Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2008

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 2008

EDITORIAL BITS 'N BOBS

Preparing for 2010. Yes, 2010 seems a long way off but in fact it is just 18 short months to Britain's first Euroconference for many years. In fact the last UK European event was the 1993 Eurocon in Jersey. A number of the Concat will be somewhere lopw down in the mix and we look forward to renewing a number of acquaintances from mainland Europe on our home turf. News in the Fandom subsection below.

Concat summer get together home and abroad. Following the N W Kent diaspora of a few years ago the team is now largely dispersed across the UK. So it was good that core team members Graham and Jonathan had a long weekend in the north with friends and contributors Simon and Elaine. Alan made it to Romania for a tour of castles and mountains, but he still managed to touch base with members of Timisoara's H. G. Wells society and spent much time with Antuza. Tony went to the Comics convention in Bristol and will be at the Birmingham bash in October. Meanwhile Jonathan (and his publishers) has been cheered by the UN Environment Programme selecting his climate change book as one of the top climate science texts published worldwide of the 21st century: this as part of the UN World Environment Day in June.

What we missed with last time's news was that the UN Year of Planet Earth's launch event featured Arthur C. Clarke possibly reading his last written work, a speech. We now report the news below here. A bit of a faux-pas on our part as one of the team is a Fellow of the Geological Society that is leading on the UN year, and also another occasional Concat contributor is one of the organisers. Ooops... Still, it has been quite a summer with much coming up for the autumn, so on with the season's news...

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

 

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

Autumn 2008

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

Chinese earthquake SF news. - Click here for details.

The 2008 Eurocon Awards from ESFS and Hugo Awards from the WSFS for SF achievement are out, as are the Locus Awards. - click here for details

Other SF awards last season included: Britain's Clarke SF Award, Canada's Prix Aurora, France's Imaginales and Le Prix Rosny, Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Preis as well as the Curt Siodmak and SF German Society (Club) Prizes, Japan's Seiun Award, Poland's Slakfa Award and Russia's Roskon Awards as well as Aelita's Awards.

The 2008 Royal Society popular science Award has been announced.

New monthly SF magazine launched in Argentina. - Click here for details.

France's Galaxies magazine is back! But to a mixed reception. - Click here for details.

Faster than light communication one step closer to reality. - Click here for details. And Faster than light travel theorised - Click here for details.

Landmark Brazilian SF collection from Roberto de Sousa Causo is published. - Click here for details.

Terry Pratchett becomes Ever Green King. - Click here for details.

News of SF and science personalities includes, among many, that of: Harry Harrison (England), Sam J. Lundwall (Sweden), Terry Pratchett (Great Britain) and Ken Slater's memorial.

Major seasonal SF conventions were early on in Russia with Aelita and the Eurocon. Then at the summer's end in the US with the Worldcon 'Denvention'.

Then looking ahead, 2010 set to be a mega year for SF conventions! There will be a large Euro-conference cum national convention in London at Easter. Then at the end of the summer it is off to Australasia for 10 days with the New Zealand national convention, followed by a short hop to Australia for the 2010 Worldcon a few days later.

All of the above international gallivanting may make you wish to stop the world as you may want to get off. So appropriately our film clip section this season is headed up by the trailer for the re-make of The Day The Earth Stood Still. - see the section here.

The summer saw us sadly lose many but early on Star Trek in particular was hard hit with the deaths of Joseph Pevney, Robert H. Justman and Alexander Courage all being within a few days of each other!. Jonathan Justman (Robert's son) said: "There seems to be a big Star Trek convention and everyone is going. Everyone is getting beamed up."

 

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

 

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

Autumn 2008

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SF NEWS

China's earthquake - SF survives. The 12th May magnitude 8 earthquake (remember 9 is the maximum) struck in China's Sichuan province. You may recall that last year's International SF Conference in China was held in Chengdu (Sichuan province) and that this is the operational centre for Kehuan Shijie [Science Fiction World], China's leading SF magazine that has a print run of about half a million. Chengdu lies 50 miles (80 km) east-southeast of the epicentre. For a while we lost touch with our contact there, but then received news in July that China's SF authors had survived. Having said that even then, a couple of months on, there were regular aftershocks (the one the day before the e-mail we received was magnitude 5!). The survival of the authors, at least all who contribute to SFW, is remarkable given that around 70,000 died. Nonetheless most people - including the SF writers - were touched by the earthquake through loss of family and friends: a number of SF writers lost one or more of their parents. +++ Sichuan is one of the panda regions and a centre of panda conservation effort. Apparently there has been some worry for these rare animals. We have been asked to reassure you that while several did die, the majority are all right. +++ Good news for the Pandas. At the end of July, four giant panda cubs were born at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre. (There are only around 1,600 in the wild and just 180 in captivity in China.) +++ Bad news for the region. Research published in Nature (vol. 454, pages 509-510) suggests that nearby other faults now have increased stress (resulting from the stress relieved from the earthquake's fault) and that these other stressed faults are likely to result in either major aftershocks or other earthquakes. Nearly all the faults with this increased stress lie in the quadrant to the east and south of the May earthquake's epicentre. There is just one fault line due north with increased stress.

The 2008 Hugo ('SF Achievement') Awards from the World SF Society (WSFS) for were presented at this year's Worldcon in Denver (US) The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
          Best Non-fiction Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher
          Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, and Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess
          Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who 'Blink' written by Steven Moffat
          Best Semiprozine: Locus
          Best Fan Writer: John Scalzi
Full details of all the categories can be found on www.thehugoaward.org.

Hugo comment: Well, back in the spring (2008), when commenting on this year's Hugo nominations we only cited by name Brazyl and The Yiddish Policemen's Union and so this year, (ahem) again, we seem to have been somewhat predictive.   Ditto with the non-fiction win Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. What is more The Yiddish Policemen's Union also won this year's Locus see below item. Meanwhile our other novel we mentioned earlier in the year, Brazyl, got the most votes at the early nomination stage.   Of course - again as said back in the spring - the film nominations tied in with our film chart and, so for obvious reasons, no surprises there especially with Neil Gaiman being no stranger to Worldcons (or Concat for that matter).
          Locus got its usual semi-prozine win, but alas no win for Best Fan writer for Dave (Ansible) Langford; instead it goes to Scalzi. This is interesting from a Worldcon faan perspective as you may recall (when we commented on last year's wins) when some complained about a professional author being eligible for the fan writer category. (a) pros can be fans (but by definition not faans), and b) past fan writing Hugo winner Dave L. has had pro-fiction published.) In short this year it is all pretty much on form with the only disappointment being as usual at the nomination stage. This once again demonstrated that the Hugo is actually an award for Anglophone SF excellence as viewed through a North American commercial prism. Not that there is anything wrong with rewarding such excellence, but it behoves genre aficionados everywhere to quietly remember that a truly international award it ain't. Moving on...

 

The 2008 Eurocon Awards from the European SF Society (ESFS) were presented at this year's Eurocon in Moscow:-
European Hall of Fame:-
          Best Author: Alexander Gromov (Russia)
          Best Artist: Roman Papsuev (Russia)
          Best Publisher: INFODAR (Bulgaria)
          Best Promoter: Russell T Davies (United Kingdom of Great Britain)
          Best Magazine: FANtastika (Russia)
          Best Translator:Michael Kandel (United Kingdom of Great Britain)
                                        Lyubomir Niklov (Bulgaria)
European Spirit of Dedication:-
          Best Fanzine Konets Epokhi [ End of an Era] (Russia)
          Best Presentation Kyiv Star Mobile Operator's advertising clips (Ukraine)
European Encouragement Awards (for young writers):-
          Nika Rakitina (Belarus)
          Vladimir Danikhnov (Russia)
          Georgi Karadjov (Bulgaria)
          Josef Antal (Hungary)
          Helena Ziemane (Latvia)
          Marina Sokolyan (Ukraine)
Special Awards - Contribution to Science Fiction Fandom:-
          Ken Slater - posthumous (United Kingdom of Great Britain)
          Judit Trethon - posthumous (Hungary)

 

Locus Awards. The winners of the principal categories of the 2008 Locus Awards for the year 2007 are:-
          Best SF Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
          Best Fantasy Novel: Making Money by Terry Pratchett
          Best First Novel: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
          Best Non-Fiction SF: Breakfast in the Ruins by Barry N. Malzberg
          The full list of Locus category winners is here.
Comment: It has to be said that we at Concat missed the full significance of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union published by HarperCollins. Shame on us. The novel has done very well including winning the Hugo (see above). It has also won the Nebula for Best Novel. It was nominated for but did not win the British SF Association (BSFA) Award. It has also received attention by mundane litcrits such as in The New York Times and The Library Journal. A film from the Coen brothers is also in pre-production with Columbia. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is an alternate reality story in which during World War II a temporary Jewish settlement was established in Alaska which in reality apparently was proposed but never happened. As a result global developments in this alternate timeline are very different to our own especially with regards to Israel and the outcome of WWII. However, the story is at heart a detective story about a murder investigation. Yet, other than the plot-framing device of an alternate timeline, there is little other SFnal content (which is probably why we missed the novel's significance). Its importance lies in its exploration of the relationship between Israel/Middle-East and the 'west', which, given that this itself is influencing much of the 21st century's global events, makes the novel relevant to today's readers. Of course it is also extremely well written, though Chabon is reported as saying that it is in a different style to his other novels to date with shorter paragraphs and sentences.

The Royal Society Award for adult popular science writing have been announced. The winner was:-
          Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas (Fourth Estate)
The runners up were:-
          A Life Decoded, by J Craig Venter (Penguin Allen Lane)
          Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise, by Steve Jones (Little, Brown)
          Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer (Penguin - Allen Lane)
          The Sun Kings, by Stuart Clark (Princeton University Press)
          Why Beauty is Truth, by Ian Stewart (Basic Books)
Mark Lynas therefore picks up a cheque for £10,000 (US$19,600). His book looks at what happens when the Earth warms by one degree at a time. Our congratulations to all, but we cannot help give an extra tip of the hat to Stuart Clark (whom we think is the same Stuart Clark that decades ago used to do video reviews for us back when we were a print zine) and Ian Stewart (whom is a longstanding Brit fan and colleague of past Concat contributor Jack Cohen).
There is a separate award for science writing aimed at younger readers. This went to The Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do by Rebecca Gilpin and Leonie Pratt and designed and illustrated by Josephine Thompson.

The 2008 Roskon Awards voted by participants of Russia's national convention were presented at this year's joint event with Eurocon in Moscow:-
          Best Novel: Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergei Dyachenko (Ukraine)
          Best Novelette: My idem na Curacao [ We Make our Way to Curacao] by Oleg Divov (Russia)
          Big Roskon Award - Lifetime Achievement: Harry Harrison (US/Eire/GB)
Other Russian awards given at the event included:-
          Best Selling SF/Fantasy: Volkodav [Wolfhound] series
          Bronze Snail (Decided on by Boris Strugatsky): The Man Who Knew Everything by Igor Sahnovsky
          The Belyaevskie Award (for SF non-fiction and popular science/art):-
                    Best Patriotic book: Russia's Utopias: An Historical Guide by Boris Yegoro
                    Best Translated Book: Philosophy of the Case by Stanislaw Lem
The above is just a summary; there were many categories and a number of other awards. However special mention must be given to Alexander Gromov as not only does he enter the European 'Hall of Fame' with his Eurocon Award but in votes he came second to the Dyachenkos for the Roskon 'Best Novel' not to mention, being present, was a bit of a personal hit at this year's Eurocon.

The Aelita and associated awards were presented at this year's Aelita (see below) Russia.
Aelita - the main award, which is presented for the contribution to the development of Russian-language SF/Fantasy. First presented in 1981 a recipient can only be awarded this once. This year's winner was Svyatoslav Loginov (St.Petersburg).
Start - this award is for the best debut novel and was first presented in 1989. This year's winner was Sergei Paliy (Samara) for the novel - Inside.
Vitaly Bugrov's Prize - is presented for outstanding SF/fantasy editorial and commissioning work as well as work fostering new authors. It was created in 1997 and a recipient can only be awarded it once. (Vitaly Bugrov worked as editor in the Urals Stalker magazine, whose editorial staff established the Aelita Award in 1981). This year's winner was - Boris Dolingo (Yekaterinburg).
Ivian Yefremov's Prize - is presented for outstanding editorial, publishing and promotional/educational activity in the field of SF/fantasy. It was created in 1987 and a recipient can only be awarded it once. This year's winner was the editorial staff of Mir Fantastiki [Fantastic World] magazine (Moscow). (Of course Mir has won a number of awards including a Eurocon Award in 2006.)
The Igor Khalymbadga order of The Knights of SF and Fantasy - is presented for the outstanding contribution to the development of the Russian fandom. Igor Khalymbadga was another who worked for the magazine The Urals Stalker and was also a renowned SF bibliographer. This award was created in 1987 and a recipient can only be presented it once. (Naturally this award should not be confused with the Knights of St. Fantony who were an order of British fans dedicated to looking after first-time convention goers.) This year's winners were the fan Ivan Sokolov (Yekaterinburg) and the writer Roman Zlotnikov (Obninsk).
(Foreign) Grand Master of SF & Fantasy - is presented to the foreign writer, editor or publisher for their outstanding contribution to the development of the genre. This year's winner was Aelita's foreign Guest of Honour, Christopher Priest.
The Aelita Short Story Competition Prize only founded recently in 2004, this year's winner was Igor Logvinov (Ukraine). There were some four hundred entries.
More on Aelita below.

Canada's 2008 Prix Aurora awards for 2007 works have been presented. The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel (English): The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
          Best Novel (French): Cimetière du Musée by Diane Boudreau

The 2008 Clarke SF Award winner was announced at Sci-Fi London. The SF Clarkes (as opposed to the space Clarkes) are given for more 'literary' SF books published in Britain the previous year and it is judged by a small panel: so it is a sort of 'worthies' award as opposed to a popular one. This year's event took place just a few months after - hence in the shadow of - Arthur Clarke's death In addition to the authors short-listed, the Award ceremony saw a number of SF editors, PR folk and other authors. Included in the mix was veteran SF author Harry Harrison, the now-getting-on-for-being-veteran author Geoff Ryman, Essential SF publisher Porcupine, and many others our reporter appallingly failed to note with a memory drowned in a sea of white wine and canapés... Oh, you want to know the winner? Well it was one our Tony previously rated - Richard Morgan's Black Man. In his acceptance speech, he cited his mother to whom the novel was dedicated and who hated prejudice. He also thanked his publishers, Gollancz, who prefer a better book late than a flawed one on time, though perhaps Black Man, being handed in a year overdue, was just a little too tardy.

Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Preis were awarded at Elstercon. The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Ausgebrannt [Burned Out] by Andreas Eschbachr
          Best Foreign Work: Spectrum by Sergei Lukyanenko
          Best Translation: Hannes Reiffel for his translation of Vellum by Hal Duncan
Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910) of whom the German SF excellence awards are named, was a philosopher, historian of science, and SF writer. He kind of holds the same regard in Germany as H. G. Wells does in the British Isles. The awards were established in 1981. The vote results were announced a month before their presentation at Elstercon where Sergei Lukyanenko was on hand (as one of the GoHs) to accept his win.

Germany's Curt Siodmak Prize (visual) and the German SF Prize (written) were awarded at SFCD Con:-
          Curt Siodmak - Film: The Prestige
          Curt Siodmak - TV: Battlestar Galactica
          German SF Club Prize - Novel: Die Schatten vom Mars [The Shadow of Mars]
          German SF Club Prize - Short story: 'Heimkehr' ['Homecoming'] by Frank W. Haubold
So it was a double win for Frank Haubold who therefore gets two lots of Euros 1,000 (£790 / US$1,560). The German SF Club Prize is a juried award from the German SF Society (Club). Converesly the Curt Siodmak Prize is fan voted. Curt Siodmak, after whom the prize is named, was a German writer and film director born 1902.

The Nebula Awards are presented. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) presented their Nebula Award for last year's (2007) works just after we posted last season's news in April at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown in Austin, Texas, US. The awards are voted on by N.American authors belonging to the SFWA. Thjis year the 'Best Novel' Nebula was The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Full deatails of all the categories are on www.sfwa.org. However we mention that Ted Chiang won the 'Best Novelette' with 'The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate' as he has a one-page 'Nature Futures' story on this site (see here).   Congratulations to all.

The 2008 Prix Imaginales were presented at France's Imaginales, the festival of imaginary worlds.. The jury decided award winners were:-
          Francophone Novel: Le Trône d'Ébène [The Ebony Throne] by Thomas Day
          Translated Novel: Des Horizons Rouge Sang: Les Salauds Gentilhommes 2 [ Red Seas Under Red Skies - Book 2 in the Gentlemen Bastards series] by Scott Lynch
          Juvenile Fiction: La Malédiction d'Old Haven [The Curse of Old Haven] by Fabrice Colin
          Nouvelle: Contes Myalgiques [Myalgiques Tales] (for the whole collection) by Nathalie Dau
          Illustration: Guillaume Sorel for his work on the French 2007 edition of Kane by Karl Edward Wagner from Denoël/Lunes d'Encre
          Special Prize: Les Enfants de Húrin [Children of the Húrin] by J. R. R. Tolkien
This is the prize's fifth year.

Le Prix Rosny, France's national convention award, for 2008 have been announced for 2007 works. The winners were:-
          Best novel: Unica by Elise Fontenaille
          Short story: 'Repli sur soie' ['Return to silk'] by Jean-Claude Dunyach
The award is decided in a similar way to the Hugo and is in its 27th year. It is named after named the Belgian born writer who wrote numerous SF novels between 1890 and his death in 1940.

The European Prix Utopiales shortlist is out, we will have to wait for the other Utopiale categories. This is the second year of this European prize. The jury has short-listed novels by: Norbert Merjagnan, Joe Abercrombie, Paul J. McAuley, Javier Negrete and Pierre Pevel. The prize will be announced on Saturday, 1st November at Utopiales (one of the World's biggest SF conventions) in Nantes, France. +++ The theme of this year's Utopiales is 'networks'.

Poland's Slakfa Awards have been presented. The winners were:-
          Author: Jacek Dukaj
          Publisher: CD Projekt
          Fan: Witold Siekierzynski, Andrzej Lechowicz, Wawrzyniec Bakalarski and Pawel Potakowskiego - the organisers of Polcon 2007 in Warsaw
Since 1984, the award has been presented annually by the Slaski Klub Fantastyki which itself is Poland's longest running SF society (founded in 1981). It is juried with the judges being Board members plus invited experts.

Japan's Seiun Awards were presented at Daicon 7, the 47th Nippon SF convention. The principal winners were:-
          Novel: Toshokan Sensou [Library Wars] by Hiro Arikawa
          Foreign Novel Translated: Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree Jr. (Translated by Hisashi Asakura)
          Non-Fiction SF: Hoshi Shin-ichi 1001 Wa wo Tsukutta Hito [Shin-ichi Hoshi The Man Who Wrote 1001 Stories] by Haduki Saisyo
Details on [http://www.sfawardswatch.com/?p=945] SF Awards Watch.

France's quarterly SF magazine, Galaxies is back! Further to the reported hiatus and rumoured new editor, Pierre Gévart has indeed taken over and a new edition came out in the summer with a complete makeover. In addition to news of France's SF scene together with some from the Anglophone counterpart, there are contributions from Thomas Gerencer and Alastair Reynolds as well as an interview with Neil Gaiman and a look at some of the SF in Italy. Having said that, there has been some criticism in France as to the standard of production quality (a bit fanziney) as well as some of the editorial content. Of course it is early days yet and let's face it where would Galaxie be without someone taking over the helm? Also remember the production quality of many semi-prozines' early editions was not always that high: Concat's first issue was done on a zero budget and it showed, whereas later issue of the print edition were as good as a number of the better UK semi-prozines of the time. (Arguably we have gone downhill with this, the internet incarnation.) Indeed even the now esteemed Locus had humble origins as a one-sheet newszine. So let us hope that hope that Gévart is spurred and not cowed by current criticism. It is early days yet.

France's SF short story competition 'Infinity' has a winner - David Rea from with [Petit Pont Massacreur] Little Bridge Massacre. 'Infinity' (actually Infini) is the French Association of Science Fiction and Imaginary Literatures under whose auspices the competition is run. The winning story will be published in the 3rd issue of the reincarnated Galaxies magazine (see previous item above). This is an annual competition. Entries of stories in French for next year's (2009) competition are very welcome. There is an entry fee of 10 Euros (£7) to cover administration and to contribute to a cash prize.

New monthly SF magazine launched in Argentina. Ópera Galáctica [literally Galactic Opera but pragmatically Space Opera] was launched in the summer in a pulp format with a colour cover. With a three monthly issues following through to August, it seems off to a solid start. The content so far includes mainly old short stories from writers of such standing as: Santos Roger Dee, Gabriel de los, Fred Hoyle, W. Parry, Hector R. Pessina, Fred Saberhagen and Jack Vance. There is supporting material such as on SF/F cinema and issue 3 (July) was devoted to a Mars theme. It is published by TLA Publications and available in major shops and specialist outlets in Argentina. But if you are outside of Argentina and want a subscription then (no promises now) you could try e-mailing herepessin [AT] yahoo [DOT] com [DOT] ar.

2000AD Extreme ceases publication. The last issue came out in August. 2000AD Extreme was a British monthly of reprints of single adventures (so in effect were mini-graphic novels) from early in 2000AD's 30-year history. The last adventures in the last two issues were Sam Slade Robohunter. Sadly these ended before the Samantha Slade adventure: hopefully this will come out as a graphic novel fairly soon. +++ See also story immediately below.

Britain's Judge Dredd Megazine, from the 2000AD stable, has 67% price hike! The reason given is that each issue is now bagged with a mini-graphic novel. However whether this makes economic sense remains to be seen. On one hand it is good value if the graphic extra is Dredd universe related, on the other, for cash-strapped teenagers (undoubtedly a significant part of the readership) the price hike could be a real turn-off. The inclusion for a few issues of 2000AD trading cards is only likely to appeal largely to the school-age component of the readership. That subsequent issues will have non-Dredd universe mini-graphic novels is also a downer for other readers into the Dredd and associated dimensions. Already over half of the Dredd Megazine has material unrelated to the Dredd universe or even with much SFnal content. The development is undoubtedly connected to the closure of 2000AD Extreme (see previous story). The move is only likely to be welcomed by SF comic buffs well into the SF comics scene. It will be interesting to see whether this section of its readership is large enough (or can grow to be large enough) to make the development viable: it is bound to lead to the loss of some readers but will it gain enough new ones?

Terry Pratchett has been crowned Ever Green King!   SF/F has best-selling novels that last... The Bookseller the UK trade magazine has researched the 12 years of the Neilsen BookScan top 5,000 chart for titles (now commonly referred to as the 'Total Consumer Market') continually present week in, week out. Out of over 1.8 million titles registered with BookScan over this time only 12 were continually featured (see next item). Terry was the author with the most of these 12. His three Discworld books, The Colour of Magic, Mort and The Light Fantastic have continually been in the top 5,000 over this time and all together have sold some 660,000 copies. +++ More on Terry later on.

Most popular long-lasting fantasy is The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Other than Terry Pratchett's three (see previous item) the other Ever Green book of genre interest is The Hobbit which has 520,000 copies over the past 12 years (since 1996). Of course technically sales of The Lord of the Rings has dwarfed this. (Dwarfed? Oh never mind.) However there have been many different editions of The Lord of the Rings that is difficult to assess sales: apparently there have been some 170 ISBNs attributed to this title since 1998! +++ On the non-fiction science front, Stehen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has sold 230,000 copies over the past 12 years.

 

[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 2008

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Brian Aldiss is interviewed in the multi-disciplinary science journal Nature and expresses his concern for climate change and his surprise at the way human population growth concerns have diminished in recent decades. His interview coincides with the re-publication of his 1962 collection of linked short stories Hothouse.

Stephen Baxter gets a solid interview on national radio with BBC R4's Open Book to mark the launch of Flood. In the interview he confirmed what our reviewer of Flood suspected (see afore title link) that he was inspired by last year's flooding in England. He also referred to the J. G. Ballard novel cited in the review. If Concat reviews get any more prescient then we will have to start producing a 'minority report'.

Ray Bradbury's funeral was well attended: a third had to stand. The British fan died back in March. Chris Morgan reports in Ansible.

Ray Bradbury, the N. American SF author (not Brit SF fan above), mourns the possible loss of the Acres of Books bookshop in Los Angles (US). Apparently, there are no bookshops in downtown L.A., the Ocean Park, Venice and Beverly Hills area. It looks like the area may become another shopping mall. If so, Ray Bradbury suggests, they should build around Acres of Books and have the bookshop as a commercial shrine at the heart of the development.

