Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2015

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

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

Autumn 2015

EDITORIAL COMMENT

This season's news has clearly been dominated by the Hugo Awards and the Puppies debacle that prompted George R. R. Martin to come up with the Alfies.
          Over here in Europe we had a small-sized Worldcon with the Scandinavian Archipelacon (British view and Swedish views thereof) which was a kind of dry run for the Helsinki Worldcon should it win its bid, which, a few weeks later, it did.  Meanwhile potential 2019 Eurocon bid teams are waiting to see whether the Dublin Worldcon bid for that year will also be a Eurocon bid for the 2019 Eurocon.
          There's also the usual SF people, film, SF book trade and TV news. Of special interest in the run-up to Christmas is the season's forthcoming Science Fiction (and separately 'Fantasy') booklists: bound to be a present there for every genre readers' tastes. And then there is bags of science news all in the mix. As usual, to round things off we have several science & SF interface news items.  Enjoy.

 

STAFF MATTERS

Staff gatherings over the summer saw Graham and Jonathan get together with two OAPs (Old Age PSIFAns) – Anthony H. and John W. – and partners for a day of reminisces in rural Bedfordshire.  And then there was our semi-regular annual gathering for the Royal Society's Summer Fayre that saw Jonathan, Dan and Tony with a couple of others for a post-fayre social. Peter would have been there but he was just coming back from Archipelacon in Finland (see his convention review elsewhere on this site).  Concatenation was also represented, among a number of SF happenings, at the Paul 'Gamma' Gamble memorial 'barbecue' as well as one of the first multi, SF/F author events at the new Hachette HQ of Carmelite House courtesy of Hodder.  Finally, Dan had his 50th.

 

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol 25 (5) Autumn 2015) we have stand-alone items on:-
          Science Fiction Club Deutschland's - 60th anniversary retrospective - Thomas Recktenwald
          How Might the World End? 200 years on from penning Frankenstein
          Eurocon 1 – The First Eurocon in 1972
          Archipelacon: A Scandinavian convention through Swedish eyes
          Archipelacon: A Scandinavian convention through British eyes
And additionally we have:-
          … forty-four (yes, 44!) new, stand-alone, fiction book reviews,
          … as well as a few non-fiction book reviews.
See our What's New page for a full listing of articles and reviews recently posted.
          Fabutastic.

 

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

MAJOR HEADLINE LINKS

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

SF/F news last season includes: DC's Batman's Robin's 75th anniversary specials and Marvel's Spiderman becomes mixed-race.

SF/F & Science Awards presented over the summer (2015) included:  Australia's Aurealis Awards;  Britain's Arthur C. Clarke (Space) and Arthur C. Clarke (Book) Awards;  China's Shaw (science) Prize;  Denmark's Niels Klim;  Europe's ESFS Eurocon Awards;  France's Prix Imaginales;  Germany's Curt Siodmak & Deutsche SF Prizes;  Poland's Identyfikatory Pyrknu and Nowa Fantastyka Awards;  and in the US the Locus Awards;  the Campbell Memorial Awards and the Nebula Awards.  Finally, at the Worldcon there were the WSFS Hugo Awards and the non-Hugo Hugo Alfies, at the World Fantasy Con the World Fantasy Awards, at the World Horror Convention the Bram Stoker Awards.

Book news of the season – Includes : the 2015 Book Industry AwardsEurope's bookselling environment latest;  a roundup of Amazon newsPoland's bookselling actBritain's publisher performanceBritain's book market salesMajor British SF/F imprints come together under one roof;  SF/F in Britain's first audio book chart and a British author income survey.

Film news of the season – Includes: that of: seasonal box office highlights,  the question of whether the summer's blockbusters were truly blockbusters?;  the possibility (again) of a Forever War film and the lawsuit against Gravity falls (temporarily?).

Television news of the season – Includes:  how Gene Rodenberry impeded the creation of Star Trek: The Next GenerationSweden's Real Humans has big success as Britain's Humansnew episodes of original Thunderbirds being made and the Hugo-winning Galaxy Quest may be becoming a real TV series!

News of SF and science personalities includes that of: Malcolm EdwardsHarlan EllisonNeil GaimanUrsula K. LeGuinGeorge R. R. Martin, Terry Pratchett and J. K. Rowling.

Last season's science news includes: pentaquark foundEarthlike exoplanet discovered;  a five (5!) stars system found;  the first editing of a human embryo's genome;  the white rhino's extinction now imminent and dog-human co-evolution is brain hardwired.

Major last season SF events: the 2015 Eurocon2015 Worldcon and Poland's Pyrkon.

Major forthcoming SF events include: non-American bids for 2019 and 2020, among other future international SF con news.

Our short-video clip links section this season includes:  the trailers to The MartianBill The Galactic Hero,  the Strugatsky's Hard to be a God,  Clarke's Childhood's End and the World's Finest Batman vs. Superman among other delights.  See the section here.

Notable SF books due out over the Autumn 2015 include: Titan by Greg Bear;  The Flicker Man by Ted Kosmatka;  The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu;  Luna by Ian McDonald;  The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy and Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Plus there is another, mass market, paperback edition of The Martian by Andy Weir: this edition ties in with the Hollywood film.

Notable fantasy due out over the Autumn 2015 include: Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson;  Night Music: Nocturnes 2 by John Connolly;  The House of Shattered Wings by Alette de Bodard;  Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb;  The Last Rite by Jasper Kent;  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King and The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock.  Notable reprints include: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman,  Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & neil Gaiman and Harry Potter: The Adult Box Set by J. K. Rowling.

The Summer saw us sadly lose many SF and science personalities. These included… Scientists: Ray GoslingA. P. J. KalamYoichiro NambuJohn Nash and Irwin Rose.  And SF/F personalities: Robert ConquestWolfgang JeschkeChristopher LeeTannith LeePatrick MacneeTom Piccirilli and Jannick Storm.

 

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

NEWS

MAJOR SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION NEWS

The 12th Shaw Prizes for science were announced in Hong Kong. Each prize is worth US$1million (£625,000). The winners were:-
          Astronomy: Astrophysicist William Boroucki (US) for leading the Kepler exo-planet hunting mission.
          Life Science and Medicine: Bonnie Bassler (US) and Peter Greenberg (US) for their work on bacterial signalling ('quorum sensing').
          Mathematical Sciences: Gerd Faltings (Germany) and Henryk Iwaniec (US) for their work on number theory.
          Last year's Shaw Prize winners here.

The 2015 Hugo Awards were announced at this year's Worldcon.  Further to last year's record-breaking Hugo voting statistics (3,587 voters) (that itself built on the 2013 record of 1,848), this year saw 5,950 ballots received.  2015 was a record-breaking year for both the numbers nominating and also numbers voting on the final shortlist.  The principal Hugo category wins (those categories with over a thousand nominating works) were:-
          Best Novel: Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
          Best Novella: No Award
          Best Novelette: 'The Day The World Turned Upside Down' by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
          Best Short Story: No Award
          Best Related Work: No Award
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Guardians of the Galaxy (Trailer and Honest Trailer.)
          Other category (win information) (those categories with less than 1,000 nominating the works) can be found at thehugoawards.org.
          Note: Congratulations to Cixin Liu, the author of the 'Best Novel' win. We are a bit smug with ourselves right now because some of our more long-standing site regulars may well have picked up on this Chinese SF best-seller back in 2010 with our article (that included this book) on recent Chinese SF.
          This year's substantive boost in Hugo short-list voting numbers is undoubtedly due to fandom's Puppy squabble. Normally categories such as 'Short Story' and 'Best Related Work' get less than a thousand voting but this year many voted for 'No Award', in addition to the 'No Awards' in the principal categories above, to keep out Puppy slated works. There have been more 'No Awards' this year than the in all the previous years of the Hugo added together! Indeed, 'Best Novelette' only just failed being 'No Award' by a few votes. Having said that, the winner was streets ahead of any other rival novelettes nominated.  And then the discussion as to what it all meant and the consequences for future years began.  Indeed within a few hours of the Hugo Awards ceremony someone posted a short YouTube video on Hitler's reaction to the 2015 Hugos (not sure if this was a post-modern reaction meant to subvert the form criticising both sides?). A summary of the social media reaction appeared on Wired www.wired.com/2015/08/won-science-fictions-hugo-awards-matters/.  +++ Last year's principal category Hugo winners here.

The Alfies were presented at the Worldcon's Hugo Award losers party. The Alfies – named after Alfred (working class) Bester – were the brainchild of George R. R. Martin (who has been a voice of reason in the Worldcon fandom-Puppy squabble). Because Puppy nominations had filled out the shortlist in the Best Editor Short & Long Forms, Best Related Work, Best Short Story and Best Novella categories, the writers and editors Worldcon fan's nominated were not on the ballot. So Martin created the Alfies as a once-off (some chance Martin). Martin waited for the Hugo nomination statistics to be released after the Hugo ceremony to see which Worldcon fandom had given most nominations. The winners were:-
          Best Editor Short Form: John Joseph Adams
          Best Editor Long Form: Liz Gorinsky (Tor US)
          Best Related Work: Jo Walton for What Makes This Great
          Best Short Story: 'Jackalope Wives' by Ursula Vernon
          Best Novella: 'The Slow Regard of Silent Things' by Patrick Rothfuss
Martin also gave out four extra Alfies to:-
          Eric Flint for his level-headed blog coverage regarding Puppy matters
          Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos who were put on the Puppy slates without their consent and so withdrew from appearing on the Hugo shortlist
          and finally…
          Robert Silverberg, the only person to have attended every Hugo Award for Science Fiction Achievement ceremony since the first one in 1953, only back then it was just called the 'Science Fiction Achievement Awards' at which Alfred Bester won for 'Best Novel' with The Demolished Man, and that first year the 'Science Fiction Achievement Awards' were juried awards (not fan vote).

The 2015 Locus SF Awards have been announced for 2014 works. The awards were presented at the Locus Awards Weekend at the end of June. The winner of the Best SF Novel category was:-
          Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
From a shortlist also comprising of:-
          The Peripheral by William Gibson
          The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
          Lock In by John Scalzi
          Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance (Southern Reach trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer
The other principal SF category wins were:-
          Debut: The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert.
          Juvenile Fiction: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie.
The Locus Awards are voted on by the readers of Locus magazine and visitors to the online Locus website. Full details of all the category wins are at the Locus Science Fiction Foundation site.
          Comment on the 'Best SF Novel' category: Of the Locus 'Best Novel' shortlist Annihilation (The 'Southern Reach' Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer appeared in our start-of-year Best SF Novels of 2014 list.  Of course our 'Best SF books' list is drawn on books published in the British Isles in 2014 and some titles on the US-based Locus short list had not yet come out in the British Isles in 2014, including Gibson's Peripheral and Liu's The Three Body Problem which both came, or are coming, out this year (2015).  We also missed out on Scalzi's title but this was because we weren't favoured with a review copy (it happens sometimes) and no two on the team (the minimum number required to get on the list) had picked up a personal one, though in April 2014 we did give Lock In a bit of an extra puff in our then forthcoming SF books listing.  For more about Locus see the the Locus website.

The 2015 Arthur C. Clarke (Book) Award has been presented. For the first time in recent years the presentation ceremony, though still a part of the Sci-Fi London Film Fest's ancillary activities, did not take place at the festival itself. Instead it took place at the new event space at Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road (Central London).  The winner was Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (Picador).
Out of a short-list comprising of:-
          The Girl With All The Gifts - M. R. Carey (Orbit)
          The Book of Strange New Things - Michel Faber (Canongate)
          Europe in Autumn - Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
          Memory of Water - Emmi Itaranta (HarperVoyager)
          The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North (Orbit)
Comment: Further details at the Clarke Book Award (which of course should not be confused with the Sir Arthur C. Clarke (Space) Awards see below).  We previously cited Station Eleven as one of the notable autumnal SF novels of 2014 and recently it was shortlisted for the Campbell Memorial Award.

The 2015 Sir Arthur Clarke (Space) Awards, for achievement in space industry and science, have been presented to an audience of 600 delegates and guests at the UK Space Conference Gala Dinner and Awards in the St George’s Hall, Liverpool. The Awards and the Award Ceremony were again sponsored by the UK Space Agency and organised by the British Interplanetary Society. The winners were:-
          Industry/Project Team: The Beagle 2 Team, Industry and Academia.
          Industry/Project Individual: William Marshall, Planet Labs, San Francisco.
          Academic Study/Research: The Stardust Team, University of Strathclyde.
          Education and Outreach: The Rosetta/Philae Outreach Team.
          Student: The MSC Student Outreach Team, Kings College London.
          Media, Broadcast and Written: Richard Hollingham, BBC Future.
          Lifetime Achievement: Prof J. L. Culhane, Mullard Space Science Laboratories, UCL.
          International: Dr. Burton I. Edelson (Posthumous).
The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards have been presented annually in the UK since 2005 to recognise and reward notable or outstanding achievements in, or contributions to, all space activities. Nominations were invited from the public and the winner was decided by jury.

Australia's Aurealis awards have been presented. The Aurealis is a panel judged award that was established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine. The principal category wins this year were:-
          Science Fiction Novel: Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres
          Science Fiction Short Story: 'Wine, Women and Stars' by Thoraiya Dyer
          Fantasy Novel: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier
          Fantasy Short Story: 'St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls' by Angela Slatter
          Horror Novel: Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
          Horror Short Story: 'Home and Hearth' by Angela Slatter.
The 2013 Aurealis principal category winners are here. (We were not told about the awards' results in 2014.)

The 2015 Eurocon Awards were presented at the Eurocon in St Petersburg, Russia. Hall of Fame as well as Spirit of Dedication categories are voted on at the Eurocon. Encouragement Awards nominated by each nation tend to go through on the nod unless there is more than one nomination for each country.  The winners were:-
          European SF Grandmaster: Eugene Lukin (Russia)
          Hall of Fame as well as Spirit of Dedication categories:-
                    Author: China Miéville (United Kingdom)
                    Promoter: Mihaela Marija Perkovic (Croatia)
                    Translator: Ekaterina Dobrohotova-Majkova (Russia)
                    Magazine: Fantastica Almanac (Bulgaria)
                    Publisher: Gollancz (United Kingdom)
                    Artist (Hall of Fame): Manchu (France)
                    Artist (Spirit of Dedication): Serhiy Krykun (Ukraine)
                    Fanzine: Pritiazhenie [Attraction] (Russia)
                    Dramatic Presentation: Song of the Sea (Ireland)
                    Best Website: Europa SF – SciFi Portal (Romania)
                    Best Creator of Children’s Science Fiction or Fantasy Books:-
                              Anton Lomaev (Russia)
                    who tied with…
                              Ruth F. Long (Ireland)
          Encouragement Awards (for early career writers):-
                    Michael Wozoning (Austria)
                    Kaloyan Zahariev (Bulgaria)
                    David Kelecic (Croatia)
                    Martin D. Antonin (Czech Republic)
                    Liz Bourke (Ireland)
                    Georgiana Vladulescu (Romania)
                    Victor Kolyuzhniak (Russia)
                    Jana Paluchova (Slovakia)
Comment: What with the considerable Sad Puppy and the Hugo Awards debate that raged over the summer, there was much less concern in Eurocon circles over this year's hosting nation Eurocon listing solely their Russian Eurocon nominees in the convention's programme book (the nominations from other countries were omitted). Now, while one welcome discussion at the pre-voting stages, had a Worldcon only listed its organising committee's slate for Hugo nominations in an official convention publication prior to the vote, there would have been a huge outcry. But compared to Worldcon regulars (who number well over a thousand), Eurocon regulars going at least every other year tend to be just a few dozen. Of course Russia has something of a track record with regards their conventions’ western and central European attendance and, as previously noted, they do tend to have something of a Eurovision Song Contest approach to voting. Nonetheless, that Russia did not dominate this year's awards does testify to the foolhardiness of such bias by this year's Eurocon convention committee. Indeed, had Russian wins dominated the awards, the winners would not have known whether their win was due to official Russian Eurocon bias or genuine SF merit!  So, unlike the Hugos with some commentators over the summer fearing that the Hugo Awards were broke, the Eurocon Award – superficially at least – seems to be intact.

The Identyfikatory Pyrkonu [Pyrkon's Identifiers] Awards were announced at this year's Pyrkon. The three category winners were:-
          Literature and Comics: Tomasz Kolodziejczak
          Games: Ignacy Trzewiczek
          Speculative Fiction Promoter: Michael Stachyra

The magazine Nowa Fantastyka Awards were announced at this year's ,Pyrkon. The two category winners were:-
          Book: Firefall by Peter Watts
          Reflektor [Spotlight] (an award for young writers' books]: Polaroidy z Zaglady [Polaroids from the Extinction] by Pawel Palinski

The Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards were announced at the World Horror Convention that was held this year in Atlanta, Georgia, US. They are named in honour of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The principal category wins were:-
          Novel: Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem
          Debut Novel: Mr. Wicker by Maria Alexander
          Graphic Novel: Bad Blood by Jonathan Maberry
          Screenplay: The Babadook by Jennifer Kent
Full details of all the category wins can be found at www.horror.org. Last year's principal category winners here.

Germany's Curt Siodmak Prize (visual) and the German SF Prize (written) were awarded by the SF Club Deutschland (SFCD) at their annual convention this year called WetzKon II held in July at the Fantastic Library Wetzlar. It was also Germany's natcon that this year celebrated 60 years for the SF Club Deutschland (SFCD). The wins were:-
          Curt Siodmak - Film: Guardians of the Galaxy
          Curt Siodmak - TV: Dr Who Season 5
Last year's Siodmak awards here.
The Deutsche Science Fiction Preis DSFP (German SF Club Prize ):-
          Best Novel: Alpha & Omega: Apokalypse für Anfänger [ Alpha & Omega: Apocalypse for Beginners ] by Markus Orths
          Best Story: 'Knox' ['Knox'] by Eva Strasser
          Special mention: the juvenile fiction Der Kleine Medicus - Bodynauten auf Geheimer Mission [The Small Doctor - Bodynauten on a secret mission]
          The German SF Club Prize is a juried award from the German SF Society (Club) SFCD. The award was presented at WetzKon2 and carried a prize of €1,000 (£720). Conversely, the Curt Siodmak Prize is fan voted. Curt Siodmak, after whom the prize is named, was a German writer and film director born in 1902.     This year was special in that it marked six decades of SF Club Deutschland, and to mark this elsewhere on this site we have an article on the Science Fiction Club Deutschland. Last year's Prizes here.

The 2015 Campbell Memorial Award has been announced for the Best SF novel of 2014. The winner was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North from a shortlist consisting of:-
          The Race by Nina Allen (Newcon Press)
          A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias (Tor)
          The Peripheral by William Gibson (Viking)
          Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (Tor)
          Europe in Autumn by David Hutchinson (Solaris)
          Wolves by Simon Ings (Gollancz)
          The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Tor)
          Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Picador)
          Defenders by Will McIntosh (Orbit)
          The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (Orbit)
          The Bees by Laline Paull (Ecco)
          Bête by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
          Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future by John Scalzi (Gollancz)
          The Martian by Andy Weir (Del Rey)
          Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance) by Jeff VanderMeer (Fourth Estate)
          Echopraxia by Peter Watts (Head of Zeus)
Comment: Some of the above Campbell Memorial shortlist titles made up half our previous (New Year) selection of six titles that we considered among the Best SF novels of 2014. These were: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory, Annihilation (The 'Southern Reach' Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer, and The Martian by Andy Weir.  Meanwhile Jonathan predicted in the final paragraph of his review that Echopraxia would be shortlisted for a number of awards. Also we previously cited Station Eleven as one of the notable autumnal SF novels of 2014. This predictive success part makes-up for our unusual, and possibly Sad Puppy related, failure to effectively anticipate a few of this year's Hugo Award nominations with our earlier thoughts as to the Best SF novels of 2014. Station Eleven has also just won the Clarke SF Book Award.

The 2015 Prix Imaginales were presented at this year's Imaginales in Epinal, France, France.. The winners were:-
Literature
          French Novel: Manesh by Stefan Platteau
          Foreign Novel: Comme un Conte [Some Kind of Fairy Tale] by Graham Joyce
          Juvenile Fiction: La Voie des Oracles [The Way of the Oracles] by Estelle Faye
          Illustration: Hélène Larbaigt for L’étrange cabaret des fées désenchantées [The Strange Cabaret of Disenchanted Faries]
          Best New Work: 'Pere-des-Pierres' ['Peter's Father'] by Orson Scott Card
          Prix Spécial du Jury: Vincent Ferré for the collection Lire J. R. R. Tolkien and overseeing the new translation by Daniel Lauzon of Seigneur des Anneaux [The Lord of the Rings].

Denmark's Niels Klim Award have been announced at this year's Dancon. The Nils Klim Prize is named after the protagonist of Ludvig Holberg’s 1741 novel Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum [Nils Klim’s Subterranean Journey] that recounts the adventure of a cave explorer who finds a subterranean land and society as well as new creatures.  This is the fourth time the award has been presented. The award now has four categories which relate to shorter science fiction texts (of less than 40,000 words) published in Danish for the first time the previous year. The award is voted on by Danish fandom, and this year (2015) has a new category of 'Best Translated Work. This year's winners are:-
          Best Translated (to Danish): Tiggere i Spanien [Beggars in Spain] (the original short story) by Nancy Kress in the anthology Nano kommer til Clifford Falls [Nano comes to Clifford Falls]
          Best Novella: 'Live' ['Live'] by A. Silvestri
          Novelette: 'Komtessen, Opfinderen, Direktã¸ren og Baronen - og Emma' ['TheCountess, the Inventor, the President and the Baron - and Emma '] by Glen Stihmãe
          and
          'Mui Ne' by Paul Calderara Eskekilde
          Short story: 'La Gioconda ved Tidernes Ende' ['La Gioconda at the End of Times'] by Mikkel H. Carlsen
Last year's Niels Klim Award results here.

The 2015 Nebula Awards (for 2014 works) were announced at the SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) 50th Annual Nebula Awards weekend in Chicago, USA. The principal category wins, as voted by SF Writers of America, were:-
          Novel: Annihilationby Jeff VanderMeer
          Novella: Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress
          Novelette: 'A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i' by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Also presented was the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation the winner was Guardians of the Galaxy
Note: Annihilation was also short-listed for a Locus Award and Campbell Memorial Award as well as was cited as one of the SF2 Concatenation team's beginning-of-year choices for Best SF books of 2014.   Details of all the category wins can be found at www.sfwa.org.  Last year's principal win Nebulas here.

The World Fantasy Award nominations have been announced. Among a number of categories, the nominations for the principal category of 'Best Novel' were:-
          The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
          City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
          The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
          Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
          My Real Children by Jo Walton
The awards will be presented during the World Fantasy Convention in November in Saratoga Springs NY, USA. Full details of all the category nominations are on the convention's website.

Batman's Robin re-emerges in Grayson for Robin's 75th anniversary. Dick Grayson was Bruce Wayne's ward and Batman's partner, first appearing in Detective Comics no. 38 in 1940 and became Robin (named after Robin Hood), Batman's sidekick.  Subsequently, having led the Teen Titans, he then left the bat cave to become Nightwing. (Meanwhile Jason Todd, followed by Tim Drake and recently including the latest, Damian (the son of Bruce Wayne), each in turn became Robin.)  Spoiler alert…. Now the original Dick Grayson re-emerges getting his own monthly comic series from DC as a kind of athletic secret agent but, apparently, he is set to return to the world of superheroes when Batman (yet again) seems to have been killed.
          Matters reportedly kick off in October (2015) with Batman & Robin Eternal, a new series and sequel to Batman Eternal. Apparently, among other treats, Cassandra Cain, the rarely seen character to play Batgirl, will be returning alongside Dick Grayson.  Then in December there will be a 'Robin War' which crosses over three different concurrent series: Gotham Academy, Robin: Son of Batman, and We Are Robin as an interplaying arc in which Damion Wayne discovers the 'Robin movement' in Gotham, in which Gotham's teens take up the title of Robin and make it their own.

Spiderman to become mixed-race. Miles Morales, who has an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother, has been a Spiderman since 2011 in Marvel’s offshoot Ultimate Universe line, set in an alternate reality where Peter Parker died. Now, Miles Morales is to become the official Spiderman from this autumn with an adult Peter Parker as his mentor.  This news follows Marvel rebranding Thor as female and Captain America as black.

Gollancz has acquired a sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s story 'A Meeting with Medusa'. The sequel novel will be written by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter. The sequel, The Medusa Chronicles is inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short story 'A Meeting with Medusa', that follows Howard Falcon, the captain of an experimental airship and crash survivor, who leads an expedition to explore Jupiter’s atmosphere. Picking up Clarke’s themes of space exploration and the nature of humanity, this loose sequel will be a true sense-of-wonder (sensawunda) story that will delight fans of classic science-fiction as well as both authors’ existing readerships.  The Medusa Chronicles will be out in hardback and e-book on the 18th February 2016.

Harry Potter books are to be re-issued in illustrated editions. Bloomsbury are producing illustrated editions of all seven of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Artist Jim Kay will be providing the artwork and Bloomsbury are planning for one such new edition a year starting with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone which is coming out in early October (2015) at first in hardback priced £30.

A first edition copy of Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) has been auctioned for £137,000 (US$208,000) at Sotheby's, London.  The previous record for the sale of a first edition The Hobbit was £60,000 in 2008.

Skull of Nosferatu's director believed stolen from grave. German authorities have reported that F. W. Murnau, the director of 1920s silent vampire classic Nosferatu, is thought to have been stolen. The theft was from the Stahnsdorf cemetery outside of Berlin. It is not known whether the grave was purposefully targeted.

