting of Time Traveller's Wife started in August.

A new film spin-off of The Invisible Man is in the offing. This new follow-up to the H. G. Wells novel is to be scripted and directed by David Goyer for Universal and Imagine. Apparently the plot concerns Griffin's nephew who finds his uncle's formula for invisibility. As it is the time of World War II, he is recruited by the British military intelligence...

Young Spock to be played by Zachary (Heroes) Quinto. Director J. J. Abrams confirms this casting for the forthcoming Trek film. Apparently Zachary bravely / foolishly says he is going to bring his own 'spin' to the character: which of course begs the question why he doesn't play another character if he doesn't want to do Spock. Fortunately Leonard Nimoy has said he will do a cameo, but cameos do not carry a film. Shatner is yet to be onboard but the makers are trying. Production begins in November.

New Get Smart film a prequel. The new Get Smart film will show how Maxwell Smart became an agent. He was originally a backroom researcher who hankered to be a real agent. He gets his chance when a number of agents die. The film will star Steve Carrell and has a hoped for release date of June 2008. And yes, there will be a shoe phone even though it is the modern day (with mobiles) and an explanation why such a device is needed. +++ The first film spin-off from the 1960s TV series was The Nude Bomb (1980) with the original star Don Adams. He also starred in the (some say better) 1989 TV-film Get Smart, Again!.

Spiderman III breaks box office records. The film took US$148 million (£74 million) in its first three days of release. This means that it beat the previous record holder Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. That in the US it opened in a record-breaking 4,253 cinemas no doubt helped, but does not explain the film also breaking records for premiere day box office take in 8 Asian countries.

More Marvel superheroes to transfer to the big screen. Further to the Iron Man spring news, a new film version of The Incredible Hulk will be next. This in turn will be followed by production beginning on a new version of Captain America. Meanwhile the new Marvel Studios is engaged in pre-production development on Punisher 2, Sub-Mariner and Thor. The probable expectation (assuming Marvel Studios thrives) is for these last to be released 2009 / 2010.

The Teen Titans from DC Comics are to be a Warner Brothers film. The Teen Titans were formed in 1964 as junior version of the Justice League of America comprising the junior sidekicks to DC's principal heroes Batman, Flash etc, and so the Teen Titans featured Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad. Robin later became Nightwing (though the original Nightwing was Batman when in the shrunken and bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor). It is the Nightwing era of the Titans that is reported being made into a film.

Bits of Batman sequel to be shot in IMAX. Four Dark Knight scenes will be in IMAX format. This means that when the film is shown at IMAX cinemas in a large version of normal film stock, there will be four scenes on IMAX sized film which will allow far greater detail and maximum use of the IMAX screen. The scenes will be action ones and some will include the Joker. Director Christopher Nolan has expressed regret that his budget did not extend to shooting the entire film on IMAX format. (Editorial note: Sadly a couple of decades too soon...)

Aliens vs. Predator forthcoming??? No surely this is wrong as AVP: Alien vs. Predator came out back in 2004? True, but now there is a new film due out whose title suggests many Aliens versus one Predator. However the plot rumours (note the 'rumours' bit) at the end of the summer suggest that it actually concerns many Predators and many Aliens fighting in and around a small US town whose residents must work together to survive. Later gossip suggests that the film might concern a hybrid between the two creatures... The film may be released in the US at the end of 2007 with a UK release in January 2008. However we think slippage may take place. +++ Stop Press: We understand that the film has been re-named Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem. +++ The provisional promo tag line is In Space - No one can hear you scream. On Earth - It won't matter.

Jurassic Park 4 has script teething problems. Another JP film? Well following JP II fantastic film buffs had a right to be sceptical but straight-to-video JP III was actually quite good. Now JP IV is in the offing. However the original plot premise was worrying: that the military had developed dinosaurs as weapons and they were even to carry guns. This last has -- the gossip has it -- been dropped.

Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic is to be a film. Following the success of last Christmas' The Hogfather, Sky One is to adapt the Colour of Magic Discworld book. Christopher Lee will reprise his voice role for Death and David (Only Fools and Horses) Jason who starred in The Hogfather will also star in The Colour of Magic but this time as the wizard Rincewind. Tim (Rocky Horror) Curry will also appear. We do not yet know if Terry Pratchett himself will have a small cameo as he did with The Hogfather. Filming of The Colour of Magic has begun and a 2008 broadcast is expected. Other Terry P. news here.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader may be launched May 2008. This will be the third in the series of the Disney adaptations of Lewis' fantasy series with Christian undertones.

New X-Files film forthcoming. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are onboard. Chris Carter (the creator of the show that ran from 1993 - 2002) is to co-write the script (with producer Frank Spotnitz) and direct. A 2008 summer release is hoped but this may slip a little. +++ Gillian Anderson has pulled out of the film, Helen after she discovered that its production was to clash with that of the new X-Files film. +++ The new X-Files film's plot is being kept secret and the stars contractually bound to confidentiality. However the gossip is that it will not relate to the series' over-arching plot arc of alien contact but be more like one of the stand-alone episodes.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere may come to the big screen. Gaiman originally wrote Neverwhere (1996) for TV Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew who helps a young woman one night and finds that his entire life and world around him has disappeared. He is transported to another world where this woman is leading a battle, a battle he must face if he is to find his way home. David Slade may be directing. Let's hope this new film version keeps the same location as the mini-series.

Dune may return to the big screen. Apparently -- and this is gossip -- there is some serious money interested in making a new film adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel (1965). Now there is no point getting hopes up. This is only gossip, and remember the David Lynch film adaptation (1984) was big budget but did not do that well at the box office even if it did get some SF fan popularity. Still it is nearly quarter of a century on so who knows.

The Illustrated Man is to return to the big screen. The 1969 film drew on the Ray Bradbury collection of shorts (see the title link). For the new version Alex Tse is to write the screenplay. It concerns a heavily tattooed man. Gazing into his tatooed images allows you to enter into episodes of other people's lives in the future and on other worlds. Alex Tse is of recent genre note having written the screenplay for the forthcoming Watchmen. The director is to be Zach Snyder who also directed Watchmen. The venture is coming courtesy of Warner Brothers, who are also behind Watchmen. Anyone notice a trend?

Fantastic Voyage the 1968 film from 20th Century Fox is to be re-made. It concerns surgeons in a small submarine who are miniaturised to cellular size and injected into a body to perform a delicate operation from the inside. The novelization was by Isaac Asimov and fantastic film buffs may recall that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), based on an Arthur Clarke short story, was MGM's response to 20th Century Fox. Anyway, Roland Emmerich is to direct the Fantastic Voyage remake. Sadly no Donald Pleasence or Raquel Welch in a skin tight, rubber wet suit all glistening and... [Ed': Enough already.]

The Lost Boys are to return in The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe. The original Lost Boys was a minor cult hit concerning a contemporary US seaside town whose gang of youths turn out to be vampires. The comedy horror did well. Apparently this sequel is on the straight-to-DVD track. It does see three of the original stars (Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander and Corey Haim) but without the other leads, and if the script and soundtrack is not faithful, it may not fare so well.

Descent 2, or De2cent, sees things looking up. Sequels can be dire and plumb the depths, especially if made without due regard to the original. However things are looking up for this one. Neill Marshall, who wrote and directed The Descent, is the producer and he is keeping an eye on the scripts coming his way. Though he will not be directing this sequel, Descent's editor will instead. So De2cent may not be at all an abyssal monster.

Death Race slated for a September 2008 release. This is the Paul W. S. Anderson's re-make which is also being produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner.

Watchmen is slated for a March 2009 release. A tale of unwanted superheroes and murder of one of them, from the Alan Moore graphic novel. There is now a production blog (Yes a blog, and one of the first of its kind.) It can be accessed from the Watchmen film site.

The film of Will Eisner's The Spirit is being scripted and directed by Frank Miller. Eisner's The Spirit (1940) is commonly recognised as the first graphic novel and Eisner's name lives on in the form of a major comics award in the US. Frank Miller is a comics writer and artist perhaps best known for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns but he also co-created the Robo-cop character. The Spirit concerns a man who fakes his own death so that he can fight crime from the shadows. This is Miller's solo-directorial debut. The film is slated for a 2009 release.

Shrek IV is currently slated for a May 2010 release. And a 5th film is planned, possibly something to do with Shrek The Third globally grossing US$730 million (£360 million) over the summer, but it may be for artistic reasons: who knows?

Indigo, Russia's forthcoming science-fantasy film is beginning to cause a stir. Due for release in 2008, Indigo (the translated title) concerns a group of young Moscovites with special abilities. Yet they are not mutants or aliens but normal people who just happen to be beyond the usual spectrum of human diversity. They are the 'Indigo'! Tanya can understand what animals say, Tikhon can remember all of his past lives, Zheka is brilliant computer hacker, Lech can see through things, and Andrei has the pre-cog ability to Spidey sense danger. Oh all right, so they do have super-powers but, ssshh, we are meant to focus on their human teenage angst: nobody in the world understands me and my problems but there is a reason because I really am different... but not too different from you.... And, wait for it, there is even a special school for gifted children. So this is a sort of cross between Britain's The Champions 1960s TV series and the US comic strip The X-Men or even the recent Heroes series. This film should capture the imagination of the Soviet nations' youth. Whether this interpretation of youthful fantastical protagonists will have a broader genre appeal remains to be seen.

Terminator franchise bought. The company Halcyon has bought the rights from Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar. A fourth film is unlikely to feature the now politician Schwarzenegger: though a state of the art mask (given that the role calls for being expressionless) and a voice and body doubles would probably work as the Californian beach front hardly lacks beefcake. Furthermore, it is already clear from the first film that the Schwarzenegger androids were late developments so Arnie is not needed for the first of any future Terminator films. Notwithstanding this, the film series arguably lost its way (and box office take) with Terminator 3 (which did not use S. M. Stirling's Infiltrator as its plot basis) so does it really matter what they do?. Such a fourth film is unlikely to hit the screens before 2009. +++ Halcyon are suing MGM for allegedly interfering with their rights to distribute the prospective T4 themselves. MGM claims it has prior rights from Orion Pictures secured a decade ago... It's all a little complicated to explain in detail (and boring).

Harry Potter bust up. There has been a stir in some of the UK tabloid press over the photographic breast enlargement of 15-year-old Emma Watson (the actress playing Hermione Granger) in a promotional picture for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. The picture shows that her chest has been made ever so slightly more curvaceous. (To be honest you'd hardly notice and it is a storm in a literal tea cup). The photo used at London's IMAX cinema has been replaced.

There will be films after Harry Potter. Warner has acquired the film rights to wizard-filled Septimus Heap series of seven books by Angie Sage as well as the British fantasy boo series Tunnels. +++ More Potter news in the books section below.

SF and fantasy dominates top films with special effects, but top ten mainly from the 1970s and 80s. The Visual Effects Society has surveyed its members to ascertain the best special effects films. Not surprisingly all in the top 50 are speculative fiction from SF through to fantasy. Perhaps what is unexpected is that six out of the top ten are from the 1970s and 1980s. The top ten are:-
          1. Star Wars (1977)
          2. Blade Runner (1982)
          3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
              joint with
          3. The Matrix (1999)
          4. Jurassic Park (1993)
          5. Tron (1982)
          6. King Kong (1933)
          7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
          8. Alien (1979)
          9. The Abyss (1989)

28 Weeks Later is packed with special effects but is unlikely to win any prizes for them. The post apocalyptic sequel (to 28 Days) sees the recolonisation of a dead London. While much filming was done very early on Sunday mornings there were still some people and movement around. So special effects were needed to expunge such sights. Two different two-and-a-half minute trailers for the film can be seen here and here. Could this film be in next year's annual top ten?

Forthcoming Babylon V film to have stunning effects. As we reported back in the New Year there is to be a direct to DVD Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Apparently not only will the effects be better but the show's fans have helped. Pictures of models from fan sites have been used by the film's computer graphic effects folk to such effect that better 'pane-scraper' close-ups are possible. It was thought that the work would have to start again from scratch as the show's props and computer-generated models discs were turned over to Warner Brothers but the graphic discs were then lost. The other factor improving the effects is that better computers are being used.

The Star Wars fan-related film Fanboys will not now be released until January. It was originally to be released in August (so there is a compassionate God). It concerns a group of sci-fi media fans who have to steal a Star Wars script from the Lucas' ranch and the 'adventures' they have crossing the US to get to it. These include running into some Star Trek fans and a Shatner cameo.

Star Trek New Voyages 'World Enough and Time' is now on-line. The fan actor faces take some getting used to but once past that hurdle this production is very accomplished with effects that are far better than the original Trek series. The only major flaw (aside from undue bon home that is sickly) is Scotty's accent which is so mangled as to be unrecognisable! To many this is simply funny but those from Celtic lands may find it too much to bear. Other than this, the fan production is surprisingly good and this episode is a real weepy, so get your tissues on stand-by. Further to our previous reporting of this being made this fan-episode, that features one of the original stars, is now on-line and free at www.magictimeonline.com or alternatively you might find it here "http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/episode_weat.html". The episode was written by one of the (many) Next Gen and Deep Space Nine script writers. Currently the demand has been heavy so you may not succeed in downloading it first time.

Film download tip!: Trailer for I am Legend. This is the third time Richard Matheson's excellent (1954) novella has been adapted for film and this promises to be the closest adaptation so far. A plague wipes out mankind but one man survives (in the book due to having previously been bitten by an infected bat so giving him immunity to the plague). However some humans have been transformed into light-sensitive creatures. They roam the deserted cities at night. The film premieres in the UK on 4th January 2008. -- The 2 minutes 3 seconds trailer is here.

Film download tip!: Trailer for Stardust. The film based on Neil Gaiman's graphic novel. A young man manages to get by someone who claims to guard the entrance to another world. The thing is he really is guarding such a portal and the young man finds himself in a magical land. The film comes out this autumn. -- The 2 minutes 27 seconds trailer can be found here.

Film download tip!: Trailer for the film Day Watch. This is the film of Sergei Lukyanenko's The Day Watch [Dnevnoi Dozor] (the alternate European and US DVD title is Night Patrol 2) which itself is the second in the The Night Watch trilogy. The film, which premieres in October, also is the second and follows the 2004 film Night Watch. For those of you who have read the books you will be familiar with the set-up (which is faithful) but the story has been liberally adapted (and so is not faithful but you will recognise elements of it). Wizards, were-wolves and vampires exist and are simply humans with fantastical powers (called 'others') and able to harness natural energies that normal humans cannot detect. However there are 'others' who work for the light (the good of many) and some who belong to the dark (work for the good of the self). The two groups have been at war. To prevent ravaging the Earth (which is neither in the interest of the light or the dark) there has been an ancient truce. Two watches police this treaty: one for the light (the Night Watch) and one for the dark (the Day Watch). The books sell in the Russian states like Stephen King's do in Anglophone nations. The film was apparently made for less than US$5 million but that goes a long way in Russia where it was made and came out last year. As you can see from the trailer, the effects are very good. -- The 2 minutes 35 seconds trailer is here.

Film download tip!: Arthur C. Clarke's short story, Maelstrom II, is now on the web at www.distant-galaxy.com/maelstrom2/MaelstromII.html.

Film download tip!: Reflets is a short (9 minutes) modern ghost or reality bifurcation animation (you decide) by Suki. In French with English sub-titles. Click on the title link.

Film download tip!: Batgirl fights for equality. Did you know that the US has the least maternity benefits of all developed nations and that economic equality in other areas is also poor. Well SF Signal has drawn our attention to an on-line video clip that demonstrates that decades ago Batgirl was fighting for equal opportunities. See here.

For a reminder of the top films in 2006/7 (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 2007 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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

The 2,400th Perry Rhodan novella has been published in Germany! First published in 1961 this series of space opera yarns has just run and run. Dismissed by many as two-dimensional sci-fi, it has equally been embraced by many others who say that the novella series (and the paperback novels that help bring it all together) when taken together depict a rich universe. To mark this edition's round number, issue 2,400 is over 80 pages long and as such is the lengthiest of the novellas to date (not counting the bridging novels of course). It also sees the start of a new Perry Rhodan story arc. +++ Perry Rhodan is now available in German books for the blind, audio versions. +++ Way back in the Spring we also reported on an old Perry Rhodan film available for viewing on YouTube -- see here.

Gollancz re-releases SF future classic novels August saw Gollancz re-release 8 amazing SF novels of the past couple of decades:-
          Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan.
          Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan.
          Blood Music by Greg Bear, a cracking tale of an artificial microbial plague that becomes intelligent -- we will review this for next season but those of you who have got Essential SF will see that this has an entry as the 1983 short story on which this was based was voted by SF fans for a Hugo Award (novelette) in 1984.
          Fairyland by Paul McAuley about the GM creation of a new species. It also has an entry in Essential SF and won both the Clarke and John W. Campbell Memorial awards.
          Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It also has an entry in Essential SF due to its popular fan acclaim as denoted by winning both the Hugo for 'Best Novel' in 1990 and the Locus awards.
          Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds.
          The Separation by Christopher Priest which is a literary style story of twin brothers and an alternate history around the time of WWII.
          Evolution by Stephen Baxter which follows DNA developing through time.
As you may see from the reviews off the above title links, we gave up each of these a hearty thumbs up when previously reviewed at the time they originally came out. It is good to see our reviews reflecting that of sales and re-printability. Good on Gollancz for giving them another airing. Each of these titles is quite different and so unless your SF tastes are broad you may not enjoy all of them. Having said that if you are an SF reader, and no matter how catholic your leanings, two or three are bound to send your synapses firing. Do check out any you have not come across before. +++ Gollancz have a new SF promotion early in 2008. More news next time (early in the New Year).