Bill Burns' US based website eFanzines.com wins a FAAn Award at Corflu. Our congratulations, this is a most deserved win. He is also to be fan Fan Guest of Honour at Britain's 2009 Eastercon in Bradford. (So curry and Burns are two reasons to spend Easter in Bradford next year.)

Orson Scott Card news of Ender film below in film section.

Arthur C. Clarke's last major speaking engagement was to help launch the 2008 UN Year of Planet Earth -- we found out after posting last time news of his passing. Clarke has had a soft spot for UNESCO ever since he won a UNESCO prize for popularising science back in 1961 and has attended a number of UNESCO events. Sadly this time ill health prevented him from being at the launch event At UNESCO's HQ in Paris. However a slide show, commencing with a picture of the man himself and appropriately followed by pictures of the Earth from orbit, accompanied an audio recording of his speech. In it he referred to Carl Sagan's with a quote from his TV series Cosmos of the need for humans to speak for planet Earth. He said: "There are now clear signs that our growing numbers and our many activities are impacting the Earth's natural systems, causing planetary stress. We have had local or regional indicators of this stress for decades, and more recently we have confirmed our unmistakable role in climate change. If we're looking for the smoking gun, we only need to look in the mirror." This prepared speech was his last written work and his last speech to an international audience. +++ Clarke's last book (The Last Theorem -- see below) is now out. Harper Collins had bought the UK and Commonwealth rights from Georgina Glover at David Higham. +++ Meanwhile a bit of Arthur reaches Mars.

Russell T. Davies is stepping down as the head scriptwriter and an executive producer of Dr Who. (Steven Moffat takes over.) Davies' re-imagining of Dr Who, after a couple of decades of it being off the air, was hugely successful and even resulted in two spin-off series. Fortunately the first series of the new Dr Who was well into production before the BBC's current Director General came into post. This DG apparently hates SF and some opine probably would not have sanctioned Dr Who's resurrection and so obviously it would not have had its success both in the UK and overseas, let alone SF productions generally by the BBC (that also have their overseas audiences). As such Davies inadvertently has done much to promote SF. This is why his name was mentioned in the Eurocon Award determining session last year in Copenhagen but no award went his way. Shame. Yet, Davies' nomination got a second crack at the whip this year in Moscow but, we understand, ironically this aspect of his work was not mentioned in the nomination session and it is suspected that most people were really voting for Dr Who. Either way Davies won a Eurocon Award for 'Best Promoter'. +++ MORE HONOURS - Russell Davies received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the Queen's birthday honours list.

Roberto de Sousa Causo is celebrating the fruits of his decade-long project, to get the anthology Os Melhores Contos Brasileiros de Ficção Científica [The Best Brazillian Stories of Science Fiction] published. In addition to Brazilian SF grandmasters, such as Jeronymo Monteiro, Andre Teixeira Carneiro and Rubens Scavone, there are great stories from some writers who are far less known today such as Domingos Carvalho da Silva and Levy Menezes. Brazilian SF of the 1960s is represented with tales from Finisia Fideli and Jorge Luiz Calife. More recent stories come from writers such as Cesar Silva and Marcello Branco as well as Roberto himself.   Roberto says that, "The goal was not only to relate good stories, but to get a combination of stories that were both a pleasure to read and which also say something about the issues and approaches of our [Brazillian] science fiction; so presenting a picture, I hope, of variety and the constant dialogue of foreign influence with that of Brazil's own literary tradition." This anthology complements another recent anthology, Palavras de Sombra: Contos Fantasticos Brasileiros [Shadow Words: Fantastic Brazillian Stories], compiled by Braulio Tavares. Roberto has ensured that there was no overlap in stories between these two volumes though some of the authors are the same. Both anthologies build upon notable earlier collections such as Antologia Brasileira de Ficcao Cientifica [Brazillian Anthology of SF] (1961).

Richard Dawkins, the Brit biologist, took time off knocking God-believers to face the Daleks in Dr Who 'The Stolen Earth', 28th June. Scary stuff. (Well at least three of us reported this from behind the sofa.) +++ Later in the summer he presented a three-part series on Darwin. During the programme British science teachers told Dawkins that though their job was to teach Darwinian evolution they were not to challenge religious mumbo-jumbo such as the Earth being only a few thousand years old, spontaneous biosphere creation, witch doctoring, etc.

Ian Fleming was born 100 years ago this last May. BBC Radio 4 marked the occasion with a new radio play of Dr No starring Toby Stephens, David Suchet and Sam West. Dr No itself was published 50 years ago. There then followed a season of programmes about the author.

William Gibson has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Simon Fraser University, Canada.

Harry Harrison had a great time outside Moscow at this year's Eurocon, EuRoscon. At the convention he met two cosmonauts. Having previously met some US astronauts (including a Moon walker) he has encountered spacemen from both sides of the Atlantic. Now all he needs is to meet Far Eastern spacemen to complete the set. He also had several Russian media interviews (press and TV). In an interview with RBC daily was also covered by Pravda where he was he says misreported reported saying that the USA is a fascist state. Instead Harry writes on his blog he said that Bush had consistently violated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But America is a constitutional democracy and that he had great faith in this document. Bush will not be re-elected. And the inherent checks and balances in the US system would cancel out the violations. Harry says he is more sorrowed rather than angered by this attempt to use him for cheap propaganda purposes. As a follow-up Alan Dean Foster, also on Harry's blog, points out that Pravda means 'truth', and Izvestia (the other big ol' Russian paper) means 'news'. And as the very old Russian saying goes, 'There is no pravda in Izvestia, and there is no izvestia in Pravda.   +++   Meanwhile back in Britain, Gollancz will shortly be re-publishing a collected edition of Stainless Steel Rat novels.

Dave Langford notes, almost in passing that, the fanzine Ansible has now reached number 250. It began back in 1979 (coincidentally the year two of the Concat team were on the committee of Shoestringcon 1 - tempus fugit). Dave notes that, 'I didn't expect to be still publishing it in 2008. And the paper edition still appears first, before any new-fangled on-line release. Tell that to today's youngsters, and they'll snd a dsblvng txt msg.' What Dave did not say - and if you have never come across monthly Ansible you may care to note - is that he has won just a few Hugos for his fan writing.

Ursula K. LeGuin has been building on the review success of her novel Lavinia. It concerns one of the characters in Virgil's Aeneid but Virgil died before he could complete the part of the Aeneid in which Lavinia comes to the fore. LeGuin imagines what might have been going on at that time. Despite being 79 LeGuin has been making a number of appearances to talk and do signings in her native N. America. Lavinia is published by Harcourt in the US and comes to the British Isles next year (2009) courtesy of Gollancz.

Doris Lessing has referred to her winning the Nobel Prize for literature as a bloody disaster! Apparently she has not written anything since the win as she spends all her time giving interviews and having her photograph taken. Her grumble appeared via the BBC in a Radio 4 arts show interview... which was then quoted in a number of newspapers. Oh, and the interview pieces were often illustrated with a photo. +++ Then at the end of August she elaborated more on her not writing in another BBC Radio 4 (Women's Hour) interview. Old age, poor health and personal commitments means that it is unlikely that she will write another book at least for the foreseeable future. She also explained at length that her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook was not a feminist polemic or on the battle of the sexes but a perspective on recent events through the eyes of women. It is actually about the political world 'cracking up'. The left whose 'party was a bedrock for a time' had lost hope with the vision the Soviet Union had been presenting: 'the Soviet Union was a great disappointment' and 'Stalin was a real horror of a man'. However she did say that 'the pill is the real revolution of our time'. She also said she was astonished that something needs to be written down before it is believed. The explorations in The Golden Notebook she had previously been told from many for a long while: she just wrote them down.

Sam J. Lundwall, as reported in Ansible is in declining health and is bowing out from all forms of fanac though has prepared a few issues of the semiprozine Jules Verne-Magasinet. Sam was a stalwart of Swedish SF being not only an author but a critic, editor, and translator as well. For a couple of decades he even ran his own SF book-publishing house. He was a champion of SF outside of the US but above all a quietly fun guy who, if some of us recall correctly, was rather fond of a tipple of sloe... Sam, hugely sorry that we won't be seeing you at any more Eurocons, but hope you continue to enjoy fandom online.

George R. R. Martin had an exhausting but fun time on a working tour of Spain and Portugal over the summer with: signings at bookshops; festival appearances; and special events, not to mention catching up with old friends. "Worldcon is going to seem like a sleepy day at the beach by comparison..." His work continues to spread throughout Europe and particularly the success of his fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice. One of the next appearances of this work in another language will be part 3 due to come out in Romania in a few months time: parts 1 and 2 are already out as Urzeala Tronurilor: vols 1 and 2 from Nautilus SF. Voyager (HarperCollins) is the British Isles publisher.

Steven Moffat takes over from Russell T. Davies as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of Dr Who. Moffat's previous scripts have included the excellent series Jekyll. The next Who series, the 5th of the new Dr Who seasons (31st in old money), will be broadcast in 2010.

Caroline Mullan, the Brit SF fan, trustee of the SF Foundation and partner of Brian Ameringen (whose Porcupine Books did Essential SF), gives a puff for John Brunner and his very worthy novel Stand on Zanzibar (1968) in The Guardian at the end of June. We also learn from the Mullen (sic) interview that with The Gardiuran who needs a time machine.

Terry Pratchett has been interviewed in the April issue of the Hugo-winning US magazine Locus. And he has a comment or two on the genre as a whole including: "I think SF will end up getting subsumed into mainstream fiction. Mainstream steals more and more from it, without a shadow of a doubt, while at the same time screaming at the top of its voice that it's not science fiction. It's astonishing what convoluted logic they will apply. Here is something that would definitely be SF if an SF writer wrote it, but because a literary writer wrote it, it can't be SF." +++ Locus does sell individual back issues and is arguably the best magazine window on written Anglophone SF albeit with a North American bias. +++ In May Terry had a Radio 4 (BBC's UK national, non-music station) programme devoted to him when John Humphrys interviewed him for 'On the Ropes'. Terry described his earlier professional life as a journalist and The Colour of Magic, his first Discworld, as his breakthrough novel. As for personal tastes he rates Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea over Rowling's Harry Potter: LeGuin would never have allowed the discriminatory term 'muggles' as her wizards valued humans for the skills they had be it farming, blacksmithing etc. Regarding his Alzheimer's, he is not brave but faces up to his demons and, having looked them in the eye, gets on with the day. +++ Pratchett calendar for 2009 now available! Wonderful Discworld illustrations. £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8320-2. +++ 'Discworld' is now 25 years old - Happy quarter of a century. +++ See also earlier item Terry is Ever Green King. +++ Discworld 2009 calendar now out +++ The Folklore of Discworld now out.

Philip Pullman is taking a half-year break from novel writing to help with the establishment of the new British comic DFC. He also revealed that as a youngster he loved 'Batman' and 'Superman' comics. He feels that comics' fusion of text and images helps youngsters develop an understanding of narrative flow. His strip, 'The Adventures of John Blake' begins with ships mysteriously appearing and disappearing mid-ocean, in a fog bank. +++ He also rallied (along with many other authors but Pullman has clout) against the ridiculous current publishing fad in Britain of printing reading age recommendations on the covers of children's books. See here and here for other authors and even here for www.notoagebanding.org. +++ The Society of authors has called for publishers to suspend age guidance plans until the industry has properly assessed stakeholders' concerns.

Robert Rankin is celebrating the publication of his 30th novel Necrophenia. His publishers, Gollancz, are mounting a bit of a celebration cum promotion in December.

Alastair Reynolds has been doing a bit of promotion overseas in Sweden (Stockholm and Gothenburg) and has re-vamped his website www.alastairreynolds.com.

J. K. Rowling presented Harvard's commencement (graduation) day address back in June. The student paper The Harvard Crimson announce the then forthcoming event by calling her 'a flash in the pan [...] a petty pop culture personality [who] tricked parents into letting their kids read books filled with sex, murder, and homosexual role models'. This led to a rather odd notion in The Guardian entitled 'When Harry met sexism' basically saying that the critical establishment marginalises female fantasy writers. Result, the SF 'critical' establishment gets uppity.   Now your reaction may well be 'why bother?', as the genre regularly gets poor press coverage. Ansible carries summary of the criticism. +++ Then in June the speech took place (and there was more of the same criticism). In her speech she noted that failure can focus your mind and help drive you to success, as well as the use of imagination to address the problems of the world. She also touched upon her time as a worker for Amnesty International. She said: "Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand without having experienced." Adding, "They can imagine themselves in other peoples' places." She also said, "We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have power to imagine better." +++ An 800 word Potter short story prequel was auctioned for charity at Waterstones (bookshop) in London. It fetched £25,000 pounds (US$49,323, euro31,278) for charity and went to an absent bidder - see also short story collection item below. Other short stories were also sold including one by Neil Gaiman that sold for £1,250 (US$2,500). +++ J. K. Rowling becomes the patron of the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Scotland. It is the only charity for which she was the one to ask if she would be a patron. JKR's mother died of MS back in 1990 aged 45 and never got to see her daughter's success. +++ See also Beedle The Bard story below.

Geoff Ryman has been waxing lyrical again about 'mundane SF': the small movement of fans and writers who are into scientifically realistic SF. So things like FTL (faster than light travel) and time travel are out but interplanetary space travel and other realistically possible tropes are in. Geoff appeared on BBC Radio 4 and also in the special May issue of Interzone magazine that was devoted to mundane SF. Geoff said that one goal (of possibly a number) of the movement was to come up with some sort of optimistic future for humanity.

Robert Sawyer was reported on SciFi Wire as having given up writing short stories! We contacted Rob who informed us that this was largely true given that he prefers writing novels and that they also pay better. Speaking engagements and his time editing his SF line of books for Fitzhenry & Whiteside is all added pressure and so something has to give. However it looks like he may be tempted to do the occasional short in future and who knows over time there may be another anthology? Meanwhile his second (and only possibly his last) collection, Identity Theft and Other Stories, is out from Red Deer Press (and it sports an introduction from fellow Toronto writer Robert Charles Wilson).

Stanley Schmidt will this year have been editor of Analog for 30 years. - His latest (non-fiction) book is reviewed here.

Ken Slater's memorial meeting was held in central London. The select gathering of trufans took place off Sloane Square under the auspices of the British SF Association (BSFA). Those assembled are/were involved in a broad range of British SF fan activity (UK fanac) including: BECCON (1980s London area con series), Beccon Publications (specialist SF small press), City Illiterates, Hatfield PSIFA (now Herts. U. PSIFA), Imperial College SF, London SF Circle, Worldcon organization (1979), and Concatenation. Such a range reflected the breadth of contact Ken had within Britain's SF community. Roger Robinson surprised (and delighted) everyone by bringing copies of Operation Fantast, Ken's small but professionally printed zine that ran from 1949 to 1955. During the course of the evening it was revealed that Ken started sending off for SF publications in 1926 when aged 9 or 10 and, when in the army, such was Ken's correspondence that wherever he went in Europe a postal officer went with him as he received more mail than his comrades put together. Non-SFnally he also had a key responsibility for the recipient-end of the Berlin airlift logistics. SFnally not only did he keep literally hundreds of fans in the army supplied during WWII with SF but he facilitated book swaps with North America (such barter was necessary because post-war through to the 1950s as you needed Ministerial permission to send British currency overseas). This caused one person at the memorial gathering to wonder what the exchange rate was: how many Fanthorpes were needed to barter a Heinlein? But Ken also contributed to SF activities strictly within British shores. For a while the British Eastercon (UK natcon) had a scenery theme for its main hall stage. In 1963 this was a Grecian Temple and in 1964 an underwater vista: Ken was responsible for both. It also emerged that Ken saved the fledgling BSFA from financial ruin back in 1967 and served for a period as its Vice Chair up to 1969. Peter Weston opined that Ken in the nicest of senses was a sercon (serious and conscientious) fan, a little bemused by some frolics occasioned in fandom but always there to talk, recommend and comment on SF. Brit SF community historian Rob Hansen noted that Ken was crucial to bringing people into the BSFA and that in early 1960's Eastercons there was no dealers room but Ken Slater's room. It was also noted that US fan Forrest J. Ackerman had, on receiving the Hugo for Fan Personality in 1953 (the first year of Hugos), said that Ken was more deserving. Bridget Wilkinson remarked that Ken visited conventions overseas. Finally Ken's daughter, Susie Haynes, made a few revelations. She was child labour, folding and stapling publications. Her first convention was Harrogate in 1962, of which she remembers little other than Brian Burgess' pork pies. She has inherited Ken's stock of SF and is wondering how to make it a viable enterprise and so has created Fantast Three. There is no website as yet but contact can be made via fantastthree [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Charles Stross, has been fed up with the time consuming aspect of interviews but they are sometimes necessary for promotion. So, whether as a cure or a bit of fun, has conducted an anti-interview on his blog. In it blog-visitors asked questions and Charles answered but not wholly truthfully. You can see his antiview here www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2008/06/antiview.html.

George (Star Trek) Takei is entering this month (September) into a civil partnership with his long-term partner Brad Altman. California began allowing same-sex 'marriages' back in the summer.

J. R. R. Tolkien correspondence found and valued at £275,000 (US$522,500). Tolkien received a postcard from Lin Carter back in 1968 but it has only just been found as a worker was dismantling a fireplace at the author's home. Lin Carter (1930 - 1988) being, of course, the well-known N. American SF and fantasy writer who authored over 70 fiction novels and whose non-fiction included Tolkien: A Look Behind 'The Lord of the Rings' (1969) and Middle-Earth: The World of Tolkien Illustrated (1977) the latter with art by Joan Wyatt. Tolkien's three-bedroom bungalow in Poole, Dorset (England), was sold to developers in 2006.

Lisa Tuttle (or Lisa Subtitle as 2000AD once affectionately called her) is one of the latest SF/F writers to enter the blogsphere. Visit her's at lisatuttle.livejournal.com.

Pete Weston, who had re-designed the Hugo Awards and has physically made the metal rockets for the Worldcon for a number of years now, has had his efforts recognised by the World SF Society's business meeting at this year's Worldcon. The WSFS has had its constitution with regard to the Hugo Award changed. It now reads "The Hugo Award shall continue to be standardized on the rocket ship design of Jack McKnight and Ben Jason as refined by Peter Weston". Our congratulations, very appropriate. +++ Peter also helped lead on Ken Slater's memorial gathering at the summer's beginning (see above).

Zoran Zivkovic seems to be doing well and so, following pressure from friends who are computer buffs, has had his website updated. The new site is more bloggy. (This is of course both a good and a bad thing as bloggy means posting immediacy but conversely virtually all Babelfishes have a problem accessing blogs to get them translated.) The site also contains links to some free fiction and samples of Zorin's work. The new site is zoranzivkovic.wordpress.com. Meanwhile he has also completed a new novel, Escher's Loops.

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 2008

FILM NEWS

Metropolis 1926/7 SF film classic is now nearly completely restored with an extra 20-25 minutes found! A quarter of a century ago Argentine film buff, Fernando Pena, heard that the Buenos Aires' museum had a version that was 'many hours' long, whereas most versions screened over the years have been either one hour 15 minutes or two hours 8 minutes. The original is thought to have been three hours 2 minutes. The Fritz Lang German silent film was costly to make (it had a cast of over 37 thousand for a start), but it did not do well at the box office: it nearly bankrupted the studio behind it. Though visually very impressive it was considered overly long. So it was trimmed which means that most of us have only seen the half-length version. Nearly a century ago, the choice the editors made was either to lose plot elements and/or some of the stunning (and expensive) visual scenes. What we ended up with was a visually impressive film whose plot elements did not seem to entirely mesh. For the past two decades Fernando Pena has begged the Buenos Aires' museum to check their archives. Earlier this year the museum finally agreed (a belated hooray) and some of the lost scenes were found. Then in June the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, in Wiesbaden (Germany), which owns the rights to Metropolis, confirmed that the extra scenes' validity. It is now thought only 5 minutes or so are still missing. The extra footage puts some of the supporting characters into a proper plot context and the film makes more sense. Up to now the 1970's BBC version is noted for its sympathetic soundtrack, as is the Georgio Moroder produced 1984 tinted version. In 1987 Metropolis was voted into the Concatenation top 30 all-time film poll and so of course is in Essential Science Fiction. +++ If you are wondering why we have a 1926/7 date it is because the film received its censorship certificate from the Filmprüfstelle on 13th November 1926 and we are confident that there must have been some closed screenings that year. On the other hand its official public premiere was on 10th January 1927. Furthermore, IMDB cites 1927 while Clute has 1926. Take your pick: there are some things we simply can't do for you Earth biorgs.

Top SF films identified (again). The American Film Institute asked a jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians to name their top films in 10 genres, one of which was SF. The results were:-
          1.   2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
          2.   Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
          3.   E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
          4.   A Clockwork Orange (1971)
          5.   The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
          6.   Blade Runner (1982)
          7.   Alien (1979)
          8.   Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
          9.   Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
          10. Back to the Future (1985)
Much of the above will not be news to SF aficionados. All these films have principal entries in Essential SF except ET and half are in the John Flynn and Bob Blackwood survey top ten. (E.T., A Clockwork Orange, Invasion of the Body Snatchers are not and the Blackwood poll has the first Terminator film instead.) To be in Essential SF means that each of these films must have either a Hugo, been an all-time favourite at the Festival of Fantastic Films or scored on either of the Concatenation or Blackwood all-time surveys of SF fans. Indeed, other than E.T., nearly all these films score on more than one of these criteria. (E.T. was probably rated by the AFI survey because of its huge commercial success: it was the runaway commercial leader of 1982 and the judging film critics and historians would have known that. E.T.'s budget was just US$10.5m (1982 money) and to date has grossed around US$800m and is (up to now anyway) the 25th most successful film at the box office. However it being so sugary with minimal SFnal development of the core premise (an alien gets stranded on Earth), doesn't lend E.T. much credit as far as seasoned SF fans are concerned.)

New Star Trek film is to have a time-travelling Spock. Well it will soon be with us: the new Trek film. It looks like of the original team only Leonard Nimoy (as Spock) will make an appearance though younger actors will play younger versions of some of the original crew. As for old Spock, well he gets to travel in time to warn their past of a threat from the past's future (old Spock's present). Further spoilers abound on a plethora of Trek websites. +++ Meanwhile William Shatner has come to recognise that the 5th Trek film (the one which he directed) was not as good as it might have been. He also expressed disappointment at not being in the new, forthcoming film. +++ Follow-up sequel planned. Even though the new Star Trek film has yet to have its premiere, it is thought that it will be a sufficient earner to warrant a sequel. And so early in the summer word had it that the studios were hiring writers to do the script for a follow-up. Clearly the studio intends to keep treading boldly.

Iron Man becomes the 10th best box office opening of all time, the 4th biggest (then 5th once Batman came out (see below)) of superhero films and among non-sequels came only behind Spiderman's launch. Its makers had hoped for US$80 million (£40m) but took US$100.7m its opening weekend in N.America and US$104.2m (£52.1m) since its opening two days earlier (Thursday night). It also took another US$96.7m (£48.3m) when opening in 57 other countries. By its fourth week it had made $257.8 million (£130.1m). The film is the first to be made by Marvel Studios and is being distributed by Paramount. Given N. American genre relevance and its Hollywood distribution, there will be no surprises if it is a shoe-in for a Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Hugo nomination next year. By the end of June it was the first film of the year to have grossed US$300m in N. America alone and globally has taken over US$550m at box offices. (Iron Man reached this US$300m take in 51 days and for comparison last year Spider-Man 3 did it in 23 days.) Iron Man has still to launch in some countries and did so in Japan in September around the time this news page was posted. +++ Iron Man's special effects man dies.

Iron Man 2 planned! The week was barely out when the sound of cash till registers in Hollywood prompted the announcement of a sequel Iron Man film slated for 2010. It's all depressingly predictable.

Batman The Dark Knight breaks the record for the biggest N. American box office with US$155.34 million (£78.4m) plus US$40 million (£20.2m) overseas. As such it beats the previous N. American box office, opening weekend, record holder Spiderman 3 last year. However taking into account the year's inflation, Spiderman 3 may have just pipped The Dark Knight in terms of numbers of tickets sold. The Dark Knight cost $185 million (£63.14m) to make so, even allowing for the cinemas' cut, it looks like it will soon make its money back. +++ More news: By mid-August its total N. American domestic take was US$471.5 million (£290m). Batman: The Dark Knight has therefore passed the original Star Wars (US$461 million (£243m)) to become the second-highest-grossing movie on the all-time domestic charts, behind only Titanic (US$600.8 million (£316.2 m)).