 

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

Autumn 2015

PEOPLE: MAJOR SF & SCIENCE AUTHOR AND ARTIST NEWS

Heather ('Auntie Heather') Brewer has announced she is to gender transition from female to male. She is not concerned about fans’ reactions: “I don’t worry about losing my Minions. We are a special band of misfits and they have been accepting and supportive all along.” Heather is the author of two vampire series of books: 'The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod' and 'The Slayer Chronicles'. Her first stand-alone novel, Cemetery Boys, came out earlier this year from Harper Teen. We hope everything goes well for the author and family who have been supportive.

Ramsey Campbell has been made a Fellow by Liverpool John Moores University. Our congratulations.

Vince Clarke is having his fan writing collected by Dave Langford. Vincent (or 'Vin¢' as he referred to himself in written form) was a longstanding British SF fan whose activities dated from the late 1940s with a gafiation (get away fom it all) in the 1960s and '70s. He returned in the 1980s and was fan GoH at the 1995 Worldcon-Eurocon.  However, to us at SF2 Concatenation he was first and foremost a member of our then local SF group, the NW Kent SF Society a.k.a 'The Phoenicians'. Dave has now taken in the laborious task of collecting his fan writing into an e-book to be published by Ansible Editions.  A page of background and project progress together with a list of links to Vin¢'s existing on-line contributions can be found at ansible.uk/misc/vince.html.

Julie Crisp has left Pan Macmillan's Tor as its editorial director. She has become a freelance editor, script doctor and literary agent.

Christopher Ecclestone is reported as saying that he left Dr Who because of a disagreement with the show's then chief scriptwriter Russell T. Davies over playing the Doctor with a northern accent.  We do not have Russell's side and so we need to be wary of the story's origin. [Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3037641/Was-Doctor-northern-BBC-asks-Eccleston-Actor-suggests-fell-bosses-decision-play-character-accent.html.]

Malcolm Edwards is to step down at the end of 2015 as Deputy Chief Exec and publisher of Orion. (And Orion, of course, is the home of the specialist SF/F imprint Gollancz and the SF Gateway e-books.)  Instead he will become Chairman of Gollancz and Consultant Publisher at Orion.  Malcolm is well known in Brit SF book fandom – which he joined (as much as anyone can be said to 'join') in 1969 – as the fan who made it in the SF book trade. He started as a freelancer for Gollancz in the early 1970s before becoming a Gollancz's in-house editor in 1976. He became Gollancz senior editor in 1982 and after a while came onto its board as its publishing director. In 1989 he moved to Harper Collins as its deputy managing director of its trade division. In 1998 he moved to Orion and back with Gollancz. The SF community here in Blighty has appreciated his contribution over the years to the genre and last year Malcolm was a Guest of Honour at the 2014 Worldcon – Loncon 3.  Malcolm is just hitting retirement age but there is plenty of professional life left in him. The forthcoming change of role will enable him to continue with those aspects of publishing he enjoys, such as commissioning, but it relieves him of management burdens. He himself has said, "It’s particularly difficult to find a way of stepping off the management roundabout."  Here at Concatenation we have appreciated, among other things, his keeping yellow as a feature of many of the Gollancz titles' livery.  (Many Brit SF readers of a certain age will remember that any visit to the library – yes, Britain had numerous public libraries once – necessitated a scan for books with yellow spines as almost invariably these represented the good stuff.)  We wish Malcolm well in his new role. +++ David Young retires as Chief Executive Officer Orion at the end of the year (2015). He will be replaced by David Shelley Little Brown's CEO which he will continue to be now that both Little Brown and Orion are in Carmelite House, and of course, Little Brown is the home of the SF imprint Orbit.

Harlan Ellison has become this year's Prometheus Award Hall of Fame winner for his 1965 story '''Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman'. This Libertarian Futurist Society award honours novels, novellas, stories, graphic novels, anthologies, films, TV shows/series, plays, poems, music recordings, and other works of fiction first published or broadcast more than five years ago.  The story has previously been recognised and, indeed, it won the 1966 Hugo and Nebula for 'Best Short Story'. The story is set in 2389 when it becomes a crime to be late, and howsoever long you have delayed the Master Schedule will be deducted from your life. But the Harlequin will not keep to society’s timetable, in fact deliberately disrupts it and he calls for revolution. So the Master Timekeeper, the Ticktockman, is set to apprehend the tardy terrorist... Ellison is, self-reportedly, always late, and this satirical sideswipe at society’s obsession with time-keeping, and what it implies about their way of thinking, will find many sympathetic readers. 'Repent'... has been adapted twice into comic form, most notably by Jim Steranko, but also by Alex Nino. It can be found in the collections Paingod and Other Delusions (1965), Alone Against Tomorrow (1971), and All the Sounds of Fear (1973). In 2012 Ellison tried to sue the makers of the film In Time due to similarities but both Ellison and the film makers dropped the case.  See also Watching Harlan Ellison below in video clips sub-section for a comment on Hugo lobbying with contemporary Sad Puppy relevance.

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are expecting their first child and is due in September (2015) around the time this seasonal news page is posted. We wish them well.  Meanwhile earlier in the summer Amanda Palmer appeared on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour talking about 'giving'. Neil and Amanda had a number of public engagements while in the British Isles. +++ They also visited their respective publishers, both now under one Hachette UK roof in Carmelite House, London. +++ While back this side of the Pond, Neil and Amanda guest edit the New Statesman's 'Saying the unsayable'. Along the way Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro chat about genre and the litcrit clash between genre and 'literary' fiction. Kazuo Ishiguro said that following the publication of The Buried Giant that it "felt like [he]’d stepped into some larger discussion that had been going on for some time." And that he didn’t anticipate this bigger debate. Why are people so preoccupied? What is genre in the first place? Who invented it? Why am I perceived to have crossed a kind of boundary?  +++ Neil has commented on the 'Christian' the “Concerned Mothers of America” group's petition calling for the cancellation of the US television series Lucifer. He noted that it seems like only yesterday (but it was 1991) that the 'Concerned Mothers of America' announced that they were boycotting Sandman because it contained Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans characters. It was Wanda that upset them most: the idea of a Trans Woman in a comic book… ‘They told us they were organising a boycott of Sandman, which they would only stop if we wrote to the American Family Association and promised to reform… I wonder if they noticed it didn’t work last time, either…’

John Gwynne has sold his new fantasy trilogy of novels for a six-figure sum. This new standalone trilogy will be set in the same Celtic-inspired world as John's first quartet, ‘the Faithful and the Fallen’. Here, the Banished Lands now seem at peace. However, guardians appointed to enforce it have their own agenda, and mankind will suffer. One central character, Rae, is part-guardian and part-human. And if she can prevail through conflict, crisis and adventure, she may hold the key to humanity's ultimate freedom…  John Gwynne's debut novel, Malice, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut.

Vic James has sold her Slavedays and two other titles to Bella Pagan of Tor at PanMacmillan for a six-figure sum.

Usrula K. LeGuin has spoken out against Amazon's margin-squeezing policy of sell them cheap. In a post on the Book View Café site entitled 'Up the Amazon with the BS Machine, or Why I Keep Asking You Not to Buy Books from Amazon', she says the Amazon model is one of: “easy salability, heavy marketing, super-competitive pricing, then trash and replace." She concludes, "Every book purchase made from Amazon is a vote for a culture without content and without contentment."  +++ See also Amazon now paying tax in face of financial penalties below and Amazon facing European Commission enquiry that mirrors a call in N. America a call by US authors, authors' agents and booksellers for a Dept of Justice enquiry.  Le Guin now doing informal, on-line writers’ workshop -- see item below.

Doris Lessing was being monitored by the security services due to her distant-past membership of the Communist party. Official documents have been released a year after the 2007 Nobel Prize-winning author's death revealing MI5's interest spanned some 20 years between 1943 and 1964. The author had in later life expressed some minor regret with her youthful political dalliance with the party.

George R. R. Martin has died!  The author was killed by a shark flying out of a cinema screen to his seat in the audience in the film Sharnado 3: Oh Hell No. Originally he had a line before entering the cinema in the cold: "Winter’s coming." However that would be too much of a giveaway and Sharnado 3's makers wanted cinema goers to wonder whether it was really George that got munched. The line will, though, be in the DVD release.

Michael Moorcock has returned to his old haunts of Notting Hill in London after many years but was not at all happy about what he found! He was brought back by Iain Sinclair to film his reminisces but, as reported in New Statesman, he was appalled at what he saw. True, Notting Hill in the 1960s and '70s was a place of horror and Moorcock's neighbours regularly had knife fights with the police being called, but today it is a place of millionaire iceberg homes and billionaire basements. It is as if someone detonated a money bomb that wiped away ordinary people.  The paperback of Moorcock's The Whispering Swarm will shortly be out.

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura, has sadly suffered a stroke. She is 82. Though a worrying development it looks like she has largely recovered. +++ In addition to her iconic genre contribution in Star Trek, more recently she played the role of Nana Dawson in the 2006 show Heroes.  +++ See also Nichols to go on NASA mission item in the science-SF interface section below.

K. J. Parker, the dark fantasy writer has outed himself as being the pseudonym for the real-life Tom Holt who also pens humorous fantasy. Holt, 53, began publishing as K. J. Parker in 1998 with Colours in the Steel and has produced over a dozen novels under that name, along with acclaimed short fiction and novellas. Holt’s fiction career under his own name began with Expecting Someone Taller (1987) and has continued in parallel with the Parker works. As 'K. J. Parker' he has won a number of awards including twice recently the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

Terry Pratchett's 41st Discworld novel The Shepherd’s Crown, published in August (2015), will be the last Discworld novel says his daughter Rhianna. She emphasised: "I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so." She will though work on getting TV and film adaptations made and non-fiction spin-offs such as The Discworld Atlas. She also added that the chances of an “unfinished writings compilation” was also “unlikely, sorry”.  The Long Utopia, the fourth hard SF novel in a five-book series Terry co-authored with Stephen Baxter, was published in June.  Terry was sadly taken away from us earlier this year.

Mike Resnik in an editorial titled 'The End of Worldcon as we Know It' on www.galaxysedge.com, with reference to the Sad Puppy feeding frenzy, points out that Worldcon has had its problems before including: barring sections of the community from attending; barring the spouse of a well known author; a large proportion of Clifford D. Simak's 1971 GoH speech trying to reconcile the acrimonious Old Wave/New Wave War; and the 1994 Hugo short story fix; the 1959 'Best New Writer' category 'No Award' win (with one of the losers being a future Worldcon Guest of Honour and Nebula Grand Master, Brian Aldiss, who actually won a Hugo in 1962 just three years later). That 'No Award' was so embarrassing that they discontinued the category until they could find a sponsor eight years later, which is how the Campbell Award, sponsored by Analog, came into being. He concludes pointing out that if you want to 'End Worldcon As We Know It', then don’t feud. Don’t boycott. Don’t be unpleasant. Don’t be unreasonable. Don’t raise your voices in mindless anger… Do all that and none of us will recognise the Worldcon that emerges.

Spider Robinson is not well and sadly had to cancel his Westercon 68 Guest of Honour appearance. He has been in hospital a few times this year. We wish him well.

J. K. Rowling has won a libel case against the Daily Mail. In 2013, the Daily Mall published an article suggesting that the author Rowling had told a false 'sob story' about being stigmatised by churchgoers in the 1990s. The rag printed an apology and paid damages to her in 2014, but challenged Rowling's right to give a court statement about the case. Now Court of Appeal dismissed the Daily Mall's objections. Rowling's statement said that she "did not at any point criticise or complain about her treatment at the hands of fellow churchgoers…" and that "she had in fact spoken about her time working at the local church with immense gratitude." +++ See also Potter illustrated books earlier above. +++ Harry Potter play to open. See item further below.

John Scalzi has signed a US$3·4 million (£2.2m), 10-year deal with the publisher Tor Books (US) that will cover his next 13 books. It covers 10 adult and three juvenile fiction titles. Tor have announced that he first book will launch a new far-future space opera series. He will also return to the Old Man’s War universe. What this does is provide John with job security over the next decade (or longer if the thirteen books are not all out by then). This is a similar type of deal that Alastair Reynolds had with Gollancz back in 2009.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s identity has, it is claimed, been outed.  The pro-gay, pro-feminist, pro-equal rights, pro-diversity, fantasy award nominated writer had enjoyed much vocal support, more for her politics than talent, from a strident section of the SF fandom but attracted notoriety last year when it was discovered that using pseudonyms she apparently abused (to put it mildly) a number from fandom and the SF community among others online and encouraged her strident supporters to do the same or, at least, shun the victims.  There is no point going over the details what happened (you can easily find out for yourself), but one image some considered she portrayed of herself was of being disadvantaged and/or from a disadvantaged background.  Now, over the summer, the on-line handle Winterfraud claims to be ‘completely certain’ to have uncovered Sriduangkaew’s identity and this identity profile is most certainly not of someone who is, or has ever been, disadvantaged but conversely someone with very much the opposite background with resources available to her that nearly all of our site's visitors are unlikely ever to attain.  Again, there is little point going into the detail, but the message to fandom’s vocal stridents minority is clear: if you have a message or philosophy to promulgate it is advisable for it to be evidence-based, fact checked and to do it calmly otherwise you could end up undermining your own credibility and (far more importantly) that of any truly worthy cause you purport to support.

 

For SF author websites click SF author links.

 

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

Autumn 2015

FILM NEWS

The summer's SF/F box-office hits included, with their place in the all-film box-office charts, in order of release…:-
          Cinderella in late April reaching 2nd in the British Isles (Great Britain and Ireland) box office. (Trailer here.)  The Divergent Series: Insurgent reached 6th (trailer here),  and Blade Runner: The Final Cut came 9th (trailer here).
          May saw Hollywood churn out the latest Marvel comics' superhero offering, Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron (trailer here), and it quickly took the N. Amreican (Canada and US) box office by storm: it topped the US and Canada box office with US$191.3m (£126.5m) its first weekend which made the second-biggest opening weekend ever in N. America. 'By storm': the next best box-office take film that weekend did not even make US$10m! But it, The Age of Adaline (trailer here) took US$6.3m (£4.2m), is also genre and concerns a woman who stops aging after a freak accident. Now, decades on, she rediscovers enthusiasm for life.  true, this is a romance but it is intelligently done and the SF trope is right at the heart of the film.  And then Cinderella US$2.75m (£1.8m) and Ex Machina (trailer here) US$2.29m (£1.5m), were still in the charts from April and January respectively at 6th and 7th place.  Then the following weekend Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron topped the US and Canada box office again, taking US$77m (£50m) and this was more than five times the earnings of its closest box office rival. At the same time The Age of Adaline was third in the N. American charts.  The end of May saw Mad Max: Fury Road (trailer here) enter the British Isles chart at number two following its release, pushing Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron into third place after three weeks at number one, while The Age of Adaline went to number 10.
          June began with Mad Max: Fury Road third in the British Isles chart and fourth in the N. American chart. Meanwhile Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (trailer here) came fourth in the British Isles chart and third in the N. American chart.  But the big genre hit of June, Jurassic World, was also a world record-breaker. The fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series has become the first film to take more than US$500m at the box office on its opening weekend. It took US$204.6m (£131.4m) in N. America and US$29.6m (£19m) in the British Isles as part of the record global total of US$511.8m.  By the end of the third week of June Jurassic World became the fastest film to make US$1bn at the global box office: it took just 13 days to accrue this billion. (Trailer here.)
          July began with Jurassic World holding on to the top of the N. American box office. By July's third week it became only the fourth film in history to have made more than US$600m (£385m) at North American box offices, behind Avatar, Titanic and Avengers Assemble, all but one of which are SF!  The first weekend in July saw the opening of Terminator: Genisys, the fifth film in the franchise, but it only came in third in the American charts. In the British Isles it did a little better coming second but substantively behind the kids film Minions but it did jump in ahead of Jurassic World that slipped to third place. (Terminator: Genisys trailer here.)  The second week of July saw both Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys remain in the top five of both the British Isles and N. American box office charts.  Meanwhile Self/less entered both the British Isles and N. American charts at number 8. Despite its low entry point, this technological immortality film generated some favourable reviews/comment on SF and fantastic film blogs (trailer here).  July's third week saw the opening of another Marvel superhero film, Ant Man taking in N. America US$58m (£37m) in its first weekend and so to the top of the N. American weekend charts. Having said that, its opening weekend takings were lower than those for Captain America and Iron Man, but then its budget was not as big at just US$130m (£83m). Over here in Blighty, Ant Man also came top of the British Isles box office charts its opening weekend. It continued to dominate the N. American charts the following week. (Trailer here.)
          August began quietly in genre terms, though the near-genre, cult TV spin-off techno-thriller Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation did well.  Mid-month saw some kerfuffle with the Fantastic Four re-boot getting mixed reviews in the US and a disappointing second place in a quiet weekend for the N. American box office chart taking just US$26.2m (£16.8m).  However over here it did better topping the British Isles chart taking £2.7m though it was a box-office quiet weekend. Fantastic Four's first weekend British Isles earnings were below those for other Marvel films released this year. Ant-Man launched with £4m, while Avengers: Age of Ultron tool £18m. The earnings were also below the opening weekend takings for the 2005 Fantastic Four that made £3.5m.  Also doing well in the charts in late August was the sci-fi comedy Pixels (alien race uses 1980s video games to invade Earth).

Jurassic World sequel announced. Hardly surprising given the above box office news. It is currently slated for a 2018 release. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return, along with Spielberg as executive producer and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow writing the script. +++ The first weekend September was also a significant one for Jurassic World which in nearly two months made more than US$1 billion (£655m) outside North America. It is only the fourth film to achieve this billion dollar feat, after Avatar, Titanic and this year's Fast & Furious 7.

Are the summer's blockbusters blockbusters?  With Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World both taking over US$1 billion within a few months, is something special going on?  The answer is… 'not really'.  Taking inflation into account, the average US cinema ticket costs US$8.17 (or £5.40p! tickets are cheap in the rebel colonies). US$8.17 is almost double what it would have cost to see the first of the Jurassic series, Jurassic Park, on its release in 1993.  It took in its opening weekend US$528m (£352m) globally.  So adjusting for inflation, in real-term 2015 prices, the biggest opening weekend global box-office films are:-
          1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) US$554m
          2. Spider-Man 3 (2007) US$543m
          3. Jurassic World (2015) US$524m
          4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) US$490m
          5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) US$486m
          6. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) US$484m
          7. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) US$439m
          8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) US$436m
Again, it is interesting to note that these record-breakers are all SF/F genre related.  They are also all high action, special effects dominated eye-candy franchise films. So now, dearly beloved, you know why each year we always have 'And other possibly more worthy SF & fantasy film releases' within each of our annual box-office SF/F top tens.

Mike Carey’s first novel is to be a film. Mike is best known for his graphic novels, but as M. R. Carey has a debut novel with The Girl With All The Gifts. This is now being turned into a film called She Who Brings Gifts. Creative England has announced support for the film. In the last three and a half years the organisation has invested over £9 million in film projects and is backing She Who Brings Gifts alongside the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Fund. If it is half as good as the novel and Carey's graphic novels, then it should be a cracking offering.

The Forever War has yet another shot at being a film… Warner Brothers reportedly outbid Sony for the rights being held by Richard Edlund. Apparently Channing Tatum has agreed to star. This is the latest of numerous attempts to bring Joe Haldeman's classic 1974 The Forever War to the big screen. Well, as long as Joe keeps collecting those option fees who cares? If a number of past Hollywood adaptations are to go by (and here Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Card's Ender's Game are among a few that spring to mind) then we may see Haldeman's classic mauled. The novel itself has had much SF acclaim being both a Hugo Award and a Locus winner, and it also made it to Concatenation's own all-time top 20 Best Novel poll. Fingers crossed.

Star Wars – Han Solo origins film announced. The script is reportedly being written by father and son team Lawrence and Jon Kasdan. The father co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and forthcoming The Force Awakens (the latter with director J. J. Abrams). The film has a tentative slate release for May/June 2018 and follows another stand-alone Star Wars film, Rogue One due out next year (2016). +++ Harrison Ford made an appearance at this year's Comic-con in the US; his first public appearance since his plane crash earlier this year.

The case against Gravity's makers for plagiarising Tess Gerritsen's novel of the same name, has had a fall.  We have reported on this before, but the long story short is this… The film Gravity bears some resemblance to Tess Gerritsen's novel Gravity.  Tess had previously in 1999 sold the rights for a film version to New Line and New Line apparently asked Alfonso Cuarón for a treatment of the novel. At this point the treatment was not green lit. Then in 2008 Warner Brothers bought New Line. Then in 2013 Alfonso Cuarón makes a film called Gravity for Warner Brothers but Tess Gerritsen never got any payment she was contractually due from the studio. This more or less brings you up to speed… Previously the case was dismissed with right to appeal because Tess Gerritsen's contract was with New Line and not Warner Brothers (even though Warner Brothers now own New Line).  Tess appealed and now we have the court's latest decision which seems to be, according to Tess' blog at tessgerritsen.com (accessed June 2015), that because New Line owns the copyright, any breach of copyright by Warner Brothers (who remember now owns New Line) needs to be challenged by New Line and not Tess Gerritsen: Warner Bros. is not (apparently according to one interpretation of the law) responsible for New Line's contractual obligations to her. That is to say, if this view is accurate, that Warner Brothers needs to be sued by a part of itself (New Line) which, of course, it will never do.  Meanwhile Tess Gerritsen has at least been given permission to file an amended complaint, but her legal costs must be mounting.  Irrespective, this case is of fundamental importance to writers because it means that if you sell rights to a studio and get paid a preliminary rights fee, and then the studio gets taken over by another studio, then you would lose your "based upon" credit (which would help sales of your back list of books and the novel itself), your production bonus on completion of the film, and your back-end profits (your share of profits if the film makes a surplus).

Shooting has begun on Star Trek 3. With a tentative title of Star Trek Beyond it is currently slated for a July 2016 release. This will be a couple of months before the franchise’s 50th Anniversary! Meanwhile, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have been given options for a fourth Star Trek film.

Short video clips that might tickle your fancy….

Film clip download tip!: Previously on Dr Who…!. With the ninth season due to commence airing a few days after we post this seasonal news page, here is a chance to refresh your memory of the current story arc so far with previously on Dr Who.

Film clip download tip!: Dr Who 9th season trailer. With the ninth season due to commence airing a few days after we post this seasonal news page, here's the trailer.

Film clip download tip!: The trailer for the film of the book The Martian is now out together with a supportive mini-feature. The novel The Martian by Andy Weir (Del Rey) we rated as being one of the best SF/F books of 2014. It did not make the major SF/F awards, we like to think, because of its unusual publishing history and not because the SF community was caught napping. However it was short-listed for this year's Campbell Memorial Award. And so, if Hollywood actually sticks closely to the novel, this could well be on of the best space-going, hard SF films of the year. There is a short, mini-promotional feature now out together with the film's trailer.

Film clip download tip!: Hugo Sad and Rabid Puppies getting you down? Well Harlan Ellison was some years ago concerned over Hugo Award lobbying and buying a Hugo.  See the short, three-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: From The Future With Love – Short film. Actually this came out a few years ago but we missed it, and as it has recently been re-posted we thought we would share. In the not-too-distant future the police have been privatised. This is a rather competent visualisation and, as a follow-up was indicated, maybe this recent re-posting is a hint that the follow-up is now on the way?  See the short film here.

Film clip download tip!: Fly Me To The Moon – Short film (5 minutes). This short Hungarian cartoon came out in 2013 but has now (2015) made it to YouTube.  A foxy protagonist wakes up on the Moon unaware how he got there. While working on how to get home, major events take place in the background. This offering presents the incongruity between the mundane context in which most of us experience, or learn of, and monumental events themselves.  See the short film here.

Film clip download tip!: Anomaly is a new web-series. The first episode is out, and short at just over three minutes. It, an SFnal thriller, is certainly intriguing.   You can follow the web-series on YouTube starting with episode one here.

Film clip download tip!: Hacked Broadcast – Lusa is a new web-series consisting of short, three-minute broadcasts by a renegade against a dictatorial elite following the colonization of another planetary system.   You can follow the web-series on YouTube starting with episode one here.

Film clip download tip!: Extraordinary is a new web series.  Sylvia wakes one day to discover she has the power to move objects just by concentrating - telekinesis. As if this weren't enough, she has an archenemy; one she doesn't even know about.  See the first episode here.

Film clip download tip!: Harry Harrison's Bill The Galactic Hero is now a film. Jason Phelps' trailer for Alex (Repo Man) Cox and Danny Beard's student film of Bill The Galactic Hero. This film has being doing the rounds of the international Fantastic Film Fest circuit.  The film's soundtrack was written by Iggy Pop and Whitey Kirst and performed by Iggy Pop (as Iggy Pop and The Intergalactic Troll).  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Strugatsky brothers' novel Hard to be a God is now a film. It hit the Soviet nation Fantastic Film Fest circuit in 2013 and had a Russian release in 2014. Now an English trailer is out. The Strugatskies' novel Hard to be a God, with its not-very-veiled dissident message, almost got the brothers into trouble with the authorities, but the Stalin purges were over and the authors had by then too big a reputation.  The film's director is the Russian Aleksei German who died in 2013 but had almost completed the film. His wife and son finished it off shortly after German's death.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Aurthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End is to be a mini-series. Yes, Clarke's classic 1953 novel is coming to the small screen.  OK, so we reported that shooting began last November (2014) before, but now we are closer to the December (2015) screening, SyFy have made a trailer.  The series is being adapted by Matthew Graham (creator of BBC’s Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes).  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Teaser #2.  This is on the off-chance that you missed it (you probably haven't as it came out at the beginning of the season) and also because it is referred to in Super Café Batman vs. Superman - It's On! below, as both trailers came out at the same time.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Star Trek's Picard and Star Wars' Vader both think the other's franchise is childish. You wouldn't want to see them argue it out face-to-face would you? Oh, all right. You can see it here.