Moscow's International Book Fayre was held in September with SF authors present. Mir Fantasy were among those waving the SF flag. It coincided with Mir F 50th issue (well nearly as the birthday is really in October) and so their exhibit had all this year's editions available at a discount price. Furthermore on one day their stand saw book signings by Alexei Pehov, Elena Bychkova and Natalia Turchaninova.

Orbit, one of Britain's SF publishing imprints, is launching a US counterpart. Orbit(US) will not just publish Orbit(UK) titles but some of its own. Reportedly among its early titles there will be Jeff Sommers' The Electric Church concerning a near-future order of cyborg monks. There is also to be a lot of fantasy too as apparently there is 'an opportunity'... 'in the marketplace'.

Canada's biggest SF publisher to be created. Three publishers are coming together to form the new SF imprint: Edge, Tesseracts, and Dragon Moon Press.

The Simon & Schuster operation in the USA has successfully upset authors and their agents twice! It all began with S&S (US) announcing that it would in future put in authors' contracts a clause for it to retain the rights to books for its copyright lifetime and that these would then be available using print-on-demand technology. This would mean that years following original publication authors would be unable to have a new edition with another publisher. Traditionally once a publisher has given up promoting a book and sales are low, the publication rights revert to the author. S&S (US) new proposal gives all the benefit to the publisher who will make money if there happens to be demand for a book but does not encourage the publisher to actively promote and market titles. Most books normally sell during the period of publisher marketing. The SF Writers of America described the move as a 'massive rights grab' and 'an attempt to take advantage of authors'. Nor was the Authors Guild in the US impressed. S&S (US) then sent an open letter (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6445486.html) to authors suggesting that the Authors Guild may be "perpetrating serious misinformation" and made out that they (S&S) were acting in publishers' and authors' mutual interests...! You can imagine how this went down.
          Then later in the summer Simon & Schuster climbed down so that their standard contract returns the rights to the author once sales dip below a minimum threshold. The Association of Authors' Agents and the Society of Authors have welcomed the move.

Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep Group (US), the book and software publisher, has agreed to buy Harcourt Education from Reed Elsevier Plc for US$4 billion (£2 billion) to expand sales to U.S. schools. The sale (US$3.7 billion in cash and US$300 million in shares) is expected to be completed early in 2008. Then Reed Elsevier will own about 12 % of Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep. Harcourt Education publishes books for US students and teachers in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, adult education and general interest readers. Its companies include Harcourt School Publishers; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Greenwood- Heinemann and Harcourt Trade Publishers. The acquisition will make HM Riverdeep one of the largest educational publishing companies in the US. The U.S. spends about $4 billion a year on textbooks from Kindergarten to grade 12 and total spending on education last year in the world's biggest economy was about $540 billion.

The final Harry Potter book, Deathly Hallows has to be the publishing event of the season. (Remember, we already established back in the Spring that Children of the Hurin was likely to be the genre book event of the year.) By the time of the book's launch -- midnight 20th July or first thing 21st July -- the number of all the 'Harry Potter books sold globally had reached 400 million. The HP brand is now worth an estimate £7.3 billion (US$14.1 billion) -- and you can buy a lot of sauce with that! As for the Deathly Hallows title itself, well advanced orders were up 47% on the number of pre-launch copies of the previous book and the number of copies of the English language print run is some 12 million. To date Harry Potter books have been translated into 65 languages and this final book is being launched in 93 countries. +++ See also Rowling's news earlier.

Selling the final Harry Potter book, Deathly Hallows, has caused a few ructions. First off the independent booksellers are finding it impossible (or at least very difficult) to compete with the heavy discounted copies that the book chains and supermarkets can offer due their bulk purchase ability. (See also last time's price wars news, and since then ASDA has been taking the Michael by late paying its bill (which is partly why the chain is able to keep its prices down). They did eventually cough up on threat of not getting their 500,000 copies.) Quite simply if you are an independent book dealer operating in a town with a bookselling chain then there is little motivation to sell the book other than for customer loyalty.   Secondly the 300 independents that received a free promotional package from publishers Bloomsbury as a kind of compensation were not impressed. The package apparently contains little more than some balloons and photocopyable display material. Meanwhile...
          Charles Walker (Conservative Member of Parliament (Broxbourne (Herts))) has called for an enquiry into Potter pricing.
          A survey of independent bookshops by the Booksellers Association asked whether, as part of the promotion for Deathly Hallows, they had organised a signing session? One can imagine really J. K. Rowling dashing around hundreds of independent bookshops doing signings. And...
          Finally The Bookseller's Bent notes that the Bloomsbury website had guidelines for bookshops holding Potter launching parties. Apparently the event must be 'local, non-commercial, not-for-profit and non-political'. This at least clarifies matters for independent bookshops that they are not meant to make money out of selling the latest Potter books. Glad that's settled then. Now, which independent bookshop will close next...? (See item below the next two.) +++ Harry Potter film news within the film section above.

Bloomsbury has best UK publisher website. Bloomsbury may not be independent UK booksellers' favourite publisher right now due to Harry Potter, but The Bookseller rates its website as the best of the UK major publishers. It is good for author information and searchability. You can check it out on www.bloomsbury.com.

Neither Bloomsbury nor J. K. Rowling are happy with the Chinese pirate Potter stories. There is a boom in Chinese Harry Potter fanfic and some of this is being printed up and sold as paperback books such as Harry Potter and the Golden Vase. Much of this really stretches the backstory to Potter originals. For example in a few Harry leaves Hogwarts to enrol in an Asian school for oriental magic and in one he is a short, fat dwarf. In recent years the Chinese authorities have been writing to booksellers prior to the publication of a genuine Rowling Potter book reminding them that selling fake Potter books is illegal. But in the absence of a meaningful crackdown the illegal trade is likely to continue. In China fake Potter books only cost a tenth that of their genuine counterparts.

UK independent bookshops continue to decline. The first half of 2007 saw British independent bookshops close at a rate of one a month. Though not all independents belong to the dependent wing of the Bookseller's Association, its membership of 1,424 as of Easter, is indicative of the sector's size, so the rate of decline maybe nearly 1%. +++ This comes further to last time's news of a number stories of UK closures.

More book trouble for UK sales to Asia as US trade grows. Further to last times news the sustained fall of the US dollar against the UK pound has meant that Asian distributors are increasingly transferring their regular business onto a longer-term footing with US publishers. Five years ago the a pound got you 1.5 dollars but for nearly a year now it has been up to (and sometimes over) 1.9 dollars: the pound is over a quarter stronger than it was. For Asian distributors it is therefore as proportionally cheaper to buy dollars and so books from US publishers (despite their non-English spelling) are economically more attractive.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson is shedding half its editorial staff. This UK large non-fiction imprint, that is part of the Orion group (who also do the Gollancz SF titles), is restructuring to meet new market needs. It is, however, not a sign of non-fiction sales problems generally as the market has been holding up in recent years.

Meisha Merlin is closing. The US genre publisher has cited distribution problems.

Bookspan in the US loses 15% of its staff. 280 are to go due to a rationalisation by its new owners, the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Bookspan includes the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC). The 54 year old SFBC may be spared but it too is losing some staff including both of its editors. Then in June Rome Quezada (formerly of the Eos SF/fantasy book line) was been taken on as editor replacing Ellen Asher, who has taken early retirement.

Planet Stories is a new N. American SF book imprint from Piazo reprinting works of past decades. Authors whose works see new life with the initial releases include leigh Brackett, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore and Michael Moorcock. 'Planet Stories' itself springs from the title of a US magazine whose own run ended in 1955. One or two books a month are currently scheduled.

The UK newspaper The Guardian, shortly after Easter, came up with a list of books that purportedly define the 20th century. OK, so this list is eclectic as well as pointless (other than mildly interesting) and they do not reveal how the list was compiled (unlike Concat duo's Essential Science Fiction), but it is still of passing curiosity.   There are only 100 titles across all of fiction and non-fiction, so the list is tight. Of genre interest there is: Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles with its lethal monster of a dog let loose on the moor from the 1900s; from the 1930s there is Huxley's Brave New World (which is also in Essential); from the '40s there is Orwell's 1984 (again in Essential); from the 1950s there is Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids (again in Essential); and the '70's and Stephen King's Carrie. Genre author Iain Banks has his non-SF The Wasp Factory included.   Science is also represented by: Sigmund Freud's Interpreting Dreams from the 1900s; Einstein's Relativity; and the 1980s Hawkings A Brief History of Time. Just three science titles which is arguably odd for a list books that is supposed to 'define their era' given that the 20th century unlike any other was arguably more defined by science and technology than anything else. As said, 'eclectic' and no doubt chosen by artists.   (Note, in case you are interested. The reason many of the afore SF books are cited in Essential is due to their longevity of being (nearly continually) in print for over 50 years. Just one of the guide's strict criteria for being considered 'essential SF'.)

Beccon Publications has a new website and contact details. Beccon Publications -- which like Concatenation grew out of the 1980s BECCON series of London region conventions -- provides specialist publications for die-hard SF book readers and collectors. The new website is at www.beccon.org. Check it out and bookmark if appropriate.

British women buy more books than men. Women bought 188 million books in the UK in 2006 nearly 47% more compared to men's 128 million books. Both men and women bought more books in 2006 than 2005, according to the research agency BML.

Annette Thomas win's women in publishing award. She is this year's Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for outstanding achievement in publishing. She is head of the Nature Group that publishes science journals and worked her way up through the ranks. Starting as a biology editor for Nature she then became the founding editor of Nature Cell Biology before moving into a publishing role with the launch of the Nature Review journals.

Authors of the future announced. As part of the British book chain Waterstones celebrating its 25th anniversary it drew up a list of 'authors of the future'. These are not folk who write futuristic stories but those Waterstones reckon will make a big impact over the next 25 years. 25 authors were listed with two being genre-related (which is about right given the proportion of SF fiction book sales). The two genre authors are the SF writer Richard Morgan and fantasy author Susanna Clarke.

A final bit of book fun. This two-and-a-half minute video clip should delight all book folk. It is taken from Norwegian TV and has English subtitles. Clip here.

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in the New Year. 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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

TV NEWS

The Andromeda Strain is to be made into a TV mini-series by Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott is to be one of the executive producers of this new interpretation of Michael Crichton's novel The Andromeda Strain (1969). This was Crichton's first novel under his own name and for which he was reportedly given an advance of US$250,000 (remember that back then a beer was less than 20 cents -- it is important to have a fannish sense of perspective). The original novel was then turned into a film (1971) by Robert (The Day The Earth Stood Still and Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Production of this new series has only just begun. If all goes well it should be aired in 2008.

Farscape to return as new online web-episodes. Sci Fi channel has ordered 10 web-episodes. Production to be by Brian Henson and Robert Halmi jr. through The Jim Henson Co., in association with RHI Entertainment.

Lost's final season finally announced. ABC has agreed to let Lost's makers announce the total number of episodes they will produce. This means that the final episode will be aired in the 2009/10; so just a couple of years to go. Some of Lost's creators had early on said that they would not let the series drag on beyond three or four seasons as this would pad out the plot and they would likely lose their audience. However more seasons were made. Arguably there are signs that they may indeed be losing viewers. If so this explains the announcement. Indeed the 2007 season finale back in May had good US ratings with some 15 million viewers but overall the season had seen less viewers than the previous year. The show returns in February 2008 in the US with a 16-episode season. +++ The fee cable and satellite Sky One paid to take Lost from UK's Channel 4 (nationwide terrestrial) in 2006 is reported as being £1 million (US$1.95m) an episode.

Lost clip download!: Lost plane crash and events on the island at that time edited together from clips across three seasons edited into around 7 continuous minutes can be viewed here.

Battlestar Galactica's forthcoming 4th season will be its last. The 22-episode season will air early in 2008. Executive producers Ronald Moore and David Eick said that it was a creative decision (this was a few weeks later affirmed by the network. They added that: "While we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there: We're going out with a bang." Ron Moore already has future projects. +++ Devotees of the series on-line fans sites will know this but if you are not and don't want a spoiler then don't read on.... a number of the stars you least suspect turn out to be cylons.

Battlestar's 4th and final series launches in N. America November (so depending on when you read this in the autumn you may already know that it is...) with a two-part TV film called Razor that will premiere on the N. American SciFi Channel on 24th November and later on its UK-European counterpart. Then there will be a gap and then the final 20 episodes will be shown early in 2008. Razor tells the story of the Battlestar Pegasus several months prior to it finding the Galactica. +++ The YouTube trailer is here.

The US series Heroes renewed by BBC. Heroes season 1 came to Britain's BBC2 (one of the five national terrestrial channels) in July. BBC2 have now paid for exclusive rights to the second season. Heroes is the first series aired on BBC that has two episode repeats (that is three screenings of each episode) each week! It is extremely popular.

Dr Who's 2008 season to see side-kick change. Freema Agyeman, who currently plays Dr Who's companion, clinician Martha Jones, left the TARDIS mid-summer at the end of the 2007 season. She will appear in three episodes of the forthcoming Torchwood season and then return to the TARDIS in the middle of Dr Who's 2008 season. Catherine Tate will play the Doctor's newest companion in the 2008 Dr Who season. Catherine Tate -- who is known to British viewers as a character comedienne -- had previously been a guest in the 2006 Dr Who Christmas special 'The Runaway Bride'. Meanwhile the 2007 Christmas special will see Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue guest. The 2008 Dr Who 13-episode season will start its run at Easter.

Dr Who will not have a new series broadcast in 2009. The series currently being shot will be aired in 2008 and then there will be no new material until 2010. Apparently the BBC want to rationalise both financial and creative resources.

Reaper is a new dark-comedy fantasy series out in N. America this autumn. It concerns a slacker (his parents let him slide) who discovers his father and mother sold him to the devil before he was born. Come the age of 21 he finds himself the devil's bounty hunter removing escaped evil souls from the World and returning them to hell. The show is first being aired on the one-year old CW channel (owned by CBS and Warner Bros.).

Remember Fireball XL5, the space ship that patrolled the Galaxy from the Gerry Anderson TV series? (No, it was from Space City. News Ed'.) Well, if you do then your memory is likely to be in black and white (Anderson's first colour series was Stingray). Thrill then to this French opening sequence to Fireball XL5 in glorious couleur with this short vid clip. Meanwhile here is Steve Zodiac brought to life in this pastiche short vid clip.

Supergirl to be played by Laura Vandervoort in Smallville. No, not the surprise offspring of a certain fantasy book-dealing couple, but a 22 year old Canadian from Toronto. Supergirl will appear in the next season and apparently there will be romance with Jimmy Olsen.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

China hosts pre-Worldcon conference. The three-and-a-half day SF/Fantasy conference was held in Chengdu (Sichuan province, China) entitled the 2007 International SF & Fantasy Conference. China has regularly hosted SF events for around a decade and Chengdu is one of the more frequent venue cities. However the last 'International' SF conference was a decade ago in 2007. This year's International Conference was the largest science-fiction event so far held in that country. At it China's 'Galaxy Awards' were presented.
          It was estimated that over 70 writers, editors, agents and semi-pros attended. Western authors present included: David Brin (US), Neil Gaiman (Britain), Vassily Golovachev (Russia), David Hill (US), Nancy Kress (US), Hikawa Leiko (Japan), Yuri Alexandrovich Nikitin (Russia), Robert Sawyer (Canada) and Michael Swanwick (US). Many took part in autograph sessions. Also present from outside of China were: Vladimir Yevgrafovich Bugrov (Russian cosmonaut), Elizabeth Hull (former chair US SF Research Association), Larisa Mikhailova (Russian SF publisher), Iwaue Osamu (Chair Chinese SF Research Association in Japan), Kabutogi Reigo (Japanese SF critic), Fujiomi Shuko (Japanese artist) and Tachihira Touya (Japanese SF critic).
          In addition to the pros and semi-pros, there were around 5,000 Chinese fans who participated in a programme of talks, panels and films. This made the event one to rival in size the Japanese Worldcon a few days later and, of course, Russia's annual International Fantasy and Fantasy Games convention (which has as much a book and film focus as it does RPG and computer games). Following the Chengdu conference there was an International Book Fayre in Beijing. However many of the western authors flew directly from Chengdu on to the Worldcon in Japan.
+++       Background info: -
            Chengdu's 2007 International SF & F Conference was the first SF event to have virtual cyberspace promotion. It had space in Second Life's virtual cyberspace site for visitors to meet in advance of the event itself. (This is distinct from having a formal convention-like event on-line as Conflux recently had.)
            Chinese early SF. Chinese proto-SF arguably goes back over two thousand years to some Taoist tales. Nearer the present there are several popularly recognised candidates for China's earliest modern SF tales -- Yequiu Zhimindi Xiaoshuou [Tales of Lunar Colonization] (1904), Xinfalu Xianshengtan [New Tales of Mr Absurdity] (1905) about the separation of body and soul/mind, China In Ten Years (1923) in which lasers are developed and repel imperialists, and City of Cats (1932) (cited as 'Cat Country' (1933) in Clute), are both short stories. An early SF novel would be Gu Junzheng's Heping de Meng [A Dream of Peace] (1940) but there are others.
          Chinese science & SF linkage. Today much Chinese SF is published by popular science publishing houses and SF authors tend to belong to a science writers association rather than a writers association. As in the West (for example see here) there is a significant linkage between the readers of hard SF (as opposed to sci-fi or fantasy) and those with secondary school (pre-university) science qualifications. Indeed the theme of the International Conference was 'Science, imagination and the future' and one of its sponsors was a regional science and technology association and the venue for this year's Galaxy Award ceremony was the Chengdu Museum of Science and Technology.
          SF's profile in China today. Chinese SF suffered during the 'cultural upheavals of the later part of the last century but began to again flourish in 1991 when the magazine Kexue Wenyi [Science Art and Literature] changed its name to Kehuan Shijie [Science Fiction World or, as it is commonly abbreviated, SFW]. SFW had a reported circulation of some 300,000 by the late 1990s and today has a reported print-run of around 500,000 with a claimed readership of 5 million. It was one of the principal sponsors of China's pre-2007 Worldcon SF conference along with the Sichuan Provincial Science Technology Association.
+++ See also on this site an article on SF and China.
+++ Google for an interesting article by Mikael Hunt on China and SF that was published in Science Fiction Studies #80 (vol. 27) in 2000.