2010 and 2011 to be a bumper years for Marvel superhero film fans. Tentative release dates slated are as follows: Iron Man 2 (April, 2010), Thor (June 2010), The First Avenger: Captain America (working title) (May 2011), and The Avengers (July 2011).

The release of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been postponed from November (2008) to July (2009). Apparently this is because there are other genre releases coming out in the run up to Christmas and so Warners are looking for a less congested release date.

Captain America film to return to comic origins (literally). The First Avenger: Captain America will be set during World War II. Marvel comic aficionados will know that Captain America's own comic book origins were set in that time period. The film is currently expected to be out in the early summer of 2011.

Terminator IV is back! And it looks like the start of a new trilogy. First, making this film was on, then off and now its on again and - such has been the progress over the summer -- filming has even started! Moon Bloodgood apparently playing Sarah Connor. But there is more... Hollywood rumour control has it that Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to be in the film especially if it is shot in California. The problem is in what capacity and would he be up to it and/or our expectations? +++ Terminator IV, to be called Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins seeks lower certification. So far the 'Terminator' series has grossed over US$1.03 billion internationally (£520m) but maker Halcyon feels it necessary to attract a bigger audience and so will seek a PG-13 rating. Apparently they say (now try not to laugh) that this will not compromise the series' gritty vision. It will be set in a bleak post-apocalyptic 2029 (or 2018 depending on where you get your news) with humanity facing genocide. This, you would have thought, would warrant them going for a higher than PG-13 rating and getting a bigger share of the adult market over a longer period, than a lower share with youngsters included. Could the decision have anything to do with the creation of Halcyon Games who will be making the computer game or licensing deals for toy action figures? (Don't guess too hard now.) +++ Plot development: It looks like set in the post apocalyptic future and there has been a timeline divergence, so John Connor is not sure whether all the things he has been told in the past about the future are true. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, John Connor and Marcus Wright (someone who could either have been rescued from Earth's past or come from its future) journey into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. The film is currently slated for the summer of 2009.

The film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is still in development hell. The latest is that Wolfgang Petersen is off the team. (Petersen did Enemy Mine (1985) based on Barry Longyear's story.) Card is currently writing the screenplay. The novel Ender's Game of course won a Hugo Award in 1986. We guess he is taking his time to get it right because if successful there may be other's in the 'Ender' series including the spin-off flashback 'Ender's Shadow' series.

Guillermo del Toro is to direct the two Hobbit films. The director (of the Hugo-winning film Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy) is to work with Peter Jackson's production companies and Jackson himself. The two films will lead up to the time immediately before The Lord of the Rings. Sir Ian McKellen has signed up to reprise his role as Gandalf. 2009 will be dedicated to pre-production on both films, which may well be shot back to back in New Zealand in 2010. Guillermo del Toro has said that the first film will stick to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit but the second will take in a wide range of materials from the Tolkien universe and be a sort of prequel to the first Lord of the Rings film. The Hobbit will open in December 2011, followed by its sequel in 2012.

Hellboy to end says Guillermo del Toro. Further to our Spring SF news - when he was reported as saying that the second film will lay the ground for a third film should it be deemed commercial - now he says any third film would be the last Hellboy. Apparently he would want the series to end there (with no possibility for either a sequel or prequel) and even have would have it clearly written into his contract that there would not be a fourth film. He wants to bring the story arc back to the graphic novels. Of course, whether or not he could actually legally tie up the studio to end the franchise is a moot point as the worst they would face is having to pay compensation; as he could not prove financial loss that would restrict the amount he could legally claim. Clearly though he wants to be the person visibly associated with Hellboy's screen incarnation. The other problem is that he is much sought after. From previous news item he has The Hobbit films to do, and he was rumoured (see Spring science fiction news) to perhaps be slated to do Lovecraft's Mountains of Madness, but clearly that is now off the cards (though hopefully someone else will take that on).

... And it looks like Guillermo del Toro is to bring Saturn and the End of Days to the big screen. Indeed it will need to be a big screen as the film's protagonist watches the Rapture and associated apocalypse.

Neil (Dog Soldiers (2001), The Descent (2005) and Doomsday (2008)) Marshall has signed a two-picture deal with Universal. Drive is based on James Sallis' novel, and Sacrilege will be a horror western: think Unforgiven with an H. P. Lovecraft riff.

The novel The Last Equation is to be a film. Stuart Gibbs' debut novel is to be adapted to the big screen. 'Pandora' is apparently Albert Einstein's last equation. It has the potential to solve the World's energy problems, but it so simplifies atomic science that anyone could create weapons. Because of this risk, Einstein either hid or destroyed the equation before his death. The story takes place in the present as the government enlists a fugitive criminal and mathematical genius to find the equation before it falls into the wrong hands.

The Cloverfield prequel is on hold. Having had the green light to make another film they have hit a tiny snag - the lack of a good idea for the film's plot!!! So everything has been put on hold until they can come up with something. (Well we did note last time that the original was er... 'plot light'.)

There is no killing the Highlander. Yes, it looks like it is coming back (again - see previous report). There have been so many sequels, follow-ups and spin-off TV with the original core plot simply worn to shreds, that it will be surprising if fantastic film buffs can be bothered. Alas for Hollywood the cash registers do the talking and the executives think there is life (money) left in the franchise and a new generation to sucker entertain. Quite simply enough time has passed since the reasonably good 1986 original film that they think they can do it all over again starting with a re-make. Summit Entertainment has acquired the remake rights from Davis-Panzer Productions. One of the original producers of the 1986 film, Peter Davis, will produce. So do not expect them to sort out the plot mess: rather be warned that it might be another dog's dinner.

New Conan film still stalling. Further to our report last year, the film has switched studios and is now with Nu Image/Millennium. There are apparently still problems getting a screenplay (script) out of the screenstory.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is to be remade by MTV. Apparently there will be songs that weren't in the film. Lou Alder, the executive producer on the original film is involved. What we at Concat mission control don't know is whether the creative driver of the original, Richard O'Brien, is involved. The 1975 original has grossed some US$140 million (£70.7m) in the US box office yet cost only £0.6m (US$1.2m) to make. Rocky fans on the Concat team feel that this remake is close to sacrilege and they would be better of remaking the pseudo-sequel Shock Treatment as that deviated markedly from O'Brien's original thoughts for the follow-up film.

Film download tip!: Trailer for the Day The Earth Stood Still remake. Arguably just about enough time has passed since the 1951 original. The original film made it to the tope ten in the Blackwood/Flynn all-time poll as well as Concat's own all-time poll and so is in Essential Science Fiction. Anyway, you can see the trailer for the re-make here.

Film download tip!: Trailer for the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica. It's all about how the cylons were created in the first place. See the clip here.

Film download tip!: The PCR Song is an internet viral hit. . Bioscientists will find it hard not to love this ballad in the style of a pop-singer charity song. It is actually an advert for a PCR analysis machine: the new 1000-Series Thermal Cyclers from BioRad. (For non-bioscientists these devices replicate minute quantities of DNA to levels at which a DNA 'fingerprint' can be performed.) It has been doing the rounds on the internet and has become quite popular; phenomenally so with bioscientists. (This copy alone has had getting on for a third of a million views at the time of posting.) See the clip here.

Film download tip!: A glimpse of this year's Finncon/Animecon. It's only 5 minutes. See the clip here.

Film download tip!: Trailer for Infestation the zombie type SF horror like 28 Days. It's from a small independent UK filmmaker. See the clip here.

For a reminder of the top films in 2007/8 (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 2008 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 2008

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

Chinese print costs up 40% since beginning of the year. As a number of larger publishers print in China it may mean that new releases in 208 will be more expensive. Our advice is to stock up on your wanted backlist before Christmas. +++ Alternatively if you are in the SE of England then visit the Fantasy Centre as they have a huge selection of second hand old titles - phone first if you want something specific as it may be in their warehouse.

UK book trade has a good first half of year (2008). The Random Group (the 2nd largest publishing group in the British Isles) has half-year sales up 1.4% to £104m this, and with 15.1% of BookScan sales, saw it come to within a gnat's crotchet of Hachette's (Britain's largest publisher).   Meanwhile the annual performance of HarperCollins UK was also up. In particular its growth of digital sales was very strong at 35%. Simon & Shuster UK sales were up 17% for the first half of the year. This compares with S&S's US profits which over the past year were down 26% to US$29.2 million (£14.7 m). However UK good news might be short-lived. Much depends on the second half of this year, which follows a summer that saw food and petrol price rises. On the other hand books may not be that badly hit if consumers make their savings elsewhere such as by taking their traditional summer holiday at home.

The Bookseller was 150 years old this summer. Joseph Whitaker founded the Bookseller in 1858 which went on to help shape British bookselling in a number of landmark developments. It published the first Whitaker Almanac in 1942 and then the ISBN agency for the British Isles (UK and Ireland) in 1967. In 1979 it created a telephone ordering service for 40,000 UK booksellers and 60,000 overseas. In 1987 BookData was established and in 1995 BookTrack (now the Nielsen BookScan) that measures and analyses book sales internationally. In 2001 BookScan was launched in the US. Happy birthday.

E-Books need a proper ISBN say Nielsen firmly. E-books must have an ISBN to be listed: a generic e-book ISBN will not do if the title is to go on BookData as used by booksellers and libraries.

Hachette challenges Amazon UK. Hachette are Britain's largest publishing group and, among others, own Orion's Gollancz SF imprint. They are in dispute with Amazon UK over the extra discount terms Amazon is seeking for 2009. Meanwhile in June Amazon removed the 'buy new' button on Hachette titles. Hachette says (not one feels unreasonably) that Amazon already has a very generous discount. Indeed the Society of Authors is sympathetic to the Hachette view but an SoA spokesperson has said it is the authors who are caught in the crossfire. Amazon is not new to conflict with publishers and had one with Bloomsbury back in January... Meanwhile the Concat team say that if its site's visitors have a specialist genre bookshop near them then they should support it and buy from them. Authors' royalties these days are based on a percentage of publisher receipts so if you like an SF author then don't buy new from a heavily discounted outlet.

Virgin Comics is to close its New York (US) office. Launched in 2006 the economic downturn has been cited as the reason for the closure. Whether or not there will be a relocation to Los Angeles is, at the time of posting, unclear.

US publishers continue to go for UK's £250m (US$490m) India market. The US is continuing to try to subvert the way World copyright is divided (backstory here). At the moment when an author sells a book to a publisher they usually get either North American, or British Commonwealth or Worldwide rights. US publishers not buying Worldwide rights and then selling to places like India is sharp practice. HarperCollins is one of the UK publishers continuing to raise this concern. A spokesperson from Penguin has said that it is known that US editions are 'leaking into India'. +++ Separately the US and UK are trying to thrash out how to organise digital rights. But given the problem with adhering to paper book rights one wonders what chance?

Will France catch up with UK and do away with 'Net'? One result of Margaret Thatcher's deregulation of the British economy was the scrapping in 1995 of Britain's Net Book Agreement whereby booksellers had to sell a book at the agreed publishers price: only those 'remaindered' could be sold for less and such books had either inked page sides or a small saw cut. Since 1995 books can be sold at whatever price a seller chooses. France, though, still has the Lang Law (1981) that fixes the prices of books sold. Now the head of Amazon France, Xavier Garambois, has called for the Lang law to be overhauled (for which read scrapped). He was speaking at a French parliamentary roundtable.

J. K. Rowling's collection will not cost you £2 million (US$4m), the price paid for a copy of a limited, written by-hand, edition of Beedle the Bard auctioned at the end of last year. In a summer move that reportedly caught the book trade by surprise, it was announced that this title will be officially published and the race is on (by Bloomsbury (UK) and Scholastic (US)) to get it in bookshops for Christmas. Beedle the Bard is a collection of shorts that was referred to in the final Harry Potter book. There will be three editions. In addition to the hardback edition, the standard paperback edition is reported to have a recommended price of £6.99 but there are bound to be special offers. There will also be a £50 special edition. Net proceeds are anticipated to around £4 million (US$7.6 m) and we understand that some, or all, of this will go to charity.

The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been voted the best UK audiobook as determined by a Book Marketing Society survey. (Barely surprising but it is nice to have these things confirmed.)

Short story collection breaks record. Short story collections do not sell nearly as well as novels. However What's Your Story? - a collection released by UK Waterstones bookshop chain to mark the International Year of Reading - has all but sold out of its 10,000 print run the very day it was launched. 'Why?' you may well ask. Could it be that one of the contributing 13 authors is J. K. Rowling. Her contribution is a Harry Potter prequel story set in the 1970s with Potter, his dad and friend Sirius Black tour on a magic motorbike. Among the other authors of genre interest is Margaret Atwood. If you want a copy of the collection then you had best be prepared to pay up as Waterstones say that they are not going to do another printing so any copies around already have a lack of availability premium.

The British comic The Beno celebrated its 70th birthday in July. A kids comic aimed for 8 - 10 year olds, it has a longstanding reputation in the UK.

Random House Children's books help DFC, the a new weekly British comic with a load of SF and fantasy related strips. A first for British comics, it is only available by subscription. A website adds another dimension so that, for example, subscribers get a code which they can then use to bring the cover to life. So if a cover features a giant squid, subscribers can go to the website, use the code and then see an animation of what the squid does. Among those helping get the comic onto its feet is Philip Pullman. His strip is entitled 'The Adventures of John Blake' and has a time travel element. The DFC stands for David Fickling (Books) Comic (but don't tell anyone as there was a competition as for what 'DFC' might stand).

James Bond is back on the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth. 14 books on, and with the permission of the Fleming estate, British novelist Sebastian Faulks has penned a new novel. Called Devil May Care, it is set in 1967 and portrays the aging, licensed killer as vulnerable and damaged but with an undiminished sex drive.

The PFD (Peters Fraser & Dunlop) authors' agency saga rumbles on. (A number of genre authors have PFD agents. See back story here.) First, in the UK Andrew Neil and a couple of others have now taken over the agency buying it for £3.75m plus a possible £0.25m payable in 2011 if performance meets expectations. This is close to the price the staff offered in the failed buyout last year. However it is worth noting that since the failed staff buyout many of the old staff have left to form United Agents so the original staff offer may well have been below the market price.   Second, Zoë Pagnamenta who has run PFD's US office since it opened in 2003 has left to form her own agency. This will be based in Manhattan's Bond Street. +++ PFD launches a tranche of 'print on demand' titles. They are using the pod producers Lightening Source and will sell through Amazon, Bertrams and Gardners on-line. They do not expect huge sales. Rather the idea is to use a year's worth of the sales they do get to present to book publishers to persuade them to take on the books in the usual way.

Hodder is giving away infected podcasts. Hodder & Stoughton is giving away free podcasts of US horror writer Scott Sigler's 2001 novel Earthcore to promote his new book Infected. The story is an SF horror concerning alien parasites.

The 2008 Man Booker Prize (London) and the Frankfurt Book Fayre dates clash. The are two events in UK publishers' diaries. The clash has been described by one senior publisher as 'a terrible cock up'. The solution has been to screen the ceremony live at Frankfurt... Of course these things happen as with the 2010 Eurocon-Worldcon. +++ The idea of a children's Booker is being mooted. This would replace the gap left by the former Nestlé Children's Book Prize. The Publishers Association has formed a working party to examine the matter.

The British police are requesting that libraries disclose borrowing records. This is so that they can see if suspects are borrowing books that might relate to potential crimes (terrorism). Such requests appear to focus on libraries that serve areas with more Muslims. The issue has not (yet?) been a media issue in the UK. However in the US it has apparently been a bit of public concern.

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in January. 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 2008

TV NEWS

Dr Who Promenade Concert at Royal Albert Hall a huge success. Held as part of the BBC's Prom season it not only featured Dr Who themes by 'Jupiter' from Holt's planets and Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries'. The programme booklet was police-box shaped and there was a Tardis at the back of the stage. Screens dotted about the place showed clips from the show and, while the audience was settling in, dry ice added to the atmosphere. Musical pieces were occasionally interrupted with appearances of Dr Who monsters including the Daleks. A few of the children present screamed. Huge fun for kids of all ages. Recommended if every they do something like this again.

Gerry Anderson TV theme concert to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of composer Barry Gray to be held on 8th November. The concert will include music from Thunderbirds, UFO, The Secret Service, Fireball XL5, Doppelganger/ Far Side of the Sun and Stingray. Brian Blessed will be the master of ceremonies and the music will be preformed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. The event will take place at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, London. Part of the proceeds will go to the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund. Tickets from www.southbankcentre.co.uk. (Barry Gray info at www.barrygray.co.uk.)

Filming for Torchwood's 3rd series has started. It will be broadcast in 2009 (BBC) commencing with a five-part mini-series called 'Children of Earth'

New Knight Rider to see David Hasselhoff guest. The new series follows on from the pilot TV film earlier this year. Basic plot: Michael Knight's son, Mike Tracer (played by Justin Bruening), is the lead investigator of a high tech crime fighting team. It looks like Michael Knight (Hasselfoff) will return in an episode with the original KITT car (a Pontiac Trans Am, whose AI was originally voiced by William Daniels) so teaming up with Tracer's new KITT (a Ford Mustang GT500KR voiced by Val Kilmer). The new series premieres on 24th September (2008) in the US on NBC. No doubt it will soon migrate to Europe's Sci-Fi Channel (both NBC and Sci-Fi Channel are owned by NBC Universal).

Lost's final season is in sight and (yet again we are told) there is a pre-planned ending. With the second half of season 4 having been shown this summer, the end is in sight. Lost started with so much promise. The series concerns the survivors of a plane crash on a desert island, except it is not so deserted. There is a polar bear, some other (not yet seen) giant monster, a black smoke monster, another crashed plane (with a load of heroin), a four-toed statue, and a hatch leading to an underground bunker with slightly dated electronics and something with a huge magnetic field. Following season one's success the series began to drag as the makers - now having to come up with more episodes - eked things out. Then for season three Channel 4 (UK terrestrial) sadly lost the show to Sky (satellite/cable). But with the first half of season 4 things picked up plot-wise. (Yes, they did.) Some (they say) have put this down to graphic novel and comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan being brought onto the writer's team to keep the 'Lost' roadmap alive, but (we say) a more pedestrian explanation could well be that the producers now know how long they have in which to wrap everything up and so can now properly plan the plot's final unfolding. We viewers now realise (in case you gave up on the series (viewing figures have been lower)) that the island was the home to (unspecified) time-bending experiments. We also know, from early season 4 flash-forwards, that some (temporarily?) escape the island. And so we are beginning the last dash to the final episode that will be broadcast in Europe in 2010. If you were one of those who deserted the series after season 2, then now is perhaps the time to rejoin it for the wrap. +++ Here are links to our reviews of Brian Vaughan's Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days, Ex Machina: Tag and Pride of Baghdad.

Battlestar Galactica - Final episodes to tidy up all loose ends. These will be shown early in the New Year. It means that any other specials will either be self-contained arcs or go off onto a new tangent to the main plot over the past seasons. The finale ten episodes will pick up the story from when Galactica discovers the old, burnt out, planet Earth. +++ See the link to the trailer for the Battlestar prequel Caprica in our flim/vid clip section earlier.

11th Hour is a US re-make of the 2006 British 4-episode mini-series. It will begin in the US around the time this seasonal news page is posted. The original series was created by Stephen Gallagher (whose written some brilliant television SF) and starred Patrick Stewart. Stewart played a Governmental scientific advisor who troubleshoots black market human cloning, genetically modified viruses, global warming research, and secret heavy water production. A British actor, Rufus Sewell, will star in the new CBS series as the Government advisor, Prof Jacob Hood who is called in at the 11th hour and represents the last line of defence against whatever bit of science exotica they're up against that week. Providing they have a script writer as good as Gallagher and do not play down the science then the series could be a good one.

Prisoner mini-series casting news. Further to the rumours a couple of year's ago the casting has now been made with Jim (The Passion of the Christ) Caviezel and Sir Ian (Lord of the Rings, Gods and Monsters andX-Men) McKellen. They are to play numbers six and two respectively. Shooting has already begun but they are not using Portmeirion. A 2009 broadcast is now anticipated. However it still looks like it is only going to be a six-parter (though that number is appropriate). It is rumoured that Patrick McGoohan may have a small cameo. (Last year it was rumoured that this mini-series was not going to happen with Sky losing interest - but we did not believe it (well any Sky source needs double checking) and so did not report it.)

Heroes season 3 will explore the back-story. Heroes season 3 will be broadcast N. America just a week or so after we post this news. The first few episodes will feature a few new heroes who are actually villains. The season will also explore how the superpowers arose in the first place.

US version of UK series Life on Mars could be better!!! Shock, horror, drama, probe! Well, SFnally at least (the acting and script could still be the usual Hollywood standard). Life on Mars concerns a cop who gets run-over in a car accident and wakes up as a cop but three decades ago in the 1970s. It was atmospheric and full of humour. Plus there was the puzzle as to what was going on. It was successful and so a US version was almost inevitable. Now, there were concerns when it was announced that there would be this US version of Life on Mars: well we all know the track record of the US trying to adapt successful Brit shows (even if they do do a few good SF shows of their own). Though Life on Mars was a great Brit show, from a hard SF perspective, the series' climax was simply awful. Now Hollywood seems to have picked up on this (or someone there read our previous comments on the series) and they have decided to go about their version in a more hard SFnal way. So let's hope they do. Having said that, it would be a pity if they created a good Sfnal edge but lost the Brit original's character. Still, we will have to see.