Film clip download tip!: Listening is a new film about telepathic technology. 'New?' we year you cry!  OK, actually this film has been doing the Fantastic Film Fest circuit the past year and we think you may want to check it out at selected cinemas this autumn.  Trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Walking Dead season 6 four minute trailer. Season 6 launches in October (2015). The season will consist of 16 episodes, split into two eight-episode parts, the second of which will begin in February (2016).  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Coming next year (2016) Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice - Official teaser trailer and second trailer.   See the first teaser trailer here and the second proper trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Super Café: Batman vs. Superman - It's On! Superman and Batman discuss their latest official (see above) trailer.   See the short, three-minute video here.

Film clip download tip!: Supergirl trailer for the new TV series is now out. And, to be honest, it does not look that bad, especially given that it is not BBC, ITV or Channel 4 but is on something called CBS.  See the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Classic style Flash Gordon cartoon. Yup, an old 1950s style Flash Ahhh haaaah… cartoon.  See the short video here.

 

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2014/15 (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 2015 see our film release diary.

 

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

Autumn 2015

SF BOOK TRADE AND RELATED TRADE NEWS

The 2015 Book Industry Awards have been presented at a black tie bash at London's Park Lane Hilton with Mariella Frostrup MC-ing. The wins of genre relevance include:-
          Editor of the Year: Francesca Main of Picador (the imprint behind this year's Clarke SF Book Award winner).
          Independent Academic Educational and Professional Publisher: Liverpool University Press. (The 116 year old publisher saw double figure growth in 2015. Liverpool U. is, of course, the home of the SF Foundation, and the Press’ genre contributions include: Alien Plots Female Subjectivity and the Divine in the Light of James Tiptree’s ‘A Momentary Taste of Being; Gateways to Forever by Mike Ashley; Gothic Science Fiction edited by Sara Wasson and Emily Alder; Irish Science Fiction by Jack Fennell; andThe Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film edited by Sonja Fritzsche.)
          Digital Business of the Year: Head of Zeus (an imprint whose genre authors include Peter Watts, Howard Andrew Jones, Terence Baker, Luke Scull, Daniel O'Malley, and Jay Martell).
          Book Retailer of the Year: Waterstones (which, as it happens, has arguably one of the best SF book sections of any UK book chain).

Europe continues to evolve its bookselling environment. Last season we reported on the new European Union rules on VAT impact on bookselling. Now, there are further developments in store. The European Commission's (EC's) Digital Single Market (DSM) White Paper (a policy proposal document) previously noted that some bookselling platforms effectively control access to online markers as well as exert significant influence on the way stakeholders (publishers hence authors as well as small, independent e-book traders) are remunerated. The EC President, Jean-Claude Junker would like to reduce VAT on digital media to the same level as that for books and this is likely to come about next year (2016). Meanwhile Britain's VAT exemption on books will be examined by the EC. Profits on e-bookselling are likely to be taxed where sales are generated.  +++ None of this is likely to offer any respite for small, independent e-book traders who have (as predicted) found the prospect of paying tax to different nations too arduous for them to continue. However an EC consultation launched the month of this seasonal positing (Sept' 2015) will look at the question of whether or not a minimum company turnover is required before companies have to fill a return detailing their sales to respective countries. This question has come to the fore as reportedly many small companies have ceased e-trading beyond the borders of the nation in which they are based: something that runs contrary to the purported goals of the European Union which the EC serves.

New British tax law and Amazon agrees to pay tax on the profit from trade in that country. Amazon has previously been accused of not paying its fair share of tax by Britain among other countries. Now, Britain has not waited for European Commission changes (see previous item above) and has introduced a Diverted Profits Tax of 25% on profits estimated to have been generated in Britain but which had been declared as Amazon profits for the company's European HQ in the low-tax nation of Luxemburg. To avoid paying this 25% tax it has agreed to pay tax on profits generated in Britain and so escapes the full tax brunt that would have been imposed had they gone down the Diverted Profits Tax route.
          This development has been greatly welcomed by much of the rest of the bookselling sector as it begins to help make the playing field between Amazon and high street physical bookshops more level. However high street bookshops still pay high rates (a British local government tax on properties to pay for local services, street lighting, waste removal, local police etc.). Conversely Amazon pay low rates on their out-of-town warehouses and some Amazon warehouses even benefit from local government eEnterprise support. Clearly, more need to be done especially as demonstrably physical bookshops are being squeezed with closures continuing (see also more independent bookshops close item below). +++ See also Ursula K. LeGuin speaks out against Amazon above.

Amazon now to face the inquisition of the European Commission (EC) over alleged publisher bullying with (possibly) illegal contracts. The European Commission is at long last to look into Amazon's business practices. This follows much concern over many years from various quarters of a number of aspects of Amazon's practices including: authors calling for the US and Europe to protect the market place from Amazon domination; accusations of Amazon bullying small publishers; Amazon big-publisher dust offs such as the Hachette dispute last year; British book buyer backlash against Amazon last Christmas; and public concern over Amazon's tax arrangements among other things.
          The EC's concern here specifically focuses on the relatively innocent-sounding 'Most Favoured Nation' (MFN) clause in Amazon's contracts with publishers.  Under Amazon's MFN clause a publisher must tell Amazon if the publisher is giving a better price and/or distribution deal to any other party and then must offer either an equal or more favourable deal to Amazon. The by-the-short-and-curlies clause (do business our way or you will have difficulty selling books through us the world's biggest bookseller) even means that publishers are not allowed to sell their own directly to customers more cheaply on their own websites! The EC is concerned that this may be breaking European Union anti-competitive rules.
          If the EC rules against Amazon then Amazon might be fined up to £5.66 billion (€4 bn, US$8·9 bn), which is up to 10% of Amazon turnover. Though if it looks like Amazon is going to lose then you can bet that they will do a deal to reduce their financial risk.  Also, if the clauses are illegal then publishers contracts will also be void and have to be re-negotiated. The EC inquiry is likely to last at least a year and possibly might drag on for three years. Meanwhile Amazon is reported as saying (Bookseller 16th June 2015) that it "is confident that [its] arrangements with publishers are legal and in the best interest of the reader". A quote that ironically cuts through to the heart of the problem: Amazon fashioning reality in its own image and arguably not the health of: the book trade as a whole, publishers, physical bookshops, and authors.

US authors and booksellers call for Amazon enquiry. In the USA, the Authors United Group has joined with the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild and Association of Authors' Representatives to call for a Department of Justice investigation into Amazon's business practices.  We seem to be ahead of Uncle Sam over here in Europe.

HarperCollins US does a deal with Amazon.com. This offsets what might have been a conflict similar to the Amazon Hachette rumpus last year (2014). Let's hope that Harper US did not give too much away.

Amazon is in a terms dispute with Penguin Random House UK. This is reminiscent of the recent Amazon Hachette US dispute and Harper Collins US (see previous item above): perish the thought that Amazon are picking the large publishers off one-by-one on both sides of the Pond. The dispute over the new contract does not affect Penguin Random House in the US. However the current Penguin Random House arrangement in the US runs out later this year.

Amazon's working environment is not employee friendly says New York Times article. The concerns aired included so-called 'rank and yank' employee performance review where workers are regularly reviewed, ranked, and the worst performers fired.  This is not the first time Amazon's purported working environment has come under scrutiny. In 2013 the BBC ran an exposé into a British Amazon warehouse that found conditions that a stress expert said could cause 'mental and physical illness'.

Poland 'Act' to protect book market from on-line, large chain and supermarket discounting, is kicked into the long grass. A bill proposed for Poland's parliament to control book prices has stalled. Were it to be enacted, it would protect the price of books published for their first 12 months before any retailer could discount the titles. It is now unlikely that any vote will be taken until after the October elections, and even then there are doubts as to whether it will make it to the voting stage. The on-line, supermarket and large bookshop chain lobby wants to be free to discount as it likes, though most publishers are supportive of the act along with firm support from small bookshops.

Great Britain and N. Ireland's book market in publisher receipt terms for 2014 over 2013 is flat masking a slight decline. The Publishers Association statistics for 2014 are out. These relate to UK publisher receipts (as opposed to physical books and online sales for the British Isles [including the Republic of Ireland]) for which see the following item).  The overall figures for publisher receipts (which include academic journals) were flat over the 2013 figures of £4.3 billion. However, this disguises bad news. Take out the academic sector (including journals) and, other than children's books, both fiction and non-fiction sales were down. (Journal income alone went up 3% to £1.16 billion.)
          Publisher sales of e-books both fiction and non-fiction as well as academic and journals, both home (Great Britain and NI) and abroad together were up 5·3% in cash terms, and up 6.8% for UK alone.  Fiction e-books alone saw UK sales up 8.2%.
          Excluding academic and journals, UK publisher sales of physical and e-books combined in 2014 over 2013 were down 2% to £3·3 billion. (This 2% fall was also seen in 2013 over 2012.)  But publishers’ UK sales of e-books alone (excluding overseas income) were up 11·2% in cash terms (this includes professional and education/academic as well as mass-market sales), and this helped mask a decline of physical books (excluding academic) down 5% to £2·75 billion.
          Overall the picture shows that UK publishing income (as opposed to British Isles retail sales) is flat. (Though as the following item reveals, even though the cash numbers are different British Isles retail is also flat in terms of 1st quarter 2014 and 1st quarter 2015.) But compare the above UK publisher income with retail (shop and online shop) income from British Isles BookScan data saw print down only 1·3% to £1·4 billion (not 5%).
          All the above is a bit confusing what with the various sectors, UK and UK-plus-overseas sales, British Isles retail versus UK publisher income. The bottom line is that we have a flat market but both adult fiction and non-fiction are down. E-books are up but books still dominate the market. Having said that, looking forward from 2014 to the first quarter of 2015 and there may be some light at the end of the tunnel… (See the next item.)

Great Britain and N. Ireland's book market in retail terms may (just 'may') be on the turn given 2015 first quarter as well as 2014 over 2013 year trade figures.  Mid-April BookScan data (that's primarily retail book sales, including online sales as opposed to publishers receipts) saw a near-as-damn-it flat year-on-year first-quarter-2015 printed book sales that almost could have been positive given that the previous quarter saw only a very marginal decline.  Had the first quarter 2015 printed book sales been positive then it would have been the first positive year-on-year for half a decade since the recession really kicked in with austerity.
          The devil is, of course, in the detail and here is the detail (oxymoronically) in summary.  The print book market grew in cash terms by 4%, with £280 million sales, in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the previous year. This is the best first quarter performance since 2012.  However in volume sales (the number of books [units] sold) there was a slight reduction of 0·6% over the first quarter of 2014. What has increased is the cost of the average book which was up nearly 5%.  In volume terms general fiction sales were down 9% to 4·3 million units and down in value to £26·7 million. Separately, genre fiction (including SF/F) sales which grew by £1·6 million (up by nearly 10%) but down un volume by 2%.  Graphic novel sales continue to the strong which grew by 22% over 2014's first quarter to £4·8 million.
          2014 also saw on-line book-buying just overtake in-store bookshop buying for the first time according to Nielsen BookScan data. In the broadest sense, overall compared to the market in 2013, little has changed. The print market in volume terms had declined in 2014 but less so than in 2013. And, as with 2013, 2014 has seen an increase in e-books and this has offset the decline in print. In cash terms there is some stability.
          The longer-term view, since the time of the start of the recession in 2009, provides a different perspective.  Overall the UK book market (physical and e-books) between 2009 and 2014 saw a cash growth of 1·3%, but as inflation over this period has been around 16·5% there has been a real-term cash decline. However it does look like the UK book market may have at least begun to cease its real-term decline. If it can hold steady for a year or so, and if the economy improves, then the medium-term may well see some real-term growth. (Remember, all the above is based on BookScan and so excludes some self-published, small press – including learned societies – and direct publisher-to-customer sales, those, that is, not covered by BookScan. Nonetheless it does capture the majority of domestic sales and so is very indicative.)

Early second quarter figures tentatively suggest that the book sector recovery is continuing. The incomplete preliminary figures – with just a bit of extrapolation – for the first half of 2015 suggest that mass market BookScan physical book sales grew by 3% in cash terms (and, given that inflation over this period was close to zero, this can almost be considered real-term growth). Digital (e-book) sales growth appear to have slowed compared to 2014 (see 2nd paragraph above) but still ahead of physical book sales growth of 3%. This means that the market overall has grown, which is great compared to the flat market of 2014 over 2013. An estimate is that e-books units sold represent roughly 35% of the total (e-book and physical) market and 25% of the market in cash terms.

SF/F and science do well in first British audio book chart. The summer saw Britain's Bookseller's Association provide the first UK Audio Book Chart using data provided by Audible.co.uk downloads. Though the chart covers all audio books, SF/F and science titles do well with half a dozen in the top twenty with four of which in the top ten.
          3. A Game of Thrones: Part 1 by George R. R. Martin
          4. The Martian by Andy Weir
          5. Finders keepers by Stephen King
          6. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
          12. The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steve Peters
          13. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Graphic novel market booms but half of the leaders of year chart are reprints. Britain's graphic novel market is one sector of the book market that has largely seen steady growth throughout the recession since 2009. BookScan data reveals that British Isles graphic novel sales grew by 13·9 in 2014.  But the various graphic novel charts are not dominated by new releases but a mix of new, traditional superhero stories and reprints.  Topping the 'overall' graphic novel chart for the 12 months to August (2015) is Mark Millar's Civil War that originally appeared as a Marvel Comics mini-series in 2007-8. Given that the third Captain America film will be Captain America: Civil War sales are expected to remain buoyant. Also in the year-to-August top twenty are Watchmen, Batman, Avengers and The Walking Dead titles.

Science, technology, engineering and maths/medicine (STEM) print book sales grow 9% on year to 9th May (2015). This takes UK STEM book sales to £7.5 million. This growth is a little surprising given that 2013 calendar year saw a 4% decline, and also there were bad reports of the STEM sector coming out of bodies such as the CBI. However, despite tuition fees in England and Wales, and student accommodation bills, student applications for science courses remain healthy: presumably because they are not seen as Noddy degrees. Applications from biological and physical sciences are up 7% to 360,590, and engineering is up 10% to 160,000. Only mathematics applications are down, bit only a little at 1% with applications just above 45,000.

Britain's library e-book lending trials have been completed. The research was conducted for the Publishers' Association and the Society of Chief Librarians with funding from the British Library Trust and the Arts Council.  The results from the libraries participating in the trials show that less than 5% of library loans were for e-books and that less than 1% of all library borrowers (both physical and e-books) took advantage to buy the e-book through the library. Finally, the digital borrowers themselves became less likely to physically go to the library as the borrowing could be done online.

A further 5% of UK independent bookshops closed in 2014 (over 2013). 48 independent High Street bookshops closed in 2014 making the number at the start of the year 939. (Note: that this excluded chains of bookshops and chains of newsagents like W. H. Smiths.) This is part of a longer-term trend commonly attributed to the growth in on-line book retail. The number of UK independent bookshops fell below a thousand in 2013. (In 2005 there were 1,535 in the UK.)

Independent bookshops in the British Isles receive a further £250,000 from author James Patterson. This brings the total the author has donated up to £500,000.  73 bookshops have already received funding and a further 68 will receive funding. The money goes to refurbishment as well as ventures such as children's bed time reading events.

Germany's 'Buy-Local_Verein' campaign is gorwing. Founded in 2013 to encourage high street bookshop sales over on-line sales, it was due to run for just three years. The decision has now been made to continue it beyond 2016.  And this campaign is not the only such initiative supporting physical bookshops over on-line retail. The summer saw the Bavarian branch of Börsenverein run a poster campaign for 50 bookshops.

Polish bookshops closing. During the past five years the number of bookshps in Poland has fallen by 30% (700 shops) to 1,850.  Is this all to do with the rise of on-line sales? Apparently part of the reason is that the Poles do not read much. A survey by PIK found that only some 42% of Poles over 15 years old had read at least one book in 2014!

Bergen Street Comics (NY) is closing ! Bergen Street Comics near the Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center in New York (US), is closing after six years being run by Tom and Amy Adams.  However stand by for a Phoenix from the ashes with the creation of Bergen Street Comics Press.

It is a change of address for a number of SF/F/H imprints as over-arching Hachette UK brings its publishing houses under one roof. Now, average readers may think that there are a lot of publishing imprints serving the British Isles, and they would be right. But a few do not realise that each major publishing house actually has a number of specialist imprints each of which caters for a specific book market. What is less known is that many of the major publishing houses are themselves owned by overarching companies. One of these, Hachette UK, has decided to bring all its book publishing under one roof at Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment in London EC4.
          The move, reportedly, is zero cost. We understand that to mean that in cash terms the value of property realised and savings of rental cost cancel the purchase of and the physical move to Carmelite House. However Hachette do hope to make some medium-to-long term efficiency savings in things like direct sales to customers by-passing the likes of margin-squeezing Amazon. This is to be welcomed, of course provided that they can maintain their links with and nurture high street bookshops.
          In physical terms each publishing house will have either part of or a whole floor of Carmelite House to themselves. This is how it looks:-
          5th Floor sees Hodder (which also has specialist SF/F/H imprints of Sceptre and Coronet)
          4th Floor sees Little Brown (which include imprints Orbit, Robinson and Corsair), Headline, and Quercus (which also includes the specialist SF/F imprint Jo Fletcher's Books)
          3rd Floor sees Orion (with its SF/F imprints Gollancz and the e-book SF Gateway).
          Moving is always a disruptive and uncomfortable time but nonetheless SF2 Concatenation hopes that all our regular contacts and their colleagues at these imprints are now comfortably settled in their new home.

Penguin Random House is trialling bookselling on Twitter. Any Tweet about a Random House Book that has publisher branding and a click will take you to a dedicated selling page within Twitter that links to Tweets others have made about the book. If you like what you see there is a buy button.

US and British Isles authors surveyed as to publisher and book trade views. The authors survey was conducted by Harry Bingham in the British Isles and Jane Friedman in the US. There were 812 writers involved, 310 of which were from the British Isles (UK and Republic of Ireland). The bottom line is that publishers could do a lot more to communicate with authors and in fact, according to the survey, their communication skills suck. Amazon is, the authors feel, bad for publishers and authors as well as high street bookshops, but good for customers… (but here the survey report does not add 'while talented writers continue to write…').  74% of the writers said that they had never been asked to give feedback on the publishing process by publishers. And 28% said that publisher communication before, during and after the publishing process was inconsistent, confusing and poor. Only 7% felt that writing paid well. Here it might be that publishers could provide a higher percentage of e-book revenue? 43% rated the editorial process as excellent, 27% good with only 13% rating it poor to non-existent.
          So how does all this relate to authors' relationships with their publishers?  The answer is that publishers seem to be relying on a combination of inertia together with a lack of author poaching from other publishers to retain their authors. Two thirds of authors were either unsure whether they would stay with their existing publisher or would certainly move to another publisher if  they were offered a similar publisher deal (author advance etc.) by another similarly reputable publisher. Indeed, 37% said that they would move to such a new publisher with an additional 30% being unsure. (Here British Isles authors were more loyal than their N. American counterparts with 39% saying that they would stay with their publisher.)  Conversely, authors were both more trusting and more faithful to their agents. Just 20% of authors would change agents if another similar-reputation agent approached them. Authors also trusted their agents more than their publishers when it came to receiving writing career advice.
          With regards to other matters, the Amazon question revealed a bifurcation of opinion. A whopping 68% of the authors surveyed affirmed the view also found elsewhere in the trade that Amazon was killing high-street bookshops, and 44% that Amazon evades tax. However, 65% said that Amazon was a boon to readers. (Of course whether it will be such a book if bookshops continue to close and publishers margins are squeezed to the detriment of encouraging new professional authors is a mute, moot point.)

The top 5% of authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers and a consequence is that publishing may reach a 'breaking point'. The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society in Great Britain has just had a survey it commissioned, and conducted by Queen Mary College of the University of London. The survey, The Business of Being an Author, is of 1,477 Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society members (a 4·2% response rate which is a reasonable sample). The survey found that earnings of authors have been falling in real terms over the last decade with average current earnings of £16,809. This means that in real terms authors earn 19% less today than they did in 2005.  There is a high concentration of earnings with a small number of writers earning most of the money. The top 5% of authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers. When the typical ‘median’ earnings are considered the picture is more disconcerting. The typical earnings of all authors are only £4,000 and those of professional authors are merely £11,000 (see also last year's professional author earnings) which represents a drop of 29% in real terms since 2005. This means that a professional author is earning less than the minimum wage from his or her writing.  Self-publication appears to enable a number of writers to gain some financial return. A quarter of authors had self-published a book at some point and the most successful self-publishing ventures have an average rate of return of 154% (and a typical ‘median’ rate of return of 40%). However, It remains a risky venture as the bottom 20% of self-publishers made losses of £400 or more. A Society spokesperson said: "The creative industries are thriving, generating £76bn per annum, yet professional writers have seen a near 30% reduction in earnings in recent years." Adding: "Consequently many are no longer able to sustain a career. The one truly irreplaceable link in the value chain is being stretched to breaking point."  The problem is that though more are writing, the size of the financial pie has not similarly grown and so we now risk professionals being replaced by amateurs. Indeed around one in six writers did not earn any money from their writing in 2013 despite 98% saying their work had been published or used in other ways.

London Book Fayre has a successful move to Olympia. It will also be at Olympia next year (2016). It was previously at Earls Court.

The Harry Potter book series is to have a stage outing with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will tell the "untold part" of the boy wizard's story, including the story of the lives of his murdered parents. However author J. K. Rowling is adamant that it is not a prequel. It will have a run at the Palace Theatre next summer (2016). Rowling said: "To answer one inevitable (and reasonable!) question - why isn't Cursed Child a new novel? I am confident that when audiences see the play they will agree that it was the only proper medium for the story."  The stage play has not been written by Rowling alone: it is a collaboration between herself and writer Jack Thorne. Thorne previously adapted the Swedish film Let The Right One In for the stage. +++ See also below Harry Potter Night.

2nd Harry Potter Night is being organised. Given that over 10,000 school libraries, bookshops and community groups organised an evening (and in some cases all night) Harry Potter related events and activities for the first Harry Potter Night, another is being organised for next year. It will take place on Thursday 4th February 2016.

 

More book trade news in our next seasonal news column in January 2016. Meanwhile check out the forthcoming SF and forthcoming fantasy book lists sections (see the mini-index immediately below…).

 

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

Autumn 2015

TV NEWS

Gene Rodenberry impeded the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Featuring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden and then-Paramount Network Television president John Pike, among others, a new documentary looks at the re-booting of Star Trek with the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, there has already been much coverage of the origins of Next Generation, but what seems to come across here from some in the industry seems to be that Gene was so unhappy that it took so long for the studio to bring back the show that he di not like it that others were key in getting the re-boot.  Of additional interest is that the documentary, Chaos on the Bridge , is that it was produced, directed and narrated by William Shatner. The documentary is currently only available in N. America but expect it over here soon.  You can see the trailer here.

George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones TV series season five finale was watched by almost 1.7 million in the British Isles. For these days of over a hundred channels, this is an extremely good figure. Furthermore, Torrent Freak, an online publication which collates file-sharing news, said the episode "set a new piracy record", with 1.5 million downloads in eight hours. The episode saw one of the main characters die (a George R. R. Martin no-one-is-safe trademark): Jon Snow was murdered by men of the Night's Watch. A number of others also died, including Stannis Baratheon: he was executed by Brienne of Tarth just hours after his wife, Queen Selyse, hanged herself.  The episode was screened in the UK on Sky Atlantic simultaneously with US broadcaster HBO.

Channel 4’s Humans gets second series!  So strong has been the reception to the first series of the near-contemporary set, android thriller that the announcement was made before the final episode of the first series was broadcast.  Humans is based on the 2012 Swedish series Real Humans that also got a second series which was broadcasted in 2013. The British version is Channel 4's highest rated drama since the The Camomile Lawn (1992) attracting an average of 4&h183;8m viewers per week.. The skeletal story arc of Britain’s Humans is similar in many fundamental aspects to the original, Swedish Real Humans, however the treatment is different: the hubot capable of killing is shown in Sweden’s Real Humans first episode, but the synth murdering is first seen mid-series, at the end of the second episode, of Britain’s Humans. The storyline’s treatment begins to diverge from the Swedish original as the British series continues, though the key plot tropes (such as a distributed code capable of manifesting true sentience in hubots/synths) remain.  The second series of Britain’s Humans of eight episodes is scheduled for screening in 2016.

Fear the Walking Dead breaks US cable premiere viewing record!  The spin-off to Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead graphic novels TV (The Walking Dead) series' own spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead debut attracted 10·1 million viewers says AMC. The first episode looks at the beginning of the outbreak from a Los Angles perspective. This is different to the beginning of the The Walking Dead in which a police officer – Rick – is shot and then wakes up in hospital to find that civilization has already fallen (much as per 28 Days Later). The first season is running for six episodes and a second season of 15 episodes will air in 2016.  Teaser here.

The X-Files mini-series to launch in US Sunday 24th January 2016. This follows our summer season item announcing the series' return as a mini-series.

Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th anniversary TV re-make may be made. Fox (of all people) is reportedly working on a TV remake of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) which itself is based on The Rocky Horror Show musical play (1973). With the working title of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event, Kenneth Ortega is coordinating the production, with executive producers Gail Berman and Lou Adler, the producers of the original film that was in turn based on Richard O'Brien's 1973 stage musical.  +++ Meanwhile there will be a separate stage celebration. Richard O'Brien himself will play the narrator at London's Playhouse Theatre between 11th – 19th September (2015). (Richard is not involved in the Fox project and is getting nothing out of it.)

The original Thunderbirds could be coming back for three new episodes!  The Gerry Anderson series was the most successful of his puppet (supermarionation) shows, and was re-booted earlier this year in a CGI-model combo format.  Now, some fans and those associated with the original series including the Gerry Anderson estate.  Using voices of the original cast from audio-only adventures originally released as records in the 1960s and puppets based on the originals, it is hoped to create three new episodes in the show’s original supermarionation format.  By mid-summer a crowdfunding effort raised more than £150,000, around three quarters of the target. ITV (who broadcast the original series) are supporting the project. F.A.B. The three episodes include a prequel episode.

'Galaxy Quest' may become a TV series. 'Galaxy Quest' was the fictional TV series within the Hugo Award-winning film Galaxy Quest. Now, reportedly, Paramount are considering making the spoof show for real. The film's co-writer and co-producer are apparently discussing the possibility with the studio. Given that both now work quite successfully in television, it might just be that the notion has legs. Having said that, a spoof of a spoof? There are other real 1970s TV space opera series that could be re-made, as indeed is being considered with Britain's Blake's 7.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle to be adapted for television. The classic 1963 story concerns the missing children of a Nobel laureate physicist who developed a substance called ice-nine, an alternative structure of water that is solid at room temperature. IM Global Television are adapting.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover rights have been acquired by IM Global Television. The producers are reportedly Ilene Kahn Power (Traffic) and Elizabeth Stanley.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World rights acquired by SyFy Channel. The 1932 classic postulates a future whereby the world on one hand is divided into two with part of humanity living wild, but free, in the ruins of what might be our civilisation, and another part that has high-tech, genetically engineered humans living in a drug mediated society. SyFy now have acquired the rights to adapt as a continuation of their trawl of literary SF. It has twice previously been adapted for television first (and more successfully) in 1980 directed by Burt Brinkerhoff, and then again in 1998 with a cast that notably included Leonard Nimoy.

 

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Autumn 2015

EUROCON / WORLDCON NEWS

The 2015 Worldcon was held in Spokane, Washington, USA.  By the end of its penultimate day a total of 11,584 had registered of which 5,097 were physically present. (There were just 84 one-day memberships on the final day affecting the final membership totals and some of these might have been previous one-day ticket holders.)  The majority (over 9k) were from N. America, Europe had around 1per hour video messages that were recorded and played at the convention. During these he said that SF/F was his favourite book genre.
          Programme. Sad news first: the programme included two memorials: for Terry Pratchett and for Leonard Nimoy.  There was the usual good range of SF book-related panels covering many aspects of writing and publishing and in the mix a few items of self-publishing and agent pitch sessions for prospective writers.  Oddities included two 'welcoming' programme items – ' Your First Worldcon? Welcome to the Science Fiction Community' and ' What Every Fan Should Know About Fandom' – but these ran on the penultimate day and not the first day (insert Homer Simpson 'Doh!').
          Film programme. This is decidedly worth a mention as Worldcons are not particularly known for their cinematic literacy.  Last year's Worldcon's film programme was a good cut above the usual Worldcon fare and gave the 2010 Worldcon's excellent film programme a run for its money.  While last year's (2014) film programme included a number of old, and thought lost, items as well as more recent works, this year's film programme was international and recent-offering focussed. There was an excellent international selection of short films from countries such as: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, and this year's host nation the US. Feature films were also interesting choices but sparse. On the international front there was Iron Cloud and Another World. Predestination (trailer here) from the host nation (USA) was also welcome, especially for us as back in the spring we had it included in our choices as to one of the Best Films of 2014.  Film programme problems? The usual gripe of no repeat screenings especially as many were shown in the small hours of the morning. (Films, as we have said before, are one of the few programme items that can easily be repeated.)
          Science Programme. As usual, as Science Fact and Fiction Concateneers, we share with you the science-related items on the programme. This year's science programme was far smaller than last year's and its tsunami of astronomy and space science. Nonetheless there was a good range of subjects covered including:  'Hard SF Movies: Rare but Not Extinct';  The 'Carl Sagan Medal Speech' by Guy Consolmagno;  'Future Pharma: How will biotechnology and genome research revolutionise pharmaceuticals and the implications for fiction plots';  'Pluto in Your Rear-View Mirror: News from the New Horizons Mission';  'Australian Aboriginals, the First Astronomers?';  'What’s New in Astronomy';  'Understanding the Science Behind Computers';  'Vesta and the Chaotic Formation of Planets';  'Medieval Science and Engineering';  'Space Medicine';  ' Creative Bio-engineering'; ' Science Reporting';  'The Aging of Fandom: A Science Panel' (actually about ageing population demographics);  'The Future of Food';  '100 Years of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity';  'Adapting the Human Body for Low Gravity';  'SF and Futurism';  'Climate Change—Science and Fiction';  'Blinded by Pseudoscience';  'The Wired Brain';  ' Dawn of the Asteroid Belt: Exploring Vesta and Ceres';  ' Super Science Saturday: The Future of Aging';  'Written in the Rocks, the Geological History of Spokane and the Inland Empire';  'Science in SF';  'Climate Change and Health';  and ' Trends in Hardware, Software & Wetware'.  Finally, there was also a SuperScienceSaturday, a day of exhibits and talks in one of the exhibition halls.
          Hugo Awards we covered earlier in the main SF news section. And related Worldcon-fan-/-Sad & Rabid Puppies tussle in the fandom section below.

World SF Society (WSFS) Business meetings.  As usual, Kevin Standlee did an excellent job of Chairing matters. Many good points were made despite just a few obfuscators and trite pedants (one clinician kept insisting on the use of their professional honorific title) and before each person spoke there was, in effect, a cognitive function test in whether or not speakers had to be reminded to give their names and to speak into the directional microphone (a small but still disturbing number had to be given such reminders by the Chair).  Importantly, George Mitchell – who most of us will never have heard of – received a vote of thanks for his backroom work for 20 years in hosting the wsfs.org and worldcon.org websites. He is now seeking to hand on the task. (Lets hope his successor keeps to both sites' straightforward and simple format.
          The proposal for 'Two-Year Eligibility' for the Hugo was killed on the grounds that if you could not read all the novels and stories in year one then you will be even more behind on year two. But the vote was sufficiently tight to warrant a hand count of voters. The argument 'for' 'Two-Year Eligibility' is that some books are now self-published and only after a year do sufficiently well to attract the attention of a publisher who brings it to the attention of a wider potential readership. So the failure to pass 'Two-Year Eligibility' means that you will likely not see books like The Martian on the Hugo short-list ballot.
          Allowing non-attending/supporting members remote voting rights also failed to get adopted. The arguments 'for' were greater democracy and to help Worldcon non-regulars (mainly those from outside of N. America) to participate in WSFS business. The arguments 'against' were that it would allow non-participants with a personal agenda (such as happened with the Sad Puppies rather than one from actual Worldcon-goers) to impose their will. (Another argument 'against' was not mentioned and that is that the Worldcon is increasingly being held outside of N. America and so is becoming more of a true 'World' event and so less a need for remote-voting.)  The basic message is this: if you want to affect the way Worldcons are run you must be a regular attendee of Worldcons.
          Both the films I Remember the Future and Predestination had their Hugo eligibility extended to next year. Given Worldcon fandom has caught up with Predestination being based on a Heinlein novel it may do well at next year's Hugos. Of course one of a number of key problems with the Hugos is the film's (Long Form Dramatic Presentation Hugo category) year of eligibility. Many very worthy films come from independents and spend a year (or longer) on the international Fantastic Film Fest circuit before getting their general theatre or DVD release and the attention of many Worldcon voters.
          The 'E Pluribus Hugo' proposal was accepted subject to ratification next year. This proposal changes the way Hugo nominations are counted and is too complex to explain concisely (one argument against ratifying it). It aims to make crowding out a Hugo category with slate candidates difficult (as happened this year with the Sad Puppies).  Despite the proposal being controversial (and there are worthy arguments both for and against) it was passed (subject to ratification) by 3 to 1 by 248 voting at the business meeting. However, for ratification to occur, the proposers will have to convince the scientists (and especially the mathematicians) in fandom that it will statistically deliver. (Some of us at SF2 Concatenation are not yet convinced that the proposers have sorted out their Type I and Type II Errors yet: long-single-tail statistics cannot readily distinguish between just four or five very-popular-by-Worldcon-fandom works and a slate-of-works-by a lobby group; both have statistically similar properties and so that any system that works against a slate will also work against what is effectively a popular-by-a-chunk-of-'genuine'-Worldcon-fandom slate.)
          Also accepted at the business meeting subject to ratification next year was the move to restricting nominations to just four works in each category while increasing the number of works on the shortlist ballot to six per category. This is arguably a good move that gives those voting on the final shortlist more choice as well as inhibiting those who want to lobby a particular slate at the earlier nominating stage (as happened this year with the Sad Puppies).
          There was a 'diversity' proposal to address the issue of different episodes of single television series crowding out the 'Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form' category. This is something about which we have previously expressed concern. This proposal has gone to a specialist committee to address issues such as how many different episodes of the same series might be shortlisted and to devise suitable recommended wording for the constitution. This committee will report next year with the possibility of a motion being discussed, voted and, if accepted, ratified in two years time.
          This year the WSFS Business meetings were videoed and promptly posted on YouTube. This was a very welcome move enabling those who could not attend the Worldcon to hear the arguments for and against various motions and also enabled many of those at the Worldcon to do other things, during the 11 hours of the three business meeting sessions, knowing that they can watch the business meeting later having returned home. Also being on YouTube they could be easily downloaded to memory stick and so watched on pads and laptops on the journey home.
          The meeting finally adjourned in memory of Bobbie DuFault and Peggy Rae Sapienza.
          And so to next year….

The 74th World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II in 2016, will be held in Kansas City, USA, August 17th–21st, and has its Progress Report 1 (PR1) out. At this early stage the PR1 contents are the usual to expect: registration rate details, code of conduct (which includes a sensible photography code), and a profile on one of the GoHs -- Michael Swanwick. There's a back-cover crossword with a healthy number of cross-clues and so the few Americanism clues there are can be deduced by those from the rest of the world working out the others, but they don't provide clue letter counts (maybe that's the way they do it that side of the Pond). The PR is as usual available as a PDF (including a welcome low-memory version [but not in single page format] as well as a bells-whistles ISSUU format). The organisers are trying out various electronic methods of displaying their PR: a very commendable effort that can only be of lasting value if they make a solid commitment to share their data as to which format folk actually access.  The paper version has a mono (black & white) interior to save costs, which seems sensible.  Separate to the PR and mailed to registrants is a look back at the first MidAmeriCon Kansas Worldcon in 1976.  The 2016 Worldcon's GoHs are: Pat Cadigan, Michael Swanwick, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Kinuko Y. Craft and Tamora Pierce.

2017 Worldcon bid for Helsinki, Finland won!!! The win in the 2017 site selection vote at this year's Worldcon, at Spokane, saw Helsinki (Finland) take over half the votes (the remainder being split between bids from – in order of declining popularity – the USA, Canada and Japan). 2,625 voted in all. The Guests of Honour are to be: John-Henri Holmberg (Swedish editor, fan, critic, translator and publisher); Nalo Hopkinson (the Jamaican author and John W. Campbell and World Fantasy Award winner); Johanna Sinisalo (Finnish SF author and multi-winner of the Atorox award); Claire Wendling (French comics artist); Walter Jon Williams (SF/F author whose all four grandparents are Finnish).
          The 2017 Worldcon will have a good venue: the Helsinki based convention centre was completely renovated and refurbished two years ago. The organising team includes veteran conrunners of the ~5,000 strong Finncon natcons. This convention promises to be the sunniest Worldcon in history as it is at 60° north latitude which means 17 hour long days.  The venue and immediate surroundings have 21 places to eat and drink. Room rates are (as of 2015) typically ~£75 (~US$100) inclusive of breakfast as well as all taxes, and there is no tipping.  An arrangement has been made for all convention attendees to get a local travel/transit pass for the week. This means that travel is free for those staying at hotel not next to the site and also for Helsinki tourist activities. The local transit of trams and busses run 24-7 albeit with a lower frequency in the small hours. There is now a recently opened ring train that goes from the airport to the station closest to the convention centre. A number of the organisers were involved in this (2015 summer’s Archipelacon which was programme stylised more like a Worldcon than the traditional Finncon and Archipelacon sold out 800 memberships prior to the event. Socialising will in part have a fan-village focus as happened at the 2014 Loncon 3 London Worldcon, with stalls and tables for SF societies and conventions as well as a bar and food stalls. In addition they have a corkage waver for soft drinks and are currently negotiating a possible deal for alcoholic drinks.  Finally, for those not aware, everyone in Finland speaks English. +++ Elsewhere this site there are two standalone reports on the aforementioned Archipelacon: a British and a Swedish perspectives.

The two current bids for the 2018 Worldcon are from the USA. Given that we had a non-N.American Worldcon in 2014 and will have with Helsinki in 2017, and given that Dublin and New Zealand are bidding for 2019 and 2020 respectively with both bids currently unchallenged, and given that N. America is historically the most regular venue for the Worldcon… it is virtually certain that the 2018 Worldcon will be in N. America.  Currently, the two 2018 bids are for New Orleans and San Jose.

The following is news of the non-N. American Worldcon bids…

Future Worldcon bids. Worldcons are chosen two years in advance. This season, as our following is largely (2/3rds) outside on N. America where most Worldcons are held, we are focussing on current bids elsewhere. However, for links to all Worldcon bid websites check out - http://worldcon.org/bids - the Worldcon bid page.

2019 Worldcon bid for Dublin, Ireland. Should it win, this would be the first Irish-venued Worldcon. The proposed venue is the Convention Centre Dublin one mile from the heart of the city. There are 1,268 hotel beds within half a mile of the venue. However, the time has come when this Dublin Worldcon bid needs to make its Eurocon intentions clear. See immediately below.

The 2019 Worldcon (Dublin) bid is thinking about making their Eurocon intentions clear.  But will European conrunners get Dublin's message – whatever that may be – in good time?  The time has come when it would be most helpful for the European 2019 Worldcon Dublin bid to signal clearly its Eurocon intentions!  The three key questions Dublin need to address are as follows. Will this European Worldcon bid also be bidding for a Eurocon?  Secondly, if the Dublin Worldcon bid does decide to also bid to be a Eurocon, should that Worldcon bid fail (perish the thought), will Dublin still continue bid to be a Eurocon regardless?  Or, third and alternatively, will it not bid to be a Eurocon at all?  The reason the European con-running community needs this autumn (2015) or early spring (2016) to know Dublin's intentions is because Europeans have to decide whether or not another nation needs to put down a marker for the 2019 Eurocon at the next Eurocon (2016) in Spain, and then formally present that bid at the 2017 Eurocon in Germany.
          Now, we have mentioned this concern before, a couple of seasons ago, but now the timing is beginning to get on for a formal announcement if another nation is to have good time form a Eurocon 2019 team, sort out the preliminaries and then place a firm marker at the Barcelona Eurocon next year (2016).
          The delay in the Dublin bid making clear their Eurocon intentions is a little worrying given that they are meant to be demonstrating their ability to engage with the international SF community.  The delay is also a little perplexing given recent European-venued Worldcon history. Cast your mind back to 2010 and SF2 Concatenation did point out the same concern to Britain's 2014 Worldcon bid. To their credit, the next season the 2014 London Worldcon bid helpfully made its Eurocon intentions clear and they did so in very good time: two years before the bid vote and four years before the convention!  The delay in the 2019 Dublin bid making its intentions clear is further a tad baffling because the past 2014 Worldcon bid's helpfulness was instrumental in clearing the way for Dublin's own Eurocon in 2014.  Of course it could be that the delay is due to an imminent, grand announcement.  Let's hope so and that Dublin builds on its recent 2014 Eurocon success.
          This brings us on to the actual question itself that some Eurocon regulars will undoubtedly be asking themselves: should (irrespective of whether or not it will be) a Dublin Worldcon also be a Eurocon?  Well, the decision really is best made by the Dublin bid team, but it does not hurt to explore the alternatives briefly here.  Essentially, the Dublin bid has three options: two interesting ones and one boring one.  Dealing with the boring option first: Dublin could have a Worldcon with largely Irish pros and fans as guests. (This is obviously 'boring' because Irish pros and fans will anyway be attending an Irish Worldcon in numbers and be on the programme regardless, and anyone else can go to the Irish natcon any year to see them.)  Alternatively, interesting option number one would be to have guests from outside Europe: such as from N. America, Australia and Asia (a good mix from a number of continents would attract a range if international registrants). Under this option also being a Eurocon would be neither here nor there.  Interesting option number two, they could have Guests mainly from mainland continental Europe. Such fans and pros rarely get much profile at Worldcons and, which some might find surprising, other than a few exceptions do not even have that much profile at other British Isles conventions. Under this option Dublin being a Eurocon would be a distinct advantage.  Either interesting option would help make for a very fine Worldcon but as neither the London (2014) nor Helsinki (2017) Worldcons were/will be combined with a Eurocon, we are arguably overdue for a combined Eurocon-Worldcon.  The last combined Eurocon-Worldcon was Glasgow (2005) but ESFS organisation did not then have the capabilities to help firm up the European dimension. Now that the ESFS Committee has changed, and even that one of the Dublin bid has current ESFS connections, Dublin is theoretically at least well placed – should it wish – to be a combined Worldcon-Eurocon. It will be fascinating to see what the bid team decide (there is no particularly 'right' or 'wrong' answer).  +++ See also Eurocon 2019 below for the principal Eurocon options for 2019.

2020 Worldcon bid for New Zealand. By now the convention had hoped to have determined the exact venue, but the potential venue list has still narrowed from three to two: the Sky Centre in Auckland and the Michael Fowler Convention Centre in Wellington. (SF2 Concatenation’s highly unofficial opinion is that the Wellington venue would be better for tourism as it is such a compact city where almost everything is within walking distance and there is much to see. The downside is that the programming would have to be split between the venues with the main halls and a couple of nearby hotels. Conversely, the Auckland venue is larger, should the event prove more popular than the 2010 Australian Worldcon (with 2,100 physically attending), and Auckland also has NZ’s long-haul airport.)  Meanwhile a call for volunteers to run the con has received a very positive response with over a hundred affirming practical support.

2023 Worldcon bid for France. Pre-support for the Worldcon in France project is now officially available via the bid website (see Worldcon bids link below if viewing before 2020). There are three levels of pre-supporting:-
          - Level 1 : US$20 / 15€
          - Level 2 : US$50 / 40€
          - Level 3 : US$100 / 80€

 

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

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

 

Meanwhile over in Europe… News of this year's Eurocon event plus the promise of further two good Eurocons

The 2015 Eurocon was held in St Petersburg. With only around a couple of hundred attending, it was one of the smallest Eurocons of recent years. Nonetheless 22 countries were represented so Eurocon's internationality was maintained; this, understandably given the military conflict, despite the absence of anyone currently living in Ukraine.  The programme was a step up from the 2008 Roskon Russian Eurocon in that there was a fair bit on the programme for non-Russian speakers. Nonetheless it still lacked European integration with there being precious little that featured both  host-nation (Russian) and participants from non-Soviet Federation nations: indeed the programme was dominated by St Petersburg locals. (One of the hallmarks of a good Eurocon is when it manages to showcase SF simultaneously through the prisms of both the hosting nation and those of visitors. Such mixing and matching also helps integrate the social side as it gives something for most to talk about, whereas a segregated programme does not.) But there were highlights and one of these was the cosmonaut GoH, Pavel Vinogradov, former commander of the International Space Station. He was interviewed in Russian and there was an English translation. Another was an item on the history of SF in China by Nikolai Karayev. There was some international mixing and matching and specifically of interest a space panel with Britain's Gerry Webb included with Soviet nation panellists. There was also a little east-west Russian mixing due to one of the St Petersburg committee members, who was also a programme panellist, being one of the organisers of the long-running Zilantkon: the large International Fantasy and Role-Playing Games Convention that is held each year in Kazan.  The Eurocon venue was a good one with plenty of snacks and beer available in the book fayre hall, though that the café staff did not have a rota meant that there was no one serving lunch during er… lunch.  No one had visa problems – though apparently (we have been told) some from the British Isles didn't quite take to being fingerprinted but, let's face it, biometrics are becoming the increasing norm for international travel. The weather was cool (to be expected at that time of year) and sunny (very welcome). And the Eurocon Awards were presented, though the continued move to award specific works (films and plays), rather than just authors and ventures (publishing houses, magazines and websites), proposed by one of the new officers as well as allowing repeat wins within categories (still not allowed in Europe's Hall of Fame awards thankfully as that blocks other worthies) is reprehensible given the small and diverse voting electorate (low signal to noise ratio).  Still, it is early days for the new ESFS officers who have yet to get to grips with ESFS history let alone understand the relevance and implications of the way other awards have developed (cf Sad Puppies). But the new ESFS team does need to consider the new trajectory it has inherited and come to a sober assessment.

B-Con, the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona, will be announcing its hotel details this month (September 2015).  The announcement will be included in their next on-line Progress Report. Previous news about this Eurocon was covered in last season's news here.

The 2017 Eurocon will be held in Dortmund, Germany. The organising committee met initially in May following winning the site selection bid at the 2015 Eurocon, St Petersburg for initial preliminary purposes, and is meeting in September (as we post this page) to address strategic matters. In between these two meetings, the convention also bid at WetzKon and won the right to hold Germany's national convention and so the 2017 Eurocon will be both a natcon and a Eurocon. The organising team also attended Archipelacon (the lightweight testing run for the 2017 Worldcon [then bid] team) and took a good number of memberships at that con.

France's bid to host the 2018 Eurocon is still strong. The bid chair, Pierre Gevart, gave a presentation during the French national convention, in Les Valayans (near Avignon), in August and announced the con's name, 'Nemo 2018'. 'Nemo' is, of course the name of a Jules Verne, anti-hero character and Nemo 2018, if it wins the bid, will be held in Amiens which is where Verne wrote most of his novels. And so, if the bid wins, Eurocon members will be able to visit Verne's house which is now a museum.  There will also be a Verne-related play, Goodbye Mr Verne, that imagines Jules Verne and H. G. Wells actually met in Amiens. The play will be translated into English by Ian Watson.
          Amiens is situated halfway between Paris an Brussels and also between Paris to Calais, with three international airports at less than an hour away.
          As is common with a number of Eurocons, the French 2018 convention may also be that year's French natcon.  The idea is for the natcon to be largely in French and the Eurocon largely in English. Here the problem the bid organisers will have is to ensure that there is good crossover between the two: one fundamentally key reason why Eurocons are held in different countries each year is so that the broader European SF community can meet the host nation's SF community and, as importantly, vice-versa!  Whether or not the proposed 2018 French Eurocon will also be that year's French natcon will be determined at to be voted at the 2018 French natcon, in Bordeaux, a month before the Barcelona Eurocon which itself will see the site selection vote for 2018.

Eurocon 2019 -- Nothing on the cards as yet as plans for bids for the 2019 Eurocon cannot easily progress until the 2019 Dublin bid lets the Eurocon conrunning community know of their Eurocon intentions.  Now, as explained earlier, the Dublin bid is thinking about making its Eurocon intentions clear and so what follows is as much to foster interest among those elsewhere active on the Eurocon scene as it is to cover a Worldcon-Eurocon-running news item.  If Dublin does decide to go the European route then clearly there is no point anyone else mounting a Eurocon bid elsewhere that year and we can all focus on Dublin including in its convention's mix a strong international European dimension.  Conversely, if Dublin announces that it has no intention of being a Eurocon then that frees up the option for a Eurocon elsewhere.  Here the European SF community has two broad alternatives….
          The first would be to have a Eurocon elsewhere earlier in the year. The advantage of this would be that those active in international fandom could meet with the Irish Worldcon team if it wins their Worldcon bid. And if Ireland doesn't win their bid it can still be a Eurocon as usual.
          The second option would be to have a Eurocon the weekend immediately before or after the Irish Worldcon. New Zealand in 2010 did an excellent, as Concatenation encouraged, weekend before convention with Au Contraire prior to that year's Australian Worldcon. A Eurocon the weekend after would also make for an excellent relaxacon as did Dublin's own 2014 Shamrokon following the London (Loncon3) Worldcon.  However, before anyone in Europe can make any plans to put an early marker down at Barcelona in (2016) it would be useful – if not necessary – to know what are the 2019 Dublin Worldcon bid's own Eurocon intentions? We have been told that they are due to make an announcement shortly.

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

 

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

FANDOM & OTHER NEWS

Poland's Pyrkon saw a reported attendance of 31,495. The international Guests were: Ted Chiang, Jasper Fforde, Dmitry Glukhovsky, Joe Haldeman, Kevin Hearne, John Kovalic, Charles Bo Nielsen, Claus Raasted, Jason Morningstar, Christian 'Puff Chrissy' Dumais and Martin Gooch. Awards given during the convention included the Identyfikatory Pyrkonu [Pyrkon's Identifiers] and the Nowa Fantastyka Awards.

Germany's WetzKon II was this year's German natcon and SFCD-Con held at the Fantastic Library Wetzlar. At it the 2017 Eurocon organising team bid and won the right for the Eurocon also to be Germany's 2017 natcon.  German SF Prizes were also presented. The event also celebrated 60 years for the SF Club Deutschland (SFCD).