 

The 2007 Eurocon was held in September in Copenhagen (Denmark) just after this seasonal newscast is posted. So news of this event will be posted next time with our spring bulletin early in the New Year.

The 2007 Nordic Fan Fund (NoFF) winner was Pasi Karppanen. He went to the 2007 Eurocon in Copenhagen, Denmark. Pasi Karppanen is the editor of Kosmoskyna of the Finnish SF Writers Association.

 

The 2007 Worldcon was successfully held in Yokohama, Japan. (As it ended so close to Concatenation's seasonal news going to bed, we hope to have a more detailed report next time.) At the convention the 2007 Hugo Award results were announced. Some, prior to the convention, attended a three-and-a-half day SF/Fantasy conference in Chengdu (Sichuan province, China).
+++       Initial Feedback: -
            Numbers attending preliminary information tells us were under 3,000 with under 800 from outside of Japan. Other than the US, the most numbers of visitors came from the British Isles. So this year's Worldcon was small and smaller even than Glasgow (Scotland) the last non-US Worldcon. Nonetheless size is not everything and the event was remarkable in a number of ways. Indeed it attracted some political attention including having best wishes sent from Taro Aso, Japan's Former Minister for Foreign Affairs.
            The best programme items were the bilingual ones with a mixed Asian and Anglophone audience be they panels or talks. (As Eurocon regulars will know, this is par for the course for cons gathering diverse nations.) Such items reveal both cultural differences and similarities. Apparently the 'Women of the Future' and 'Sexual Japan SF/SM' panels were thought provoking. Sadly more than one or two panels billed as joint English and Japanese failed to have translation.
            The dealers room was apparently not up to much and it was a day before it was open. (But then how often do dealers rooms live up to expectations?)
            Hugo award ceremony at most western awards ceremonies the recipient receives the award and then gives a speech, for the Japan Worldcon this was the other way around. Actor George (Sulu) Takei was co-presenter at the ceremony. This year being the 40th anniversary of the Japanese TV character Ultraman, meant that the Hugo Awards themselves not only featured the rocket but a figure of Ultraman alongside. Ultraman also battled Godzilla before the Hugos were awarded (see a U-Tube clip here.) The Hugo ceremony was once again overly long, but this year understandably so as everything was said in two languages.
            Evening parties are a big thing at US cons (as opposed to the convention bar areas at Brit cons and a combination of these and having a dedicated café/non-hotel bar for many Eurocons). Consequently evening parties are important at Worldcons (which are, despite their name, largely a US phenomena). This year the parties were all on one floor of the main con hotel. This would have been fine if the hotel's air-conditioning was properly functioning and the weather was not so warm (and on some days muggy). One Japanese aspect was that many of the parties were shoeless, and so shoes lined the corridors while their owners socialised.
            The sci-fi/media hit of the Worldcon was George (Sulu) Takei being present for a screening of Star Trek New Voyages: World Enough and Time which received a standing ovation no less! (And a repeat showing later due to demand.) George's reception at the convention was effectively as if he was a Guest of Honour. He revealed that though he was never an SF fan, his younger days did see him read a fair bit of SF including Ray Bradbury.
            The non-surprise of the Worldcon was that this year anime was a big feature with much anime fancy dress evident.
            The con's low point. Though early reports suggest that most folk largely had a great time at the Worldcon, there were a few grumbles about the fancy dress masquerade. Early arrivers told to leave, then further changes in the queue to get back in (with Pierre's organ gratingly adding to the tension), and then another 20 minute wait before it started the best part of an hour behind schedule. When it did there were only a dozen entrants.
            Business meeting: The move to have a Hugo category for best website saw much debate over a possible requisite for nominated websites to provide on-line a year-old archive version of the site as it was the year of nomination in the year of final voting. In one sense this is easy as most webmasters regularly burn a CD as a back-up. In another sense this is a problem in that some providers of commonly used web-tools (Google being an obvious example) frown on parallel posting (unless on a recognised archive compilation site) and may punish by reducing rankings. Some webmasters may prefer to avoid such long-term hassle even if the short-term benefit is a Hugo nomination (and possible win). Anyway, the whole thing gets discussed by a working group that will report to next year's Worldcon WSFS business meeting.
            The stars of the convention, as with Eurocons, were the translators without whom the event would have been a washout. All deserved a medal.
            Dedication above and well beyond the call of duty. Someone appears (we are told) to have updated every Hugo winner's entry on Wikipedia either during the actual awards ceremony or immediately after it.
            Yokohama has one of the biggest China towns and a number of fans have paid a visit. Summary details of the China town here.
            Yokohama is home to a HAL 9000 type computer -- see here.
            Short daily video reports from the Worldcon were provided by Fast-Forward TV. Kathi Overton does remarkably well as a presenter. If your computer can handle streaming short (only several minutes) video clips (allow up to 4 minutes to download) and you have broadband then you can access them as follows:-
            [http://www.fast-forward.tv/video/Worldcon2007_01.mov] Worldcon day 1 - here
            [http://www.fast-forward.tv/video/Worldcon2007_02.mov] Worldcon day 2 - here
            [http://www.fast-forward.tv/video/Worldcon2007_03.mov] Worldcon day 3 - here
            [http://www.fast-forward.tv/video/Worldcon2007_04.mov] Worldcon day 4 - here

Science at the 2007 Worldcon, Japan. Science-related program items included: The Future of Computers; Interstellar Travel (slide illustrated lecture); Searching for Extra-Solar Planets; CSI in the 22nd Century; Mars Exploration Rovers (slide illustrated); How Much Science Should SF Contain?; The State of Cosmology; The Tech Savvy Criminal; The Inevitable Google Panel; The Future of War; Alien Sexuality; The Universe as Seen From the Hubble Space Telescope (slide illustrated); Longer Life Expectancy = More Time to be Miserable?; The Economics and Sociology of Abundance; Design a Truly Alien Alien; Free Will? Or Neurochemistry?; The Integration of Science and Religion in SF&F; and The Singularity: How to Write About It.

The one-off Europe-to-Japan Worldcon (JETS) fan fund was won by Chris O'Shea. He went to the 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama, Japan. Chris O'Shea is a British conrunner.

 

The 2008 Eurocon (EuRoskon) will be held in Moscow in May. The event has had its share of problems both with its western (non-European) purported prospective Guests of Honour, and its Roskon organisers did not appear to be up to speed with sorting out non-Soviet participants' visa-related paperwork at the 2007 Roskon. This last can cause considerable hassle for non-Soviet visitors as those without the correct paperwork (though not classed as criminals) do not appear to have basic citizen's rights. Non-Sov visitor paperwork problems arose at the Roskon because neither the event nor the venue is tourist-related (hence have the administrative connections) and that some visitors also wanted to spend a day or two elsewhere sight-seeing (necessitating extra separate paperwork). The 2008 Eurocon could well be a fascinating event for western SF fans to attend. The last thing we want to do is put you off. However we do want you to have a good time and feel it is part of our commitment to our regular site visitors to advise those contemplating going to double triple check their visa-related paperwork and particularly to have stamps or supportive paperwork in advance of departure from each place of evening stay relating to the appropriate dates. (The committee at the 2007 Roskon were, we have been told, unable to help anyone but their western Guest of Honour when the trouble hit.) Other than this the 2008 Eurocon should be a fun, vodka-fuelled gathering in a picturesque part of one of Moscow's home counties. The only other possible problem is a good one in that it may be a little crowded (popular). When Roskon started about 300 went but now the numbers are roughly double this. We have been told that the venue is beginning to become a little strained which may be a problem due to the even bigger event that the EuRoskon is likely to be. We hope to have some news with our New Year posting as to how, in Copenhagen (see above previous article), the Moscow organisers have responded to concerns.

 

The vote for the 2009 Worldcon venue went to Montreal (Canada). The pre-Japan Worldcon write-in vote was narrow with Kansas (US) only trailing by half a dozen votes. However the vote slips received during the convention saw Canada gain a substantial lead with 507 votes to 341. (The total votes with preference cast were 883 so 442 was needed for a win without a re-vote.) The tentative dates are the long weekend of 6th - 10th August 2009. The 2009 Montreal Convention will be called 'Anticipation' and their website is here.

Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon (Canada), announces Guests. They are:-
            Neil Gaiman - Guest of Honour
            Elisabeth Vonarburg - Invitee d'honneur
            Taral Wayne - Fan Guest of Honour (SF artist)
            David Hartwell - Editor Guest of Honour
            Tom Doherty - Publisher Guest of Honour
            Julie Czerneda - Master of Ceremonies
There is one tiny cloud on the horizon. Unfortunately for a Worldcon (with an emphasis on the 'World') all these guests are (currently) North American based although they are worthy souls. (Though this is good for us Europeans as who wants to go all the way to meet an author you can see back home?) It therefore remains to be seen how the committee is going to imbue the event with a truly international spirit? Given that the Worldcon is most years held in the US, 2009 being in Canada is one of Anticipation's USPs (unique selling points) and an opportunity to make the Worldcon truly reflect SF's global status. Time will no doubt tell.
            Science fact & SF Concateneers may well be interested in Julie Czerneda. See the mention in the Interface: Science & SF subsection of this newscast. Also we noted that one of the Montreal bid team was doing the rounds of the science programme at the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon so it looks as if they have an enthusiastic soul in that department.

Britain to bid for a Worldcon in 2014/5! At the time of posting Concat mission control has not heard back from its two on-the-spot reporters but we understand that Britain has put down an unspecified bit marker for 2014 or 2015 Worldcon. (We guess this might be something to do with Tim and/or Pat?) The venue city is as yet unspecified but it can only really be Glasgow (Scotland) or Brighton (England) as they are the only cities with a big enough conference centre and hotel beds as well as with an international airport within half an hour away by train.

Hugo Awards website launched. Does what it says on the can. See www.thehugoaward.org.

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

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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

SF fan and Concatenation team memberswims the English channel for charity and nearly gets to France. Tony Bailey He undertook to swim the 20 miles (32 km) English Channel separating Britain from France on 30th July. Sadly after 11 hours and 45 minutes, and with only 6 miles to go (the worst was long behind him), exhaustion got the better of him and he had to call it a day. Not many attempt to swim the Channel and, of those that do, only one in three succeed the first time. Back story and charity link details here. Donations to the charities are still being accepted. Go on and encourage the guy to have another go!
The link to this specific news item is http://www.concatenation.org/news/news9~07.html#channel~swim should you wish to help spread the message on your own site or blog.

The British Fantasy Society has a new and re-vamped website at www.britishfantasysociety.org. Aside from a new look, the new site has more historical information added and the news page is run as a blog which enables video viewing from YouTube.

India's annual SF studies meeting has a venue change. The next IASFS conference (9 -11 November 2007) is now to be held at Pondicherry University's English Dept. (The venue has been shifted from Ludhiana). Registration details available from reema [DOT] sarwal [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

The first Arab-organised SF gathering meets. It was successful and turned out to be a precursor to a proper SF convention. See the detailed report elsewhere on this site.

France's national convention not held in France but Canada! See the detailed report elsewhere on this site.

The 6th Sci-Fi London continued the series' success. The programme took place very much as anticipated (see previous news). Sue and Jonathan represented Concatenation at the event's launch reception.... +++ See also Things To Come new extended version that Sci-Fi London premiered. +++ This year's Sci-Fi London is reviewed elsewhere on this site. +++ Sci-Fi London launches internet film & TV channel -- see our item in the film section above.

The Clarke (SF book not space) Award for 2007 announced. M. John Harrison was presented with the Award at a session as part of the above Sci-Fi-London film fest for his novel Nova Swing published by Gollancz. He picked up a cheque for £2,007 (US$4,000) and a book-end shaped trophy.

Chicago has held a Russian fantastic film fest. The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago (US), was held called 'From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema' early in the summer. It featured 13 films many of which are hardly ever shown in the west. It is hoped that this accomplishment will encourage more such events.

Ukraine's Portal Awards and others were announced at the country's national convention, Portal. The event took place back in April just after our last big seasonal newscast. The Portal Awards are panel decided. The main category winners were:-
          'Major form' - Dalia Truskinovskaya for Shaytan- Star
          'Average form' - Oleg Divov for Hrabar
          'Small form' - Oleg Divov for Hrabar
          (For comment see the following Portal item.)
Portal 2007 also saw a new award that is given to a major western author or artist whose work has appeared in Ukraine and is in the style of Mikhail Bulgakov. (Actually it may well turn into an award to a major visiting western author whose work in the style of Bulgakov has been published in the Ukraine.) The first recipient of the Bulgakovskaya Prize went to John Crowley who was the western Guest of Honour at this year's Portal. Mikhail Bulgakov was a Ukranian writer but was (as many Ukranian writers are) largely published in Russian. Nonetheless Ukrainians cherish him dearly and even have a museum dedicated to him. One of his better known books is The Master and Maragarita.

Ukraine's Portal sees authors but numbers only 200. Numbers were down for this year's Portal compared to last year Russia's Mir Fantasy reports. This though is hardly surprising as last year's event was the 2006 Eurocon. Apparently late in the day author Nick Perumov decided not to attend but John Crowley (USA), Dmitri Bykov (Russia), Svyatoslav Loginov (Russia), Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland), Daniel Kluger (Israel), Henry Lion Oldi (Ukraine), Andrei Valentinov (Ukraine), Roman Zlotnikov (Russia ), Mikhail Uspensky (Russia) and many other writers did. The Portal Awards were presented (see above). These are decided by a small jury (for example like the Clarke SF Award in Britain) and so its status depends on your own opinion of such decision processes. (We mention this as apparently there has been some comment, including on Ukrainian blogs and in Britain such discussion has in recent years been semi-formalised in the Eastercon 'Not the Clarke' panel.) However the award Portal gives for SF criticism and non-fiction SF/fantasy analysis are voted on by the convention's participants. This year's winner was Gregory Panchenko for Horizons Weapons. (Concat': a study of fictional weapons of the future we presume.) One of the unique regional services Portal provides is a literary class given by professional and this year the theme was fantasy detectives. The Ukraine has two main annual conventions: Portal in Kiev in the north and Starbridge in the south. The Ukrainian magazine My Computer plays a significant role in supporting such activities. Portal 2007 was held in conjunction with the Kiev's 10th International Book Fayre which was open to the public.

The 100th anniversary of Antonovich (Ivan) Efremov's birth was celebrated, and new Russian SF/fantasy was published, at the 2007 Interpresskon, St Petersburg (Russia) in May. Antonovich Efremov was a palaeontologist but more recognised as a leading figure of mid-twentieth century Soviet SF. His works not only appeared in print but some also made it to the big screen. 2007 would have seen the man's 100th birthday and so members of Interpresskon visited his grave. There was also a seminar on his works as well as a screening of a documentary on the author.   But it was not all looking back. Interpresskon traditionally fosters new Soviet writers (and might be considered by UK genre writers as a cross between a convention and a large version of the annual Milford event). SF and fantasy stories arising out of last year's Interpresskon were published as a collection and copies made available to Interpresskon participants. There are plans to publish stories out of this year's event together with the winners of 'LitStudy' 2006 and Fantkritika 2006. Young genre artists were also encouraged with an exhibition and a competition. There was a scriptwriter workshop and a screening of Aelita. Music enlivened the first two nights while the final evening saw awards presented and a Gala dinner. Of the awards the Bronze Snails are probably both one of the genre's quirkiest and regionally most respected. The Bronze Snails have been presented annually in St Petersburg since 1992. The chair of the awards is the internationally renowned author Boris Strugatsky who also happens to be, by some strange coincidence, to be the only member of the awards' jury. This year Snails went to:-
          Eugene Filenko for his novel 'One Throw Boomerang'
          Gennady Prashkevich for the novella 'Divine Comedy'
          Andrew Gray Salomatov for the short story 'Angel'
          Sergei Sobolev for his non-fiction book 'Alternative History'
Each winner received (literally) a climbing Bronze Snail mounted on a small plinth and a framed certificate.