 

[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 2008

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The 2008 Worldcon, Devention, was held in Denver, US. The host city itself is a mile high and so the con's theme was a mile closer to the stars. The conference centre (sorry 'center') was big, and indeed so much so that the con shared the site with an event being run by the John Deere tractor company complete with product trundling around. An early estimate was that there were some 3,750 warm bodies attending: this is low by US Worldcon standards of recent years and could be due to poor marketing especially as the Worldcon the year before was outside the US (and will be for the next two years) so they could have capitalised on being the only home market option for a while. On the other hand Denver is in one of the lowest population density states in the US. It could be that previous recent US Worldcons on the east and west coasts attracted a substantive regional attendance? Whatever the reason, attendance was low and the venue was big, so it was nice and airy. Information was principally (and usefully) disseminated by a twice daily newssheet, Necessity: The Mother of Devention. However there was one quote betraying the insular nature of US dominated Worldcon fandom... "Most regions of the U.S. (and other countries too) have their own regional conventions." Gee, it is nice for the Worldcon newsletter acknowledge - albeit in brackets (can't have everything) - that there is an extensive SF world outside of the U.S.. If the editor concerned doubts us then see our science fiction convention list.
          Exhibits and exhibitionists. Another big success, literally, was the art show which for some reason this year was far bigger than usual. Actually probably this was because (as mentioned earlier) the Worldcon was in Japan last year and will be in Canada next year so many US artists probably pulled out the stops for Denver. The masquerade featured some neat dinosaurs. (You can see bits of the masquerade on [http://www.fast-forward.tv/video/Worldcon2008_03.mov] Fast-Forward.TV (5.4 minutes).) There was also a fun robo wars (homemade battling droids) event. A collection of models built by Sean W. Sides was striking: they were replicas of miniatures used in TV series like the original Battlestar Galactica, including a detailed Galactica with 2000 individual parts, lit by LEDs and around 600 feet of fibre optics.
          The programme was varied with something for everyone. If anything it was a bit light on the literary criticism side but this may have been deliberate as next year's Worldcon's programme will be strong on LitCrit. The good news was that there was a film programme that you could describe as meaningful albeit with a strong Hollywood focus, few independents and little from outside N. America. There were though some Japanese films in the mix and also an anime stream. Hooray, for once the films were in the programme booklet, the only downside was that there was no three-line synopsis or nation cited (but this last did not really matter as the selection was not really one of recent SF films from around the World but, as stated, largely Hollywood). Still, big thumbs up for trying which is more than some Worldcons do.
          Science also had a reasonable airing with items including: Science Q&A, 'A World Made of Birds - What would the Earth be like if the Dinosaurs Had Lived?'; 'A World Without Children: The social implications of a declining birth-rate'; 'Dark Matter'; 'De revolutione scientiarum';'Global Warming - or Maybe Not?' (actually forget the title, this was a reasonable panel discussion); 'Has the internet destroyed Ham radio?'; 'Heinlein and the Space Suit'; 'How has SF influenced modern medicine?'; 'I Built it in my Basement: Lasers for the Modern World'; 'Kip Russell's Slip Stick - The Slide Rule in classic science fiction'; 'Launch Pad: Astronomy for Writers'; 'Life after Rocket Science: real life rocket scientists tell why they moved on to other careers'; 'Luna City or Bust: an open source space program (sic)'; 'Mars update'; 'Nanomedicine: What we know now, what might happen later'; 'Poisons, Potions, and Pain Relief: Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the World to Come'; 'Predicting Catastrophic Weather' 'Programmable Matter'; 'Volcanoes: Alien and Terrestrial'; 'Quantum Mechanics, Future Technologies, and Parallel Worlds'; "Rocket Talk" with Fizz & Fuse the Reactor Brothers'; 'Science for non-scientists: Researching hard science'; 'SETI'; 'Space Drives: Scientific Possibilities'; 'The Japanese Space Programme'; 'The People Behind NASA'; 'The Possibilities of Hypnotism: Discussing it - not doing it'; 'The Return to the Moon'; 'Theological Interpretations of Modern Science: Mac vs Windows vs Linux'; 'Unique Astronomical Environments: living in extreme places'; 'Working with Science and Science Fiction Museums'; and 'You canna change the laws of physics: what really won't work'... (However an appeal to future Worldcon organisers: given other Worldcon themes of writing and publishing SF could we please have some items on science writing and publishing: popular miscommunication, science open access, citation, SF in recent science are all topical issues to cite just a few. This area has been neglected for too long.)
          The all too usual downer for the programme was the changes due to cancellations and panellists deciding when they would perform and sod everybody else. Why Worldcon organisers don't just stick to the original programme and accept a few dropouts is a mystery! Programme participants are asked in advance what times of day they would be prepared to be on items and can stipulate not to be against other items (such as the business meetings or art auction). So if after this they cannot be bothered then fair enough, the convention should not worry and let them drop out. Yet this is a problem all too common to Worldcons these days and Denver is not alone in this shortcoming. Indeed it did not help with audiovisual tech folk and the programme organisers' communication and apparently there were a few problems.
          Business meeting. The World SF Society (WSFS under whose auspices the Worldcon is held) had its business meetings. By a vote of 40 to 28, a resolution to drop the Best Semi-prozine Hugo was passed. (This decision may come back to haunt WSFS.) A resolution to add a Best Graphic Story Hugo was approved. In addition, a non-binding proposal was made to both Anticipation in Canada (Worldcon 2009) and Australia (the 2010 Worldcon) to put the Best Graphic Story on their list Hugo list. (It will be interesting to see if nominations for the latter somehow tie in with Eisner and Eagle nominations.) Also passed at the meeting was clarification of the eligibility of works published in electronic and other non-print forms for Hugo awards. All the afore Hugo-change resolutions need to be ratified at next year's Worldcon, Anticipation, in Canada. Finally Peter Weston's contribution to making Hugo Award prize rockets was now enshrined with a reference to the fan in the WSFS constitution.
          The Hugo Awards for SF achievement were presented (see near the top of this page).
          As for a general summation of the event, it went off largely very well. There were some grumbles because the parties and some of the events were in different buildings. On the other hand the reasonably fit brigade welcomed the exercise (but the very fit brigade still had to do their jogging). Yet there were, inevitably, some hiccoughs. For example, the registration queues got very long early on and there was irritation this year at having to provide photo ID (a registration receipt, copy of PR4 and the address labelled envelope it came in, just was not enough: perhaps the organisers were afraid of terrorism?). Yet all cons have their hiccoughs, though in the above ID case it would have been good if folk had given the organisers a good slap on the back (either that or a shock as that sometimes cures hiccoughs they say...). The general feeling from the non-representative sample of comments Concat received is that on the whole Denver was an enjoyable con. It also looks like it may well have broken even financially - fingers crossed (that is good luck in Britain). Congratulations and thanks to Devention's organisers. Roll on Canada.

Anticipation, the 2009 Canadian Worldcon, has its PR2 out. Ralph Bakshi has been announced as the artist Guest of Honour. Progress Report 2 has Guest of Honour profiles and three short pieces on Ontario fandom. From the staff breakdown and other discussion, it rather looks like we are going to get the programme we anticipated last season. Other than Francophone books, still no meaningful USP. Still, there are three progress reports to go (or two if the last one is devoted to travel and venue city details). +++ The registration rates have also just gone up. If you are non-Canadian this probably will not matter as by now you will have decided whether or not to go. However if you are Canadian, and especially if you have not been to a Worldcon before, then this is your chance as even the poorly organised ones have so much going on that you won't get bored. (At the very least you will meet some like-minded souls at panels on the topics you enjoy.) If so, do register now as the rates go up on the door and advance registrants do get seasonal Progress Reports. The con's weblink will be on our convention diary page up to the convention itself. +++ Stop Press: Anticipation to award Best Graphic Novel Hugo. It will cover any science fiction or fantasy narrative in graphic form appearing for the first time in 2008. It may potentially be ratified as an annual award in the WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meeting at the convention in August, 2009. The Hugo Awards nomination ballots will be released after 1st January, 2009.

Australia wins 2010 Worldcon bid!!!! Well it is good to have the advance news reported last time confirmed in reality: these messages sent through wormholes in space can come from alternate futures don't you know... So the 68th World Science Fiction Convention will be held 2nd- 6th September 2010 in the Melbourne Convention Exhibit Centre. Guests of Honour will be Kim Stanley Robinson, Robin Johnson and Shaun Tan. This win is all the more welcome as it comes just before peak oil and airfare prices really soaring. Anyway, so it is off to Australia and a chance to see life upside down, a starry night very different to the European one (let's pretend we are on another planet), and a Worldcon in winter and not summer (lets pretend we are time warped). Added to this New Zealand fans have seized the opportunity of having a load of northern hemisphere fans on their doorstep and are enticing them with a short hop to Oxfordshire in the south enabling those of us travelling to Australia to get the maximum for our fossil burden (see item immediately below). Time to register now at the low early-registration rate. The con's weblink will be on our convention diary page up to the convention itself.

Great news!: New Zealand is running its 2010 national convention as a pre-Worldcon 2010 convention. - see story in the following fandom section.

Worldcon 2011 bids. It currently looks like it will be a race between USA bids: Seattle and Reno.

The 2008 Eurocon, EuRoscon, was held outside Moscow. Despite guest muddles, change of dates (twice), participant official bureaucratic hurdles (even on the day some Italians and others did not have the right paperwork (well we did warn you: heck, we just alerted you that this was spreading to the West - see 2008 Worldcon above), the convention finally happened. Some of the afore-mentioned organizational problems undoubtedly meant that the usual number of Western Europeans attending was well down (a handful of Brits and Italians and a sprinkling of others) but there were well over a dozen from the Ukraine and several other Russian neighbouring nations were also represented. In all there was getting on for nearly 1,000 with the vast majority from the Moscow region and Russia. So it was very much a Moscow Russian convention but there were almost enough from elsewhere in Europe (as well as a US fan in the mix) to make the event just a little different. Possibly as a result, little of the programming had translation (big mistake) and so participants from outside the former Soviet sphere could not really get a feel for the Russian (host nation) SF scene (which is one big reason why folk go to Eurocons, Eurocon organisers do please note). Even if it was a poor European event it was still a good regional one. Overall there was a friendly party atmosphere. One Hungarian writer got so much into the spirit of things (or was it the spirit that got into him) that on finishing a drink he threw his glass over his shoulder. Costly in glasses, but amusing at the time (especially as Russians don't do that sort of thing). The guests at the end of the day were Harry Harrison (no doubt recruited at last year's Eurocon (Copenhagen)) and two cosmonauts Georgi Grechko and Sergei Zhukov. The young-ish writer Alexander Gromov, who is also interested in science, brought an astronomical telescope with him so that fans could get nearer the stars. This was before he became a bit of a star himself with a Eurocon Award and narrowly missing out on a Roskon Award. The venue was excellent: a sort of a complex of buildings set in the countryside, although it was a little far from Moscow. The outdoor events (live music, sword fighting, fireworks etc) were particularly entertaining despite the cold. Well-attended items included a pre-launch screening of the animated film Alice's Birthday (based on Kir Bulychev's novella) and the launch of a new biographic book about Strugatsky brothers (written by Ant Skalandis). The locals raved over the 'fantastic poetry' readings while bemused visitors avoided the Vogons.
          Getting to the Moscow Eurocon was a bumpy ride (which was surprising given the organisers' con-running experience) and the committee's early mistakes sent out alarming signals. This undoubtedly put many from the West from going but, for those from Central and Western Europe who did, the convention was sort of interesting. Apart from media attention, Harry Harrison (the foreign guest) did not seem to be looked after as he might (should) have been but western European fans came to the rescue. The English-language programme schedule differed from the Russian one and so there were problems with Western Europeans knowing when and where some of the events were happening. Also the programme failed to take advantage of it being a Eurocon so exposing the host country to SF and fandom from other European nations and vice versa, all of which begs the questions as to why the Russians wanted to host a Eurocon in the first place? Still the vodka was good and the banquet was great fun. +++ Jim Walker's con report is here. +++ Rellocat's short EuRoscon video captures the con's party spirit. It briefly features many well known Russian authors and fans plus just a couple from the West. Another short video (26 seconds) features RosCon folk singing.

European SF Society (ESFS) business meeting 2008. Once again it was the old saga of tottering and myopia. The officers have not put together a working party discussed at the 2007 Eurocon in Copenhagen and, after a number of years of debate, it is probably not worth pursuing this any further: a 'let-them-get-on-with-it' attitude prevails. So what real news is there? Well after the now customary phart-arsing about with the constitution, it's now tinker with the Eurocon awards time to bring in some new categories. A brilliant masterpiece move given that the current awards session is currently a bun fight with some decidedly dodgy (and time consuming) nominations that could be avoided if the ESFS officers bothered to come up with some nomination and voting guidelines. But, hey, you know the story... (the usual back row mix of raised eyebrows and mirth amidst passionate persuasion). There was much discussion about categories and where the new awards would lie within the existing Eurocon award groupings. Anyway it all has to get ratified in Italy 2009: so remember to bring your popcorn. +++ There were also the Eurocon 2010 bids one of which ESFS was blissfully unaware a week before the event even though it came from a fellow ESFS Officer (says it all really) - see the 2010 Eurocon and Euro Conference items below.

The 2009 Eurocon in Italy has confirmed dates and guests and will be Deepcon 10. For those at the 2007 Eurocon in Copenhagen much of what follows is not news but as matters then were only at the provisional planning stage we could not report them. However since then matters have firmed up. It will be held in Fiuggi on 26th - 29th March 2009. The Guests of Honour will be: US SF author and grandmaster Robert Silverberg; Russian superstar fantasy and horror author Sergey (Nightwatch) Lukyanenko; and US actress Kate Mulgrew. Website: http://www.euroconsf2009.it. The event will also double as Italy's 35th national convention.   The team organising Deepcon have organised a number of Italian conventions before and these have seen a number of guests from countries other than Italy. All of which bodes well for 2009. This is a very good start but the organisers do need to attract foreign fans and ideally put on an international programme as was so ably done, for example, by the Danes for their the 2007 Eurocon. This will be quite a challenge.
          Now we come to news we think you need to know but alas for which we have no official confirmation (we did ask): you need to know because it may be you will need to book early if you want to go. Word has reached us that the convention has seen a lot of local interest from Trek fandom due to Mulgrew being a guest. We also understand that the venue has limited room for expansion. Obviously this has considerable logistic implications and could possibly put pressure on the event's Eurocon dimension. OK, that was the worrying part. From a selfish, seasoned Eurocon perspective this could be quite good. If the convention in terms of numbers, hence programme, becomes heavily Star Trek and media oriented then the author guests and regular Eurocon folk will be squeezed out to enjoy each others company in Fiuggi which itself is quite a tourist friendly town. (Though this last would limit Italian-Euro fan interaction which is why Eurocons are held.) No doubt if this is an issue then it is being addressed by the organisers, but if you do want to go then booking up early might well be advisable in the event that there is a cap on numbers.

The 2010 Eurocon will be in Poland/Slovakia (Cziesyn/Cesky Tesin), 26th - 29th August 2010 following a controversial win at the bidding session at this year's Eurocon in Moscow. (And the controversy must have been truly controversial as Concat has heard from fans who were supportive of both bids, from a number of different nations (both east and western Europe) and yet were universally surprised at the outcome!)
          Actually it is not that controversial (and the discussion was good natured) but here is how all the various arguments distil down. The argument for Poland/Slovakia bid is that it will take place in two towns on either side of the Polish and Slovakia border and so will be a dual nation-hosted event. All this is very much in the Eurocon spirit. We were told (from several attending this year's Eurocon) that this and the fact that many Soviet nation fans felt that this convention would be easier to attend (in terms of distance and visas) than the rival British bid was what swung the vote. Conversely the arguments against this bid were five fold (hence the controversy). First, the spurned rival Odyssey 2010 British bid was actually from a very worthy established team who ran this year's UK national event that was deemed the best UK national con for a decade and which attracted a decade-breaking 1,300. In short, this Eurocon would have had a proven quality that contrasted with the winning bid. Second, the British bid venue was next to an international airport with regular free travel in just a few minutes from the hotel to airport and a direct metro (underground rail) link into central London for tourism. So next to zero travel hassles. Third, given two good bids (one with proven quality and the other unproven but good European ideals) the question arises as to whether one bid might move to the following year. This was not possible for the British European bid due to the way the UK national level bids are organised. Fourth, the winning bid was poorly presented and apparently there was nobody from Poland or Slovakia there to support it (indeed one of its organisers is an ESFS officer who apparently did not even show). Fifth, the bid is very close to the 2010 Worldcon (which though not official at the time of the ESFS business meeting it was as good as in the bag). Indeed it will clash with the New Zealand pre-Worldcon convention.
          Eurocon regulars will recall that the last time a dual-nation bid was presented it won because of a similar European ideals even though that bid was also poorly presented. Back then come the Eurocon itself the dual national organising had been dropped and the event greatly scaled down to the extent that other than foreign guests and special guests only three non-host nation nationals attended! (Which means that virtually all those who voted for it never went!) That nation has not won a Eurocon since and may not again for at least another decade. If Poland/Slovakia in 2010 ends up being as bad, and especially given that they displaced a strong bid, then their nations' convention-running reputations will likely be similarly tarnished. It therefore really is up to them to deliver.
          So, having raised aspirations, let's hope they plan early and run a good convention! Poland/Slovakia do though have one benefit in that they can take full advantage of the 2010 Euro Conference in Easter (see item below) to promote their event.
          The Polish national convention took place at the end of August just as we were assembling this autumnal 2008 news. It is likely that Polish-Czech conrunners will meet at this event and the outcomes of their deliberations will become manifest in subsequent weeks: so more news with our Spring 2009 seasonal newscast.

Great Britain's Eastercon, Odyssey 2010, gains Euro Conference status for 2010. Euro Conferences are designated by the European SF Society (ESFS) as SF events with a European dimension. Odyssey 2010 already has won the bid to be the UK national convention for 2010 (western Europe's Easter long weekend) and its core organisers were already contemplating including a European dimension (see also 2010 Eastercon Odyssey news in fandom subsection below). Now remember that the Odyssey 2010 team are the same folk that ran the remarkable 2008 Brit Eastercon, Orbital, and so we know that they can run a very good Eastercon. So it is very much odds on that they could run an excellent Euro Conference. Mainland Europe has some: very fine SF writers; some enthusiastic fans who would make for excellent Special Guests (a Eurocon term for major programme participants who only get free registration, some hospitality and a translator); some fantastic SF films and so forth. Odyssey 2010 already has some hugely respected Guests of Honour and proven experience, which means that it will undoubtedly be a big convention. What is more with that year's Poland/Slovakia Eurocon taking place over four months later, Odyssey could perhaps give programme, exhibition and party space to the 2010 Eurocon people to sell Polish/Slovakian SF and fandom and attract fans to central Europe for the end of August... (It would be up the Czech-oles to soon make a proposal for Odyssey's organisers to consider.) Whatever happens at the end of the day it may well be that 2010 could be a very good year for European level SF and fanac. Irrespective of whether or not you choose to distinguish between an ESFS Eurocon and an ESFS Euro Conference (given Odyssey's likely size looks like easily exceeding 1,000) we have in effect two European-level international conventions to choose from that year. This is especially useful as one clashes with the New Zealand national and Australian Worldcon consecutive conventions. So you can take your choice or go to both Euro-events.

Eurocon fans have new social networking site. The "http://www.sfport.net" new site currently (at the time of writing) has 111 members, 2,236 photos, 201 music tracks and 222 videos. It has been created by a group of Hungarian fans who have already established a highly successful network for Hungarian fandom. For help with joining contact invitations['at']wiw.sfblogs.net.

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 2008

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

The 7th Sci-Fi London took place in May with over a score of films and a load of other rather good stuff. Some 3,500 attended with many going to more than one event. We reported on some of the films in last season's news. In addition there was the UK premiere of Russia's Paragraph 78, UK premiere of USA's Suspension (an ability to 'time freeze' tale), UK premiere of Netherbeast Incorporated (comedy with a different take on vampires and which was actually based on a short that won the 4th Sci-Fi London short film competition!!!), and the UK premiere of Your Friendly Neighbourhood Hero. For the very young there was a matinee special screening of The Wizard of Oz with (very thoughtfully) the sound down a little and the lights up a little. (Nice one.) This year's event took place a few months after Arthur Clarke's death and there was a tribute showing of 2010: The Year We Make Contact with the director Peter Hyams in person introducing the film to the audience. (This was one of the many extras not cited in the programme book!) Sci-Fi London generously hosted the Arthur C. Clarke SF Award ceremony as part of its launch night. Personalities from Britain's SF community (well those who could make it to London) were greeted by a young lady dressed as Princess Leia (scantily as in Revenge Return of the Jedi) guarded by a couple of Imperial storm troopers; she attracted overt attention of press photographers and the cinema's manager. (She wasn't in the programme book either.) Aside from the individual films there were three all-nighters. Concat staff, largely being old-pharts, did not have the stamina for these, but for those that did there were snacks and drinks to sustain souls through the small hours. Then there was the SF pub quiz. Now this is billed as having some very hard questions, which is true but then there were some easy one's too. This year's winning team was called 'We Am Legend' and the third prize went to a team called (as a homage to the honourable art of product placement) 'The Heathrow Odyssey 2010 Convention'. This team also included a soupcon of Concatenation so doubly honour meant that this team could not go away with nothing... Finally, special mention must be given to the SFL 48 hour film challenge... So we will do just that with the next item.

48 Hour SF Amateur Film-making Challenge from Sci-Fi London. SFL joins the small number of film fests that have run similar challenges. A few weeks prior to Sci-Fi London, budding film makers were given a line of dialogue and told to include a specific prop (the choices were selected at random from a hat) and then make a five minute film in just two days. There were a score of entries. To Sci-Fi Channel's (the main competition sponsor's) annoyance, the sponsors had no control over the content. To Sci-Fi Channel's amazement the quality of most entries was rather good especially given the amateur status and time limit. (One wonders why Sci-Fi Channel had so little faith given that other amateur genre film competitions, such as the Festival of Fantastic Films, also have a generally good entry standard. Indeed one wag at the SF London entry screenings opined that the quality of the films was better than much of the professional stuff broadcast on Sci-Fi Channel! The channel itself will screen some of the entries later in the year (and there will also be showings at a number of SF conventions such as Israel's natcon, Icon). Our reporter's favourite was a neat time-travel short, called 5,000 More, based on the competition itself. This was sound traditional SF, but the judges (led by director John Landis) were also looking at directing skills, photography and sound as well as acting and script and so their decision was different. Meanwhile back to the judges... The standard was so high that two titles, though failing to get one of the top three prizes, got judges' commendations. These were Graph of Light (monk-habit like cloaked aliens in a Peckham safe house) and Water's Edge an estate agent pitches to a client London as an exemplar part of an excellent-value property that is planet Earth. Water's Edge deserves a very special mention as the filmmakers and stars were school children. These youngsters acquitted themselves admirably (especially the estate agent and script writer)... Meanwhile, back at the plot... The third prize went to G.L.I.B. (Guy Living In Bunker). Coming second was Until Further Notice (a documentary style coverage on a quantum discovery -- brilliant actor). The overall winner was Factory Farm. From the opening credit of a man plodding along the skyline with the film's title gradually appearing as he walked, you could tell that this offering had thought put into it. Shot by the Thames on the Isle of Grain salt marshes (well environmental dudes, you need to know the ecotone) in addition to (it looked like) either a DLR or jubilee station. Factory Farm concerned a near future in which clones are needed (if our reporter interpreted it correctly) to fight a war instead of 'real' humans. (Marvellous props and location co-ordinator.) The competition demonstrated two things. First, there is a mass of talent out there and secondly that, unrestrained by corporate shackles on the imagination, some rather nifty stuff can get done. Now if Sci-Fi Channel had the vision (appropriate for a TV channel let alone an SF one) and nerve it would give a couple of hundred quid each to the commendeds and prize-winners for this and the past few year's worth of SFL film competition winners and tell them to go make a 25-minute Outer Limits or Twilight Zone style episode in a month. (Well, we can but dream. Perhaps Sci-Fi Channel could consider this to mark SFL 10 in 2011?)

Stop Press!: Extra Sci-Fi London in October 2008. Just announced as we were pulling together the season's news is that Sci-Fi London are organising a mini one-day Fest on Friday 3rd October. So two SFLs in one year! This one-day event will see UK premieres of Deep Space: Downfall and the animated family film Terra. There will be other films plus an anime all-nighter. This one day event is called Sci-Fi London Oktober. (In case you wondered, 'Oktober' happens to be a Stephen Gallagher novel which Stephen turned into a rather good 1998 mini-TV series (also edited to TV film length) about a company illegal testing a drug that links (transfers) consciousness.)

Sci-Fi London 2009. As part of your annual holidays why not budget for a weekend city break to see next year's Sci-Fi London 29th April - 4th May 2009. You pay only to see the films you want and in between there are many local sites. Plus this year the fairly-nearby SF bookshop Forbidden Planet held a small art exhibit as part of SFL. Jonathan has previously given tips for getting the most from attending SFL. Details of the current, past and future SFL plans can be found on www.sci-fi-london.com (though you may wish to turn your computer's sound off to avoid irritation from the verbal welcome every time you pass by the home page: a nice touch that unfortunately soon wears rather thin).

The 2009 British Eastercon reminder. Next year it is Bradford (halfway between London and Edinburgh) and is called LX. (If you are reading this page in 2008 or 2009 then see our convention diary for summary details and the weblink.)

The 2010 Eastercon has been granted 'Euroconference' status by the European SF Society (ESFS) - see full story in previous subsection. Further to last time's news (which saw the principal guests announced) the convention made a bid at the 2008 Eurocon (Moscow) for it to be a Eurocon. Sadly it lost but gained Euroconference status instead. We understand that part of the programme (and bear in mind that there will be a four or five parallel streams of programming) will relate to European SF and fandom, and we believe that some additional services are being mooted for visitors from mainland Europe. Of course there will be all the usual Brit Eastercon stuff too. Also - as noted in the story in previous subsection - both the venue and some of the organisers are the same as was for the successful Eastercon earlier this year (208). Early days yet but it all looks very promising. Note: Register early to get a lower rate as the attending registration rates go up in jumps between now and the convention. Early registrants also get printed Progress Reports mailed to them. (See the current (if you are reading this before 2010) convention listing for website and contact details.

Russia's Aelita convention was held just a few weeks after this year's Eurocon (EuRoscon) in Moscow. The closeness in time of two major SF events would be unheard of in Britain but Russia is different: it is a BIG country with plenty of room for two conventions close in time. Aelita is Russia's longest-running SF convention. Though these days it attracts just a few hundred, back in the 1980s and early 1990s it had attendance levels around a thousand. The reason it could be held so close in time to the EuRoscon is that Aelita is based in Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) 1,000 miles from Moscow in the Urals: its main catchment area is geographically quite different. If you have never heard of Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk) then this is because in Soviet times it was a closed city due to it being a Soviet industrial centre and so had no foreign visitors. Having said that the name could well be familiar as it is Russia's fifth largest city and the largest in the Urals. The 25th Aelita opened with a brief ceremony in front of Grecian styled pillars above the steps of a grand civic building. The slight drizzle did not dampen spirits or a touch of glamour provided by three fashionably clad young ladies. Following the opening there were demonstrations of recreating historical period combat and a student march. This led to an open air autograph session with local writers and the foreign Guest of Honour, Christopher Priest. Programme items included seminars on the trends within SF and SF from young writers. The final day saw a brief ceremony at the local cemetery, laying flowers on the graves of past writers, followed by an excursion out of the city to the obelisk that marks the notional border between Europe and Asia. Matters were rounded off with the presentation of this year's Aelita Awards followed by a party.