The 2015 DUFF sponsorship of an Australasian to attend the Worldcon has been cancelled. The Down Under Fan Fund (DUFF), it is hoped that sponsorship would resume next year when the sponsorship goes the other way with a US fan going to Australasia. DUFF was founded in 1972 to strengthen links between North American and Australasian fandom by an exchange of elected delegates. Both sides are currently re-building the fund's financial base.

The Gollancz Festival 2015 will be held at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, 16th October, and Waterstones London Piccadilly, 17th October 2015. The Prince Charles Cinema (London) will also be screening two films of Gollancz titles, Minority Report and The Prestige on the 15th and 18th October. Additional Gollancz Festival events at the Prince Charles cinema will include a short talk by the hottest new talents in SF&F before each screening.  Both the Waterstone venues will see twin programme streams of activities that will include many of Gollancz's authors and there will also be book signing opportunities.  Headline authors will include, amongst others: Ben Aaronovitch; Joe Abercrombie; Charlaine Harris; Joanne Harris; Joe Hill; Ursula K Le Guin; Sarah Pinborough; Patrick Rothfuss; Brandon Sanderson and Nalini Singh. Tickets for the Waterstones venues are available at gollanczfestival.com at £10 (or £8 Waterstones loyalty card-holders).  For those who can't make it Hachette Australia and New Zealand who will be running digital events from midnight–8am GMT on the 16th and 17th October.

Deep South Con 2016 has been cancelled The US 54th Deep South Con, that had been scheduled for May 2016, has been cancelled due to the convention's financial standing. All current convention members will have their memberships refunded.

New Zealand goes for another Aucontraire with its 2016 Natcon. Many attendees of AussieCon 4 Worldcon in 2010 might remember a pleasant little stopover on the way, in Wellington, New Zealand, for that country's natcon of that year. That was Au Contraire, the first in a series of national conventions which aimed to drag New Zealand's comfy, hobbit-like convention scene kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat. Well, if you can make it back for 3rd – 5th June 2016, Au Contraire 3: The Next Generation will be held at the same venue - the Quality Hotel on Cuba Street. A new team of con-runners will be building on the Au Contraire 3-point manifesto:
          - Run by the fans, for the fans, in the interests of fans
          - Emphasis on fan creativity, rather than passively consuming books or media
          - Accessible and welcome to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or financial ability
The Fan Guest of Honour will be A. J. Fitzwater, a 2015 Vogel winner. If you cannot wait for the NZ 2020 Worldcon (assuming that bid wins) then this just might keep the wolf from the door and Wellington has much to offer the tourist.

A library endowment for Northern Illinois University is being provided by a new Peggy Rae Sapienza fan funded endowment. Chicon (the US convention series) has created the Peggy Rae Sapienza Endowment at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb using surplus funds. It will provide support University Library's Special Collections, and here specifically for the procurement, preservation, and promotion of materials germane to the study of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and fandom. Peggy Rae Sapienza was a well known fan in the US and especially Chicon (and Baltimore fan) circles. She sadly sadly died in the spring (2015). The endowment has been established with US$25,000 (£16,000).

Sad and Rabid Puppies vs. Worldcon fandom Hugo feeding frenzy continues. (See previous season's news for the back-story.) Abusive comments and name-calling from both sides continued. One notable incident was a Tor (US) staff member's offensive comment: notable because Tor is a major and respectable N. American SF publisher (not to be confused with Tor in Britain). Tor (US) quickly apologised, as did the commentator concerned, but someone on the Puppies side called for a boycott of Tor and this was quickly promulgated by Puppy supporters. After nearly a month US author Jason Sandford noted that the boycott seemed to have had little impact on Tor (US) sales. Commendably, Jason Sandford backed up his conclusion with actual sales data from BookScan. See jasonsanford.com/blog/2015/7/pups-are-all-bark. Could this just possibly be because few outside of the strident feuders (both sides) are sufficiently interested? The majority of those into SF enjoy the genre without overly-heated scandals, but as author Mike Resnick points out (see the earlier 'People' item) fandom has always had its ugly side.
          Worldcon-fandom's (the Hugo Award voters) reaction was, as we predicted, simply not to vote for those on the Puppy slates and this in turn led to a record number of 'No Awards' in various categories of this year's Hugo Awards (see the end of the Hugo Award piece for Puppy and other reactions).  Various anti-slate measures were also considered at the Worldcon in the WSFS Business Meeting that will – if ratified next year – change the way the Hugo Awards are run in 2017. (And one of the measures has the added value of providing more choice for Hugo short-list voters, and that can in itself be no bad thing.)
          As for the legacy of this Puppy-Worldcon fandom conflict, well perhaps a final word view outside of fandom might provide a different perspective and a POC view at that on diversity gender politics, Bechdel test, and the Hugo Awards in this 9 min YouTube vid.
          Meanwhile this is likely not the end of the matter: expect things to continue next year (2016).

 

For a list of current 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 Forthcoming DVD Releases |
R.I.P | Interface: Science and SF | End Bits.]

Autumn 2015

NET WATCH

Nearly half of the global population will be using the internet by the end of the year (2015) says the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU). At the end of the year 3.2 billion people will be online or 44% of the World population. It also said that that 78 out of 100 people in Europe and the US already use mobile broadband, and 69% of the world has 3G coverage, but only 29% of rural areas are served.  80% of households in developed countries and 34% of those in developing countries will have internet access in some form. However it needs to be remembered that 'in some form' includes using wi-fi provided by others and so may not be as secure as owner's own wi-fi. In addition to affecting on-line financial transactions, everyone providing such services (including SF convention organisers relying on online accessible databases, or event organisers relying on on-line registrations via third part websites) need to realise that at least a quarter of the population do not have secure personal online access.

The A Dribble of Ink website closes a year after winning Hugo Award. A Year after winning a Hugo for 'Best Fanzine' at the LonCon 3 Worldcon, A Dribble of Ink is closing so that its editor can focus on fiction writing. Aidan Moher first book, a collection of shorts, is now out called Tide of Shadows and Other Stories.

Ursula K. Le Guin is now conducting regular, informal on-line writers’ workshops. The Hugo-winning author recently revealed that she no longer has the stamina to write another novel. She has also given up her formal teaching post but said she missed ‘being in touch with serious prentice writers’.  And so she is now running a writing workshop every other Monday on BookView Caf&eactue; BookViewCafe.com.

New Richard Morgan fantasy app. Indie Developer Liber Primus Games and Gollancz are launching a new handheld fantasy adventure app, based on the bestselling Richard Morgan trilogy of books A Land Fit For Heroes is coming to the App Store for iPhone, iPad, iTouch as well as Amazon Kindle Fire and Android on Google Play. A PC version of the game-book will be available on Windows PC for Steam.
        The game-book, A Land Fit For Heroes, will be produced in collaboration with Richard Morgan and the story will run parallel to that of the first volume in his book trilogy, The Steel Remains. Morgan’s dark and violent fantasy trilogy series of books, published by Gollancz, also features titles, The Cold Commands and The Dark Defiles, which will set a much darker tone than that of typical game-books traditionally aimed at a younger audience.
          Morgan’s previous stints in video games include writing duties on Crysis 2 for Crytek and the 2012 Sci-fi update of Syndicate for Electronic Arts.

Britain's Publishers' Association wins court case to get book piracy sites blocked. The Publishers Association obtained a High Court order that has required Britain's leading internet service providers (ISPs) to block seven piracy websites. "A third of publisher revenues now come from digital sales but unfortunately this rise in the digital market has brought with it a growth in online infringement," said the Association's chief executive Richard Mollet. The sites targeted are: AvaxHome, Bookfi, Bookre, Ebookee, Freebookspot, Freshwrap and LibGen. The blocking ISPs are BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE. The Association is also asking Google to remove more than 1.75 million links from its search results relating to material found on the offending sites.

2·4 million people's personal details accessed in a hack on the British firm Carphone Warehouse. The data is thought to include individuals details such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details. The encrypted credit card details of up to 90,000 people may have been accessed. Customers were urged to: notify their banks and credit card companies, so they could monitor activity on likely affected account;  change passwords for online accounts;  check accounts for any suspicious or unexpected activity;  be wary of anyone calling asking for personal information, bank details or passwords;  and visit Experian, Equifax or Noddle to check credit ratings to make sure no one has applied for credit in customers' names.  +++ Previously we have reported: three million PC affected worldwide by RamnitYahoo hacked (again)20 million S. Korean's personal details stolen16 million Germans have details stolenAnd that's just the past 12 months! The message is clear. Be careful about your PC and smartphone as well as when transacting online. SF fan event organisers, do provide an alternate to on-line registration for those who understandably are reluctant to engage with online data exchange.

Unknown e-commerce firm loses customers details affecting British Airways' Air Miles and Uber (the taxi-booking site). Meanwhile, the ID details Amazon, Netflix, EE and Vodafone users are also on sale on the dark web. The scale is substantial and Uber alone has seen fraudulent books made in the names of thousands of its users. What seems to have happened is that a major e-commerce firm has had its customer database stolen which in turn has been sold on to other thieves who then make purchases using the stolen IDs.

Details of four million US government current and former employees have been compromised by hacker. The US government believes that the cyber attack originated in China, thought he Chinese government denies official involvement. Employees': security clearances and background checks dating back to 1985; social security numbers; performance reviews and testing; and birthdays, addresses, bank information, and other personal data.  The US government is offering all those infected with 18 months of free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. This is not the first time this has happened. For example, a Chinese cyber attack breached US personnel databases in July 2014.

Robocop is being made into a webseries. Machinima is behind the move. At which point one has to ask why? The original 1987 cinematic release, directed by Paul Verhoeven, was shortlisted for a Hugo Award, though its television airings suffered from censorship. Two fairly poor sequels followed (especially the third film), together with a tame TV series. And then last year (2014) we had an unnecessary re-make that failed to ignite fans enthusiasm or do well at the box-office.  Not much as yet is known about the new web series but we understand that it will have an officers-in-the-field-web-cam-feel to it. Still, we should give it the benefit of the doubt to see if it re-kindles the original's magic.

 

MISCELLANEOUS -- COMPUTER CORNER

Windows 10 launched. And its look has elements of Windows 7 and the return of the Start Menu. Indeed, Windows 8's full-display Start Screen can still be turned on via settings, and it appears by default on tablets when no keyboard is attached. Importantly, Windows 10 can be used on tablets and smartphones. Other new features include: Windows Hello - a biometric authentication facility that lets people unlock their computers and specific applications by providing a fingerprint or facial recognition scan; Edge - a successor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser that loads sites faster, lets users scribble over and share web pages, and brings up contextual information about selected words, saving the need to type queries into a search engine; and a notifications sidebar - clicking on the Action Centre taskbar button now lets users review recent notifications. This takes care of a common complaint that once notifications had slid off the screen in earlier versions of the OS, they were gone for good.  Windows 8 was not much liked by some who preferred Windows 7.  As to why the new system is not called Windows 9? Well, it could be a joke: Windows [ate] 9. Or it could be that Windows 8 was so unpopular that Microsoft is trying to distance itself from Windows 8.

Smartphones beat laptops for the first time as the means to connect to the net. The survey of British users was conducted by the governmental watchdog (ombudsman) Ofcom. 33% of Britons opted for smartphones as the device of choice in 2014, ahead of 30% who preferred laptops.  At the other end of the spectrum just 2% of British homes still do not have access to even the most basic 2G mobile phone internet signal and 10% of homes do not have any mobile access devices at all.

Samsung, LG and Google have worked on a security flaw found over the summer in smartphones running the Android operating system. The bug, called Stagefright, was discovered in the software that could let hijackers access data on up to a billion phones.

Bitcoin exchange dealer arrested. Mark Karpeles, the CEO of MtGox, once the world's biggest exchange of the virtual currency, bitcoin, has been arrested in Japan. He is being held in connection with the loss of bitcoins worth £247m (US$387m, €351m) in February. Allegedly he falsified data on his company’s computers but claimed it was due to a bug in the system. MtGox later filed for bankruptcy. Karpeles is suspected of benefiting around £640,000 (US$1m). Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency made in limited amounts by a complex computer code.  +++ Some 650,000 bitcoins are missing, around 7% of the World supply.

 

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

Autumn 2015

LAST SEASON'S SCIENCE NEWS SUMMARY

GENERAL SCIENCE

Forsaken pentaquark particle found by CERN. A particle comprising of five quarks has been found even though a decade ago experimental evidence seemed to rule out its existence. Researchers at Europe's CERN Large Hadron Collider. Now, protons and neutrons are made up of three quarks bound together but theoretically five quarks could make a particle. Indeed, in 2002 researchers at Japan's Spring-8 synchrotron announced that they had discovered such a pentaquark roughly 1.5 times the mass of a proton. Though around a dozen labs reported similar evidence but many others did not. And then US researchers at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator repeated the Spring-8 experiment in detail and found nothing. At that point the physics community largely seems to view pentaquarks as a curios theoretical notion. Back to today, and the European CERN discovery of two short-live particles over 4.6 times the mass of a proton seems fairly conclusive. The new particle consists of two 'up' quarks, a 'down' quark and a 'charm' quark and anti-quark pair. As such it is different from the 2002 presumed pentaquark. There could be more to find.

Quantum entanglement (action-at-a-distance) gets most rigorous test yet. Albert Einstein disliked quantum theory (God does not play dice) and especially ('spooky') entanglement as that conferred theoretically instantaneous action-at-a-distance faster than the speed of light. A hatred that was ironic as Einstein's Nobel was for work on quantum theory (the photo-electric effect). Supporters of Einstein have reluctantly come to admit that entanglement does occur but that as (they say) no information can be conveyed it does not disrupt cause-and-effect from a purely Einsteinien perspective. Supporters of the potential of entanglement point out that cause an effect is not violated as though the action may be instant, being instant is not the same as travelling back in time.  Along the way quantum entanglement has been demonstrated a number of time but there has always been a get-out-of-jail clause in that some 'hidden variables' might be responsible. In 1964 John Bell proposed a theoretical way to discriminate between hidden variables and true entanglement effects and the speed of the effect has even been measured to faster than the speed of light. Even since the first entanglement was demonstrated that satisfied some of Bell's conditions in 1982 (and recently we have got round the no-cloning problem, not all of Bells constraints have been met.  Now Ronald Hanson of the University of Delft has gotton round two of the biggest constraints at the same time. First, there is the 'detection loophole' in that you entangle a lot of photons but then fail to measure all the photons which means that the sample you do measure might not be representative of the entire group. So instead of photons you can use atoms but the problem here is moving the atoms: measure them close together and you might be measuring both and not each individually (a 'communication loophole'), but moving atoms is very hard as entanglement can easily be broken.  What Hanson has done is to take two unentangled electrons in two labs over a kilometre apart and entangle each with a photon. Both photons were then shone to the same point and entangled with each other. This in turn caused the two electrons to become entangled. The entangled electrons were far enough apart to prevent 'communication' problems, and distinct enough a quantum particle to solve the 'detection' problem. And it looks like the experiment has worked (we are now waiting for other labs to reproduce the work for confirmation).  The problem with the experiment is the practicality in that the process entangles at a slow rate but it does seem to work and could have major implications for providing foolproof quantum keys for message encryption. Having said that, there is one Bell limitation not covered and that there is the theoretical possibility that a hidden variable could manipulate experimenters. However, if this is a genuine problem then you can kiss free will goodbye. Meanwhile, if this work is reproduced then expect Hanson and colleagues to get major science prizes.

The neutron-proton mass difference has been theoretically calculated and it is not what you might think. Now, at school-level chemistry we tend to think if neutrons and protons having the same mass and electrons being a lot (one two-thousandths) lighter. However there is a mass difference between protons and neutrons. At the school-science level you might think that the proton is slightly heavier as it carries a charge (hence energy, hence through Einstein, more mass) and the neutron does not. (Using electromagnetism in the context of the quark hadron model leads us to a similar conclusion. What the researchers have done is to calculate the theoretical masses through both quantum chromodynamics and also quantum electrodynamics. This is no small feat in itself. And then there is the technical feat of this calculation which necessitates using a supercomputer. This way, it transpires that the neutron mass is 939.56563 million electronvolts and the proton's mass is 938.27231 MeV: the proton is lighter! However looking at just the quark model through quantum chromodynamics and then taking into account quantum electrodynamics gives us this different picture. (See Borsanyi et al, 2015, Science vol. 347, p1452-1455.) This calculation could well lead us to a future in which our understanding of nuclear physics becomes a good as our late 20th century understanding of atomic physics that has given us such mastery over chemistry. A more complete understanding of nuclear physics has cosmology implications (supernovae: child's play) and on a practical level we might envisage more dense energy storage and ultra-high energy lasers.  +++ If you found this interesting then you might like to see a previous story on the proton's size being a lot smaller.

A molecule that hops, or shuttles, between two sites in a porous crystal has been developed. The research published in Nature Chemistry is that of the first molecular shuttle to operate in a solid-state substance. Molecular shuttles could one day act as electronic storage devices and they would have a tremendously high capacity. More future grist for Moore's Law.

Atomospheric carbon dioxide passes 400 ppm. Now, you may have heard this news before as part of the northern hemisphere annual cycle passed 400 parts per million in 2012 in the Arctic. This time 40 sites worldwide saw an annual global average for March (2015) at 400.83 ppm; alas the news was not calculated and announced in time for last season's science roundup.  To put this in perspective, atmospheric carbon dioxide was just 280 ppm in the late 18th century before the start of the Industrial Revolution. At the end of the last glacial ('ice age') it was around 190 ppm. The end of the last glacial saw global temperatures some 5°C cooler than today's. The IPCC currently (2013) anticipates that by the end of the 21st century global surface temperatures will warm by around 4°C over the 1990 temperature (1990 being the date of the first IPCC Assessment Report and so is often used as a reference year).

 

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

Autumn 2015

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE

New Horizons interplanetary probe reaches the Pluto minor planet system: it's a tad nippy but the view is fantastic with indications of geological activity. New Horizons launched in January 2006 and then got a slingshot gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007 that shaved three years of its journey but, such are the distances involved, took seven and a half years to reach Pluto, five light hours from Earth: Pluto is currently 2·9 billion miles (4·7 billion km) away. Though it will be a few months for all the data to be analysed, already the minor planet has been re-sized to 1,472·6 miles in diameter (2,370 km) which just makes it larger than the other minor Eris previously considered the largest of the minor planets. (This error in size is due to previous gravity based estimates that assumed Pluto was largely rock, but it now seems that ice, and possibly water, makes up a substantive part of the minor planet.)  Ice mountains are seen.  Methane and some of its nitrogen is frozen on the surface, and there are signs of some geological activity: possible geysers of volatiles and certainly re-surfacing, albeit possibly many millions of years ago. At Pluto's temperature water ice is in a rock-hard form but nitrogen and methane ices flow like glacier ice on Earth.  Surface temperatures on Pluto are extremely cold, and were thought to from -172 to -238 °C depending on where it is on its 248 year orbit of the Sun. Models suggest that at its current position the atmosphere should have completely frozen out. This has not happened; there is gaseous nitrogen at 10 millionths of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level!  There are also hint of haze probably due to the breakdown of methane in the atmosphere into other organics. However it is losing its atmosphere at a rate of a few hundred tonnes an hour due to its low gravity with the gas then whisked away by Solar wind. By comparison Mars with its higher gravity is losing atmosphere at the rate of around a tonne an hour. To get the ice cliffs seen temperatures must be below -223 degrees C or 50°K above absolute zero.  If Pluto is still reasonably geologically active – as it seems – then a heat source is implied. These could be radioactive isotopes in its core and/or tidal energy from its orbit about its partner Charon. There therefore remains the possibility of a liquid ocean beneath the ice.  Images of Charon reveal a chasm 4-6 miles (6-9km) deep and also further evidence of active resurfacing.  Now that the fly-by is over all the stored data gathered will begin to be transmitted and will not be completed until late 2016. +++ New Horizons next stop will be the 28-mile (45km) diameter comet 2014 MU69 nearly a billion miles (one and a half billion kilometres) beyond the orbit of Pluto-Charon, and the probe will reach it in early January 2019. +++  See also below Pluto-Charon geographical features may have SF names.

Type Ia supernovae now seem to come in two flavours with implications for cosmological expansion of the Universe. Type Ia supernovae occur at the end of the life of large, main sequence stars and seem to have similar luminosities. However astronomers at Arizona University have looked at Hubble supernovae data beyond the visible spectrum in the ultra violet and found that they fall into two different categories, each brighter than the other in different parts of the ultra violet spectrum. Furthermore, the relative abundances of the two subfamilies seem to have changed over the past several billion years. Because type Ia supernovae had been presumed to have identical luminosities, they have been used as standard candles to ascertain astronomical distance. It was comparing these distances with red-shift early this millennium that led to the conclusion that the Universe's expansion was accelerating hence the hypothesis dark energy driving this increased expansion. So now astronomers need to check that only visible light was used in standard-candle distance surveys to check whether or not earlier surveys correctly deduced cosmic expansion. (See Astrophysics Journal vol 803, 20.)

An Earth-like exo-planet has been detected. Discovered by NASA's Kepler telescope, Kepler-452b orbits at a very similar distance from its star as Earth does from the Sun. Also Kepler-452b's star is reasonably similar to our Sun and so, Kepler-452b theoretically capable of having liquid water on its surface. Given this, and that its radius is only 60% larger than Earth with twice the Earth's gravity, makes it one of the most Earthlike exoplanets so far discovered. At 1·6 Earth's radius, this would make Kepler-452b a 'Super-Earth' Kepler-452b. It is around 1,400 light years away (430 parsecs away) from Earth.  What we do not yet know is whether it is a gaseous or a rocky planet (like Earth). Its star is 4% more massive and 10% brighter than Earth's Sun and also 1.5 billion years older than ours. While Kepler-452b's orbital distance is a little further out so its orbital period is 5% longer than Earth's at 385 Earth days. But this further distance may not be enough to cool it. Being older, Kepler-452b's sun is brighter than it would have been in the past. When the Earth is over a billion years older than now, the Sun will be warmer and begin to warm the oceans. If Kepler-452b is rocky with water, it could be that its oceans are beginning to evaporate. So there are still some key questions to answer. (See J. M. Jenkins et al. Astronomy Journal. vol. 150, p56.)
          Kepler’s latest batch of discoveries also include at least 11 other planets that are all less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their stars’ habitable zones. However these stars are cool and dim which means that their orbits are close to their star and so may be near-tidally locked (with long baking days and freezing cold nights).  +++ Previous Earthlike exoplanets discovered so far include: Kepler-438b (just 12% larger than Earth, 475 light years away, and possibly warmer than Earth but still a possibility of liquid water); and Kepler-186f (that orbits a cool star 500 light years away, it may possibly be tidally locked and is at the cool end of the habitable zone, but there is a possibility of liquid water).  Even at this early stage of exoplanet detection (Kepler’s been going since 2009), there is now little doubt that in our galaxy – even only allowing for spiral arms (excluding the central galactic bulge) – there may well be a few, if not many, tens of thousands of Earth-like planets with the potential of liquid water.

Exoplanet reflected light elucidated. The light was calculated from deviations from its sun's black body radiation curve. The team, led by Jorge Martins of Portugal's University of Porto used the European Southern Observatory's HARPS instrument in Chile to study the exoplanet around 51 Pegasi-B, a Sun-like star. The amount of light reflected relates to the exoplanet's size which has been estimated to be about half that of Jupiter's. (See the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics vol. 576, A134.)

Europe's Venus Express dies but not before confirming volcanoes. Venus Express ran out of fuel in November last year (2014) before falling into its atmosphere earlier this year. Now, researchers have just revealed having analysed a mountain of data that previously revealed in 2008 four 'hotspots' in a rift region of the planet's northern hemisphere were seen to rise and fall dramatically in temperature over several days, suggesting an active lava flow. Previously in 2006-7 Venus Express detected a spike in the sulphur dioxide content of the Venusian atmosphere, suggestive of a massive eruption. Venus Express arrived at the planet in 2006 and so has had an 8-year run observing the planet.

A five-star system has been found. Announced at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, the system consists of two pairs of binaries orbiting each other with a fifth star orbiting one of the binaries at more than the distance of Pluto's orbit around the Sun. One of the two binaries is a 'contact binary' consisting of two stars orbiting so closely that the outer parts of their respective coronas touch. One of the researchers, Markus Lohr from the Open University, hypothesises that in principle the binaries could have planets orbiting them. The five-star system is 250 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major and was discovered in data gathered by the SuperWASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project.

The earliest type of stars – theoretical giants – may now have been observed. The earliest stars theoretically formed when the Universe was just a few million years old. These were giants made up only of hydrogen, helium and some lithium from the Big Bang. Now a team led by David Sobral from the University of Lisbon may have detected some of these in a galaxy from 800 million years after the Big Bang (when the Universe was 6% of its current age). They detected light from ionised helium which suggests it had a very hot origin, but at such temperatures carbon and oxygen would also have ionised presenting their spectra but these were not there. The study was presented in The Astrophysical Journal.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to be headed by United Kingdom. The array is under construction and is a network of more than 100,000 antennas that together covers around a square kilometre to obtain a good strength of signal and will be in effect the world's largest radio telescope. But the SKA's telescopes are dispersed across countries including Australia and South Africa to provide good resolution (hence detail in the pictures they generate). It will be completed in the 2020s and the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester in England, UK, we serve as its headquarters.