What do Russian fans like? Mir Fantastiki [Fantastic (or Fantasy) World] has conducted its 2007 readers' poll. Mir Fantastiki being the Eurocon award-winning, and Russia's leading SF/F and technology magazine. (Full colour and very glossy, a bit like SFX or Star Log but with more book coverage as well as that of role-playing and computer games with a dash of convention fandom with a bit of technology science news thrown in for good measure.) Their survey reveals:-
          Gerne interest with just over half its readers being into fantasy (56%) with just a quarter (25%) into SF (space opera, cyberpunk etc) and 18% into both: the remainder presumably read for the magazine's technology, computer and gaming content.
          Convention attendance with nearly two-thirds (63%) have not been to a convention but aspire to do so at some stage (average Russians are not quite as mobile as their North American or European counterparts: which is a pain given Russia is 2.5 times the area of the US and so even larger than Western and Central Europe combined - bigger still if you include current Sov Bloc nations). Over a quarter (28%) are not interested in cons while nearly 6% do go and a further 3.5% go more than once a year.
          Book interest with nearly 64% saying that they would give a book as a New Year present (which is the Russian thing as opposed to Christmas), compared to 38% a DVD or 36% a (computer or role-playing) game.
          Interest in books with nearly 22% reading 4 or 5 a month (which interestingly compares with the annual Locus (US magazine) poll and our own launch survey in the UK back in 1987), and just 9% who read less than one book a month or rarely at all.
         Most popular authors being Sergei Lukyanenko (nearly 75% reading his books) and especially his Nightwatch series. Perumov comes a fairly close second and then with 36% and less Andrei Belyanin and Vasiliy Golovachev. (Most of these authors write fantasy and science fantasy as opposed to SF and hard SF. It is difficult to say whether this is due to MIR Fantastiki's own emphasis or whether this is reflects the current culture.)
          Foreign books interest suggest that Russian readers are into:   Star Wars novelizations (41%);   the 'Forgotten Realms' series (40%);   'Dragonlance' books (33%);   Conan (31%);   X-Files novelizations (25%); and Warhammer books (15%). Having said that this might reflect that Mir F is mainly read by more younger fans as opposed to middle-aged and older fans many of whom hugely enjoy a range of western authors: indeed Robert Sheckley and Harry Harrison were hugely popular attracting considerable TV coverage when they visited the Ukraine in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
          Fantastic films interest pre-1987. Some 82% rated Electronic Adventure (about a robot kid);   71% Secret of the Third Planet (in which a young woman and her professor father and a pilot go to the stars to find animals for Moscow Zoo);   70% Guest From The Future (in which a youth finds a time machine in a cellar and gets whisked to the future);   67% Magicians (the 1982 film based on the Strugatskis' romance story about a small Russian village which harbours a school for magic...);   53% Moscow - Cassiopeia (the 1973 propaganda film and space opera about a group of young cosmonauts freeing Cassiopeia from robot rule), and 52% the original (1972) Solaris. Other films with lower scores included: Stalker (1979) based on the Strugatskis' 1969 story Roadside PicnicAdolescents in the Universe (1974);   Through Hardship to the Stars (1981) and Hotel: For the Murdered Mountaineer (1979) based on the Strugaskis' 1970 novel Hotel 'To the Lost Mountaineer'.
          SF Awards. Surprisingly over half (54%) of Mir F's readers do not rate Russia's own SF awards. Concatenation has received Mir F's Sov Bloc distribution and the circulation figures do appear to coincide with the popularity of those awards that the remainder of readers do rate: namely Roskon the most which is given at a Moscow convention (Mir F is published in Moscow) and Portal the least (presented in the Ukraine which only has a few Mir F readers). However we do know that regionally these awards are hugely valued by their respective constituencies.
          DVD legality. Perhaps worryingly a near 50:50 split transpires in that the last fantastic film DVD (SF, fantasy or horror) those surveyed saw was pirated as opposed to a legitimate licensed copy. (Of course this would not be a worry if blank DVD's were taxed like blank audio cassettes with that revenue going to the international copyright licensing agencies but, hey, politicians are only a third of a century behind on international technology legislation).
          Finally, the survey reveals that James Bond is not considered genre according to nearly 63% of Mir F's respondents, while 33% say it is.

The 2nd Alt.Fiction (Derby, England) was a success. All reports of the one-day event were very favourable. There were four parallel stream that featured authors Iain Banks, Harry Harrison, Ramsey Campbell and Mike Carey. Other SF professionals were also on the programme including agent John Jarrold. In the evening Ramsey (who is of course the President of the Society of Fantastic Films) introduced a special screening of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The one-day format with an evening event (and socialising after) seems to be a winner. There may well be another Alt.Fiction next year. Bet it's packed.

Slovenia! New nation. First convention... And first 'first national convention' to have video advert. The new state of Slovenia (that arose out of Yugoslavia) held its first SF convention over three days at the end of April. It is the first time a first national convention has made a promotional video (see here). +++ Historical note: The first (as far as we know) convention to produce a promotional video was Hatfield's Polycon: Shoestringcon 1 back in 1979 on the then new (and now dead 28 years on) VHS video tape format. (There's a mini-review of that convention in Ansible).

Australia has World's first on-line convention? Today nearly all SF conventions have at least a web page or two and some conventions have even put programme items on the net for later streaming. Now Australia has 'arguably' held the first SF con in cyberpsace. (Note: as distinct from having a space within cyberspace for virtual visitors to meet (without formal virtual programme participants) as the Chengdu China conference recently had.) The Conflux on-line one day event was held as a summer precursor to Australia's autumnal Conflux 4 convention. It featured five of its Guests of Honour plus a few others slated to be participants in the forthcoming Conflux programme. It was very much an experimental happening and while past Conflux conventions have seen many hundreds attend, just 69 participated in this precursor on-line event. Conflux Chair, Nicole Murphy, told Concatenation: "The people who were there had a great time!" The only slight hiccoughs were a mix-up with the time for Karen Traviss, and a couple of people had computer problems. Nicole also said that, "we're thinking we don' t need to run the entire 24 hours - a break in the early morning is probably suitable." As for doing another in the future she said, "We're certainly considering it. We're looking at expanding it. It seemed from this first go that this is a viable way of running a convention without the fuss and bother of a physical con. However, it will still require some experimentation and trials before we consider it the way of the future :) But things we're looking at include a virtual dealers/hucksters room, and running concurrent streams."

Finland's Aon convention shares time with live zombie punk bands. Finland's Aon convention was held back at the beginning of the summer in Mariehamn on a Baltic island between Finland and Sweden. Some 100 Scandinavian fans attended and the GoH was Hal Duncan. This was very much a book orientated fan event enlivened by other goings on at the time. These included many attending museums as part of a free day, a biker gathering and an evening of zombie band performances. This last was billed as having live performances, which being of zombie bands was a little oxymoronic.

Finland's fourth Tähtivaeltaja [Star Rover] Day was also held early in the summer and this year it marked the 25 anniversary of the Tähtivaeltaja semi-prozine.. The GoH was Chris Priest and this year's Tähtivaeltaja Award went to Stepan Chapman for his novel The Troika. Tähtivaeltaja is published by the Helsinki SF Society [Helsingin science fiction seura ry] but unlike many of its UK and N. American counterparts neither has a heavy focus on SF and fantasy books, or alternatively TV series and film, but a broader and more even sweep of genre-related culture including punk-related elements. It published its 100th issue earlier in the year.

Finncon 2007 sees around 7,000. In part this was due to the low cost of attendance (free registration) in turn due to sponsorship/support and that it was held alongside the Jyväskylä Arts Festival and an animecon at the University of Jyvaskyla. So naturally all of the 5,000 programme booklets went. There were several programme streams including one in English (others were either in a Scandinavian language or had a translator). Science fact and fiction Concateneers would have appreciated the science programme and the science and SF panel with John Clute and Joe Haldeman on the programme stream in English. Guests included: Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Hand and Ellen Datlow with the Anime GoH being Jonathan Clements. John Clute also attended and took part in a number of panels The Guests appeared on numerous panels, judged the fancy dress parade and had time to try a Finnish sauna. The 7,000 estimated to have attended is up from 2006 that saw an estimated 5,000. The event was a huge success despite rain over the weekend. The beer being provided at the end dead-dog party gave a final glow.

Dortcon 2007 continues the trend of it being one of Germany's three leading SF cons in the 21st century. Though only over two days and held every just other year (or perhaps because of it) the Ruhr region Dortcons continue to be successful and regularly have a foreign guest as well as German ones. This year's guests were Germany's Kai Meyer (author) and Mario Moritz (artist). The foreign Guest of Honour was author Nancy Kress (US). The programme consisted of two main parallel streams together with a small support stream and a fifth of occasional workshops. In addition to talks and panels there were couple of film screenings and an evening of short fan films. There was also an art show and a children's art competition as well as filking.   Nancy Kress enjoyed herself as captured on this two-minute vid-clip. +++ The next Dortcon will be on 21 - 22nd March 2009.

RustyCon is celebrating its 25th online. Being a quarter of a century old, this US run of conventions is marking the hurdle with a series of on-line vid-clips the first of which is here.

The 41st US Balticon (nothing to do with cons of the Baltic nations) saw around 1,850 attend and much science. The Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle as principal Guests of Honour double acts went down well and each had at least three programme items a day. They revealed that they had just handed in the MS for Inferno 2 and that they plan to work on a large novel that will look at how society will respond to a clear and present danger... Jerry Pournelle also gave a re-hash of his briefing to Washington types on guarding against future threats which apparently is fairly pointless because you can't make predictions as there are to many random variables. Later in another session on Heinlein, Pournelle reportedly caused a little stir by saying that much of the technology in Heinlein's fiction was already in the public domain and showcased in the 1934 World's Fayre. Meanwhile Larry Niven gave a talk about the need for a space programme as our only defence against a meteorite-caused biosphere calamity.
          Balticons cover mainly books and gaming, with a large art show, filking and masquerade as added bonuses. Science was well catered for beginning with a meet the scientists social gathering. It had solid representation on the programme with both panels and solo presentations on: 'colonizing the Solar system'; 'technology of the orgasm'; 'update on hormone replacement'; 'radiation storm satellite programmes'; 'the Chinese space programme'; 'dinosaur update'; 'environmental atmospheric issues'; 'carbon neutral' (Ed' note: Jonathan thinks they mean 'fossil neutral'); 'is hard science SF the genre's core?'; 'building self-replicating machines'; 'drug development'; 'green buildings'; 'ultrafast lasers'; 'space access'; 'solar system formation'; 'FTL'; 'critical thinking and the scientific method'; 'celebrating the science inventions in Heinlein's writing'; 'cosmological science and common technology'; 'NASA's return to the Moon'; 'Earth history' (biosphere & evolutionary perspective), and 'engineers and scientists discuss the design and building of Ringworld'. This last was in tribute to the principal Guests of Honour. Of the remaining programme there were several items on SFnal aspects of the internet including a few on podcasts.
          There was also the usual nod to fantastic films with a Sunday night mini film fest of 10 shorts as part of the con's annual film competition.

Spain's national convention details recently announced for the autumn. The HispaCon will be held in Seville from the 2nd to the 4th of November 2007.

Dragoncon comes of age and is 21. Dragoncon, now the largest SF convention in the US is 21 and nearly 10 times the Worldcon with over 30,000 attending we've been told. The 21st Dragoncon was held at the end of August/early September coinciding with the Worldcon (Japan) but in Atlanta (Georgia (US)) and so was somewhere for US fans to go without the expense of travel to an overseas Worldcon. Dragoncons are far more media and film orientated than Worldcons (which are more book orientated); though both have elements of each form of SF. There was though a book stream and other book-related items on other tracks, not to mention readings. All were enlivened by a couple of score of guests that were mainly actors, comics artists, comics writers, musicians as well as a dozen authors. Of these last, of note were: L. A. Banks, Susan Kearney, Todd McCaffrey, Jack McDevitt, Mike Resnick, Maggie Shayne, Susan Sizemore, David Weber, Scott Westerield and Timothy Zahn, not to mention non-fiction writers Richard Jaikel (science) and Bob Blackwood (SF film).
          New for this year was that science was split into separate space/astronomy and science tracks thought there were science related items on the main programme such as 'the science of Dune', 'designing the future', and 'science f(r)iction'' (science tropes in SF). There were also a number of technology related items on the 'Electronic Frontiers' track. The Science track featured: 'Skeptics and Skepticism', Georgia Tech (polytechnic/university equivalent) R&D, 'antimatter', 'the James Randi US1m challenge', 'Is it a Ghost - Sceptical reviews', 'mythbusters', 'the hydrogen (economy) myth', 'generation 4 nuclear reactors', 'improbably universes', 'geological frauds', 'weird and unusual science', 'beer snobs in space' (brewing in zero g), and 'transhumanism'. (The afore represents about 90% of the science related items.). The space/astronomy track included items on: space travel, Mars, space commerce, the Sun, the Apollo hoax and other urban legends, viewing space satellites from your back garden, getting into orbit, asteroids, ion drive, Heinlein was wrong, space war, Hubble, Sputnik, Cassini-Huygens, and asteroids and extinctions. A pity that the convention the programme book had to demean sci-philes and amateur astronomer buffs referring to them as 'geek[s}' and 'freak[s]' respectively.

Star Wars 30th anniversary was celebrated by nearly 20,000 fans and through other activities. Back in May the fans gathered for 'Star Wars Celebration IV' a five-day Lucas-film sponsored event. In addition to appearances by Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels, there were clips from the forthcoming animated Star Wars TV show and parts of the rough-cut of the film Fanboys +++ United States Postal Service issued the first of its Star Wars stamps on the day of 'Star Wars Celebration IV'. +++ The Star Wars website www.starwars.com was re-launched. The site includes short fan films including ones, Pink Five, we recommended last year. Feel free to check them out, films two and three get better than the first that outlines the character. +++ Rumour of Star Wars TV films has been denied by a Lucas spokesperson but there are the forthcoming TV series. First there is the CGI animation one and then possibly a live action one for 2009 or 2010. +++ In a profligate waste of resources, NASA is to carry Mark (Luke Skywalker) Hamill's light-sabre prop into space in October.

Star Trek fans set sail from Sydney 4th Nov to New Zealand. The cruise is organised by cruisetrek.com and stops at Melbourne and Tasmania are planned. Apparently some of the New Zealand shore trips will relate to the Lord of the Rings films.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

NET WATCH

CosmosAustralia's popular science magazine serializes a novel on-line. This is possibly the first time that a print magazine has serialised a novel on-line, and certainly in Australia. The novel is by Damien Broderick and Barbara Lamar. Cosmosis a bi-monthly magazine that treats science as a natural part of culture, covering it from many angles: art, design, travel, interviews, humour, history and opinion.

Estonia first nation to be cyber attacked. The summer begins with the World's first cyber attack from one nation (Russia) to another (the Baltic nation of Estonia). The former Soviet-bloc nation has a large Russian minority and there are tensions with Russia with the recently independent Estonia removing former Soviet monuments and so forth. The attack was highly co-ordinated and involved swamping Estonian banks and government sites with such a volume of queries that bona fide queries could not be addressed. +++ Russia (along with the US and Nigeria) is one of the world's centres for cyber scams. One such Russian criminal group managed to obtain 5,000 (reportedly) website passwords from the US web server company DreamHost. Concatenation was one of many sites attacked.

Google blogs used to launch spyware. At the end of August a group posted entries on Google blogs with links that caused those using them to have spyware downloaded onto their PCs. There are some similarities between this and the summer DreamHost attack that affected Concatenation. The group earlier in the year appear to have been the one that sent out messages relating to current news events such as the European rain storms that in turn allowed PC's to be taken over so as to send even more spam. From the number of spam mail resulting this appears to have unfortunately been successful. Blog security will now have to be tightened and this may result in blogs having restricted posting access so undermining their value. (Also see here.)

SF Revu.com is 10 years old. Its anniversary edition came out in June and as usual featured many North American SF and fantasy book reviews.

Noctern Aeternus [Eternal Night] is a new free PDF zine to be launched January 2008. It will feature SF and fantasy stories that have a horror riff. A contribution by Ramsey Campbell is slated for the fist issue. The zine is now open for submissions. See www.michaelknost.com.

SF blog debate makes UK national press. The Guardian Review (7th July, p23) reported the debate that began with Matthew Cheney's blog comment on Jason Sanford's New York Review of SF article 'Dipping Their Toes in the Genre Pool: The US Literary Establishment's Need-Hate Relationship With Speculative Fiction'. Cheney feels that SF readers are imagining their being deliberately sidelined my mainstream litcrits. The Guardian Review quotes: "There's no 'need-hate' relationship, because whatever 'literary establishment' you choose to identify doesn't care enough to either need or hate SF. Get over it!" Meanwhile sfdiplomat.net, among others, provides an interesting remark and link to Cheney ( "http://www.sfdiplomat.net/sf_diplomat/2007/06/links-the-ugly-.html") with a some following comment from others.

Sci Fiction's lingering demise is (almost) over. The Sci Fiction short story fiction website run as part of the Sci-Fi Channel's dot com website is finally being taken down. The website ceased taking new material at the end of 2005, amazingly having just won a Hugo. The site remained up throughout last year (2006) as an archival resource and then an announcement mid-summer said that it would be taken down as of 15th June 2007. However an archival links page still remained though no doubt this will also soon go. +++ SciFi dot com has been developing its TV and film content reflecting the TV channels output. How long SciFi Weekly (the e-magazine' part of the site covering books as well as media SF) remains to be seen, though clearly if the Channel was to continue to increasingly focus its website as it has done then SciFi Weekly is the next part of the operation likely to come under review.

Infinity Plus webzine shuts down. Infinity Plus, the SF short story fiction website, is closing after 10 years.

New version of the 'Nigerian e-mail scam targets leading biomedical researchers. 'Help us by giving us money for a new hospital wing we are building in your name...' type of thing.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Google Sky launched. A team up with Google and NASA now enables Google Earth to have an add-on astronomical program. This will give users the ability to zoom around the night sky and a near-seamless access to images of over one million stars and 200 million galaxies.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

In with the new.... Latest supercomputer launched by IBM. Blue Gene/P is three times more potent than the current fastest machine, IBM's BlueGene/L. It is capable of operating at petaflop speeds -- the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. Around 100,000 times more powerful than a home PC. The first off the line is going to the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory (Illinois). Two further machines are planned for US laboratories and a fourth has been bought by the Great Britain's Research Councils' Daresbury Lab (Cheshire). The cost of the machines exceeds US$100 million (£50 million). +++ Hot on BlueGene L's metaphorical heels is IBM's Roadrunner that will do 1.6 petaflops. There is also Sun's Constellation due that will apparently do 1.7 petaflops. However a prototype for Austin U. (Texas) will only do a paltry third of this.