Acon 2 (or Åcon 2) was held in Finland - small but a number of notable Finn fans attended. With some 70, attendance was slightly but decidedly up on Acon 1. Once more it was held in the town of Åland on the island of Mariehamn in the Baltic sea midway between Finland and Sweden (not far from Europe's point of greatest isostatic rise geoscience fans note). Most attending were Finns but nearly a third were Swedes. The GoH was Ian McDonald. A relaxacon with a single programme stream (including an item on the age of SF gone with Clarke's passing), it looks like Acon could be shaping up to fulfil the sort of fan function for Finland that Novacon does in Britain. There will be an Acon 3, 21st - 24th May 2009.

Wiscon plagued by virus. Many fans at this year's Wiscon (held in Wisconsin, US) were hit by a rather nasty strain of gastric flu. (A double-ended alimentary job.) Other than air travel on lines that have high air recirculation (that's most of them), going to a convention or residential conference is a good way to catch anything doing the rounds. It takes one thoughtless person who has recently been ill and, though not expressing symptoms, still infectious to really hit a convention hard. Alas in this instance we do not have an epidemiological study but unsubstantiated rumour has it that someone in the bookroom arrived suffering from the tale-end of a bout. N. American cons are worse for such incidents as they often have a consuite with a buffet standing around for hours and hours: some of the dishes can provide a reasonable viral preservative medium (as opposed to growth medium). Either way this vicious flu episode will no doubt enter local fan mythos for a few years.
          Other than this, this year's Wiscon was by all accounts rather good. For those not familiar, Wiscon is the SF convention with a feminist bent. Next year's 33rd Wiscon Guests of Honour have been announced for 22nd - 25th May 2009 as Ellen Klages and Geoff Ryman.

Bristol's International Comics Expo sees thaw between comics and manga. The two industries have tended to keep themselves apart though of course there has been a tremendous and obvious overlap with many comic fans. So this year's comics event also featured a Manga Expo. As usual the dealers' hall was huge and really was the main focus of the event though there were programme items (mainly panels) too. Dave Gibbons was a popular programme item participant. Then there were the Eagle awards. Not many surprises, though definitely disappointing at the huge US comics influence. Details at the www.eagleawards.co.uk/ site which is also being re-vamped. Eagle Award organiser Mike Conroy seemingly satisfactorily dealt with the ballot stuffing issue before handing over the organisation of next year's Eagles to his daughter Cassandra... (Daughter Cassandra organising! Doesn't time fly? She was barely walking when Mike employed one of the Concat team in his former shop.)

Swedish national convention largest. 'ConFuse', this year's Swecon, has been the largest to date with nearly 100 attending. As you would expect apart from the GoHs these were largely Swedes but there were 7 Finns in the mix. (Yes, for our transatlantic cousins, 100 may seem small but remember that most European countries are the size of a single N .American state.) This year's attendance increase is undoubtedly due to the organisers making a positive effort to attract new blood with discounts for those attending their first convention as well as for those under 20 years of age. A proper registrant's pack, a free wi-fi area and a well stocked bar all added to the event. The Guests of Honour, Adam Roberts and Cory Doctorow were entertaining, while medieval Linköping, the venue town, was well worth talking time out to walk around. All this, and a programme that largely ran to time, made the event very enjoyable. We understand (at the moment) that the ConFuse team may not be organising next year's Swecon but might consider it for 2010.

Finncon-Animecon successfully moves to Tampere. Tampere is a lakeside city about 100 miles (160 km) north-west of Finland's capital Helsinki. The new venue (a modern conference centre) largely worked, though had the weather been bad forcing everyone indoors it would have been decidedly overcrowded. Over 5,000 attended. Finncons are large, in no small part due their being free due to sponsorship (there were fees to participate in some individual events such as workshops). Naturally most of the programme was in Finnish, but some speeches and interviews were also in English and Swedish. The principal Anime Guest of Honour was the Finnish-Swedish duo who work under the pseudonym 'Ms Mandu' (whose latest manga Oblivion High is doing rather well). The principal Finncon GoHs were M. John Harrison (author who has recently won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award for Nova Swing) and Charles Vess (artist who has recently won the Locus Award for 'Best Artist'). Those attending from outside of Finland got a tourist day being shown around Tampere by fans in advance of the con. This provided useful orientation together with an opportunity to meet up with other foreign fans before the con itself. The tourist day was more valuable than usual as during the con there was no single large café-bar to provide a principal socialising focal point: so establishing contacts early on was really helpful as the bar that was used tended to get very crowded. The programme consisted of the usual mix of talks, films and panels spread across a dozen parallel streams. There was some science, and included in the mix was a symposium of the Finnish Fantastic Researchers, the 9th one to date. This year its theme was 'Utopias' as portrayed in film, books, and TV. News was conveyed by a twice-daily 'Conzine' newsletter. +++ A look, with photos, at part of the litcrit dimension and its fandom on the Finncon side of the event can be found on the rather good Fin-fan blog Partial Recall. +++ See 5 minute Finncon clip off our 'Film Download Tip' subsection here.

Tragic accident blights start to Westercon in Las Vegas. A car with five fans associated with the 2011 Seattle Worldcon bid found themselves in a fatal car accident on the way to Westercon in the US. It took place just before six in the morning 70 miles (113 km) south of Wells, Nevada, and they were well over 300 miles into their journey and so had only a hundred or so to go. Apparently their Saturn SUV drifted across the road's centre into the on-coming lane and off the far semi-hard shoulder. A sharp over-correction sent the car into a roll. Though all were wearing their seat belts, the driver, Roberta Carlson, tragically died. Nick Navota (28) had severe injuries on is left side and hands. He was airlifted to Las Vegas hospital. Three others - Heather Newman (19), William Boyde (42), and Jon Foster (37) - had minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital. Fortunately Nick's injuries were not life threatening but he has lost three fingers on his right hand and a finger and a thumb on his left hand had to be surgically reconnected. The others made it to the convention where there was a whip-round to help them with their transport home. This is not pleasant news to report and is one of those sad reminders of the need to appreciate those we have around us. Though none of our team are involved in US fandom, they are our rebel colony cousins and kindred spirits albeit from afar. Our sincere condolences to those involved.

Germany's SFCD Con was held. We posted their awards above but alas have not been favoured with other news.

New Zealand to make its 2010 national convention a pre-Worldcon event! Called Au Contraire it is planned for 27th - 29th August 2010 in Wellington. This is the weekend before the 2010 WorldCon in Australia. This is to allow folk travelling from overseas to attend both conventions while in Australasia which, as we said last season, has a number of advantages for European fans. Details on www.aucontraire.org.nz.

Terry Pratchett's fans are aiming to match his donation to Alzheimer's research. The target is £500,000 (US$1 million) and it looks as if may well be achieved. Just a couple of weeks following the campaign's launch, and just prior to this pages posting in April, the campaign had almost reached 10% of their target with around £50,000 (US$100,000) raised. Norwescon (in the US), Eastercon/Orbital and ICFA were the first conventions that were able to attempt fundraising. Details on http://www.matchitforpratchett.org.

More on the British SF Association's 50th Anniversary. Further to last season's news, early in the summer those at the BSFA's AGM enjoyed two birthday cakes. One was iced with the names of British authors active in 1950 and the other those writing in 2008. Brian Aldiss and Arthur C. Clarke were iced on both. Baking constraints prevented the cakes being large enough for all the writers and so there were cards with the names of all the writers that would have been on them space permitting. Among others the 1958's cake also included iced: Barrington J. Bayley, John Brunner, Ken Bulmer, Lionel Fanthorpe, and Aldous Huxley. (All of which makes a number of us at Concat feel a little old...). In addition to cake, the AGM day also saw talks by author Geoff Ryman and fan Peter Weston. There was also a panel discussion 'The BSFA: Historical Footnote or Force for the Future?' which came to a somewhat predictable conclusion. +++ Stephen Baxter takes over from the late Arthur C. Clarke as BSFA President.

Hatfield PSIFA to celebrate 30 years. This October will see the 30th anniversary of the Hatfield Polytechnic ScIence Fiction/fantasy Association (PSIFA). Yes PSIFA is still going though Hatfield Polytechnic has now transmogrified into Hertfordshire University. Alas this Concat newscast gets posted just before the start of term so we do not know what the celebrations will entail. However as we have a couple of PSIFA's founder members on the Concatenation team we will be making our own contribution with our next posting.

The LOTNA group have been asked to help with Channel 4's 'Bring Back Star Trek'. The London (mainly TV sci-fi) SF group have been approached by Channel 4 to provide views and colour for their forthcoming programme. In it, comedian Justin Lee Collins will go after William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei and try to get them to appear together for a reunion. The League Of The Non-Aligned (LOTNA) will provide a Trekie element representing part of the show's ongoing fan base, treading boldly.

FAN PUZZLER. SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT FAN SF?
Further to its success at the Glasgow Eurocon-Worldcon we circulated a tough SF cryptic teaser
at this year's Eastercon as part of Essential SF: A Concise Guide promotion. (Note: this mini-quiz is very cryptic.) In case you want to have a go here it is... (and we have modified it just a little to give you a clue in case you aren't familiar with cryptic crosswords).
1) What have the following three in common? Ditmar, Eisner, and Hugo.
      (And no they are not just names of Awards, but names of Awards that are themselves...?)
2) The subject of this question is to work out which of the above three is the odd one out?
3) You have to decide in this question which of the above three is the odd one out?
4) Thinking globally, which of the above three is the odd one out?
5) Professionally speaking which is the odd one out?
Clue: The answers to 2 and 3 are the same while 1, 4 and 5 are different.
The answers are below.   Alternatively you could order up a copy of Essential SF: A Concise Guide.

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

 

[The other key sections within this seasonal newscast are: Major Headline Links |
News which contains: Major Science & SF News, People: Major SF Author, Science Writer and Artist News; Film News; SF Book Trade News; TV News; Eurocon/Worldcon News; Fandom & Other News; and Net Watch |
Last Season's Science News Summary including: General Science, Astronomy and Space and Natural Science |
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 2008

NET WATCH

What are the leading SF websites? Jason Stoddard checks out which sites are considered by Alexa stats to related to BoingBoing, Analog and Strange Horizon's. (He also looked at io9 but until recently this used to have very different owners and gave odd competitors - so ignore that section.) And yes, Concatenation is there. Apparently we are grouped in with Ansible and Asimov's in the Analog grouping. Meanwhile Locus and (the late) Emerald City are in the Strange Horizon's grouping. To see the article and the links to all these various sites visit Jason's analysis at http://strangeandhappy.com/2008//04/04/popular-metafiction-vs-science-fiction-revisited-for-2008.

ClarkesWorld temporarily ceases submissions. Nick Mametas, editor and co-founder, is stepping down to take up a new job. Someone else is being sought to take over the reigns.

Helix fiction webzine spawns Transcriptase... Well, sort of... Apparently the editorial stance taken by Helix on some matters has upset a number of contributors who have gone and set up Transcriptase instead. Ansible has the gen, so no point our summarising it again.

Want to read classic books at work but seem like you are busy? readatwork.com has the full text of classic books but dressed up as PowerPoint presentations (complete with graphs).

Checkout alert. www.southparkstudios.com now has all the South Park shows available for free viewing. It is a love 'em or hate 'em thing.

Checkout alert. denofgeek.com is a site dealing mainly with past British 'sci-fi' or juvenile SF TV shows as well as 'cult' TV. So therein is much on Ace of Wands and The Tomorrow People. There is some current stuff too such as on The Apprentice. Plus there are occasional contributions from pros such as the Father Ted co-writer.

Checkout alert: There's a new publishing format being market tested that is a sort of graphic, textual, sound-effect hybrid. It is ideal for SF and fantasy and so that is where DeadBooks are going. A free trial can be found at DeadBooks.com. (You will need good broadband, animation and audio on your home system.) This format may not be everyone's cup of tea but the internet reaches such a huge audience that it might perhaps attract enough to be more than viable. It possibly might appeal more to younger SF buffs whose interests span the new media. Anyway, why not see what you think.

SCIFI.COM loses Sci Fi Wire which this autumn gets its own website. SciFi Wire's best monthly traffic earlier this year saw it attract around 900,000 unique visitors (which is roughly 75 times that of Concat's but then we do not have a full time professional team or an international TV channel operating on three continents behind us). It is part of the move to fragment SCIFI.COM into a number of distinct sites. SciFi Wire will continue to provide "sci fi" news primarily relating SciFi Channel's TV shows but also occasionally on US blockbuster films and some North American SF/fantasy authors.

The world wide web has had its 15th anniversary of proper graphics with the introduction of the Mosaic web browser in 1993. Mosaic enabled decent graphics to be rendered on web pages and so arguably saw the beginning of the net as we know it today. Web's inventor Sir Tim Burners-Lee said that the future of the web will put all the World's data at the finger tips of users. The web "is still in its infancy". +++ The number of websites now exceeds 165 million.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Computer viruses hit one million. The summer began with the computer security company Symantec noting in its biannual report that the number of computer viruses and malware doing the rounds reached one million at the end of last year (2007). This figure was over double (up 136%) on the first six months of the year. It notes that two-thirds of the threats were created during 2007 with the vast majority aimed at PC's running Microsoft. The biggest increased threat was from Trojans that insert themselves into your computer and can relay information as to its contents (and also your keyboard activities) to criminals. For this reason never open an e-mail unless you either recognise who it is from or that its subject line has something clearly specifically relevant to yourself but not your name or the first part of your e-mail address as some virus containing messages put part of the first part of recipient's e-mail addresses in the subject line.+++ Concat's e-policy is that we never open an e-mail unless we are confident that it is for us. (So always put something clearly SFnal or obviously fannish in the subject line.) Also we do not keep the Concat site update alert database on the same PC as the one we used to run the site, nor with Concat's webserver, so as to increase its isolation hence reduce the chance of it being hacked. Just to reassure you.

Computer 'Baby' has 60th anniversary celebrated with a replica. With 1,500 valves and weighing in at over a tonne, back in 1948 'Baby' was the first proper programmable computer. Prior to then computers had to be physically rewired to execute a new program. 'Baby', or 'Small Scale Experimental Machine', was built and run at Manchester University (Britain). On 21st June 1948, and after 52 minutes, it solved its first problem - determining the highest proper factor of 2 to the power 18. Not bad considering its storage capacity was 128 bits, but it could do 3.5 million flops (individual calculations) a second. The replica was displayed over the summer at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.

 

[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 2008

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

General relativity still holds up. The best way to test General Relativity in a strong gravitational field is to use two orbiting black holes. The quasar OJ287 is thought to contain one such pair and it has periodic optical outbursts at 12-year intervals. The latest gap between outbursts was timed and it took place to within a day as predicted by black hole model and relativity (M. J. Valtonen et al, Nature vol 452, p851).

Faster than light communication one step closer to reality. see the Interface: Science and SF section and the piece within it below.

Military exoskeletons developed. These have been an SF trope for many years (cf. Starship Troopers (1959)). Now they are being developed for real by the robotics firm Sarcos at their Salt Lake City (US) facility. Called XOS, it enhances the wearer's strength so that they can easily handle 90kg. Early military uses will probably be confined to shifting supplies in supply lines ( Aliens). However once they have solved the problem of a mobile power supply, combat applications are envisaged.

Roadrunner catches up hitting petaflop speeds. IBM's Roadrunner computer has been show to run a petaflop speeds: one thousand trillion calculations per second. Of course this was anticipated back in the autumn last year when we reported on IBM's Blue Gene/P. Blue Gene/P was reported as 'capable' of petaflops but it is claimed that Roadrunner (a successor in the series) is the first computer to have verifiably achieved this.

 

[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 2008

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

Soyuz lands badly and off target. Shortly after Easter (our last seasonal posting) the Soyuz had a poor trajectory return from the International Space Station. It came in too fast on a ballistic trajectory subjecting the crew up to 10g. It landed 250 miles (400km) off target. Fortunately there were no casualties.

ESA continues to develop the ion drive. Ion drives are another minor SF trope that have recently become a reality. They were used on ESA's SMART-1 lunar orbiting mission in 2004/5. The Japanese also used ion propulsion for their (2005/7) asteroid probe Hayabusa [Falcon] and the US for its comet probe Deep Space 1. ESA will now use a T5 ion engine being developed by the British firm Qinetiq on its Goce Earth orbiter probe. Goce weighs in at 1,100kg of which 40kg will be xenon fuel. The engine itself weighs just 3 kg! Solar cells will generate 1,300 Watts part of which will be used to generate a magnetic field that will send out Xenon ions at over 40,000 m/s (144,000 km/hour or 90,000 mph). Goce mission is to orbit at just 250 km above the Earth measuring tiny variations in the Earth's gravity field: it will produce a gravity map of the Earth sensitivity to one trillionth of the average Earth gravity. Because the probe will fly so low it needs to correct its orbit from atmospheric buffeting. Future ESA missions to use ion drive include the Mercury probe BepiColombo. Meanwhile ESA's Goce is destined to use a Russian launcher -- the same type that failed during the Cryosat 1 mission, so fingers crossed.

Europe is split on manned space flight. ESA is now beginning an astronaut selection process but not all countries are interested. Britain is one of those not supportive of manned space flight. Lord Rees (the professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy and current President of the Royal Society) is one of those objecting to European manned space flight. he points out that the case for manned space flight diminishes with every advance in electronic complexity and miniaturisation. He notes that NASA's 2008 annual budget is around US$17 billion (£8.5bn), which compares with ESA's of £2.5bn (US$5bn). Yet three quarters of NASA's budget was spent on people going around and around the Earth some 35 years after Man walked on the Moon, yet NASA's unmanned missions are very successful as are ESA's. Britain's civil space budget is just £220 million (US$435m) just under a tenth of ESA's budget (which means British citizens contribute more per head than the average European). Lord Rees says: "If I was an American, I would be opposed to a [manned] return to the Moon and going to Mars." +++ Out of possible interest to our regulars, the Concat core team has a mixed view on this issue with part in favour of manned missions and part the Rees view. One of us is very concerned that a manned mission to Mars could potentially be a gross act of bio-vandalism until it was definitely ruled out that Mars has no indigenous microbial life.

European Space (Science) Ministers to meet in The Hague (November). Manned flight on the agenda. Despite Britain not being in favour of manned explorative space flight, there is a separate argument for manned flight for low orbit satellite repair (geosync would be ideal but not even the shuttle does that) and to get to and from the International Space Station. Responding to this case the European aerospace company Astrium EADS has come up with a proposal to convert ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle to become a manned craft. A mock up was shown at this summer's Berlin air show. Germany, France and Italy are interested in the idea. If Britain does not support this idea then Astrium EADS in the UK will probably lose out on contract work. NASA executives are said to be supportive as the space shuttle has a limited life left.

Coincident with the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding, the meeting of the Heads of nations' various space agencies were told that the US will not have manned space capability for half a decade. The agency heads met in Paris in July. NASA's, Michael Griffin, warned that as the shuttle will retire in 2010, and with no replacement vehicle available until 2015 at the earliest, the US will not have manned space capability. Indeed it might not have manned capability for much of the run up to another 50 anniversary, that of the first man on the Moon (after Carvor) in 2019. This means that the US will have to rely on Russia to get crew to and from the 400 tonne, US$100 billion (let's say that slowly in real money - some fifty one billion, eye-watering, pounds!) International Space Station. Yet Agency Heads have always been mindful of the need for two independent supply chains in case of problems with one of them. +++ Meanwhile Presidential candidate Obama proposes that NASA needs to be 'redefined' and while this is happening part of its US$17 billion a year budget would over five years fund a US$18 billion education programme (or program as they put it). The other Presidential candidate, McCain has emphasised that US tax payers get good value for money. Either way Concat hopes, while all this is going on, that ESA develops an improved version of its prototype ion drive so that Europe can really shift its probes places.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) pictures Martian moon Phobos. It used its high resolution camera. One if the pictures is in fact two taken 10 minutes apart to provide a 3-D image. Details http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu.

The Mars Phoenix Lander has touchdown. Launched last year the mission has completed a 423 million mile (680 million km) journey. Soon after landing it began transmitting pictures. Arthur Clarke and Ray Bradbury have a loose involvement.

'Dwarf planets' dead, long live 'plutoids'. You may remember back in 2006 that the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from being a planet. (This even upset a few at that year's SF Worldcon.) Pluto became a 'dwarf planet'. Now the term 'dwarf planet' has been dropped and the IAU urges us to use the term 'Plutoid' instead. +++ To be honest Concat couldn't care that much as long as they don't head our way.

Britain cuts some astronomy research. Further to last time's news that there was an astrophysics funding shortfall (part due to funding pressures and part due to poor administration by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)) the cuts have now been announced. The main losers are the two gamma ray Integral space telescope and the Veritas observatory. The dataset compilation Astrogrid also sees cuts as does the e-Merlin astronomy network headed up at Jodrell Bank. However e-Merlin will get some STFC funding though will need contributions from elsewhere to ensure its viability. - More details here.

There was water on the Moon. Yes we know that there was ice discovered at the Moon's poles but not elsewhere. Remember the Apollo 17 mission and the excitement of the orange soil in crater Shorty? It was thought that that soil's colour did not signify water. The colour is due to small glassy spheres. Now research ( Nature vol. 454, pages 192-195) has found that they may once have contained water at concentrations of around 750 parts per million (for comparison the water content of minerals in the Earth's mantle plus surface is about 350 parts per million. Could it be that there was for a while free water on the surface of the Moon soon after it was formed? The next step is a deuterium analysis to see if the ratio is the same as that on Earth.

 

[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 2008

NATURAL SCIENCE

Are viruses alive? has been a hotly debated question among biologists for decades with many firmly entrenched. In the 1970s and 1980s the undergraduate textbook answer was a firm 'no' as they are just short genetic strands neatly folded and packaged with protein-saccharide complexes. (Some of us didn't believe it then.) Of course if something is not alive then clearly it cannot get ill. Now it has been found that the recently discovered (2003) large mimivirus Acanthamoeba polyphaga (which 'mimics' a microbe hence 'mimi') itself can get infected (hence ill) by another virus... So, are viruses alive?

Another example of real-life, real-time evolution. Pesticide and antibiotic resistance as well as metal-tolerant plants on mine/industrial spoil tips are just some of the established examples of Darwinian evolution taking place in real time well within a human life span. Now another example has been demonstrated in the lab (PLOS Biology (2008) vol 6 e85). US bioscientists, Brian Pagel and Gerald Joyce, took an RNA strand that can stitch itself to RNA fragments and so reproduce itself. The original RNA strand therefore acts as a catalyst with the RNA fragments being reactant raw materials. After each generation they diluted the solution and added fresh RNA fragment raw materials but at ever lower concentrations. After a while the original RNA strand evolved to become a more efficient catalyst that could successfully operate at speed in a lower concentration of fragment environment. After 500 dilutions the RNA catalyst accumulated 11 mutations and functioned 90 times faster than the original catalyst... Of course some might argue that, as Pagel and Joyce are 'intelligent' and as they 'designed' the experiment that, this is an example of... No, we can't bring ourselves to say it...

The UK Parliament has voted for basic hybrid embryo research and 'saviour siblings'. The use of animal hybrid embryos involves cow embryos with all the nuclear genetic material removed and replaced with human DNA. The embryos will only be kept intact for up to 14 days but stem cell lines can be established from them. (A shortage of human eggs necessitates this method.) The vote here was 336 to 176. Saviour siblings are genetically screened brothers or sisters of those with genetic diseases and who can provide their siblings with healthy cells with a high degree of donor match. Here the vote was 342 votes to 163. Conservative leader David Cameron, along with Mr Brown, has backed the use of hybrid embryos to develop treatments for cancer and conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. They also support the creation of 'saviour siblings'. Earlier (April) scientists at Newcastle University created the first part-human, part-animal hybrid embryos in the UK.

Japan approves limited embryo research. An expert committee of Japan's Science Ministry has lifted a ban that has been in place since 2001 on human cloning for research purposes. The ruling provides details of the ethical considerations needed for any research to be allowed.

The PCR song on the internet a big hit. There are several copies around and it is estimated that collectively they have had literally millions of views. We have linked to it off our earlier film clip section here.

 

[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 2008

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.

 

Hothouse by Brian Aldiss Penguin Modern Classics, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-141-18955-0.
A tale of Earth in the far future and a (primitive) tribe who lives in a super tropical forest with exotic life forms. This is a reprint of a 1962 collection of connected shorts. Recommended.