 

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

Autumn 2015

NATURAL SCIENCE

The first genome editing of a human embryo was conducted in China. The work has sparked controversy. A team led by Junjiu Huang at Sat Yat-sen University in Guangzhou used the CRISP/Ca9 genome editing technique to edit out the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia. 86 non-viable embryos were used (each had multiple sperm fertilisation) but the faulty gene was only replace in 4. Furthermore, many of the embryos suffered off-target editing. The paper (P. Liang et al) was published in the journal Protein & Cell having previously been rejected by both Nature and Science on ethical grounds. Protein & Cell gave as their reason for publication openness to start discussion, but they did first check that the researchers had obtained consent forms from embryo donors and that the research was compliant with the Helsinki declaration on human-medical-research-ethics and with Chinese law.  Other than the potential for such work to create genetically modified humans, benefits of using CRISP/Ca9 genome editing on human embryos is that it could help reveal developmental genes' functions. It could also be used to engineer specific disease-related mutations which could be used to produce embryonic stem cells that could act as models for testing pharmaceuticals. At least four other research teams in China are working on gene editing in human embryos.

Ebola: Pandemic ends in Liberia. The World Health Organisation made the official proclamation after there had been no new cases for 42 days; twice the maximum incubation period of the deadly disease. In the week up to 26th July 2015 there were just four cases in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone. See also previous news.

Ebola vaccine shows great promise. A trial of the VSV-EBOV vaccine – started by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with design assisted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, involvement from Médecins sans Frontières and development by the pharmaceutical company Merck – has proven very effective. After 10 days from vaccination immunity becomes effective. Of 2,014 close contacts to ebola cases vaccinated immediately there were no subsequent cases of Ebola. While in those vaccinated later there were 16 cases. WHO believes that the vaccine’s effectiveness will end up being between 75% and 100%. The vaccine consist of a combination of a fragment of the Ebola virus with another, safer, virus. The results were reported in the clinicians’ journal The Lancet.

New MERS emergence sparks fear of epidemic. New cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been trickling in the past few year but August this summer saw 62 being treated for MERS in Saudi Arabia and over 25 had died that month. Since 2012 some 492 have died but the recent up-turn in cases this summer is of concern due to its timing just before 1·3 million were due to arrive for the Hajj Muslim pilgrimage.

Following a death, just four northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) remain in the world. The northern white is a subspecies of the white rhino which themselves only number 20,000. A female northern white has died in a Czech zoo this leaves just two males and two females extant: three in Kenya and one in San Diego (US).

Exposure to farm dust protects against asthma. It has been known that growing up on a dairy farm protects children from allergy, hay fever, and asthma. Now, a European (from Belgium, France, Netherlands and Germany) team chronically exposed mice to bacterial endotoxin found in farm dust before the mice received an allergic stimulus. The protocol indeed protected them from developing an allergic response. Protection relied on a particular enzyme: A20. The study offers new support for the so-called hygiene hypothesis, a 26-year-old idea that posits that our modern zeal for cleanliness and widespread use of antibiotics have purged the environment of microorganisms that once taught a child's developing immune system not to overreact to foreign substances.(See Science vol. 349, pages 1106-1110 and also a review piece in the same issue on p.1034.)

Stone tool making began 3.3 million years ago (mya). Tool use and tool making are known in a number of species including orang-utans and gorillas. But, other than chimpanzee nut-cracking stones, stone tool making is unique to hominins. Up to now the oldest manufactured stone tools date from 2.6 mya and is associated with early hominins. Now researchers working on the western side of Lake Turkana, Kenya, have found manufactured (all be they rough and ready) stone tools dating to 3.3 mya so extending the record back over 0.5 mya. However the earliest hominin (the genus Homo) dates from 2.8 mya which suggests that these stone tool makers were a precursor to Homo species. Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops are possible candidates for these early stone tool makers. Researchers will now begin to focus more on 2.9 – 3.4 mya sediments that so far have received little attention. (See Nature vol. 521, p310-313, and also a summary review on p294-5.) +++ See also previous 2010 story on early early tool use, as opposed to #making'.

New species of human discovered. The remains of 15 Homo naledi, a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin, have been discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. This species is characterized by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations but a small endocranial volume similar to australopiths. The research was conducted by an international team of palaeoscientists led by S. Africans and pulished in e-Life (DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09560) but have not yet been dated. They do though seem to be an intermediate stage between the more ape-like Australopithecus and early humans such as Homo habilis. They have smaller brains like Australopithecus but more developed hands and feet like Homo spp. The remains may have been a burial site. If so, then this represents the earliest deliberate burial found.

A new species of proto-human has been discovered. Up to recently it had been thought that Australopithecus afarensis ('Lucy' discovered in 1974) was the single Australopithecine from which all subsequent hominina lineages' were descended. Then came in 2001 the discovery of Kenyanthropus platyops and Australopithecus bahrelghazali (though some debate whether these are in fact truly different species). Now an international team of Europeans and US researchers have discovered the remains of a new species they call Australopithecus deyiremedaI in Afar, Ethiopia, which date from 3.3 and 3.4 million years ago. It now seems that instead of a single precursor species ancestor, that proto-humans were as diverse as humans (Homo habilis, H. sapiens neanderthalensis etc). (See Haile-Selassie et al, 2015, Nature vol. 521, p483-488 and brief review vol. 521, p432-3.)

Human-dog co-evolution could be hardwired through oxytocin in both species. Japanese researchers have shown that human-like modes of communication, including mutual gaze, in dogs may have been acquired during domestication with humans. Oxytocin is a hormone from the pituitary body. The researchers have shown that gazing behaviour from dogs, but not wolves, increased oxytocin concentrations in owners, which consequently facilitated owners’ affiliation and increased oxytocin concentration in dogs. Further, nasally administered oxytocin increased gazing behaviour in dogs, which in turn increased urinary oxytocin concentrations in owners. These findings support the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-mediated positive loop facilitated and modulated by gazing, which may have supported the co-evolution of human-dog bonding. (See Nagasawa et al, Science vol. 348, p333-336.)

Archaeological evidence suggests chickens first economically used in Middle East 2,300 years ago. Domestic chickens originated in South East Asia but until now we had no notion as to when the practice spread from that region. Now, sites have been found in southern Israel that have many chicken bones dating from 2,300 years ago. Female chicken bones outnumbered males two to one suggesting egg production was being facilitated. Conversely, chickens only began to make an impact in Europe a century later.

Multiple sclerosis hope with antibody Anti-LINGO-1. The LINGO-1 protein inhibits the production of myelin, the white fatty substance that coats (insulates) nerves. The anti-LINGO-1 antibody blocks the LINGO-1 protein and so spurs myelin growth. The antibody has performed well in animal models as well as human tissue grown in culture. If human trials go well then it will be the first antibody myelin-regeneration therapy. However this is not a cure for MS. What this therapy could do is work with other therapeutic measures on those showing early signs of MS to further slow the progression of the disease.

The first high definition map of a part of a brain has been created. A 3-D digital map has been created of a small piece of mouse brain measuring1,500 cubic micrometres. Yes, this is small and a long way from a map of the 500 or so billion cells that make up the human brain.  The research team is now embarking on mapping a piece of the brain 600,000 times larger, but this will still only be a cubic millimetre of brain.  One result of the work so far has been to overturn the notion that a neuron does not form a synapse (a junction between neurons) with another just because it is a neighbour: neurons have favourites among neighbours.  Such is the convoluted structure of the brain that he 1,500 cubic micrometres mapped is not large enough to contain a whole neuron but does contain fragments of 1,600 neurons and about 1,700 synapses: brains' neurons are extremely highly interconnected.  Other than neurons, the map revealled at least six other different cell types. (See Cell vol. 162, p646-661.).

Different genes both spur mutation and, in humans, boost height, intelligence and lung function. Genes come in pairs – we have pairs of chromosomes – and when the genes at each allele are different they are 'heterozygotes'.  Two papers in Nature have measured the importance of heterozygosity to evolution.  In the first Chinese and British researchers led by Sihia Yang measured the mutation rates in three species Arabidopsis (a plant), rice, and the honey bee. They found that mutation rates were higher in individual genomes with high heterozygosity. So in addition to high heterozygosity meaning an individual has more types of genes so spurring evolution (one can have more combinations), mutation is also higher resulting in new genes and this also spurs evolution (Nature vol. 523, p463-467).
          The second paper comes from the international ROHgen consortium (Runs of Homozygosity in Genomes consortium) and was funded by Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC).  It is a mammoth survey of the genomes of 354,224 individual humans looking at the heterozygosity of genes relating to 16 health-related traits. High heterozygosity is associated with an individual's parents being distantly related (not closely related, which leads to high homozygosity). The study shows that high heterozygosity is linked to height, lung function, higher cognitive function and educational attainment. They showed that those with high homozygosity being the offspring of first cousins, were 1·2 cm shorter and had the equivalent to 10 months less education.  The effect was found to be the same across both isolated and non-isolated European, Finnish, Hispanic, East Asian, African and South and Central Asian populations.  This suggests that these traits have been positively selected for in evolution. Conversely, late-onset cardiovascular disease saw no such relationship.  Comment: this last suggests that late onset diseases have only become manifest with the late twentieth century longevity with the rise of good universal nutrition and living conditions and so have not previously factored in evolution.  (Nature vol. 523, p459-462.)
          Together, both papers demonstrate the importance of heterozygosity in evolution; hence the importance of sex.

 

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Autumn 2015

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.

 

Walcot by Brian Aldiss, Harper Voyager, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-48226-9.
The 20th century charted as seen through the eyes of the fielding family.

Re by Madeline Ashby, Angry Robot, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-66538-6.
The conclusion to the 'Machine Dynasty' trilogy.

Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-330-52455-1.
First in a new trilogy set in Asher's 'Polity' universe. A man is brought back from the dead after a century. He had died in a war with aliens and is understandably miffed.  Also by Asher reviewed elsewhere on this site: Line of Polity, Line War , Orbus, Prador Moon, Shadow of the Scorpion, The Technician and Zero Point.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, Bloomsbury, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-86778-5.
Charmaine and Stan agree to take part in a social experiment. For every other month they will live un absolute luxury in a home of their own in return for the alternate months living in prison. But who lives in their house when they are not in it?

Xeelee: Endurance by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21271-8.
A series of shorts and novelettes set in Baxter's alien Xeelee timeline and presented in chronological order. These fit in with the other Xeelee and Quax stories Baxter has published over the ages but is sufficiently self-contained (and self-explanatory) to be read as a standalone body of work. This is widescreen space opera that readers of people like Alastair Reynolds will enjoy: it is SF writ BIG; grand scale, mind stretching stuff that takes us from invasions of Earth through to the end of the Universe.  Also by Baxter reviewed elsewhere on this site: Coalescent, Resplendent: Destiny's Children Book Four, Traces , Transcendent , and Vacuum Diagrams .

Ultima by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11689-4.
Hard SF, widescreen space opera. The sequel to Proxima. Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

War Dogs by Greg Bear, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10100-5.
This is the mass market paperback release of last year's hardback. Set largely on Mars, this follows an astronaut soldier take on aliens. The only thing is, is that years earlier other aliens reached Earth and befriended humanity and this war is really theirs… This is the first in a trilogy and our Jonathan really liked it. Alas Greg has not been well so the follow-up books have not been progressed as quickly as they might. But do check this one out. It is a military SF story but not one that was on the Puppies slate. Maybe this was because Greg writes more thoughtful SF and has previously won a number of awards including the Hugo for Blood Music. More recently his Hull Zero Three was short-listed for a Clarke Book Award.

Killing Titan by Greg Bear, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13392-1.
This follows on from War Dogs. Should be brill. See above.

Tracer by Rob Boffard, Orbit, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50513-8.
The last of the human race are in space and face peril. This is this author's debut novel.

Dark Run by Mike Brooks, Del Rey £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95664-6.
This is the first of a half-yearly run series of space opera novels.

Dark Sky by Mike Brooks, Del Rey £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95665-3.
Billed as a futuristic thriller; apparently a space operatic version of Ocean's Eleven.

Golden Son by Pierce Brown, Hodder, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-75903-7.
Sequel to Red Rising. Darrow discovers the Reds who work the mines of Mars for the ruling Golds.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-0356-50365-3.
This is the first in a new steampunk series. Jim Butcher is the author of the Harry Dresden novels.

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne, Blackfriars, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-00437-2.
Debut novel set in the near future where Africa is the new India, India the new America and America the new Britain… Got that?... Monica wakes with snake bites on her chest and believes terrorists are after her… Apparently Neil Gaiman and Kim Stanley Robinson like this book.

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun, Vintage, £7.99,pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-58734-7.
This sees a world without sleep where those who can are forced to hide from the sleepless. These sleepless slowly lose their ability to reason and communicate.  Matt can sleep, but his wife cannot. After six days awake, she leaves their home and he sets out to find her…

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61981-4.
Debut novel that sees a journey through war-torn space.

Armada by Ernest Clive, Century, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89304-4.
An online space-pilot-simulator player may be the best in the world…

Redzone: The Mutant Files 2 by William C. Dietz, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29876-1.
A police procedural novel set in the year 2065.

The Deep by Nick Cutter, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20627-5.
The world is unravelling due to a plague of forgetfulness. But there may be a cure beneath the Pacific. The only trouble is that something very dark and evil may also be there.

The Stars Askew by Rjurik Davidson, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25240-5.
The second novel in the 'Unwrapped Sky' series.

William Shakespeare's Tragedy of the Sith's Revenge by Ian Doescher, Quirk Books, £11.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-594-74808-0.
Sci-Fi mash-up with a Shakespearian take on Star Wars Episode III.

Deep Time by Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-48379-2.
The sixth in the 'Star Carrier' series. The US is negotiating with the alien Sh'daar in discovering a new species that can manipulate time.

Willful Child by Steven Erikson, Bantam Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-50244-5.
These are the voyages (such as they are) of the Willful Child. Its mission: to seek out new worlds, to subjugate and occasionally obliterate strange and disgusting life forms, and to boldly… well, you get the picture. Depending on whom you talk, Capt' Sawback is either the pride or the disgrace of the Terran Space Fleet. There has never been a Directive he did not break, a uniform he did not rip, or a curvaceous crew member he does not want to make first contact with. Assigned to a journey into Unknown Space can he save the Affiliation from an all-out invasion or will he be court-martialled first?  Erikson is best known for his fantasy Malazan series, this is his foray into light-hearted space opera.  This came out at the end of August (2015) and so should already be in bookstores.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon, W&N, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10100-5.
W&N is not an imprint with which we usually deal and so we are not sure from the pre-publicity we have whether this is a science fantasy of SF? However, apparently the story concerns a world in which the libraries have disappeared and two lexicographers decide to compile a dictionary and to do so have to embark on a quest…

Crooked by Austin Grossman, Mulholland Books, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-444-72998-6.
The real Cold War was between the living and the dead. An alternate history narrated by Richard Nixon. This is thought by the trade to sell well.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, Pan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-447-29097-1.
The inventor of wormhole technology sets out to discover visions are emanating from a mysterious part of space called 'the Void'.

Oneiros by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66529-3.
A plane crash in Paris sees one survivor… But what caused it?

The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95066-8.
The steampunk adventures of Sir Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Swinburne continue.

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett, Vintage, £10.39, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-5286-0.
Originally conceived as an app., Horowitz acted as a producer bringing on two writers to fill in the storyline. The set-up is this… A generation is born without speech or communication and it is left for those who witnessed the phenomena to tell their story. AMC are developing a television series.

An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50242-7.
We have little on this other than it is SF and the start of a new 'Peacekeeper' series.

Zombie Apocalypse: Acaulacalypse Now by Stephen Jones & Alison Littlewood, Robinson, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-13588-9.
Set in the same universe as Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame. In this new offering a boat arrives at a holiday island and it new hotel, but the disembarking tourists are not what the resort managers get, but, instead, a horde of zombies…

Revival by Stephen King, Hodder, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-78921-8.
James becomes caught up in a former ministers dangerous experiments into electricity… King dedicates this novel to Mary Shelley, H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Flicker Man by Ted Kosmatka, Michael Joseph, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-788-18306-6.
A physicist, who is past his best, discovers the secret underpinning the nature of the Universe…  The limited pre-publicity nonetheless sounds intriguing. If the pre-launch details are correct for price and format, then this is good value which demonstrates that Michael Joseph have faith in this one.

Roboteer by Alex Lamb, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20608-3.
Gritty space opera. The author is an engineer into AI and cybernetics.

Ancillary Mercy by Anne Leckie, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50242-7.
Final in the hard-ish SF space opera trilogy that began with the Hugo-winning Ancillary Justice that was followed on by Ancillary Sword. This does not bring any new SFnal concepts not introduced in the first Justice but does bring the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.

Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. LeGuin, Gollancz, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20582-6.
A single volume compiling the first three Hainish novels.

Spindles: Short Stories From the Science of Sleep edited by Penelope Lewis and Ra Page, Comma Press, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-905-58369-0.
Short stories inspired by the science of sleep. Each story is followed by a short afterward of science comment.

The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolen, Harper Voyager, £13.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-008-12069-6.
A debut novel. Life aboard a space station after the Earth has been destroyed by meteors.

Into the Fire by Peter Liney, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06039-0.
A man escapes an island prison to which those are sent who no longer can contribute something considered useful to society, only to find out that hell has broken lose on the mainland…

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97155-7.
This is the first British Isles publication of the 2005 novel that took China by storm. Four light-years away, the civilization of the Three Suns was struggling for survival. The three stars moved in tangled, unpredictable orbits, causing hundreds of cycles of destruction and rebuild that was forcing the inhabitants to search for a new home so as to leave their tortured planet. The messages they received from Earth was just what they were waiting for. Using their hyper-technology, the aliens imposed a lockdown on the progress of fundamental sciences on Earth. The aliens of the Three Suns system then sent a vast star fleet against Earth. Human civilization was threatened..! This is the first of a trilogy. Shortlisted for the Hugo it has had some praise but also criticism for the book's first third which, 'apparently' (we only just now have a reviewer barely midway through reading it), is unduly convoluted. Nonetheless most reviewers seem to advise sticking with it as it rewards in the end.  Also see immediately below.  +++ STOP PRESS: The Three-Body Problem Hugo Awards wins the Hugo Award for 'Best Novel'.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97159-5.
The sequel to The Three-Body Problem above.

Sherlock Holmes: The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove, Titan Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29503-6.
A third outing for the detective in an alternative Victorian England.

The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskil, Corgi, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-17038-3.
A city in the Sahara starts to shut down to a computer virus infection… (Corgi's 2013 writing competition winner)

The Confluence Trilogy by Paul McAuley, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11942-0.
An omnibus of the space operatic, far future trilogy.

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-20333-5.
This is the seventh, standalone Alex Benedict novel. Click on the title link for a stand-alone review. See also Echo.

Luna by Ian McDonald, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20223-8.
This is the first in a corporate thriller duology set on the Moon. Hugo-winning Ian McDonald is the author of The Dervish House, Desolation Road, River of Gods and Brasyl.  Interestingly, apparently Luna has already been optioned for TV by CBS (a USA channel), but that does not guarantee it being made though an adaptation script has apparently been commissioned.

Dark Benedictions by Walter M. Miller jnr., Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21194-0.
Anthology of shorts from the writer that gave us the A Canticle for Leibowitz classic.

The Dark Defile by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-08860-5.
Science fantasy set in 'A Land Fit for Heroes'.

The Karma Booth by Jeff Pearce, Voyager, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97012-0.
High concept thriller in which a new weapon kills and then brings victims back to life… Originally self-published. Sounds interesting…

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy, Hodder Paperbacks, £7.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-77005-6.
This is the mass-market, paperback release of the summer's hardback. In a post-apocalyptic world, devastated by a virus, a group of survivors have built a fortress. But then a traveller arrives informing them of a green place that has escaped ecological disaster and he can lead them to it. But is all he says true and can he be trusted?  The pre-launch, advance word on this is quite positive.

Those Above by Daniel Polansky, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-77991-2.
'Those Above' are aliens who have enslaved humanity for three thousand years. But now there is a hint of rebellion… This is the mass market paperback of the hardback that came out earlier this year.

The Atlantis Plague by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97011-6.
This is the second in a series that sees humanity under threat from a 70,000 year old disease.

The Atlantis World by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97012-0.
The final in the trilogy. See previous item.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-08898-6. The trilogy concludes with the Solar System plunging into war and somewhere in all of this is our thief. This is ultra-hard, futuristic SF that is so futuristic that is becomes science fantasy, and there are space opera riffs in the mix too. The trilogy started out strong with The Quantum Thief and continued to delight those who like a challenging read with the densely written The Fractal prince that has a specific relationship with The Arabian Nights.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50046-1.
Humanity is leaving the Solar System. Literary space opera from the Hugo-winning author.

Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Voyager, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-81395-4 This is an omnibus edition bringing together Stan's 'Capitol Hill' climate change politics series: Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting. The advance publicity says that the novels have been updated (presumably with the latest science).

Lock In by John Scalzi, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13435-5.
Following a global plague, 1% of the population seem to be in some sort of unresponsive coma including the US President's wife and daughter: they are locked in unable to respond. Scalzi seems to have a substantive following in the US and recently had a good multi-book deal.

Monday Starts on Saturday by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20221-4.
This is a welcome reprint of the famous Russian authors' 1965 novel. A young programmer is drawn into a mysterious world of a scientific research institute that examines magic and wizardry.

Fish Tales by Sheri S. Tepper, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21105-6.
Her 35th novel and this one weaves together story lines from eleven of her previous works as the waters rise on Earth.

The Promise of the Child by T. N. Toner, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21136-0.
Debut novel set in the far future when humanity is among the stars.

Your Servants and Your People by David Towsey, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06439-8.
Science fantasy. A follow-up to, and set in the same world as, Your Brother's Blood. An interesting variant of the zombie theme set long after the apocalyptic event in a semi-re-built world.

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, Fourth Estate, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-008-13910-0.
A government expedition into a mysterious area faces danger. The story is told through a biologist on the expedition. The book is part of the 'Southern Reach' trilogy and it has been causing a stir in fan circles and, not least, was cited by our team as one of the Best SF books of 2014.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, Macmillan, £8.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-909-62136-7.
A very welcome reprint of the 1864 classic by France's 19th century SF grandmaster. Cavers discover a route into the Earth, and among other things a huge, subterranean ocean… Time to check your collection to see if you have a copy.

The Martian by Andy Weir, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-785-03113-7.
This is the British Isles, film tie-in, mass-market paperback edition of, arguably, the best mundane SF novel of the past couple of years but it strangely had to struggle to see commercial publication and failed to pick up nominations for the major SF Awards. However, that it did get published and has had tremendous success, there is now the Hollywood film this (2015) autumn. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

 

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

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

Forthcoming Fantasy and Horror Book Releases

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13252-8.
This is the 5th in the Peter Grant series. This time sees him in a Herefordshire village where children are vanishing… And it looks like there could be something supernatural involved…

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13255-9.
The latest of London's finest PC Peter Grant, the police's wizard.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-55025-8.
Thorn becomes a warrior to avenge his murdered father. No need to say more. Joe has a solid fantasy reader following. This is the second in the 'Shattered Seas' sequence.

The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50471-1.
The fourth in an epic fantasy series. This one sees a banker discover the link between the long-running war and the fall of the dragons thousands of years ago. By the way, Abraham is the real-life half of the pseudonymous James S. A. Corey.

Deadbeat: Dogs of Waugh by Guy Adams, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29281-3.
Drug-running with the undead…

Dreamland (2015) Robert L. Anderson, Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN978-1-47362100-8.
Dea has been able to travel through other people's dreams since she was six. Her mother taught her three rules of walking: never Interfere. Never be seen. Never walk in the same person's dream more than once. Dea never questions her mother and her continual moving of them from town to town to stay ahead of the monsters. Years later Dea meets a mysterious new boy, Connor, and gradually opens up to him. But when Dea breaks the rules the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate and discerning what is real or not real becomes harder… This is a bold debut novel that could well appeal both to an adult as well as a juvenile readership. The low price Hodder have conferred this hardback demonstrates the faith they have in this one.

Otherworld Secrets by Kelly Armstrong, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50067-6.
Collection of shorts from the established fantasy author.

Wicked Embers by Keri Arthur, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40417-2.
The Crimson Death continues to spread in the second of the 'Souls of Fire' sequence.

Battlemage by Stephen Aryan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50480-3.
Magicians fight to bring peace to a people who fear and loathe them. This is the author's debut novel.

Tales from the Vatican's Vaults by David V. Barrett, Robinson, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-11165-4.
Set in a near-alternate reality, reforming Pope decided to allow public access to the vaults making previously unseen documents publicly available. This is an anthology of short stories that include not just the undercover involvement of the Catholic Church in world affairs, but documented accounts of what really happened in historical conundrums, the real lives of saints and popes, miracles, magic, angels and even alien encounters… David V. Barrett used to be the editor of the BSFA's Vector magazine.

Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20301-3.
This is a debut novel concerning an ancient, walled city ruled by twelve, cruel and immortal kings…

Conspiracy of Angels by Michelle Belanger, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29733-7.
First in an urban fantasy series about tribes of angels who live on Earth.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50656-2.
Raised as a slave, Nettie Lonesome sets out to find her parents, but spirits and demons lie in wait.

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50507-7.
Urban fantasy anthology of shorts set in the Mercy Thompson world. mercy Thompson has been quite popular and these books have reportedly sold over 175,000 in the British Isles alone to date.

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom, Harper Collins, £9.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-062-09566-4.
The original tale of Krampus (Black Peter) the dark enemy of Santa Claus.  The good news is that this is currently slated to come out in December in time for Christmas.