Out with the old... Britain begins to ditch audio tapes. Currys, one of Britain's major retailer of electronic goods, has announced that it will no longer sell audio cassette tapes or cassette recorders. In 2006 Currys sold just 100,000 tapes compared to its peak year in 1989 when it sold 83 million in the UK. The tape system has been durable having first been developed by Philips in 1963. It is estimated that there are 500 million tapes still in circulation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Compact discs have 25th anniversary. The first CDs were produced exactly a quarter of a century ago at a Phillips factory in Germany: they were jointly developed by Phillips and Sony. More than 200 billion have been sold since. The fist CD produced was 'The Visitors' by Abba. In the last 10 years sales of CDs have declined in favour of digital download: a testimony to technology becoming more transient.

British science moves from DTI to DIUS. British science moves (yet again). Having moved from the Cabinet Office (equivalent to the White House) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) the UK Science Minister will now be in the new Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). From there the Research Councils' budgets will be allocated (this is the Science Base) and a watchful eye (which is about the best that can be said) kept over other Departments science activities and budgets (which is known (other than for the Ministry of Defence)) as Britain's Civil R&D and is meant to be policy driven. (Scotland and Wales also have science budgets but we won't go into that as it all gets a little confusing). The move follows Gordon Brown becoming PM. The move has had a mixed reception from the science community.

Britain has a new Science Minister. Ian Pearson (formerly a junior minister (Minister for Climate Change within the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)) takes over from Malcolm Wicks as Science Minister. Wicks barely got his feet under the table from Lord Sainsbury's near-decade long run as Science Minister (he resigned last autumn (2006). Overall Sainsbury was good for science though, ironically, DEFRA suffered regular budget cuts despite increased science burdens to the point where DEFRA science became a bit of a joke. Ian Pearson has a good track record on climate change, but then he had a following political wind from the Cabinet. How he will do managing all UK's government-funded science remains to be seen. +++ Again this follows Gordon Brown becoming PM and much depends how Brown views science: it was thought by some that Brown at the Treasury had hindered UK environmental and agricultural research at a time when global population pressures would have seen good use of such science. However while the UK (and western Europe) can afford to buy food imports and export environmental externalities, such areas of science are unlikely to get due recognition by economists and accountants.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

The most Earth-like, Earth-like planet found! Barely had our last season's news been posted when the news was announced of a planet only five times Earth's mass (diameter 50% bigger) orbiting a small star just 20.5 light years away. The discovery was made by the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Stephen Udrey, the lead author of the paper announcing the discovery, says that its temperature is probably between 0 and 40 Celsius. The planet's orbital period (year) is only 13 days and the planet is 14 times closer to its star (Gliese 581) than the Earth is to the Sun. Yet as Gliese 581 is smaller and cooler than Sol, so the planet is at a temperature at which water would be liquid. Alison Boyle, the curator of astronomy at London's Science Museum, said: "Of all the planets we've found around other stars, this is the one that looks as though it might have the right ingredients for life." +++ Concat's Jonathan, who is one of two life scientists on the team and who has had a longstanding interest in biospheres and exobiology, also says the life question is interesting. "It is the energy gradient and its top photon value, available to life at a reasonable intensity that is the key to whether we will get anything really interesting (like multicellular animals) and not just the temperature alone. This planet may well be warm and even have liquid water, and so simple life, but will there be light of sufficient energy (Planck's constant times frequency) to enable more complex life and ecosystems? If the atmosphere is in chemical disequilibrium then the chances are that life is perturbing it. If that then somehow life is either using lower energy light and/or light more efficiently than photosynthetic mechanisms on Earth." The point being that were our Earth magically transported to Gliese 581 then our photosynthetic plants would likely die. He added: "So close is this planet to us that spectral observation may give us the answer within a couple of decades. The implications would be profound for the probability for complex life elsewhere."

There could have been a Universe before the Big Bang! Especially if a pre-Big Bang Universe was a foam of quantum fluctuations then no imprint of it would have survived the Bang, says Martin Bojowald's paper in Nature Physics.

A billion light year void in the Universe discovered. For over a decade it has been known that the large structure of the Universe is a bit like foam with sheets of galaxies surrounding voids. (Each major galaxy is around a few million light years apart with minor galaxies closer still. These surround empty bubbles of empty space (voids) tens of millions of light years across.) This new void is far larger than others discovered. It lies in the direction of the Eridanus constellation and is itself some 6 - 10 billion light years away. The void coincides with a cool part of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. The discovery also lends credence to the existence of dark energy (as opposed to dark matter).

Pluto gets demoted again! Further to it it not being a planet it is now found to be smaller than Eris the dwarf plant beyond Pluto discovered in 2003 and formerly known as UB313 (earlier nicknamed Xena). Eris is some 27% heavier than Pluto, is some 9 billion miles (14.5 billion km) from the Sun, has a 560-year year (if you follow our drift...) and a surface temperature of -250 degrees C (23 kelvin). It also has a moon called Dysnomia. It was this moon that enabled Eris' mass to be calculated.

Europe breaks commercial mass-to-orbit record. Early in the summer ESA's Ariane 5, in its heavy lift configuration, lugged 9.4 tonnes to geostationary. The Astra 1L and Galaxy 17 satellites it put in space will deliver TV and other services to Europe and North America.

ESA and NASA have agreed to work on new space telescope and LISA pathfinder. The two agencies will work together on the James Webb Space Telescope (Hubble's replacement due 2013) and LISA Pathfinder (a 2010 precursor to the LISA gravity wave detector). ESA will fund 15% of James Webb's £1.75 billion (US$3.5 billion) budget as well as launch it on Ariane 5. Meanwhile Pathfinder will be developed mainly by Britain's Astrium EADS: the first major (big budget) ESA project lead out of Britain since the Halley comet probe Giotto in the 1980s.

Uranus has rings, so why was not William Herschel believed for two centuries? William Herschel discovered Uranus on 13th March 1781. He naturally went on to sketch the planet and even drew a thin ring. However at that time there were few telescopes used for astronomy as good as Herschel's and, even when there were, nobody else say the rings until 1977. Then the Keck telescope based in Hawaii confirmed their existence. So how come Herschel was disbelieved for so long? The Cassini probe has now revealed that Saturn's rings are currently darkening and expanding. If the same sort of thing happens to Uranus then maybe Herschel was lucky and that astronomers in the late nineteen century and twentieth century were simply unlucky with the rings less visible over that period.

The New Horizons mission to the outer Sol System has provided views following its Jupiter gravity assist. The pictures are great and available from http://pluto.jhuapl.edu. New Horizons was the first probe launched directly towards Jupiter since the Ulysses probe in 1990. ETA Pluto 14th July 2015, hopefully well before tea time (mission controllers need breaks too you know).

The Phoenix mission to Mars is now underway. So called because it is built upon two previously failed NASA Mars missions, this mission has risen from their ashes. The lander (unlike the current Mars rovers) will be stationary and is based on the craft that was to be used for the Mars Surveyor mission in 2001. A number of the science instruments are duplicates of those due to have been used on the Mars Polar Lander that crashed in 1999. If all goes well the Phoenix lander will touchdown in May 2008 near the North Pole. It is thought that there the ice periodically melts and this could interact with the iron-oxide surface geology making it less lethal for life and if there is actual water there, there may perhaps be life itself. However much of the mission is to chart Mars' weather.  +++ Arthur Clarke and Carl Sagan to go with Phoenix to Mars -- see here.

India launches satellite. India's PSLV rocket has put the satellite AGILE into orbit. The launch took place just as Concat was posting last season's news) shortly after Easter on 23rd April. It is India's first commercial launch solely for a foreign spacecraft. Italy's AGILE will measure high-energy gamma radiation and be the first satellite to do so since NASA's Compton Gamma-Tay observatory satellite fell to Earth in 2000. +++ India's PSLV aims for the Moon in 2008. The lunar probe will be Chandrayaan-1.

China launches African satellite. The Nigerian Communication Satellite NIGCOMSAT-1 will provide broadcasting, telecommunications and broadband internet services for Africa. Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, says it is the first time that a foreign buyer has purchased both a Chinese satellite and its launching service. The satellite, launched by a Long March 3-B rocket, is expected to reach its final position later this year and to remain in operation for 15 years. NIGCOMSAT-1 joins the Earth observation satellite NIGSAT-1 which was launched by Russia in 2003. China is expanding its launch services.

Virgin space rocket goes with bang -- Badly. Britain's Virgin Richard Branson's hopes to run a commercial space flight service were set back when SpaceShip Two blew up while the engines were being tested at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California (US). The puzzle is why? The engines are meant to be safer than those used to boost the shuttle during launch and the nitrous oxide involved is fairly stable. Sadly three died. Branson had said he hope for a first commercial flight in 2009. This is also a setback for Burtan Rutan the pioneering US aerospace designer in whom Branson has invested £99 million (US$200 m). +++ Backstory: SpaceShip One had won the X-Prize.

The Greenwich Royal Observatory's planetarium has been re-opened by the Queen. Having been re-built, the planetarium re-opened back in the early summer. Equipped with laser technology unique to Europe, the planetarium is likely to be a big hit. This is all the more so because London's planetarium closed a year ago as its owners (Madame Tussauds, a waxwork exhibitor) said they were in the entertainment business and not education. Conversely the Royal Greenwich Observatory says it is in the educating entertainingly business. The observatory's redevelopment cost £15 million (US$ 30m). The queen opened the observatory and its planetarium, and 'one by one the stars went on'. +++ The Observatory re-opened in time to mark 100 years of British Summer Time. +++ The Observatory, being on the defining zero degrees longitude 'Prime Meridian', was one of the places visited by Eastern Europeans as part of the Anglo-Romanian Fan Fund sponsored Eastern European Science & SF Cultural Exchange's one of two east-to-west visits (reports here and here). (There were two trips made the other way and two International Weeks of Science & SF also organised (reports here and here), all part of bringing east-west European fandom together after the fall of communism regimes.)

NASA pissed and sabotage cock-ups. NASA is looking into two allegations of US astronauts going into space drunk (apparently in one case despite a clinician objecting). Another enquiry is looking into a NASA sub-contractor allegedly deliberately sabotaging a computer for the International Space Station. +++ Former astronaut pleads temporary insanity Lisa Nowak is accused of attempted kidnap, assault and burglary after confronting and air force captain who she believed was a love rival for a space shuttle pilot. If convicted she may face life imprisonment.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

NATURAL SCIENCE

Artificial gecko stick with four times the natural power has been made. The reusable sticky tape has carbon nano-tubes that act using van der Waals' forces (weak inter-atomic attraction). The tubes penetrate tiny cracks on a surface and the forces do the rest. These super post-it note type strips are very powerful. 1 square cm can support nearly 4 kg! (Proceedings of the (US) National Academy of Sciences v104, p10,792-95).

Native American DNA has turned up in Blighty. American Indian DNA has been found in two British citizens: Doreen Isherwood, 64, from Putney, and Anne Hall, 53, of Huddersfield. Indigenous Americans were brought over to the UK as early as the 1500s as curiosities and in delegations during the 18th century to petition the British imperial government over trade or protection from other tribes. It is likely that some stayed and married into local communities.

Snuppy and Bona to mate. South Korean researchers are trying to get the dog Snuppy and bitch Bona -- the World's first cloned canines -- to mate to test their reproductive capabilities.

Word's first attempt to treat sight problems with gene therapy. Robert Johnson was operated on at Moorfields Eye Hospital. The treatment is being used to address Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), a type of inherited degeneration of the retina, caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene that controls production of an enzyme responsible for the recycling of retinol, a chemical necessary for capturing light. The copies of the gene were directly injected behind the retina. It will be a few months before it is known whether this will work though animal trials have been very promising.

Parkinson's gene therapy shows promise. A preliminary gene therapy trial has demonstrated improved brain function for those with Parkinson's disease (that causes neuronal decay and reduced levels of the neurotransmitter GABA). A gene important for GABA production was spliced into a virus and injected into the affected part of the brain. Only 12 patients were involved as this was a preliminary trial to demonstrate safety rather than degrees of efficacy. No patient suffered an adverse reaction and function was improved. (Lancet v369, p2097-2105).

The US Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) may prevent 'Bare New World' but gets stormy ride. As we get close to our seasonal posting we don not know the outcome as to whether GINA will get through the Senate (it made it through Congress back in April). The Act will make it illegal for employers or insures to use genetic information as a basis for hiring, insurance coverage or firing decisions. Senator Tom Coburn (Republican, Oklahoma) is currently blocking it. Coburn says he wants the detail to be just right. He says that the Bill's definitions of genetic tests are not the same in different parts of the Bill. He also wants changes that would make it harder in some instances for employees to sue employers who may use genetic information in employment decisions.

Global pandemics worry the UN World Health Organization.This is the message from WHO annual World Health Report who call for greater international political collaboration to address the potential problem. It points out that since 1967 at least 39 new pathogens have been identified including: HIV, Ebola, Marburg and SARS. Meanwhile golden oldies, such as influenza and tuberculosis, remain. Influenza is described as the most feared threat to health security in our times. For further information see www.who.int. +++ And this from WHO over a year after it is dropped from Concatenation's occasional New Year prediction list.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

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.

Prador Moon by Neal Asher, Tor (UK), hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-230-5-3131-4.
Part of the 'Polity' space opera series. The Prador are crablike vicious aliens who are out to crush the Polity. A soldier and a technician combine to try to stop a Pardor warship from frying a Polity planet.

Resplendent: Destiny's Children 4 by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7935-9.
Click on the title link for the review of the hardback edition. Far future series of connected short stories in the best tradition of space opera. Recommended. (Stand alone reviews of some other Stephen Baxter titles elsewhere on this site include: Coalescent, Origin, Moonseed, Space, Time, Titan, Traces, Transcendent and Vacuum Diagrams.)

H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter, Faber, trdpbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-571-2-3279-6.
One for teenagers. Set in 1962 and it is the height of the Cold War. Internationallay things are on edge and everyone fears a possible nuclear conflict. Meanwhile a 14 year old girl is on the run from mysterious agents who need her to fight for the future of mankind....

Critical by Robin Cook, Macmillan, hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-405-0-9129-9.
Medical techno-drama that borders on SF: the staple from Robin Cook. This time a medic notices a surge of antibiotic resistant bacteria in three local hospitals. Such infections take out some key business man. Is this all coincidence? If you like Cook's formula (unethical bioscience with nefarious goings on) then you will enjoy this.

Pandora's Sisters by Michael Stephen Fuchs, Macmillan, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-230-0-1828-0.
Another missed from the summer as it is being promoted as a technothriller, yet has enough SF tropes to engender genre appeal. Kate, a young Brit ex-pat is working in Silicon Valley when she meets behavioural geneticist Helen. Unlucky as soon both are embroiled in a mystery and on the run from religious zealots who are after a stretch of DNA known as the Pandora Sequence. It holds a secret of the human condition. Fuchs lives in London but has a dungaree from Virginia U. (US) so is well placed to provide transatlantic appeal.

Darkest Days by Stanley Gallon, Pan Macmillan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-230-0-1599-9.
A technothriller bordering on SF with Air Force One crashing killing the President while a nuclear device triggers the Yellowstone super-volcano that in turn leads to a global volcanic winter. As economies collapse around the World there is a dash to grab natural resources. Martial law is imposed in the US as a right-wing President orders nuclear strikes on terrorist nations. This couldn't happen could it...?

Stealing Light by Gary Gibson, Tor (UK), hdbk/trdpbk, £16.99/£10.99. ISBN 978-0-230-7-0040-6 / 978-1-405-0-9189-3.
It is the 25th century and the Shoal (who are known to be ruthless when needed) have faster-than-light (FTL) drive and so control trade and exploration in the Galaxy. Mankind now colonises a few planets through using Shoal services. The Shoal themselves are nervous and are shifting their home-world away from the Galactic Centre and possibly away from the Galaxy's concentration of stars: could it be that uncommonly frequent nova in the Magallenic Clouds are freaking them out? However a derelict starship with what is hoped an FTL of non-Shoal origin is found. The Shoal naturally do not want anyone developing rivalling FTL. This is the first book in the 'Light' sequence and two more are to follow. (Click on the title link for the review this book and on the following links for a review of Gary Gibson's earlier Against Gravity. Stealing Light is the third novel from this Scottish author. Lucky (or unlucky old Gibson) there as well as the review of this novel with this posting, there will be another with our next season posting up sometime early in the New Year.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton, Tor (UK), hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-1-405-0-8880-0.
At the centre of the interstellar commonwealth there is an artificial black hole wherein there lies another universe with different physics. 4,000AD and emigrants decide to go to this new universe but other star faring races fear that adding further to this black hole will cause it to expand further and ultimately devour the Galaxy. This is the first in the void trilogy and at 600 pages Hamilton remains an author for those readers who like their fiction chunky.

Nova Swing by M. John Harrison, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7969-4.
One for those into more 'literary' SF. As such it is rated very highly.

Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, Hodder & Stoughton, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-340-8-3751-1.
We reported on this coming out back in 2004 and it is part of this pair's 'Dune' spin-off series: possibly the last two stories. This duo also have been mining the late Frank Herbert's attic above his garage to come up with a lost Dune story in 2005. Yet there was also material in a bank vault to go through and apparently it is this that provided the plot outline for 'Sandworms'.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers, Harper Collins, £11.99. ISBN 978-0-007-1-8228-2.
This one is for our site visitors with young children (rather it is for the young children). A delightful space travel story.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8198-7.
A reprint of 1954 science fantasy classic about the lone survivor of a global pandemic the symptoms of which resemble vampirism. Click on the title link for a review. This will come out in December to coincide with the release of the Hollywood film. We have a link to the trailer for this film elsewhere on this page.

Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7935-9.
A satire and thriller set in an alternate USA in 1984. McAuley has been consistently above-average for many years. Never quite classic SF but each new book is a fair bet to be a thumping good read. (Stand alone reviews of other Paul McAuley titles on this site include: Pasquale's Angel, Red Dust, The Secret of Life and White Devils.)

Black Man by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07813-8.
Tony rates this very highly but warns not to expect an easy tide. Click on the title link for his review.

SFWA European Hall of Fame edited by James & Kathryn Morrow, Tor (US), ISBN 978-0-765-3-1536-X.
As you know we do not usually plug non-European English-language SF titles, let alone provide a retrospective mention, unless they are a little special. This one is, even though we have not actually seen it ourselves. (Thank you Angel for alerting us.) It is an anthology that came out over the summer of 16 SF stories from continental Europe translated into English and so a very rare glimpse of the genre from our continental cousins. This volume has sixteen recent Science Fiction stories and includes contributions from writers such as: Valerio Evangelisti (Italy), Sergei Lukyanenko (Russia) , Portuguese João Barreiros (Portugal), José Antonio Cotrina (Spain), a joint offering from Ricard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero (Spain), and Andreas Eschbach (Germany). Even though we have not seen it (yet), this is such a singular opportunity for Anglophones to read such a collection of foreign SF we unhesitatingly recommend it. Eurocon regulars also get the chance to see the works of those with whom they sup from Bacchus' cup, and so for them this is a double treat.

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7984-7.
An Reynolds anthology set in his 'Revelation Space' universe. Tony really likes Reynolds and views him as the best new SF writer of the 21st century. Click on the title link to see Tony's review.

The Liberty Gun by Martin Sketchley, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0743-4-6846-6.
The third in his current space opera series.

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers, Orbit, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-841-4-9615-3.

The Family Trade by Charles Stross, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-5193-2.
This is the first book of the 'Merchant Princes' series. Miriam works for a magazine but finds that there is money being laundered. Yet when she goes to her editor she is fired on the spot and, as if things were not bad enough, receives a death threat from the money-laundering criminals. Before the day is over she receives a pendant that used to belong to her long dead mother. Its engraved patterns create a hypnotic effect and she is transported to a parallel Earth. This world still has knights on horseback but they use automatic weapons. It is a world where assassins go to parallel Earths and is the world of her true family who happen to be rather big wigs... Now this descriptor makes it look as if this is a bit of a pot boiler, but remember Stross does like a large canvass on which to portray a rich and exotic picture. He is also the author of the acclaimed Singularity Sky and the 2006 Hugo nominated Accelerando (of which a second review is here: though it did not win the Hugo it was one of the hot hard SF nominations in 2006).

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge, Tor (UK), pbk, £6.99. ISBN: 978-0-330-4-5194-4.
This came out back in the later summer. We cited it with last season's newscast and do so again as it was nominated for a Hugo as well as an (arguably these days more important) 'Locus' Award which it won, and so will still be in the shops in the run-up to Christmas.   In the near future (2025) a recovering Alzheimer's patient, rejuvenated, convalesces with his son's family. However though younger he has no memory of recent years and so has to learn back at a school with former-oldsters and under-achieving youngsters as to how to live life in the 2020s. In this near-future the boundary between reality and cyberspace is blurred, but the technology can be subverted and our protagonist slowly becomes entangled in a conspiracy... If you only get two SF books this autumn for Christmas, make sure that this is one of them. (The US edition came out last year from Tor (US).) +++ Click on the title link for a full stand-alone review elsewhere on this site. +++ It has just won a Hugo Award.

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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Shout for the Dead by James Barclay, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7982-3.
The sequel to Cry of the Newborn and the final in the duology.

Mr B. Gone by Clive Barker, Harper Voyager, hdbk, £15.00. ISBN 978-0-007-2-6261-8.
If you did not know it, Barker is a master at supernatural horror. This tale is depicted as if written in 1438 (presumably early afternoon) by Johannes Gutenburg's assistant. Gutenburg, of course, was one of the early inventors of the printing press with removable type. (Stand alone reviews of other Clive Barker books on this site include: Abarat, Abarat II: Days of Magic, Nights of War , Coldheart Canyon and Galilee.)

Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman, Random House, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0--385-6-1043-8.
Horror from an author popular with teenage readers.

Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7948-9.
The first in the Kingdom of the Serpent trilogy.

God is Dead by Ron Currie, Picador, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-5287-8.
God descends to Earth as a Sudanese woman. Unfortunately for the cosmos she then dies in Darfur. Yet the World carries on, but somehow different... This is the author's debut book and is billed as a cross between Jonathan Swift, Chuck Palahniuk and Kurt Vonnegut. It came out at the end of the summer but is being currently marketed as mainstream. It may well, though, gather quite some appeal in genre circles.(?)

Fallowblade by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tor (UK), hdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-405-0-9008-7.
The finale to the Crowthistle saga. The kings of the southern realm have gathered a huge army to take the Four Kingdoms. Can betrayed Tir stand in their way? Alas a new danger that threatens all of humanity is stirred...

Weatherwitch by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tor (UK), pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-3303-7.
The third in the Crowthistle saga.

Fatal Revenant by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7600-6.
Classic fantasy and (for our site visitors who have come to genre reading only in recent years) if you do not know the author then do check this out! This is book 2 of the 'Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant' and follows on from The Runes of Earth. If you do go back a quarter of a century you will recall that between 1977 and 1983 Donaldson wrote six volumes of 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant'. All were hits and, for example, each were The Sunday Times number one bestsellers: a first for a fantasy author. He has sold 3.5 million copies of his books in the UK alone and around three times this globally. Jump forward two decades and in 2004 Thomas Covenant returned with the first instalment of 'Book 2' of the Chronicles. This novel, Fatal Revenant is the second and final part of 'Book 2'. This second part alone is over 700 pages, so in addition to being part of a best-selling sequence you get a sturdy page count. (The advance publicity gives a page count of 896 pages, though we have been sent and uncorrected pre-publication promo-proof copy so depending on the font and line spacing you might expect a weightier tome.) If intimidated by not having read the first in the sequence then fear not, there are a dozen pages in an introductory section explaining what has gone before. As said this is part of a proverbial classic fantasy. Though a busy chappy, we hope to have a review with our next seasonal upload by our Thomas Covenant expert. +++ Stephen Donaldson is signing in London at the end of October.

Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-552-1-5348-5.

Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-749-9-3846-8.
The paperback edition of the latest in the Dark Carpathian sequence.

Into A Dark Realm by Raymond Feist, Voyager, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-007-1-3379-6.
The paperback edition.

Iron Hand by Charlie Fletcher, Hodder, hdbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-0-340-9-1164-8.
London's statues come to life in this sequel to Stoneheart. So now it's war!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Roth Fuss, Gollancz, trd pbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8138-3.
This is a debut book for a new author as first in a series - the King Killer Chronicles. It is about a musical thief who is also a mage. As such he is able to slay dragons and hire himself out as an assassin.

Ilario by Mary Gentle, Gollancz, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8041-6.
Set half a century earlier this is the prequel to Ash.

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams, Chicken House, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-905-2-9442-8.
A title for younger readers that follows the escapades of a father and son whose absorption with tunnelling leads them to a new universe. It could also turn into a big film?

Dead Sexy by Kate Hallaway, review, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-755-3-3657-9.
The publisher says that this is not 'Chic Lit' but 'Chic Bit'...

The Mistral's Kiss by Laurell K. Hamilton, Bantam, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-553-8-1815-4.
This is the 5th in the Mary Gentry series.

Blue Moon by Lori Handeland, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-5129-1.
This is part of another US series of paranormal books of the type that seem to have been inspired by 'Buffy' and which now are re-printed over here. Lori Handeland is the latest to get the treatment and her series is modern fantasy romance. Blue Moon police officer Jessie Wade stumble across what might be were wolf murders. Can it be...? (Handeland has won a PRISM award for dark paranormal romance.)

Hunter's Moon by Lori Handeland, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-5130-7.
Once in love with someone who turned out to be a werewolf (men, huh) Leigh Tyler now lives to hunt them down like the dogs they are... But another wolf is on the prowl that will have a bigger impact on her life. More dark fantasy romance from Handeland. N.B. This should not be confused with Hunter's Moon by David Devereux that came out from Gollancz in the summer and which we listed as forthcoming last season.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7923-6.
The first in a series in which the protagonist can sense the dead.

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0575-0-8043-0.
Telepathic heroine and shape changer brother.

The Poisoned Crown by Amanda Hemmingway, Voyager, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-007-1-5391-6.
This is the final part of the Sangreal trilogy.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-3218-5.
When Dickensian, young brothel-worker, Molly witnesses a brutal murder her first reaction is to run back to the orphanage she left. However there she finds everyone butchered and realises that perhaps she was the target... This came out earlier in the year as a hardback.

Everything's Eventual (1408) by Stephen King, Hodder, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-340-9-5206-1.
Horror from the grandest living master. (Stand alone reviews of other Stephen King books on this site include: Bag of Bones, Black House, Cell, The Dark Tower Vol.7, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, Dream Chaser, Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Song of Susannah, Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4 and Wolves of the Calla.)

Virus by Sarah Langhan, Headline, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-755-3-3374-5.
She wrote The Keeper and apparently has been likened to Stephen King...

Friday Night in the Beast House by Richard Layman, headline, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-775-3-3765-1.
The last in the horror 'Beasthouse' sequence.

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7967-0.
This is the follow-up to The Lies of Locke Lamora that Sue Griffiths hugely enjoyed. Click on the title link to see her review.

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier, Tor (UK), hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-1-405-05205-4.
This novel for teenagers ('young adults' as they are euphemistically called) is the sequel to Wildwood Dancing. School pupil Paula goes to Istanbul with her dad to purchase an ancient artefact known as Cybele's Gift. She also wants to rediscover the other realm she and her (now lost) sister visited when younger.

Dragon's Fire by Anne and Todd McCaffrey, Corgi, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-552-1-5348-5.
More in the lengthy Pern series of dragon science-fantasy novels but now Todded up with Anne's son.

Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, Oxford University Press, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-192-7-2621-6.
This is the paperback edition of the 'official' sequel to Peter Pan and it is having a big promotion before Christmas with a slip cased edition also coming out as well as editions of Peter Pan. We will never grow up.

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Montague with David Roberts (illustrator), Bloomsbury, trd pbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-0-747-5-8922-8.
Gothic tales reminiscent of Poe and Grimm but for younger readers.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-0-072-1911-7.
Paperback re-issue of the Locus Award-winning novel. Click on the above title link for Concat's review.

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-5872-7.
Sequel to above and a reprint. Click on the above title link for Concat's review.

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-2-1917-9.
Sequel to above and a reprint.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett, Doubleday, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-6-1101-5
We gave ultra early notice of this coming out last season but as it is only on the shelves this autumn we mention it as we should now. Making Money follows on from Going Postal but now Discworld has to sort out its currency as it has no banknotes. Apparently reading Wintersmith first is also advised for Pratchett regulars. We don't normally review Pratchett as he is already widely read but the publishers seem to be pushing this one more than usual. Click on the title link for Graham's stand-alone review. +++ There will be a London signing in October.

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, Corgi Children's, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-552-5-5369-8.
A tale for kids from Discworld in a reprint paperback edition. Having said that, it apparently in part paves the way for Making Money above which may explain this reprint's timing.

The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly, Macmillan, hdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-1-405-0-4097-6.
This modern (Indiana Jones type) fantasy continues the story from Seven Ancient Wonders. Jack West and colleagues has proved that the World is in mortal danger. Now the six legendary diamonds must be set in their proper places across the globe if disaster is to be avoided. The trouble is they only have riddles left behind by long-dead philosophers to guide them.

Blood Brothers by Nora Robert, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-749-9-3843-7.
Dark fantasy romance. First in the Sign of Seven trilogy.

End Game by Andy Seacombe, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-3988-5.
When the Devil gatecrashes a launch party God has decided to have, nobody thought the result would be in a wager being laid, let alone the consequences that that would have.

Vampirates III: Blood Captain by Justin Somper, Simon & Schuster, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-416-9-0102-0.
The third in a rollicking series for teenagers.

Mr Bliss by J. R. R. Tolkein, HarperCollins, hdbk, £12.99.
A much awaited children's story from sword and sorcery fantasy's grandmaster. Actually this is out this October in several editions and not just the £12.99 hardback. If you are catching this early on in the autumn (2007) and you are a serious collector then bear in mind there is also an illustrated cloth-bound edition you might want to rush to order.

Lover Awakened by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-749-9-3823-9.
Book three in the Black Dagger Brotherhood sequence.

Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward, Piatkus, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-749-9-3848-2.
Book five in the Black Dagger Brotherhood sequence.

The Quest by Wilbur Smith, Macmillan, trdpbk, £10.99, ISBN 978-1-405-0-0581-4.
Set in ancient Egypt during a series of terrible plagues, matters are trumped by the Nile drying up, Something has happened deep in Africa at the river's source. The Pharaoh decides to send Taita -- who is reputed to have magical powers -- to sort matters out. Wilbur Smith, at over 70, has written over 30 novels that draw upon his experiences from extensive travels.

The Doomsday Machine by Catherine Webb, Atom, hdbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-1-905-6-5400-0.
A fantasy teenage read in the Horatio Hornblower style of adventures.

The Wizard by Gene Wolfe, Gollancz, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8025-6.
The latest paperback from the popular author of literary style fantasy.

The Fade by Chris Wooding, Gollancz, trdpbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7699-0.
Wooding's The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray has done well.

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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Extinctionary by Anonymous, Think Books, hdbk, £20.00. ISBN 978-1-845-2-5046-1.
This is a compendium of extinct animals and plants and those that are on the brink. Extinction is a driver of speciation hence evolution and so important biologically (even if we were not right slap bang in the middle of a global mass extinction at the moment).

Tricks of the Mind by Darren Brown, Channel 4 Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-1905-0-2635-7.
Psychological magic. The closest thing you're likely to get to ESP and other phenomena with Darren Brown's use of psychology and magic (in the conjurer's sense). Hugely recommended. Seek out his DVD's and you can also find bits of him for free on YouTube.

The Never Ending Days of Being Dead by Marcus Chown, Faber, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-571-2-2056-4.
This curiously titled book is apparently about cutting-edge science and is entertainingly told. Certainly Chown is well-known for his coverage of science in New Scientist.

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown, Faber, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-571-2-3545-2.
Promises, promises. Apparently you live longer on the ground floor of a skyscraper than on the top... but we thought that Albert said that this was all relative. Nonetheless this is an entertaining read and a good introduction to the subjects of quantum theory and relativity.

Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects by Jonathan Cowie, Cambridge University Press, trd pbk / hdbk, c. £ 27.99 / £65.00 (prices to be confirmed). ISBN 13-978-0-521-6-9619-7 / 978-0-521-8-7399-4.
OK, so this is written by one of the team. At 500 pages it is quite big. Although it is an introductory text for university students on biology, geology, geography and human ecology courses, anyone with a school-level knowledge of science can find out the key evidence behind whether or not global warming is happening and what has happened in the past (both in human history and over geological time). The future longevity of fossil fuels (irrespective of climate) is also discussed. (It should be noted that the author's 1998 book, Climate and Human Change: Disaster or Opportunity?, had the same thesis as the conclusion to last year's (2006) Stern Report commissioned by the UK Treasury.)   The author was for many years responsible for science policy at the Institute of Biology (UK). Spectacular cover photo by fan Pete Tyers. Camb' U. Press have distribution operations in N. America and Australasia as well as Europe -- each linked off their main website. +++ Jonathan says: Advance copies of the book came out before Britain's July floods (and the manuscript handed in to CUP earlier still) yet the book does predict such events -- see extract! It was also before the Channel 4 Dispatches programme 'The Great Green Smoke Screen' that blew the lid on current carbon-offsetting businesses -- see another extract. +++ Latest news: the hardback edition sold out the month of publication and has had to be reprinted. A new supply was available September but (presumably with students returning to college) a run then began on the paperback. Apparently (as there is no hard data on this) the appeal may be because the book can be read by those who have a science background but who are not climate or biosphere scientists.

Life, in Pictures by Will Eisner, Norton, hdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-393-0-6107-9.
Eisner died just a few years ago (2005). He is of course remembered for being credited with inventing the graphic novel. This autobiography is a fundamental necessity for all seasoned comics fans.

Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science by John Grant, Facts, Figures and Fun, hdbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-904-3-3273-2.
Corrupted Science introduces the world of fraud and deception rather than the gentler realms of mistake and ignorance, as in Grant's previous title Discarded Science - Ideas that Seemed Good at the Time. It seems to be hardwired into the human brain that people in general believe what they're told by other people, but this vulnerability in our social structure is of course exploited alike by the hoaxer, the forger, the con artist, the trickster, the prankster, the dissembling politician, the religious fundamentalist, the television evangelist, the propagandist, and the straightforward liar - all of them intent on corrupting science. This hardback is paperback sized and at under a tenner excellent value.

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking, Doubleday, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-385-6-1181-7.
A fun adventure book for kids packed with science facts and illustrated with photographs.

One to Nine: The Meaning of Numbers by Andrew Hodges, Short Books, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-904-9-775-9.
This is 'maths with soul' says the advance marketing.

Why Don't Spiders Stick to Their Webs? And other Everyday Mysteries of Science by Robert Matthews, One World, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978--1--851-68551-6.
Includes advice on which properties to buy when playing Monopoly and why sauce is difficult to get out of a bottle.

Space: The First 50 Years by Patrick Moore & H. J. P. Arnold, Mitchell Beazley, hdbk, £25. ISBN 978-1-845-3-3319-5.
Yes, this 4th October it is 50 years ago since something manmade left the atmosphere to go into Orbit. Since then we've been flinging junk further into space and this book celebrates it all. Stunningly illustrated (Arnold is an expert in space photography) and enthusiastically told by that populariser of astronomy Patrick Moore. Recommended coffee table book cum reference work.