The Ashes of Worlds by Kevin J. Anderson, Simon & Schuster, trdpbk, £12.99. 978-1-847-3-7079-2.
The 7th and final (phew) volume of the Saga of the Seven Suns.

The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher, Tor, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-230-70925-6.
This is a collection of SF shorts and as you would expect there are a few good monsters/aliens herein, plus a number of the tales are 'Polity' based. Our Graham really likes Neal but Peter just quietly enjoys him. See our stand-alone reviews of Cowl, Hilldiggers and Line of Polity .

City at the End of Time by Greg Bear, Gollancz, trdpbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08189-5.
This came out back in July but slipped our pre-Easter radar for last season's forthcoming book listing. In a world that may or may not be our own three young people dream of the city at the end of time. They each carry a strange object and each seem to be able to jump between parallel continua: or it is into parallel selves in different continua?. Yet the three discover that they are being hunted. Someone, or some people, want to stop them saving the future. Meanwhile, at the end of time there is a restaurant library... (Other Greg Bear books reviewed on this site include: Blood Music, Darwin’s Children, Dead Lines, Legacy, New Legends, Vitals: Never Say Die and Quantico.)

Exterminator by William S. Burroughs, Penguin Modern Classics, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-141-18984-0.
This is a modern classic but be warned it is written in an experimental form and is highly fragmented. Nonetheless SF tropes such as SFnal fantasy war and mentality abound.

Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs, Penguin Modern Classics, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-141-18983-3.
A gang of boys fight a guerrilla war in the future against a police state.

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08235-9.
This is a reprint of Clarke's 1954 classic novel. Alien spacecraft appear over Earth in what appears benign takeover, but actually the end of civilization is at hand... (Well, sort of.) It is probably recognised by his aficionado readers that Childhood's End is one of Clarke's top three novels, even if individuals place it differently within the top three. It was reprinted just two years later by Pan and that edition then had 7 printings up to 1972! So it is a positive delight to see Gollancz give this another airing through their SF Masterworks. (Stand alone reviews of Clarke's books elsewhere on this site include: A Fall of Moondust, 3001: Final Odyssey, Ghost From The Grand Banks, The Other Side of the Sky, Rendezvous With Rama, Rama II, The Wind From the Sun and Tales from the White Hart.)

The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-007-28998-1.
This is it, Clarke's last one. Though the cover says it was written with Pohl (as most of you know himself a bit of an SF grandmaster), the promotional material from Voyager tells us that Pohl was only involved in the book's final stages due to Arthur's ill health but we understand that actually though there were extensive notes, only a few scenes in the novel were fully fleshed out by Arthur before he handed the project over. Naturally we plan to review this one but an initial inspection shows that he returns to his standard themes including alien intelligence and space travel (with the elevator featured and lunar bases). Yes, and his adopted home Sri Lanka is there too. Now, we are not going to patronise by saying that this is a 'must' for any self-respecting SF buff: not only is it so but, even if it is not Clarke at his best, it is a flash of the old Clarke aficionados cherish. Indeed Clarke is required reading for any extraterrestrial intelligence visiting Earth (which, of course, they will given time)... And thank you FP for facilitating. +++ STOP PRESS: Jonathan has just reviewed it in time for this season's posting here.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Harper Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-28842-7.
Do not be put off by this being juvenile fiction. True, it is aimed primarily at teenagers, but it is one of those books that could easily attract a significant adult readership. Set in the near future a teenage hacker attracts the attention of the authorities who suspect he is some sort of terrorist.

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 21 edited by Dozois Gardner, Robinson, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-845-292828-9.
If your taste in SF is broad (and occasional drifts into fantasy) then you will love this collection of stories published in 2007.. It also contains a highly North American centric review of the SF scene of the previous year. However if your tastes are more specific within the genre then you'd best stick with more specialised anthologies.

The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton, Tor, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-1-405-08883-1.
This is the second in 'The Void' trilogy following last year's The Dreaming Void. Epic space opera with a page count to match. Well Hamilton isn't one to be shy of the number of trees used for his tales, but compared to the near 1,000 pages for his The Neutronium Alchemist, the The Temporal Void's 600 pages is positively lightweight.

The Stainless Steel Rat Omnibus by Harry Harrison, Gollancz, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08171-0.
Slippery Jim diGriz is a cosmic thief and sneakiest conman in the known Universe. So when the law catches up with him there is only one thing to do... Make him a cop! The first Stainless Steel Rat came out in 1963. Now this novel plus some of its sequels come together in one volume. Now this series of novels was hugely popular back in the 1960s and 1970s on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed in the late 1970s 2000AD turned some of them into comic strips. Now you can catch up. Recommended.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08241-0.
The Moon is an open prison but a revolution is being plotted. This 1966 novel popularised the term 'tanstaafl' (though it is thought to have originated elsewhere back in 1949) - 'tanstaafl' meaning 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch'. (Yes, it is a double negative.) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is, though, a proverbial SF classic and this welcome reprint is part of Gollancz's SF Masterwork series.

Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, Hodder, trdpbk, £12. ISBN 978-0-340-83754-2.
Now, normally Dune fans belong to one of three camps. i) Those that consider only the Frank Herbert's original masterwork worth reading and for this to be unsullied by its many sequels. ii) Only the original plus the Herbert sequels. iii) All the Dune books including the non-Frank spin-offs. Indeed book sales bear this out with the original Dune easily outselling the others. However those in group 'ii' who normally shun non-Frank Dune books might be tempted by Paul of Dune as it takes place in the gap between Dune and Dune Messiah. Enough said.

The Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07473-6.
A space opera tale of conspiracy, betrayal, vengeance and long-hidden truths... Gwyneth Jones has a writing pedigree as long as Crufts. (Actually, not sure that the last sentence came out very well, but...) She has a sound reputation among science fantasy fans. Recommended.

The Afterblight Chronicles: Arrowhead by Paul Kane, Abaddon, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-905-43776-4.
Following a global pandemic our reduced society enter post-apocalyptic mode. England has reverted back to the Middle Ages, ripe for invasion by the Frenchman De Falaise and his group of mercenaries. Coming through the Channel Tunnel and work their way up the country. An ex-policeman retreats into the woods and forests near Nottingham, he has become a hunter, living off the land and avoiding any form of human contact...until now. Pockets of survivors are now attempting to build up small communities in the region, bartering at makeshift markets and forming tentative connections. But when De Falaise arrives at Nottingham, proclaiming himself the new 'Sheriff', Robert finds himself drawn reluctantly into the fight, using the famous legend of a Hooded Man as his guide.

Dragon Harper by Anne and Todd McCaffrey, Corgi, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-552-15349-2.
The paperback of the latest Pern story. Need we say more. Lots of dragons.

The Quiet War by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08296-0.
Following his return (after a few techno-thriller books) to mainstream SF last year with the brilliant Cowboy Angels (that both Tony and Jonathan rated highly) now he moves back to space opera. Mankind is beginning to spread to the stars and has colonised the asteroid belt, Mars and some gas giant moons. But there is repression back on Earth. Some colonies wish to sever their ties. The big difference between those on Earth and some of those in space is that one group is happy for humans to be genetically modified/enhanced. Paul McAuley has been writing now for quite a while but in the past few years he seems to have gone up a gear. If you have not tried him then give this a go. If you already know the guy then we can say (from an initial quick skim before the book went out for review) that this is a solid space opera.

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston, Macmillan, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-0-230-70364-3
Actually this one came out in the summer but is more a techno-thriller hence missed last time's listing. Nonetheless it has enough SF tropes to warrant possible interest from seasoned SF readers. The world's biggest supercollider and the worlds most advanced supercomputer, to analyse the collider's results, are used by 12 scientists sent to unlock the secrets of the big bang. However a former monk and CIA agent is sent to get the information that could ether destroy or save the planet.

Necrophenia by Robert Rankin, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08240-3.
Having picked up on the paperback release of Rankin's previous book last time, we really should have known about this new release that came out back in July (advance news never came our way, honest, but the nice folk at Gollancz sent us it when it came out). Actually this release is a bit of a landmark for Robert as it is his 30th novel! Congratulations.   A rock star cum private eye battles a monster dedicated to turning the Earth into a world devoid of life - a necrosphere. Sounds grisly but, as all Rankin fans will know, this is comedy science fantasy. Expect bar toot and beer along the way. A must for fans of verbal puns, Goon surrealism etc. New readers should stick with the book to at least half way through when all the pieces begin to fall into place. If you end up liking this then you'll love all his other stuff. (Stand alone reviews of other of Robert Rankin's novels elsewhere on this site include: The Brightonomicon, The DA-DA DE-DA-DA Code and The Toyminator.) Meanwhile old readers will delight in the return of many old favourites including Brentford, Fangio, God, Lazlo Woodbine and a dead sprout (cooked as part of a lunch). (Next time Rob, more greens please and live.) The inclusion of pop giants the Rolling Stones and George Fornby is, of course, simply for literary balance. (Well, truth be told, Robert is a bit of an artistic perfectionist, but don't let that put you off your brassicas.) Another one - in the words of The George - turned out nice again.

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08357-8.
In 1946 in Russia Stalin gathers top SF authors. To be sure of defeating the US he needs a new and terrifying external threat to unify the nation... and the authors are going to write it. So they do... but the project is dropped. Then, and only then it starts to come true! This is billed as having elements of Philip K. Dick. (A HREF="../frev/gradisil.html">Gradisil, Land of the Headless, The McAtrix Derided, Salt, Splinter, Star Warped, Stone and The Va Dinci Cod.)

Going Under: Quantum Gravity Book 3 by Justina Robson, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07867-3.
This is science fantasy somewhat in the tradition of Buffy but with a science rationale for it all. Tony really liked book 1 and book 2. (Stand alone reviews of other Justina Robson novels elsewhere on this site include: Mappa Mundi.)

The Last Oracle by James Rollins, Orion, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-752-88934-4.
A former cold war think tank still exists and has come up with a way to harness autistic children. However there are side-effects and a spin-off group has a covert goal to create a world prophet.

Procession of the Dead by D. B. Shan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-007-26131-4.
Now the word our way is that this is a fast-paced, futuristic thriller in the vein of Gaiman and Barker which means it could be rather good. Apparently it was first published back in 1999 by a small press.

Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel - Original Text by Mary Shelly, D. Shalvey, et al, Classic Comics, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-906-33215-0.
The Mary Shelly classic SF story turned into a graphic novel but with extensive text taken from the original novel.

Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel - Quick Text by Mary Shelly, D. Shalvey, et al, Classic Comics, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-906-33216-7.
As above but with the text slimmed down so it more of a usual graphic novel.

Clan Corporate by Charles Stross, Tor UK, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-46094-1.
This is the third in the 'Merchant Princess' series and why it is a pound cheaper is anybody's guess? This time our protagonist, Miriam, escaping from the conflict in her other parallel world, has found a third continuum in which to build a new life... But is she really safe? (Silly question.) We like Stross a lot. See previous stand-alone reviews of: Accelerando (hardback), Accelerando (paperback), Glasshouse andSingularity Sky and there's even a one-page short story on this site in our 'Nature Futures' series, Maxo Signals.

Halting State by Charles Stross, Orbit, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-841-49665-8.
Alas we've no info on this.

Hidden Family by Charles Stross, Tor UK pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-330-46093-4.
A modern technical journalist discovers a parallel reality where the six families of the clan rule. Can she survive with her modern US attitudes? This is the second in 'The Merchant Princess' series. Fast-paced and with both SF and fantasy tropes this should have broad appeal.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi, Tor UK, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-330-45712-5.
This is the third in the series in the run that began with the Hugo short-listed Old Man's War which in turn was followed up by The Ghost Brigades. Here protagonist John Perry at last retires as a colonist with Jane but then gets the chance to lead a settlement on a new world. The problem is there is a reason for this; the colony is a pawn in an interstellar web of diplomacy, power and war. Yet the planet itself has things yet to be discovered. Going by the previous two this should be really worth it for those who like well-crafted, military space opera in the vein of Starship Troopers and The Forever War.

Dog Fellow's Ghost by Gavin Smith, Macmillan, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-330-46099-6.
Now you will either welcome this or not... It is the sequel to H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). We do not know how good it will be but you can bet that, whether it is or not, it will cause a small stir among Wells' aficionados.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08195-6.
Kurt sadly died last year but it is good to see Gollancz is giving one of his classics an airing. Cat's Cradle was originally written in 1963, and is a wry look at what people say they are doing and actually do. Dark humour. Hugely rated by literati. This is the novel that features ice-nine that threatens the world. (Other stand alone Vonnegut novels elsewhere on this site include: The Sirens of Titan and Timequake.)

Winterstrike by Liz Williams, Tor UK, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-230-70931-7.
This is described as 'gothic SF'. It is the first in a new trilogy but set in the same universe as her Banner of Souls. Now Liz is an author we have yet to review. This is our fault, not her writing (the supply of books sent us marginally exceeds out capacity to review and also we don't have the spread of genre interest to quite catch her niche...). However Banner of Souls was short-listed for a book Clarke which says something. More importantly her work has received good reviews from respectable places like Locus and the former Emerald City not to mention grass roots places such as SFX. So well worth checking this one out if you are into science fantasy (or 'gothic SF').

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Autumn 2008

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08416-2.
This is the third in the sequence that began with The Blade Itself. Abercrombie is accruing a solid readership base.

The Clouded World by Jay Amory, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08372-1.
Fast paced fantasy adventure with this omnibus edition of two novels in one: Fledgling of Az Gabrielson and Pirates of the Relentless Desert.

Mr. B. Gone, by Clive Barker, Voyager, pbk £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-27628-8.
A mystery exploring good and evil with a devil haunting (if that's the word) our protagonist, though the devil concerned is a medieval one. Now for some reason we have not reviewed this yet: which is a little odd as Tony usually reviews all the Barker's that come our way. (See his stand-alone reviews of these other Barker books: Abarat, Abarat II: Days of Magic, Nights of War, Coldheart Canyon and Galilee.).

A Fire in the North by David Bilsborough, Pan, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-752-89378-5.
The continuation of the Tolkienesque 'Annals of the Lindormyn' that began with The Wanderer's Tale.

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, Harper Voyager, hdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-007-27613-4.
This is Peter Brett's first novel and it is also the first of a trilogy called Demon.

Graceling by Kirstin Cashore, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08450-6.
A sword and sorcery of a world in which some humans are born with graces. Kasta has the Grace of Killing and is used by the King to punish disobedient subjects... This is a debut novel.

The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook, Gollancz, trd pbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08417-9.
This is military fantasy but not like fantasy you have read before. This stuff has a gritty human dimension and reads more like a Tolkein epic conflict in Vietnam. This is not surprising as the author is a Vietnam vet. His 'Black Company' novels have been successful in the US. Now Gollancz give us three in one volume: The Black Company, Shadows Linger and The White Rose.

Fallowblade by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tor, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-330-44434-7.
The final in the Crowthistle sequence.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Canongate, hrdbk, £16.99. ISBN 978-1-847-67168-4.
A former porn star survives a nastey car crash with disfiguing burns. He is visited by Marianne in hospital. She says that they were once lover back in Mediavel Germany. What she does not say is that she is a psychiatric patient in the same hospital... The advance rumble (hype) is that this could be big.

Eagle Rising by David Devereux, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07988-5.
Jack is a musician by choice, a magician by profession and a bastard by disposition. In the 1940s the Nazis are rising and seeking to harness dark forces. Guess who is going to stop them? Indy Jack.

Fatal Revenant by Stephen Donaldson, Gollancz, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08239-7.
Click on the above title link for a review of the hardback. This is the one seasoned fans of fantasy have been waiting. It is the latest instalment (complete with a catch-up section so fret not newcomers) of the truly epic Thomas Covenant saga. 'Truly epic' not just because the story has substantial roots, nor because it is big in multi-world spanning scope, but because the writing is of a high standard. Those relatively new to the genre are urged not to be intimidated but jump right in. The catch-up section will see you through and then if you enjoy this (many have, so many undoubtedly will) then you have the delight of going back to the earlier stories. The definition of 'must' for connoisseurs of fantasy.

Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian Esslemont, Bantam Press, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-593-05810-7.
A new fantasy in the Malazan sequence, which seems to be quite popular. The return of the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard, was not timely for the Malazan Empire that has been drained by war and political goings on. Yet rivalries also exist in the Guard. Also there are ancient powerful entities, the Ascendants, who have their own agendas. In short, everything is about to kick off... This new tale from the co-creator of Steven Erikson's world of Malaz will not disappoint regulars. Malaz newcomer sword-and-sorcery fantasy readers are in treat too.

A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans, Simon and Schuster, trd pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-1-847-37362-5.
A debut novel and first in the Iron Elves trilogy.

Heritage by Maggie Furey, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07662-4.
The Xandim are more than beasts but humans enslaved and trapped in horse form. Only one of the tribe knows what has happened so long ago and sets of on a quest to free his people.

Confessor by Terry Goodkind, Voyager, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-25083-7.
The paperback release of the final in the Sword of Truth sequence.

The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alice Goodman, Bantam Press, trd pbk, £11.99. ISBN 978-0-593-06136-7.
12 year old Eon is training to be a 'dragoneye': someone who can control the wind and water. They are hugely values as they enable folk to live off the land... However Eon holds a secret, he is a she, Eona! If caught she will be punished by death... This gripping tale is in part inspired by films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Lian Hearn's novel Across the Nightingale Floor. If you think you would like a more grittier Wizard of Earthsea then this could be for you.

Daemons Are Forever by Simon Green, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07944-1.
This is accurately billed as James Bond meets Blade. It is all true. Ghosts, goblins and the ilk. Though the authorities keep you safe thanks to Bond, Shaman Bond. Licensed to kick supernatural arse.

Swallowing Darkness, by Laurell K. Hamilton, Bantam Press, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-593-05954-8.
The 7th outing for the half-human half-faerie investigator.

Hidden Moon by Lori Handeland, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0330-46265-5.
Romantic, mildly dark, fantasy.

Rising Moon by Lori Handeland, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0330-46264-8.

Thunder Moon by Lori Handeland, Pan, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0330-46266-2.

Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08296-0.
William is a book forger and he sees demons out of the corner of his eye...

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, Gollancz, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08308-0.
This is the paperback release of last year's hardback edition (for a stand alone review of which click on the above title link). It's a collection of short stories from the son of horror's King. However it is polite not to say that because he is a creditable writer in his own right and this first collection of his shorts suggests he has as a fantastic career ahead of him. Also see Tony's stand alone review of Hill's Heart-Shaped Box.

Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-006-48603-9.
The paperback of the third and final in the Tawny Man series.

Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-19614-2.
The paperback of the first in the Soldier Son trilogy.

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-00723221-5.
The sequel to Court of the Air which has been well received.

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes, Tor UK, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-405-03358-9.
The final volume of the 'Kingdoms of thorn and bone' series. War is coming.

Acheron by Sherrilynn Keynon, Piatkus, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-749-90866-9.
A 'dark hunter' novel, this is paranormal romance but perhaps with a little more genre fantasy than most of these cross-genre titles going around. This novel tells us of Acheron's past as a human and his becoming a god.

Just After Sunset by Stephen King, Hodder, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-340-97716-3.
Short story collection from the horror grandmaster.

The Grave Thief: The Twilight Realm Book 3 by Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07731-7.
Sword and sorcery.

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, Tor UK, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-0230-01789-4.
Book 4 in the Sevenwater sequence.

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier, Tor UK, bk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-33-043829-2.
Sequel to Wildwood Dancing, an historical, folklorish fairytale.

The Lost Army by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Macmillan, hdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-230-53065-2.
An historical novel set in ancient Syria based on the Greek military leader Xenophon seen through the eyes of his mistress. It is described as a rip-roaring adventure and its ancient world setting is bound to appeal to fantasy fans. Notwithstanding this, the author is an Italian professor of archaeology, so expect much added value.

Dragonheart by Todd McCaffrey, Bantam Press, hrdbk, £17.99. 978-0-593-05867-1.
Son Todd is carrying on where the grand dame of science fantasy dragons (Anne) is leaving off.

Rome Burning by Sophia McDougall, Orion, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-752-89378-5.
The follow-up to Romanitas in which the Roman Empire survives to today.

Royal Exile by Fiona McIntosh, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-0-007-27601-1.
Now this is a bit of a breakout for Fiona as - though published a number of times before - this is the first time Voyager have invested in her with a hardback: so this itself says something. She is compared to Robin Hobb and Voyager's editor a few year's ago told us how delighted they were in Hobb. Anyway, back to Fiona and Royal Exile. This is the first of a new fantasy trilogy, so if you like Hobb then rush out and get this.

The Sweet Scent of Blood: Spellcrackers.com Book 1 by Suzanne McLeod, Gollancz, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08428-5.
Goblins and ghosts openly frequent London and some are even celebrities. However they can also be the victim of crime as well as cause it. Thank goodness for Genevieve Taylor of Spellcrackers.com.

Storm Born by Richelle Mead, Bantam, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-0-553-81986-1.
A supernatural romance and the start of a new series from the author of the 'Succubus' trilogy.

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07792-8.
Richard Morgan is well known for his dark action SF, and indeed his Black Man (Thirteen in the US) recently won an SF Clarke Award. We like him. Now he has turned his attention to fantasy. This debut fantasy sees three veterans of a war that saved an empire spurned. Years on, they are called back as apparently there is a threat from beyond the worlds...

Weapons of Magical Destruction - Orcs: Bad Blood Volume 1 by Stan Nicholls, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-07803-1.
This is the beginning of a follow-up to Nicholl's original Orcs trilogy. Fast-moving and tongue-in-cheek.

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-007-25675-4.
This is the fifth adventure of Captain William Laurence and his dragon Temeraire. This series has been rather popular and, as Black Powder War, Temeraire, Throne of Jade and Throne of Jade (2nd review).).

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe, Penguin Classics, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-141-03882-7.
A reprint of the old classic. A wealthy lord parties with his friends within his castle while outside the Red Death plague decimates his people. But is the lord really safe? Time to check if this masterpiece is in your collection.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collectors Edition 2009 Calendar, £12. ISBN 978-0-575-08320-2.
12 full colour scenes by Discworld artist regulars Paul Kidby, David Wyatt and Stephen Player.

Witch-hunt by Margit Sabdeino, Tagman press, pbk, £7. ISBN 978-1-903-57177-4.
This is the second in 'the legend of the ice people' sequence and the sequel to Spellbound. What you really need to know is that the author has sold 39 million copies in nine languages and is one of Scandinavia's most read authors!

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08318-9.
Geralt is a wicther, someone whose long training and magic powers make him a merciless assassin. But he targets only monsters and daemons that ravage the land. Andrzej Sapkowski is very well known as a fantasy writer in Poland and his Geralt books have had success in other countries too.

Master of Darkness by Susan Sizemore, Pocket, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-844-39114-8.
Don't reciprocate it when a vampire falls in love with you. The next thing you know it's a heavy conflict between the two races.

Anathem by Neal Stephensen, Atlantic Books, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-1-843-54915-4
Since being a small boy Raz has lived in a 3,400 year old monastery which is in fact a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers and mathematicians. There, sealed off from the rest of the world, they live in isolation. Then the word comes that they must leave and venture into the world to prevent a coming catastrophe.

The Dog of the North by Tim Stretton, Macmillan, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-230-70801-3.
This too came out mid-summer and Stretton is described as an outstanding new voice in fantasy. An ancient kingdom style fantasy.

Red Gloves by Elizabeth Vaughan, Gollancz, trd pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-0-575-08400-1.
Sword and sorcery. There's a new mercenary in town.

Stormed Fortress by Janny Wurts, Voyager, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-007-21781-6.
The paperback release of the 5th and final instalment in the 'Alliance of Light' sequence.

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 2008

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Elephants on Acid: and Other Bizzare (sic) Experiments by Alex Boese, Boxtree, demy hrd, £10.00. ISBN 978-0-752-22674-3.
The title really says it all. Fun for scientists and non-scientists alike. Covers zombie kittens to tickling machines by way of the Coke Pepsi challenge. Since you will no doubt ask, Tusko was the elephant given the largest tab of acid ever. In the vein of Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition.

Do Bats Have Bollocks: 1010 More Stupid Questions and Answers You'll Never Need by Jon Butler and Bruno Vincent, Sphere, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-751-54137-3.
Expect to see this in many bookshops this Christmas as the title has caught trade writers' eyes and so it has had considerable book trade coverage.

The Speed of Nearly Everything: From Tobogganing Penguins to Spinning Neutron Stars by pete Macinnins, Murdoch, pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-1-741-96136-2.
Ideal for speed freaks.