The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20041-8.
An 11-year old American becomes immortal but discovers that she seems to be slowly taking on the character traits of the person who made her so…

The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £18.99, trdpbk,. ISBN 978-0-575-11337-4.
The third in the Red Knight martial fantasy series.

Angel of Storms by Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50113-0.
A return for the instructor of magic in this second book in the 'Millennium's Rule' series.

The Supernatuaral Enhancements by Edgar Cantero, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-092-95647-9.
A ghost story mystery told through journal entries, security footage and audio transcripts.

Alice Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Pulp The Classics, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-843-44397-1.
The edition marks the 150th anniversary of this classic's original publication.

The Time of the Clockmaker by Anna Catabiano, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-147-320043-2.
Follow-up to the seventh Miss Hatfield sees Rebecca time travel to Henry VIII's court.

The Masked City by Geneviere Cogman, Tor, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-25625-0.
The follow-up to the Invisible Library set in an alternate London.

Night Music: Nocturnes 2 by John Connolly, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61971-5.
Horror shorts collection from dark winter nights, fables of fantastic libraries and haunted books, to ghosts and demons… Includes winner of 2014 Anthony Award for 'Best Short Story'.

The Relic Guild by Edward Cox, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20031-9.
Clara has to hide in the dangerous labyrinth that is a city behind 100-foot walls where the use of magic is punishable by death. This is a debut novel.

The Cathedral of Known Things by Edward Cox, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20033-3.
The sequel to The Relic Guild.

Skyborn by David Dalglish, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50649-4.
Adventure fantasy and it’s a civil war.

The House of Shattered Wings by Alette de Bodard, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21255-8.
A murder mystery set in a war-torn heaven.

The Traitor by Seth Dickenson, Tor, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-447-28113-9.
Debut novel. Baru uses her savant skills against the Empire which has invaded her island home.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50320-2.
The first in a trilogy that is billed as Game of Thrones in Imperial China.

Fall of Light by Steven Erikson, Bantam Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-06219-7.
This is the second in the Kharkanas trilogy with war, dark sorcery and ancient gods.

Dark Ghost by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40565-0.
Part of the Dark Carpathian series.

Dark Blood by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-249-40185-0.
There's romance between a warrior re-born and a seductive member of the Dragon Seeker clan.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50483-4.
This is a book tie-in to the twice monthly 'Welcome to Night Vale' where all conspiracy theories are true.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-22842-0.
A tale of memory, magic and survival from the master story-teller…  Now, we have cited this title as one of the best fantasy books of 2013 in our annual spring roundups, and we were not alone: the British public voted it Book of the Year, and fandom nominated it for a Hugo but Neil declined it to go forward onto the shortlist.  This is (we think) the second mass market paperback edition (it certainly is not the first). The advance publicity bills this as a special Christmas edition and is out in October.

Grendel by John Gardener, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21201-5.
A re-telling of the classic Beowulf story but from the point of view of the Grendel monster.

Trigger Warning: Short Fiction and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman, Headline, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21772-1.
An anthology mainly of fantasy but some SF in the mix. Stories include: 'The Sleeper and the Spindle' which riffs on both 'Snow White' and 'The Sleeping Beauty'; and 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains' which sees a dwarf and an untrustworthy guide seek cursed treasure…

Warheart by Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-784-97203-5.
Final in the Sword of Truth series.

Unholy War by David Hair, Jo Fletcher, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87205-6.
Game of Thrones epic battle fantasy set in the magical world of Urte.

Ascendant's Right by David Hair, Jo Fletcher, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-87206-3.
The Moontide is ending, new powers must rise and all will be decided.

Dead Ice by Laurell K. Hamilton, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-755-38908-7.
And we see the return of Hamilton's vampire hunting heroine.

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-007-44420-5.
Fitz and the Fool are now re-united… Fans will be delighted and the trade anticipates strong sales (no surprises there).

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Harper Voyager, £40, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-008-11545-6.
The bastard son of an abdicated Prince becomes an assassin to save his kingdom…  If the advance publicity £40 price is right, this must be a luxury edition.

The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats by Mark Hodder, Del Rey, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95067-5.
The last in the Burton and Swinburne steampunk series.

The Good, The Bad and The Smug by Tom Holt, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50255-7.
Humorous fantasy.

Foreign Devils by John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-12377-9.
This is the follow-up to The Incorruptables.

The Mammoth Book of Frankenstein by Stephen Jones (ed), Robinson, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-12016-8.
Anthology. Old stories given an airing timed to tie in with the release of the new Frankenstein film.

Veiled by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-9-356-50437-2.
Latest in the Alex Versus series set in London.

The Scorched Earth by Drew Karpyshyn, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95286-0.
This is the second in the epic fantasy series that sees four mortals, touched by the power of chaos, put an end to an ancient enemy.

The Last Rite by Jasper Kent, Bantam, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-50106-6.
The king of the vampires is dead in 1917 Russia. The fifth in the Danilov series. (The publicity uses the term 'quintet' which would make this the final one, but don't you believe it as this series has been so successful that it is bound to come back from being dead…)

Dragonbane by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40070-9.
The latest in the Dark Hunter series and set in modern-day New York.

Born of Betrayal by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £14.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-349-40277-2.
8th in the 'League' series.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-69888-8.
A newspaper columnist killing people by writing their obituaries… is just one of the short stories in the latest King collection.

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50407-0.
First in the 'Duellists' trilogy and a brother and sister are expelled from the guild…

Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-50106-6.
The World Fantasy Award-winning re-telling of the Thomas Rhymer legend. A minstrel lives by his words, his tunes, and sometimes by his lies. But when the bold and gifted young Thomas the Rhymer awakens the desire of the powerful Queen of Elfland, he finds that words are not enough to keep him from his fate. As the Queen sweeps him far from the people he has known and loved into her realm of magic, opulence – and captivity – he learns at last what it is to be truly human. When he returns to his home with the Queen’s parting gift, his great task will be to seek out the girl he loved and wronged, and offer her at last the tongue that cannot lie.

Deathdfire by Nick Kyme, Black Library, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-784-96018-6.
The latest in the Horus Heresy series.

Closer to the Heart by Mercedes Lackey, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29374-2.
The second in the 'Herald Spy' trilogy.

The Wind's Twelve Quarters and the Compass Rose by Ursula K. LeGuin, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20576-5.
An anthology of shorts from the SFWA Grand Master (Mistress).

The Hunter's Kind by Rebecca Levene, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-444-75375-2.
Krish must now travel to the forbidden Mirror Town in the sequel to Smiler's Fair.

A Cold Silence by Alison Littlewood, Jo Fletcher Books, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-66992-5.
This is the sequel to A Cold Season.

The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-578-07705-8.
This is the latest in the popular Locke Lamora series of adventures that began with The Lies of Locke Lamora.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire, Headline Review, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-472-23043-0.
What happened to Alice's sister after Alice fell down the rabbit hole?

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50283-0.
A retired warrior queen sets out for revenge.

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13046-3.
Sequel to The Falconer.

The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-841-49950-5.
This is the start of a new epic fantasy series.

Rogues by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Titan Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29721-4.
A cross-genre anthology of shorts which includes a new Martin Games of Thrones tale. Other authors of stories include Neil Gaiman.

Dragon Fall by Katie Macalister, Hodder, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61112-2.
Paranormal romance involving a man that can change into a dragon… (Freud would have a field day).

Fortune's Blight by Evie Manieri, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-857-38948-0.
The second in the Shattered Kingdom series.

A Knight of the Severn Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin, Voyager, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-56767-2.
Three unpublished novellas set a century before the events of A Song of Fire and Ice. Includes a prequel to when the Targaryens held the iron Throne.

The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21331-9.
This is one that older readers will rush to get, and younger ones might be advised to give it a go too. (Or failing that to at least do a search on the author's name to get an inkling of what you might be missing.) It is London after World War II and a young Michael Moorcock is about to discover a parallel world of magic and wonder. Click on the title link for a stand-alone review. For fans of Moorcock obviously but also fans of China Miéville and those into Alan More graphic novels.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore, William Morrow, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-061-77978-7.
The sequel to A Dirty Job< and Charlie Asher is back for another adventure.

Alone with the Dead by James Nally, Avon, £6.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-081-13950-6.
PC Donal Casey can see the dead, which can come in handy when policing. This is also a debut novel.

Retribution by Mark Charon Newton, Tor, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-21931-6.
This is the second in the Lucan Drakenfeld series.

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-230-77017-1.
Short story collection.

The Broken World by J. D. Oswald, Michael Joseph, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-405-91778-0.
This is part of the 'Ballad of Sir Bentos' sequence which sees the dragons return…

Stiletto by Daniel O' Malley, Head of Zeus, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-78185124-1.
The second in the Chequy files.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21471-2.
A timely reprint. Gaiman normally publishes with Headline who are owned by Hachette. Now, Gollancz – who are bringing this reprint out – are also owned by Hachette, and now Headline and Gollancz are in the same building and so no excuse to chew the fat over lunch… And so it is a pleasure to hear reports of Headline and Gollancz working together with Gollancz bringing the reprint out in a livery that matches Gaiman's Headline titles.  This reprint is 'timely' because BBC Radio 4 Home Service is serialising the novel.  Expect another reprint when the Terry Gilliam film comes out. (Though given the number of films projects Gilliam has waiting in the wings, that might be some time.)

Lost Souls by Seth Patrick, Pan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-21341-3.
This is the follow-up to The Reviver and Jonah is in trouble again.

The Knight by Pierre Pevel, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-10798-4.
Pevel is a French author who is said to be a bit like George R. R. Martin. This novel concerns a Lord who is considered by some to be a hero to his nation, but equally by others a traitor…

Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards, Hodder, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-444-79780-0.
Paranormal romance. Attractive Charlotte Stone hunts serial killers…

Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50249-6.
Conclusion to the Raven's Shadow sequence.

Harry Potter: Adult Hardback Box Set by J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, £115, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-408-86837-9.
If you want something really special for Christmas that Potterised fantasy fan in your life then this could be it. (Though note: When it says 'adult' it probably doesn't mean 'naughty'.)

Legion by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-21263-3.
This novella has appeared with another Sanderson one before in a joint book. This is its mass market paperback stand-alone appearance.

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-473-20821-6.
A return to the world of Mistborn. The trade expect this to sell well.

Sword of the North by Luke Scull, Head of Zeus, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-85157-9.
Book 2 of the 'Grim Company' sequence and the 'Age of Ruin' falls further into darkness…

Archangel's Enigma by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-11259-9.
A mission is mounted to save a sleeping archangel. Paranormal romance with vampiric tones.

The Watchers by Neil Spring, Quercus, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-784-29063-4.
Years after the Cold War, documents become public and this spurs a new witness to come forwards regarding ghostly goings on in Pembrokeshire.

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0356-50531-2.
A 'Laundry' story about the British secret service combating supernatural goings on. See The Fuller Memorandum.

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-575-13218-4.
This is the first in the 'Scion's Gate' trilogy. An adventurer struggles with a demon beginning to stir in hell.

Your Resting Place by David Towsey, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-782-06440-4.
Is there a future for those already dead? Check out our review of Towsey's Your Brother's Blood.

The Just City by Jo Walton, Corsair, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-15076-9.
A time-travelling goddess constructs a community based on Plato's principles.

Raw Blood by Catrina Ward, W&N, £12.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-297-60964-3
A ghost story set at the beginning of the 20th century on Dartmoor…

Reign of Iron by Angus Watson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50260-1.
Druids clash with Roman invaders…

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks, Orbit, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-841-49911-6.
The third in the Lightbringer series and Gavin Guile has been enslaved on a pirate galley without his magical powers. Orbit say that they have sold 230,00 copies of the author's books to date.

The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-091-95059-0.
This is the second in a five-book series in which a kingdom is set to have their first queen for centuries…

The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams, Headline, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21114-9.
The crew of the Copper Promise taken on a seemingly easy job.

Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams, Hodder, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-473-61711-7.
The author's debut novel released, for the first time in the British Isles, somewhat belatedly given how much he has written.

 

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

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

Forthcoming Science Fact and Non-Fiction SF

Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge, Profile, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-25211-6.
How do Rorschach tests work? Are those with blue eyes more trustworthy, or why might they seem so? Packed with puzzles and quizzes so that you can compile your own psychological profile.

Invisible by Philip Ball, Vintage, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59043-9.
From Plato's myths to modern military camouflaging techniques, the goal is invisibility.

End Game: Tipping Points for Planet Earth by Anthony Barnosky and Elizabeth Hadley, Collins, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-007-54815-6.
The promotion makes much of both the authors being professors (which if you are not scientists in UK terms simply means you are a department head in a university or research institute, or have been given an honorific as a contracted visiting lecturer). Actually this is a furthering of Malthusian demographics, and more recently Beddington's 'Perfect Storm'. In short, population is rising but fertile potentially arable land is finite and we also have a backdrop of climate change.

Wild Sex by Carin Bondar, Weidenfeld, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-297-60950-6.
Animal sex from a bed-bug's barbed penis, via female spiders eating their mates, to the sexual strategies of hyenas. Meanwhile, humans seem to be lucky in that for many species sex is either painful or has detrimental aspects.

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's leading thinkers on the age of machine intelligence edited by John Brockman, Harper Perennial, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-062-42565-2.
With our continually moving towards true artificial intelligence, what do the experts think?

At the Edge of Uncertainty by Michael Brooks, Profile Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-781-25128-7.
11 new discoveries that change our understanding of the Universe.

Why Does Asparagus Make Your Wee Smell? And 57 Other Curious Food and Drink Questions by Andy Brunning, Orion, hrdbk, £12.99. ISBN 978-1-409-1566-1.
This could so easily be a Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year contender.  How come garlic makes your breath smell? Do carrots really help you see in the dark? Brunning is a chemist whose blog is called 'Compound Interest'.

How We Learn by Benedict Carey, Macmillan, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-447-286434-9.
How we learn from acquiring languages to revising for an exam.

Junk DNA by Nessa Carey, Icon Books, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-845-31915-8.
It was thought that 98% of DNA was junk: that it did not code for proteins and so did not contain genes. Now it seems that much of this is important and includes things like genetic switches, turning on and off genes.

Cinema Alchemist: How I built R2-D2 and won an Oscar by Roger Christian, Titan, £16, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29900-3.
The story of the man who built the light sabre. How he related to famous directors and stars. Includes coverage of his own film Black Angel.

The Unknown Universe by Stuart Clark, Head of Zeus, £15.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-85574-4.
What we don't know about the cosmos… (Clarke must be a tad disappointed with the pre-publication promotion that has him down as an 'astrologer' (sic) writing for New Scientist.)

Quantum Age by Brian Clegg, Icon Books, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-848-31846-5.
How quantum physics is at the heart of electronic devices.

Mr Spock's Logic Puzzles: More than 120 riddles, conundrums and observations by Tim Dedopulos, Carlton, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-97574-0.
Spock might say, 'fascinating.'

George Orwell by Robert Colls, Oxford University Press, £12.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-199-68081-8.
Biography of the journalist, political activist and author of 1984 and Animal Farm.

A Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science by Richard Dawkins, Bantam Press, £20, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-593-07255-4.
The biologist’s second autobiography but this time thematically presented revealing: what it is like to be an Oxford Don; his encounters with TV producers; getting a good publisher, etc. Enthralling.

Culture and the Death of God by Terry Eagleton, Yale University Press, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-300-21233-4.
A look at the decline of religion in the modern world.

Gilliamesque: A pre-posthumous memoir by Terry Gilliam, Canongate, £30, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-782-11106-1.
Covers the artist and directors time with Monty Python as well as his films including Time Bandits and Brazil.

Mind Change by Susan Greenfield, Rider, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-846-04431-1.
How our minds are adapting to new technologies.

Computing with Quantum Cats by John Gribbin, Black Swan, 39.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-552-77931-9.
The imminent development of quantum computing could take us into a post-Moore world and so a primer such as this is timely.

13-8: The most important fact in the search for everything by John Gribbin, Icon, £16.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-848-31918-9.
Why the Holy Grail of physics – the unified theory of everything uniting theories of quantum with relativity – intriguingly lies with the age of the Universe 13.8 billion years!.

The Wheel of Time Companion by Robert Jordan et al, Orbit, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-356-50613-5.
Contains maps, biographies of characters, dictionary etc. A must for fans of the late Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' books.

The Meaning of Science by Matt Lewens, Pelican, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-141-97742-3.
Understanding the philosophy of science is absolutely critical to understanding science. Seriously, this is a boom that science undergraduates should get as well as graduates embarking on a career using science given that many university courses omit a serious look at the philosophy and methodologies of science.

Robot Takeover: 100 Iconic Robots of Myth, Popular Culture and Real Life by Ana Matronic, Cassell, £14.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-844-05856-5.
Covers nearly everything from Metropolis to R2D2.

The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey, Profile Books, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-861-97662-8.
The botanist takes us on a very readable tour crops, weeks, medicinal plants, plants that have religious value etc… and addresses such questions as plant 'intelligence'.

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker, Penguin, £9.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-141-97586-3.
And it is, apparently, filled with things to make and do. Billed as a stand-up comedians guide to maths.

Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings edited by Lorna Piatti, Farnell Intellect Books, £15.50, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-783-20515-8.

The Discworld Atlas by Terry Pratchett and the Discworld Emporium Doubleday, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-857-52130-9.
Illustrated guide to the lands and locations of places in the Discworld stories.

The Frood: The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Jem Roberts, Arrow, £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-0-099-59076-7.
Click on the title link for a stand-alone review.

Dracula FAQ by Bruce Scivally, Blackbeat Books, £19.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-617-13600-9.
Covers the historical background to the fictional character as well as its influence on literature and its own literary history.

Prof. Stewart's Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries by Ian Stewart, Profile Books< £8.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-846-68348-0.
Illustrated. Mathematician and (as those of us in the Brit SF community know) SF fan, Ian Stewart explores with the help of the occupants of 222B Baker Street – Hemlock Soames and Dr John Whatsup – mathematical oddities and puzzles.

But If A Zombie Apocalypse Did Occur: Essays on medical, military, governmental, ethical, economic and other implications by Amy Thompson and Antonio Thompson, McFarland, £27.50 trdpbk. ISBN 978-0-786-47550-6.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

Forthcoming TV & Film Book Tie-ins


Dr Who: Deep Time (2015) Trevor Baxendale, BBC Books, £6.99, hrdbk, 253pp, ISBN 978-1-084990-7.

Dr Who: Big Bang Generation (2015) Gary Russell, BBC Books, £6.99, hrdbk, 239pp, ISBN 978-1-084991-4.

Dr Who: Royal Blood (2015) Una McCormack, BBC Books, £6.99, hrdbk, 237pp, ISBN 978-1-084992-1.
These three short novels (novellas) form ‘The Glamour Chronicles’ starring the Capaldi Doctor and Clara. One is set in the past, another the present and one in the future. These are hardbacks and in a reasonably-sized font so each book’s total word count is low. The hardbacks have the colour cover image as part of the hardback (not a detachable dust jacket) and together look quite neat. A must for teenage and young-at-heart Dr Who fans.


Ultimate Star Wars, DK, £35, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-241-00790-7.
Lavish, colourful, must-have for Star Wars fans. Covers all the films including some material from the forthcoming one The Force Awakens.

Arrow Vengeance by Oscar Balderman & Lauren Certo, Titan, £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-299484-8.
A tie-in novel from the US television show Arrow.

Residential Evil: Revelation – The Complete Works by CapCom, Titan Books, £19.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-793-29801-2.
The companion book to the hit computer game.

Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company by Alex Freed, Century, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89365-5.
This is the tie-in novel to the official video game accompanying the new Star Wars film.

Batman: A celebration of the classic TV series by Bob Garcia, Titan Books, £35, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-781-16788-5.
A homage to the Adam West series.

Thunderbirds: The Vault by Marcus Hearn, Virgin, £25, hrdbk. ISBN 978-0-753-55635-1.
This covers both the original TV series as well as the new 2015 Anglo-NZ incarnation.

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman, Titan, £17.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29674-6.
Does what it says on the tin. The pre-publication publicity from Books In Print has it that there is an afterword by Dr. (sic) Spock – Probably not the paediatrician. (And 'autobiography' by someone else…)

Predator: Incursion by Tim Lebbons, Titan £7.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-783-29833-4.
This is the first in the 'Rage War' trilogy that sees the Earth under alien attack.

Nymphs by Sari Luhataneu & Miikko Oikkoneu, Headline, £12.99, trdpbk. ISBN 978-1-472-21327-3.
Based on the TV series.

Dr Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol. 1 by Robbie Morrison, Titan, £10.99, pbk. ISBN 978-1-782-76386-4.
Graphic novel with the Capaldi Doctor.

Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson, Titan, £24,99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-78329603-3.
The illustrated companion to the films.

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig, Century, £19.99, hrdbk. ISBN 978-1-780-89364-8.
This is the bridging novel between the two films Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Must for Star Wars fans.

 

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

Autumn 2015

SELECTED FORTHCOMING DVD RELEASES

Mad Max: Fury Road £9.99 DVD, £14.99 Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
The Mad Max re-boot whose release over the summer was a box office successTrailer here.

The Flash - Season 1 £21.99, DVD from Warner Home Video.
Five-disc set of the US television series based on the DC comics' character. Trailer here.

Monsters: Dark Continent £9.99, DVD.
So-so Hollywood sequel to the reasonably good and independently made Monsters. This time the US army goes into the Middle East to tackle the aliens. Locals end up getting caught as collateral damage. Trailer here.

Zardoz £24.99, Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
The long time coming Blu-ray release of the 1974 John Boorman film starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman and the wonderful John Alderton in a dystopic future. An elite survive in isolation from a bleak Earth but their community is not sustainable and is fundamentally flawed. And then Zed, from the outside, enters…  Zardoz was panned by mundane critics when it came out as being too new age, dippy hippy, but fantastic film buffs (including notably Phil Strick) do rate this. (There are some lovely lines: 'So what about the stars?' 'Ahh. The stars. Another dead end.') If you are into SF cinema then do check this out. Having said that, this was made over a third of a century ago, therefore is a little dated and some of the effects are not that good enough to warrant Blu-ray. So our advice is to seek out the cheaper DVD or wait for the Blu-ray to come down in price. And as to what Zardoz means? Well, you don't need to be much of a wizard to work that one out.

Back to The Future Trilogy £39.99, Blu-ray from Universal Pictures UK.
The Blu-ray release of the popular time-travel, adventure-comedy trilogy. Four-disc set. (Lots of extras.) All region format.

Dominion £13.00, DVD from 101 Films.
UFOs are seen. Robert Casey, a retired US Intelligence agent turned UFO investigator races to discover what the yet to be known Dominion has in store for the human race. Meanwhile Jaelen, an observer from another planet, searches to find and rescue the human women he fell in love with before the Dominion warship arrives.  Trailer here.

Earthsea £16.00, DVD from Three Wolves Ltd.
The television mini-series based on Ursula K. LeGuin's classic juvenile fantasy tales. In the magical world of EarthSea, the Amulet of Peace has ensured harmony between humans and dragons for centuries. But when the Amulet is broken and a piece of it disappears, it is up to a neophyte wizard to restore balance and stop a nefarious king from conquering Earthsea's islands.  Ursula K. LeGuin complained about this version but it is hard to completely ruin a fantasy classic.   Trailer here.

 

See also our film download tips.

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

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

 

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

Autumn 2015

R.I.P.

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

Patrick H Adkins, the US author and publisher, has died aged 67. His novels include the SF horror The Third Beast (2000).

Khaled al-Asaad, the Syrian archaeologist has died aged 81, beheaded by a jihadist swordsman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  He spent his career focussed on excavating and then helping preserve the archaeology of Palmyra. He was killed in Tadmur (the modern city of Palmyra) and the adjacent ancient city of Palmyra having stayed to help preserve artefacts when ISIS invaded. His alleged crimes included: being an 'apostate', representing Syria at 'infidel conferences', serving as 'the director of idolatry' in Palmyra, visiting 'Heretic Iran' and communicating with a brother in the Syrian security services. His body was reportedly displayed in Tadmur and then in the ancient city he loved of Palmyra.

Renee Alper, the US filk fan, has died aged 58. She was a finalist several times in the Ohio Valley Filk Fest Songwriting Contest and was a GoH at Musicon 2 (1993) in Nashville, Tennessee. She suffered disability following a car accident in 1989 but was active in regional Tolkien fandom.

Paul Bacon, the British artist, has died aged 91. He drew over six thousand book covers, over a hundred of which were SF.

Ned Brooks, the NASA wind tunnel engineer and SF fan, has died aged 77. Ned was best known in fanzine fandom for his zine It Comes in the Mail (1972-1978) and then from 1985 It Goes on the Shelf. He also co-founded Slanapa, (Slanderous Amateur Press Association), a monthly apa.  He died accidentally falling of his home's roof while making repairs.

Joël Champetier, the French-Canadian author, died aged 57.

Yvonne Carts-Powell, the US science writer and fan, has died of cancer aged 58. She was regularly on the science programme of US cons. Her books include The Science of Heroes that looks at the TV series. She also contributes to a number of on-line zines including The Green Man Reviews.