'Dr Who' Encyclopaedia by Garry Russell, BBC Books, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-1-405-9-0356-1.
This includes facts from the 2007 season and is illustrated with photos.

Cosmos: A Journey to the Beginning of Time and Space by Giles Sparrow, Quercus, hdbk, £25. ISBN 978-1-847-2-4125-2.
This is literally a spectacular account of a photon's 13.7 billion year journey between the edge of the Universe and planet Earth. ('Spectacular', 'photon'... Oh, suit your self.) This is superbly illustrated with 450 pictures within large format pages. Marvellous. Almost worth the 13.7 billion year wait.

Earth: The Biography by Iain Stewart & John Lunch, BBC Books, hdbk, £20. ISBN 978--0-563-5-3914-8.
Based on the 5 one-hour long series of BBC documentary programmes. Recommended as a background book for non-geologists or palaeobiologists.

Avoid Boring People: And Other Lessons From a Life in Science by James D. Watson, Oxford University Press, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-192-8-0273-6.
You can take this title two ways: stay clear of boring people or do not bore people. Either way this is the co-discoverer of DNA's structure giving advice in a biographical way.
+++ There will be a book signing Friday October 19th 12.30 - 14.00 at the Wellcome Collection, 215 Euston Rd, London.
+++ There will be a talk at the Science Museum IMAX cinema, Kensington, London, on Friday 19th October starting 18.30. This is free but tickets must be booked. Call 020 7942 4040.
+++ There will be a signing at Barter Books, Alnwick Station, 12.00-13.30 on Sunday 21st October.
+++ There will be a talk at the Centre for Life, Times Sq, Newcastle. Tickets £5. Call 0191 243 8210 to book.
+++ There will be a talk at the Assembly Hall, 1 Mound Pl, Edinburgh, on Monday 22nd October at 18.00. Details www.ed.ac.uk. Free but we think you have to book.
+++ There will be a discussion at the Union Society Debating Chamber, Bridge St, Cambridge at 19.30 on Tuesday 23rd October. Tickets £5 available only from the Ground Floor Cash Desk, 20 Trinity St.
+++ There will be a talk chaired by Richard Dawkins at the Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford, on Wednesday 24th October at 19.00. Tickets £3 from the Customer Services Dept, Blackwells Bookshop, 50 Broad St, Oxford.

Don't forget for you or a friend for Christmas -- Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, £8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. Also now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). +++ Signed copies... Brian at Porcupine now has a score or so signed copies by the authors. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. 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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Summer 2007

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

Dr Who: The Official Annual 2008 (by anonymous), BBC Children's Books £6.99. ISBN 978-1-405-9-0355-4.
Need any more be said? (See also forthcoming science fact and non-fiction SF for the Who encyclopaedia.)

The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' (by anonymous), Rough Guides, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-843-5-3920-9.
Timed to come out with and includes coverage of the film version of The Golden Compass.

Transformers: The Movie Guide (by anonymous), Dorling Kindersley, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-405-3-2039-9.
DK has good production standards. Bound to be well illustrated. ('Good production standards'...'bound'.... Oh never mind.)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Headline, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-755-3-3751-4.
The book of the film. Gaiman has come a long, long way since his comic-strip script-writing days with 2000AD. The film stars Ricky Gervais, Peter O'Toole, Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Beowulf by Caitlin Kiernan, Bantam, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-553-8-1937-3.
This is the novelization of the film of the legend starring John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins (the film not the legend).

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8198-7.
This will come out in December to coincide with the release of the Hollywood film starring Will Smith. It is, of course, a reprint of 1954 science fantasy classic about the lone survivor of a global pandemic the symptoms of which resemble vampirism. Click on the title link for a review. We have a link to the trailer for this film elsewhere on this page.

Halo: Ghosts of the Onyx by Eric Nylund, Macmillan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-4-4511-5.
The Spartan-II 'program' (sic) of super soldiers is out in the open, and Earth needs to defend itself against the Covenant. The planet Onyx is practically uninhabited and so the perfect place to advance secret plans but dormant powers slumber on Onyx that had better not be disturbed, This is Nylund's third 'Halo' story.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

SELECTED RECENT DVD RELEASES

Arnold Schwarzennegger Box Set £29.50 from Fox. Features Predator, Terminator and Conan The Barbarian plus the non-genre Commando.

Bad Boy Bubby £15.99 from Eureka. More speculative fiction than SFnal, the premise here is that a son has been kept locked up in a house for 30 years under the premise that the outside world is poisonous: the mother leaves the house wearing a gas mask. When he does escape the real world is there to discover. This version is the first uncut release.

Danger: Diabolik £10.99 from Paramount. By the same producer (Dino Del Laurentiis) and in the same year (1967) Barbarella came out, this Italian/French film very much has a similar comic-book romp feel to it. It does though have a slightly darker edge provided by director Mario Bava (who also contributed to the screenstory). This is somewhat of a cult offering for fantastic film buffs. A masked, leather-clad master criminal gets up to all sorts of japes, including becoming very popular by destroying Italy's tax records. The press conference given by a pompous Minister (Terry Thomas) who succumbs to laughing gas is a hoot.

Danger Man (Special Edition) £59.99 (note: prices vary on this) from Network. 13 disc set of all 86 episodes, in broadcast order, of John Drake's UN spy adventures (before he attempted to resign...). A black & white classic. There are extras too, including an excellent value book and PDFs of the scripts! +++ Network are due to release a set of The Prisoner in October and it is hoped that a similar standard of bonuses will mean that fans which get this as the definitive DVD version.

Forbidden Plant: 50th Anniversary Special Edition, £16.99 from Warner. This is the 50th anniversary special edition, which presumably makes it far better than the mundane 50th anniversary edition! This is such a classic that we are not even going to say what it is about save that if by chance you have never seen this classic of SF cinema then either go out and get this now or keep very, very quiet about this omission in your life, that is if you have any pretence of having the slightest interest in the genre. An uncompromising comment, yes, but so, so true...

The Fountain £19.99 from Fox. This science-in-film award winning Darren Aronofsky production has had considerable art-house film acclaim. Click on the title link to see the plot outline that revolves around the theme of a quest for immortality. The directing has nods to Stanley Kubrick and Ken Russell. Stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. DVD extras include a quick look at what might have been had the big budget version (with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) not been cancelled.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society £19.99 from Manga. This is the third in the series and the follow-up to Ghost in the Machine: Man/Machine Interface (2002) so they are taking their time with this cult series instead of succumbing to the temptation of churning them out; though of course there have been two spin-off TV series along the way. If you have not come across these then the stories concern the Section 9 police operation that deals with crime-related technology. Some members of the force are, appropriately enough, bionicly enhanced. The development of AIs (artificial intelligence) and the human implications of new technology has been a recurring theme in the series, which itself has been very influential including on some of the imagery used in the original The Matrix film. In this film there is a rash of exotic incidents and it looks like an ultra hacker could be behind them.

The Hogfather 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (for Sky One). This is Terry Pratchett's excellent Discworld tale (for grown ups) about a power struggle through an attempt to rid the world of the Hog Father (for which read Father Christmas) by removing children's belief. Fortunately an unlikely hero Death steps in as the Hog Father is all part of the cosmic balance to which Death is fundamental. Now, those of you who saw the Sky One premiere last Christmas will be aware that that broadcast was deliberately clipped a few seconds before and after advert breaks (among other possible nefarious machinations) so as to ensure that Pratchett fans would buy this DVD: not that Sky One viewers have already paid a subscription... Some say that broadcasting the film straight would have been fair to their subscribers and that lacing the DVD with added extras would be a more honest draw to purchasing this DVD. If you really must buy this version then our advice is to wait a year for the price to tumble. (Terry's already been paid and do you really want to encourage Sky's management?)

Jekyll: Series 1 £21.99 from the BBC (and US$29.98 in the States). This is a modern take on Robert Louis Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and is actually extremely brilliant (especially when it could easily have been so bad). The mini-series' excellence is due to the superb and intelligent re-imagining by Steven Moffat (who has also done a few of the recent Dr Who scripts) and James Nesbitt's acting. The series came out in the UK back in June and in BBC America in August.

Life on Mars - Series 2 £39.99 from Contender. The second and final season of the series (not counting the squeezing-the-concept-for-all-its-worth spin-off series). This is a fun show contrasting early 21st century Brit Cit policing with that of the racist, homophobic, yet no nonsense, 1970s approach to law and order. The ending -- in case you missed it and is a factor in your purchasing -- is satisfying from a 'science fantasy' point of view but, despite the SF trope at its core, is wholly illogical and unimaginative from a 'hard SF' perspective. This is one of those series whose plot vehicle (out of place in another time) sustains the viewer rather than its rationale which is bollocks and full of illogicalities.

The Return £17.99 from Universal. Light horror starring Michelle (Buffy) Gellar who finds her hometown a little creepy. The film is sufficiently light that those not normally into horror may enjoy it. The tense atmosphere may perhaps sustain seasoned horror buffs who otherwise might find this offering a little tame.

Sunshine from Fox, £19.99. From Danny (28 Days Later) Boyle (again with Alex Garland) this is a visually spectacular film that vividly portrays the cabin-fever likely to dog a long-term space mission. There is much to commend this offering but hard SF buffs will be severely disappointed by its science basis which is sheer hokum: that a Manhattan-sized nuclear device is needed to re-start part of the Sun's fusion processes. +++ Apparently one of the DVD's extras is an alternate ending (something that also happened at the end (after the credits) of 28 Days Later.

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect in 2007, 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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

R.I.P.

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

Lloyd Alexander, the fantasy writer, has died aged 83. Among his works are the American Book Award winner Westmark (1981), and National Book Award winner The Marvellous Misadventures of Sebastian (1970). He received a Life Achievement World Fantasy Award in 2003. His final novel, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, came out in the summer.

Clifton Amsbury the US fan has died. He was one of the founders of the Science Correspondence Club that was one of the first formal ways for fans to communicate.

Alice Borchardt US fantasy author (and nurse), has died aged 67. (Her sister is Anne Rice.)

F. Anthony (Tony) Dahlen the US geoscientist, has died aged 64. He contributed significantly to seismology ultimately leading the way for eigenfrequencies be used for seismic tomography. His work also allowed Raffaella Montelli to image lower mantle convecting plumes in 2003 (which combined with tectonic motion explained the shape of archipelagos such as Hawaii). His (co-authored with a former student) textbook Theoretical Global Seismology (1998) has been influential.

Walter J. Daugherty the North American SF fan, has died aged 89. He was chair of the organising committee for the 1946 Worldcon.

Roger Elwood, the US commissioning editor, died early in the year aged 64. He worked on around 70 SF anthologies that some estimate accounted for a quarter of the US anthology market in the 1960s.

Brian Finch the British TV scriptwriter has died in his early 70s. Among his scripts were episodes of Captain Scarlet and The Tomorrow People. He was also a ghost writer for the Beatles.

John Gardner, the British writer, has died aged 80. He wrote 14 official James Bond continuations and also some novels featuring Sherlock Holmes nemesis Prof. Moriarty.

Elizabeth Gross the US fan has died in her mid-60s. She caught a cold at the Wiscon SF convention and this turned to pneumonia. She was known for running conventions.

Curtis Harrington the US film director has died. His pictures include Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (this last under the pseudonym John Sebastian) and Queen of Blood. He also directed TV episodes of Wonder Woman, Tales of the Unexpected and the 1987 run of The Twilight Zone.

Joe L. Hensley, the US fan and writer of SF and crime thrillers, has died at the age of 81. He was a 'First Fandom Dinosaur' (meaning he was active in SF fandom prior to 4th July, 1939) and received the 'First Fandom Hall of Fame Award' in 2006. when not involved in writing or fandom he was a lawyer. His last novel, Snowbird's Blood, is due to be published in the US in 2008.

Donald J. Herbert, the US popular science TV presenter, has died aged 89. Born Donald Herbert Kemske, he was known as 'Mr Wizard' from his Peabody Award-winning NBC (Chicago) series that ran for 547 episodes before ending in 1965. The science experiments on the show seemed difficult but actually could be copied by viewers. In 1969 he created the Mr Wizard Science Center just outside Boston (which unfortunately has since closed). In 1983 a more upbeat version of his show appeared on the Nickelodeon cable channel. This ran until 1990 but repeats were broadcast up to 2000: as such it was the channel's longest-running series. Herbert was also the recipient of the Robert A. Millikan Award for notable contributions to the teaching of physics from the American Association of Physics (the equivalent to Britain's Institute of Physics, the professional body for physicists).

Douglas Hill, the SF author, has died aged 72. Canadian born, but since 1959 a UK resident, he was run over by a London bus on a zebra (pedestrian) crossing in Wood Green north London early one afternoon. In 1971 he began a 13-year stint as Literary Editor of the socialist weekly Tribune, a post previously held by one George Orwell. During this time he regularly reviewed SF, something that few other non-genre publications did at the time. He also wrote SF for young readers and is perhaps best known for his 'Last Legionary' space opera series of four novels that began with Galactic Warlord (1979) and also a post-apocalyptic trilogy that began with The Huntsman (1982) . This last series was set in a post-apocalyptic North America oppressed by alien slavers. He was working on the last of a yet-to-be published 'Demon Stalkers' trilogy for Macmillan at the time of the accident.

Clark Howell, the US palaeoanthropologist, has died aged 81. Having served in the navy in WWII, he enrolled under the GI Bill of Rights to do a BSc at Chicago U. where he went straight on to a PhD. His work had a multi and interdisciplinary approach lending an environmental science perspective to palaeoanthropology. In the 1950s he undertook fieldwork in Africa with his wife. Much of his career was bracketed by the symposium marking centennial anniversary of the discovery of H. neanderthalensis in 1956 and the 150th anniversary symposium last year in Bonn at which he was a keynote speaker. Throughout his career he was known for bringing the right people together and did this even in recent years in which he helped assemble many for the US National Science Foundation's HOMONID programme. Of lasting note is the Early Man book for Time-Life he co-wrote with Maitland Edey and which was illustrated by Jay Matternes.

Daniel Koshland the US biochemist, has died in his mid-80s. He was also editor of the multidisciplinary journal Science for a decade and introduced full-time scientist editors to its production team.

Laslo Kovacs, the Hungarian born cinematographer (whose work included Ghostbusters), has died aged 74.

Vladimir Ivanovich Kulakov, the leading Russian gynaecologist, died aged 69. He introduced in vitro fertilisation to Russia in 1986 and performed the nation's first laparoscopic hysterectomy in 1993.

Sterling E. Lanier, the US American anthropologist turned SF author and editor, has died. Probably best known for Hiero's Journey (1974), and its sequel, about a quest in a post-apocalyptic future 5,000 years after a nuclear war. However his biggest impact on the genre is likely to be when he worked as an editor at Chilton Books where he encouraged them to publish a novel by one Frank Herbert called Dune.

Imue Joseph Pal Loefler, the Hungarian surgeon and science writer, has died aged 70.

Peter Manly, the US fan and author of a few short stories, has died in his early 60s.

Ransom A. Myers, the US marine biologist, has died of brain cancer aged 54. RAM (as called by his colleagues) is known for his work on fish stock levels and their implications for conserving marine life. He also exposed what is known as the 'millions of eggs fallacy'. This is the formerly common belief that a heavily depleted marine fishery will recover rapidly because each female lays very many eggs, so that if fishing is suspended the fishery will recover rapidly. However RAM showed that even without competition from fellow species members (as in the case of a depleted fishery) or lower predation (due to the depleted population supporting fewer predators), that a suspension of human fishing will not lead to rapidly fishery recovery as each female will at most have only three to five viable young.

Bohdan Paczynski, the Polish astrophysicist, has died aged 67. He happened to be in the US in 1981 when martial law was declared in Poland and he decided to stay seeking asylum. He was an expert in stellar evolution, especially of binary systems. In 1987 he was the first to suggest that giant luminous arcs in to clusters of galaxies were in fact images of background galaxies gravitationally lensed. He was also into gamma ray bursts and in 1986 pointed out that some of their characteristics were appropriate to them being at cosmological distances (as opposed to being from with our galaxy and a common theory of the time was that they were due to neutron stars). In the late 1990s the discovery of absorption lines from intervening galaxies proved his hypothesis. He died following a four-year battle with brain cancer.

Fred Saberhagen, the US author and editor, has died aged 77. He is best known for his 'Berserker' series. He was also an editor at the Encyclopaedia Britannica and drafted its first entry for 'science fiction'.

Wally Schirra, the US astronaut and arguably a Hugo Award winner, has died aged 84. He was the only man to fly on NASA's (one-man) Mercury, (two-man) Gemini and (three-man) Apollo missions. He was the third US American to orbit the Earth and he commanded one of the two Gemini craft that were the first craft to rendez vous in orbit. As this mission began the Titan booster ignited and then shut down before launch. Fortunately he decided not to eject as it turned out the problem was a loose plug. His Apollo 7 mission was the first after the tragic launch pad fire that wiped out the previous mission's crew. It also provided the first live televised pictures Earth from space. During the mission his crew developed bad colds and so they decided not to wear space helmets during re-entry. On landing he immediately took Actifed and so became the first astronaut to benefit from product endorsement. He left NASA a year after his final flight to join CBS News where naturally he covered the lunar landings. This last means that he possibly has a legitimate claim to being a co-winner of a Hugo Award as the 1970 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation went to 'news coverage of Apollo 11'. He also saw himself played twice in films/TV: The Right Stuff (1983) by Lance Hendrikson and the TV mini-series From Earth to the Moon (1998) by Mark Harmon. In his final years he was often a public speaker whose frequent theme -- inspired by his space trips -- was environmental protection.