On Space and Time edited by Shahn Majid, Cambridge University Press, £13.99. ISBN 978-0-521-88926-1.
If you are a science-phile and devour New Scientist as (or dismiss it as) light reading then you will love this collection or researchers thoughts on the latest developments in cosmology, particle physics, quantum gravity and so forth.

The Time Traveller by Ronald Mallet and Bruce Henderson, Corgi, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-0-552-15175-5.
The story as told in the first person of the scientist who discovered time's equations.

Seven Years to Save the Planet: The Questions... and Answers by Bill McGuire, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-297-85336-7.
Explains climate change risks in simple terms.

The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett & Jacqueline Simpson, Doubleday, hrdbk, £17.99 / Can$36.95. ISBN 978-0-385-61100-8.
Out in time to mark 25 years of Discworld, this is a great non-fiction guide to real folklore and how it relates to that invented by Terry Pratchett for his Discworld series of novels. It is a fascinating read and actually can be enjoyed by non-Discworld fans as much as by Terry Pratchett aficionados. The ground covered is considerable including: The cosmos, dwarfs, elves, trolls, witches, vampires, legends, death and much, much more. For those whose interest in folklore is just a smidgen more than casual, there is an academic reference list appended as well as a subject index. Jacqueline Simpson is active in Britain's Folklore Society and, of course, Terry needs no introduction. This would make for a great Christmas present for any of your friends who are into Discworld but, warning, you may want to get it well in advance so that you can read it for yourself. (Not sure we should be saying that, but anyway...)

Note, there are also line illustrations by Paul Kidby.

Future Proof: The Greatest Gadgets and Gizmos Ever Imagined by Nick Sagan with Any Walker and Mark Frary, Icon, pbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-1-84831004-9
How devices found in SF became a reality from the jet pack to teleportation.

FutureWorld by 'The Science Museum', Boxtree, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-752-22672-9.
This comes from the folk at the Science Museum, Kensington, London, and looks at the border between SF and science (or is it science and SF?). It has four main themes: space, time, machine and monster. Knowing the good folk in Kensington, it is probably a little simple for our die-hard regulars but would be welcome by teenagers staring out on their voyage of science and SF.

Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang by Paul J. Steinhardt & Neil Turok, Phoenix, pbk, £8.99. ISBN 978-0-753-82442-9.
New theories about how it all began and more.

Taming the Infinite by Ian Stewart, Quercus, hrdbk, £20. ISBN 978-1-847-24181-8.
The definitive history of mathematics. Written by the mathematician who happens to be an SF fan (and occasional SF author plus co-writer (with Jack Cohen) of science whimsy). However you may want to check and see if the paperback is coming out.

Natural Lore by Think Books, Think Books, pbk, £10.99. ISBN 978-1-845-25065-2.
Should shepherds take note of a red sky at night? Do April showers bring May flowers? (Not in Australia they don't.) This book explains the science behind popular traditional sayings and beliefs.

The Universal Crammer by Think Books, Think Books, pbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-845-25063-8.
This is a wonderful idea, all the key stuff you learned at school and then never used in one book. A marvellous reference idea. A number of the science bods working on Concat treasure their 'Studies in Biology' books or Nelkon and Parker (physics) but what of not just key science but maths, Latin and so forth. (Also useful for parents with kids going to school and needing advice on homework.)

Why is Uranus Upside Down? by Fred Watson, Summerdale, pbk, £7.99. ISBN 978-1-840-24687-2.
Covers a load of other astronomical questions too, such as why does the Earth wobble and where is the nearest black hole?

Brian now has autographed copies of -- Essential Science Fiction: A Concise Guide by Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, £8.90, pbk, 272pp. ISBN 0-954-91490-2. E-mail Brian (follow the Porcupine Books link) first to check availability. Also now available from Amazon.   Jump to the new specific Amazon link earlier on (but it's cheaper from Porcupine). +++ If you enjoy Concat then you can support us by getting this book either for yourself or a friend and there are postage discounts for getting more than one copy and a further discount is available if buying several for an SF group or SF class.

 

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

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

 

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

Autumn 2008

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins

Dr Who: The Official Annual 2009, BBC / Ladybird, hrdbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-405090427-8.

Harry Potter: Poster Sticker Annual 2009, hrdbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-405-904550-1.

Torchwood: Pack Animals by Peter Anghelides, BBC Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-846-07574-2.

Batman: The Dark Knight, Titan Books, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-1-848-56042-0.
Film spin-off.

Star Trek 101 by Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmany, Pocket Books, trd pbk, £9.99. ISBN 978-074-3-49723-7.

Me Cheeta 'by' Cheeta, HarperCollins, hrdbk, £18.99. ISBN 978-0-007-27863-3.
The spook autobiography of Cheeta, Tarzan's chimp companion. Apparently it is rather funny.

Star Trek - Destiny: Gods of the Night by David Mack, pbk, £6.99. 978-1-416-55171-3.
Stories based on the original series.

Star Trek - Destiny: Mere Mortals by David Mack, pbk, £6.99. 978-1-416-55172-0.
Stories based on the original series.

Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic: The Illustrated Screenplay by Vadim Jean and mucked about by Terry Pratchett, Gollancz, hrdbk, £20.00. ISBN 978-0-575-08045-4.
This is a must for fans of Pratchett TV adaptations. Beautifully illustrated.

Star Wars: Death Star by Michael Reaves, Arrow, pbk, £6.99. ISBN 978-009-9-49198-9.

Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover, Century, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1-844-13321-5.

Dr Who: The Time Traveller's Almanac by Steve Tribe, BBC/Ebury, hrdbk, £14.99. ISBN 978-1-846-07572-8.
Billed as an HHGTTG for Who fans.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams, Titan Books, hrdbk, £17.99. ISBN 978-1845-76756-3.
Novel based on a video game from Lucas Arts and its game story by Haden Blackman.

 

[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 2008

SELECTED RECENT DVD RELEASES

Ashes to Ashes: Complete Season 1 £37.50 from the BBC.
This is the complete first season of the quasi time travel fantasy that is a follow up to the Life on Mars series. Note that this is 'fantasy' and not 'SF' (so no logical rational, no proper exploration of time loop paradoxes etc). This time we get a female detective stuck in a coma in which in her mind (or is it reality?) she is transported back a quarter of a century to the early 1980s. (Remember in Life on Mars was the 1970s.) There she joins the police team from season one who for some reason moved en masse together as a unit from Manchester to London. Huge fun as 1980s stereotypes are held up to present-day stereotypes (which will undoubtedly appear as daft in another 25 years time). But other than such jollity (which is undeniably great) in SF terms the series has little going for it.

Cannibal Holocaust £12.99 from Vipco.
Homemade documentary style (that inspired Blair Witch project and Cloverfield) grisly horror.

The Cars That Ate Paris £18.99 from Second Sight.
From Australian director Peter Weir (see Picnic at Hanging Rock below). Somewhat surreal this 1974 film has some oddly made up cars. A little in the vein of Mad Max, the 'Paris' in this film is a small settlement in the Australian outback.

Cloverfield £19.99 from Paramount.
Monster trashes New York as seen through the eyes of twenty-something New Yorkers. This film had huge hype last year. Wait a few months and the DVD price will come down.

Dark City £17.99 from Optimum.
An absolutely brilliant film. Shot in a Noir style a US city appears to be in perpetual night. Then our protagonist finds that things periodically take a dramatic change. Who is re-arranging the city and why? Very highly recommended.

Diary of the Dead £17.99 from Optimum.
George A. Romero continues his run of zombie films with one for the camcorder generation.

Dr Who: Season 4 Volume 2 £13.99 from BBC.
Actually it's the 30th season (but shhh, who's counting)... Episodes featured 'The Sontaran Stratagem', 'The Poison Sky', 'The Doctor's Daughter' and 'The Unicorn and the Wasp'. Also available for this autumn are older discounted DVDs. These include the first series (series 37) with the 5 DVD set formerly some £70 now at £30, the 2nd series 6 DVD set available at £35 and the 3rd series of 6 DVDs at £40.

Dr Who: Season 4 Volume 3 £13.99 from BBC.
Episodes include the fantastical double-parter ending with Davros, the Daleks, Torchwood, three former Who partners, and a sort of twist on the classic Who adventure 'The Three Doctors' (remember that from 1973). Even K-9 gets in on the act.

The 11th Hour £15.99 from Warner.
An environmental documentary on the state of the planet and where we as a culture are going. Some might consider it preachy and full of a fair bit of gloom. Yet if, over the years, you have ever been to one of Concat's shindigs then you will know that its two bioscientists are far more depressing. A documentary the richest fifth of the planet (that is about everyone in Europe, N. America, Japan and Australasia) need to watch. (N. America with less than 5% of the World's population contributes around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions). If you have children, and care for them, then you really should see this.

Flash Gordon £12.99 from Optimum.
Shot with brilliant colours (to represent the original comicbook style), this lively 1980s remake dazzles and is further enlivened with a rocking soundtrack by Queen. Huge fun. Flash, Aahaaa.

The Golden Compass £17.99 from EV.
The film based on Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' series of novels. Dazzling SFX rich fantasy that was nominated for a Best Dramatic presentation - Long Form Hugo Award. It also was one of our chart hits of 2007/8 (see the film's title link).

Heroes: The Complete Series 2 £34.50 from Universal.
Much shorter than season 1 (due to the writers strike) and for some this season did not capture the brio of the first. Arguably this might be a little unfair due to the brilliant flying start. View season 2 as a shorter readjustment of the characters, plus the introduction of some new ones, for what will hopefully be a cracking season 3.

I'm A Cyborg £18.99 from Tartan.
This is not sci-fi but is very much new wave: think of David Cronenberg meets Terry Gilliam. It is a kind of romantic comedy but with darker edges and depth. In a mental hospital a young woman believes she is a killer robot. Meanwhile a fellow patient believes he is a master thief capable of stealing things like politeness or Thursdays. Directed by Chan-Wook Park. An original film well worth checking out especially if your taste in SF and fantasy goes beyond rockets, ray guns and magic.

Jason King the complete series, £52 from network.
The complete series of Peter Wyngarde's 1970 author cum crime fighter spin-off TV series from Department 'S'. OK so it is not very SFnal but it has the appeal of the vaguely SFnal Avengers and is oh, so camp (much like The Prisoner).

The Jeunet & Caro Box Set £18.99 from Optimum.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marco Caro have been a veritable filmmaking duo. This set contains two main features plus extras. A must if you like continental European, surreal cinema with a slightly dark edge. The first feature, Delicatessen, is a comedy (yes) about cannibalism: not just dark humour but slapstick too. The second feature is The City of Lost Children where a circus performer finds out that a scientist is out to steal children's dreams. In the mix there is the short The Bunker of the Last Gunshots where wordlessly soldiers slowly go mad as a timer counts down.

The Indiana Jones Trilogy £29.50 from Paramount.
Well if you want a digital version of the first three films (rather than the video you probably already have) then this is for you. And you can add this summer's fourth film to your DVD collection before Christmas.

Jumper £19.99from Fox.
Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell have fun being mutants with the ability to teleport, that is when they are not being chased by a sinister organization. Though not up to the original novel, it is an enjoyable romp which on opening, we reported back in the Spring, did well in the box office.

I Am Legend £19.99 from Warner.
This film had really a good box office the first weeks following its launch. Based (semi-loosely) on Richard Matheson's classic novel of a disease wiping out almost everyone on Earth with apparently only one survivor plus a load of light-sensitive, transformed mutants that are a bit vampire-like. The film has some absolutely great scenes of a modern deserted city but the film's second half rather lets it down. (The monsters are not that hot, Matheson's vision is not realised, and there is a little US religious mumbo-jumbo thrown in.) Nonetheless this is really worth checking out either by renting or buying once the price has come down.

The Orphanage £19.99 from Optimum.
A supernatural gothic horror that is more atmosphere than shocks. Though it comes from the Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona you should think more of the Hugo winning Pan's Labyrinth, especially as Guillermo del Toro is the producer. And of course there is brilliant photography. The extra disk has: the obligatory 'making of'; deleted scenes; director's Q&A; storyboards; and interviews with Bayona and Del Toro.

The Owl Service £14.99 from Network.
Late 1960s British children's TV series of magic and class division in rural Wales. Rather good for its type.

Picnic at Hanging Rock £18.99 from Second Sight.
From Australian director Peter Weir (see The Cars That Ate Paris above). It is an atmospheric horror with no horror but bags of atmosphere. Set in 1990 a school group goes off for a picnic but three schoolgirls disappear with their teacher and a 'survivor' cannot explain what happened. This film attracted a certain amount of critical acclaim when it came out in 1975. This three disc set has plenty of extras including a director's cut that is shorter than the original film (which arguably did drag a bit in places).

The Schwarzenegger Collection £29.99 from Optimum.
Ok, so you'll only want this for the hard SF Total Recall (loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story) and the sword and sorcery fantasy Red Sonja in which Arnie is a sidekick to the female warrior. However you do get the action undercover cop filmRaw Deal (1986) and the Russian cop in the US romp Red Heat (1988) too.

Small Town Folk, £15.99 from DNC Entertainment.
A British independent horror, which means that if you are into horror it's a B-movie shoestring cracker. Somewhere in England, high on a scenic hill in Grockleton stands the lonely Beesley Manor governed by an ominous landlord. (Shades of 2000AD's Angel gang?) They are always on the lookout for females to carry on the family name irrespective of willingness. The landlord meanwhile watches over his land and family lest there be trespassers. If there are then they may well find themselves in the middle of a hunt and a chase for a prospective bride... OK, this is a horror and there is some violence and gore. Having said that the certificate is only 15 (though of course 15 today equates with 18 and XXX of a few decades ago). The recommended price is a bit steep but there are plenty of places offering it for around £8. Extras include a director's commentary and 'making of' mini-feature.

Stargate Atlantis: Season Four Complete £33 from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
With the stranded team facing the Wraith, Replicators and other woes, plus have dwindling supplies, it is jolly good to see the arrival of Col. Samantha Carter.

30 Days of Night £19.99 from Icon.
Vampires love the long Alaskan nights... Slightly above-average horror.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep £19.99 from Sony.
One for younger viewers. A boy looks after a young Loch Ness Monster.

Yeux sans visage, Les [The Eyes Without A Face] £18.99, from Second Sight.
The 1960 classic French horror is re-released. A surgeon turns his leading skill to a horrific purpose. Directed by George Franju, this B&W horror is rather grisly though only has a (15 video) rating in the UK even though it was actually banned in Finland. Essential for horror fans of the Chainsaw Massacre ilk. (And a little appropriate that 'Second Sight' is this DVD's UK distributor...)

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, £12.99 from Second Run.
A must for art-house genre fans, this 1970 Czech film is a fantastical tale of a young girl coming into womanhood. Think of a more realistic Company of Wolves.

Vampyr £15.99 from Eureka.
This classic vampire film from 1931 is loosely based on the equally classic vampire short story 'Carmilla'. Of particular note this Eureka release comes with an extra, an optional commentary by Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy) who clearly found the film inspirational.

See also our film download tips.

To see what films we can expect in 2008, 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 2008

R.I.P.

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

Chingiz Aitmatov, the renowned Kyrgyzstan mainstream author, has died aged 79. His one SF novel, The Day Lasts Longer than a Hundred Years (1980), concerns a Soviet-US aircraft carrier which has a close encounter with aliens. Aside from the SF trope, the novel is noted for it coming out of the Soviet Union a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall with a tale of east-west cooperation.

Robert Asprin, the US author, has died in his early 60s. His first SF novel was The Cold Cash War (1977) but he is better known for his 'Thieves World' series of novels and stories. He also wrote comic fantasy novels beginning with Another Fine Myth... (1978). He won a Locus Award in 1982 for anthology Shadows of Sanctuary. He died in May having been found by a friend who was picking him up to go to the Marcon SF convention.

John Berkey, the N. American SF artist, has died. His SF work was noted for space opera scenes of huge spacecraft. He also drew landscapes and portraits.

Algis Budrys, the Lithuanian born US author and editor, has died aged 77. From 1952 he wrote scores of short stories and from 1954 several novels including Who (1958) that became a (not-so-hot) film (1973), and Michaelmas (1977). In the 1960s and 70s he wrote reviews for Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He was also editor of the magazine Tomorrow Speculative Fiction (1993-7) and which for a few subsequent years was a webzine. Arguably it was the short story form in which he really excelled with a very high standard. +++ See also his Wikipedia article.

Ken Campbell, the British actor, SF enthusiast, science-phile and occasional fan, has died aged 66. Over his career he had many roles appearing on stage, radio, TV and film. In the past couple of decades the greater public probably knew him as Alf Garnett's (Warren Mitchell's) long-suffering neighbour in the series In Sickness and in Health but he popped up in bit parts all over the place such as in the Fawlty Towers TV series and in the film A Fish Called Wanda (1988). His genre-related work including him co-founding the SF Theatre in Liverpool to stage a play based on the Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus sequence. He also was Poodo (a part created specially for him) in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and narrowly missed out on being the final Dr Who of the original series' run (Sylvester McCoy pipped him to the role). However he was moreover an SF fan and (as two of our team found out over a couple of enjoyable nights, and several beers, at the 1979 Brit Worldcon) a science enthusiast keen to come to grips with real science (something rare for someone whose life was steeped in the arts): he was a bit of a Fortean enjoying Charles Fort's perspective. This manifested itself professionally with him presenting some off-beat, but fascinating, science documentary mini-series for Channel 4 including Reality on the Rocks and Six Experiments That Changed the World. Perhaps the performance that was his greatest homage to the genre was his co-starring role in the play with Brian Aldiss, The Science Fiction Blues, that toured the UK and also had a performance at the 1990 Worldcon (The Netherlands). A fun guy with his heart very much in the right place.

Roberta (Bert) Carlson, the US fan, has tragically died in a car accident aged 43. From Bothell, Washington, she was active in the US convention-organising scene and was Chair of this year's Rustycon and also Treasurer of the 2011 Worldcon bid for Seattle. The accident took place while driving with other fans associated with the Seattle bid to Westercon.

Tristram Cary, the British composer, has died aged 82. He founded one of the first electronic music studios in England after World War II, and helped design the VCS3 (Putney) synthesiser which was used by bands such as Pink Floyd on the classic album Dark Side Of The Moon. In SFnal terms he is noted for doing in-episode music for Dr Who and in some films such as Quatermass and the Pit (1967) a. He relocated to the University of Adelaide, Australia, in 1972 and was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to music.

Chris Cooper, the Brit fan has died aged 49 following sudden collapse in London. Though he had been ill for a while it is not known whether this was connected but his immune system had recently been severely compromised. This news, sad as it is, is all the more disturbing as Chris was not that old. He was a first generation PSIFAn (Hatfield college SF) of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Chris was well known at Hatfield (and not just within PSIFA) for his work on tech for student union events. (He was part of the SU Ents team.) He was affectionately known within PSIFA and the college at large as 'Lurch' (cf. The Adams family) due to his height, but it was a name he chose to shrug off after college and such was the respect, he had with those who also came from PSIFA into fandom, that few in fandom knew and a new appellation, 'Jolly Green Giant', began to stick. Regarding fandom, Chris was one of literally a couple of first generation PSIFA members who had encountered fandom before going to Hatfield: Chris had had a year reading engineering at University College London before switching to computing at Hatfield. His first con (we understand) was Skycon, the 1978 UK Eastercon. Within fandom he continued to help out at a number of cons and could regularly be seen on the Eastercon circuit and that aspect of Brit fandom. Outside of the SF community, Chris was active within CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale that champions traditionally made beers) and was often a steward at local CAMRA beer festivals. This experience was invaluable for a number of conventions seeking to supplement hotel beverages pumped under Jovian atmospheric pressure with real ale. His short humanist funeral was in Watford and his wake in Luton in, of course, a real ale pub: the CAMRA award-winning hostelry that he regularly frequented. Roughly 100 attended. +++ Chris, the Old Age PSIFAns on the Concat team raise a tankard to you. Wherever you are, may your extension cables be untangled and your gaffer tape sticky.

Hugo Correa, the Chilean SF author has died. Little of his work has appeared in English. He is noted for a number of novels including Los Titres [The Puppets] (1969) and Los Altisimos [The Highest Ones] (1973).

Alexander Courage, the US composer, died aged 88. He is best known for his Star trek music for both the original Trek series and Next Gen. He was also behind the 'music' of the atmospheres of some of the Trek planets and using musical instruments to help with the sound effects for some of the devices.

Hazel Court, the British actress, has died aged 82. She appeared in numerous Hammer and other fantastic films. Her genre films included: Ghost Ship (1952), Devil Girl From Mars (1954), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964). She had a bit part in Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) and appearances in TV series such as Mission Impossible, The Twilight Zone and four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Frank Darcy the Irish fan has died aged 49. He was a leading light of the Irsh SF Association.

Don S. Davis, the US actor, has died aged 65. His genre fame relates to his playing Major General George Hammond in seven seasons of Stargate and previously as Major Garland Briggs in Twin Peaks. Davis' final Stargate appearance is in Stargate: Continuum, the recent straight-to-DVD film. Stargate fans were asked to make memorial donations to the American Heart Association.

Bill Dial, the US TV scriptwriter and occasional actor, has died aged 64. He wrote for Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine as well as some episodes of Sliders.

Lyuben Dilov, Bulgaria's leading SF author, has died aged 80. He was the author of around 35 books and is a landmark figure within Bulgarian SF and founder of its Graviton Awards. Among his most famous are The Atomic Man and The Many Names of Fear. He also wrote The Icarus Way (1974) which, of broader note to SF, proposed a 4th Law of Robotics: A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases. The last Law was to put an end to the expensive aberrations of designers to give psychorobots as humanlike a form as possible and to the consequential misunderstandings arising from this. (Note: Dilov's 4th Law is not to be confused with that in the 1989 tribute anthology, Foundation's Friends, in which Harry Harrison's story, 'The Fourth Law of Robotics' (1989), has as the 4th Law 'A robot must reproduce. As long as such reproduction does not interfere with the First or Second or Third Law'. This is used by a robot rights activist who, in an attempt to liberate robots, builds one equipped with this Law. And there is also a 5th Law from Nikola Kesarovski (1983) in his short story 'The Fifth Law of Robotics'. In this story a robot accidentally kills a human through giving a simple hug. The 5th Law is: A robot must know it is a robot. This Law chimes with Dilov's.)

Thomas M(ichael) Disch, the US author has died aged 68, in his New York appartment from a self-inflicted gun shot. His SF novels were thought-provoking. Camp Concentration (1967) and The Genocides (1965) were, as with all his writing, on the dark side. The Genocides in particular was about new plants appearing all over the world and the resulting breakdown in society leading, eventually, to humans understanding that the 'invasion' of the plants was just seeding - at the end, the plants were protected from pests (humanity) before being harvested by the aliens. Camp Concentration concerned a governmental internment centre for geniuses except that the inmates' IQs are boosted by a drug but it has a side-effect of death in a few months. In 1999 he won the non-fiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered The World. In terms of popular SF, his notable contribution was a novel based on the TV series The Prisoner. Tom had been especially hit by the death of his longtime partner, Charles Naylor, some years ago. However it may have been housing pressures that finally tipped him over the edge: his country house had had flooding and his long-term New York appartment, it is reported, was thought likely to have substantial rent increases reflecting the rise in local property prices. SF has lost an all too rare a combination, both a masterful and an insightful writer.

Julie Edge, British actress, has died aged 64. Her genre appearances included: Creatures the World Forgot (1971) and The Final Programme (1973).

Alex Grasshoff, the US director, has died aged 79. He is noted for Future Shock (1972), some episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) and The Last Dinosaur (1977).

Ann Green, the Brit fan and editor of the 1990s zine Ormolu, has died aged 46. Wife of Steve, she was well known in Festival of Fantastic Films (Manchester) and Novacon (Birmingham) fandoms. As such she was an acquaintance to a couple of our Concat team. Our condolences to Steve.

Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist, has died aged 102. He is famous for extracting LSD in 1938 while investigating possible pharmaceutical uses of fungal products. Having accidentally (through his fingertips) given himself a mild dose and had a pharmapsychedelic experience, he then deliberately dosed himself with a very small quantity. He had hoped LSD might be used to treat mental illness.

Margaret Howes, the US fan and author of the The Wrong World (2000), has died aged 80.