Peter Conchie, the aerospace engineer, has died aged 86. He worked at De Havilland in Hatfield, before moving on to Hawker Siddeley Dynamics in Stevenage working on vacuum testing, and subsequently a return to Hatfield in 1978 to run the Infra-Red Division and subsequently became the Director of Air-to-Air Missiles moving to Stevenage as the Hatfield site closed. There he became he became Business Development Director for what had then become British Aerospace Space and Communications. Along the way his projects included working on: the ESRO II spacecraft to study solar astronomy and cosmic rays; Europe's Meteosat programme; the MAROTS maritime communications satellite (which Peter was instrumental in morphing into became MARECS); ESA’s Earth Observation Columbus Polar Platform; the HOTOL launch vehicle; the Personal Communications Network Licence and the Orion transatlantic telecommunications satellite. Peter was also a Fellow and Council member of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Daedalus Interstellar Spacecraft study team (he had a stint chairing its Technical Committee). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and awarded an OBE.

Robert Conquest, the British soviet regime expert and SF semi-pro, has died aged 98. As an expert on the Soviet regime his Power and Politics in the USSR (1960) and The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968), established him as a leading Kremlinologist with the latter book revealing the extent of the Stalin purges: one million executed and two million dead in the concentration camp out of seven million arrested between 1937 and 1938. But in genre terms he was noted for his enthusiasm for SF which he shared with his friend Kingsley Amis. Together they edited the Spectrum anthologies of SF and also jointly authored the novel A World of Difference (1955) that looked at the politics of the then future 2010 together with the invention of a new space drive destined to take humanity to the stars.

Yvonne Craig, the US actress, has died aged 78. She was best known in genre circles for her playing the role of Police Commissioner Gordon's librarian daughter Barbara a.k.a Batgirl in the 1960s (Adam West) Batman TV series. But in die-hard Trekkie circles she was also known as also played Martha, the green Orion Slave Girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk, in the third season of Star Trek. Her autobiography is titled Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond (2000). She sadly died of breast cancer that had spread to her liver and had spent the past two years having chemo.

Wes Craven, the US horror film maker, has died aged 76. He is best known for his Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series of films. His high-earner films included The Hills Have Eyes films and Red Eye. Of SFnal note he directed five episodes of the 1985 The Twilight Zone TV series.

Bruce Durocher II, the Seattle area (US) fan, has sadly died of colon cancer.

Toby English, the British book dealer, has died of cancer aged 59. He ran a bookshop in Wallingford for 32 years up to the end of April this year (2015). He cited the reasons for closure sue to online sales and Amazon, noting that internet sales overtook his bookshop sales about a decade ago. He was a regular dealer at the British Eastercon.

Chris Gilmore, the Spectrum SF copy editor and a reviewer for Interzone in its early years, has died age 66.

Raymond Gosling, the x-ray crystallographer, has died aged 88. He is often considered as the fifth, yet largely unrecognised, person who played a part in elucidating the structure of DNA. Raymond Gosling worked under Maurice Wilkins of King’s College London, who shared a Nobel with Francis Crick and James Watson in 1962. (The other neglected contributor being Rosalind Franklin.) But it was actually Raymond Gosling who took the vital X-ray photographs which proved to be the key elucidating DNA's structure. He ended his career at Guy’s Hospital medical school, where he developed devices for the study and diagnosis of atherosclerosis and became Professor in Physics Applied to Medicine in 1984.

Gunter Grass, the German writer, has died aged 87. The Nobel Prize winner's books featured a number of fantastical elements. He is perhaps best known for his first novel The Tin Drum (1959), which is an exploration of the rise of Nazism and which also uses magic realism. There was controversy when later in life it emerged that as a teenager he had belonged to the Waffen-SS; something he deeply regretted. Irrespectively, his score or so of books have garnered a remarkable reputation.

Oscar Holderer, the German rocket engineer, has died aged 95. He was among around 120 engineers who had worked on the German V2 who was relocated to the USA at the end of WWII. Led by Wernher von Braun, they were part of a project called Operation Paperclip that used V2 technology uto develop the first rockets of the USA's post war space programme. One of Holderer's contributions was to construct a high speed wind tunnel to test the Saturn rocket. He retired from NASA in 1974.

Wolfgang Jeschke, the Czech born and German resident SF writer and commissioning editor, has died aged 78. His early SF activities saw him contribute stories to fanzines as well as edit his own with with Peter Noga, Ad Astra. He read philosophy and German literature at a Munich University before taking a job as an assistant editor with Kindlers Literaturelexikon, a publisher of encyclopaedias. When Kindler decided to start new science fiction imprint 'Science Fiction für Kenner' [Science Fiction for Connoisseurs], he became an editor. Germany’s leading SF publisher, Heyne Verlag hired him as a consultant in 1973, and in 1979 he became their SF editor where he worked until his retirement in 2002. He wrote numerous short stories and five novels. As recently as 2014 his novel Dschiheads [Dschi Heads] won the Deutsche Science Fiction Preis DSFP and also the Kurd Lasswitz (Kurd-Laßwitz) Preis, the last in a long line of German SF award wins. He was a Guest of Honour at ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon in The Hague, Netherlands.

A. P. J. Kalam, the scientist (physicist and aerospace engineer) and politician, has died aged 83. He is best known by half a billion people as a former President of India (2002 - 2007) – known the ''People's President' – but was also a renowned scientist. He played a leading role in developing India's rocket programme that in turn led to India developing a space programme. he died, as many scientists might wish, on the job: he was giving a lecture entitled 'The Liveable Planet' to students at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong. He was known for his passion for science and reaching out to postgraduate students and school pupils alike. The Indian Government declared a seven-day state mourning period as a mark of respect.

Margaret Ford Keifer, the US fan, has died aged 94. Based in Cincinnati she attended all the Midwestcons: i.e. since 1950.

Alan Kupperberg, the US comics artist, has died of thymus cancer aged 62. He is probably best known for his work on Spiderman in the 1970s to mid-1980s. From the mid-1980s to 1990s he worked for DC on titles such as Justice League of America.

Christopher Lee, the British actor, has died aged 93. He was extremely well known in Britain for his very many roles in cult horror, fantastic films, especially those produced by Hammer. Here he was known for playing Frankenstein's monster (1957) as well as his iconic appearances as Dracula (originally, 1958, his breakout role and almost invariably with Peter Cushing), 1958, '66, '68, four times in 1970, '71, '72, '73 and'76) not to mention and his less well-known (due to infrequent airings these more politically correct days) playing of the super villain Fu Manchu (1966, '67, '68 and '69). One of his personal favourite own films was The Wicker Man (1973). His other appearances included guest starring roles on TV series such as The Avengers (1967 and '69) and Space 1999 (1976). His other numerous films included the James (Roger Moore) Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), and more recently The Lord of the Rings Jackson trilogy (2001, '02 and '03) as Saruman the last of which he only appeared in the extended DVD edition. He also reprised his Saruman role for The Hobbit films (2012 and '14). He leaves behind a solid oeuvre of cult film having appeared in over 200, not to mention over 50 TV roles.

Tanith Lee, the British author, has died aged 67. She has over 90 novels and 300 short stories to her name. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award (also known as the August Derleth Award) for best Novel', for Death's Master (1980) and three other years she had 'Best Novel' nominations. She was delighted to have been asked to write ttwo episodes of Blake's 7: 'Sarcophagus' and 'Sand'. She suffered from a mild form of dyslexia but like many mild dyslexics managed to work to overcome it. Her writing was mainly fantasy but divided between children's and adult books. The Birthgrave was nominated for a Nebula in 1975. Night's Master was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 1979 and in 2013 she won a Lifetime Achievement Award. She wrote to the end and just this year the British Eastercon saw her have a twin book launch.

Graham Lord, the Rhodesia-born British author, has died aged 72.

Patrick Macnee, the British actor, has died aged 93. He is best known, and much loved, for starring as the quintessentially English secret agent John Steed in Brian Clemens 1960s series The Avengers (the original Avengers before Marvel Comics did their own). In addition to being delightfully 1960s camp (it was considered more stylish than camp back then), The Avengers often had a decided SFnal twist and there were episodes involving hypnotism, drugged memory loss, robots (the cybernauts were a recurring favourite), android doubles, supposed time travel, invisibility, computers and remote controlled military craft. The series' original seven-season run was from 1961 to 1969 and then there were two seasons of The New Avengers that ran between 1976 and 1977.  Steed never carried a gun as Macnee refused saying he had seen too many of his comrades killed in World War II, but used an iron bowler hat instead. John Steed's assistant agents were: Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), Tara King (Linda Thorson), Purdy (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt).  The Avengers strong female co-stars have in the 1960s been credited with encouraging gender equality. In 1964 Macnee recorded the pop song 'Kinky Boots' with his Avenger Diana Rigg and this made it into Kenny Everett's Bottom 40 and ironically (or perversely) in 1990 re-released to enter the UK Singles Chart. He played both Holmes and Dr. John Hamish Watson on several occasions. He played Watson three times: once alongside Roger Moore's Sherlock Holmes in a TV film, Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976), and twice with Christopher Lee, first in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and then in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993). He is therefore one of just a few actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on screen. Macnee also appeared in This is Spinal Tap (1984), The Creature Wasn't Nice [a.k.a. Naked Space ] (1984), The Howling (1981) and the James Bond (Roger Moore) film A View to a Kill (1985). On TV he took over Leo G. Carroll's role as Alexander Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E., in The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E: The Fifteen-Years-Later Affair (1983), the Twilight Zone episode 'Judgment Night' and was the voice of Imperious Leader in episodes 1 to 12 of the original Battlestar Galactica (1978)series.

Adrienne Martine-Barnes, the US fantasy author, has died aged 73. Her debut novel was The Dragon Rises (1983). She is known for her series ‘Chronique D’Avebury’ and, with Diana L. Paxson, ‘the Chronicles of Fionn mac Cumhal’. She also collaborated with Marion Zimmer Bradley on three ‘Darkover’ novels. She was also a fantasy costume fan.

Chuck Miller, the US second-hand, genre book dealer and small press publisher, has died aged 62. He was a World Fantasy Award co-winner with Tim Underwood (1994) as well as a nominee (1990, 1985, 1982 and 1981). In 1980 he was co-chair with Tim Underwood the World Fantasy Awards panel. He also was once nominated for a Hugo.

Yoichiro Nambu, the Japanese physicist, has died aged 94. In 1952 he moved to the US having been invited by Robert Oppenheimer. In 1964 Murray Gell-Man and George Zweig, independently of each other, proposed the notion of quarks to explain the many new sub-atomic particles being discovered. Though it took two decades to elucidate the notion of quarks being held in pairs and triplets by a 'colour' force mediated by gluons to form protons, neutrons and other particles, Yoichiro Nambu and Moo-Young Han had proposed much of the basis for this in 1965.  But it was his work demonstrated the spontaneous breaking of physical symmetry could occur in quantum fields in a vacuum that is for what he will most likely be best remembered. This was the basis for a suggestion by others as to how a field could confer mass to other particles. This ultimately led Nambu to share the 2008 Nobel Prize for Physics for half of the pair who hypothesised the Higgs boson that was subsequently detected: the Higgs reveals that electroweak symmetry is broken.  Nambu also co-invented 'string theory'.

John Nash, the US, Nobel-winning mathematician, has died aged 86 tragically with his wife (82) in a car crash while passengers in a taxi. Both were thrown clear of the vehicle not wearing seat belts. His work on game theory (and the 'Nash equilibrium', the game theory explanation for zero-sum gain games such as mutually assured destruction) garnered him the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. Elsewhere, Nash's Embedding Theorem helped study higher dimensional geometry and is of relevance to Einstein's space time theories. His troubled life inspired the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind (2001). His work was groundbreaking and not long before his death he accepted the Abel Prize in Oslo, Norway.

Tom Piccirilli, the US writer has died aged 50. He is the author of over a score of stories, a number of which are SF and/or horror as well as several anthologies of short stories. His novels have been nominated six times for a Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award. Nis novel nominations were: Hexes, The Deceased, A Choir of Ill Children, November Mourns and Headstone City. His Bram Stoker Award winner was The Night Class. he also won a Bram Stoker Award in the category 'Best Alternative Forms' in 2004 for The Devil's Wine. He was also a Guest of Honour at this year's (2015) World Horror Convention but was unable to attend for health reasons: he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour three years ago.

Glen Orbik, the US artist, has died aged 51 sadly due to cancer. He is best known in genre circles for his Stephen King novel covers as well as a couple for Joe R. Lansdale. He spent some of his last years teaching comic and video game art.

David Raup, the US palaeontologist, has died aged 82. His work on the continuity of the fossil record, and extinctions, made him a leading light in the field. His co-authored Principles of Palaeontology (1971, 2nd ed 1978) was a core textbook for undergraduates. In the 1980s, with Jack Sepkoski, he suggested that the extinction of dinosaurs 66 mya was part of a cycle of mass extinctions that may have occurred every 26 million years. This notion has subsequently not gained much traction (the asteroid impact theory now has garnered too much evidence). However he did further the notion that extinctions were in part due to bad luck events as well as that extinctions spur evolution. He died of pneumonia.

Jeff Rice, the US TV producer, has died aged 71. He is best known in genre terms for Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) that concerned a news reporter hack who investigated Fortean happenings: aliens, vampires, robots, etc. The one episode that never came about, but should have, was why he kept on stumbling across such exotica? The series was based on Richard Matheson’s (then unpublished) novel of the same title.

Alexander Rich, the US biochemist born of east Europeans, has died aged 90. He found that, like DNA, RNA can also form a double helix and even a three-stranded helical structure. He also found that RNA could hybridise with DNA and this is behind the northern blot technique. However he is perhaps best known, along with crystallographer Andrew Wang in 1979, for discovering left-handed DNA (Z-DNA) that winds the other way. During his career he also co-founded three spin-out companies. In 1995 he received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton.

Leonard Robinson, the Batman impersonator (the 'Route 29 Batman'), has died aged 51. He attained some YouTube celebrity due to his appearances at children's hospital wards (sometimes with his son dressed as Robin). This was further enhanced in 2012 when a clip of a police camera feed was posted on YouTube (not for the first time) showing him being pulled over as his Batmobile (vaguely – it was a converted Lamborghini – 1960's TV Batman version) then had no licence plates (just a Batman logo). Tragically, he was struck by his own car when another hit it while he was checking the engine of his Batmobile in Hagerstown, Maryland (USA), when returning from a car show.

Irwin Rose, the US biochemist, has died aged 88. He co-discovered a cellular recycling system. He shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on ubiquitin: a protein that is crucial to protein degradation; hence important in cancer. He also was one of the first to use radioactively-tagged metabolites to see how they progressed through metabolic processes and here his work helped in the investigation of diseases like cystic fibrosis. His work also helped lead to the development of some leukaemia pharmaceuticals.

Oliver Sacks, the British neurologist and science writer, has died aged 82. After he qualified as a clinician he moved to Canada and then the US. He was a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books among other publications. His most famous book, Awakenings, upon which the 1990 feature film of the same name is based, describes his experiences using the new drug levodopa on post-encephalitic patients.

Susan Sheridan, the British actress, has died aged 68. She is best known in genre terms for her role as Trillian in the original Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy (1978) She also provided a voice-over in an Audible Kids audiobook of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and the voice of young David in the BBC radio play of John Wyndham's The Chrysalids.

Jannick Storm, the Danish author, critic, editor and translator, has died aged 75 just one day shy of his birthday. In the mid-1960s, he virtually singlehandedly brought science fiction back to Denmark, and made it into a critically respected field. A personal friend of both J. G. Ballard and Brian W. Aldiss, his efforts were acknowledged by Aldiss in the dedication of Billion Year Spree (1973): 'To Jannick Storm, who colonised Denmark'. Jannick Storm edited and translated lines of SF. Between 1953 and 1994 he wrote some 35 novels but in subsequent years was more noted for his poetry.

Art Widner, the US fan, has died aged 97. He was a founder of Boston’s first SF society in 1940 and Fan Guest of Honour at the 1989 Boston Worldcon.

Grace Lee Whitney, the US actress, has died aged 85. She played regular recurring bit character Yeoman Janice Rand in the original Star Trek television series. She also appeared in a few of the franchises’ films.

 

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

Autumn 2015

INTERFACE: SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FICTION

Homosexuality is part of the natural spectrum of sexuality a new report bravely concludes. The reason why this report is 'brave' is that it counters much social and politically-driven fictional science. It comes from the Academy of Science of South Africa (the equivalent to Britain's Royal Society) that is the independent, but part-government funded, body representing South Africa' science research community. The report concludes that there is no evidence that homosexuality is anything other than a feature on a spectrum of human sexuality. This is 'brave' because in 38 of Africa's 53 nations same-sex relationships are illegal and in four African countries same-sex is punishable by death. For example, only as recently as February 2014 Uganda – where homosexuality was already illegal – passed a new law that made it punishable by life imprisonment. Fortunately this law has since been repealed due to a Court action that pointed out that not enough members of the Ugandan parliament were present when it was passed.  But when signing the law into effect the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, said that it would stop the 'social imperialism of the west' that he claims is responsible for promoting homosexuality in Africa.  Consequently, that this new report was African led was important so that its conclusions could not be challenged on the grounds of being western propaganda; prior to the Ugandan law, the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, declined a government request to produce its own report on the grounds of insufficient time being allocated. But a group of scientists nonetheless did produce one. However it was widely misquoted, its science fictionalised, by members of the Ugandan parliament supporting the bill. Now, the new South African report notes that homosexuality is not a western phenomenon: women-and-women marriages were known in the nineteenth century on the Slave Coast, homosexuality historically existed in traditional Ethiopian shepherds and the cross-dressing male prostitutes of Senegal.  The report notes that Africa's anti-homosexuality culture was actually introduced by religious missionaries from the social imperialist west. It is also hoped that in helping reduce Africa's homophobic attitudes the new report will help in the battles against AIDS.

The cast and makers of the show The Big Bang Theory have created a science scholarship for prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The £2.6 million (US$4m) scholarship fund will support low-income science students at UCLA. This last is a little ironic as the show's protagonists are meant to be based at the rival Californian Caltech. The first 20 scholars will be announced on the studio set of The Big Bang Theory. After the initial intake of 20 students for the 2015-16 academic year, the scholarship will support five further students every year in perpetuity... Excellent news!

New search for extraterrestrial intelligence is launched. Breakthrough Listen is a 10-year, £64m (US$100m) initiative principally founded by Yuri Milner, a high tech US based-billionaire. It will seek out radio broadcasts from a million stars closest to Earth. It will involve access to two of the world's most powerful telescopes: the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The public is invited to participate in efforts to find a signal from another world through the SETI@home project to use social media and people's home computers to analyse vast amounts of data. The venture was launched at the Royal Society (London) and has the support of physicist Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees.  The current SETI programme in the US typically only gets 24 – 36 hours on a telescope a year and spends the rest of the time analysing data. With Breakthrough Listen they will be able to have thousands of hours a year. Because the listening time is so much greater, so the data received will be huge, and in turn the necessity to get the public involved to analyse it.

There are no galaxy-wide super-civilisations in 100,000 galaxies surveyed, but there are some anomalous ones worth further checking according to an infra red, astronomical survey. Nearby, Type iii (galaxy-spanning), Kardashev super-civilizations would have high mid-infrared (MIR) luminosities. That is to say that they would trap much of their galaxy's stars' solar energy leaking degraded infra-red. However, having surveyed some 100,000 galaxies using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), a team of US astronomers concluded that there are no galaxy-wide super-civilisations. But they did identify five 'passive' (i.e., red) spiral galaxies with unusually high MIR and low near-ultraviolet luminosity and 90 other poorly understood sources.  It should be pointed out that the astronomers define a super-civilisation in this context as one being able to reprocess more than 85% of its starlight. They note that 50 galaxies do have infra red signatures consistent with 50% or more reprocessing. (See Griffith et al., 2015, The G Infrared Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations with Large Energy Supplies. III. The Reddest Extended Sources in WISE. The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series vol 217 (2).).  Comment: Of course there is no reason why any intelligent, technological civilization should ever evolve to one processing 85% of the energy from its star.

A proto brain-net, similar to that from Iain Banks 'Culture', has been developed. Iain Banks' Surface Detail has its protagonist unwittingly (as a surprise gift) 'infected' with a growing net that wraps around her brain to transmit and store her cerebral essence so that she can be reborn with memories intact into a clone.  Now, in the real world, Harvard (USA) researchers have developed a small net that unfurls over part of a mouse's brain. The net consists of a mesh of polymer threads with a transistor at each intersection. With free space making up 95% of the fine mesh, living cells can easily arrange themselves around it. Using the mesh a number of individual neurons can be either monitored or stimulated. Currently the mesh has 16 elements but it is hoped that next they can increase the number to a hundred. (See Nature Nanotechnology, dx.doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.115 (2015).)

Chimpanzees are not legal people with similar rights a New York (US) court rules. The lobby group Nonhuman rights Project initially presented a legal challenge back in 2013 for the animal rights fro two research chimpanzees saying that they were being unlawfully detained. Having made her ruling, the judge noted that she was bound by precedent but that the judicial system is sometimes slow to embrace change and that chimpanzees might one day gain legal rights.  This news item might have been covered in one of our science sections, but we cover it here in our science fact & fiction interface section as animal rights' legal status would affect an aliens we might encounter in the future as well as, probably more likely in the medium-term future have a bearing on sentient artificial intelligence.

First 3D-printed drug made. Levetiracetam, an antiepileptic, is the first Federal Drug Administration pharmaceutical approved for 3D-printing. The printed drug is highly porous and so quickly dissolves in the mouth making it easier to swallow when seizures are imminent. It should be publicly available early in 2016.

The 2015 DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research projects Agency) Robotics Challenge has been won by a South Korean team. Their robot was best at the competition's tasks that included climbing a ladder and closing a valve. The DRC-Hubo humanoid robot that can walk as well as speed on wheels, won its creators the US$2 million first prize.

H. R. Giger has a flesh-eating plant named after him. The insect-eating plant has leaves that look like a monster's mouth. Giger, who died last year is best known for being the artist that designed the alien in the film Alien. The new plant is a hybrid Nepenthes pitcher plant and is striped yellow and red to attract insects and is speckled with dark chocolate coloured spots.

Geographical features on Titan have been named after J. R. R. Tolkien and Isaac Asimov characters. The news was reported in Ansible from Bill Higgins that by IAU (International Astronomical Union) convention the mountains are being named for those of Middle-Earth and the hills for its characters: hence Mountains of Moria (Moria Montes) and Gandalf Hills (Gandalf Colles). Freta, straits or channels, get the names of characters in Asimov's Foundation series.

The geographical features on Pluto and Charon may be named after SF characters. Following the detail revealed from the New Horizons probe (see item earlier), a proposal for these bodies’ features to be named after SF characters is being considered by the International Astronomical Union. Let’s hope the names will include those from SF books and films and not just sci-fi television and blockbuster films: currently, the names so far suggested come from the worlds of Star Wars, Dr Who and Star Trek. SF literature seems to have been overlooked; so no, for example, ‘Icehenge’ (the Stonehenge-like construction of ice on Pluto in the novel of that title by Kim Stanley Robinson).

Leonard Nimoy has an asteroid named after him. The actor who, who died earlier this year (2015) was made famous for his role as the alien Spock in the original Star Trek series. The asteroid is called '(4864) Nimoy' and is a mountain-sized rock roughly 6 miles (10 km) across, orbits the Sun once every 3·9 years within the inner part of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 4864 Nimoy was discovered by Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne on September 2, 1988 and given the provisional designation 1988 RA5. A 14-inch or larger telescope is needed to observe it when it occasionally brightens to magnitude 15 as seen from Earth.

Nichelle Nichols to fly on a NASA Mission. The actress who playedStar Trek’s senior communications officer, Lt. Uhura, will fly on NASA’s airborne telescope SOFIA. The telescope is carried to 50,000 feet by a modified 7474 jet airliner.

Russia's Dynasty Foundation announced it is closing following being fined for being a 'foreign agent'. The Foundation, modern Russia's first private science funding body, was established by Dmitry Zimin (Facebook and other dot com investor) to attract back to Russia Russian scientists working abroad. The main government-owned television channel reportedly (Nature vol. 523, p383) claimed that Dynasty was funding efforts to destroy Russia. This is the latest impact of Putin's regime on science freedom.

Chocolate can make you slim. Science study deliberately employs obfuscative methodology to the point of fiction exposing how shoddy science can easily make headlines. Biologist and science journalist John Bohannon created a website titled the Institute of Diet and Health. He reported on it that he had conducted a genuine study – and he had – but the kicker was that he looked at many variables and used a very small sample of people eating a diet with and without chocolate as well as a control group. Using so many variables with a small sample meant that it was likely that some variable would seem to correlate (if you did not mention/consider the small sample size).  The study therefore genuinely showed that a group that ate a low-carbohydrate diet while indulging in dark chocolate lost weight 10 per cent faster and they also had better cholesterol readings.  The study was the submitted to a number of open access journals (which charge a fee if the research passes peer review) and one accepted it. Now that the research was published in a supposedly peer review journal, Bohannon was able to press release the news and the story was picked up around the world including as the press release claimed, a front page story in BILD, Europe’s largest newspaper. The investigation revealed the dangers of abandoning the due diligence peer-review process expected in science publishing.

 

 

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

Summer 2015

End Bits

 

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

Thanks for information, pointers and news for this seasonal page goes to: Lise Andreasen, Brian Ameringen, Arno Behrend, Pierre Gevart, John-Henri Holmberg, Alqua Kun, Roberto Quaglia, Alistair Scott, and thanks also goes to Caroline Mullan for spreading the word about our need for additional book reviewers. (That this edition we have over 40 standalone reviews suggests that something worked.)  Additional thanks go to the veritable legion of others, including some Brits and other Europeans, quietly sending in views and unofficial personal comment and views who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and not least the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news and product (book, film, DVD and convention) information; these last get their thanks in having 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 2016 period – needs to be in before mid-December 2015. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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.

Feel free to browse the rest of the site: key links below.


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