Peter Graham Scott, the British TV producer, has died aged 83. His programmes included episodes of Danger Man, The Prisoner and The Avengers.

George Sewell, British actor most SFnally famous for his co-starring role as Alexander (Alec) E. Freeman in UFO, has died aged 82. This happened back on 1st April but alas we did not pick up on the news. +++ Sewell was the last of the three UFO leads to die. Ed (Ed Straker) Bishop and Michael (Paul Foster) Billington both died in the summer of 2005.

Chauncey Starr, the US physicist and pioneer of peaceful uses of atomic power, died aged 95. Among his achievements he was the founder of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and made major contributions to the then early discipline of risk analysis. At the EPRI he was adamant of the need to establish an environmental division despite opposition, from the energy generating industry, who did not want research into issues such as acid rain.

Steve Swires, the US film reviewer, has died aged 56. He contributed to magazines such as Star Log and Fangoria.

Aleksander Mikhaylovich Tatarski, the Russian animator, has died aged just 56.

Peter Tuddenham, the UK actor, has died aged 88. He was the voice of Orac and Slave on Blake's 7 and also appeared three times in Dr Who.

Dick Vosburgh comedy writer and broadcaster who best known for voicing Captain Larry Dart who commanded Galaxsphere 347 in the Space Patrol puppet series, died aged 77. This was back in April just prior to our last season's newscast posting. In Space Patrol's time (1963-4) it rivalled the early Gerry Anderson series of Supercar and Fireball XL5.

Miles Weatherall and Josephine (Jo) Weatherall, UK biomedical researchers died within a few months of each other, both were in their 80s. Miles Weatherall was a leading pharmacological researcher and Fellow of the Institute of Biology (FIBiol). Jo Weatherall's career included much time identifying and preventing fetal anomalies.

Horst Tobias Witt, the German scientist renowned for work on photosynthesis, has died aged 84. One of his last achievements was as part of the team that elucidated the structure of photosystem II in 2001. How exactly it works still challenges biology.

Dave Wood, the British SF fan, has died aged 70. He was known in the 1950s and early '60s for his co-edited fanzine Brenschluss and then in the 1980s for the Nova (from Novacon) Award-winning Xyster.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

China's SF has strong science links -- see the earlier item on China's SF conference in case you missed it.

Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, among others, will have DVD messages taken to Mars for its future human colonists. The messages are onboard the Phoenix mission to Mars as part of the Visions of Mars project. Also addressing future human Martians are Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov and Poul Anderson. The DVD is specially made of silica glass so as to last centuries and possibly over a thousand years. The bummer is that the DVD format is likely to be out of date over the next couple of decades. Best laid plans of mice and men etc. Still it will make for a nice tea coaster for one lucky Martian colonist.

Health workers freed despite fictional science! -- Update on the health workers in Libya sentenced to death for allegedly (intentionally) infecting children with HIV. (The accusers used science to create a fantastical fiction (including a CIA-type plot) to protect life-threatening local and national incompetence. Many scientists including Nobel winners rallied to the cause as the scientific evidence for the health workers' innocence is very compelling. For the back story see here.) But what happened is that not only has science been abused but torture too, to support a fantastical fiction resulting in imprisonment. That the accused, Bulgarian and one Palestinian health workers, were tortured to extract 'confessions' had been claimed but not accepted by the Libyan authorities. Then on 27th May the 'Libyan six' were acquitted of a separate (but related) charge of slander for accusing the police of torture. The six health workers were then still under sentence of death having had their ultimate appeal to Libya's Supreme Court. Then it was the turn of Libya's Supreme Council of Judicial Authority and on 24th July their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment that could be served in Bulgaria. When their plane touched down in Sofia they were pardoned by Bulgaria's President, Georgi Parvanov.
          Much credit goes to the EU (which Bulgaria recently joined) and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, its Commissioner for External Relations. She, the EU and Britain were the main movers behind the scenes. +++ Tony Blair (before his retirement as PM) visited Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi and lent support to the health workers during a wide-ranging discussion. +++ George Bush, in an interview on Bulgarian TV, reiterated the US's wish for the case to be resolved. +++ Reminder: 400 children were reportedly infected by the accused with HIV in 1998. The accused were arrested in 1999. They were first found guilty and sentenced to death in May 2004. +++ Local and national incompetence continues to threaten Libyans with infection of HIV. Libya's commutation of the death sentence was as a result of international political action and lobbying and not a recognition of the scientific evidence and there has been no acknowledgement as to the real cause of the outbreak (insufficient infection prevention controls). Indeed following the health workers' pardon on their arrival in Bulgaria, Libya's prime minister and foreign minister objected to their going free. Foreign health workers are likely to think twice before going to work in Libya. Nonetheless the EU will provide humanitarian aid to help the infected children as this was agreed as part of the political negotiations.

The 2007 Sir Arthur Clarke (space science) Awards have been announced. Not to be confused with the other Clarke award for genre books, these Arthurs were presented at the 9th Conference of the British Rocketry Oral History Programme and only just missed being reported in last season's news. The winners were:-
          Best Corporate/Team Achievement: The Mars Exploration Rovers Team
          Best Space Reporting: Robin Scagell
          Achievement in Education: The International Space School Education Trust
          Best TV/Radio Presentation: 'The Sky At Night' production team (which last season had its 50th anniversary broadcast)
          Best Written Presentation: "Space on Earth" by Charles Cockell
          Best Individual Achievement: Steve Squyres (principal investigator Mars Rover team)
          Inspiration Award: Sir Patrick Moore
          Outreach Award for the Public Promotion of Space: Lord Sainsbury (who recently retired as Britain's Science Minister)
          Sir Arthur's Special Award: Ray Bradbury (this award was not judged by the panel but is decided upon by Arthur himself)
          Lifetime Achievement Award: Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown
          Additional item - The George Abbey Award: The Reliant Robin Team (a special award to the BBC 'Top Gear' hilarious attempt to rocket launch a Reliant Robin as if a space shuttle).

Turkish court blocks WordPress.com due to creationist criticism. According to a report (Nature vol 448, p980) Muslim creationist (nice to know that Christian creationists are not alone) Adnan Oktar (alias Harun Yahya) accused some blogs hosted on WordPress that were critical of creationist views of being defamatory. Apparently this is the latest in a run of freedom of speech cases in that country that has seen a number of journalists and authors face criminal prosecution. Meanwhile Turkey wants to join the EU.

James Doohan finally went boldly. The Canadian actor, who played Scotty in Star Trek, finally made it into space. Despite a couple of previous hitches his ashes were finally blasted off from New Mexico in a sub-orbital flight. His ashes along with 200 space enthusiasts and those of astronaut Gordon Cooper, returned to Earth over 30 miles away and were given back to relatives.

Kryptonite has been found but Superman is safe. Researchers from mining group Rio Tinto discovered the unusual mineral in a Serbian mine near Jadar. Rio Tinto sent it to Chris Stanley of the Natural History Museum, Kensington (UK), for identification. He in turn got Pamela Whitfield and Yvon Le Page at Canada's National Research Council to analyse its chemical structure: it is sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide. Chris Stanley then ran a literature check and also an internet search for good measure. He was surprised to learn that 'sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide' was the supposed chemical name of kryptonite in the film Superman Returns. However this new mineral will not be called kryptonite as krypton is already the name of an element (inert gas atomic number 36). Instead, it will be formally named Jadarite when it is described in the European Journal of Mineralogy later this year. Also it is white and not green. Lex Luthor is not a happy bunny. Superman, presumably having jumped for joy, has not been seen.

The Multiverse had its 50th anniversary marked by a special SF flavoured issue of Nature. The 5th July issue saw a US pulp magazine style cover with Nature re-branded with the sub-title 'Astounding Tales of Superscience'. It was all to mark the 50th anniversary of Hugh Everett III's paper "'Relative State' Formulation of Quantum Physics" in Reviews of Modern Physics (vol. 29 (3)). While the physics of the paper is debatable (are there really an infinite number of universes bifurcated due to quantum options?), its claim to fame is that not only is it debatable but it arguably broadened the debate to a wider range of participants. In addition to a look back at the Everett paper and its impacts, there was an article by Gary Wolfe on multiverses in SF with recommended novel titles including:-
          Philip K. Dick's (1968) The Man in the High Castle (alternate timeline with Japan running the US after WWII)
          Greg Benford's (1981) Timescape (parallel timelines with a global disaster warning from one to a common past)
          A body of work from Michael Moorcock from his parallel Earth series through to the Jerry Cornelius stories
          Greg Egan's (1992) Quarantine (collapsing bifurcated probability lines)
All of which are, of course, brilliant books.
          The issue of Nature also had a piece on biology in SF with a multi-author interview piece on life-science fiction. The authors Ken Macleod, Paul McAuley, Joan Slonczewski and Peter Watts acquitted themselves well in the four pages available to them (pity the URL given for the on-line extended article did not work but then Nature's regulars know they have to Google a bit with this Guariand affliction). Their discussion would have made for a good con panel, but of course the topic is huge enough for an entire convention. Nonetheless germane points were made, including recommendations for:-
          Kurt Vonnegut's (1985) Galapagos (with an observer covering millions of years)
          Greg Bear's (1985) Blood Music (microbial plague hive intelligence)
          James Blish's story 'Sunken Universe' (microscopic human colonists journey)
The issue also saw the return of the Nature end one-page 'Futures' stories. If this issue gets more scientists (not to mention cousin clinicians and engineers) to join those of us already into the genre then great. +++ Nature also wins an award.

New robot soldier breaks Asimov laws. SFWA remain silent. South Korea has developed a robot reminiscent of the robotic sentinels in Aliens (the director's cut). It plans to use them as border guards. They track on humans and then shoot them. This is a direct flouting of Asimov's robotic laws: Isaac Asimov (of course) being the now deceased US writer who created the laws. (That was a courtesy note for any non-genre type stumbling on this site.) The organization SF Writers of America (SFWA) has yet to make any official comment. A clip of one of the robots in action is on You Tube.

Out of Body Experiences explained. Researchers, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging (London) and the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm), have come up with a viable explanation for Out of Body Experiences. Apparently it can be determined by a visual perspective in conjunction with correlated multisensory information. The research was published in Science (v317, page 1048).

Simpsons term used in paper on string theory. A highly specialist, hence opaque, paper on string theory by Shamit Kachru and collagues contains the word 'embiggen'. 'Embiggen' was first used in a Simpsons episode by Jebediah Springfield in the 1996 episode 'Lisa the Iconoclast'. As all Simpsons fans know (Ed: do they really), 'embiggen' means to grow or expand.
          Jebediah: [on film] A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
          Edna: 'Embiggens'? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield.
          Ms. Hoover: I don't know why. It's a perfectly cromulent word.
The Shamit Kachru et al paper, Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking, uses it this way:-
          While in both cases for P anti-D3-branes the probe approximation is clearly not good, in
          the set up of this paper we could argue that there is a competing effect which can
          overcome the desire of the anti-D3s to embiggen [Concat underlining], namely their attraction towards the
          wrapped D5s. Hence, also on the gravity side, the non-supersymmetric states would naively be meta-stable.
Trust we all got that, after all it is perfectly cromulent...

World's advanced climate simulator acknowledges HAL 9000. Not many who went to this year's Worldcon in Yokohama realised that just down the road was one of the most advance computer simulators of our planet's weather and climate. On each of the large server housings is a large round solid circle. UK climate scientist John Donners -- who is seconded at the UN-supported Earth Simulator -- muses that this may acknowledge the HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can check out a few years' worth of global weather in just a minute (without repetition or deviation) at http://www.earthsimulator.org.uk/index.php.

British passports price hike to pay for flawed science ID. The UK government's notion that biometric ID is crucial for the 'war on terror' has been criticised on so many grounds, including scientific ones of data management and use, that there is little point in rehearsing them here yet again. (Though if you are unclear about this think how long it took for credit card holographic protection to become redundant, or the current threat to chip 'n pin.) However it is now becoming increasingly clear that there is an attempt to sneak the high cost (for Britain alone) of the exercise (currently around £20 billion (around US$40 billion) and climbing) by -- at least in part -- incrementally increasing the cost of buying a passport. Getting a new passport in the UK is something you need to do every 10 years should you wish to travel overseas. So, as October sees still another price hike in buying a passport, cast your mind back to the cost in 1998. Then a passport cost £18. This October the cost is, wait for it, wait for it, £72...! This is a paltry, but an eye-watering, inflation-busting, 300% increase! ID control Orwellian style aint cheap but it does keep politicians happy bless them.

Russia uses Cameron's film Titanic footage to portray their planting the Russian flag on the sea bed at the North Pole. Russia is trying to lay claim to the territory as it may contain oil and gas. The Russian state TV company Rossiya in August wanted some visually stunning underwater shots to illustrate this news story. They therefore thought it appropriate to steal some shots from the opening of James Cameron's film Titanic (1997) and used a caption saying northern Arctic Ocean. The story and the images were then distributed all over the World and accepted by millions as real. However Waltteri Seretin, aged 13, from north Finland spotted that the shots were from the beginning of the film Titanic. He is reported as saying: "I've heard they don't always tell the truth in Russia, but I didn't think they could have screwed it up that badly." +++ It does not help Russia's SF image that back in the spring the Russian organisers of the 2008 European SF convention Eurocon claimed that it had specific high-profile, western SF authors among its Guests of Honour when it transpired in fact they had not.

This summer's big disaster film release, Flood, was made before the season's rain deluges that inundated many parts of England. Climate change and global warming is bound to generate many seemingly-predictive SF offerings. The effects are truly excellent. +++ Meanwhile a reminder that anyone wanting to find out about the real science behind climate change and other predictive elements can see the excerpt links off of the web page for Jonathan's latest book.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian has this last season covered::
  - the former prime minister's (Blair) family's purported belief in new age mystic medical practices.
  - Imperial College London's banning of Prof David Colquhoun's FRS 'Improbable Science' blog due to a complaint from (TMPA) 'alternative therapists': of whom Colquhoun said such practitioners used "gobbledygook" (ex: describing the use of Red Clover extracts as a "blood cleanser"). (Colquhoun was one of those who commented in Nature about some British universities offer BSc degrees in quackery.) Commonsense (something one would expect of Imperial's administrators to match that of its scientists) ultimately prevailed but only after the banning became broader public knowledge. The blog is now re-instated.
  - the poor practice of conducting science peer review on the basis of who the scientist is rather than the actual scientific experiment. Then Goldacre spoiled his own argument by confusing this with the very proper practice of ensuring no vested interest by citing the MMR case. (Oops!)
  - calling for alternative medicine to be subject to the same controls as 'proper' medicine if it wishes to be viewed as being as real.
  - the Kinetica (London) Museum's exhibit of Steorn's purported perpetual motion machine (followed by a rant, familiar to all SF lovers, that the future we inherited lacks goodies like personal jet packs and x-ray goggles).
  - the need for social 'science' to adopt the scientific method and employ controlled (with a comparative standard sample) trials.
  - getting cannabis statistics in perspective. Unlike the Daily Mail suggests, smoking cannabis just once does not increase the chance of the smoker developing schizophrenia by 41%. Furthermore schizophrenia is rare. If there are 6 million UK users then, Goldacre says, that is an extra 800 cases of psychosis. All of which makes us wonder about alcohol. Now how many suffer from alcohol-related disease in the UK...? How about deaths from car use?
  - dodgy research purporting to explain why boys allegedly prefer blue and girls pink.
See also www.badscience.net.

Al Gore takes political spin to another level with the Live Earth concert. Reported in August's Ansible, space artist David Hardy notes that the Earth on the US stage's big screen is spinning the wrong way.

Japanese Seiun SF awards acknowledge science. At the Yokohama Worldcon Japan's 2007 Seiun Awards for 2006 were presented. Two of the categories had science related wins. The Non Fiction book went to Passport Into Space 3: Space Pioneers A Frontline Report by Yuichi Sasamoto (Asahi Sonorama), and a Special Award went to The M-V Launch System from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Science at the 2007 Worldcon, Japan. The list in the earlier Eurocon/Worldcon section is linked to from here.

Czerneda and Science at the Montreal 2009 Worldcon (Canada). The 2009 Worldcon has announced its guests. Those into science fact and fiction might want to note that Julie Czernada is to be the master of ceremonies. All well and good but let us hope that they enable her to take part in a number of programme items as she has an interest not only in SF but biology and how the former can help enthuse education. Check her web site out -- www.czerneda.com.

And finally... Another 50th anniversary in 2007. Further to the anniversaries listed last time coinciding with our own 20th this year is the 50th anniversary of Nevil Shute's SF classic On the Beach. On the Beach concerns life in Australia as the lethal radioactive fallout from an atomic war in the northern hemisphere approaches and threatens to kill the last of human civilization.

 

[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 Recent DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2007

End Bits

Enjoy 4th October (or hope you enjoyed it if you're reading this late) as it's the 50th anniversary since Man put a lump of metal into orbit and a more important birthday for one of us. Yes, we almost have a space-age man on the team.

More science and SF news will be reviewed in our Spring 2008 upload early in the New Year plus there will also be 'forthcoming' book releases for the Spring.   Meanwhile ensure you've added the Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation to your site favourites list. Also you can be alerted via e-mail when our next major update takes place. See below...

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Thanks for information, pointers and news goes to: Kawthar Ayed, Angel Carralero, Henry Gee, Alain le Bussy, Steve Green, Nicole Murphy, Roberto Quaglia, Roger Robinson, Louis Savy, Robert Sawyer and the many representatives of groups and professional companies' PR folk who sent news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.

News for the next upload that covers the spring 2008 period needs to be in before the end of November. News (of the autumn period September - December or forthcoming spring news to Easter) 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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