Robert H. Justman, the US television producer, has died aged 81 following complications from Parkinson's. He is particularly known for his work on both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation; the latter series saw a shuttle craft was named after him. Unlike most producers with whom many associate with raising the funding and keeping production with budget, Robert Justman was hands on being involved casting, set design, props, as well as story lines and scripts. He was reportedly instrumental in getting Patrick Stewart to play Captain Picard (not initially a popular choice with his colleagues). He was also an Executive Producer on several films including Red Planet Mars (1952) (which despite its age is not a bad film) and many episodes of other series including: The Adventures of Superman, The Outer Limits and the pilot for Mission Impossible. In 1996 he co-authored Inside Star Trek: The Real Story with Herbert F. Solow, who also worked on the original series.

Rob Knox, the British actor, has tragically died aged 18. He was due to play the character of Marcus Belby in the forthcoming film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was stabbed outside a pub in Sidcup, Kent (on London's border) late at night. Dying so young we cannot know what other contributions to the genre he might have made. London is generally a safe city but this year there has been a spate of youth-on-youth stabbings and Rob was the 14th such teenage victim in London this year up to the end of May. Reportedly Rob Knox was not the instigator of the trouble but apparently was trying to resolve a nearby conflict. Five others required hospital treatment. A couple of days after the event a 21 year old unemployed man was arrested and has just (September) gone to court.

Harry Lange, the German-born illustrator, has died aged 77. he spent some years with NASA before working on films and notably was art director for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also worked on the first three Star Wars films and The Dark Crystal.

Willis Lamb, the US physicist, has died aged 94. He was a Nobel Prize winner (a joint win but his was) for discoveries concerning the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum. He noted discrepancies between the predicted value of energy from electron orbital level transitions of about one part in a million. In turns out that the energy can be momentarily converted into matter and anti-matter pairs. These disappear almost instantly but affect the electric field, hence motion of the electron, hence a slight shift in the frequency of light. Lamb was therefore the first person to detect that vacuum could in fact be a seething sea of 'virtual' particles.

Michael de Larrabeiti, British fantasy writer whose work includes the 'Borribles' trilogy, has died aged 73.

Francis Lacassin, the French translator, has died aged 76. If there was one person whose life's work brought English language SF and fantasy to those speaking French then a strong contender to such a title must surely go to Francis Lacassin. Some 282 works are listed on the French Electra database as having been translated by the man; undoubtedly he did others. Included among the many authors whose work he translated are: H. G. Wells, Lewis Carroll, H. P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker. As a bridge between Anglophone works and Francophone speakers, his contribution will last for decades to come. He was also known for his cartoons. If this was all not enough, much of this work was undertaken while holding a university chair.

Kay Linaker (Kate Phillips), the US actress and screenwriter who co-wrote The Blob (1958), has died aged 94.

Edward N. Lorenz, the US mathematician and meteorologist, has died aged 90. He is one of the modern fathers of Chaos Theory. It took a while for his 1960s papers to be appreciated (in part because he was an unimposing soul). His name is given to Chaos Theory's 'Lorenz attractor'.

Humphrey Lyttlelton, the British jazz player and radio host, has died aged 86. Humph's SF genre connections are minimal other than, as the host for over three decades of BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue, his humour was enjoyed by many fans and inspired the Brit SF panel 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clute' at a number of 1980s cons. For those unaware of the show, it had at its heart surreal British humour with games like 'Name That Bar Code'. Black -white - black - white - black -white - black - white. Right, what's that the barcode for? Or the 'British Place Name' game great examples of which include 'Tower Bridge' (played by very tall people) and also 'Upper Rams Bottom'. Or alternative dictionary: 'Pebble dash' (Meaning throwing stones and then running off); 'Coincidental' (Having matching teeth); 'Harpist' (Fairly drunk); 'Coquette' (Small piece); and 'Judo' (Kosher plasticene). The most popular game was 'Mornington Crescent' - based on London tube (metro) stations - whose extraordinary rules you can only try to Google but without success (see also Geoffrey Perkins below). He was also a jazz trumpet player and one of his regular venues for many years was the Red Barn pub next to Barnehurst station, less than a mile from Concatenation's former mission control (former homes of three of our core team). Humph was greatly loved and will be missed by many, as has been evident by the flowers the public laid in Mornington Crescent.

David Mitton, who worked in British TV latterly as a director, has died aged 69. Earlier in his career he worked on special effects for Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Secret Service and UFO.

Geoffrey Perkins, the British TV executive, has died in a road accident having been hit by a van, aged 55. SFnally he was the producer of BBC Radio 4's Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the first BBC radio comedy show broadcast in stereo), and he brought the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue's game 'Mornington Crescent' (see also Humphrey Lyttlelton above) to the show. He was also an executive producer for BBC TV's My Hero and over at Channel 4 produced the first series of the surreal comedy Father Ted.

Joseph Pevney, the US television director and former actor, has died aged 96. He worked on many of the original Trek episodes (fourteen) as well as The Munsters and The Incredible Hulk series. His most remarkable SFnal work was probably Star Trek's 'The Trouble With Tribbles' (written by David (The Man Who Folded Himself) Gerrold) and 'City on the Edge of Forever' (written by Harlan Ellison).

George W. Proctor, the US fan and author, has died. As an author he wrote both westerns and SF. He has some 90 books to his credit.

John P. Roberts, the US Baltimore fan, has died. His main area of fanac was games playing.

Jack Speer, the US fan, has died aged 87. In his many years of fanac, he was probably best known for being the author of Up To Now (1939), the first history of fandom, as well as the first edition of the Fancyclopedia (1944). He was of course the fan GoH at the 2004 Worldcon in Boston (along with Pete Weston) at which Fancestral Voices appeared.

Judit Trethon, the Hungarian SF translator, publicist and academic, has died aged 57. She has worked in the Hungarian SF community for many decades. This has been recognised by her winning a Eurocon Award for 'Special Contributions to Fandom' at this year's Eurocon. Judit also helped the 2nd International Week of SF with which several members of the Concat team were involved. Here she liaised with the Hungarian author Istvan Nemere and also compiled his bibliography with a few lines of novel précis for the programme book. She died tragically in a car accident when, returning on the motorway to Budapest, her car had a tyre blow-out. We understand she had made it to the motorway's hard shoulder when a lunatic rogue driver came along.

Yoji Totsuka, the Japanese physicist, has died aged 66. His work revolutionised our understanding of neutrinos. He reconciled the muon neutrino discrepancy of there being less coming up through the Earth than down from space: travelling through the Earth gave them an increased chance of being converted to tau neutrinos. His work also provided the first clear evidence of neutrino oscillations and neutrino mass. He died following a long battle with cancer. This he recounted on his blog plotting its extent with time and evaluating chemical treatments. He also spent his last year or so commenting on science and policy matters.

Michael Turner, the US comics artist, has died of cancer at 37. His work includes that on Batman / Superman.

Lyall Watson (born as Malcolm Lyall-Watson), the South African biologist and anthropologist has died aged 69. He authored over a score of popular science books between 1972 and 2004. Some were firmly rooted in conventional science, while others were decidedly Fortean and several steps too far for scientists. Among his most famous were and Supernature: A Natural History of the Supernatural (1973) and Beyond Supernature: A New Natural History of the Supernatural (1986). Arguably his most controversial for biologists was Lifetide: A Biology of the Unconscious (1979). All are available in English save four which have only (to date) been printed in Japanese. He also worked as a science reporter including a stint on BBC TV's Tomorrow's World. Whatever his eccentric forays into pseudo-science, he was acadmeically extrmely gifted with degrees not only in biological sciences but also in areas that might today be considered as biosphere science. One testimony to his gifts was that he became a director of Johannesburg Zoo at just 23! He died in Australia.

John A. Wheeler, the US physicist, has died aged 96 just as we were posting last season's news page. In 1936 he developed S-matrix as used in particle physics, before WWII he worked with Nils Bohr and Enrico Fermi on fission and in the war on the atomic bomb. After the war he worked with Einstein on relativity and shared his vision for a unified field theory. He coined the term 'wormhole' (for space-time continuum tunnels) in 1957, in 1967 'black hole' and the 'Participatory Anthropic Principle' (a subset of the Strong Anthropic Principle which itself is a part of the Cosmological Anthropic Principle). Among his students on his teaching side were Richard Feynman (who devised Feynman diagrams and incidentally sorted out the Challenger space shuttle enquiry), Kip Thorne (space-time specialist) and Hugh Everett (who over 50 years ago had the idea of a Multiverse of branching parallel space-time continua). John Wheeler himself never won the Nobel as that prize is given for a single discovery and not a body of work. Yet the ground he covered in his lifetime eclipsed that of many Noble winners. Arguably he was one of the last living science giants of the 20th century.

Stanley Winston, the US special effects designer, has died aged 62. He had lived with multiple myeloma for several years. His notable SF work (among over a score of SF/F films) included: Aliens) (winner of a Best Visuals Oscar and a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo), Edward Scissorhands (winner of a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation), Predator (winner of a Best Visuals Oscar and it was nominated for a Hugo); Terminator 2: Judgement Day (winning Best Visual Effects & Best Makeup Oscars and a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo) and Jurassic Park (winner of a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo and a Best Visuals Oscar). His last film was Iron Man earlier this year.

Harold Yeomans, the film fan, has died. Harold was a regular at Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films (England) and a member of the Manchester & Salford Film Society.

 

[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 2008

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Faster than light communication is not only one step closer to reality but new experimental evidence suggests it could be at the very least ten thousand times faster than the speed of light. If so then, at the very slowest, a message to a star three light years away would take a couple of days. OK, so that's the science fiction. Here is the science. Researchers at the University of Geneva have measured an entangled pair of photons travelling to two receivers over 10 miles apart (18 km) along an east-west axis. The 'action at a distance' was seemingly instantaneous within the experimental measurement limits of their equipment. This means that the speed of 'communication' between the two photons was at least 10,000 times the speed of light. Also, because the experiment took place along an axis in line with (and to and from) the Alps it was possible to rule out (within experimental limits) any effect of the mass of the Alps as a 'frame' of reference. Again also, because the experiment ran for 12 hours, due to the Earth's rotation compared to the rest of the Universe, the frame of reference was not the mass of the Universe. (Of course if there is a frame it could be the Earth.) The paper by Daniel Salart and colleagues was published in Nature (vol 454, pages 861-864). Now before we get too excited, some physicists say that it will be impossible to use quantum entanglement to send a message. At this point Concatenation invokes Clarke's First Law. After all Albert Einstein himself dismissed the very concept of quantum entanglement as 'an absurdity', and yet it exists! +++ Oh, and 'mundane' SFers, please do take note.

Faster than light travel theory advances. Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy have just had a research preprint posted refining the 1994 warp theory proposed by Michael Alcubierre. The idea is that a ship contracts the space-time continuum in front of it and expands it behind it. It itself sits in a pocket without travelling at the speed of light within this pocket. However it is riding a wave of space-time that travels faster than light. This happened in reality during the 'inflation' period of the early universe. What Cleaver and Obousy have done is to propose that the warping of space-time could be done by manipulating the 11th dimension (predicted by string theory). What the scientists were able to estimate was the energy required to do this: some 1045 joules. However nobody seems to have pointed out that - if Concatenation's back-of-the-envelope calculations are correct - that this is the energy equivalent to the Sun's entire energy output for 10 billion years (twice its lifetime to date). (So it would be easier to let a primordial biosphere evolve life and food than to nip across the Galaxy for a take-away.) Having said that, if natural dark energy can be somehow harvested then that might get around the problem. The trouble is though that nobody knows what dark energy is even though cosmologists detect its effects... Whichever way you look at it we are a long way off faster than light travel. So 'mundane' SFers can breathe easy on this one (for a while).

Dan Dare, the iconic British astronaut character from the Eagle comic, has inspired an exhibition on British science and technology at the Science Museum, Kensington, London. The exhibition has been running over the summer and is still on. It looks at the way in which Britain reinvented itself from 1945 onwards and shows just how creative and technologically aware Britain became as a nation following the Second World War. The exhibition runs to 25th October 2008. 'Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future' arrived in April 1950 in the first issue of the weekly Eagle comic. Its printed copies reached 900,000 (hence readership two or three times this given the way kids swap comics). The Eagle was an unlikely publishing success as it was conceived by Marcus Morris, a modern-minded vicar in Southport, Lancashire, who wanted to publish wholesome adventures that countered American comics, which he saw as 'over-violent and obscene'. Today Britain's main fan-voted comics' award is named after The Eagle. There are some bound collections of Dan's adventures available. +++ Further information here.

It's SF at Britain's Space Centre Museum (Leicester) this autumn. First up is a Star Wars 'Attack of the Garrison' weekend 22nd - 23rd September where you can see many props and have your photo taken with your favourite characters. Then there is a 'Sci-Fi' Weekend 3rd - 4th November which has a focus on blockbuster films. (Advance booking for both is advised. Apparently there is a fee but this is going to charity.)   However for more serious enthusiasts the Space Centre is planning a new gallery to mark 50 years in space. This new gallery will look at likely space exploration 50 years hence.

Christopher Anvil's 'Speed-Up!' predicted recent research concept. Anvil's short story appeared in the January 1964 issue of Amazing Stories. It also served to illustrate that issue's cover, which in turn was used to illustrate a review piece by William F. Bottke in Nature (vol 454, pages 173-4) which in turn commented upon a research paper by Walsh, K. J., Richardson, D. C., & Michel, P., (Nature, 454, 188-191). In the Anvil short story, the Earth's rotation spins up due to an accretion of interplanetary material around the equator much like an ice skaters' spin up as their outstretched arms are brought into their bodies. The Earth's equator therefore accrues a giant mountain range causing the Earth's sphere to have a flying saucer-like bulge. Now, about 15% of asteroids smaller than 10 km in diameter have satellites. Why? Walsh and colleagues postulate that as gentle rotation enables material to tend to the equator. Rotation is caused by the Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect of sunlight on the asteroid's surface. It is this spin that causes material to accumulate at the asteroid's rotational equator, which bulges as did the Earth's in the Anvil story. From there (Walsh et al postulate) it is easy for some of the material to be launched into an orbit about the asteroid. This is another example of SF being an opaque mirror to future science.

Perfect silence: The sound of silence as acoustic cloak designed. Killing sound has been idea kicked around a number of times by SF authors, notably including in the Tales From The White Hart. Now Spanish physicists have announced their idea in The New Journal of Physics. It uses meta-materials (composite material structures) to channel sound around it a bit like a small rock in a pond will allow waves to propagate around it and then carry on (or a Faraday cage with electromagnetic field radiation). Inside there would be perfect silence. The material consists of microscopic cylinders. +++ BBC news details.

Perfect black: Well nearly... Physicists have come up with a near-perfect black surface (Physics Reviews Letters 100, 207402). A perfectly black surface has been an idea kicked around a number of times by SF authors, notably including in The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy (the spaceship in the car park at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe). Such a surface sees all photons that fall onto it absorbed. What the physicists have done is to create a surface that does this for specific frequencies. The surface is a meta-material: an artificial nano-scale construct. In this case it consists of lots of small 'c'-shaped conductors. What happens is that light of wavelength the size of these 'c's falls on these incomplete circuits and generates a brief resonant electric current so dissipating the photon. If there is more than one layer and each layer has different sized 'c's then light of different frequencies is absorbed. Currently it looks like they will soon get 99.99% absorbance. Its applications include being able to screen out specific frequencies in imagers and so could do spectral analysis, hence be useful in security scanners. At the moment the 'black' surfaces created only absorbs in the far infra red. Visible light with its smaller wavelength is going to be harder but theoretically possible. +++ Another near-perfect black surface has been made from carbon nanotubes (Nanotechnology 8, 446-451). In this case it works due to the roughness of the surface and not the 'antenna' action of the metamaterial.

Some crystal skulls are modern fakes! Crystal skulls are artefacts from Mayan and Aztec civilizations and underpin the story of the latest Indiana Jones film.. However some are fakes. These were uncovered by a team reporting in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The team included Margaret Sax (the British Museum London) and Ian Freestone (Cardiff University) who discovered the modern abrasive carborundum embedded in the surface. It is thought the fake ones were made in the 1950s or '60s.

The British government has released secret UFO investigation files. The investigations were carried out by the Ministry of Defence between 1978 and 1987 and released through the National Archives. Having compiled the 'evidence' it was clear that those investigated were either mistaken or were nutters and no tax-payer money was wasted on follow-up investigation. One document reveals how, on 21st February 1982, a group of customers and staff at a Tunbridge Wells pub reported an unknown object with green and red flashing lights seen heading in the direction of Gatwick airport... There was even a detailed briefing prepared by the MoD for Lord Strabolgi, then government chief whip, for a House of Lords debate on UFOs in January 1979. It said that: "There is nothing to indicate that UFOlogy is anything but claptrap" and that the idea of an "inter-governmental conspiracy of silence" was "the most astonishing and the most flattering claim of all".

Earth will not be destroyed by forthcoming CERN large hadron collider experiments. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has conducted a safety analysis due to the fears of a few scientists that the experiment may produce exotic matter or a black hole that could either transform or slowly eat away the Earth. Agreed that these possibilities are remote but now, fortunately, we have this report. So that's all right isn't it? What, you want to know who wrote the report? Why, CERN scientists of course.   Oh...

Sound fusion researcher gets misconduct verdict. Purdue University (in the US) has said that nuclear engineer Rusi Taleyarkhan's claim that his lab's junior researchers' work was an 'independent' replication of his own findings was false. Rusi Taleyarkhan previously claimed to have possibly triggered nuclear fusion by using sound on deuterated acetone (Science, vol 295, pages 1868-1873). Lack of independent replication of this experiment has undermined the credibility of this form of fusion. Also announced at the same time was Taleyarkhan being cleared of two other charges.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian has this last season covered:-
  - the repeal of the Fraudulent Medium's Act and the instigation of general consumer legislation. This means that those predicting the future, managing hauntings, casting good luck or love spells, will now have to bear the burden of proof that they have actually delivered such services. As a taster of consumer legislation enforcement fun to come, Goldacre cites the recent case of Zara the UK's premiere psychic advisor. She lost her case with the Advertising Standards Agency because it saw no comparable evidence that Zara offered a superior service compared with all other psychic advisors. What larks. Still, Concat (and perhaps Goldacre) shouldn't really make fun at the expense of the credulous... Oh all right, lets continue.
  - Sir Cliff Richard's and Carole Caplin's criticism -- in a Health Food Manufacturer's (HFM) press release no less -- of a scientific review of 67 trials of antioxidant vitamin pills that showed they do not reduce the chance of death. So are the HFM unbiased and should we believe the celebrities' touching faith? Or should we go with the scientific evidence?
  - The Telegraph's and The Times' laughable coverage of 'pixie dust' that helped someone re-grow a finger. The biological reality being more mundane in that if you lose the very tip of you finger well above the nail it will actually re-grow. Even the BBC got caught up in the pointless sensationalisation.
  - how the media praise the Dore cure for dyslexia yet the science underpinning it is so shaky that there were five resignations from the editorial board of the journal Dyslexia who published a Dore related paper. Still, the media don't want science to get in the way of a good miracle story. Perish the thought.
  - how the think tank Reform's announcement that Britain's teaching of mathematics was in decline. This rightly received much publicity but a closer look at the data and statistics they cited reveals that its claim that 40% of maths graduates enter the finance sector is actually more like 20%. Whoops, a right thinking report but its own maths is wrong. (So clearly the report has a point after all.)
  - how three elegant experiments demonstrate that because we pay more for something we think that such more expensive goods are better. Yet cash paid does not equal efficacy. (Now let's see homeopathic medicine...)
  - the way the public believes science reported is badly in the media. This itself is not news but Goldacre cites public reaction to science in media surveys published in peer-reviewed journals.
  - the Sunday Express reporting of suicides that they warn was linked to the victims living near mobile radio masts, yet no study was cited let alone one with a control group. The story's source (reported as a PhD was in fact a Mr) was not, as reported, on a Government advisory committee but a policy stakeholder group as the individual concerned sells magnet related goods including one that (apparently?) makes wine taste nicer. Ben Goldacre asked to see the raw data underpinning the claims but it was not provided. (Surprisingly.)
  - the above researcher making a complaint to the (UK) Press Complaints Commission that Ben Goldacre was apparently harassing him. So let's see, a reporter asking for data used to support a serious allegation (mobile masts and suicides) is harassment? Right, so we should take everything anyone says as gospel should we? Politicians would love that as we'd trust them. Indeed we (the public) would be exposed to the ludicrous claims of every quack who managed to get coverage and we would not be able to tell them from genuine experts looking at real, statistically sound data. So is our researcher - a Dr (or is it Mr) Coghill since you ask - an expert or a quack. Well in the absence of Goldacre being able to pass on the data you are perfectly free as is your right to make a guess.
  - the way newspapers (as in the story above) do not gain access to the raw statistical data underpinning the stories they report. When it comes to a story on the increase in pests troubling households, Esure (an insurance firm) and their PR agents (arguably appropriately titled Mischief) are cited.
  - the Daily Telegraph's science coverage since it lost its science editor and science correspondent. (Which makes one wonder if any national paper serving a knowledge-based economy in the 21st century is worth reading without a good proportion of its staff having science qualifications. Apparently you can but it will be a paper rather than a newspaper.)
  - the Daily Telegraph's science coverage (yes, again) with a homeopathic health audit using a device called the Quantum QXCI, that scans for vitamins, minerals, food intolerance, toxicity, organ function, hormone balance, parasites, digestive disorders and stress levels. (Concat wonders whether this last means that it can calculate your Young's Modulus... Well, maybe that would be a bit of a stretch. (Stress, Young's Modulus, stretch... Oh, suit yourselves.))
  - Dawn Page ending up in intensive care due to a so-called nutritionist's advice (zero salt and plenty of extra water), but the nutritionist's insurers at least paid out £810,000 (US$1,603,000), though the permanent brain damage due to sodium deficiency doesn't make it a particularly good deal. (Perhaps the insurers might find it worth their while also paying the nutritionist £810,000 never to practice again?)
  - how research into how peoples' body mass index relates to the amount of exercise they do is frequently severely undermined by people inaccurately self-reporting the exercise they take. For example hotel cleaners claim they never exercises as they never jogged or went to the gym when actually they do a lot of daily exercise in the course of their work.
The collected Goldacre 'Bad Science' articles up to last year are now available in book form. You can see all the examples of Goldacre's Bad Science for free at www.badscience.net.

Eastercon quiz answers... We distributed some Essential SF fliers at Eastercon and said we would post the answers with our September site update. So here are the solutions to the cryptic SF puzzlers posed above as wll as on fliers at this year's UK Eastercon and at the 2005 Eurocon cum Worldcon...
1) The Ditmar, Eisner, and Hugo are all titles of SF related Awards that are all named after people.
2) Given they are all awards for SF related topics (or 'subjects') the odd one out is the 'Eisner' which is first and foremost a comics award even if the vast majority of nominations are SF and fantasy related.
3) The 'decision' to whom to give the award for the Ditmar and Hugo is made by convention-going fans, however the 'nominations' for the Eisner are made by a small panel of judges.
4) Thinking 'globally' is important for the Hugo and Eisner as nominally they are World or international awards (one being given at the Worldcon and the other at the Comic-con International convention). On the other hand the Ditmar is first and foremost an award for Australian SF given at the Australian national convention and so is decidedly national as opposed to international.
5) The Ditmar, Eisner, and Hugo are named after people but in terms of 'profession' only Will Eisner and Hugo Gernsback were SF professionals while Ditmar (Dick) Jenssen was a fan who was a founding member of Melbourne SF.
Congratulations to all who got there, and to those who did not then perhaps you will find Essential SF: A Concise Guide more use than you think... and even as a seasonal present? Happy Christmas.

 

[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 2008

End Bits

 

More science and SF news will be reviewed in our Spring 2009 upload in January 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...

Ensure You Get the Season's News From Concat': We only update the Concatenation with news and reviews seasonally, with a three or four month gap in between. (There is occasionally just one update (such as a one-page Future's story) in between.) This means that regular visitors continually have to remember to check this site out after a few of months of inactivity.   To see how you can register click here

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Brian Ameringen, Jenny Bai, Boris Dolingo, Silviu Genescu, Mandics (George) Gyorgy, Martin Hoare, Pituch Ireneusz, Alain le Bussy, Jun Miyazaki, Hans Persson, Roberto Quaglia, Roger Robinson, Alexander Royfe, Louis Savy, Jim Walker, Bridget Wilkinson and the many representatives of groups and professional companies' PR folk who sent news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page. If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told).

News for the next seasonal upload that covers the Spring 2009 period needs to be in before mid-December. News (of the past autumn period or of forthcoming spring events) 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.
To contact us see here and try to put something clearly science fictional in the subject line in case your message ends up being spam-filtered and needs rescuing.


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[Originally posted 08.9.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]